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14-04-23


The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science (rearrangement of cover details)
About this week’s eSkeptic

In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer reviews Will Storr’s book, The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science. A shorter version of this review ran in the Wall Street Journal on April 1, 2014.

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On the Margin

a book review by Michael Shermer

Of all the characters I’ve met in a quarter century spent researching the margins of science and society, there has never been anyone quite as enigmatic as David Irving, the British raconteur and historical revisionist of all things World War II, including and especially Hitler’s role in the Holocaust, which may or may not have happened, but if it did the Führer didn’t know about it, or if he did he couldn’t do anything to stop it. What about Hitler’s notorious anti-Semitism and his declaration of war against the Jews?, I once asked him. “Without Hitler, the State of Israel probably would not exist today so to that extent he was probably the Jews’ greatest friend.” Right. This from the man who once sued a historian for calling him a Holocaust denier, but then claimed, “More women died in the back seat of Edward Kennedy’s car at Chappaquiddick than ever died in a gas chamber at Auschwitz.” Irving lost his case in court, no doubt harmed when he slipped and referred to the Judge not as “Your Honor” but as “Mein Führer.” That might explain another one-liner that I’m sure I’m not the only person he’s told after shaking hands: “This hand has shaken more hands that shook Hitler’s hand than anyone else in the world.”

Irving is one of a pantheon of unconventional characters featured in Will Storr’s The Unpersuadables. Storr’s style is to get close to his subjects by spending enough time with them so that they let down their guard and tell him what they’re really thinking. For example, Storr joined Irving on a week-long tour of Nazi concentration camps, which he narrates in an engaging first-person style that takes the reader right into the gas chamber at Majdanek where Irving announces to his group and anyone else in ear-shot, “This is a mock-up of a gas chamber. Those cylinders are carbon dioxide not carbon monoxide. A typical Polish botch job. There are handles on the inside of these doors,” suggesting that the prisoners could have just let themselves out.

Storr’s purpose is to understand more than it is to debunk, but he gives his readers enough information to test the verisimilitude of his characters claims. For example, he examined those door hinges more closely to find that “there were bolts on the outside, two of them, huge ones, each attached to clasps that would have locked the door closed over airtight seals.” Storr adds that Irving “saw the handle and he used it to angrily damn the manifest truth. He saw the handle. What happened in his mind when he saw the bolts?” Was Irving, Storr wonders rhetorically, “a liar or deluded? Evil or mistaken?” Storr finds his answer in a cognitive process called the confirmation bias, where we look for and find confirming evidence for our beliefs and ignore or rationalize away disconfirming evidence. We all do this. We remember in great detail stories and studies that support our political preferences, forgetting all counter examples. We tend to befriend people who think like us and so reinforce our beliefs. It’s a cognitive bias not restricted to the unpersuadables, but when you’re dealing with sensitive topics like the Holocaust the bias is especially noticeable.

The beliefs that drive the confirmation bias in the first place come from a deeper place. “Follow the sacredness,” the psychologist Jonathan Haidt told Storr. “Find out what people believe to be sacred, and when you look around there you will find rampant irrationality.”

In his chapter on the world’s most prominent climate-change skeptic, Christopher Monckton, Storr finds the sacredness in Monckton’s bemoaning of Britain’s loss of empire: “I felt infinite sadness. And nostalgia,” he told Storr in reference to his boyhood prep school. “When I was at Harrow we had a wonderful school song which said ‘From Harrow school to rise and rule.’” Monckton, Storr discovers, is the selfproclaimed “liveryman of the Worshipful Company of Broderers, this Officer of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem, this Knight of Honour and Devotion of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta, this former policy adviser to Margaret Thatcher,” who is also “the first son of Major General Gilbert Monckton, 2nd Viscount Monckton of Brenchley and Marianna, Dame of Malta.” No wonder he believed that his education “was very much that you are going to be the rulers of the world and the masters of the universe and, therefore, you need to know how to do it.”

