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ECSO President, Claire Klingenberg on the State of Skepticism

October 31, 2019

The European Council of Skeptical Organisations (ECSO) is an umbrella of skeptical organizations throughout the EU that investigate claims of pseudoscience, and defend scientific integrity and practice in research, education, medicine, and public policy.

Claire Klingenberg
Claire Klingenberg

Point of Inquiry co-host Kavin Senapathy attended the 2019 European Skeptics Congress in Ghent, Belgium, where she presented during the session on “Green Skepticism.” While there, Senapathy had the opportunity to put her head together with some of the most respected skeptics in the world, including ECSO president Claire Klingenberg.

In this episode, Kavin and Claire dive into the current state of the skeptics movement around the world, and what the future of skepticism may look like. Claire explains what she sees as the ideological difference between the American skeptical movement and the European skeptical movement and the interplay between politics and skepticism. They also break down how the social sciences fit into skepticism, how we define what it means to be a skeptic, and the dangers of following personalities deemed “logical” without scrutiny.
You can follow Claire on twitter @ClaireAccendit or visit her website:

What was that great music you heard?

“Building the Sled” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

“Vittoro” by Blue Dot Sessions / CC BY-NC 4.0

Claire Klinenberg It’s not possible to be apolitical as one individual, unless you live in a cottage in the middle of nowhere by yourself. I mean, the second there’s more than one person. It’s already it’s already political. 

Kavin Senapathy Hi, everyone. It’s me, Kavin Senapathy. Your point of inquiry co-host. Some of you may know this about me already, but I credit skepticism for saving me in 2011 when my daughter was born. 

I found myself in a rough place, afraid of nearly everything. Fortunately, I found one skeptic’s blog which then led me to others and I was able to pull myself out of it. So skepticism is important to me. That’s why I invited Claire Klinenberg, president of the European Council of Skeptical Organizations, to talk about the skeptics movement, skeptical leadership and the future of skepticism. 

Hi, everyone. It’s me, Kavin Senapathy. Your point of inquiry co-host here with yet more juicy points to inquire about. Today, we’re gonna be talking about a favorite point of inquiry topic, and that is skepticism. Joining us today is one of the most skeptical people on Earth, and that is my judgment. So you’ve got to take my word. But others would agree. Claire Klinenberg has been involved with the skeptics movement since 2013 when she was the co organizer of the Czech Paranormal Challenge. Since then, she’s been involved in all manner of skeptical and science related projects of everything that Claire gets into. One of the coolest and most important is serving as president of the European Council of Skeptical Organizations. It’s great to have you on point of inquiry. So thanks so much for joining us. 

Claire Klinenberg Claire, thank you for inviting me. And thanks for the wonderful introduction. 

Kavin Senapathy You’re very welcome. So I first got to know you, Claire, at QED, which stands for Question. Explore Discover in Manchester, UK in twenty seventeen. Now, I’ve loved several of the skeptics conferences I’ve been to, including Psychon. But for me and for others I’ve heard from QED is the pinnacle of skeptical conferences against which I compare all others. So at that time, Claire, you had just come on as as president of XO, you told me a bit about this earlier, but you were committed at that point to going to as many skeptical conferences as you could. And you’d been just to Psychon just a few months earlier where you and I first met. So at this point today, would you say you have a pretty solid view of the skeptics movement around the world? And if you could sum it up in a few minutes, what is your view of the current state of the skeptics movement in the era Europe, in the US and worldwide? 

Claire Klinenberg My point of view excludes Australia because I haven’t had a chance to go to any of their events yet. So my view will mainly focus on the European skeptical movement and Americans skeptical movement. There is a huge difference in approaches. When I compare these CEU, but also still, even generally within the skeptical movement, I see this kind of opening chasm between an approach of a skeptic and the approach of a skeptical activist. I feel the difference is generational, but not always, Keith. The border is that strong between these two. But generally, I would say that the difference here is generational. When it comes to the approach, how should skeptic’s exist? What did they do? What should they attempt to do? What are their goals? What are their aims? 

