A Sighing Debunker

April 14, 2014

A TV producer, visiting me to shoot segments for a new series, told me of his experience with another skeptic, unnamed, whom he had talked with by phone.

He said that as he would bring up a new topic, the skeptic would sigh loudly and then launch into a diatribe about why the subject was too silly for words. In fact, he said, the skeptic did not seem to have much to offer on the various topics and cases. Consequently, of course, the person was not being invited to appear on any of the shows.

It seems to me that the skeptic’s behavior was symptomatic of several things. First, the sigh of exasperation was obviously meant to say, ‘there you go again,’ meaning that the producer had brought up a topic the skeptic felt should long ago have been laid to rest.

But seasoned skeptics know that paranormal subjects—ghosts, Bigfoot, weeping statues, and the like—are here to stay. The number of cable TV shows devoted to such is living proof of that. Actually it appears the skeptic has tired of certain subjects (if ever interested in them in the first place)—i.e., is suffering from skeptical burnout. This eventually happens to debunkers—not real investigators, who are willing endlessly to seek explanations for mysteries and use them to teach science and the scientific method.

This brings me to the other issue, that the skeptic seemed to have little to offer about the topics the producer posed. Again, it is the investigator rather than the debunker who is apt to know something. Debunkers are quick to be dismissive, or to suggest (antecedent to inquiry) that a claim is a hoax or to offer one or more off-the-shelf explanations (usually based on some investigator’s work—certainly not the debunker’s).

Yet such dismissive, corner-cutting people are often the ones most anxious to appear on television. One told me, “I have as much right to be famous as you!”

(Sigh. . . .)