To "debunk", according to the Oxford English Dictionary, is to "Remove the ‘nonsense’ or false sentiment from; to expose false claims or pretensions" Debunking has been a hobby of mine ever since I was young, when I grew up reading a magazine called "The Unexplained - Mysteries of Mind Space and Time", a magazine published in 1980 that told tales of UFOs, ghosts, magic, and strange beasts. For many years these things were causes of great fear to me. When I was a child I used to lay awake at night, literally trembling with the thought that some alien could enter my room, and spirit me away to perform experiments on me, or that ghosts might actually be hovering around me, ready to shriek into existence, or softly stroke my face with disembodied hands reaching out of the darkness. In particular one small book, written for children, really scared me. It contained an account of the Kelly-Hopkinsville Encounter, a tall tale of a farmhouse under attack by little green men. At one point they describe turning around to see a clawed hand reaching down towards them. But as I grew up and learned more of science, and the way the world actually worked, then these fears dropped away. I did not lose my fascination with these fringe topics, but instead became even more interested in them, particularly in seeking out the most reasonable explanations of strange phenomena. I never fully rid myself of the fear - I'm still not entirely comfortable in the dark, nor in a shower in a empty house (perhaps thanks to watching Psycho at too young an age). I can rationalize it away, I know the fear is an illusion, but it's still there. Along the way I took up debunking as a hobby. Mostly online, where bunk is most copious. But also in real life, where opportunities to explain subjects like homeopathy, or the cold readings of spiritualists, crop up with depressing regularity. I continued to read the Unexplained magazines, but now the greatest source of fascination to me was the explanations. Spontaneous Human Combustion was less a source of fear that I might suddenly burst into flames, and more a macbre wonderment that a human corpse could burn, the flames fed by body fat, and the wicking action of clothes. I liked to share this information with my friends. Part of the reason why I debunk now is anger at the fear this nonsense instilled in me as a young child. Perhaps you can't do much to stop children being afraid of the dark, but I can still call out the bunk in the tales, and perhaps that will help someone be less afraid. Perhaps it will stop people from passing off these stories as true. Every little helps. My first "internet" debunking was on the BBSs of the late 1980s. FidoNet, to be precise - not even an internet as such, but a collection of modem based bulletin boards that called each other up at night to swap information. Interactions were necessarily slow, so two people would often exchange only one message a day, or less. There was some religious guy that I argued with, perhaps a priest. He had some rather religiously orthodox ideas about the universe, and I tried to convert him to atheism. How young and foolish I was, in my early 20s. I'd just read "The Anthropological Cosmological Principle" and "The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown the Bicameral Mind", and I was full that those ideas, and even tried to get him to read those books. I remember very little of our discussions, just that we were polite, and both unyielding. One thing I do remember is that he was a big fan of something called Panin's Proof, which was basically a checksum in the Bible, an early version of the "Bible Codes". It worked as convincing bunk back then because it relied on the "NASA Supercomputers" to calculate, and later when everyone had a supercomputer and could verify this "proof", it just evaporated. Now it's been relegated to the status of those wild claims you find in a breathless chain-email, forwarded by people who want to believe. That was in England. I move to California in 1990, and was mostly busy with work for the next decade, consequently much of my debunking was at work - as emails would get passed around (after we actually got email, in around 1996) , I was always quick to point out the errors, and direct the writer to something like Snopes, if possible. I remember one particular story around the time of the Mad Cow scare, where it was theorized that 50% of Britons (including myself) would be dead of prion induced CKJ disease within ten years. Of course I'm still fine, but the effects of that media scare live on, in that I STILL can't donate blood in the US. A good example of the negative effects of junk science. I took up debunking more seriously again after I left my company in 2003, and started work as a writer for Game Developer magazine, which gave me a lot more spare time. I joined Wikipedia where I did lots of minor little editing on topics like homeopathy and audiophiles, but then I found a big source of bunk in the form of Biblical Scientific Foreknowledge (now called "Scientific foreknowledge in sacred texts"), which is rather a fringe subject that suggests that there is scientific truth in the bible that was not available to humanity at the time it was written, and hence must be proof it was written by God. I delved into such arcane subject as Ancient Egyptian Medicine, biblical exegesis, phytopharmacology, and vegetarian lions. There was one editor there "Ken" who was quite doggedly trying to insert his religious viewpoint into the article, and I just as doggedly pushed back with the forces of science and reason. Ken eventually got banned for edit-wars, and he gave up and moved on. I remained, and poking around on wikipedia I found an article on a proposed medical condition called "Morgellons". It looked a bit suspicious to me, people claiming there were fibers coming out of their skin. I made some edits to the page in March and April 2006. After a few weeks, I found the subject so interesting that I started my first single-subject skeptical blog (using blogger.com at the time, later switching to Wordpress). I did this anonymously, and wanting to keep that anonymity I abandoned the wikipedia account I had under my own name, and opened another using a pseudonym. MorgellonWatch.com was my hobby for nearly three years. I wrote over a hundred articles, and got over 12,000 comments. During the first year or so there were several media stories regarding Morgellons, and I received many requests for interviews. I declined to be interviewed, because I wanted to remain anonymous. I was actually a little embarrassed by the amount of work I put into my hobby, and preferred to not discuss it with anyone I learned my lessons while running Morgellons Watch. The most important one was that of being polite and respectful to those people that you disagree with. Nothing good comes of insulting someone, even unintentionally. Nothing good comes of allowing hateful discourse in the comments section either. There were two commenters who accounted for perhaps a quarter of those 12,000 comments between them. One of them, TC, tended to be quite brutal in his appraisal of the people who thought they had Morgellons. Over time, due to their repeated positing of comments, and a couple of guest articles I invited them to write, they became perceived by some as the face of the site, and hence the ill will that TC's attitude generated became focussed on me, as the site owner. I had several online threats (not entirely serious, but still), people tried to track me down, and eventually I simply deleted the comments entirely, because the comments were what people were focussing on, and not the articles. While doing Morgellons Watch, I found another topic on Wikipedia, Chemtrails. This was attractive to me because at the time I was taking flying lessons, and aviation and the weather were topics of interest to me. Rather than spend much time editing Wikipedia, I simply started a new blog: contrailscience.com. Chemtrails seemed safer ground, but the believers overlapped, so there was still this constant problem of people getting so upset that conversation as impossible. I instituted a politeness policy which grew more and more strict as time went by. In December 2009, I had a story hit the big time with the "Mystery Missile" - where a plane flying from Hawaii to the mainland left a contrail on the horizon that looked a bit like a missile trail. I wrote a few articles debunking this, and ended up being contacted by the media, who wanted to interview me. At the time I was still anonymous, but I decided then that my debunking would be taken more seriously, and be more effective, if I was honest about who I was. So I "broke cover", and went on TV. I got a lot of traffic from that. Nearly a million visitors. This felt like a good time to branch out a bit. There was a lot of discussion on Contrail Science, but the blog format was cumbersome, and the topics quite often strayed off the topic of contrails, and onto broader conspiracies, or other strange phenomena. So I decided to set up a forum, to foster more of that conversation. So Metabunk.org was born. The name Metabunk is meant to convey the idea of thinking about debunking, and not simply doing it. Thinking about how to debunk better, and thinking about why we debunk, and what it is we are really trying to do. Metabunk is still a fairly small forum, and still evolving. I enforce the politeness policy more than ever (although it's hard to get it right every time), and I think this gives it a unique and pleasant atmosphere. I spend quite a bit of time here, continuing my 30+ years long hobby of debunking.