Better Know a Notable Skeptic: 10 Questions for Stephen Barrett

With the success of the “Better Know a Skeptic” series of articles, I decided to extend a little bit to “Notable Skeptics.”

If there is someone you would like to see included, let me know via the forums.


Stephen Barrett, M.D., a retired psychiatrist who resides near Chapel Hill, North Carolina, has achieved national renown as an author, editor, and consumer advocate. In addition to heading Quackwatch, he is vice-president of the National Council Against Health Fraud, a scientific advisor to the American Council on Science and Health, and a Fellow of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP). In 1984, he received an FDA Commissioner’s Special Citation Award for Public Service in fighting nutrition quackery. In 1986, he was awarded honorary membership in the American Dietetic Association. From 1987 through 1989, he taught health education at The Pennsylvania State University. He is listed in Marquis Who’s Who in America and received the 2001 Distinguished Service to Health Education Award from the American Association for Health Education.

1) Briefly describe yourself.  What do you do for a living, etc.
I retired from psychiatry in 1993.  About 40 years ago I became interested in health fraud and quackery and gradually developed a sideline career as an investigative journalist. Today I operate and 22 other Web sites as a public service.

2) Why are you a “skeptic”?  Was there a “wow” moment?
I originally became concerned about chiropractic newspaper advertising that contained claims that I thought were strange. I began a local discussion group that gradually evolved in to a national network.

3) What are your hobbies/interests?
Family, bridge, home maintenance, swimming (state age-group champion), watching movies.

4) What are you passionate about at the moment?
For the past few months I have been focused on frauds involving chelation therapy and the use of phony lab tests to promote it.

5) Do you have a hero?  Why him/her?

6) If you could have dinner with 5 people, dead or alive,  who would they be and why?
Sorry, I have too much to do to engage in fantasy games.

7) Do you have a favourite: album, musician, sports team, movie, TV show, book? (Feel free to list one, some, or all.)
I like movies with happy endings.

8) What grinds your gears?
Quackery is a problem that few people work on.  I’ll continue to do so until other people can take my place.

9) Tell me something I don’t know about you.
Sorry, that would not be strategic.

10) Why are we here?
Sorry, philosophy is not my thing.

25. March 2009 by Pat
Categories: Organization, Profiles | 1 comment