Need a poll fix?

Today’s target is the website for the credulous Australian TV program, The One, which claims to be searching for someone with magical mind powers. The poll asks, “Are you a believer or a sceptic?”

70% of Australian voters in this poll are currently calling themselves believers. Let’s embarrass them with a worldwide showing of skeptics. (This might be a tough one: I suspect many more people watch TV than will read this post.)


  1. molecantrho says

    Damn! When you said 70% are believers I thought there were probably only a few hundred votes, but when I voted (as a skeptic, just in case you guys and gals are wondering) there were almost 7300 votes!!

    And PZ, while I’d agree that more people watch TV than read this post…I doubt that many of them would log onto their computers just to vote. It’s much easier just to click your links (so to speak). ;)

  2. Snitzels says

    Hey… it seems you can vote multiple times, though my several votes haven’t registered a change in the percentage yet… Anyone else?

  3. says

    Randi’s been covering this one week-by-week. They’ve got a good consultant from Australian Skeptics on the show, but, like any TV, they lean toward the sensational over the real.

  4. Bad Albert says

    Okay, I’ll start it off. Current score is 70% Believers and 30% Sceptics [sic].

  5. Peregrine says

    I watched this the other night.

    The challenge was for them to go to the seen of the 2001 murder of british tourist Peter Falconio. Bradley John Murdoch was conivicted of the murder in 2005, but the body has never been found.

    The three contestants were set a task: to find the body.

    They did lots of mumbo-jumboing and waving and saying “i feel he’s definately here, he’s crying out” etc etc.

    Of course they didn’t find anything.

    I thought it was a bit sick actually.

  6. Peregrine says

    The challenge was for them to go to the seen of the 2001 murder

    I can’t believe I wrote “seen.”

    SCENE. Sorry….!!

  7. alphgeek says

    I’m disappointed. I thought we aussies were smarter than this. I can only take comfort in the fact that aussie commercial TV is drivel of the first order and attracts an appropriate audience.

    And speaking of comfort…tear him a new one PZ.

  8. David M. says

    They’re just going to end up disproving themselves.

    I guess they could start fixing the gameshow.

  9. says

    Alphageek, we Aussies are smarter than that. Just remember that the people that have voted prior to PZ’s announcement are people that watch the show. I know that had I been still living in OZ neither me nor my most the people I know would watch, let alone visit the shows website.

  10. Peregrine says

    I thought we aussies were smarter than this

    So did I. Until I saw they’re also now broadcasting an Australian version of that japanese tv-show where people have to try and fit themselves through impossibly-shaped holes which, like a tetris block, hurtle towards them and knock them into a swimming pool.

    It’s the beginning of the end.

  11. Sastra says

    I refused to vote. As a longtime member of the Skeptic Society, I will have nothing to do with the “sceptics.” Splitters.

    (Just kidding: I’m both skeptic AND sceptic.) ;)

  12. says

    Argh! They’re using Yahoo polls. I can’t break this one like I did with the Genius of Darwin TV Guide rating.

  13. Genuinely Doug says

    I have funny conversation with my cousin. She asked me if I believe in extra terrestrial visitations? I said there is no good evidence. ESP. No good evidence. Premonitions. No good evidence. Ghost. No good evidence. Alternative medicine. Some of it, but mostly there is no good evidence. Acupuncture. No good evidence.

    In frustration, she exclaimed “You don’t believe in anything, do you?!”

  14. Eric says

    Sceptic [sic] is now at 40%.
    Come on, really? How hard is it to use spellcheck before putting something online?

  15. freelunch says

    “You don’t believe in anything, do you?!”

    No, but I have no problem accepting reality.

  16. Martin_z says

    Eric at #26 – Nothing wrong with sceptic. Just because you lot in the US spell it skeptic, doesn’t make it right.

    According to my dictionary (Collins English) sceptic is correct, and skeptic is archaic (or US). Australians tend to follow UK spelling, rather than US.

  17. says

    I don’t like the new format. Change is not good (unless it’s very gradual over a very long period of time.

    Is that how skeptic is spelled in the other hemisphere?

    If alternative medicine worked it would just be called medicine. When proceeding the word “medicine”, “alternative” means “does not work”.

  18. dsmccoy says

    Eric: “Come on, really? How hard is it to use spellcheck before putting something online?”

    Uh, you people who are ragging on the spelling of “sceptic” might want to look it up.
    “sceptic” is the british english spelling, “skeptic” is the american english spelling.

