Afternoon Inquisition

AI: Freeing the truth… and some other things

As skeptics we tackle about a million different “skeptical topics”. In fact, it seems like no topic in the universe is invulnerable to woo. It’s everywhere… in everything… you cannot escape it. Someone somewhere has an alternative theory about anything that is and is almost not imaginable. And, unfortunately, as reality activists, it’s absolutely impossible to get to the bottom of everything and understand the truth or even recognize the fallacies in every topic that is presented… we cannot be “true skeptics” all the time.

But what if we could ease our burden? What if we could change one thing and make a single topic totally woo-proof? Let’s say you are given the opportunity to shine a big fat ray of truth on any one thing and make everyone everywhere understand it totally and completely. What would that topic be? Is it something that you already understand? Is it something you totally don’t understand but wish you could? What would you do with that information once it’s truthified? Would you be wearing pants while shining the truth upon the world? Would I be wearing pants? Would the truth even involve pants? Are you wearing pants right now? Are pants even relevant to this question? What is my obsession with pants? Stop picturing me with my pants off and answer the question!

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


Elyse MoFo Anders is the bad ass behind forming the Women Thinking, inc and the superhero who launched the Hug Me! I'm Vaccinated campaign as well as podcaster emeritus, writer, slacktivist extraordinaire, cancer survivor and sometimes runs marathons for charity. You probably think she's awesome so you follow her on twitter.

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  1. This cracks me up because I am all about not wearing pants when at home and I tend to twitter and facebook about it: “Sunday is offically No Pants Day!” Or: “I’m finally home and pantsless!” Etc.

    Essentially, no, I would not be wearing pants and if I could get away with it at work, I wouldn’t be wearing pants right now.

  2. There are a whole mess of things for which I would like to just get the fascination (or dependency) over with. I guess the main one for me would be religion. Nip that in the bud and so many other things would find order.

    About the pants… I am wearing pants at the moment. But I think that if I were going to have a big “in your face, religion” event I would want to be pantsless. It would be that much sweeter. And I assume you would also be pantsless. Pants (and a subsequent lack thereof) are relevant to all things.

  3. “I find your lack of pants… disturbing.”

    (Look, SOMEONE had to do it.)

    And to answer the question: If we could 100% woo-proof the field of medicine, I’d be happy. (Religion’s a great idea, too, but since it’s based on woo already, that’s kind of a tall order. Medicine is science based… at least, it’s supposed to be!)

  4. While carr2d2 is away, pantsless i shall stay.

    Also, I would have to agree with @Chelsea:

    as religion is the cause of so many problems (arrogance and judgement towards others, that even causes rifts within all the various forms of dogmas/faiths brought out of it).

    While not a end-all solution to the problems, it would be a good starting point

  5. The supernatural.
    This covers all religion but I’m thinking it would deal with a lot of hocus pocus alt-med-woo crap also. And especially those who say they’re not religious just spiritual and in touch with whatever the fuck they’re in touch with, pants or no pants.

  6. I don’t know if this qualifies but I wish I could get everyone to understand how seductive the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy is and how to guard against it. Post hoc ergo propter hoc is to blame for: good luck charms, bad luck charms, weather and crop rituals, animal and human sacrifice, miracle cures, and frankly a sizable chunk of the world’s superstition, pseudoscience and mythology. I can’t help thinking that the world would be a lot better off if people understood that.

  7. 1) Voting for the supernatural is cheating. “I want woo to be free of woo.” I bet you drink caffeine free diet sodas.

    2) My vote would be biology. Once you get biology cleared up (i.e. origins and development thereof, medicine), you only have to deal with the YECs who are certifiably insane, anyway.

    3) For the record, I am wearing pants only because I have been warned that removing them at work is bad. We have been informed we don’t want a repeat of when AC went out.

  8. I would shine a big honking light on M. Night Shama-lama-ding-dong’s entire career, exposing him for the terrible hack that he is and causing wide swaths of the American moviegoing public to instantaneously recognize that 90% of everything produced in the last 15 years is pure crap.

    No, it would not do humanity a lot of good. But it would make me feel a hell of a lot better about my failed writing career.

    And I would be wearing pants, but only because it is Wisconsin, and I do not like to be cold.

