The Worst Thing Brian Dunning Has Done for Skepticism
Brian Dunning is fairly prominent amongst skeptics for his podcast, Skeptoid. He’s prominent amongst FBI agents for his conviction for wire fraud. (The case has been ongoing since 2011, but Dunning’s sentencing is April 28, 2014.) For those who are unfamiliar with the skeptical community, it is based in large part on exposing frauds, so this criminal’s continued popularity with skeptics is a fascinating study in human nature.
For instance, Dunning was a
Even more impressive is the fact that skeptics recently rushed to give Dunning even more money, funding a Kickstarter campaign with nearly $15,000 so Dunning could print out transcripts of his podcast and sell them as a book, using volunteer time to ship the books out. Again, just to be clear: Dunning is a rich, convicted fraud who may soon be facing up to 20 years in prison (though more likely much less for a first offense). The very same skeptics who happily point out to Mormons that they idolize a fraud in Joseph Smith, and who tell believers of Sylvia Browne that she was convicted of fraud, are giving their money to a convicted fraud who actually used them in his criminal acts
Check out the comments on that Kickstarter for a real eye-opening look at the skeptics who support Dunning. When one backer discovers Dunning’s fraud conviction and politely points it out to others, one man responds:
First of all, if Brian successfully stole money from eBay (a charge that I wouldn’t even believe if he pled guilty, based on what I know of computer fraud laws and federal prosecutors) then great!
But all that is just preamble. Remaining a prominent face of skepticism while awaiting sentencing for fraud is not the worst thing Brian Dunning has done for skepticism. And no, it’s not how he repeatedly gets the science wrong on his podcast, or his casual sexism. No, this is the worst thing Brian Dunning has done for skepticism:
If you can make it through 60 seconds of that video without covering your eyes and saying “Oh no no no no no no,” you’re a stronger person than I am. I found the video by seeing it linked on r/cringe, where it rightfully sits amongst other painfully awkward YouTube videos that seem like Tim & Eric sketches but real.
For those who can’t see the video, first of all: congratulations. Allow me to describe it. A jowly, middle-aged, balding white man awkwardly attempts to “rap,” but he’s never actually heard rap before. He knows it has something to do with rhymes. Here’s an example that is not in the video but should give you an idea of the cadence and skill:
Well my name is Brian and I’m here to say
I like to rap, in a science way.
The man (who is, spoiler alert, Brian Dunning) “raps” presumably about skeptic topics but without ever really imparting any knowledge. For instance, he mentions crop circles but then says something about spraying them with “Monsanto, helping your plant grows” (or maybe “up in your plant rows,” I’m not sure). Or Bigfoot:
It’s like Bigfoot
And your buddy says “watch”
He shows you 27 pixels
and says “That’s sasquatch”
Or a yeti or an ape from Mongolia
But it’s just pareidolia
The last line is delivered as Dunning waggles his head and gazes smugly into the camera, apparently unaware that what he has just described is not, in fact, pareidolia.
By the end of the video, attractive young women in bras and miniskirts are gyrating around Dunning as he “raps” about how “it’s just science.”
It’s the perfect, stereotypical view of the skeptic: an older white man with thousands of dollars to spare for professional video production co-opts a culture he doesn’t understand in order to spout mistruths in the most embarrassing way possible while adorning himself with thin, half-naked women. The perfect storm of douchebaggery.
So that’s my opinion. But what say you, Skepchick readers? Here’s a poll: