Native Skeptic

Native Skeptic
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Friday, October 25, 2013

A Background Interview Featuring the Origin Story of How I Discovered Skepticism

I am so grateful for the opportunities that have arisen through my work with skeptical activism. Since the start of this blog, I have found and joined a local Skeptics in the Pub meetup group and took part in the establishment and founding of a non-profit educational organization, the Phoenix Area Skeptics Society (PASS). For the most part, it is quite rare to find people doing things they are passionate about with intentions of receiving praise or recognition for them. The work is the reward. However, sometimes positive attention and the constructive criticism from peers can have a profound impact on validating efforts. So, I was proud to take part in this interview with the deputy editor of the Skeptical Inquirer, research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the go to scientific paranormal investigator Benjamin Radford. He is author or co-author of six books and over a thousand articles on skepticism, critical thinking, and science literacy. Topics that he covers include urban legends, the paranormal, and media literacy. The newest book from Mr. Radford is titled, The Martians Have Landed: A History of Media Panics and Hoaxes. Amongst all of this great work educating the public, he also finds the time to be a columnist for Discovery News and

Seeing my name and this blog under the Center for Inquiry banner displays to me a respect for Native American beliefs that rarely get acknowledged. The voices from the First Nations of people in America got just a bit louder.

You can follow the link to the entry on the CFI website by clicking in the text or by going here.    

This interview originally appeared in the Skeptical Briefs newsletter, Volume 21.3, Fall 2011, which featured a longer version. 


  1. I discovered skepticism as a teenager, actually; looking at international news, I saw people dying because of scams. (Specifically, the South African government falling for the claim that AIDS is caused by a vitamin deficiency claimed 300,000 lives.) I figured that being an Oglala, I'd at least be immune to the charge of being a "Western colonial apologist" that a lot of mainstream medicine was being accused of.

    I'd also noticed, of course, deaths from phony sweat lodges, creating an interesting intersectionality. (Note to future faux Indians: Plastic is a lousy conductor of heat.)

    (This intersectionality also sometimes puts me at odds with my fellow skeptics, some of whom even deny the racism in 19th-century anthropology.)

    The real clincher was when I read a statistic that Indians now had their children immunized at a higher rate than whites. That can't be because of economic conditions; vaccine manufacturers have the narrowest of profit margins, even with government subsidy. It was because white parents were simply falling for the myth that vaccines were somehow dangerous.

  2. Thank you for your comment and brief background. It's always nice to hear the stories of how people become involved in skepticism and activism. I am frequently asked if there is any inherent distrust for science amongst Native Americans. Quite often this is not the case and differs quite considerably from what we find in the general public. When there were numerous cases of pertussis outbreaks occurring I started researching immunizations for a post on pertussis and the vaccine. During that time, I came across comparisons to the tribal communities from data collected by the Indian Health Services and it correlates with what you are saying.

  3. Sorry about so long. Studies. Yeah, I found that Indians have lower HIV seroprevalence rates compared to America at large a while back as well.

    Unsurprisingly, I found that 3039 cases, in a population of somewhere between 3 and 4 million, is 0.1%, which is actually less than the United States at large. While it's not enough to make me go out and hire a hooker, it does mean that no one can statistically say we have special needs wrt: HIV. (Yes, I am aware that a Sun Dance is a potential vector.) Indians are also more likely to be tested, so an undercount can't explain it.