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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Oct > Oct 24

'Cigarette-Smoking Man' A CSICOP Member - Speaks

From: Stig Agermose <stig.agermose@get2net.dk>
Date: Sat, 23 Oct 1999 06:24:29
Fwd Date: Sun, 24 Oct 1999 10:47:43 -0400
Subject: 'Cigarette-Smoking Man' A CSICOP Member - Speaks

Source: 'space.com'.




The Cigarette-Smoking Skeptic Speaks

By Brian Doherty
Special to space.com

Oct 22 1999 12:36:11 ET


The X-Files


The Cigarette-Smoking Man feels a little guilty about what he's
done. Not about his role in a hideous conspiracy to sell out the
human race to malevolent aliens, but his role as an actor.

William B. Davis, the Canadian actor and acting teacher who
plays the human linchpin of the grand conspiracy in Fox TV's
cult smash show The X-Files, is a hidebound rationalist and a
dues-paying member of the Committee for the Scientific
Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP).

He regards evolution popularizer and professional materialist
Richard Dawkins as an intellectual hero. Because of this, as
Davis told an audience Thursday night at the University of
Southern California, when he saw Dawkins attacking The X-Files,
he thought for a moment that perhaps he should quit the show.

In a CSICOP fundraising letter, Dawkins accused the show of
inculcating belief in the paranormal in its audience, spreading
irrationalism far and wide.

However, Davis saved his job and his self-respect. Like a good
skeptic, he asked himself, "Does Dawkins have any evidence for
his claim that The X-Files zaps rationality from its fans?"

Davis, who meets fans all the time, doesn't think so. Most
viewers take the show for fascinating entertainment, not a guide
to reality. If he truly believed Dawkins' accusations, he says,
he'd have to leave the show.

Cutting wit and arguments, but no frills

Davis' young audience, composed more of TV fans than skeptics,
started at around 100 and thinned out appreciably as they
realized they would be lectured to about things other than a TV

Indeed, the speech could be grim going for the true X-phile. The
first blow struck before Davis even took the podium, when it was
announced that during the question and answer period, questions
about X-Files plots or shooting details were forbidden.

"No questions about the color of Scully's underwear," said the
representative of the Center for Inquiry West, the skeptical
group sponsoring the talk.

"I'm afraid I don't know the answer anyway," Davis offered from
his seat.

Davis began by deflating his own status, asking rhetorically why
the audience should assume an actor is any kind of expert in
issues related to his role.

His abashed, almost shy manner was a far cry from his X-Files
character's sinister, hard-bitten edge, and the talk rambled
conversationally over topics ranging from a book he's reading on
"memes" -- ideas said to replicate themselves like genes -- to
the development of perspective in post-medieval painting, to
Marshall McLuhan's theories on how the media affect how we see
the world.

As he noticed more and more crowd members slipping away, Davis
quickly jumped back from his speculations about the medieval
mindset, joking that he should "get back to the paranormal
before they all slip away."

Abduction therapist "insults" actors

He wrapped up with tales of his debates with Harvard's alien
abduction maven John Mack.

Since many of Mack's patients are abducted over and over, Davis
asked him why the therapist didn't put tracer devices on them to
figure out where they are going and what's happening to them

Mack replied that it wouldn't do any good because these
abduction adventures "don't happen on the physical plane

Furthermore, Davis found Mack's insistence that alien abductions
must be real because people report them with such complete
sincerity and true emotion insulting to actors.

"But that's what actors do," Davis points out, "live truthfully
within imagined circumstances." Or, in other words, just because
the "abductees" believe it with such conviction doesn't mean
it's true.

As for The X-Files, Davis thinks the show lost some of its charm
when it became obsessed with explaining all its mysteries.

"I think the fans don't want answers," he says. "I think the
mystery was the real appeal." Three years ago, he noted, the USC
lecture hall would have been completely packed with fans; mania
for the show has faded.

Did the shadowy conspirator bring the light of reason and
skepticism to his fans at USC? Perhaps. But I noticed early
exiters leaving their free copies of the Center for Inquiry West
newsletter behind.

In connection with this article, Brian Doherty also interviewed
William Davis about skepticism, The X-Files and the possibility
of alien life.


more stories:

*William B. Davis - An Interview

*Book Review: 'Real Science Behind The X-Files' Entertains,

*Whitley Strieber Rallies UFO Faithful, Rails Against 'Denial'

*New Book Debunks Abduction Evidence

*The man behind the Smoking Man



*related links

Copyright 1999 space.com, inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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