Skepchick's Top Tens, wherein I boot booty

By Phil Plait | December 30, 2008 11:23 am

Last week, Rebecca at Skepchick posted her Top Ten Jackasses of 2008. I agree with her picks in general, though I would’ve put Jenny McCarthy as #1 (if someone posts a Top Ten list, you have to say how you would’ve done it differently; it’s a law), or at least tied with Ben Stein.

To counterbalance that, she just posted her Top Ten Skeptics Who Kicked Ass in 2008. Again, in the same vein, I would’ve put Amanda Peet higher, since what she did was actually a potential speedbump for her career and therefore pretty brave. As well as critically needed.

In fact, it seems clear that Rebecca should’ve swapped Ms. Peet’s position with PZ’s. What was she thinking?

Well, actually, her putting PZ and moi in a tie was probably the most politically expedient thing to do. On the other hand, a blog war in the comments of that post would increase her traffic considerably, though, of course, dropping the signal-to-noise to essentially zero.

I also (and I’m not being falsely modest, never fear that) would’ve put Ben Goldacre and Simon Singh higher than me; they went out and took a lot of heat for attacking pseudoscientific garbage in 2008. I had a good year personally, but these guys had a great year for being on the front lines.

But all in all it was a good list, and it gives you a chance to keep your eyes on a few folks who, no doubt, will continue to fight the good fight.

And another thing I like about year-end Top Ten lists: they make me think of the upcoming year, and what needs to get done. 2009 will be a year, like every single one before it, full of antiscientific nonsense. Whose butt will you kick in the upcoming 365 days?


Comments (38)

  1. rob

    i like the telescope in your picture. where do you get one of those?

  2. kebsis

    That’s a…very flattering picture of you she has up, haha. Where is that from?

  3. Ben Stein deserves to be there. I didn’t really care to read the back of the DVD, I just watched it because I hadn’t seen it yet. I didn’t know what it was about when I starting watching it. OK, not bad soo far… WOW, HOLD YOUR HORSES STEIN! Where’s the evidence for your points? Those scientists weren’t fired for bringing creationism up in the classroom! And on and on and on, ad nauseam.

    By the end of that horrendous film I was deeply irritated and annoyed by his ignorance and stupidity. I’d say we hunt him down with pitchforks and knives of science.

    Ben Stein, you truly are Jack Ass of ’08. Congratulations.

  4. PS: I laughed so hard when I saw that pic of Phil with the telescope.

  5. Looks like you are riding the coat tails of the Amazing Randi, and some silly book you wrote. ūüėõ

    In all sincerity though: Well done Dr. Plait.

  6. Ed Myers

    These people are all douchebags, but this leads me to the universal question: “Is a douchebag in a vacuum still a douchebag?”…or however you want to phrase it. All the ridiculousness and con jobs need the same thing: a willing audience. I would have to include on that list everyone dumb enough or greedy enough to be taken in by something that requires only a little bit of research or conscious thought.

  7. i like the telescope in your picture. where do you get one of those?


  8. Mchl

    So you say these things run in family?

  9. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    flattering picture

    Twice over, because while PP can use his tool to embiggen the universe, it will on the other end belittle [um, sic?] himself.

  10. kebsis

    ”Twice over, because while PP can use his tool to embiggen the universe, it will on the other end belittle [um, sic?] himself.”

    Belittlement is nessesarry so it can be mapped in it’s entirety.

  11. The picture of Phil comes from the 2007 Skepchick Calander.

  12. # rob Says:
    i like the telescope in your picture. where do you get one of those?

    You buy a cheap telescope at WallyMart and feed it Enzyte[R]?


  13. Russ

    Always with the bias. Somehow, Bush and Palin make the list, but Robert Mugabe doesn’t?

  14. Respect Phil Plait.

    Love Phil Plait’s work.

    Didn’t need to see Phil Plait naked.

    Some things you can’t un-see…

  15. rob

    i find myself mentally dressing Phil.

  16. Utakata

    Sarah Palin should be No.#1. Since it was quite evident that certain so-called “skeptics” (even posting here) would vote for this religious baffoon nutjob (indirectly) because they would had to pay less taxes under her reign of ignorance. How very shallow. That’s right, she got them to think with their wallets instead of their brains, deserves full Top Dog Jackass’erie IMO.

  17. Joe Meils

    Hummm… I think I’d bump Madoff (since I consider him more of a criminal, than a mere jackass) and instead insert “Joe the Plumber” who, after being mentioned in a Presidential debate repeatedly, quickly rose to media darling fame, and began pontificating on subjects he didn’t know jack about. Good riddance to him.

  18. RE: ‘tied’ BadAstronomer and PZ.

    Long ago, I would work with another person on BBSes and in email to respond/debate with people as a pair. One would use logic and facts (me) and the other would use character attacks, etc. (my partner). We had a long running battle with someone who went by ‘davy’, and it was interesting to see how he would respond to the dual comments. Usually, he would ignore the factual information (since he could not come up with rebuttals) and just respond to the personal attacks, since that was his technique.
    Thus, the tie – from my experience with these ‘debates’ (flame sessions), both techniques used together gives readers and opponents more to deal with than with simple flame wars or attempting to use logic to rebut the disinformation.


  19. Bigfoot

    Well done, Phil. Even your photo on the top ten list ingeniously evokes a great deal of skepticism.

  20. Ad Hominid

    “#7 Sarah Palin”
    As the GOP sorts itself out, Palin is the new flag-bearer for the “social conservative” faction.

    Amateur astronomer, radio ham, and all-round pro-science proto-geek Barry Goldwater must be spinning in his grave.

