Calling all skeptics!
And if you're really good and skeptical, you might even want to consider hosting an edition of the Skeptics' Circle yourself. Again, just drop St. Nate a line, and he'll work you into the schedule.
Finally, I don't want to tread on the Founder's perogative unduly by making pronouncements about the Skeptics Circle, which is why I will preface this with a disclaimer that the following represents my opinion only and that I only say it because the Skeptics' Circle is my favorite carnival. I was on board from the very beginning and I want it to continue to maintain the high standards it has managed to attain in the past. Unfortunately the last Skeptics' Circle had a couple of questionable entries submitted. PZ characteristically handled the commentary about them more bluntly than I probably would have done had I been hosting, but I have to admit that PZ's point was not unreasonable. Unfortunately, the article happened to have been submitted by a pretty high traffic blogger--more than ten times the traffic that I usually get--who was also an early booster of the Circle, and he was pissed off (here too) about PZ's commentary. It does, however, seem to be a trend that more overtly political or ideological posts and posts based on questionable science or data are being submitted to the Skeptics' Circle. Unfortunately, it's a problem not limited to the Skeptics' Circle. Indeed, yesterday, PZ himself lamented that even his own baby, Tangled Bank, is starting to see posts that are primarily political rants or, worse, based on pseudoscience. Given that background, I just want to say that the Skeptics' Circle was never intended to be a political soapbox. Indeed, recall what St. Nate himself said:
I'll also like to keep this free from political interests. I'm all for factchecking propaganda, but in the blogosphere it's too hard to do that without it being hijacked by one side's agenda. I'd only be interested in proven hoaxes from the media, pseudoscience, quackery, historical revision, phenomenon that seem paranormal but aren't, etc.Unfortunately, I also foresaw politicization of the Skeptics' Circle as potential problem before the first edition, even if St. Nate did want to try to keep politics out of it. I was also somewhat--shall we say?--skeptical that it would even be possible to keep politics from slowly creeping into the Circle, given that certain areas skeptics routinely deal with (evolution and global warming, for example) are so ideologically, religously, and/or politically charged:
Let me just take the opportunity to enthusiastically back this idea and make a couple of suggestions. St. Nate did not want political or ideological biases to come into it. I'm not sure how that will be possible, unless the topics are restricted to science and pseudoscience, and I'm not sure such a carnival should be so narrowly restricted. On the other hand, leaving things too wide open could potentially put each host of such a carnival in the uncomfortable position position of having to evaluate the arguments themselves, which might be too much work. Also, not all hosts would have the same capabilities in the same areas.
The next time I host the Skeptics' Circle (whenever that happens to be), I will not hesitate to point out submissions that I deem questionable on the basis of the science (or lack thereof) or the reasoning (again, or lack thereof) or that I just plain disagree with. If they are really questionable I won't use them, although I will consult with St. Nate and perhaps one or two others in cases I'm not sure of. (I know that the Amazing Randi reads the Circle from time to time, and I don't want to be embarrassed.) I hope other future hosts will exercise their best judgment and do the same. I realize that it's a fine line between encouraging as wide a variety of posts with unfettered skepticism about any topic and maintaining some standards, but some judgment is necessary. We don't want to discourage contributors, but we don't want to post examples of the very credulity or obvious twisting of data, science, or history to serve political, religious, or other ideological agendas. After all, that, in addition to the permeation of society with urban legends, paranormal beliefs, and pseudoscience, is one of the things that the Skeptics' Circle was originally intended to combat!