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. . . .