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A debunker is an individual who discredits and exposes claims as being false, exaggerated or pretentious. The term is closely associated with skeptical investigation of topics such as U.F.O., claimed paranormal phenomena, conspiracy theories, alternative medicine, religion, research outside mainstream science or pseudoscientific subjects.


The American Heritage Dictionary traces the passage of the words bunk (noun), debunk (verb) and debunker (noun) into American English in 1923 as a belated outgrowth of "bunkum", of which the first recorded use was in 1828, apparently related to a poorly received "speech for Buncombemarker" given by North Carolinamarker representative Felix Walker during the 16th United States Congress (1819–1821).

The term debunk originated in a 1923 novel Bunk, by Americanmarker novelist William Woodward (1874–1950), who used it to mean to "take the bunk out of things."

Often the term "debunkery" is not limited to arguments about scientific validity. It can also be used in a more general sense at attempts to discredit any opposing point of view, such as that of a political opponent.

Notable debunkers



  1. "to expose or excoriate (a claim, assertion, sentiment, etc.) as being pretentious, false, or exaggerated: to debunk advertising slogans."
  2. debunk - The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language: Fourth Edition. 2000, Houghton Mifflin, Boston, accessed 2009-01-11
  3. Houdini and the spiritualists, Summit Daily News, November 3, 2007, "Houdini himself wouldn’t have believed in his second coming anyway, because he didn’t believe in spirit manifestations. In fact, he spent much of his life and career debunking spiritualists and mediums — an admirable mission that history and forensic specialists now tell us probably led to his untimely death at the age of 52."
  4. The wizard gets a windfall--even the Amazing Randi needs advice on how to keep his $272,000 prize from vanishing, CNN Money, September 1, 1986, "Randi began his campaign against fakes in earnest in 1964, during a stint as the host of a radio talk show in Manhattan. He had become disturbed by the number of listeners phoning in with such flummery as tales of self-styled clairvoyants' uncannily correct forecasts. Gradually, his work as a debunker began to rival his show-business career, gathering momentum in the early 1970s, when Uri Geller caught Randi's attention."
  5. Review/Theater; Penn and Teller Offer Several Variations On a Magic Theme, New York Times, April 4, 1991, "As debunkers, they seek to remove the mystique from magic, to demonstrate the digitation behind the presti."
  6. Pseudoscience, Skepticism To Make A Close Encounter, Seattle Times, June 12, 1994
  7. Obituaries; Betty Hill, 85; Claim of Abduction by Aliens Led to Fame, Los Angeles Times, Oct 24, 2004, "Carl Sagan, the Pulitzer Prize-winning astronomer, was among the Hills' debunkers, yet he considered their story noteworthy."
  8. Area parents seek answer for Autism, The Times Leader, April 1, 2002, "That is coincidence, said Dr. Stephen Barrett of Allentown, a veteran debunker and operator of "

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