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The Rise of Skeptical Science

Posted on 18 April 2015 by CollinMaessen

This is a re-post from Real Sceptic

Everyone at Skeptical Science spends a lot of their time reading the scientific literature and listening to experts. Without that we wouldn’t be able to write all the material that’s published on Skeptical Science. It’s a lot of work, especially when you do this with a critical eye. Our goal, after all, is to ensure that what we write reflects the scientific literature on the subject as accurately as possible.

The materials created by Skeptical Science are used by teachers, politicians, and of course by users on the internet to rebut climate myths. Thanks to this a lot of people have seen materials produced by us, even though they might not know that they have.

The website Skeptical Science wasn’t created overnight, nor was the team behind it assembled instantly. It started small with John Cook starting the website and publishing the first rebuttals to climate myths. As I wasn’t familiar with the story of how Skeptical Science evolved to the website it is today I had the idea to interview John about this.

Despite John constantly saying “I’m just not that interesting” I eventually managed to get him in front of the camera:

This video is longer than usual and is right at the limit of how long I make my videos. But the story of Skeptical Science is an interesting one with a lot of anecdotes of how the team came together and how the website evolved. Well worth your time if you want to know the history of Skeptical Science (plus there’s a fun little bonus if you watch the video till the end).

If the video is too long for you (or not enough) there’s always the series AGU 2014 Tidbits – Anecdotes And Stories From The Front Lines Of Science where over the next couple of months I’ll publish small excerpts from the interview that ended up on the cutting floor.

John also had a good point before the interview when he said that “Skeptical Science is an ensemble effort and what makes us impactful and powerful is the diversity of knowledge, experience and talent. I think that’s a compelling narrative – this group of diverse volunteers joined by their passion for climate. You’ve got cartoonists and oil men […], we’re all over the map. And when we come together, we create products like the most comprehensive analysis of climate research to date with its subsequent impact.”

This is also the reason I’m announcing the series The People Behind Skeptical Science. If everything goes as planned the series is kicked off next week with the first Skeptical Science member telling their story and background. I hunted down as many interview ‘volunteers’ as possible during the AGU Fall Meeting for this series. More will be added when members join or they have a moment to let me interview them.

I also would like to point out a short animation I made for Skeptical Science. On the Skeptical Science website there was a very outdated map showing where in the world members live. The new animation is going to replace the old map:

I created this animation for my interview video of John when he talked about the growth of the Skeptical Science team. You only see it for 15 seconds and during those 15 seconds you don’t see the full animation. It would be a bit of a waste to not publish the full length animation. So now it has replaced the old map and I’ll update it every year so that new members appear in it.

These Skeptical Science videos are a fun side project for me and I hope you’ll enjoy what I’ve created.

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Comments 1 to 2:

  1. ... excellent... and very important... thank you very much !

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  2. Thanks!  John, you touched on some very inmportant issues that educators face, in particular the lack of a "filter" that distiguishes between actual science and pseudo science.  I believe you are correct in that this is in part because real science is "hard" and pseudo science is often couched in language that is easy to digest.  SS breaks through the "hard" barrier very well, with easy to understand graphics and language that an interested High School student can understand. And, I have to say that many of the students I come in contact with ARE interested in global warming/climate change (despite that my area is Mathematics - although I have taught Physics in the past).

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