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Kickstarting Skepticism

by Alison Hudson

December 27, 2012

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Donate Here on the blog we recently covered some woo-themed Kickstarter projects. That got me to thinking: what sort of skeptical Kickstarter projects are out there? Kickstarter is the "in thing" right now for funding small and ambitious projects. Surely, some skeptically-minded folks had put its fundraising power to use.

Typing "skeptical" and "skepticism" into the Kickstarter search engine doesn'tyieldmuch. There's Occ the Skeptical Caveman, a video series successfully kickstarted by the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe earlier this year; Godless Comics, an atheism-themed parody of Chick Tracts that's already achieved its funding with 29 days left to go; and a film project called Skeptical that fell through last year (and may not have been actively promoting a skeptical point of view, based on thedescription). That's it.

Using "critical thinking" as my search term came up with more results, most of them unsuccessful. One possible gem, though, is Brendan Myers' Clear and Present Thinking: A Free College-Level Text. This project's goal is to produce a free eBook suitable for use in a college classroom, one that teaches basic critical thinking skills and even offers chapters on critical thinking in politics,religion, and science. The book isn't out yet; it was originally scheduled for a December 2012 release, but it has been delayed and will be published in portions over the next few months.

If Clear and Present Thinkingfulfillsthe promise of its idea, it's about as clear a "skeptical" project on Kickstarter as I could have hoped to find when I went searching. That it achieved its funding is something of a surprise, given its highly academic nature and quality of not being an iPhone compatible accessory. But it's a promising success; it means there's a place for critical thinking and skeptical thought on Kickstarter.

Of course, there are also a lot of failed projects out there that would have had skeptical undertones. Searches as varied as"cryptozoology," "debunk," "homeopathy," and "evolution" all turned up many interesting but unfunded projects from the past couple of years. More than a few of them are film documentaries; that seems to be a popular format for both skeptics and non-skeptics on Kickstarter, though they don't often succeed.

One of the problems with looking for skeptical Kickstarter projects may be that the projects aren't explicitly labeled skeptical. Kickstarters about astronomy, chemistry, history, and archaeology could all be consideredfriendlyto rational thinking, While such projects wouldn't be aimed at actively promoting skeptical thinking, they would certainly be the kinds of things a skeptic might be interested in supporting.But you wouldn't find them with a search for "skeptic" or "critical thinking;" such projects require deeper digging.

I would love to see more actively skeptical projects on Kickstarter; and more importantly, I'd like to see more successful ones. If you know of any Kickstarters that might be of interest to the skeptical mind, feel free to tell me about them in the comments below. If I see enough projects popping up, I might just return to the Kickstarter topic in the future.

by Alison Hudson

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