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William B. Davis - An Interview
By Brian Doherty

Special to

posted: 12:36 pm ET
22 October 1999

William B. Davis -- An Interview

Actor and outspoken skeptic William B. Davis, who plays "The Cigarette-Smoking Man" on The X-Files, recently gave a talk at the University of Southern California on the topic of "A Look at Skepticism Through X-Files Eyes."

A transcript of an interview with Davis, conducted by Brian Doherty, follows.

Brian Doherty, Why do you do public speaking about skepticism?

William B. Davis, actor: I think skeptics do have a duty to speak out, because we get so overwhelmed by various organizations offering simple solutions to complicated questions.

Doherty: What did your hero, Richard Dawkins, say about The X-Files?

Davis: He was quoted in a CSICOP fundraising letter saying that every episode throws up two possibilities -- a rational one and a paranormal one -- and always opts for the paranormal. By dint of exposure to that, viewers are going to be affected toward paranormal thinking. I don’t think he has evidence to back that up. I certainly haven’t seen it.

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The X-Files

Doherty: Is belief in aliens necessarily irrational?

Davis: I don’t discount the possibility that there might be life somewhere out there. I think it’s highly unlikely that there would be what we would consider intelligent life. I think it’s interesting that it’s biologists who thought the search for extraterrestrial intelligence program was a waste of money. It was the physicists who wanted to keep it going.

Doherty: Have your experiences dealing with X-Files fans made you even more of a skeptic?

Davis: I think so. I do a lot of speaking to college students, and so I needed to become better informed as to what the arguments on both sides are. I had the skeptical predilection, but I wasn’t always well-informed on specific arguments.

Doherty: Did you find it peculiar when you were first cast on the show dedicated to the paranormal, which you consider nonsense?

Davis: Well, I didn’t think the show would last! I thought, a show about the paranormal -- that’s not going to go very far. Little did I know! [laughs]

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