A lot of people think lip service to science is sufficient

I guess we’re approaching time of year for news count-downs, and here’s one already, The Biggest Junk Science of 2019. It’s got all the usual suspects, and a few odd novelties: the Florida Board of Education, Fox News, the paleo diet for dogs, climate change denialists, people growing horns, radioactive quackery, anti-vaxxers, homeopathy, and of course, Bill Maher. It features the smug face of Maher sitting atop the page, even.

It’s sad that one of the most prominent voices in skepticism and atheism, who won a Richard Dawkins award, who is regularly highlighted in every zealous atheist social media group alongside Hitchens & Dawkins & Harris, is simultaneously the poster boy for popular quackery. It just goes to show that bigotry and foolishness are such easier sells to the American public that even the segment that loves to praise its own rationality will fall for it.


  1. Susan Montgomery says

    “Skepticism” is the new “satire”. It’s the new low-effort excuse to be some sort of dangerous intellectual rebel without getting called out as an ignorant, bigoted jackwad. And since Maher hasn’t been funny since the early-90’s (and, arguably, not even then) he can’t plausibly claim to be a satirist.

  2. A Sloth named Sparkles says

    I doubt “Skepticism” has become satire at all. It’s more like an unearned badge for mostly white men who thinks that other people are stupid therefore they consider themselves are smart & (ugh) “rational”.

    As for Dawkins Awards, I doubt Dawkins himself would give a shit about what he thinks of Bill Maher, EDL or churches so as long as they agree with him being against feminists, Muslims or other personal pet peeves.

  3. a_ray_in_dilbert_space says

    So, my question: How do you pick just one climate denial paper or anti-vaxxer media event to highlight.
    It is true that the Finnish paper they cite was particularly awful–so awful they didn’t even try to publish it in a peer-reviewed journal. It also got a lot of publicity in the denialosphere. However, the denialosphere is continually filled with wingnut bullshit–it’s all they have.

  4. says

    Maher is also the poster-child for “smug atheist.” Whenever some credulous complain about atheists being “smug” it reminds me how much I want someone to kick Maher.

  5. Susan Montgomery says

    @2 I didn’t say it was. The point I was trying to convey was that, just as an artist claims his bigotry is satire when called out (incidentally, have you ever noticed that they never tell the people who love them for being bigots that they don’t get the joke?) so to does someone who advances bigoted or false information now takes the mantle of “skeptic” in order to deflect criticism.

  6. chrislawson says

    Susan Montgomery–

    Dave Chappelle famously abandoned a multi-million dollar contract and walked away from his TV show when he got sick of hearing white idiots in the audience bellowing his lines as if they were catchphrase jokes. Which illustrates your point that if a performer is being genuinely satirical, they will be deeply disgruntled at their satire being twisted around. I’m not saying that satirists have a responsibility to call out every obtuse or malicious misuse of their work, or that they are obliged to walk away from their careers if they don’t like how they’re being echoed by the worst of their fans, but I do have suspicions if they proclaim they’re satirists only after igniting a controversy that threatens their income.

    (Sadly Chappelle’s brilliance in skewering racism does not extend to his jokes about sex and gender.)

  7. Susan Montgomery says

    @6 Indeed.

    @7 I do not know enough about Chappelle to make a meaningful and informed statement about his integrity or state of mind. I know enough about him to wish that he felt the same way about transpeople.

  8. hemidactylus says

    I don’t have HBO so don’t watch Maher. Guy who looks eerily similar to Charlie Kelly on Always Sunny makes me realize I’m not missing out on much:


    Egads. Maher forces me to realize even Bill F’in Frist is capable of being more reasonable sounding than him. See around 18:40 into the video.

  9. A Sloth named Sparkles says

    @5 Gotcha, got what you mean.
    It’s worrying trend to see men weaponizing their faux-“skepticism” & atheism to gaslight their critics into thinking their racist, illogical antics are “just jokes”. Especially when dealing with minorities like transpeople & Muslims, who rightfully called out their bullshit but being insulted for being “PC” or some shit.