Jul 30 2013

The SGU and Skeptical Activism

This week we are in the final stages of pre-production and then will complete production of our new web-series, Occ The Skeptical Caveman (you can see the pilot here). We are producing four episodes, and expect the first to be available by late September.

This is just one of many projects we either have in the works or in the planning stages, all with the goal of making the world a more skeptical place. We have many colleagues who are doing the same.

The problem is that skeptical activism takes resources – time, money, technical support, and energy. Everyone I know who is active in promoting critical thinking, science literacy, reason, and skepticism does so with limited resources. Meanwhile the promoters of pseudoscience, mysticism, snake oil, and all varieties of woo seem to be generally well funded.

The Discovery Institute has millions of dollars and several wealthy backers. The Bravewell Collaborate is spending millions of dollars inserting nonsense into our health care system.The anti-vaccine movement is far better funded than the skeptical movement, and that is just one issue we face.

My own company, SGU Productions, is dedicated entirely to producing skeptical educational content, and is essentially at the limit of what we can do with the resources we have.  We have therefore made the decision to more aggressively seek the financial support we need to expand our activities.

One move was to accept sponsors for the SGU podcast. We delayed this decision for 8 years, and produced over 400 podcasts ad free, but now it is clear that if we are going to move forward we have to accept such support. We do vet our sponsors very carefully, and are only accepting those we use and genuinely support.

Our early feedback has been mixed. Most of our listeners understand and support the decision, while a few are very unhappy. Some have asked us what it will take to remove sponsors from the show, which is a reasonable question. We have two option:

First, I must point out that we have recently updated our website, including a new SGU membership section. SGU members get two main benefits – discounts on admission to NECSS, and access to SGU premium content. We will post 10-20 minutes of extra material each week that only SGU members at the Damned Dirty Ape level or higher have access to. We are also planning on a regular e-mail newsletter to members who opt in for that.

Becoming an SGU member is a great way to support the SGU and skeptical activism, and we are happy to provide the premium content as a thank you to our members.

Also – since some listeners have asked for this option – we will provide an ad free version of the SGU to members at the Damned Dirty Ape level or above. The ad-free version will be available through our new SGU app, which will be available in a few weeks for the iOS and a few weeks after that for the android platform. More details on the app to follow.

Further, if 4% of our listeners support the SGU through membership at an average of the $8 per month level, we will completely remove ads from the show. This way it is entirely in the hands of our listeners.

With these new resource streams we will be able to maintain and expand our activism and production of skeptical content. But we can’t do it without the support of the skeptical community.

In recent decades, and especially in the last 8 years, the skeptical community has had a disproportionate effect on society. We have taken on huge well-funded opponents and largely have been successful in stemming the tide of pseudoscience and irrationality in our culture. But this is an endless struggle. Imagine what we could do with even a little more resources. I hope we get to find out.

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