“Toward the Light”
|May 22, 2014||Posted by Jim Preston under Toward the Light|
The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast is pretty popular, as science podcasts go. I don’t know their statistics, but I would imagine that the majority of their listeners fall into the “preaching to the choir” category, people who are already skeptics, already believe in critical thinking, already don’t believe in woo. But the real measure of their success is the listeners became skeptics because of the show.
Perry DeAngelis helped start the SGU. Sadly, Perry is no longer with us. In a memorial episode, Steven Novella said that Perry always wanted “to take somebody who was going down the wrong path and turn them towards skepticism, ‘toward the light.’ That email is a vindication of everything Perry set out to do 12 years ago in forming the New England Skeptical Society and, of course, later doing the Skeptics’ Guide podcast.” Here is the email he was referring to, sent by Gabrielle Dietrich:
To my dearest rogues, know that you do not grieve alone for this fan grieves with you. I heard the news yesterday, a day which I will never forget. I looked at the title of podcast 109 and all I could say was “no.” I didn’t want the title to be true; I didn’t want to believe the news. I didn’t want to be told it was true but I pushed play anyway. When I heard Steve confirm my worst fears, the tears burst forth from the pit of my being and poured out of me; I couldn’t breathe. And I couldn’t believe what I had heard. Perry’s passing had to be a lie. This all had to be a lie. I lay down on my couch and cried with my fiance holding me ’til I couldn’t cry any more. I got up and put on my best black shirt and mourned Perry’s loss. I still feel like I need to do something in his honor. Perry was one of my heroes. All the rogues are my heroes and Rebecca is my shero. Your podcast opened my eyes to the lies I’d lived my life believing.
I had just finished a course in massage therapy and was convinced that alternative medicine held all the answers. I was sold on essential oils and the super healing powers they possessed. I knew that aliens existed and that most conspiracies had some truth to them. I knew that Sylvia Brown was an amazing woman who could talk to the dead and that “Crossing Over” with John Edward was amazingly real and impossible to fake. I knew without a doubt that coral calcium was a wonder drug that would cure all known diseases. I knew all those things and I knew that I wanted to become a homeopathic naturopathic physician. This all thankfully changed when I tuned into your podcast. I started listening to it because I was hoping to find something that would make me laugh with its complete avoidance of reality. In my world pre-SGU, skeptics were just talking heads who made some bogus claim and doubted everything. In my post-SGU life, I am a skeptic. I have you all to thank for who I am today. Thank you every one of you, and thank you as well, Perry.
One of the greatest moments of my life is when one of the rogues read my quote on the podcast, and in the end of my review I proclaimed “I take my news from the well-informed group well over my local news channels.” I made that post on iTunes trying to thank you all for saving me from a path down the wrong road. I’d always planned on writing again, letting you all know you saved me from my misplaced plans for a career in bogus healthcare, but I didn’t plan on telling you at a time such as this. I was awaiting Perry’s triumphant return to SGU podcast with barely contained patience. I just knew he would be back and all would be right in the world. I lost a friend yesterday, or rather I discovered my loss yesterday. Perry may have been just a host, a rogue, a voice coming out of the speaker to some listeners but to me he was a close friend who I shared an hour with once a week talking science and news. At 24 years old I didn’t think I would be losing any of my friends for a long time to come. Fate is a cruel mistress and she played us all a very sad hand. I cannot think of Perry being gone without tears wanting to spill and I hope that this reaches all of the rogues in good health if not in good spirits. Thank you for all that you do and all that you have done, your work has saved me, it has changed me for the better. And lastly, it allowed me to get to know one of the greatest men of our time, Perry DeAngelis. May the SGU continue to prove monkey superiority, may the rogues continue to be my weekly companions, and may your bacon always be healthy, all 40 pounds of it.”
I never got to meet Perry. I did not come to the skeptical movement until years after his death. But through his episodes of the SGU, I feel like I know him, at least somewhat. He had that magical (to me, anyway) quality of being able to be blunt, direct, sometimes abrasive, and yet thoroughly likable.
Here’s to you, Perry. Your legacy, in The New England Skeptical Society, The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and in the hearts of everyone who knew you or heard you, lives on.