Being a Skeptical Activist
Many people from all walks of life are now actively involved in some way in what has become known as The Skeptical Movement. For some, their main level of engagement is simply learning and being informed about skepticism - reading, attending presentations, and exploring websites, about subjects of interest or concern to skeptics. Even if this is as far as you pursue your interest in skepticism, you are still participating and, so long as you are in broad agreement with the principle and aims of skepticism, as illustrated here, you can count yourself as a skeptical activist.
You may at times, like other skeptical activists, wish to go further than this - e.g. by promoting a skeptical stance on matters that are of particular concern to you; supporting campaigns; signing petitions; giving presentations or writing articles, blogs, posts and tweets on topics within your field of knowledge; donating to skeptical causes; making formal complaints about misleading and pseudo-scientific claims in the media; communicating with the media in general; and participating in the testing of individuals who claim to possess unusual abilities. If you are an ASKE member you may contribute material to this website, include publicity about your own skeptical activities.
This webpage is intended to provide guidance for anyone who wishes to pursue further their interest in skepticism and perhaps be a more active participant. The following is presented with UK readers in mind.
Books on skepticism
If you are new to skepticism you may want to read a general, up-to-date introduction. There is plenty of material online but you may prefer the comfort and convenience of reading offline sources.
If you click here you will find a list of popular books on modern skepticism. Three comprehensive guides that are listed there are:
The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience, which is a two-volume collection of articles edited by Michael Shermer;
Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time by Michael Shermer; and
The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe: How to Know What's Really Real in a World Increasingly Full of Fake by Steven Novella.
Books authored in the UK include:
Anomalistic Psychology by Chris French; and
Why Statues Weep: The Best of the "Skeptic" edited by Wendy Grossman and Chris French.
You will find other books that specialise in topics of skeptical interest such as paranormal claims, pseudoscience and antiscience, medicine (alternative and orthodox), and conspiracy theories.
The UK has its own skeptical magazine The Skeptic (not to be confused with the US journal of the same name - see below) which for many years was available as a hard copy. This is now online and, may be accessed at www.skeptic.org.uk/.
There are two well-established skeptical periodicals published in the USA that are of a high academic quality. One is of these is the bi-monthly Skeptical Inquirer, published by the Centre for Inquiry. There are lots of articles accessible online, but you can have the full issue mailed to you (there is a UK agent).
The Skeptic is published by the Skeptics Society of the USA. Again, there are many online articles but you can have the full journal delivered to your address.
Skeptical societies all over the world have their own periodicals in their own language. The Australian Skeptics magazine is of course in English, and is quite substantial.
You can develop your interest in skepticism further by attending meetings and conferences devoted to topics of skeptical interest. For a long time now, all over the UK, and in other countries, meetings have been held in pubs at which invited speakers give talks of relevance to skepticism. In fact it's a good way of learning about areas of knowledge and recent scientific developments over a wide range. You might even consider offering to give a talk yourself in your field of expertise. Anyone is welcome to come along. There is no entrance fee, but a donation of the price of a pint is encouraged. There may be a Skeptics in the Pub near you - you can check on this by clicking here. Note that currently no live meetings are held owing to the Covid 19 pandemic but weekly online meetings are now being hosted by Skeptics in the Pub Online.
In some cases you'll find that the organisers of a Skeptics in the Pub are involved in other skeptical activities and some have quite busy websites, such as the Merseyside Skeptics Society and the Greater Manchester Skeptics Society. If you are keen, you and your colleagues could consider setting up a Skeptics in the Pub in your locality - you'll be offered plenty of support.
In the UK, a hugely popular annual skeptical conference is held in Manchester with an attendance in the hundreds from all over the world. It is called QED ('Question, Answer, Explore'). Presentations covering a limitless range of areas of interests, both in the sciences and the arts, are given by international experts over one weekend. QED is organised by North West Skeptical Events Ltd (NWSE), a volunteer-owned non-profit organisation originating from a collaboration between the two skeptical societies above.
There are, of course, events that take place in other countries. One worth mentioning here (simply because it is in English) is the bi-annual European Society of Hypnosis. Further details of this can be found on this website here. For other conferences see the list on Wikipedia.
There are a host of individuals and groups in the UK and elsewhere that share the aims and principles of the skeptics movement. Many of these are listed in the section Other organisations and websites and may be confined to Twitter accounts, blogs, podcast series and YouTube channels. Others are more involved in campaigning and you may follow their activities online, become a member yourself, or support them in other ways. It's worth mentioning four of them here:
Sense About Science: 'With a database of over 6,000 scientists, from Nobel prize winners to postdocs and PhD students, we work in partnership with scientific bodies, research publishers, policy makers, the public and the media, to change public discussions about science and evidence.'
The Good Thinking Society: Founded by science writer Simon Singh, its goal is 'to encourage curiosity and promote rational thinking' and is actively involved in campaigning against misinformation, quackery and pseudoscience.
HealthWatch: Campaigns against unproven and questionable medical practices, including alternative medicine but also dubious claims in mainstream medicine.
The Nightingale Collaboration: 'The Nightingale Collaboration (also see below) challenges questionable claims made by healthcare practitioners on their websites, in adverts and in their promotional and sales materials by bringing these to the attention of the appropriate regulatory bodies. We also strive to ensure that organisations representing healthcare practitioners have robust codes of conduct for their members that protect the public and that these are enforced.'
Making a complaint about dubious health claims
The media, including the internet, are full of advertisements for products and treatments that are claimed to alleviate and cure illnesses and problems despite any proper evidence that they are able to do this. They may even be dangerous. ASKE encourages members of the public to formally complain about such scams to the Advertising Standards Authority/ Committee of Advertising Practice. Guidance on how to do this may be found on the ASA/ CAP website. Over the years individuals and groups, such as the Nightingale Collaboration (see below), have been very successful at having advertisers remove misleading health claims for their products from their advertisements, promotional literature and websites. The ASA/ CAP publishes its rulings every week here.
Activities of some ASKE members
Some ASKE members are themselves very active in promoting skepticism, irrespective of their membership of ASKE. If you are a member yourself, in the section below you are free to announce any activities you are involved in that may be of interest to other members and anyone visiting this website.