And I feel that the U.S. is kind of leaning on being the skeptic. 

And I see Europe emerging as more as this is the leader of the skeptical activist skeptic movement. The reason I see that is that in each European country, there is a skeptical group over or group of a similar kind. And each of this each of these groups have so many activities that they’re doing. They are working on so many different projects. They’re incredibly active and fit for my understanding of the groups in the US, the individual ones, they are more like hobby clubs. And that’s wonderful as well. I mean, that’s one of the things I love about going to skeptic conferences, is you don’t have to worry about too many disagreements and you can just enjoy being among people. But that should not be the aim of our existence. So I think the main difference is, is who are we doing this for? I’d like the decision that’s in front of us right now is to decide are we doing skepticism to feel good about ourselves and to feel smart or do. Are we doing skepticism because we want to make the world around us a little better and help people who fall prey to people who take advantage of. I’m skeptical thinking or on a mental and emotional time in someone’s life. 

Kavin Senapathy In your experience between the U.S. and Europe, is that in the U.S., it’s more of a skepticism is trending more towards an identity or a club of people to be among. And as you said, that that can be great. Like, there’s no there’s nothing like going shopping with a skeptic because you can. But you can both pick apart the claims together and that. Exactly. Yeah. But but I guess. Yeah. As you say, there’s a decision kind of that’s going to have to be made. And I also see this coming to a head about. About what what is important to us. This brings to mind your opening speech at this year’s European skeptic’s Congress. And you said that, quote, We can no longer afford to stay apolitical. And I apologize in advance for doing a close reading of your words. But, you know, what can I do? I’m an English major at heart. So I had to. So what did you mean by the word we hear? Who is this we? And why do you think that we can no longer afford to stay apolitical? 

Claire Klinenberg We as people who label ourselves as skeptics. 

So for a long time, skepticism yields with only the paranormal. And as you mentioned to yourself, I am. I was. And I still am involved in the Czech paranormal challenge. So it is an issue that’s close to my heart and I still believe it’s important. But that’s a whole nother discussion. 

But we have so many issues facing us now. And of course, politics has always influence science. There is no question about it. The issue is that it’s now coming more apt into light and it’s much more visible now. And it’s about such important things that we don’t have such a long timeframe to decide or to fix. So. 

For some time, we skeptics were kind of sitting together and talking about how, oh, yes, we know better. And look at those people, you know, I don’t know. Eating homoeopathy pills and going to acupuncture. And that’s an important part of it, too. But we have to look at. OK. Look, our political leaders are making decisions that are completely just. Not based in any rational thought or planning or evidence or anything. And in many charters of various skeptics groups, it always said we will not interfere in politics. But that’s nonsense because politics regulates every part of our life. It’s not possible to be apolitical as one individual unless you live in a cottage in the middle of nowhere. By yourself, I mean the second there’s more than one person. It’s already it’s already political. So if you can’t live as an individual in society and say at a political, how can a whole group, whole movement pretend that politics doesn’t affect it? And it should not affect politics. 

Kavin Senapathy It seems to me that skepticism and the skeptics movement, and that’s at least what I know about the skeptics movement since the 70s and 80s through today has really been political throughout it with regards to certain topics that skeptics have been interested in. But I think, again, you see, you mentioned a generational difference. The older generations look now at some of the issues that we younger skeptics are interested in, whether it be gender and how it influences science and of course, not all of them. There are some wonderful, well-rounded, older skeptics, but they label what they don’t like as political. And, of course, again, don’t get it twisted. It’s not everyone, but this is something I’ve observed. 

Claire Klinenberg I would agree when it comes to issues of hard sciences, like, I don’t know, physics to a certain extent, biology, but only to a certain extent mathematics or any other kinds of sciences. The skeptics are as one. The divide divide becomes visible when we entered a realm of social sciences because lots of skeptics have this kind of Newtonian approach to how to understand the world. And that’s not always clearly applicable in social sciences. 

