Question of the Week: What should Skeptic Al’s next addventure be? ​

Jan 22, 2014

This week we introduce not just a cartoon but the first of a cartoon strip, a series from Jose Giles and Jacob Fortin. 

What are your thoughts? What should Skeptic Al's next addventure be? Tell us in the comments


Deadline for the contest is January 28, 2014

Winners receive a copy of An Appetite for Wonder by Richard Dawkins.



Written By: RDFRS
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30 comments on “Question of the Week: What should Skeptic Al’s next addventure be? ​

  • I think he should visit Ken Ham and his Cretinous Museum to ask the kids a few basic questions about how we know what counts as evidence and what is made up BS with a financial interest at the heart ….

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  • 2
    CdnMacAtheist says:

    Explore religious indoctrination or faith-labeling the children of religious parents…. Mac.

    Choose another winner since I’ve already got the new RD book…. 😎

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  • 3
    SomersetJohn says:

    So many targets!
    Maybe not start with the 800 pound gorillas’ of the wooniverse like Ham or the RCC. Start slowly with a small monkey like astrology or sikik healing.

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  • 4
    SaganTheCat says:

    I’m of the opinion he should avoid religion, which is in decline, and start with nutty beliefs of the 21st century. maybe meet the leader of a shadowy conspiracy that controls the whole world, discusses the methods used to control the masses (chemicals in vapour trails, brianwashing through TV, vaccines, covering up alien visitors while lying about human space travel etc..) who he defeats through the logic of realising the conspiracy itself must consist of more humans than live on the planet.

    I say ease into religion, might get the religious on-side before exposing them to their own falacies

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  • He should carry out a piece of crowdsourcing experimentation into paper homeopathy, by writing a cure for headaches, depression and cancer, we can all print it out and test it. We can then send back our anecdotes, sorry I mean findings. It could be one of the biggest and highest quality trials of homeopathy ever, of course it wouldn’t be controlled, blinded or randomised, but that’s of no consequence to a true believer. Think of the good it would do cheering up a load of miserable sceptics!

    It might be complicated as some [believe] ( you just have to carry the paper with the name of the cure on it with you, or stand a drink on the paper, to be treated, whereas others believe you have to [suck on the paper containing the energy] ( Worth a read as alcohol is apparently chemically neutral and has “no action on human being physiologically (sic)”. I’ll drink to that.

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  • Our hero appears just in time to see the Tsunami approaching the little church at the bottom of the hill. He rushes inside to see the people kneeling in prayer and the preacher saying they will be saved. His skepticism being a superpower, he urges the people to follow him and they run out of the church and up the hill. Tick saves the preacher too. At the top of the hill, the only remaining dry land, they watch the church float by just beneath them. The preacher’s coat bursts open to reveal a life jacket. The people fold their arms, tap their feet and the preacher’s face says he knows he’s screwed.

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  • Being sceptical ,he should maybe start with being a sceptic of everything(with arguments from his friends in both directions,in which he can be devils advocate to all),perhaps he goes to the natural history museum,but just doesn’t buy what he’s told about fossils millions of yrs old etc.,so,then takes a trip to the creationist museum to check out that point of view,coming away form there suspecting something very dodgy about the whole thing,but,being a curious type of chappy,he then decides to do some actual research,and comes then to a logical conclusion by process of reasoning that …etc etc etc. but he also is still aware that science is inclined to change over time as new ideas are brought in and things are discovered ,but comes to accept the current model and method as the best we have etc etc et bleeding cetera. or he just hangs out with the myth busters for a few days and ………

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  • 11
    ylaenna says:

    Skeptic Al could look into the crazy tradition that is Groundhog Day and maybe tie that in with other everyday superstitious behaviors like knocking on wood. It would be a little late if published a month from now but still timely for the month of February.

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  • 12
    johnfrancis45 says:

    Virtually every major newspaper in the world has a daily astrology column. He should definitely take this on early in the strip and continue to comment on it. It’s amazing how many people actually take the advice from these columns on board, and use it to plan their every day lives.

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  • All we have to go on is just the briefest outline of two characters, the name of a third, and the premise that they are going off to “a world where skepticism is a superpower”. It makes it hard for me to suggest the next stage of the story without knowing the setting or the characters. Still, I will try:

    I already live in a world where skepticism is a superpower, which is apparently shared by a tiny minority. I think the flash and smoke at the end of the first panel are just the thing that entertainers call a flashpot or that the military call a flash-bang or stun grenade. It makes lots of noise and smoke, but that’s all it does.