  9. I’m going to have to vote for physics, especially topics like energy and force and, well, all of Quantum Mechanics. I think if we could burn off all the woo that co-opts physics terms, if not ideas, it would help bring all sorts of tangential woos down too.

    As for pants, its too cold to be pantsless so either we have to wait for June again or suffer pants.

  10. Right now: Monsters. Some [email protected] 3-4 year old convinced my toddler that monsters exist. However when I explained that monsters do not exist, she looked at me suspiciously and decided I was part of The Great Monster Conspiracy. I’m proud that she requires evidence before she believes me, but I’m disturbed by the idea that some snot-bubbled kid who still needs to be reminded not to poop his pants has more street cred than Mom. Somehow, I think he or she had less than credible evidence of said monster existence.

    Down with Pants!

  11. I agree with Chelsea on religion. If we cleared that up a lot of the faith healing and mystery energy fallacies in alt med would disappear as well.

    I am not wearing pants but I am wearing fuzzy slippers.

  12. This may not be the One Big Thing in the grand scheme of things, but I’d like to shine the Big Fat Ray of Truth on the current witchcraft persecutions going on in sub-Saharan Africa right now. They are torturing and burning old women and children for witchcraft from Nigeria to Kenya to Zimbabwe. It’s easily the equal of any of the horrors of the Inquisition in Renaissance Europe, but when you hear news stories, they are isolated and presented as “Weird News.” — “Those wacky, primitive Africans! Always burning each other alive.”

    Oh, and there are plenty of indications that American Evangelical missionaries may be behind at least some of it (see, e.g.).

    Witch hunts, in the 21st century, planned and organized by churches. And nobody in the West is taking it seriously.

  13. I would be be wearing a kilt today, accept i no longer fit in them.

    I would point it at racism, sexism, bigotry, gender relations, etc. I would like to get down to the bottom of it, have honest discussions, and have everything understood. If only to avoid all the crap i have to deal with being the only young guy/white guy/ peirced guy/ skeptic guy/ feminist guy/ etc in the working class world i inhabit.

  14. @davew:
    @Old Geezer: Is God wearing pants? Where does he get them made?

    Italy, if Mr. Deity is to be believed.

    I thought my donations were helping to keep Mr. Deity full of bananas.
    Italian pants? What does a deity need with Italian pants? Wait, have the Italians figured out a way to make pants out of bananas?
    Then if I must wear pants, let them be Italian Banana Pants.

  15. @Chelsea: The pleasure of being pants-less is relative to the annoyingness of being pants-ful. If being pants-less was the standard, then wearing pants would be the guilty pleasure, and that would suck.

  16. If not religion (since, as @Matt Hall points out, woo can’t be free from woo), then I would definitely shine my big fat ray of truth on medicine. If everybody understood what some medicine works and some is just woo, the world would be a nice place. And no pants. They will only make my big fat “ray of truth” less accessible to everyone everywhere.

  17. @Gabrielbrawley: haha, well actually what I meant was more in the sense of pre-crazy Tom Cruise sliding pantless thru the doorway in his underwear.

    As for me going full-monty, well that is for her Skepchick…errr…I mean Skepchicks’ eyes only. What can I say, I don’t mind proclaiming myself as Property Of Skepchick :p

  18. Quantum Physics. Without a doubt. I want to know if there really ARE alternate dimensions. If they exists, how do they function? I don’t really know enough about the topic and there is so much misinformation that it’s hard to know what is accurate and what is woo.

    I’ve got enough trouble with being taken seriously since I have pink hair. So I would have to be wearing pants. Or a really cute skirt.

  19. I’ve been vacillating between medicine woo and religion woo. I think overall religion woo has killed more people so I’ll go with it.
    For the record I’m panted at the moment but I’m not happy about it.

  20. I would like to see chronic illness communities as a whole become instantly inoculated against the immense amounts of woo that are targeted at sick people. If every chronically ill person suddenly understood why homeopathy is a crock, we could focus our energies on a lot more productive inquiry.

    Also? No pants.

  21. Climatology woo woo, considering that anthropogenic global warming, and a whole host of other problems that come with increasing CO2 emmissions, is probably the greatest threat to humanity’s survival for now.

