20 Skeptics You Should Know: Daniel Loxton
20 Skeptics You Should Know is a series of articles highlighting skeptics doing influential and/or important work. This week’s article is by guest author Kylie Sturgess.
I’m not saying that anyone has plans to make a computer game about superhero skeptics.
But if there was one, Daniel Loxton would be the penultimate Big Bad and would require double-checking of the save game slot before you walk into his innocent-looking Canadian den of art and wonder and spot his bookish figure pouring over historical tomes.
Which would give you about two seconds to run before his zombie sheep minions slap your laser-gun out of action and he erupts into a seventeen feet tall Sasquatch with fire-breathing hair.
Problem is, no one is going to make that game, because Daniel Loxton is just too damned nice to let you get eaten by zombie sheep, even in virtual reality.
When Daniel isn’t inspiring us with his research capabilities when it comes to EVERYTHING from cryptozoology to ghosts to key figures in secularism and skepticism? He’s one of those Renaissance men who can deftly depict both fantasy and reality in a variety of mediums and somehow make it all awesome and unreal.
The man has the job of Editor of the Junior Skeptic insert in Skeptic Magazine, which pretty much reduces everyone else’s career into muttering envy over by the Skeptic.com booktable at major conferences. And by “running”, I mean he does the research, the interviews, creates artwork and fires out award-winning books on dinosaurs and evolution like demi-gods of children’s non-fiction firing out from the head of Zeus.
He could even design the dinosaurs that would launch from his glasses in the second round of the computer game after you blew up all the sheep, if he wanted to.
In reality, Daniel Loxton probably doesn’t have the time to attack you with Ankylosaurs, because ever since he grew up in the wilds of Canada herding sheep, he’s been steadily and successfully writing articles and creating illustrations that have been instrumental in educating all ages about skepticism.
(And we’re not talking fluffy Jesus-hugging-gentle-meek-and-mild sheep, we’re talking sheep which require dogs that look like this to stop them from attacking and swallowing bears whole in the forest.)
It was during his shepherding years, that Daniel passed time by reading skeptical magazines and books, learning about early contributors to rationalism and reason, like Barry Beyerstein, Carl Sagan and James Alcock. It’s no easy feat to follow in those footsteps, so it’s even more astounding that he combines both investigative and reflective pieces in the same vein as those thinkers, along with artwork for publications, primarily Skeptic magazine.
Daniel not only knows the importance of learning from early mistakes and successes achieved by skeptics in the past — he’s encouraging of the next generation, by collating other skeptics’ brainstorms to create “What Do I Do Next? Leading Skeptics Discuss 105 Practical Ways to Promote Science and Advance Skepticism” (the sequel to his first activism document, “Where Do We Go From Here? Has Classic Skepticism Run Its Course?”).
He’s also no stranger to the difficulties of promoting science: successfully overcoming publishing companies’ hesitation about producing a children’s book on evolution, and continually challenging people to reflect on whether we can all improve the methods and means used to encourage a skeptically-minded outlook, primarily through his blog on skeptic.com.
Mind, a lot of this could be easily solved by just going fire-breathing Sasquatch at his more obnoxious opponents, but Daniel demonstrates that it’s an art in itself when it comes to promoting critical reflection. Which is something we can all learn from, even if we’re not junior skeptics anymore.
Daniel Loxton’s blog can be found at http://www.skepticblog.org/author/loxton.
He is the author and illustrator of the national award-winning kids’ science book Evolution: How We And All Living Things Came to Be and is also the author and illustrator (with Jim W. W. Smith) of Ankylosaur Attack, a paleofiction storybook for ages four and up.
You can follow his every Tweet at @daniel_loxton.
[Creative Commons licensed Flickr photo by marc-julien_objois]