    To the Palinistas, their new heroine represents a return to “real conservative principles.”
    Their historical memories are as sketchy as their scientific knowledge, however, since this brand of conservatism dates only from the Reagan era and the shotgun wedding of political and “social” (ie religious) conservatism. These fundamentally incompatible ideologies have been held together by propaganda and inertia for 30 years, but they are beginning to split apart again. We will hear much, much more about this split between now and 2012.

  21. Davidlpf

    I think Andrew Schlafly should be on the jackass list for his repeated attempts to get Dr Lenski to hand over his evidence of evolution in e. coli.

  22. John Keller

    The list is missing Jeremiah Wright.

    Sarah Palin is just a flash in the pan.

  23. Hoku

    Everyone knows it’s not the size of your telescope, but where you point it.

  24. Joe

    I completely forgot about that calendar you did, Phil.

    I think you should use that photo on the letterheads of JREF from now on.

  25. Davidlpf

    The telescope is there to help you find “it”.

  26. His photo on the top ten list ingeniously evokes a great deal of something, I can say that.

    …..runs off looking for Brain-Bleach….

  27. Utakata

    @ John Keller:

    That one should be tied with Rick Warren…and the train wreck inwhich Obama chooses to associate with religious nutters. (And yes, so does Bush…but Obama has no real excuse for it.)

  28. Radwaste

    Guys, don’t duck the lesson Amanda Peet should be showing everyone: Actors, just like everyone else, have wildly different backgrounds. Some airheads make the news, while the serious people don’t.
    Just because Jenny’s nuts doesn’t mean all the Playmates are, either.

  29. quasidog

    Read a few. Interesting. Amazingly American. Sarcastic as hell. Yawn. I can’t really relate to any of it. Ignorant Australian ? Maybe.

    The Indian death chant thing was funny as hell but. His laughter alone was enough to make me giggle uncontrollably.

    Honestly, who were half of those people .. in both camps?

  30. Dave W

    “I‚Äôm giving the honor to the teachers and parents who are reaching kids and instilling in them a love of science and the ability to tell fantasy from reality.”

    I won? Maybe school will give us science teachers higher salaries now.

  31. Julian

    “Always with the bias. Somehow, Bush and Palin make the list, but Robert Mugabe doesn‚Äôt?”

    Mugabe’s field of influence is very limited. While he’s rained hell (through poor leadership, inaction and all around douchiness) down on the people of his country, his power outside of it is very limited whereas the likes of Palin, as second to the ‘leader of the free world,’ could have been a disaster. At least that’s the way I rationalize it. :p

    The list is very much Western probably because those who compiled it are very much part of the West. (btw, India is part of the West however much it may want to pretend it isn’t an Anglicized Country)

  32. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    Belittlement is nessesarry so it can be mapped in it’s entirety.


    … and after having used that figure of speech in this context I have to take out my brain and wash it.

  33. quasidog

    I agree Julian …

    Robert Mugabe would have to be one of the foremost evil, idiot, terrorist a$%#holes the world has ever known … yet his reign continues.. even in the obvious light of him being a little Hitler clone.

    Everyone knows he is responsible for the record corruption of his economy …. how many million percent inflation is it now, and still rising at an exponential rate? Amazing .. *shakes head in disgust* How many million people are being affected by disease and starvation .. primarily due to his idiot power mongering polocies now ? George Bush might be a douche (with weapons and money) but imagine Robert Mugabe with the same amount of power under his belt. OMFG the world would be over tomorrow!!! Kick this man out!!! Put this man in a prison!!!

    If it was my list I would put him at #1 on the Top Ten Jackasses for sure, but he isn’t American so nobody cares. Sadly invading Zimbabwe, rescuing their people and wiping him out (ala Saddam Hussein style) would cost too much and reap nothing. He has no oil.

  34. quasidog

    .. actually am I agreeing with Julian? or was I agreeing with the poster whom Julain referenced? .. doh :)

  35. Equis

    When I first read this, I thought “Wow, Jenny McCarthy is a real jack-ass”. Then I followed those links to “”. Any true skeptic would be ashamed of that site. I don’t know, it seems like what Jenny is doing is fairly noble.

    I’m as suspicious of the anti-vac. crowd as any rational person but she doesn’t really seem to be pushing that agenda. At least not at, which has some pretty border line statements at times but no where does it say “don’t vaccinate”. Yes she has said some stupid stuff but, for example, her interview at is generally pretty good with some bad mixed in. Sure we can cherry pick the bad but few of us are perfect.

    Perhaps I didn’t dig deep enough, I guess my “B.S. meter” (to quote Carl Sagan) hit full tilt when reading

  36. quasidog

    Equis .. although I am 100% in favour of vaccination, I also read a bit of that site and similar ones and felt how you did. Seems to me that her being labeled a ‘total tool’ is a bit overrated. I reckon the fact so many are even drawing attention to her is only promoting her more. Some of the things she believes are clearly wrong and misguided, but I don’t think it warrants the abuse she receives. Some high minded people love to bully. Maybe it’s a complex they have left over from high school. Bullying the hot, dumb girl they could never have or be like could be a factor here too. :)

    Maybe, instead of small mindedly abusing her and ironically drawing attention to her cause, pro-vaxxers would be more successful in just plain promoting vaccination itself and in turn drawing attention to that cause, and attention away from Jenny McCarthy. Negative advertising is still advertising. That’s how advertising works.

    I had never even heard of Jenny McCarthy outside of being a celebrity before anti-vaxxers started ranting with the hate.

    I am 100% pro-vaccination. I will vaccinate all my kids. I was vaccinated. I don’t have autism (and I don’t know anyone with it) and I don’t have the diseases I was vaccinated against.

  37. quasidog

    Correction …..
    ……I had never even heard of Jenny McCarthy outside of being a celebrity before PRO-vaxxers started ranting with the hate…….

    so many vaxxers


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