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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Dragon*Con countdown: D.J. Grothe, skeptic

IM SKEPTICAL: D.J. Grothe
  • Courtesy of D.J. Grothe
  • I'M SKEPTICAL: D.J. Grothe
Every year, Dragon*Con’s celebrity guest list includes more than TV/movie actors with cult followings. Culture Surfing counts down to the Labor Day fantasy convention with a series of short profiles of Dragon*Con guests who specialize in more surprising disciplines.

What’s your title and where are you from?
I am president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, one of the world's great skeptical organizations advancing critical thinking in society. I live in Los Angeles.

What do you do in your job?
Work with a team of bright and committed nonprofit professionals, writers, educators and public speakers who aim to 1.) raise awareness about harmful and irresponsible paranormal and pseudoscientific claims in our society, and 2.) educate the public about critical thinking so as to arm them to be less gullible when it comes to psychics, UFOs, faith healers, ghosts, and other spooky phenomenon that mystery-mongers peddle for a buck.
Among other things, we provide grants to educators, put on regional workshops, offer $1,000,000 to anyone who can prove paranormal or supernatural abilities under mutually agreed upon scientific conditions, and organize the largest conference of its kind in the world, The Amaz!ng Meeting, held each July in Las Vegas, and which features many of the world's leading thinkers and a number of celebrities, all united in a commitment to advance critical thinking in our society.

How did you get interested in this vocation?
My background as a magician motivated me to work in skepticism after graduate school, and eventually to work directly with James Randi, the leading skeptic and "spiritual leader" of the growing skeptics movement.

What will you be doing at Dragon*Con this year?

I have been to Dragon*Con a number of times, and as a guest. This year I will be a guest again, and will be giving a couple talks, on panels such as "Skeptical Coffee Talk," "Skepticism and Education," and "Naturally Skeptical? The Psychology Behind Being A Skeptic."

Do you have a message about your vocation that you’d like spectators to come away with?
That we are better off if we believe only those things for which we have good evidence. That the real world is better than a pretend one. That the comforts of illusion are temporary and eventually lead to a diminished life. To metaphorically sum it up in just one sentence: "Skeptics do it with their eyes open, and have more fun as a result."

Is there an aspect of Dragon*Con fandom that appeals to you from outside your professional field?
I own 8,000+ Marvel comics, and am really into the Marvel universe specifically, and also sci fi in general.

What’s your website?
randi.org and forgoodreason.org

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