What we're about

Had enough of astrologers, psychics, homeopaths, and spirit channelers? Yearning to talk with someone rational for awhile? Meet up with other local skeptics for some refreshing and sane conversation.

If you've got some kind of event or opportunity that's commensurate with what we're about (as described below), we'd love to hear about it and publicize it to our 1000+ members. E-mail your idea to RichardSRussell@tds.net and we'll either schedule it or explain why not.

What is a skeptic, anyway? It's someone who lives by the Missouri state motto: "Show me!". Does some claim seem too good (or amazing) to be true? Well, that's because it's probably not. Having an open mind isn't the same as having holes in your head.

OTOH, doubting everything makes you a cynic, and suspecting everybody makes you a conspiracy theorist. Skeptics who are shown something are willing to accept it. A couple of cases in point:

(1) Even little kids notice that the east coast of South America and the west coast of Africa look like jigsaw-puzzle pieces that should fit together. Did they, at one time? In the early 20th Century, skeptics scoffed at the idea. "Just coincidence", they said. And rightly so. There was no known mechanism for how anything that big could be moved. Then Alfred Wegener showed evidence that continental drift had definitely happened, and later Arthur Holmes explained how plate tectonics was the mechanism behind it. With those in hand, skeptics were convinced.

(2) For most of human existence, people believed the Earth was only a few tens of thousands of years old. Skeptics concurred. If the Sun were made of wood or coal or petroleum, it couldn't possibly keep burning for much longer than that. But there was all this other geological evidence that indicated the planet was millions, if not billions of years old. What to believe? Skeptics openly admitted they didn't have the answers. But as soon as we discovered the amazing amounts of energy that could be produced by nuclear fusion, the source of the Sun's longevity was revealed, and skeptics settled in on the proper scientific answer.

We skeptics take our cues from people like the Nobel-winning physicist Richard Feynman, who pointed out: "I have argued flying saucers with lots of people. I was interested in this: they keep arguing that it is possible. And that's true. It is possible. They do not appreciate that the problem is not to demonstrate whether it's possible or not, but whether it's going on or not."

In other words, "show me".

Upcoming events (5+)

Skeptics Trivia!

Babe's Restaurant & Cocktails

Join Skeptics for "Premiere Trivia" at Babe's in Madison! Everyone is invited, new and old! The game starts at 7:00pm sharp, but we'll start to arrive by 6:00pm. Feel free to show up early for skeptical conversation. Game runs until about 9:00pm. Babe's has very large tables. Plenty of room. Feel free to attend if you're on the waiting list.

Book Discussion: Escaping the Rabbit Hole, by Mick West

Martin O'Grady's Irish Pub

CHANGE OF VENUE — The discussion will occur in the front alcove of Martin O'Grady's Pub and Grille, not in the organizers' living room as first announced. The book is Escaping the Rabbit Hole: How to Debunk Conspiracy Theories Using Facts, Logic, and Respect, by Mick West. Here’s a blurb from Google Books: https://books.google.com/books/about/Escaping_the_Rabbit_Hole.html The Earth is flat, the World Trade Center collapse was a controlled demolition, planes are spraying poison to control the weather, and actors faked the Sandy Hook massacre…. All these claims are bunk: falsehoods, mistakes, and in some cases, outright lies. But many people passionately believe one or more of these conspiracy theories. They consume countless books and videos, join like-minded online communities, try to convert those around them, and even, on occasion, alienate their own friends and family. Why is this, and how can you help people, especially those closest to you, break free from the downward spiral of conspiracy thinking? In Escaping the Rabbit Hole, author Mick West shares over a decade’s worth of knowledge and experience investigating and debunking false conspiracy theories through his forum, MetaBunk.org, and sets forth a practical guide to helping friends and loved ones recognize these theories for what they really are. Perhaps counter-intuitively, the most successful approaches to helping individuals escape a rabbit hole aren’t comprised of simply explaining why they are wrong; rather, West’s tried-and-tested approach emphasizes clear communication based on mutual respect, honesty, openness, and patience. West puts his debunking techniques and best practices to the test with four of the most popular false conspiracy theories today (Chemtrails, 9/11 Controlled Demolition, False Flags, and Flat Earth) — providing road maps to help you to understand your friend and help them escape the rabbit hole. These are accompanied by real-life case studies of individuals who, with help, were able to break free from conspiracism. With sections on: • the wide spectrum of conspiracy theories • avoiding the “shill” label • psychological factors and other complications • (and concluding with) a look at the future of debunking Mick West has put forth a conclusive, well-researched, practical reference on why people fall down the conspiracy theory rabbit hole and how you can help them escape.

Skeptics Trivia!

Rockhound Brewing Company

Join Skeptics for "Premiere Trivia" at Rockhound Brewing in Madison! Everyone is invited, new and old! The game starts at 7:30pm sharp, but I'll be there by 6:30pm with a Madison Skeptics sign. Feel free to show up early for skeptical conversation. Rockhound serves good beer and decent food.

A Global Hoax: Bill Browder and the Magnitsky Act

Porta Bella Restaurant Cellar

A presentation by Susan Pfeiffer: Who Is Bill Browder and What Is the Magnitsky Act? On 2018 July 16, following a private meeting with Donald Trump, Vladimir Putin made an extraordinary statement in response to a reporter’s question about Russian meddling in our election: Putin offered to facilitate an interrogation of the 12 newly indicted Russians by US authorities if, in return, US authorities would facilitate Russia’s interrogation of Bill Browder. Putin alleges that Browder is implicated in crimes in Russia, including a scam involving a $230 million fraudulent refund in taxes due to the Russian Federation. Because I am a skeptic, as well as a Russia/news junkie, I had to investigate. My research took me on a fascinating journey about greed, crime, corruption, and a massive hoax that led to the passage of the US Magnitsky Act. The Magnitsky Act was undisputedly the main topic of discussion at the now-infamous Trump Tower meeting initiated by the Russians in June 2016. I would like to share my findings and offer internet pathways to a film and a book which have been effectively suppressed in the US and elsewhere. The Atheist Lounge will tackle this subject on, as usual, the last Thursday of the month. Order food and drink at 7 PM, with short presentation starting about 30-45 minutes thereafter, and plenty of open discussion after that.

Past events (519)

Skeptics Trivia!

Rockhound Brewing Company

Photos (216)

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