September 19, 2014

An old skeptics site gets a shot in the arm

I blogged at the start of the month about the James Randi Educational Foundation's announcement that it had terminated D.J. Grothe and closed its Los Angeles office, and then followed up with wondering if JREF, like the Center for Inquiry a few years ago, might not be suffering from founder's syndrome.

As part of that, I wondered if Michael Shermer/Skeptics Society might take over JREF, while at the same time, noting that its SkepticBlog seemed almost on its last legs.

Well, that has officially changed.

Jim Lippard
Skepticblog is being replaced with something new. Jim Lippard has one of the first posts. Questions of "why," that run through my thoughts, are answered well right here, in his tracing the roots of modern movement skepticism back to the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, or CSICOP:
But what were CSICOP’s original goals, and has the organization successfully met them? What are the goals of the other skeptical organizations that have been formed in the U.S. and around the world since (and in a few cases, before) CSICOP, and are they being achieved? Just what is the value and purpose of “organized skepticism” as a movement, as a set of institutions, as a network of people participating in conferences, writing articles and books, recording podcasts and videos, and interacting online? What does it accomplish, what is the broader social context in which it resides, and what is its relation to the institutions, practices, and subject matter of science? Does it do anything that isn’t already done by science, science journalists, science communicators, historians and philosophers of science, social studies of science, science museums, science educators, and just ordinary amateur science-interested people? What can skeptics learn from these other areas? What does it mean to self-identify as a “skeptic”? Where has skepticism gone wrong, and what can we learn from its failures? Are there alternatives to “organized skepticism” that might better achieve all or some of its goals?
Click the link; you'll learn what Jim plans to cover and more. 

And, for more background, click this link, also included in Jim's piece. Daniel Loxton goes into a bit more depth, already in 2007, on some of these issues.

Loxton, who was one of the last two at Skepticblog, along with Donald Prothero, has the formal announcement for "Insight," along with the complete roster of contributors.

I'm glad to see Michael McRae there, among others. It further internationalizes the place. Blake Smith, please don't totally squelch your bad puns sense of humor in your contributions. I like Tim Farley there, too.

And, all of you, please feel free to follow Lippard's model in your opening contributions.

I'm not totally enthused by a couple of contributors. Offering a semi-blank slate, I won't go into details of the issue involved, or the degree of difference and vocalization thereof, but, I'll be keeping my own skeptical eye out if certain issues of psychology are discussed, and I'm not the only skeptical type -- including a skeptical organization -- who doesn't see these issues there way. Enough said on that now.

And, I'm not at all familiar with Eve Siebert, but hope to learn more about her particular focus. Linguistics-related issues could be fun.

Anyway, more on the whole roster here. I will add that, beyond adding Mike, I hope they add either another "international" person, preferably one of color, an American "person of color," or both. Also, if Barbara Drescher is here, is she still going to be doing anything with Randi, or not? Especially since Randi's own column is reportedly not in the latest issue of his foundation's magazine, that plot thickens, too.

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