Barry Williams, Executive Officer, Australian Skeptics:
20th August 2003
interview the Editor of Australian Skeptic.
does Australian Skeptics represent?
suppose, if we represent anything, it's critical
thinking and rational analysis (of claims). Broadly,
we don't accept claims as fact unless there is
some evidence to support them. The more extraordinary
the claim the more evidence we need.
and how did you become a skeptic?
long story, but I have been a fairly skeptical
person for as long as I can remember. I'll talk
more about this later if you like.
I first approached you about this interview, were
I get similar requests all the time. There are
requests that make me skeptical because some of
them are couched in pretty weird terms, but these
are more likely to be framed in terms of statements
rather than questions.
are your beliefs based on?
(we) don't really have "beliefs" in
this context (of course, many of us have personal
beliefs about a whole range of matters - for instance,
I believe that cricket is the most sublime activity
ever devised by man :-) ).
tend to agree that science is the most useful
system yet devised for explaining the natural
world. Skepticism isn't a belief system, rather
it's a method of assessing things you hear to
decide if they are likely to be true or not. You
could probably sum it up in a motto, "Don't
do you decide what is real and credible when you
watch the news or read a newspaper?
entirely on the story. Often you have to decide
what is news and what is the opinion of the journalist.
I have a rule of thumb "if it sounds like
crap it probably is", which is not infallible,
but works far more often than not.
does the Internet assist you?
wonderful tool that allows one to access all sorts
of information on every conceivable subject, most
of which is wrong.
do your belief contradict biblical writings?
beliefs (or lack thereof) neither contradict nor
confirm biblical writings. Scientific and historical
evidence contradicts plenty of them.
being a true skeptic also mean you are an Atheist?
necessarily, though personally I am both a skeptic
and an atheist. Other skeptics subscribe to a
wide variety of religious (and political) beliefs.
There is no "party line" skeptics are
required to follow.
you believe in black magic?
nor any other kind, apart from the skillful tricks
conducted by "magicians" or similar
entertainers. That sort of magic I greatly enjoy.
there be an "end times" - is the end
of the world, and do you care to make a predication?
best available evidence suggests that the sun
will run out of fuel and expand to engulf the
Earth in around 5 billion years. Whether there
will still be humans around then is unknown, but
I doubt it - there are plenty of natural phenomena
that can wipe us out within that time-frame. Or
we might simply evolve.
many frauds are perpetrated on the Australian
public by the media and government?
not too many outright deliberate frauds, but plenty
of spin and half-truths. That seems to be the
nature of the beast.
do you communicate with the other members in Australia,
and indeed, around the globe?
communication methods (apart from smoke signals,
carrier pigeons and message sticks) and we publish
a quarterly journal, the Skeptic.
are the highlights of the year, from a Skeptics
awarding of the Australian Skeptics Eureka Prize
for Critical Thinking (which happened last week),
our annual convention (which happens next weekend)
at which we will announce the winner of our Bent
Spoon Award (for "the perpetrator of the
most preposterous piece of paranormal piffle").
Publication day for The
Skeptic, but that's largely because I am the
editor. Any time a quack or charlatan is exposed
(not often enough).
have you and the Australian Skeptics made a positive
have helped take a few quacks etc out of circulation
and we have raised the public awareness of some
of the tricks they get up to. To some degree we
have forced makers of dubious claims to be a bit
more circumspect about what they claim. But it
is a constant struggle.
note: An interesting, witty interview. Stay tuned.
We have only just began to explore the world of
Skeptics official website
Skeptic (Online journal)
Man Australia, Greg Tingle, interviews Bob Carrol,
founder of Skepdic.com
Wilshire: The Wilshire Zone
Tingle speaks to Brian Wilshire - 25th February
Skeptics official website
End Times - The End of the World