  22. Evolution. And definitely pants. I have just strong enough of a puritan streak in me where going pantsless is uncomfortable to me. However, I am not so uncomfortable that I feel the need to be always wearing jorts.

  23. The extremely fit, passionate, intelligent woman I met two weeks ago.

    If she weren’t so deeply into chiropractic, magnet healing, “far infrared” and eastern mysticism, she would be so much more interesting!

    Ok, ok. Being a little less self-serving for the moment, I think I’d vote for healthcare / medicine.

  24. can I vote for science, or is that effectively cheating?

    I’m quite fond of clothing. It renders me (slightly) less unpleasant-looking, and it has pockets. I am very fond of pockets. Though, that’s just my personal preference. I would probably be fine with other people being pantsless, so long as my personal space was not invaded, and I am not expected to share porous seating surfaces with them. Also, I may find it difficult to look at them (or, in some cases, avoid staring :/ ) but, that’s more my issue, so, meh…

  25. @Chelsea:

    What Chelsea said. Once you get rid of religion, creationism and faith healing fall immediately and other things like honor killings and resistance to birth control shouldn’t take too much longer.

    And I can’t believe this hasn’t been brought up: There are countries where women who find pants convenient face severe punishment if they wear them, for religious reasons.

    Though I personally would hope that abolishing religion would lead to women taking their pants off more often.

  26. I will have to say medicine. This AI was well-timed, as I just got into a huge fight with my brother on the phone about H1N1 vaccinations. It can be so disheartening to hear people you care about spouting nonsense and conspiracy theories because they haven’t bothered to research the facts or think about it for themselves.

    Also, my father-in-law is currently waiting for cancer test results. If it is cancer, he plans to treat it “alternatively” because he is convinced that doctors and drug companies want to kill him with chemotherapy and radiation. His alternative therapies of choice? An alkaline-based diet and oxygen therapy. I really wish that people understood science-based medicine.

    And the first thing I do when I get home from work is take my pants off. Ahh…

  27. I should say medicine…but the I’d have nothing to kvetch about with all the anti-vacciners poofing out of existence. Oh…I’ll say medicine anyway. And no pants.

    Also, @MathMike…yeah…bananas…not fancy pants pants.

  28. I’d like to teach everyone how to read and understand information about medicine and medical research. There seems to be this barrier that keeps people from understanding things like drugs, diseases, and vaccines. I think it has a lot to do with a basic misunderstanding of Biology, but also a lack of understanding certain terminology.

    If that doesn’t make any sense, I’ll give an example: I recently had a conversation with someone about flu shots, wherein the person thought that flu virus mutates so quickly because of our meddling. She believes that the flu virus becomes vaccine resistant because people are over-vaccinated. This is clearly just a lack of knowledge about viruses and vaccines.

  29. @lexicakes:

    I’d like to teach everyone how to read and understand information about medicine and medical research

    See that’s how we are different. I would like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony. I would like to buy the world a coke and keep it company. That’s the song I sing. That’s the real thing.

  30. For me it would be economics, but I’m an economist so I would say that.

    If I’m right, popular misconceptions about economics cause massive harm to humanity (I suspect they are the main reason Africa is still so poor).

    If I’m wrong, I really want to know.

  31. Fuck all. It’s late, and now I’m drunk, but seriously, no one has a response on Witch Hunts in the 21st century? This is basic stuff — this is the roots of skepticism going back to the 17th century. Some months ago, Hemant at Friendly Atheist — of all people — posted a YouTube of a witch burning in Zimbabwe (which I won’t link to — thank me later) that was the most horrifying thing I’ve ever seen — and I’ve seen some horrifying things. The Fortean site (Yah! Boo!) Cabinet of Wonders has been covering Witchcraft Persecution regularly. Just the other day Pharyngula fer cryin’ out loud posted about Witchcraft Persecution in Africa. I’m only one voice, and a minor voice at that. Skepchicks are international. You could make a difference. But you don’t.

    The witch persecutions in Africa, which are going on as we speak, are the single most pressing issue that Skeptics can speak to, eloquently and forcefully. There is no reason for another elderly woman or child to burn for witchcraft anywhere in the world. The fact that they are burning right now in “the Dark Continent” and no one says anything is indicative. And you’re all fucking around with creationists and psychics like a bunch of losers while women burn.

