Ben Radford, a research fellow at the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, was recently invited to be on one of those cable shows all about people who make claims about the paranormal (could it really happen?!).
Hhe got on the phone with the producers and the conversation went something like this:
Producer: “… Well, we just want to have the eyewitnesses tell their stories, to describe what they saw and experienced, so the audience gets it. We don’t want to discredit them, or make them look bad… They’re just telling their side, what they experienced.”
[Radford]: “That’s fine, I understand that. I’m not trying to disprove or debunk anyone, but if what the eyewitnesses are saying isn’t true, or is inaccurate, then we have an obligation to say that. You can’t just tell one side of the story.”
Producer: “No, we want to tell the whole story, but from their perspective. We want to end the show saying that these things could be real.”
Radford eventually figured out what was going on:
I finally realized that what they really were looking for was an incompetent “investigator,” someone who would appear on their show and pretend to use science in investigations — someone who would superficially appear smart and entertaining but who in the end would be baffled and stumped by the mysteries they faced.
It’s fine to say you’re stumped when you really are… but in a lot of cases, there are perfectly logical explanations and Radford was going to call it as he saw it. Which is why the producers weren’t interested in him.
I think he made the wrong move. He should’ve played along — get in front of the cameras and tell the audience exactly what’s happening.
Sure, he’ll get edited out of the final broadcast, but at least it might be too late for the producers to find a pseudoscientist to play the role of incredulous skeptic.