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25 MIN READ TIME

Why I Am Optimistic about the Future of Skepticism

RICHARD WISEMAN

I have always been somewhat skeptical. Even when I was eight years old, I had a sneaky suspicion that I was only seven! Just kidding. Actually, joking apart, I recently discovered that I was into skepticism at a surprisingly early age. When I was at school, a local bookstore used to come along once a month and sell their wares at a reduced price. My family was never one to resist a bargain, and so they encouraged me always to drink deeply from this fountain of cut-price paperbacks. A few weeks ago, I went into my parents’ loft, looked through a box of books from all of those years ago, and was surprised to discover a large number of skeptical tomes. It turns out that while my more credulous classmates were being brainwashed into believing in fairies, pyramid power, and UFOs, I was reading the likes of The Loch Ness Mystery Solved and Bigfoot On Trial (apparently he was found guilty but escaped from prison and has never been seen since).

Fast forward ten years, and my enduring fascination with the science of the supernatural, coupled with an interest in magic, resulted in my enrolling for a degree in psychology at University College London (UCL). Way back then there was no easy way for people with the same niche interest to find one another. If, for instance, you were into trainspotting or taxidermy, your best bet was to hang around the relevant sections in a public library in the hope of meeting a fellow enthusiast. Quite frankly, it could be as terrifying as it was haphazard.

However, when I was in my second year at UCL I got lucky because I discovered that one of the faculty—a psychologist named David Marks—was also interested in psychic stuff. A few years before, David had written a wonderful book called The Psychology of the Psychic, which was all about the techniques used by fake psychics to deceive people who hadn’t read his book. David kindly agreed to meet up and introduced me to the world of organized skepticism. Over the next few years, I went along to meetings of the London Skeptics, discovered the joys of Skeptical Inquirer, and slowly became part of an extensive network of like-minded people.

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About Skeptical Inquirer

40th Anniversary Celebration ISSUES IN SCIENCE & SKEPTICISM BILL NYE NEIL DEGRASSE TYSON LAWRENCE M. KRAUSS and more!

Other Articles in this Issue


Editor’s Letter
To mark our fortieth anniversary, we invited distinguished scientists, scholars,
NEWS AND COMMENT
One of the biggest gaps between science and public perception
Let’s face it. Baseless alternative medicine and the people who
In May, a man named Paul Salo launched a crowdfunding
Discoveries about the planets and our most famous dwarf planet,
Longtime Bigfoot chronicler, advocate, and field researcher John Green has
Manhattan’s Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) isn’t the first place
INVESTIGATIVE FILES
Joe Nickell, PhD, is a historical, paranormal, and forensic sleuth
PSYCHIC VIBRATIONS
Sheaffer’s “Psychic Vibrations” column has appeared in the Skeptical Inquirer
NOTES ON A STRANGE WORLD
Massimo Polidoro is an investigator of the paranormal, lecturer, and
THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION
Why Really Smart People Are Often the Most Biased in Their Opinions
BEHAVIOR & BELIEF
Stuart Vyse is a psychologist and author of Believing in
SCIENCE WATCH
Kenneth W. Krause is a contributing editor and “Science Watch”
SKEPTICAL INQUIREE
Benjamin Radford is a research fellow at the Committee for
ISSUES IN SCIENCE & SKEPTICISM
We had another Reason Rally in Washington, DC, this year
If you cherry-pick scientific truths to serve cultural, economic, religious,
Twenty years ago, I became actively involved in the skeptical
“ These are the times that try men’s souls.” This
I am delighted to contribute an essay to celebrate the
Around 1992, I discovered a new sphere to explore— skeptical
I have always been somewhat skeptical. Even when I was
When I was a child, the conversations around the dinner
For 99 percent of the past several hundred thousand years
It is easy to find milestones in the history of
“ What will you do if your conventional medical colleagues
REVIEWS
Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. By Rob Brotherton
Faith vs. Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible. By
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
In “Creators of the Paranormal” (May/June 2016), Joe Nickell refutes
THE LAST LAUGH
September 1976: The mystery-mongering TV series In Search Of… first