Tag Archives: Brian Dunning

A Critical Analysis of Brian Dunning’s Explanation [Re His Conviction for Wire Fraud]

Brian Dunning

By Rebecca Watson
skepchick.org
8-7-14

     Yesterday, I broke the news that Skeptoid’s Brian Dunning was sentenced to 15 months in prison for wire fraud after previously pleading guilty. Since then, I’ve received a number of complaints from people in the skeptic community who believe that it was wrong for me to report on this, that Dunning was set up, that he is guilty but not that guilty, and/or that it’s wrong for me to be glad that he’s going to prison.

This morning, I read Dunning’s own defense, which I see being passed around amongst skeptics, many of whom seem to accept it as a valid explanation and a confirmation that this is all a big mistake.

One of the reasons why I enjoy skepticism as a tool is because it does not (or should not) discriminate. I tend to be equally skeptical of things I like or agree with – sometimes more skeptical, because the things we want to believe are the easiest things to believe, regardless of whether they are true.

That’s one reason why I am very skeptical of other skeptics. The other reason is because I believe that if the skeptical movement wants to be taken seriously as a force that genuinely cares about helping people, about protecting them from scam artists, we need to make sure that the people who speak for us are honest and forthright and above all else ethical. If a person lacks those traits, I cannot in good conscience recommend their work to others. This doesn’t mean that leaders need to be perfect, or that I always need to agree with them: it only means that they cannot demonstrate to me a willful interest in manipulating the truth for their own benefit. It’s the reason why I can no longer recommend any of Ben Radford’s work after finding he purposely misrepresented scientific studies to suit his interests, and it’s the reason why I stopped promoting Brian Dunning’s work once I realized he admitted to stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars. . . .

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Noted Skeptic, Brian Dunning Sentenced To Prison for Wire Fraud

Brian Dunning

By Rebecca Watson
skepchick.org
8-5-14

     As I mentioned in a previous post, Brian Dunning, creator of the Skeptoid podcast and the world’s worst “science” rap video, pled guilty to wire fraud that had allowed him to collect more than $5 million. Sentencing has finally occurred, and the result is 15 months in prison starting on September 2, 2014, followed by three years of supervised release.

This is great news for the skeptic community at large, since it may be a long enough sentence for Dunning to fade from memory and stop publicly representing the very people who are supposedly trying to stop people from defrauding others.

Meanwhile, this case had brought to light an actual skeptical activist who appears to be smart, hilarious, and actually effective at stopping frauds: Assistant United States Attorney David R. Callaway. In the government’s sentencing recommendation to the court last week, Callaway* argued beautifully against the idea that Dunning deserves to be insulated from the consequences of his actions, saying that “There is no “Get out of Trauma Free” card for white-collar criminals or, unfortunately, their families.” In fact, Callaway argues that Dunning should be punished harshly in part because his crime wasn’t motivated by desperate need . . ..

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