A debunker is an individual who discredits and exposes claims as being false, exaggerated, unscientific or pretentious. Topics that many debunkers focus on include U.F.O.s, claimed paranormal phenomena, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, religion, research outside mainstream science or pseudoscientific subjects. The term debunker is applied when a person functions as an activist and performs research, writes articles, gives speeches, conducts seminars, or engages in other activities with the specific intent of discounting the validity of a dubious, bizarre, or abnormal claim.
As a slang term, debunking is the act of disproving a proposal or theory, generally in an academic or scientific sense.
EtymologyThe term debunk originated in 1923, when American novelist William Woodward (1874-1950) used it to mean to "take the bunk out of things." Often the term "debunkery" is not limited to arguments about scientific validity. It can also be used in a more general sense at attempts to discredit any opposing point of view, such as that of a political opponent. "Debunkify", a variant of debunk, has also recently been introduced into the lexicon. The word is a marketing/advertising term coined by the Ohio Tobacco Prevention Foundation, and is associated with debunking the myths associated with tobacco use.
Debunkers' critiques of such things as religion and pseudoscience may offend believers. Some, such as Marcello Truzzi (who self-identified as a skeptic), maintain that some skeptics go too far and assert negative claims, and thus are not true skeptics but "pseudoskeptics". According to Truzzi, genuine skeptics are neutral or agnostic, often critical of extraordinary claims, but do not make negative claims by denying them. Instead they "demand extraordinary proof" before they will accept extraordinary claims as proven.
- Stephen Barrett specializes in debunking quackery, health fraud, and alternative medicine.
- Mark Bellinghaus debunked and exposed the biggest exhibition hoax in history. Bellinghaus also debunked psychic James van Praagh.
- Robert Carroll, author of The Skeptic's Dictionary
- Harry Houdini, one of the most famous magicians, escapologists, and stunt performers of all time, was also an active debunker of charlatans and Spiritualism.
- Philip J. Klass was a debunker of UFOs.
- Abraham Kovoor was a Sri Lankan professor known for attempting to debunk the prominent Indian guru Sathya Sai Baba.
- Penn and Teller, a two-man magic and comedy team, who are also skeptics. They host the debunking show Bullshit!.
- Philip Plait, also known as The Bad Astronomer, is a debunker of various theories related to space and astronomy. Most of these (and clearing up of other astronomy-related misconceptions) are accessible at his website.http://www.badastronomy.com
- Basava Premanand is a rationalist and full time Indian skeptic from Tamil Nadu, publisher of the magazine the Indian Skeptic.
- James Randi is a skeptic and opponent of pseudoscience. He founded the James Randi Educational Foundation.
- Carl Sagan was a highly successful popularizer of scientific subjects and a noted scientific skeptic.
- L. Sprague de Camp, debunked speculative history and pseudoscience
- Robert B. Stein, who debunks faked photographs of UFOs and cryptozoological creatures
- Fang Zhouzi, nom de plume of Fang Shimin, a Chinese scholar living in the U.S., a Ph.D. in biochemistry, freelance writer, exposes misconduct mostly in Chinese academia, news, and businesses. Owner of the Chinese website New Threads which aids his debunking activities in addition to publishing original literary works. He was reported in the column News Focus of the prestigious journal, Science, on August 10, 2001.
- Barbara and David Mikkelson, who run Snopes, a website that is the most widely-known resource for validating or debunking urban legends, Internet rumors, email forwards, and other such stories of uncertain or questionable origin in popular American culture.
- Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
- The Skeptics Society
- The MythBusters, a program on the Discovery Channel. Two experts in the field of special effects and physics majors, Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage, use modern technology to debunk urban legends.
- The National Institute for Standards and Technology debunked the Controlled demolition hypothesis for the collapse of the World Trade Center.
- The Atlantic Paranormal Society (aka TAPS)is a paranormal organization to debunk claims of "hauntings".
- Checklist for identifying dubious technical processes and products - Rainer Bunge, PhD
- Debunking the debunkers - Ben Pile in Spiked online magazine, 13 October 2006
- Online Etymology Dictionary - Origins of term
- Debunking Pseudo-Skeptical Arguments of Paranormal Debunkers - Arguments against pseudo-skepticism by Winston Wu
- Nonsense (And Why It's So Popular) - A course syllabus from The College of Wooster.
- Digital Bits Skeptic - Skepticism and critical thinking in a world of new age, religion and credulous pop culture
debunker in Spanish: Desmitificadores
debunker in French: Debunking
debunker in Korean: 디벙커
debunker in Portuguese: Desenganador