Afternoon Inquisition

AI: The Skepty Awards?

Before we get to today’s Afternoon Inquisition, please note that I posted a new Bostonist article today tearing apart the Metro newspaper for pandering to anti-gay rights bigots in the pursuit of “balance.” Feel free to comment on that over on Bostonist!

I didn’t hear from last week’s Comment o’ the Week winner, so instead I turned to Twitter and asked followers of @skepchicks what today’s Afternoon Inquisition should be. Oskar_Kennedy offered this:

If there were “Skepty” awards, what would the categories be? BONUS: Who would you nominate and why?

The Afternoon Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Skepchick community. Look for it to appear daily at 3pm ET.

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Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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39 Comments

  1. I would have a “Keeping Your Cool” award and nominate Ben Radford. He manages to stay so calm and level-headed when debating woo-woos, I don’t know how he does it.

    At the point where I would be leaping across the table or throwing shoes, he’s still calmly asking Socratic questions to draw out information.

  2. The Perry DeAngelis “Beak-Flip” Award for the best skeptical response or comeback. My nominees are:

    -Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert for their Oprah “hooked on bunk” article.

    -Simon Singh for fighting it out with not only the chiropractic nuts in the UK but with the sheer stupidity of England’s libel laws.

    -PZ Myers for his response to two instances of idiocy: his “The great desecration” post on Pharyngula and his response to getting expelled from Expelled.

    Personally I’m going with the squid-man, but Singh should get a medal… Perhaps the James Randi “How many times do I have to explain this to you, Uri?” Award for fighting the good fight in the face of pretty bad odds.

    Think about it… we would need a really large plaque though.

  3. I don’t know about categories, but I would nominate some “nobody” because Shermer, Dawkins, PZ, Plait, etc. get so many awards and recognition already. I appreciate all they do, but sometimes I worry that we’re suffering a bit from hero worship (not that everything they say is free from criticism, but that we are focusing too much on the Big Names). We should do more to recognize everyday contributions to skepticism that don’t require the resources available to the Big Names so that we can avoid looking too elitist and can attract people who might be put off by that atmosphere.

  4. You know what will be nice? When bigotry against gays is no longer tolerated. I’m sick and fucking tired of being told “it’s just an opinion!” No, no it’s not. It’s bigotry, and any other bigotry would not be allowed, but because it’s about the scary gays, it’s a-okay and just an opinion!

    ARGHL.

  5. @Kaylia_Marie: Thank you for the compliment!

    I was thinking about the grassroots YouTubers out there and the network of bloggers. But more so I was also thinking about people who aren’t part of “the skeptic movement” that have done good work in skepticism, to provide positive reinforcement. Such as the recent articles critical of Oprah, etc.

  6. Now that I think about it, that might be a bad example, because Newsweek most certainly does have a lot of resources, but I hope I got my point across. :) We, as a group, could be doing more to encourage and formally reward skepticism wherever we find it, not necessarily only in the people who have already done it so well and have been well recognized.

  7. Best Skeptic in Pop Culture: Tim Minchin and Penn & Teller

    I’ll second Simon Singh.

    I’m on the fence about PZ. He’s so grating and pointlessly confrontational that it’s arguable he’s a net benefit for the cause. I much prefer the more reasoned and reasonable approach of Phil Plait, The Flying Novella’s, Rachael Dunlop, Richard Saunders, and the Skepchicks of course. Dr. Rachie in particular demonstrates you can be passionate without being a dick.

  8. @marilove: Why is it that hate speech is not protected under ‘freedom of speech’, yet ‘freedom of religion’ somehow protects hate speech? It’s just not right.

    Oh, and there should be an award for the best unintentional promotion of skepticism. Of course, the Catholic Church would probably win every year.

  9. @Kimbo Jones : COTW, if you ask me.

    I am going to agree wholeheartedly with what you say, and quote to emphasize a couple of things.

    I appreciate all they do, but sometimes I worry that we’re suffering a bit from hero worship (not that everything they say is free from criticism, but that we are focusing too much on the Big Names).

    I think that is a really good point. I’ve noticed a major trend that when one of us proles has the “audacity” to disagree with any of the heavy weights, regardless of the legitimacy or otherwise of that disagreement, the fallout is pretty intense.

    We should do more to recognize everyday contributions to skepticism that don’t require the resources available to the Big Names so that we can avoid looking too elitist and can attract people who might be put off by that atmosphere.

    That too. Thanks for the post Kimbo.

    @davew said:

    I’m on the fence about PZ. He’s so grating and pointlessly confrontational that it’s arguable he’s a net benefit for the cause.

    A very good point. PZ’s almost childish boorishness can be terribly frustrating to witness. Whereas guys like Plait, even when he gets it wrong, are really approachable and not dogmatically confrontational.

    So let’s nominate all the non-famous, intelligent skeptics who do the grass roots proselytizing that gets through to the real folks in the street, rather than just the happy converts.

  10. Well, skipping who I’d nominate & just considering the “what categories” part of the question, I’d like to see “Artists” and “Literary Writers,” who seem underrated by some folks in the skeptical community. Also “Historians,” who often have to tolerate as much wrongheaded crap as scientists. A big wet kiss and a category for “Politicians”– there must be someone besides Pete Stark out there. Also, “Best Skeptical News Story” of the year. And definitely “Best Skeptical Children’s Show/Book/Movie;” kids have to be taught to think rationally and ask the right questions, and we’re not doing it too well.

    And, thanks for the Bostonist article, Rebecca. Do you suppose the Metro managed to steal some ad revenue from the Herald for that panderfest?