    I think they didn’t actually go anywhere. In fact, Al’s next line is “Hey, we didn’t go anywhere!” and Tick says “Did you expect to? Your powers of skepticism are already super right here.” Then Tick now begins to take us for a ride around our real world, where Al observes a variety of unsubstantiated belief, uses his skepticism to understand what is really going on, and is ignored just like the rest of us. After all, the story line is that Al has the power of skepticism — not the power to make other people skeptical. It leads to a sort of ironic humour, but humour nonetheless.

    I’m thinking of a political cartoon that covers topics in the news that need a skeptical approach. This includes vaccinations (where a former Playboy model and a Mullah in Afghanistan support the same position), the antics of the Tea Party in the US, the current huff over Maajid Nawaz (as a plot point to get to the whole thing about pictures of mohammed), preachers who claim a natural disaster is “God’s punishment” (man, does that guy have bad aim — at least a CIA drone only kills 20 of your neighbors instead of a whole city), etc etc. It all depends on what is topical.

    Obviously, Skeptic Al will have a lot to say about religion, but he is also aware that religion is not the only thing in the world that needs skepticism. He can even score some hits on the “skeptic community”. Self-criticism brings you a great deal of credibility, and if some of our own feel targeted, they should themselves bring a bit of critical thought to analyzing the criticism.

    I don’t have a long story arc in mind. That is hard to do with topical material, and long story arcs require a lot of planning by the author if you’re going to get them right. Also, if you’re aiming to publish once a month, you can’t really hold a long story arc together in just 9 panels. You would be looking for ~3 pages of about size A4 to have enough happen to keep the serial going. Otherwise, the reader has forgotten by the time of the next issue. With just a quarter page once a month, each cartoon has to stand alone.

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  • 14
    Stafford Gordon says:

    I think he should invent and put forward some crackpot doctrine and tempt people into believing it, and then ask the believers why they believe it, to demonstrate how easy it can be to be fooled by con artists and or dum-dums.

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  • 15
    Katy Cordeth says:

    What should Skeptic Al’s next adventure be? ​

    Option 1: Skeptic Al acquires a high-velocity rifle and ‘takes out’ the people he purports to be friendly with but actually can’t stand – his words, not mine.

    Option 2: Skeptic Al is diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia after he insists he had an encounter with a racial stereotype from another dimension who told him he could be a superhero.

    Option 3: The POOF Skeptic Al experienced was the result of a fast-acting soporific administered by Tick via a dermal patch when they shook hands and was actually him passing out. He awakes some time later in a bathtub filled with ice to discover one of his kidneys is missing.

    Option 4: Skeptic Al does find himself in an alternate reality and because of his superpowers is able to become a ruthless dictator, known as the Butcher of Plainville, resulting in the eventual death of millions, before he suffers a massive attack of conscience and takes his own life. Tick is subsequently tried as a war criminal and executed by firing squad.

    The copy of An Appetite for Wonder can, as before, be delivered to the inner-city library of RDFRS staff’s choosing. A different library this time, if possible.

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  • 16
    SantoshS says:

    Al visits schools- both faith schools and non faith schools. He cannot stand the use of the word GOD in almost every conversation there. So, Al along with Tick use their powers to make that word read and heard as mirrored ie. DOG. Suddenly the world starts becoming more tolerable to Al, because NOW DOG- the man’s best friend starts becoming famous and the children love it!

    Oh DOG !! I must stop here now, because my GOD is pulling me. He need to go out urgently to relieve his gastric tension. Bark!!! Bark!!! bARK!!!- You heard that. 😉

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  • 17
    This Is Not A Meme says:

    Walks up on woo medicine being practiced on a child. Saves the kid.

    Al could walk up on a confusing scene aghast at the stupidity and inanity of the situation… maybe they are blowing pinwheels to mend the child or ease his pain. He asks how it works. When no answer comes he asks IF it works, which is astounding. Eventually he solves the problem, as it doesn’t even require a trained professional. As his guide said, this faculty would be seen as a superpower, and as he just saved a child the natives are wowed and potentially a problem (worshipful, maybe frightened)… and he must assume a secret identity to conceal his power. Eventually he may learn he can’t arrive in costume to save the day, because his authority would shutdown the critical faculties of others.

