Not ready for prime time miracle busting

There is much to be said for just reaching out and trying new things. Simple efforts can get you noticed. Check out this story for an opportunity…

I first dipped my toe into the skeptical community via an email discussion group. Then, I offered my assistance to a new web venture back in 2000 that led to my first skeptic’s conference and a new network of acquaintances. I wrote a little, dabbled with stuff where I could contribute (Darwin Day) and began my own blog in 2007.

My penchant for commenting on stories, participating in postboards and taking advantage of opportunities to talk to like-minded people led to Facebook friends and Tweeps, virtual get togethers and collaborations.

Then, one day, my face is on Wow.

A few days after that, I get an email from the casting director of a production company that makes Ghost Hunters. They are casting a new, unscripted show called Miracle Detectives and want a Scully to go with their Mulder. The huge warning sign, however, is that it is being made for the new Oprah Network, OWN.

Obviously, I’m skeptical. Yet, I do a little Googling and it’s legitimate. I seek advice from my confidante for paranormal conundrums, Skeptonya, who convinced me to at least give this guy a call.

The casting director was really helpful. He said he was looking for an “intelligent” and “dynamic” woman with “strong presence” to “represent the practical/skeptical half of the investigation team”. Two hosts/investigators will “travel, interview and research supposed real-life miracles to determine if they can be explained.”

They already have an established author on the subject cast opposite the skeptical role. Producers were looking for a positive personality to provide the scientific perspective but not a “heavy” who was out to “kill God” with counter arguments. It was not really about religion. Fair enough.

He had already talked to academic types and found them too dry – like they were giving a lecture. I’m not uncomfortable talking to a crowd or using an expressive voice, if I’m passionate about the subject. This can get me in trouble but it can also be memorable and persuasive to listeners.

The skeptical community has buzzed about the kinder, friendlier attitude we might take to make inroads into entrenched culture of belief. The right person in a TV role could, theoretically, bring a new audience gently around to more rational ways of thinking. It’s a tough crowd, though. The audience is women who like Oprah! There is a fine line between being rational and debunking a belief held by someone thankful to be alive by “the hand of God”.

Imagine yourself presented with this opportunity. What a break! Especially when I’m frustrated with my current job and captivated by the idea of learning to do these types of investigations and possibly make a real difference in reaching the public with a science-based method.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for anyone looking to branch out as an on-camera expert, host, consultant or commentator in their field”, he says. Gee, is that what I want? Can I do it? Am I prepared? What would you do?

Here’s the kicker. The critical thinking we’ve all practiced can be used on oneself as well.

I feel I am NOT experienced to do a TV role. I haven’t even read Joe Nickell’s books about it yet. I haven’t had Ben Radford’s class on How to Investigate Paranormal Claims! To say that I was prepared would be a sham akin to saying I was qualified to be a ghost hunter or cryptozoologist. If you value integrity and wisdom, it’s hard to arrogantly assert “I can do that”. On the other hand…you feel that you probably can do just as good or better than whomever else might be itching to take on such a role.

Since the turn-around time for casting was very tight, the next step would be for me to make a video talking about my experience and views about why I was a good fit for this show. If chosen as a finalist, I would be brought to L.A. for a screen test. If picked, shooting would start in mid-May.

It’s a lot to consider in such a short span. My husband was very supportive of trying to take it as far as possible, if just for the experience.

I am currently this close to finishing my Master’s degree, there are various summer plans coming up. I’m also feeling not so good vibes about how this show can possibly turn out. I’m not the most impulsive person regarding life changing decisions but I decide this in about a day.

I emailed him to say:

“…my personal skepticism and commitment to quality prevent me from pursuing [this opportunity] – I simply don’t think I have the experience and skills necessary at this point in life to do a worthy job. I am actively attempting to gain such experience and investigation skills but I’m not ready to put it out there yet especially in contrast to a religious viewpoint. It’s a difficult audience for a skeptic. “I don’t know” is not an answer that satisfies those who think everything has an explanation. I wish you luck in presenting the scientific view for the intended audience.”

I felt positive about my choice. The situation had felt like a cloud or obligation, not like something exciting. So, I did the right thing. Then, he writes back almost immediately saying he liked my presence on the phone (I guess I wasn’t dry) and he was confident in my ability. Besides, there were assistants and producers to help me find the questions to ask and to provide guidance. [Pause. Reflect on that for a moment…]

I thank him for his kindness and persistence but it’s not me and not my particular subject.

My doubt about supernatural miracles, and in all explanations supernatural, is not ready for TV. I have more to examine about nature and myself. It would be typical Hollywood fakery to put myself out there as some paranormal investigator when, inside, I can’t even admit to myself that I am. In 2000, I entered the skeptical community willing to take in as much as I can learn. I hope someday soon I WILL feel ready, maybe even for a similar chance. Every day, I get closer. You’ll know when I’m ready to make the leap.

Update January 14, 2011: I have seen the show and it is very good! They brought in the big-gun skeptical investigators such as Joe Nickell with more to come. (Stay tuned!) Indre is excellent and is all one could hope for the rational side of the investigation. She is imminently qualified, likable, convincing, confident and smart. And, she kicks Randall’s ass. I can’t imagine a better choice. Congratulations, Indre! Well done.

Update March 3, 2011: Check out my interview with Indre here.

About idoubtit

Fluent in science, animals, paranormal culture. Expert in weird news.