    It’s one of those colour/aluminium/zed kind of things,
    deal with it.

    Oh, sceptics are up to 42%

  19. Julian says

    I prefer to take a more latiny approach as much as possible, so skeptic, where k represents a strong c sound instead of sceptic, where you have two potentially soft s sounds, is my preferred spelling. But, if you Aussies want to spell like Norman patsies and sell out the English language, that’s your right :p

    43% when I voted; keep it coming folks!

  20. Arnosium Upinarum says

    PZ, I’m afraid you picked a lost cause with this one. I doubt this one can be pulled through into the glare of sunshine…I’d LOVE to be proven wrong.

  21. The Cheerful Nihilist says

    Xander #28

    Paris is ahead (oops, almost typed that as two words).

    I’m peptic.

  22. says

    Dammit. Yahoo cut me off. I got an error: “Sorry, Unable to process request at this time — error 999.”

    I opened the poll in a new window in Firefox and hit back-click-back-click about 30 times. I guess they thought I was a bot.

  23. Martin_z says

    A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.

    Sceptre (spelt like that!) is a different word from sceptic. And in any case, sceptre comes originally from the greek “skeptron” meaning staff – arguably sceptre should be pronounced “skepter”.

    And it’s spelt, not spelled. Sigh. You Yanks just don’t get it, do you?

  24. Aegis says

    Currently 45-55%, in favor of the opposition. Keep it up!

    These poll crashings are like boss battles.

  25. dsmccoy says

    “I prefer to take a more latiny approach as much as possible, so skeptic, ”

    Like I said people: look it up.

    From the Online Etymological Dictionary:

    … from Fr. sceptique, from L. scepticus, from Gk. skeptikos …

    Latin is “sc”, greek is “sk”.

    Pull your arse over to the kerb, get the dictionary out of the boot and look it up.

  26. freelunch says

    You Yanks just don’t get it, do you?


    Do you really think you’ll get us to change to the minority spelling rules just because the folks who live on the damp, dreary island that the language started on spell things that way? You might as well try to teach the French to spell phonetically.

  27. dsmccoy says

    “Do you really think you’ll get us to change to the minority spelling rules just because the folks who live on the damp, dreary island that the language started on spell things that way? ”

    This poll comes from a different island.
    You know, the one with the kangaroos.
    They’ve got surfing too.

  28. freelunch says

    This poll comes from a different island.
    You know, the one with the kangaroos.
    They’ve got surfing too.

    So, why didn’t they bother to invent their own spellings like we did?

  29. Graculus says

    But, if you Aussies want to spell like Norman patsies and sell out the English language


    It was those sheep buggering Norman pigs that introduced the letter “k” to English orthogaphy. Real Saxons still use “c”.

  30. Martin_z says

    Actually, Australia isn’t damp and dreary, and this argument started about the spelling of sceptic in Oz.

    But yes, I’m a Brit. And yes, England can be damp and dreary. (Though it’s a nice day today.) And I suppose, these days, arguably, the spelling rules we use are minority.

    But they are right.

    “This royal throne of kings, this sceptred isle…”

  31. Mark N says

    51-49 to ‘them’.

    As for spelling-gate, I’m from the UK and prefer skeptic. That said, if we all just used what we preferred, women would all be called birds……

  32. dsmccoy says

    “So, why didn’t they bother to invent their own spellings like we did?”

    Don’t spit the dummy, I don’t speak Strine, … strewth!


  33. Eric says

    We made it to 50%… Out of 10,255 total votes so far. Hopefully we can push them back!

  34. Varlo says

    Sorry about bum Email. Totally off the subject, it occurred to me recently that since the xian “god” created Eve well after Adam, that there is a really serious question for them to ask: Did Adam have nipples?

  35. Chris Davis says

    50:50 as of now.

    Come on, you heathens! (or, as a cox was heard to exhort in the Oxford/Cambridge boat race, ‘Row, you toilets!’)


  36. Arthur says

    There are a lot of people commenting on the sceptic/skeptic issue. Get over it. The English “language” is not one language, but instead is a variety of dialects that are close enough to each other to be mostly mutually intelligible. As the saying goes in linguistics, a language is a dialect with an army and a navy. Each country has tried to create its own standard English based on the specific dialects spoken in that region, so it goes without saying that there will be significant differences between the various versions of standard English. As for spelling, blame the people who write dictionaries, not the people who just happen to follow the conventions of their own country.

  37. Josh says

    49% woo to 51% Skeptics!

