As host of call-in radio show Skeptically Speaking, Desiree Schell questions everything.
The show, which broadcasts on CJSR and 25 other North American stations and gets about 15,000 podcast downloads per week, is all about examining paranormal and scientific claims with critical thinking. But, when she was asked by the James Randi Educational Foundation, dedicated to debunking fraudulent claims, to speak at its conference, she hardly gave it a second thought and eagerly accepted the invitation.
Schell will be speaking at The Amaz!ng Meeting 2011 in Las Vegas (July 14-17) and, moderating a panel discussion on gender and racial diversity in the skeptic movement. She’ll also hold a workshop on how to run skeptical activism campaigns. She will be in the company of guest speakers such as astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and magicians Penn and Teller.
We asked the skeptical expert to shed doubt on some common misconceptions.
Climate Change: “Although the scientific consensus is that climate change is real, lobby groups rely on political and media tactics to create a sense of controversy that doesn’t exist. The unfortunate result is a confused public, less likely to support real solutions.”
Homeopathy: “Many think homeopathy is simply an herbal remedy. It’s not. Homeopathy claims water can hold the ‘memory’ of a diluted substance and that, even though there isn’t a molecule of that substance present in the ‘remedy,’ it will positively affect your health.”
Memory: “Our brains deceive us regularly. They’re just built that way. From memory, to perception, to emotional reactions, there’s a lot of cognitive bias preventing us from thinking clearly. That’s why we need science to be as objective as possible.”
Vaccines: “Before vaccines, measles, mumps and rubella killed millions of people. Despite huge amounts of credible research showing vaccine programs are safe, these diseases are on the rise, due to irresponsible fear-mongering by anti-vaccinationists.”
-As told to Omar Mouallem, who also composed the theme music for Skeptically Speaking