This page is dedicated to those individuals who have done the most
to promote critical thinking and skepticism or who have actively been involved in
demonstrating the falsity and opportunism of so called professional mediums and psychics
and other promoters for profit of the paranormal.
Former magician James "The Amazing" Randi has, through the
James Randi Educational Foundation and his personal efforts, done more to promote critical thinking and
skepticism of paranormal claims then perhaps any other individual since Houdini. He has
consistently endeavored to act as a counterpoint to all the paranormal claims made in or
through the media including his 1 Million Dollar Paranormal
Magicians Penn & Teller have, in addition to providing nearly 26 years
of entertainment to the public, been active proponents of atheism, skeptical thinking and
the exposing of paranormal frauds and their methods. In his numerous television and live
appearances, Penn Jillette, the speaking half of the duo has made a point of confronting
uncritical acceptance of paranormal and religious claims. In off air interviews, Teller,
who speaks quite articulately, has also promoted skepticism and critical thinking. Their
web site Sin City provides
links to their up coming appearances as well as numerous articles written by both.
On the air, Penn has been an active
spokesman against psychic frauds and for critical examination of paranormal and religious
Author and founder of The
Skeptic Society and Skeptic Magazine, Dr. Michael Shermer has
dedicated his life and work to skepticism and critical thinking. Through the publishing of
such books as How We Believe Dr. Shermer has brought to the public a popular understanding of how to
think critically and examine paranormal claims. He has actively debunked paranormal and
supernatural claims and phenomena in an unending effort to provide some opposition to the
glut of charlatans and pseudoscience in the world today.
An astronomer and science writer, the late Dr. Carl Sagan did much to
promote science and critical thinking as well as to dismiss pseudoscience in his
illustrious and lengthy career. The book Demon
Haunted World is perhaps one of his most influential and the one most cited by his
admirers. In addition Dr. Sagan was the Founder and First President of
The Planetary Society .
The following is excerpted from Britannica.com until somebody works up the initiative
to write something original.
b. Nov. 9, 1934, Brooklyn, N.Y., U.S.
d. Dec. 20, 1996, Seattle, Wash.
in full CARL EDWARD SAGAN, American astronomer and science writer.
After obtaining his Ph.D. from the University of Chicago in 1960, Sagan taught at
University of California, Berkeley, and at Harvard University and was an
at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory (1962-68). There he divided his
between planetary astronomy and work on the Search for Extraterrestrial
(SETI) project. In 1968 he became director of the Laboratory of Planetary Studies
Cornell University, and he also worked on several U.S. unmanned space missions
Venus and Mars.
With the publication of The Cosmic Connection: An Extraterrestrial Perspective
Sagan gained prominence as a popular science writer and commentator who was
notable for his clear writing and enthusiasm for science. His The Dragons of
Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1977) won the Pulitzer Prize.
was a co-producer, as well as narrator, of the television series "Cosmos"
(1980). In the
1980s he participated in research on the environmental effects of nuclear war
helped popularize the term "nuclear winter."
Sagan's writings include Atmospheres of Mars and Venus (1961), Planetary
(1970), Broca's Brain: Reflections on the Romance of Science (1979), the novel
(1985), Nuclear Winter (1985), and The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in
Stephen Barret, M.D. , a retired
psychiatrist who resides in Allentown, Pennsylvania, is a nationally renowned author,
editor, and consumer advocate. An expert in medical communications, he is medical editor
of Prometheus Books and consulting editor of Nutrition Forum, a newsletter emphasizing the
exposure of fads, fallacies and quackery. His 47 books include The Health Robbers: A Close
Look at Quackery in America and five editions of the college textbook consumer Health: A
Guide to Intelligent Decisions. One book he edited, Vitamins and Minerals: Help or Harm?,
by Charles Marshall, Ph.D., won the American Medical Writers Association award for best
book of 1983 for the general public and became a special publication of Consumer Reports
Books. Dr. Barrett is a board member of the National Council Against Health Fraud, a
Scientific Advisor to the American Council on Science and Health, and a Fellow of the
Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). In 1984,
he received an FDA Commissioner's Special Citation Award for Public Service in fighting
nutrition quackery. In 1986, he was awarded honorary membership in the American Dietetic
Association. In 1987, he began teaching health education at The Pennsylvania State
University. His most important writings include Dubious Cancer Treatment, published by the
Florida Division of the American Cancer Society; Health Schemes, Scams, and Frauds,
published by Consumer Reports Books; The Vitamin Pushers: How the "Health Food"
Industry Is Selling America a Bill of Goods, published by Prometheus Books; and Reader's
Guide to "Alternative" Health Methods, published by the American Medical
Quackwatch Homepage: http://www.quackwatch.com/
Scooby Doo the
prominent star of television and movies has, through his art, consistently promoted
skepticism and critical thinking in a format easily grasped by children. My second grade
teacher once told me that psychics were real because she had had an unusal experience, but
Scooby and the gang investigated all manner of "paranormal" events and
invariably discovered a more prosaic and down-to-earth answer than that provided by the
supernatural (usually it was just old Mr. Smithers, the caretaker of the abandoned
amusement park I wonder if he's the one who fooled Mrs. R.?).
