From: Stig Agermose <firstname.lastname@example.org> 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'. http://www.space.com/spaceimagined/xfiles_davis_991022.html Stig *** 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 show. 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 there. Mack replied that it wouldn't do any good because these abduction adventures "don't happen on the physical plane anyway." 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, Informs *Whitley Strieber Rallies UFO Faithful, Rails Against 'Denial' *New Book Debunks Abduction Evidence *The man behind the Smoking Man *CSICOP *images *related links Copyright ©1999 space.com, inc. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.
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