Written by Alex Cayas
Richard Saunders is no stranger to the Australian Paranormal Community. Richard is known as The former President of the Australian Skeptics and judge of on the TV show "The One". Most recently speaking at Paracon Australia, Richard is known for this rigorous skeptical debate. While Richard and I often find ourselves in heated online banter. However, I feel there is a mutual respect and lots we can learn from each other and this reason is why I felt is was important to celebrate The Skeptic Zone as part of our media and interview Richard.
Tell us about your trusted sidekick Maynard. How did you first connect? and if you had to describe him to someone how would you do it?
Maynard was a guest on the show many years ago and offered to help if he could. I jumped at the chance to have him be part of the show. Maynard is a first class radio presenter and gifted interviewer. His quick wit and knowledge means all the interviews he conducts flow well and are often punctuated with humour. His 'live' interviews, in crowds for example, are a highlight. He is also not really into being a skeptic, so he brings a differnt angel to many stories.
It is common for Paranormal Investigators to first get involved in the paranormal because an experience they can't explain. How did you first get involved in the Skeptical community and discussion?
I was a kid in the 1970's, on the tail end of Uri Gellar, shows like "In Search Of..." and the start of a UFO craze around the time of the movie Close Encounters of the 3rd Kind. The skeptical movement was in its infancy and so rarely got a mention on TV or radio. As a result many so-called paranormal events were reported uncritically. I bought it all, hook line and sinker. I thought I was somehow being part of something exciting and mysterious. Some years later I saw the documentary "James Randi in Australia (1980)" where he and Dick Smith tested a group of water diviners. When they all failed, despite agreeing the test was fair, a penny dropped for me. From then on I began to seek out the real evidence for paranormal claims and was somewhat surprised to find it was, in the words of Carl Sagan, "Crummy". Many years have passed since the 1970s and there is still no good evidence for any paranormal claim. By now there really should be. Every test conducted by skeptics and agree to by those with paranormal claims have failed. But, as a true skeptic, while I doubt with very good reason the existence of the paranormal, I keep an open mind hence our $100,000 prize.
Do you see any parallels in the two communities? and/or What can we learn from each other?
Both communities are looking for the 'truth' and both start with preconceptions. Skeptics with doubt in the paranormal, Paranormal Investigators with belief in it. Paranormal Investigator groups can learn much from using a skeptical approach and some do. There is no use chasing a wild goose. If the ghost is just known photo effect like a so-called 'orb' then so be it and no one would be better off in continuing to investigate. If a ghost is ever found for real, then skeptics will learn volumes from the Paranormal Investigators.