[This was writen by Bernie
in the first anniversary of Bob's passing (3/jun/2000)]
(aka Indiana bob)
June the third marks the first anniversary of
the death of one of the original old timers on the Skeptics Board - as we old timers have
always referred to it and stilld o. This was the passing of Robert (Bob) Franks.
I remember well my first "contact" with Bob. I
was newly-arrived on the Board and didn't have my "cast of characters" down pat
yet ... and it seemed there was an ungoldly number of responses to everything I posted by
a "Bob"- who moreover seemed to take issue with everything I said! There were a
few clipped (!) exchanges in which I asked how could "he" hold so many
(erroneous! lol) views all at once or something like that... and suddenly "he"
evolved into three as I recall: Bob Franks, Bob Marks, and I believe Robert Nelson - who
was either posting as a "Bob" in those days too - or whom I may have
gratuitiously dubbed "Bob"myself as a nickname for Robert.
It was all very confusing to me (I was even more of a
computer weenie then (hotdog size you might say) than I am now - now I am puffed up to
full baloney-size and you can make of that what you will!). This triumverate descended on
me in wrath and gave me further to understand that each was not the other and that
moreover each did not want to be mistaken for the other either as they did not share the
same views (on anything). I was much confused,and one of the Bob's then stepped forth to
say "Welcome to our world, Bernie!" and this was, of course, Bob Franks whom I
remember anyway as one mostly given to no more lengthy a reply than that one - altogether
like the wit and wisdom of a Hoosier farmer (which he was).
Since then it has been on the Board, "all
downhill" as they say.
Actually,Bob (Bob Franks) and I did not really share
many points of view. He was pretty anti-science in my recollection, and he was
outspokingly anti-philosophy- an area where we often clashed. He had an acerbic wit, Bob
did, and ran more to the one-liners and terse comment (to me anyhow). Against which my
rather more prolix cavalry charges never seemed to prevail.
The futility of this led by degrees to the discovery of
a mutual interest in art and specifically in painting. As a then-mostly beginning and
self-taught watercolorist, I soon found myself seeking to tap Bob's very extensive
knowledge of art and especially his tips on "technique" which were invaluable
for meat that stage. This is an unpaid debt I owe to Bob and can never thank him
In time, he came to send me an old graphics program of
his (I cannot remember the name). It was the Cadillac of its day and the one he used. It
came in a huge box with a set of manuals like the Britannica, and more installation disks
than Carter has liver pills. I dutifully installed it - but was never able to use it -it
was far beyond my computer know-how at the time. Some of you may know it: it is the
graphics program that you have to buy special "tools" to use instead of just a
mouse: these tools are virtual brushes and pens and pencils and you hold them just like
you do the real thing and your movements are much surer and more controlled than they are
with the mouse for graphics work.You of the pixel-pushing set out there will know what I
Along theway Bob showed me his great website and his
many interesting "modern art"paintings - which he never tired correcting me in
so-calling them as hesaid "modern art" is a meaningless term anymore. Bob taught
art I believe for many years at the University level. He was very generous in his praise
of my own creations, and knew moreover of the fame of Paul Calle for whom I had once
modelled, and enjoyed exchanging Calle stories and other yarns about the art world.
Some time later, Bob and I and a couple of other artists
whom I knew and Jan, a gal from the Board who volunteered to be our "site
mistress," set up an "Art Board" which for a brief period had quite a
flurry where all these guys exchanged ideas on art techniques and colors and painting (as
junior artist here I was by far the beneficiary of all this largesse) and all and there
was heady talk of bringing it out asa book and things like that... but like all Boards
perhaps, it ultimately perished somewhere in the depths of Cyberspace. Rosie and a few
other of our "art set" here may recall visiting this site...
Later I uninstalled the graphics program and sent all
the materials back to his widow - as I had agreed to do with Bob before he died, and I
believe she donated this all to some charitable art group there locally...
In his younger days, Bob had worked in some kind of
"social worker" capacity if I have it right, in the depressed coal mining areas
of Appalachia and Kentucky.He was thus "liberally"inclined to the human
predicament and we often discussed these matters fairly amicably. He and Sara lived on a
rather remote farm in Indiana, and she was much younger than he was. He often told me
about her and how good she was to him when his terminal illness developed. (Hedied of
colon cancer after much suffering).I tried where I could not to get on to our sometimes
acrimonius differences in "world view," which would happen despite our
friendship, and would "talk" to him and "write" to him where I could
such words of encouragement as I could think up (which was not for all that very much). He
seemed to like this and his posts grew lessa nd less frequent till Sara wrote me of his
Bob Franks was a good friend, a great artist (I have one
or two signed prints he sent me), and one not easily bamboozled by the conflicting claims
of a multi-colored buzzing world which surrounds us all. His was not the
"analytic" approach, true- but he was (to me) rather best in that great
tradition of "Look! the Emperor has no clothes on!".
As to what this suddenly revealed nude personage was to
do and wear thereafter - Bob offered no advice. That was for others. He was content to
point it out as it was.
He will be long missed.
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