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AI: Sympathy for the Devil

Fiction, in general, has a rather terrible track record when it comes to skepticism. Faith, loyalty, dumb luck and genius are the virtues of fictional characters. Those stopping to ask “why” or point out that a plan is quite silly are generally berated for their lack of courage or punished for trying to fight destiny.

With the recent, sympathetic treatment of a skeptical character in Cowboys and Aliens and The Ledge, I wanted to know what other skeptical characters are out there that people admire.

Who is your favorite skeptical fictional character? Are they punished or rewarded for their skepticism?

The ART Inquisition (or AI) is a question posed to you, the Mad Art Lab community. Look for it to appear Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays at 3pm ET.


Note: My personal feeling on why skepticism is vilified in fiction is primarily due to writers not liking it when their own characters get uppity about how contrived their situation is.


Ryan is a professional nerd, teaching engineering in the frozen north. Somewhat less professionally, he is a costumer, author, blacksmith, juggler, gamer, serial enthusiast, and supporter of the Oxford comma. He can be found on twitter and instagram @studentofwhim. If you like what I do here, feel free to leave a tip in my tipjar.

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  1. Lazarus Long from Time Enough for Love. One of my all time favorite skeptics.

    Oh, and Captain Mal Reynolds from Firefly. He’s a stud muffin.

  2. Jack Parlabane, the investigative reporter created by Christopher Brookmyre ( He is unusual in that he is a sceptical conspiracy theorist – he finds conspiracies and proves them with evidence. The final Parlabane novel – Attack Of The Unsinkable Rubber Ducks – is Brookmyre’s most explicitly sceptical novel, and must be read by everyone right now.

  3. Velma, from old Scooby doo. Not the new stuff that has real ghosts…. What a pile of crap.

    Pretty sure hercule poirot was a skeptic, He never believed the supernatural explanations for the crimes at least in the TV shows.

  4. The new Scooby Doo has real ghosts?!?!?! Travesty!

    Bones, from the show of the same name, is pretty awesome. Except that her skepticism comes with an inability to love, so yeah. You win some, you lose some.

    Also, and this might be really lame, but Emma Stone’s character in Easy A is a really cool young skeptic. There’s a fantastic scene (which I wish I could find on YouTube) where she’s on a date eating lobster with some popular boy and he tries to make a sexy joke about how lobster is an aphrodisiac and she says, “Actually, that’s oysters, but aphrodisiacs in general have never been proven in scientific studies.” And there’s an awkward silence.

  5. I sort of agree about Bones, but she’s so hyper-rational it crosses the line into the ludicrous too often. Other than that I’m hard pressed to come up with someone, maybe that’s because blatant skepticism doesn’t come up that often in fiction, or maybe it’s because I read more paranormal romance than is healthy for a grown-up.

  6. No one mentioned Sheldon and his admonishments against hokum.

    Just saw The Ledge at the SF Atheist Film Festival and it is a brilliant piece of film.

  7. I think that Sanya, from the Dresden Files, is hilarious. He is a Knight of the Cross, given a magical sword by the Archangel Michael. He spends his time fighting demons who inhabit the thirty silver denarii given to Judas to betray Jesus . He claims to be agnostic. When asked about it, he says “It is entirely possible I am hallucinating all of this.” Lolz.

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