June 11, 2010
Host: Karen Stollznow
Tim Farley is a computer software engineer, skeptic, and creator of the popular website What’s the Harm? His site answers this salient question with over 670,000 stories of people who have indeed been harmed, damaged, injured, or even killed by pseudoscience and the paranormal
What’s the Harm’s catchphrase is: “368,379 people killed, 306,096 injured and over $2,815,931,000 in economic damages.” However, these statistics are calculated from randomly-caught, modern cases documented in English-speaking countries. Many stories are left untold. How much bigger could the problem be?
In this interview with Karen Stollznow, Tim reveals the real-life dangers, and the hidden dangers, of these beliefs and practices. He treats the lack of regulatory bodies for these industries, and what recourse can be taken when harm is done. Tim talks about the question “What’s the Harm?” as used in defense of pseudoscience and the paranormal, and why this is wielded as a “checkmate” argument. He discusses the power of anecdotal evidence, and whether people are influenced by cautionary tales, or more persuaded by their own personal experiences.
Tim is a prominent activist and a frequent speaker at events including Skeptics in the Pub, Skepticamp, and the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Amazing Meetings. An expert in computer security and reverse engineering, he is at the forefront of the Skepticism 2.0 movement. He talks about finding your own “niche” as an online activist, how you don’t need to be a magician or have a PhD to be a skeptic, and how we all have our own expertise to bring to the skeptical movement.