    I get this idea from my grandfather. As a child he injured his eye. Days passed before his parents took him to a real doctor. He lost the eye, needlessly. He became an unapologetic, and relentless mocker of woo medicine, which can be very difficult when sick friends take desperate measures. For him, it seemed love and respect were synonymous with advocating reason and science, as he was familiar with the monstrous results of woo.

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  • 18
    Kenchandammit says:

    Skeptic Al is taken to the Texas Board of Education where they are meeting to discuss redefining the word ‘evidence’ in school textbooks.

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  • 19
    feijo33 says:

    He could be able to travel in time and show the very first Homo sapiens community to creationists.
    However, our hero will fail because the creationists will always find a way to find “confirmation” everywhere, even with visual, presencial evidences (subtle mentions to Sagan’s Dragon in my Garage during the chapter).


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  • 20
    TheBlueLamb says:

    Skeptic bout packaged milk. Added water? Caustic soda? So much to worry bout, why not just get a cow! … Just when he realizes that might not be such a bad idea.

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  • 21
    Light Wave says:

    Al could be outside a Vatican establishment ….swapping boxes of communion wafers with boxes of contraceptive wafers and hallucinogenic wafers…and of course Al will have his handy gadget-cam ready to record the results… like an alternative Big Brother

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  • 22
    Richardfishmaster says:

    Contest entry:
    I would like to see the future cartoon strip illustrate two important concepts.
    The first is to create or coin a new term or genre for the 21st century called ‘science-NON-fiction’.
    The point of this genre is to compare modern science to modern theology.
    I guess the point to be made is that theology has yet to provide any ‘real ‘ rather that just imagined ,well actual contributions to human progress or understanding,rather the opposite point can be suggested most obviously as was directly cited by both Dawkins and Lawrence krauss in their 2 hour something from nothing discussion.
    The second concept that would be interesting to be viewed in this proposed next month’s comic strip,it would be most delightful to show an educated ,intelligent,even rather inquisitive person perhaps he is a drifter in this universe,trying to explore or understand as much about all the ‘hard sciences ‘ as possible, so he comes across a town in the future perhaps the 22nd century, and as he travels through the mysterious unnamed town,he takes note that there is a church for all the major world religions,all except for atheism or for antitheists. haha I think that is pretty solid enough.
    I guess the whole point I am trying to make is that, every religion known to man ,all 10,000 of them or so,is very guilty of sabotaging as well as subverting the truth regarding the pursuit of science.Obviously! I think it speaks volumes about the state of humanity when you so much as take a peek at every single religious organization worldwide not to mention their many charitable offshoots,but you don’t see a single non- denominational atheist church( SADLY) I say.
    but it is coming …in fact it is inevitable…even if it takes until the 22nd century and beyond.
    It seems impervious in the current time and in the near to far future,that a new church an atheism church must be built.
    The world I live in ,it is already here… I feel inexplicably that the current state of humanity is too fixated on ridiculing and demonizing Galileo Galilei which apparently ended around 1642,but took almost 2 centuries or so just to try to give the guy some much deserved credit haha. and sadly the same state of affairs is happening to my personal hero or deity Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss.
    The point was well taken that 90% of the elitist scientists of this day,are in direct clashing with about 90% of so called humanity.
    I say so called because if your personal morality is defined by some bronze age myth,and if you deny we are apes who still have much learning and education to pursue for our collective destinies in the cosmos as a whole,well that just speaks more volumes about the current state of our again collective realities right? Hence we need some atheism churches to happen asap. I am in Canada.
    If funding is a problem may I suggest the world’s leading scientists can start a campaign or protest( reason rally 2014) to defund or at least confiscate many churches charity status and redistribute that many away from all schools of divinity.
    The economy of religions in general is stagnating everything! we have 5 or 6 or give or take 20 centuries even of literature without any merit at all. Thus we can hire lots of engineers and carpenters to build these unholy places of worship( atheist churches) these churches will not have statues of Christopher hitchens at each entrance,but they should honour and hold true to his personal doctrines about humanity, respect,tolerance,honesty,and other humble virtues. Or does it take rocket science nowadays to discern basic naturalist-evolutionary tendencies to treat your fellow man with basic manners and the notion of equality?
    Sorry to ramble but, I know what I am saying is correct and not a delusion of wishful thinking, I just hope the cartoon will have some slight bearing to anything I have tried to describe here. A reiteration is I would like to see a bright ,mysterious character who believes science can answer a lot more questions about the current and future state of things ,a lot more so than any religious dogma purports to have any answers about anything sensible etc. So basically he enters a new town that is all delusional and sold on false ideas,yet he is very scientifically literate as well as literate in general through basic reading and comprehension and arithmetic skills and so the story writes itself in that, he ponders how come there are no single tax exempt atheist churches, who don’t so much want to call themself antitheist and denounce religion outright in one fell swoop, however, teaching science will undeniably crush religion regardless of the timeframe,and turn them all into myths. Then we can collectively share futures which would otherwise be out of this world : )
    A personal thankful to Richard Dawkins,Please consider speaking in Canada,same goes for Lawrence Krauss, We are in between Europe with an estimated 50/50 secular versus religiousity compared to the states with apx 90/10 religious/atheist divide.
    In canada I would estimate 40% of us are secular and 60% religious HENCE we are closer to britain than the USA however, unless the scientists come to shake our hands and embrace us VERY SOON too. we are going to tumble back into the dark ages and be more like the US( currently we don’t have their megachurches system) but we take in tonnes of refugees here which is good and cool,only they are building lots of mosques which seems contrary and personally offensive to myself rather than embracing how science can hands down, offer superior humanity( human interactions,) science can also obviously feed more of the sick and poor at a much lower overhead then their religious counterparts.
    Thanks and looking forward to this comic… with Mutual respect