What does this have do with carbon emissions and climate change that Monckton has become famous for denying? (Recall his massive 2006 ad campaign to bait Al Gore into a debate.) Hitler could not destroy Britain from without, but the labour party and its welfare state is dismantling it from within by, in part, concocting a phony crisis—global warming —and then grabbing the reins of power. Why? “To shut down the economies of the West,” Monckton tells Storr. “I’ve been told that the left, the KGB, realized that energy was the soft underbelly of the West. They used twin attacks via the working classes and the environment movement. They thought, ‘That’s how we destroy the economies of the West’.”

The subtle brilliance of The Unpersuadables is Storr’s style of letting his subjects hang themselves by their own words. Storr notes that in 1987, for example, Monckton hatched a plan that he published in the American Spectator on how to stop AIDS from spreading: “screen the entire population regularly and quarantine all carriers of the disease for life. …Strict controls would be needed at all borders. Visitors would be required to take blood-tests at the port of entry and would be quarantined in the immigration building until the tests had proved negative.” This, Storr adds, comes from the man who accuses the left of totalitarianism and its drive for “absolute control over every detail.”

Storr’s other subjects include ESP researcher Rupert Sheldrake, the late Harvard alien abductee chronicler John Mack, creationist John Mackay, past-life regressionist Vered Kilstein, and other self-proclaimed heretics, all of whom have a story of “crisis, struggle, resolution.” This narrative arc, says Storr, is the substrate that binds these disparate characters and their fringe beliefs together. They are “Hero- Makers” in their minds, fighting the “Demon-Makers” out to deceive or destroy us. Thus, their battles against the establishment are not just turf wars over some point of arcana, but epic crusades in the name of their highest ideals, however out of sync they are with the world. END


Our Next Science Lecture

Chris Impey
Humble Before The Void: Western Science Meets Tibetan Buddhism

with Dr. Chris Impey
Sun., May 18, 2014 at 2 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall

SURPRISE, DELIGHT, AND UNBRIDLED MIRTH are not commonly encountered in the science classroom. But in the foothills of the Himalaya, at a program to teach cosmology to Buddhist monks by the University of Arizona astronomer Chris Impey, they were daily occurrences. Working with this unique audience spurred new ways of thinking about the universe and the art of teaching. This talk takes listeners on an adventure at the nexus of science, religion, philosophy, and culture. Dr. Impey studies quasars and distant galaxies and is the author of How it Began, How it Ends, and The Living Cosmos, and has won 11 teaching awards. Order Humble Before The Void from Amazon.

TICKETS are first come, first served at the door. Seating is limited. $10 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $15 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses.

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Followed by: a screening of the documentary film Particle Fever

Particle Fever (film poster)

“Mind Blowing”
The New York Times

Particle Fever follows the inside story of six brilliant scientists seeking to unravel the mysteries of the universe, documenting the successes and setbacks in the planet’s most significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough

Read more about the film.


Daniel Dennett, on Vimeo On Demand
Free Will, Determinism, and Evolution

Renowned philosopher and public intellectual, Dr. Dennett, drawing on evolutionary biology, cognitive neuroscience, economics and philosophy, demonstrates that free will exists in a deterministic world for humans only, and that this gives us morality, meaning, and moral culpability. This is the sequel to his bestseller Darwin’s Dangerous Idea.

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14-04-16


Our Next Science Lecture

Chris Impey
Humble Before The Void: Western Science Meets Tibetan Buddhism

with Dr. Chris Impey
Sun., May 18, 2014 at 2 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall

SURPRISE, DELIGHT, AND UNBRIDLED MIRTH are not commonly encountered in the science classroom. But in the foothills of the Himalaya, at a program to teach cosmology to Buddhist monks by the University of Arizona astronomer Chris Impey, they were daily occurrences. Working with this unique audience spurred new ways of thinking about the universe and the art of teaching. This talk takes listeners on an adventure at the nexus of science, religion, philosophy, and culture. Dr. Impey studies quasars and distant galaxies and is the author of How it Began, How it Ends, and The Living Cosmos, and has won 11 teaching awards. Order Humble Before The Void from Amazon.