There isn’t any billiard ball directly. It’s more like little tiny balls and then moves and being billiard balls. But those are much harder to detect and to understand. I think that the majority of us get fixed in the past at least. And what I see in Europe tend to be from the hard sciences. And even though I noted B.F. Skinner was one of the founding members of psych up there, not that many people from soft sciences or social sciences that are visible in the skeptic movement. And that kind of makes a huge gap when it comes to understanding these little but very important and very nuanced issues that they grow up to have a huge influence among our world. 

Kavin Senapathy The skeptics, of course, have done a lot of work, as you said, on the paranormal, on ghost hunting, fighting against a homoeopathy and those hucksters who prey on vulnerable people. And and as you and I both agree, this is all important, especially because there is real harm to all of these practices and ideologies. But I think another decision that seems to be looming right in front of us as skeptics is this issue of nuance. Like you said, billiard balls are easy enough to keep track of. One example of that we take of issues that skeptics are passionate about today is vaccines, which makes sense, of course, because the anti vaccine movement has caused death and destruction and all manner of of horrific problems. But to really tackle the vaccine, the anti vaccine are, quote, anti vaccine movement requires a lot more nuanced than I think. Then I think that skeptics are comfortable with, at least within what some people think of as the scope of skepticism. It’s very difficult to talk about vaccines with out without talking about politics. Right. Because, of course, there are governments making rules about vaccines. But also we need to be clear about how vaccine preventable diseases take different kinds of tools on different kinds of people, depending on the privileges that certain people do and don’t have. The fact is that vaccine preventable illnesses cause more harm. Harm and hurt marginalized people more than they might hurt someone like like me or you with good access to health care. Who have, you know, who have lived our lives for the past few decades with access to healthy food. These are all important when it comes to looking at the the pro vaccine and anti vaccine movement. And I just don’t think that we do any of these topics justice when we when we try to look at them in this sort of one dimensional fashion. But this brings to mind another question that I wanted to ask you, and that is, in your opinion, do you think there are any topics that are outside the scope of skepticism? Because I hear this. I hear this question a lot, and I think it’s on people’s minds. How does one determine whether a topic or an issue falls within the scope of skepticism? 

Claire Klinenberg That really depends on how we decide to define ourselves as skeptics. I was thinking about it before I was right writing my speech for the Congress and previously when for a panel for QED. What does actually skeptic mean? How do we decide that we invite someone into the skeptic club? How much do they have to know? Is there a prescribed list of myths they have to be aware of? And, you know, what is it that actually makes us a skeptic? And it really boils down to the process. 

It’s not just about being aware that a logical fallacy exists and biases exist and mis exists. It’s about being able to apply dead knowledge in our everyday lives. So. Looking at skepticism, food at lens and through understanding who we are as skeptics through that lens, I don’t think there can possibly be a topic that’s outside. What skepticism should encompass. 

Kavin Senapathy Well, I think we should open it up to our audience, if you can think of a topic that is, I mean, totally outside of the scope of skepticism and is obviously so, or if you you know, if you want to fill us in on a topic and explain why it’s outside of the scope of skepticism, we truly would like to hear from you so you can find our point of inquiry, e-mail address on the point of inquiry Web site. And of course, Claire will let you know how to reach her on social media later, because I really am curious. I would like to hear what people think are completely what kind of topics are outside of what skepticism is all about. Have you heard of any arguments that have been close to convincing you that a certain topic is outside of the scope of skepticism? 

Claire Klinenberg Actually, no, I’ve gone in the other direction. I started with thinking that skepticism deals with a very limited amount of things. And the more I learned about skepticism about the movement and about various peoples, various people in it, the more I realized that there really is not a topic that should not be covered under our lens. 

