Ahead of our ten-year anniversary, we recently sat down with journalist Meirion Jones to talk about his skeptical heroes, working with James Randi, and the talk he’ll give at MSSX.
What can we expect from your talk at MSSX?
I think I’ll touch briefly on the Bogus Bomb Detectors investigation, because although I think it’s desperate and tragic it also has some aspects that are quite fun, in a way. I also want to go through a range of different investigations – given I’m in the north west, I’ll tell you about Preston's biggest export, billion Euro fraudsters, which we worked on very recently with Sunday Times. I’ll also talk about the Fake Sheikh and naked cyclists, and I’ll be quite happy to talk through some of the investigation I did into Jimmy Savile, if people want to hear the inside story of what really happened at BBC with regards to that investigation.
How long have you considered yourself a skeptic?
I've always been a skeptic – even going back more than twenty years ago, when I was setting up debates between Uri Gellar and James Randi on Newsnight. However, I never really thought I was part of a movement until the whole Skeptics in the Pub thing started. Then there was the homeopathy investigation I did with Simon Singh and everything that followed that, and I think that’s when I realised that the work I’d been doing was actually part of all of that.
Who is your skeptical hero, and why?
It has to be William of Ockham who said “For nothing ought to be posited without a reason given, unless it is self-evident or known by experience” although unfortunately, being a man of his time, he made an exception to this rule (some might feel an exception you could run a fourteen wheeler through) for anything that was in the Bible.
Is there anyone you think skeptics should know about, but might not?
As a kid I was brought up as a Catholic and I could never understand why Doubting Thomas got a bad press for wanting to check the wound was real.
Is there a form of pseudoscience that annoys you the most, and why?
It is difficult to argue with the idea that the bogus bomb detector guys who killed thousands were the apogee of pseudoscience, but I still find the anti-vaxxers and “grow-your-limbs-back” faith healers really irritating.
What is the most important or interesting lesson you’ve learnt as a skeptic?
To always be sceptical about my own beliefs
As MSSX is the tenth anniversary of the MSS, and lots of other skeptical groups started in the UK around the same time, how do you feel skepticism has changed in the last ten years?
It is weird, because at one level there is now a pretty widespread understanding that statements and pseudo-facts need to be rigorously challenged, but on the other hand fake news and conspiracy theories ride unchallenged through the web.
You can catch Meirion, as well as five other main stage speakers, and much more, at MSSX on Saturday 6th July – pick up your £29 tickets today, and we’ll see you next month!