Near the end of the podcast, D.J. asked Ben what he thought would be the results of Skepticism 2.0 in five years time. He said (1) more skeptics and (2) more cooperative projects between the three major U.S. skeptical groups, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, the James Randi Educational Foundation, and the Skeptics Society.
That struck me as a rather disappointingly modest set of goals, as well as rather "old school" skepticism thinking, and insular. Surely we can come up with ideas for something more exciting, interesting, and useful than merely the self-perpetuation and growth of the skeptical movement and cooperation among the traditional top-down skeptical organizations over the next five years.
A few thoughts that came to my mind:
- If skeptics want to promote public understanding of science and critical thinking, why not partnerships with other organizations that also have those purposes? The National Academies of Science, the National Center for Education, teacher's groups and school groups at a local level?
- If skeptics want to promote the activity of science, why not look at ways to help motivate students to enter science as a career, and support them in doing so? I've previously suggested to Phil Plait that JREF might partly model itself after the Institute for Humane Studies, an organization which provides support for undergraduate and graduate students who favor classical liberal political ideals, in order to help them achieve success in careers of thought leadership, including academics, journalists, filmmakers, public policy wonks, and so on. In order for skepticism and critical thinking to have a significant impact, it's not necessary that everyone become a skeptic, only that a sufficient number of people in the right places engage in and encourage critical thinking.
- If skeptics want to see more diversity in the skeptical movement, why not look at ways to reach out to other communities? The podcast did mention the SkepTrack at Dragon*Con, which is one of the most innovative ideas for outreach for skeptical ideas since the founding of CSICOP in 1976.
- If skeptics want to act as a form of consumer protection against fraud and deception, why not try to find ways to interact with regulators, investigators, politicians, and the media to get fraudulent products and services off the market? The UK complaints against chiropractors making false claims on their websites as a response to the British Chiropractic Association libel lawsuit against Simon Singh, or the Australian complaint against bogus claims by anti-vaccinationists (though see my comment on that blog post for some reservations) might suggest some ideas.
I'm sure readers of this blog have further suggestions. What else?
By the way, with regard to my first suggestion, here's a question that may provide some motivation and food for thought: Why do the Parapsychological Association and the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine have better and more formal ties to official institutions of science than any skeptical organization? The PA is a member of the AAAS, and NCCAM is an agency within the National Institutes of Health. The main difference between those organization and skeptical organizations is that they actually do and publish peer-reviewed scientific research.