Kavin Senapathy A lot of smart people have never heard of skeptics in the way that we talk about. Skeptics are in the way that we identify. And you mentioned this a little bit earlier in terms of what does it take for someone to be invited to be part of the skeptics club? And I recall one of the speaker speakers at European skeptics Congress, she mentioned that this was her first her first skeptics conference. And so she is she asked the audience to please go easy on her. Sometimes I worry that there’s this this notion about us that skeptics that we are, you know, that we buy it, that we’re kind of scary people. So I hope that Claire and I are dispelling some of us. We’re actually quite friendly. But anyhow, back to my question is, how do you tend to explain it to people who are new to skepticism? And they’re like, what skepticism? What I mean, how do you sum it up in a couple sentences? 

Claire Klinenberg So I usually wait till I use the word skeptic when someone is asking about what I do or I when I start explaining, I started calling Abuse Science Community, where a group that does science communication and promotion of critical thinking. And then later I introduce that this whole movement is called the skeptic movement and skepticism. From the way we use it, the word means to reject nothing a priori. And before and not believe anything without evidence. And that’s kind of like the basic tenet of skeptical thinking. But then, of course, there’s the whole social movement around it, which, as I said in my speech in Pontoise, Buchmann from the Swedish skeptics said that I copied it from him. But I really, honestly was not aware that I did. I said that we as a skeptic movement want to not have to exist anymore to that there is the need for us seize this hallowed S.R. going to happen anytime soon, at least. 


Kavin Senapathy Pontoise is a smart guy, so it makes sense that you both came up with this idea that our ultimate goal should be to no longer be necessary, but reminding you of this, that this is off topic. But it reminds me of this conversation about the impossible burger and and fake meat. And this notion that the impossible company actually has a goal to eliminate completely the need for animal based agriculture. So, of course, meat lovers are lamenting that that beef will be totally eradicated from the world. And the fact is, there’s probably still going to be some beef play that, you know, we’re never going to we’re never going to come to a place where we won’t need skeptic’s anymore, even though it is a worthy goal. 

Claire Klinenberg Yeah. 

So what I try to explain is I tried to present ourselves, said we are for something as absurd. Ernst was saying in his sock, that skeptic’s it’s really necessary for us to present ourselves that we’re not anti homeopathy entailed, turn to medicine and try this and that, but to be for something. So we are for the promotion of science and promotion of critical thinking. And we do various events where we try to promote that. However, I see even here, just in a costume of my home country, Czech Republic, how hard it is to impress the public with our positive work. When you see this get the word skeptics in the Czech Republic, everyone only thinks of the negative price that we give out once a year. The fact that we do over 60 talks a year by the top scientists in our country completely escapes notice. And we don’t only focus is that once a year we pick a couple of misunderstood people who profit off of alternative medicine and to give them negative price. 

How do we explain to the public who we are? 

Not every European group uses words skeptic in their name. For that reason, because the word skeptic has some kind of cultural bias in their country and they want to they do sign themselves or is of our member of the skeptic movement. But for the cultural reasons within their country, they don’t use the word skeptic. Yet they are to go if you are a rationalist store. Society of Thrift for free thought. Or as the first emperor of Belgium Zoo did have the committee for investigation then things like that. 

Kavin Senapathy Right. And it. 

In each of these countries force, as you mentioned, there are organizations, some of them use skeptics in their name. Some of them do not. But each each of these organizations, of course, I’m sure has some sort of a governance. So in that case, I guess we could call these organizations leaders, at least in their countries. Leaders of the skeptical movement. So I’d like to talk a little bit about skeptical leadership. Is there such a thing? Should there be skeptical leaders? And if so, what should skeptical leadership look like? And of course, I’m asking this question of you, and you’re the president of the European Council of Skeptical Organizations. So are you a leader? Claire? 

Claire Klinenberg I sure hope so. No, to be serious, I do try to be at the beginning. You said that, you know, Claire serves as president, and that’s exactly how I feel. I feel that I do serve as president. I take it as a responsibility. And I think that’s the big difference between. Like a skeptic celebrity and a skeptic leader. 

