Thursday, October 1, 2009

Guerrilla Skepticism

After going through Mark Edward's blog post at the Skeptologists, I was inspired to think of a few ways to go about some local guerrilla skepticism. After thinking it out for awhile, I have come up with five ideas that we ourselves can use and build upon. Feedback of any kind is always wanted and appreciated, I'd love to hear what you can come up with.

Subway Pamphlets

Often while riding the subway in a major city, I come across pamphlets designed to entice people with pseudoscience and religion. Instead of throwing out those pamphlets, I write footnotes on them, often questioning the validity of the claims made, or pointing people to resources that will debunk the claims, then leave them for somebody else to findh. This works with any sort of woo, or religion pamphlet, and you will find these things EVERYWHERE, not just on the subway.

Debating Purveyors of Pseudoscience

How often do we see mediums on the street promoting fortunes, palmistry and taro card readings? Charging money to predict the so called future.
Get a video camera, and find some of these people. If they purport that what they are saying is true, and not for "entertainment purposes only", pay for a reading. During and after this reading, ask questions, probing questions, try to avoid the common tricks that these people use, and bring to light any logical fallacies they may deploy against you. If you get results you like post them on YouTube and see if the video goes viral. Don't be a prick though, be polite and respectful of the person, and never insult them, this will only hinder what you're trying to do and make you look bad.

Psychic and New Age Fairs

Basically the same as above, but see how far you can go at a psychic fair. Go to some of the lectures at these, ask questions, and see what happens. Call out things like cold reading and slight of hand if you can spot it. Be creative, and, as always, YouTube is your friend.

Facebook Groups

On Facebook you will find groups supporting topics on virtually every idea known to man. It's a great way for people to converge and network their ideas. Why though, do we not question the leaders of those groups and make sure they can defend their ideas?
Find a group of something you think is pseudoscience, or woo, and send messages to the group moderators and leaders. Write blog posts about how they reply, and how well their evidence stands up to scrutiny. Most will never change their minds, but if they're going make a claim, they better be able to stand up for that claim.

Data Dropping

Get a bunch of burnable C.D's, or if you're really ambitious, DVD's and burn various media onto them. Suggestions are podcasts, collected blog posts, videos from youtube you got using capture software, ect.
Drop these off at random places throughout town, you never know who might pick these up. Make sure you write an e-mail people can contact you on the actual C.D itself, and a brief description of what's on it, so that they are less wary of their being a virus on it. If done on a mass scale this would be an epic way to get skeptical media out there to people who otherwise might never find it.

I look forward to hearing from anybody who might try these, and look for blog posts on my experiences using these tactics in the future

Happy questioning!

-Christopher Hall