  32. Life. Don’t talk to me about life.

    Yes, that’s my Ray of Truth topic: life. (The Universe And Everything are included at no extra charge.) It’s not only a single topic, as specified, but a single word, so nobody can argue with me that it’s too vague and hopeful and hey watch where you point that Ray of Truth, there.

    But wait! My Ray of Truth has an added feature! Since you cannot destroy energy, merely transform it, all of the woo gets turned into WOO!…and goes straight into the pants.

  33. I can’t believe I never thought of that – post a belligerent, rambling post here so I can be personally pwned by a Skepchick (maybe even Head Skepchick herself!). Talk about bragging rights! I’s a bit like that person who asked Grouch Marx to insult them. Genius!

    Hey, Skepchicks…you are all…dumb… and stuff… (who am I kidding? I am not belligerent.)

  34. @BonnieBeth: You stole my line. I’m so-o-o-o depressed.

    And paranoid androids don’t wear pants anyway…Now I’m even more depressed…..

  35. @Howard:

    It’s not cynicism to say that CNN, MSNBC, or FOX are making shit up. It’s an honest observation.

    But they WEREN’T making shit up. The parents of the child were. There is a huge distinction. While the media has some fault in that they went super crazy (but that’s normal for them, so whatever), they were only working on what they were given, INCLUDING a sheriff who said, with cewrtainty that the boy WAS in the baloon (I heard it: “Yes, the boy is in the balloon.”).

  36. I wish I could make everyone understand the realities of mental illness. Things like depression, OCD, and schizophrenia are diseases just like any other. It’s not a matter of having the willpower to just will your brain to be different. It’s not a moral failing to have these diseases or to get treatment for them. External factors only play a tiny part; these diseases are mostly hereditary. That’s why certain types of therapy are completely useless (like trying to recover repressed memories or figure out what event “caused” the mental illness). Using drugs to treat these diseases is no more shameful than using drugs to treat physical diseases.

  37. @Howard:

    And you’re all fucking around with creationists and psychics like a bunch of losers while women burn.

    LMAO. Yes, because something horrible exists, we must ignore all the other horrible, harmful crap!

    I hate that argument: “Well, THIS is happeing, so why are you talking about THAT?”


  38. @Tracy King:
    Sure, you can laugh. That’s only because you’ve never been burned, or known anyone who’s been burned. If you understood how painful it is to be burned, you would be more compassionate and caring and sensitive and awesome like me.

    I am a Hedge

  39. @catgirl: Right on! I second the Ray of Truth on mental illness. There is sooooo much woo and superstition and just plain bad info surrounding this topic it bottles….I mean boggles the mind.

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discussed schizophrenia in a college class room and someone invariably makes the assumption that they are all beyond hope and dangerous killers, or they should all just mediatate or try yoga or something and they’ll be fine. Sheesh!

  40. @Garrison22:

    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve discussed schizophrenia in a college class room and someone invariably makes the assumption that they are all beyond hope and dangerous killers, or they should all just mediatate or try yoga or something and they’ll be fine. Sheesh!

    None of that will work. They just need another good solid whack on the head. Then they’ll be all back to normal.

    (I don’t see the problem with Sam in a dress. He is wearing a dress in all of my photoshopped pictures of him.)

    I am a Hedge

  41. Medicine.
    Oh, and no-one is wearing pants except me. I’m only wearing pants.

    (Translated into american. pants = trousers. Actually, maybe not)

  42. @marilove:
    Well pants here (UK) is always underpants, which changes my mental picture slightly. Should probably have said translated from american. I’d usually go for the specific type, such as jeans or combats, and use trousers for what you’d probably call suit-pants.
    For the mental image I’m going to go for all black combats and possibly add some big black boots. Also, there may be wind and lightning. Obviously my surlyramics atomic A too, somehow it always seems to demand shirtlessness.

  43. @neverclear5: True story: My best friend studied for a year in London in university. He travelled light, and needed to buy clothes. He went into Harrod’s and a nice young lady asked him if she could help. He asked here where he could buy some pants* and suspenders**. He saw her barely reigned-in shock and quickly corrected, “Trousers and braces! TROUSERS AND BRACES!”

    *UK underwear
    **UK garter belt

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