Because I am put into my position by others with the knowledge that I can be called off at any time if I’m not, do my job well enough. 

And I feel that celebrities, because they come to their position, of course, through hard work, but organically, and they’re put into their position not by any clear authority, but by this kind of organic process. 

Then there means it means that there’s really no authority to remove them from the position if something bad happens. And there’s this cult of personality created around him, which makes him almost unquestionable. And that’s the crux of the issue, because any person who is a leader in the skeptical movement has to be under constant pressure and weak under it could be questioned simply because we cannot as skeptics or a member, a skeptical activist member of the skeptical movement, question everything else. 

And Lesar, leave ourselves. We know without any question or without any doubt. 

Kavin Senapathy Right. Yeah, that’s a good point. 

I mean, I see I see I see skeptics and individuals who are viewed as leaders for various reasons. As you say, sometimes it’s just an organic process, whether it’s just some sort of organizational changes that bring somebody to a leadership position to to someone who is a celebrity and has gained some sort of a leadership status because of widespread admiration for that person. Among the skeptics movement. And, you know, you used a word that I that comes up for me a lot. And that’s responsibility. So you you do feel that you serve as president and then you have this gives you a great responsibility. And, you know, I I, too, feel that responsibility, though. I don’t I don’t serve as a leader in any specific, skeptical organization. I am aware, despite the fact of being a nonwhite when in America, I still I’ve I’ve always had a lot of privilege. I was I was raised with you know, I had access to education, health care. My parents are highly educated and I have a lot of financial freedom. And I I really do feel that this gives me a responsibility to not and to not only lead by example, but to also take issue with some of these leaders who who perhaps do need to be questioned despite their followings, which can almost unfortunately, the followings can be almost rabid rabbit to a point that if you dare question one of these beloved leaders, the followers all start jumping into your Twitter mentions. But, hey, you know, what are you gonna do? You gotta do what you can. 

Claire Klinenberg But, I mean, of course, we have to question our leaders. And with all due respect to all the older skeptics listening, the data clearly shows that with age comes more magical thinking and belief and afterlife. 

Kavin Senapathy It’s not even it’s not even an age ist thing. And I, I really am quite attuned to age and ageism, especially of being a millennial myself. I mean, I always hear derogatory things excuse me about millennials, and that’s often from from older generations. And it’s often older people in in the skeptics movement. And you pointed out that that data does suggest that with age comes a higher propensity for magical thinking. And I’ve brought up this article before when I’ve been interviewed, but I’m a huge fan of it. It’s an essay at the outline dot com, and it’s called The Magical Thinking of Guys Who Love Logic, why so many men love to use, quote, logic to win an argument and then disappear before they can find out they’re wrong. I mean, so so this this love of logic or treating logic almost almost as a deity seems to be happening more and more around me. Have you seen this? 

Claire Klinenberg Yes. Yes. Well, especially, as you said, the rabid followings. 

It kind of seems that some personalities are declared rational and logical. And no matter what they say, they can’t possibly be wrong because they’re rational and logical and reasonable and reasonable. Yes, reasonable. And that’s the next. Then the third and one. 

Yeah, I’ve seen that as well. This kind of. Right. And that’s why if we go back to topic of leadership, that’s why I think leadership has to be questioned for that reason, that sometimes we idolize someone and we idolize a way of thinking which makes us blind to any mistakes we might make. 

They might make. I mean, that’s kind of critical thinking why no one is no know that the people who you the most in line with when it comes to thought are the people whose thoughts you have to check the most because you’re so vulnerable to Tobias in that moment. And we completely forget about that. We talk about personalities this close to our heart. 

Kavin Senapathy Yeah, you know, and along with that, and I again, don’t mean to harp on skepticism, as I’ve said before. 

