Better Know a Notable Skeptic: 10 Questions for Brian Dunning
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.
Brian Dunning is the host and producer of Skeptoid: Critical Analysis of Pop Phenomena, a popular weekly audio podcast dedicated to furthering knowledge by blasting away the widespread pseudosciences that infect popular culture, and replacing them with evidence-based scientific reality. He is also the author of the book of the same title.
1) Briefly describe yourself. What do you do for a living, etc.
My real job probably has something to do with computer science, but in practical point of fact I am a professional typist. It doesn’t help that I type wrong, but it gets me through the day. It also comes in handy as I research and organize my thoughts for each weekly episode of Skeptoid, my top science podcast. Subscribe now on iTunes!
2) Why are you a “skeptic”? Was there a “wow” moment?
I don’t know how old I was when I had my only real “wow” moment, but I was under 10. My grandmother pointed out “Have you ever heard a snake talk?” and I thought it was a big Earth-shaking discovery that would send millions of demonstrators flowing into the streets. It didn’t quite accomplish that, but it stuck in my little mind..
3) What are your hobbies/interests?
Playing volleyball is about all I have time for, and I squeeze it in wherever I can. It’s how I maintain my girlish figure. I also enjoy Jeeping in the desert, which is like hiking, but for people who are lazy and don’t care about their girlish figures.
4) What are you passionate about at the moment?
At this exact moment? I’d have to go with finding a bathroom. I’m in a train station and the bathroom is closed.
5) Do you have a hero? Why him/her?
Heroes are ordinary people who step up to the plate when the time calls for it. I read about them all the time. There’s no one whose example I follow; I would probably chicken out and make a poor showing.
6) If you could have dinner with 5 people, dead or alive, who would they be and why?
Actually, Adolf Hitler would top the list. That would be a hell of an experience (literally). What kind of a man could possibly fill the reputation he has in history? The most evil man who ever lived. Can’t top that.
The next would be Benjamin Franklin and Mark Twain. And then a couple other examinations of history-changing charisma: Alexander the Great and Joan of Arc.
7) Do you have a favourite: album, musician, sports team, movie, TV show, book? (Feel free to list one, some, or all.)
When I find the odd moment away from family time, I am partial to UC Irvine volleyball. Other than that, I’m usually sequestered doing research for the next episode of the Skeptoid episode. Seriously. I’m like the guy in The Onion headline “Area Man’s Pop Culture References Stop at 1985”.
8) What grinds your gears?
That so many people seem to want to be taken advantage of. People want to embrace whatever trend is seen as progressive, whether it’s a product sold as “green” or “sustainable”, or anything that places ancient “wisdom” or third-world superstitions on a higher pedestal than what science tells us. It seems the ideology is more important than the facts: Pre-scientific notions are always better because they haven’t been “corrupted” by what we’ve learned. As a result, such people are the world’s easiest targets for hucksters selling ideologically-branded snake oil.
9) Tell me something I don’t know about you.
I really enjoy tracking down copies of old books that were influential on me as a kid. The used book section on Amazon is great for this, and as a result, my bookshelf tells a pretty good story of my life.
10) Why are we here?
To find out if 42 is correct or not.