Like many of you, I read with dismay BuzzFeed’s article about allegations that Skeptic magazine founder Michael Shermer raped skeptic Alison Smith in 2008 after plying her with alcohol at a party during The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) in Las Vegas. Shermer released a statement denying the allegations but admitting to having had consensual sex with Smith. He points out that there is no evidence for the accusations and that the accuser continued to correspond with him happily years after the event. Other women speaking to BuzzFeed reported unwelcome sexual advances from Shermer, including an incident where he was allegedly “playing with his crotch” while hitting on a young woman at an atheist event. Shermer denies this as well, noting that the allegation of several minutes of indecent display in the midst of a crowded event is hard to credit.
Because I have criticized fringe authors for their involvement with former American Nazi party president and convicted pedophile Frank Collins (in his Frank Joseph publishing persona), it would be hypocritical of me not to take note of these very serious allegations since Michael Shermer has published many of my articles, including my very first, “Charioteer of the Gods.”
I have never met Michael Shermer in person, nor have I exchanged more than a few lines of email with him over the years. All of my Skeptic magazine articles were published before allegations against Shermer became public knowledge, and certainly before I became aware of them today. Apparently PZ Myers wrote a piece about the allegations last year, but this came after my last Skeptic appearance and was not known to me.
If the allegations are true, it is truly disturbing. For the time being, I don’t see myself returning to the pages of Skeptic until this sorts itself out. Also: These skeptic and atheist conferences sound like absolutely awful bacchanals. I am glad I have never been to one.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Esquire, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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