I am I’m a skeptic and the skeptics movement. I credit the skeptics movement. So much for, I think, saving me from perhaps going through a rather unsavory rabbit hole of parenting. Boo. So, of course, I skepticism is important and I want the best for the skeptics movement. So, yeah, I don’t mean to harp on this, but this idea that I think comes a lot with this deification of logic. It’s also this notion of, quote, open inquiry. And of course, as skeptics, we should inquire, you know, into everything in in a skeptical fashion. But I’ve also seen this notion of open inquiry also legitimize, I guess you could say, concepts that have been debunked, debunked. Well, beyond needing needing any further inquiry, for example, this this notion that there must be a fundamental difference in the brains of women as compared to the brains of men. And if you know who just inquire into it enough scientifically, we will suddenly find that difference. But I as a skeptic, think that I guess I guess maybe this is the answer to our question of whether something should be outside the scope of skepticism. I would say yes. Inquiry into topics that have been thoroughly scientifically refuted. Like. Like, for example, the difference in brains between men and women should be outside of skeptical inquiry because we already know. 

Claire Klinenberg Yes. Yeah. I mean, we completely understand this argument when it comes to not looking into the autism vaccine link because that has been so thoroughly debunked. It doesn’t make sense to inquire into that anymore. And that’s kind of going back to the billiard balls here. There is a clear kind of connection. But for some reason, that connection doesn’t seem so clear when it comes to, as you mentioned, the difference between male and female brains. 

I mean, there is. 

Just there’s a certain amount of research that must be done. That’s absolutely true. But then at a certain point, you’re just running against a brick wall because there is nowhere else to go. And I actually was doing an interview last year and it just kind of bubbled out. The difference between a skeptic and a conspiracy theorist. Is this skeptic knows when to stop. 

Kavin Senapathy Hmm. Right. And I’m paraphrasing here, but I. Carl Sagan has said something similar that a good skeptic is not too much of a skeptic. 

Claire Klinenberg But I mean, even knowing when to stop is part of the skepticism, because you have to be able to value what I mean. Evaluate sorry, evaluate the evidence you have that that’s actually doesn’t go against the definition. We talked about that nothing should be out of the realm of inquiry. But that doesn’t mean that we should run into brick walls. 

Kavin Senapathy Mm hmm. Right. And I see this happening. That’s alarming. Within or among people who call themselves skeptics, whether or not I would call them skeptic is another story. Who, for example, are running themselves against brick walls to find out and to prove that there might be differences in IQ, which itself is a problematic measure that we could do a whole episode on. But differences between IQ, among different groups of people and by groups, they mean race. Which, of course, we’ve addressed on this podcast as well. And I think part of it is just the same as the differences between a male and female brain. It’s just underlying, perhaps often subconscious bigotry that’s lying at the heart of all of this inquiry. If, for example, in the United States, we all know that simply being being black or being nonwhite in America has tangible effects, negative effects on one’s health, among many other measures. But to search for a reason that this might be the case outside of the fact that it’s just there’s still a lot of inequality in America is so much easier and makes makes people feel assuage people’s guilt about their their lots in life compared to other people. So I think this is an ugly and ugly corner of of any inquiry, but also skeptical inquiry that is just not worthwhile and I think should be ousted from skepticism. 

Claire Klinenberg I mean, only if you just look at the Mensa organization. So they operate in Europe as well, and they have chapters in each European country. And I wasn’t aware of that until recently, that each European country has a little bit different scale when it comes to like you. So even the International Organization of Menza, which you would think they would have the same system implemented everywhere. So it would be easily kind of understandable for everyone within that organization has different numbers for becoming a member depending on the country. So just, you know, looking at an organization whose whole existence is based on the concept of IQ, it doesn’t have a set scale of it universally. 

So how can ever IQ be thought of as an actual actual measure of intelligence? Yeah, the technical science or the hard sciences and the social sciences approach. Because, again, it’s this kind of attempt to apply the logic of Newtonian physics to psychology and to intelligence and to the human condition condition. And it just doesn’t work. 

