Perry DeAngelis (1963-2007)
On the August 20th episode of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe, I was reminded it was one year ago that Perry DeAngelis died. Perry was a keen skeptic who lent a distinct and highly entertaining tone of shrewd, crotchety wisdom to the SGU podcast. His gruff delivery reminded me of some aspects of myself (so I’ve been told), and his ongoing bird v. monkey observations made me laugh to no end.
A year ago, when host Dr. Stephen Novella announced Perry’s death, I remember feeling stunned, stopped in my tracks. Perry’s death felt immediate, jarring, even at my remove as a listener. Hearing Perry and the rest of the skeptical rogues for a couple of years steadily pulled me into being an active skeptic, and it’s in part because of them that I decided to attend TAM 6. My wife and I both attended, and we loved every minute of the experience. We’ll definitely be coming back to Las Vegas for next summer’s TAM.
I grew up as a skeptic, watching Carl Sagan on Cosmos and James Randi on the Tonight Show, but it was the SGU podcast that led me into the skeptisphere. The SGU, along with Skepticality and The Atheist Experience, are a breath of cleansing rational energy (as the crystal woo-woos would say…. or would they?) each week in my brain. SGU’s practical application of critical thinking tools to science and pseudoscience current events is a great demonstration that understanding science and making responsible health decisions based on reality are accessible skills… people just have to exert a little effort. Sadly, that last part is all it takes to arrest the brains of too many.
When Dr. Novella said on this week’s show that Perry’s death was a ‘net loss’ I was reminded of one of the hard parts of being a non-theist; the acceptance of death as an eraser, not some magical gateway to becoming an immortal energy creature, or whatever. It makes me wonder what the human species could accomplish, what kind of society we’d be capable of building, if most people understood that basic fact. How advanced could we become, and how quickly, if we spent our energy not on dreams of an imaginary paradise for the dead, but on the long quest of figuring out how to design and build a more perfect civilization for the living?
That’s probably enough philosophizing. I’m going now to get a drink, and raise a toast to Perry.