    You gotta believe in yourself and your readers PZ. We outgunned the large Australian TV audience!

  38. fartbandit says

    49% believers 51% sceptics!

    We’re ahead!

    (yay for the correct spelling of the word sceptic btw!)

  39. Robert says

    No need to apologize, Pingh; freedom of thought means any sort of thought, not just the freedom to be an atheist. =]

  40. John Yates says

    53% for the sceptics! I spammed it for about a minute straight with maybe 15 votes, and we appear to have broken it!

  41. not completely useless says

    “a believer or a sceptic”

    Nice specific question!

    I guess I’d have to say it depends on the proposition. I believe that I’m human, though I’m skeptical that anyone else is …

  42. clinteas says

    Aussies are big into psychics and superstition,so the initial poll result before it was pharyngulated doesnt surprise me,but we dont make them put disclaimers up like in the UK yet!
    As to this show,never heard of it,there is plenty of John Edwardsy stuff on TV tho.

    Skeptic sounds right to me,btw….

  43. ThirtyFiveUp says

    #28 Xander

    Heh, this is the poll now.

    John McCain’s 27% 34587
    Barack Obama’s 33% 43481
    Paris Hilton’s 40% 52088
    Total Votes: 130156

  44. Kyle W. says

    I didn’t realise there was such contention over those minor spelling differences :)

  45. says

    Heh, 60% skeptics now! Bet they didn’t see that coming … *boomtish*

    FYI James Randi’s JREF is keeping tabs on this show. Going by some of the reporting coming in from Aussie viewers it seems like a lot of Richard Saunders’ good work in identifying the bollocks-peddlers may be ending up on the cutting room floor. But I guess woo-woo always rates better than a bloke saying “Mate, you’re talking out of your ARSE” for an hour.

    btw I’m an Aussie but I prefer “skeptic” with a “k”. Just looks better :)

  46. varlo says

    Why can’t we spell it scheptic like the xians spell their savior? Also, no one has yet told me if Adam had nipples. Or why.

  47. MAJeff, OM says

    Also, no one has yet told me if Adam had nipples. Or why.

    Because they’re awesome toys.

  48. sjburnt says

    Aw come on. A sceptic tank sounds like something used to process waste! I would prefer ‘Skeptic’!

    I still think that these poll crashings are good humor! Thanks to all who cared and made a difference!

  49. says

    #75 – nothing odd about it; the vice-president of the Australian Sceptics Society is on the show, playing the role of judge and making sure the tests aren’t _too_ blatantly rigged.

    Because rigged they are, or at least the TV editing process is. So far, we’ve seen:

    * “find the object” tests – where the object is in a likely place to go anyway (e.g. near the top of a hill which is a good lookout), or near the entrance with rough or muddy ground

    * cold reading – where the reading goes for 15 minutes, and they show two minutes (with all the hits, none of the misses)

    * “celebrity readings” – where the reader can say “I sense you’re a TV star”, get told no, then a few seconds later go “I’m getting a feeling you’re in sports” (when Australian celebrities are nearly all either TV stars or sports stars). The funny one was where the celebrity in question was both – a TV star who also was a champion skier.

    * (bad) diagnosis of medical conditions based on observation/”medical intuition” – resulting in such insights as “I think you’ve got a respiratory problem” to someone you’ve just spent a minute listening to them wheeze away. Also without mentioning the fact that modern doctors are taught to do diagnosis based on observation, and it’s been a long part of Persian & Chinese medicine (which isn’t all bad, despite being full of superstition).

    Oh, and should I mention that none of the tests have any control groups?

    The so-called psychics are doing slightly better than pure random chance would suggest, but giving the selective editing, this is hardly surprising. Importantly, none of them are breezing through – all of the psychics have had major stumbles.

    The highlight of the show is when one of the contestants gets eliminated; they were asked at the start of the season to write down a list of who they expected to win, and each of the eliminated contestants has picked themselves so far. ;)

  50. says

    I think polls showing the percentages of people believing in silly myths and magical thinking shall be the death of me


    At least we’ve upped the number of skeptics in the poll – unfortunately, it doesn’t what people actually think and believe.

  51. Matt says

    Skeptics at 61% now. And I voted 5 times. Talk about jackass polling. (Then again, maybe I’m the bigger jackass for spending an extra 5 seconds voting repeatedly.)

  52. says

    As long as you don’t force us to “Americanize” (wow, it’s hard to write that “ize” without flinching) our spelling with all those “zees”, you may occasionally be permitted to spell sceptic with a k. We Aussies might deign to tolerate it sometimes.