Kavin Senapathy It doesn’t work. They keep trying to make it work on a positive note. Switching gears here a little bit. One of the most refreshing things about the European skeptics Congress this year was how many tenacious young people were in attendance. So in your experience, what has attracted young people into the skeptics movement? And what can others skeptical organizations do if they want to see more young people involved? 

Claire Klinenberg This kind of rise in young people has kind of happened in the last three, four years throughout Europe. 

I think there was a slight OK, so most European organizations were established for the 70s to the 90s. And I feel there was switch in the generation which invited more young people. And there was a realization that for the movement to continue, you actually have to have someone to continue the movement. And it was getting on social media. It was becoming more adept at using social media for us, just the chick skeptic movement. It was changing the Web site design. You would think that that would not have any great effect. So what, you change the website design? Yeah, well, it was the first time Abels change in 20 years. And we had such an influx of interest and people asking us how they can help, what they can do. So, yeah, you know, you wouldn’t think that this would have such a huge effect, but it absolutely has. That there were more people in the movement being able to use the contemporary technical means to be able to approach a larger group. And of the various events at various movements do are also really helpful. I think people now are looking, you know, are looking generally more online, and especially the groups between the ages of 15 to twenty six. Main search engine is YouTube. Does the fact that skeptic groups have moved to YouTube and do put their do put their content on their their talks on YouTube is incredibly helpful and pulls people to skeptic movement. But there’s also been a much larger discussion about the need of critical thinking, the issue of fake news, the issue of misinformation and disinformation. And all of these issues do lead people to start looking at what is this that what’s going on. And finally, the skeptic movements have content in the places where the people are looking. 

Kavin Senapathy Mm hmm. So just having content to the places where people are looking seems to be one important factor in attracting younger people out. Outside of that is. Are there any sort of skeptical attitudes or specific issues or topics that you think are drawing younger people? Or is it mostly just the online value, a person spending so much time online finding their way to skepticism? 

Claire Klinenberg I think it’s about. About the various events skeptic movements, hold or do. I’m not talking about the big ones like the conferences or Congresses. I’m talking about smaller, visible events that come on into the news or onto the radar. 

I think a part of it has probably been this kind of rise in. Totalitarian like leadership worldwide, that has kind of pushed people into looking into rationality more than ever before. And because the skeptics started to broaden their repertoire when it comes to topics. 

They a lot of young people found a place where they feel they can be useful because everyone’s kind of looking for fulfillment or in their lives, of course, in where they feel they can do something for society. And many skeptic groups are providing that. 

Kavin Senapathy Mm hmm. I see. So you mentioned that some skeptics groups, especially the local ones that are doing smaller events that draw local young people, have also been broadening kind of their repertoire of of what they work on or perhaps what they empower young skeptics to work on. 

Claire Klinenberg Yes. Even for example, now the phrase for future movement, it has gotten so many people interested in climate change. And, of course, we can spend on a whole new amateur episode talking about the benefits and the pros and cons of this movement. And what do you get right. And what Woody, are getting wrong. However, it has pushed people into looking into these topics. I also feel that people feel it’s now a necessity to be informed before people, young people felt they could just kind of coast along and there’s something happening in politics and whatever, and there’s something happening in the other side of the road. But whatever. 

And now they see what their lack of action can cause, and that has pushed them to be more active. 

Kavin Senapathy Well, that’s promising. I’m of I’m of the generation that I had no idea about the Internet, of course, until I was like 13 years old. And before then, you know, there wasn’t even an inkling among kids that we would ever be able to have all of this information at our fingertips. So I wonder if it might also be just the Internet, young people catching up with the Internet age, because there was there were so many years. And even still now there are people. And actually, statistically, it’s more common in older people to believe what they see on the Internet because it’s on the Internet or because it’s a blog post or whatever. And young people know that that’s not true. So they have to start arming themselves with the tools to separate the credible from from the bullshit. It’s like. Let’s hope that it continues. But could you share a couple tips for skeptics as they go about their daily lives? Like what are two things that skeptics should always have? Two or three things, I guess, that skeptics should always have on the on their minds as they as they go through the motions of living and doing whatever activities compel them. 

