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.

0 thoughts on “Not ready for prime time miracle busting

    1. Thanks Derek. That makes me feel good. OTOH, who will it be to represent “the skeptic”? Darn it. Now I HAVE to watch.

  1. It’s too bad that there ARE sceptics. I am glad to know that God does exist and his miracles are still present in today’s society. Even though I do, many don’t believe, therefore can not understand. It only takes one to believe and you can witness miracles everyday if desired. Even unbelievers get in on them once in awhile which is what I hope the tv series does for those. Some are conditioned to understand by their parents from the day they are born and sadly some are not. But, we are also given free will and what we do with it is the power we all have. Even though given that choice, society makes it difficult to honestly show our true hearts. I think at a certain time in our lives we decide that it doesn’t matter what anyone thinks, this is who I am and hopefully will have had some influence at some point to see that God is real and if the rules he made in the beginning were followed, there would be perfect peace. I believe there WILL BE peace sometime in the near future. That IS what I believe and no one (thankyou God) can change it, mainly because I do believe in the Holy Scriptures. That said, it will not happen before there is MUCH trouble and hardship on the majority of mankind. But as a believer, I do not fear the afterlife, as I know where I am going. Do you?

    1. If there were not skeptics, we would not be a modern society. We’d be still in the dark ages, living a horrid life of disease and misery. Skeptics doubted that God had sway over all of our lives, and so took the initiative to become enlightened. I’d rather not be “conditioned” into anything, thankyouverymuch. And, I’m not sad at all.

      Thanks for submitting your comment but I totally disagree with your philosophy. Nature is wonderful without some supernatural entity. I do know where I’m going – outside on this nice day.

  2. First time visitor and commentator, long time skeptic. I stumbled on to the fact that the show “Miracle Detectives” debuted January 5th on the Oprah Winfrey network. Decided to look it up and found this posting/your blog. I will give it a go only because you turned it down, I expect it to be horrid : )

    They decided to go with a Dr. Indre Viskontas as the stand-in for skeptics, a Canadian PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience, admirable qualifications but nowhere on her website does she taut her skeptical beliefs. On other end of the ring is Randall Sullivan a catholic writer who I didn’t bother looking up much.

    If it is any good I’ll report back or if it is really really horrible.

    Cheers and keep doubting!

    1. Thanks, Anoop. She actually got in touch with me and seems to be a very nice person – great for the job. I can’t wait to see it. Thanks for the update and for visiting! I do know that Ben Radford has a part to play in at least one of the episodes which is promising, at least.

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