Dear Penn And Teller: Bullshit!
By Massimo Pigliucci
| September 25th 2009 09:17 PM | Print
I like Penn&Teller, the magicians and debunkers of pseudoscience and general inanity. I regularly use clips from their show in my critical reasoning class, despite cringing every time Penn indulges in his “fuck this” and “motherfucker that” exercise in free speech (it distracts the students from the real point, not to mention the always lurking possibility of an administrator asking me about the appropriateness of foul language in a philosophy class). Heck, I even recently went to Vegas to see them in person, had a photo taken with Teller, and managed to tell him (to his surprise) about how my students enjoy stimulating discussions triggered by the duo’s antics.
But as we have learned recently from the Atheist Alliance / Dawkins Foundation / Bill Maher fiasco, “skepticism” is sometimes too broad a label, as someone can be properly skeptical in politics but not about pseudoscience (Maher), while someone else may be great at debunking astrology and magnetic therapy, and yet also unable to shed some huge blinders when it comes to politically charged issues. The latter is, unfortunately, Penn&Teller’s case, as made excruciatingly clear by the 2008 (season 6) episode “Being Green” of "Bullshit!" I just watched it last night, and I found myself wanting to call up Penn to let go a few expletives of my own. Fortunately, I don’t have his phone number.