Claire Klinenberg So. 

One thing is, don’t believe that skeptics cannot have friends or don’t believe that to be a good skeptic means that you need everyone around you. I see you said, oh, that’s a little bit of the downfall of the young people coming in in such a big influx into skeptic movement. They kind of get their echo chamber and then they forget about it all kind of social interaction outside of that. 

So you can be a good skeptic and have friends. That’s not an issue. 

So. I love the term AFIRM Jonathan Jerry, who talks about critical compassion, and I think we sometimes forget about the compassion part when we communicate with people outside our social bubble. So be compassionate to other people. You might have discovered the wonders of skepticism and skeptical thinking, but give other people time and don’t poison skepticism for them. By not being compassionate. 

Kavin Senapathy I like that critical compassion. Jonathan. Jerry Quinn, that one. 

Claire Klinenberg Yes. Thanks, Jonathan. Yes, exactly. Don’t worry. Don’t be afraid to press your point, but make sure it’s always in a very respectable way when it’s to someone who’s outside of skeptic movement. 

If it’s someone who was inside a skeptic moumin, rip them a new one. But outside, make sure you show the best version of you because you are representing all of us. 

Kavin Senapathy So you heard it here first and we can quote Claire on it. If it’s not a skeptic, then, you know, B, be a little bit more reserved. But if it is a skeptic, then, quote, rip them a new one. Noted. So where can people find you, Claire, and follow your work? 

Claire Klinenberg So I have a Web site. Claire, Kate. Dot com. It’s a bit news, so please be compassionate. Sure. You can follow me on Twitter or on Facebook. 

Kavin Senapathy Great. Well, I hope people will, and I’m sure they will, because you are fascinating. Did you get to go into all of your great stories of being a students of religious studies? So we’ll have to save that for another day. But thank you so much, Claire, for joining us today. Thank you. 

This has been your host Kavin Senapathy. I’m so glad you’ve tuned in. In case you were wondering, we didn’t mean it. Feel free to hit us up with examples of topics that you argue are outside the scope of skepticism. 

Claire mentioned Edzard Ernst statement onstage at the European skeptic’s Congress this year and wanted to fill you all in on a few more detailed since I appreciated his words so much after all of his years fighting against so-called alternative medicine. Ernst showed a list of four conclusions to the audience. Conclusion number one. The battle against so-called alternative medicine is intriguing, too. Yet it is not winnable. Number three, the battle against so-called alternative medicine should be reframed and for it ought to become a struggle for progress in health care. I agree wholeheartedly. And if you listen to any of my ramblings, allow me to encourage you, our dear listeners, to truly think about what different people mean when we use words like reason, logic and rationality. Want to help spread the word about point of inquiry? Of course you do. Please share with anyone who loves podcast and has an interest in science and skepticism. Point of inquiry is a production of the Center for Inquiry CFI is a five oh one C three charitable nonprofit organization whose vision is a world in which evidence, science and compassion rather than superstition, pseudoscience or prejudiced guide public policy. You can visit us at point of inquiry dot org, where you can listen to all of our archived episodes and support the show and CFI as nonprofit advocacy work. Thanks again, everyone. I’ll talk to you again in two weeks. 

Kavin Senapathy

Kavin Senapathy

Kavin is an author and public speaker covering science, health, food, parenting and their intersection. Her work appears regularly at various outlets including Forbes, SELF Magazine, Slate, her "Woo Watch" column for Skeptical Inquirer online, and more. When she’s not writing and tweeting, she’s busy being a “Science Mom”—also the name of a recent documentary film in which she’s featured. Follow her on Twitter @ksenapathy and Facebook.