  11. If we created a category for amateur skeptical videos I would nominate both Qualiasoup and TheraminTree from youtube. Their videos are awesome.

    I second the idea for a Most level-headed award.

    I think we should also give out a Hitchen’s award for most wasted but still able to run circles around the competition award.

  12. Millenarian Track
    -SHAM Prize to the Greatest chi
    -Oprah Prize to the Least effective medical treatment
    -Sandwich Award to the Unlikeliest place for a depiction of God

    UFO Track
    -Centauri Prize to the Most saucers and kitchenware
    -Star Trek Medal of Geekdom
    -MIB prize to the Greatest Alien in Public Life

    Creation Track
    -Discovery Award to the Biggest gap
    -Texas Award to the Least number of textbooks sold
    -O’Reilly Abortionist Doctor Hunt Award

    Media Track
    -Most Oprah mentions
    -Worst scientific media coverage
    -Blurriest video

    Vaccination track
    -McCarthy Prize to the Biggest number of deaths
    -Jim Carrey Smile-To-Death Award
    -Dollar Prize to the Most Rewarding Suit Against Science-Based Pharma

    Blogging Track
    -BLOCKED Prize to the Biggest Troll
    -Egnor Award to Most fire drawn from creationists
    -“I didn’t say that” Prize to the Longest Thread

  13. Top Ten Signs You’ve Hired a Bad Skepty Awards Host:

    10) Spends first twenty minutes thanking Jesus for the opportunity.

    9) Claims he cured Oprah of swine flu with a pultice and a strange bean pie.

    8) Looks like Randi, but smells like Don McLeroy.

    7) Lights go up, pants come down.

    6) Instead of airfare and a modest fee, he demands a copy of The Secret, an autograph poster of Jenny McArthy, and a plane ticket to Loch Ness.

    5) Thinks the Scopes Monkey Trial was about a chimp with bad breath.

    4) His only qualification is that he’s a distant cousin of Jeff Wagg.

    3) Constantly bragging that he has hit an innocent girl in Boston with his SUV like seven times.

    2) Plans to have a bare-assed Murray Gell-Mann lowered onto George Hrab.

    and the number one Sign You’ve Hired a Bad Skepty Awards Host:

    1) He’s a dude and he blogs at a site called Skepchick.

  14. Love the ideas around awarding for skepticism in all avenues of art and culture.

    Most effective change agent. The skeptic or skeptics most responsible for moving the culture toward a higher quality of critical thinking and scientific literacy.

  15. I’d like to see a category for most persuasive or diplomatic. A lot of skeptics rely too much on ridicule, which is certainly tempting, but not a very effective way of getting someone to really listen. I can’t think of the right word here, but an award should go to someone who is really good at getting the other side to actually listen.

  16. @Sam Ogden: Hey, here’s to being a straight guy man enough to play second fiddle to a girl.

    Um…as far as categories…

    Best Smackdown-to qualify you have to utterly tear down your opponent in a debate. Automatic win to anyone who makes the other guy cry on stage.

    Biggest Target-have to have the most vile, hateful things said about you by the woo-sers.

    COTY-from the various blogs, whoever has the best, most awesomest comment-the people nominate to the hosts, and the host nominates to the acadamy

    Best in Religion-whoever smacks around the most woo-sers in religion.

    Best in Science/Medicine-ditto in science/medicine

    Best in Show-Whoever has the best skeptical TV show

    Best in Cryptozoology

    Best in Parapsychology

    Best in Ufology

    The Biggest Woo-ser-whoever spreads the most fertilizer-kinda like the golden rasberry

    Best Podcast

    Best Blog

    Best Skeptic-anyone nominated for any award is nominated for this.

    Best in Faux-Whoever pulls of the best hoax.

  17. @Kimbo Jones: Well said. Marching in step isn’t really the way skepticism works, even if we generally agree where the beat is. A strong movement needs its dissenting voices, and won’t thrive as a small group of big faces.
    @Kimbo Jones: Also a good point, and I’d like to add that recognizing outsiders has the added advantage of showing that skepticism isn’t about having a Skeptic’s Club card, it’s about how you think and how you question, not group identity or hero worship.

    And COTW, though in this case C stands for Commenter instead of Comment.

  18. Oh, and I forgot to address the actual question. In science, it’s almost built in to the process, so that’s a rich field, but maybe overrepresented. I’d want to include art, literature, media, and history as the often forgotten fields where skepticism can be found (and possibly where more is most needed).

    Public outreach is important. I’d like a best face of skepticism, or maybe just biggest media whore (I’m looking at you, Phil… with big puppy-dog eyes and a desire to get in on the action). Best bomb thrower, whether you mean it as recognition of throwing the most, or doing it with the most grace and positive effect.

    Recognizing the unusual and unexpected is always good, so an unlikeliest skeptical hero, most unusual topic, biggest impact by the smallest name, or some other “where the hell did that come from?” categories would be good (the pink chaddi campaign rocked, and comes to mind immediately). That also reminds me that a best skepticism in feminism category would interest me, and any other similar ideas.

  19. I’d like there to be a Skepty category for the person who best advances skepticism among the young. I think a lot of us can still remember the first person who showed us how to question. For me, it was like the scales dropped from my eyes.

  20. I have to say that I’d like to see some skeptical art awards and maybe best skeptical website design or best skeptical slogan. We need to encourage all aspects of the skeptical community and that of course includes the creative side.
    I think at this time I would nominate Jill for her fantastic skepchick avatar drawings.

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