  53. says

    Rob (#93)- English was a mess until Noah Webster, an American, cleaned it up a bit. It was getting to be a bit, too, Frenchified. “Centre.” “Theatre” When I read “sceptic” I pronounce “septic” which is how the rules of pronunciation dictate. And I would rather not see myself as a “septic.” I voted that I am one, and the good team is ahead %62 – %38.

  54. Muzz says

    I would think that PZ’s readership is rivalling the population of Australia these days.

  55. Douglas Franklin says

    I’m coming to the party late, but it’s 63% for the good guys (that’s us!)
    Dr, you don’t understand the power that you have… continue using it wisely to fight the bad guys.

  56. shonny says

    Posted by: Muzz | August 6, 2008 10:04 PM

    I would think that PZ’s readership is rivalling the population of Australia these days.

    HOI, MATE! Are you calling us (PZ’s readership) SHEEP??
    Sheep are overwhelmingly populating Australia, and a fair percentage walk on two legs.

  57. Muzz says

    I would not have thought suggestions (jokes my be too strong a word I guess) that Australia has a small population or PZ has a large readership would be at all controversial.

  58. Bride of Shrek OM says

    As a card carrying member of the Aussie Sc/keptiv Society I thoroughly recommend you all get your bums over there and do Dr Bob’s quiz on a monthly basis. It’s a hoot, actually quite educational in a quirky way and you can say “fuck” in your answers and get away with it.

    Given the winners are picked more on humour based answers than actual knowledge feel free to be as witty as possible. I won one of the months back in 2005 and, along with my Molly, stands as the greatest single moment of my life…sob.

  59. Colin says

    Aussies aren’t into psychics and superstition. The Aussies who watch that show would be, and they’d be the only ones who’d heard of the poll to start with. That’s why the initial results were so skewed. (Or should that be scewed?)

    And Mike (#94), if you’d rather not be referred to as a “septic” that could be a problem. I mean, given the popular rhyming slang for Yanks in these parts!

  60. Charlie Foxtrot says

    *poing*! *cavort*! *caper*!

    This damn poll has been bugging me for weeks, ever since I saw Phil mention it on Bad Astronomy. Its been like a seed stuck between my teeth, seeing thousands of ‘believers’ votes sitting there, begging for a damn good pharyngulation.

    It does my heart good to see the forces of reason rally to the flag and trounce the hordes of fuzzy-thinkers – well, on a pointless poll, anyway :)

    Oh, and cudos to all those aussie skeptics who kept the pressure on in the show’s comments section.

  61. David says

    freelunch asks “So, why didn’t they bother to invent their own spellings like we did?”

    The answer is simple, freelunch: we Australians are pretty lazy, and didn’t feel like it was worth the effort. (It would’ve cut into our beer-drinking time, for a start.)

  62. Donovan says

    I like how they say ‘believer’ or ‘sceptic.’ Do you think mental magic is real, or are you uncertain? (I know “sceptic” means disbelief, but it’s not an exact synonym. Why not just ask, “Do you believe? 1-Y / 2-N?” This IS a leading question… anyhow, my post continues) What about a third choice: “You people have probably destroyed half the planet’s exotic plant species sucking their burning embers through a bong looking for the high that would make you think this mental voodoo is real. Quit being stupid!” I’d have voted #3.

  63. Afro Spaulding says

    I’m sitting here knocking back Coops sparkling and continually voting for the septics. I know a sad way to spend the night.

    Currently at 65/35 in favour of the septics, still voting :)

  64. says

    It’s viewers of Channel 7, of course the figures are going to be positive. The commercial stations here breed a bunch of morons and they regularly have psychics on talk shows because that’s the target audience they aim for.

    The fact that they have made a show about it is proof enough that it’s for a bunch of gullible morons who want to believe. People should stick to The X Files and realise the paranormal is just that, fiction.

  65. says

    Thank you. I emailed this poll to you when the show began but your cracker saga followed soon after and I’m sure my email was easily lost in the flood.

    But it’s done now and “done like a dinner” as we say down here. Now well over 15,000 votes and over 60% skeptics. Nice. Thank you.

    This show actually started me blogging and I’ve been doing so furiously since The One started.

  66. Dustin says

    Getting close to 70% skeptic. We’ve taken it over, but to really dominate this poll we just need PZ to move this post to the top of the blog. One such move should do it.