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  • 24
    jjbircham says:

    In reply to #6 by MarkGeorgiou:

    How about Al tackling the 9/11 the CIA blew up the world trade centre to start a war on terrorism theory?

    Sounds like they have got to you.

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  • 25
    jjbircham says:

    Next adventure?
    Has he had one yet?
    Does he help deliver Tick’s firstborn.
    maybe he travels around the world at high speed and stops people cringing with embarassment every time they read his “adventures”

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  • In reply to #14 by Katy Cordeth:

    What should Skeptic Al’s next adventure be? ​

    I’m not sure how useful being critical in that way is, Katy. Cartoons deal in stereotypes. It’s a little soon to assume it’s a negative one, I think. So…

    Skeptic Al and the Linguistic Control Machine?

    Skeptic Al and the Knee Jerk Reaction?

    Skeptic Al and the metaphors for Karl Popper’s Third World?
    (or Skeptic Al and the Puzzle of the Objective Contents of Thoughts)

    Skeptic Al and the dilemma of the arbitrary metaphors?
    (or the sufficiency of constraints to allow scepticism to be represented in an imaginary universe)

    Ach, you’ve put me on a harsh one now 🙁 Hmph.

    Skeptic Al in “A Reason for Everything” (discussing cause and effect, the idea of first causes and what’s knowable. The Mysterions claim to know the reason for everything, but it turns out they’re just pretending, and are forced to confess. They just wanted everyone to think they were special, really, but come to realise that their existence is something magnificent in of itself. )

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  • 27
    phil rimmer says:

    In reply to #25 by PERSON:

    In reply to #14 by Katy Cordeth:

    What should Skeptic Al’s next adventure be? ​

    I’m not sure how useful being skeptical in that way is, Katy. Cartoons deal in stereotypes. It’s a little soon to assume it’s a negative one, I think.


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  • 28
    Village Atheist says:

    In all honesty I have to say that the ideas and suggestions below for Skeptic Al’s next adventure sound about as entertaining as dysentery. The aim of any cartoon character aiming to promote a point of view is surely to engage and entertain readers and then, once this is done, seek to influence their thinking. This ragbag of painfully earnest and lame ideas is guaranteed to do none of those things.

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  • 29
    Village Atheist says:

    In reply to #2 by CdnMacAtheist:

    Explore religious indoctrination or faith-labeling the children of religious parents…. Mac.

    Choose another winner since I’ve already got the new RD book…. 😎

    And pretty bad it is too. How someone who can write so well as Richard Dawkins, and who has had such an interesting life, could have
    produced a memoir as jejune and insipid as this is a mystery to me.

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  • 30
    pad4pad says:

    In reply to #27 by Village Atheist:

    In Skeptic Al’s next adventure to promote a point of view to influence etc ;
    V>A> should give us 4 example ideas !

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