On Debunking and Debunkery / by Bharat Rao

Many of you have gotten back with feedback and suggestions. Thanks! One popular suggestion was to publish brief excerpts from my book on this blog leading up to the release date. If you agree, hit the Like button below and I will definitely consider it.

Harry Houdini, one of the original debunkers.

Harry Houdini, one of the original debunkers.

Ben Zimmer had a nice piece in WSJ over the weekend about the origins of the word ‘debunk’. In my book, I devote a section to this topic titled The Debunkers and the Debunked, and describe the motivations of well known debunkers from the field of magic like Harry Houdini, James Randi, Penn & Teller, and Derren Brown. Outside of magic, there have been some famous debunkers including Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan and Richard Dawkins. Zimmer points out that while the popular source of the word was the book ‘Bunk’, published in 1923 (which incidentally just went out of copyright on Jan 1, 2019), it was in use as early as 1915.