Category Archives: Skeptic History

On Twitter and Facebook I post a daily item about what happened on this day of interest to skeptics. Here are articles about that project.

#TAM2013 In Memoriam presentation

For the last four years, I’ve researched obituaries of people relevant to skepticism, and compiled them into a memorial presentation at The Amazing Meeting in July. I think it is important that we take note of the passages in our community, just as other communities do. I was inspired by the annual memorial presentation at the Academy Awards, which serves the same purpose for the motion picture industry.

The presentation for TAM 2013 consisted of 60 people who died between July 2012 and July 2013. It is just about exactly 5 minutes long, and at TAM it ran during the morning coffee breaks in the main room. If you missed it at TAM (or want a second look) you can watch the presentation here. Scroll down below the video for a list of the people included and links to further information about each.

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#TAM2012 In Memoriam slides

The Amaz!ng Meeting 2012 sponsored by the James Randi Educational Foundation is ongoing in Las Vegas as I type this. As I did for TAM8 and TAM9, I prepared a list of skeptics, scientists and other personalities relating to skepticism who died in the year since the last TAM.

This presentation remembering them ran each morning in the main room on Friday July 13 and Saturday July 14. Here it is:

Thanks in particular to Tim BingaSharon Hill, Natalie JaranJim Lippard, Daniel Loxton, Steven Novella, Lei Pinter, Martin Robbins and Rick Ross for their help in collecting this information and the photos you see.

How Star Trek Prepared Me For Skeptic History

Fittingly, this post about history was sparked by a rash of anniversaries. Today I mark five years on Twitter. March 3rd marked two years since I began my regular Skeptic History segment on Skepticality.  And February 16th was three years since I began posting daily Skeptic History facts on Twitter and Facebook. All told, my skeptic history facts are available in several different locations and formats now.

It occurred to me that someone coming across this project now might wonder how I put together this multimedia empire. Like many hobby projects, it evolved significantly over time – I certainly didn’t plan on it being what it is now.  So I thought it might be interesting to recount the history of the project.  It may be illustrative of how such projects start small, grow and mutate.

In late 2008 I was toying around with some ideas for a new skeptic project. What’s the Harm was a success, but updating it was fairly mechanical and I was looking for a new challenge to go in a new direction. I’ve always been interested in trivia, and was reading all I could about skepticism at that time.

The Skepchick Calendar was a popular skeptic project at that time and I was friends with several people who worked on it. So I started thinking about the idea of a calendar and historic dates. In hindsight I may have also had a vague memory of a non-skeptic publishing project I had done over two decades ago, back when I was in college. It had little to do with skepticism.

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Skeptic History everywhere you look

Regular readers are aware of my Skeptic History calendar project. I’ve tried to research as many specific dates, birthdays, anniversaries and so on that relate to the history of skepticism. I then post them online.

I’ve learned some things myself in this research. And in posting the results online I hope to help connect newer skeptics with the long history of scientific skepticism.

As of this week, there are now seven different places online you can look for a little dose of skeptic history. And soon there might be more!

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In Memoriam slides from TAM9

For the The Amazing Meeting 9 (TAM9) being held by the James Randi Educational Foundation in Las Vegas this weekend, I prepared two presentations to run during the breaks, between the main speakers. These slides commemorated the folks related to the skeptic movement whom we have lost in 2010 and 2011. (Between TAM8 and TAM9).

The thought was to have something akin to the “In Memoriam” reel run on The Oscars and other similar awards shows. We first did this last year at TAM8, after I suggested it to the organizers and volunteered to put it together.

Unfortunately the A/V guy let me down and never ran one set, and the other one ran during lunch on Saturday when few people were in the room. Also, of course, many other skeptics were unable to attend the event. So here they are. There are two separate presentations, one for skeptics and scientists and one for proponents of pseudoscience and the paranormal. You can view them after the break…

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Skeptic History is now a JREF iPhone app

Skeptic History: The Amazing Meeting 9 (put on by the James Randi Educational Foundation) begins today. 25 years ago today James Randi was given a MacArthur Fellowship “Genius” grant on July 14, 1986. Read More

If you follow me on social media sites such as Twitter or Facebook, you know that for over two years I’ve been posting daily tidbits of skeptic history just like the above. It’s a attempt to help connect the many people new to skepticism with the rich history of the movement.

As I’ve researched this, I’ve found that some dates on the calendar had very few events associated with them, while others were rich with history. But the daily post format meant I would usually only post one item per day. Other items on the same date would go unseen. This led me to seek out new ways to use this information.

Last year I began a regular segment on Skeptic History as part of the Skepticality podcast. And today I can reveal the second new venue for Skeptic History, which I have sometimes referred to on this blog as my “super secret” project:

Today in Skeptic History is now an free app offered by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF), compatible with iPhone, iPad and iPod Touch. Read on for more details on what it offers.

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Skeptic History meets crowdsourcing

Update July 1: The “secret project” I allude to in this post has been revealed. Read about it here.

Those of you who use Twitter, Facebook or FriendFeed (and are connected to me) know that I post a “this day in history” style item called Skeptic History every morning. I started researching those somewhat on a lark and then later realized it would be an interesting educational project to post them daily, which I started in February 2009. About a year after that I approached Derek and Swoopy of the Skepticality podcast about doing an audio version of it, which I’ve been doing as a segment since Skepticality #123 last March. This year, Skeptic History is going to take off in a new direction as well. Unfortunately I can’t talk about the exact details yet, but I hope it will be very exciting and reach folks who don’t use social media or listen to podcasts. This new venue has got me thinking about the content. I do the research for it in my spare time, mostly using the Internet of course. As a result, I can’t always dig as deeply as I can for some dates to put in the calendar. And so I’ve accumulated a wish list of dates I was unable to locate in my searches. This is where I could use your help… Continue reading

The Skeptic History 500

Those of you who follow me on Twitter or are friends with me on Facebook have seen my Skeptic History posts over the last 18 months or so. I started doing these out of a realization that we have a large number of younger skeptics who are just getting started, who need to be aware of the history of the movement. There is a long history of interesting personalities, lawsuits, failed predictions and more in skepticism. As the old adage tells us, those who are not aware of their past are condemned to repeat it.

And so, every day I post a historic event relating to skepticism that occurred on that day, usually with a link that supplies further details. I’ve been doing so since February of 2009. In the early days I didn’t have events researched for every single calendar day, but I kept researching. Now I have at least one event on every day, sometimes I have as many as nine events to choose from. I post one or two each day.

I recently discovered that we are about to reach #500 in this series of posts in the month of September. Since Dragon*Con is this weekend, I thought it would be fun to have a little contest to guess the date of the fateful post. I’ll give the details after the jump.

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