AI: Skeptical Activism

Here at Skepchick, we are all big believers in activism. We talk a lot about skeptical topics but we also want to DO. From homeopathic demonstrations to vaccine education and clinics, we work hard to bring skepticism into real, everyday situations and to try to make a difference and spread more critical thinking in the world around us.

Activism can be tricky though. Not everyone always agrees with the best way to approach a problem. Measuring success can be a challenge so it’s often hard to know if we’re actually doing good. And, all too often, we embark on an event with the best intentions and it falls to the wayside because of logistical constraints or simply because we bite off more than we can chew.

Do you do activism, skeptical or otherwise?  If so, what do you do and do you think you’re successful at it. If not, what holds you back?

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


Maria D'Souza grew up in different countries around the world, including Hong Kong, Trinidad, and Kenya and it shows. She currently lives in the Bay Area and has an unhealthy affection for science fiction, Neil Gaiman and all things Muppet.

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  1. I was’t going to comment because I am a little ashamed that I do not see myself as an activist and you skepchick writers all seem so confident and strong and willing to put yourselves out there despite the real risk of public censure. I try to do my part promoting skepticism on a smaller level, day to day, at work, at home and in the world consistently presenting my point of view in hopes of maybe, just maybe planting a seed. That’s how it happened for me. You never know what approach might reach someone and probably there’s a place for all kinds of “activism”

  2. One of the best and lasting things growing up Jewish gave me was my commitment to activism. The concept of tikkun olam (repairing the world) was exceptionally important in my denomination and that meant a lot of projects including working at food banks, protesting unjust laws, raising money for shelters, etc.

    As a young adult in the late 80’s, I got into HIV activism which is how I ended up as an HIV researcher, lo these many years later. Being queer, I have been a queer activist, but I don’t do as much as I used to. I am also passionate about women’s rights having been a clinic defender against Operation Rescue in the mid 90s and a Planned Parenthood volunteer.

    As far as the concept of tikkun olam goes, I should note that it is said to be required that we all do our part. That doesn’t mean I have to do everything. I’m not an environmental activist (though I do compost and recycle) because I feel like I do my part in other places and I have to trust that someone is good to take up the environmental cause.

  3. I’ve marched for causes before, and in fact I met The Girl™ that way (though there was 20 years between meeting and dating).

    Now though, I’ve been content to write letters and donate money. But the way politics are going now, marching is seeming inevitable.

  4. So, Data Jack. How you doin’?

    I only do activist activities on a small scale. Lots of signing petitions, one-on-one education, putting Think Atheist book jammers/stickers out. I don’t feel the need to push my beliefs on anyone, unless others are doing something hurtful.

    I’m lucky enough to live in an area where people are live and let live. The only thing I regularly encounter is holistic crap. I lived in Louisiana for awhile, where Iwas shocked to discover that most of my college chemistry class didn’t believe in evolution. That prompted me to do Science trivia on the radio show I hosted when we had goodies to give away. I think it may have taken me an hour to find someone who knew that the Earth revolves around the Sun and not vice versa.

    I wish I could do more, but I don’t know what or how. I do keep my eyes open for opportunities.

  5. My geekness enables me to provide a fairly secure web hosting environment for creative people who are promoting a reality based lifestyle. I also have sites of my own too, but they are not so popular. I think I have found my niche via my latest venture to enable reality-driven websites.

  6. I’m a new college student who just moved so finding skeptical groups is hard, but I just contacted the Bay Area Skeptics and I MIGHT be going to an anti-anti-vaccine protest, so there’s that. Other than that, no, but I plan to!

    Thanks so much Skepchick for motivating me to pursue that and interesting me in the “skeptical community”. You ladies are awesome!

  7. I blow up retailers who sell homeopathic remedies, homeopathically. That is to say I put a pin drop of nitroglycerin in an oil drum of water, rattle it around a little, place it in front of a store and then run.

  8. I suppose I do more of it now then I used to. When I was involved with the Independent Investigations Group I would engage in a form of activism in trying to speak out and educate people about various forms of paranormal activity.

    It’s been almost two years since I created the Jenny McCarthy Body Count website. THAT can definitely be described as activism. I didn’t actually plan on it becoming that, but I’m kind of glad that it did.


  9. @scribe999: That won’t work. You’re using WAY too much nitro. Dilute it a couple more times and you should be fine. Remember to whack it with a horsehide pad. I find a regulation baseball works quite well. Just stand back and fire a fastball at the drum.

  10. My friends, family and peers were fairly judgmental when I finally became vocal about being a skeptical activist (even though about all I do is post stuff on the net, listen to podcasts and share what I’ve learned when people ask). My wife gave me an especially rough time for saying I felt more like a naturalist than a catholic. So, instead of continuing to post on my own facebook, twitter and personal sites, I elected to try a more direct outlet.

    I rolled out a blog and supporting twitter account to share my favorite skepticism media, engage different communities and express my process of belief at + fuckyeahskeptic on twitter. So far it’s been a good thing for me.

  11. I consider myself an oportunist activist, I suppose. I am surrounded by more bunk than any one person can deal with, and I confess that I pick my battles – most often I simply will not engage. Having said that, I may have cost a professor his job (he was my oceanography instructor around the time of the Climategate fiasco) when he stated in class that he was an intelligent design proponent, and a few weeks later came in to class fuming because “they faked global warming”.
    Also, in a research methods class, when a teacher was attempting to make critical thinkers of the class by showing them a video of Randi (until then I didn’t think anyone within 50 miles of the campus had ever heard of Randi), I stopped all talk of “well, but the fact that these guys were fakes doesn’t prove that there aren’t true psychics around” by pointing out the million dollar challenge (and pulling up the website so i could give them some numbers). So, I do that kind of stuff if the opportunity presents itself. I have been known to try to get people to stop buying into email chain letters, but no success there.

  12. I’ve been on marches in the past in the UK for the Make Poverty History campaign, and to protest the UK going to war in Iraq, but I haven’t done any skeptical activism. I suppose the closest I’ve got is currently trying to stop my sister getting sucked into an evangelical Church (I’m failing so far). I sent her a copy of The God Delusion and you thought I’d sent her a book of how to Satanically sacrifice someone. I think she’s hidden it so her Christian friends don’t find it. The whole of her Church has of course read The Dawkins Delusion but no-one is allowed to read The God Delusion. The Church leaders are probably scared it’ll make too much sense and deconvert them all!

    I love @scribe999‘s idea of blowing up homeopathy shops homeopathically. There’s one near my flat that will make a perfect target!

  13. I’m an activist on a ‘one-to-one’ basis, in the sense that when someone passes around BS as fact, I object and point out the facts. I find Snopes and science web sites particularly helpful with this “hobby.” Reading up on Urban legends and deflating them is a hobby with me.

    Of course, I strafe and bomb Internet trolls in my spare time, write letters and sign/push petitions. Marching could come in the near future, as Zapski and others have noted above.

    I also suggest people watch programs like Mythbusters, Penn & Teller’s ‘Bullshit,’ MasterBlasters, Junkyard Wars and others to get some entertaining learning in.

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