TICKETS are first come, first served at the door. Seating is limited. $10 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $15 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses.

Read about all
upcoming lectures

Buy past lectures on DVD

This lecture will be followed by a screening of the documentary film Particle Fever. See details below.


PARTICLE FEVER: a documentary film by Mark Levinson and David Kaplan

“Mind Blowing” — The New York Times

Particle Fever follows the inside story of six brilliant scientists seeking to unravel the mysteries of the universe, documenting the successes and setbacks in the planet’s most significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough.

Short Synopsis

Imagine being able to watch as Edison turned on the first light bulb, or as Franklin received his first jolt of electricity.

For the first time, a film gives audiences a front row seat to a significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough as it happens. Particle Fever follows six brilliant scientists during the launch of the Large Hadron Collider, marking the start-up of the biggest and most expensive experiment in the history of the planet, pushing the edge of human innovation.

As they seek to unravel the mysteries of the universe, 10,000 scientists from over 100 countries joined forces in pursuit of a single goal: to recreate conditions that existed just moments after the Big Bang and find the Higgs boson, potentially explaining the origin of all matter. But our heroes confront an even bigger challenge: have we reached our limit in understanding why we exist?

Directed by Mark Levinson, a physicist turned filmmaker, from the inspiration and initiative of producer David Kaplan and masterfully edited by Walter Murch (Apocalypse Now, The English Patient, The Godfather trilogy), Particle Fever is a celebration of discovery, revealing the very human stories behind this epic machine.

www.particlefever.com


Skepticality logo
Skepticality is the winner of the 2014 Ockham's Razor Award for Best Podcast!
Congratulations!

We are incredibly pleased to announce that Skepticality—The Official Podcast of Skeptic Magazine is the winner of the Ockham’s Razor Award for Best Podcast 2014!

America’s Imaginary
Hostage Crisis
SKEPTICALITY EPISODE 229

This week Derek talks with author Andrew Endersby about his newest book, America’s Imaginary Hostage Crisis. In 1979 a group of Iranian students invaded and occupied the US Embassy in Tehran. The United States military decided the best way to try to deal with the event was to use a group of newly ‘trained’ psychics using remote viewing to determine what was going on within the walls of the embassy. Now that the actual papers are available, which detail what the remote viewers actually reported, how accurate were they, really?

Get the Skepticality App — the Official Podcast App of Skeptic Magazine and the Skeptics Society, so you can enjoy your science fix and engaging interviews on the go! Available for iOS, Android, and Windows 8 devices.


Mr. Deity and the Killing

The Latest Episode of Mr. Deity: Mr. Deity and the Killing

Lucy forces Mr. Deity to reveal His plan to kill a celebrity who has angered Him.

WATCH THIS EPISODE | DONATE | NEWSLETTER | FACEBOOK | MrDeity.com


Michael Shermer in Philadelphia
lecturing on The Believing Brain

Monday, April 28, 2014 at 7:30pm
Free and open to the public.

Bonnell Auditorium, off 17th Street
Community College of Philadlephia
(B on this Campus Map)

Synthesizing thirty years of research, Michael Shermer upends traditional thinking about how humans form beliefs about the world. Simply put, beliefs come first, and explanations for beliefs follow. The brain, Shermer argues, is a belief engine. Using sensory data that flow in through the senses, the brain naturally looks for and finds patterns — and then infuses those patterns with meaning, forming beliefs. Once beliefs are formed, our brains subconsciously seek out confirmatory evidence in support of those beliefs, accelerating the process of reinforcing them — and round and round the process goes in a positive feedback loop. Shermer provides countless real-world examples of how this process operates, from politics, economics, and religion to conspiracy theories, the supernatural, and the paranormal. And ultimately, he demonstrates why science is the best tool ever devised to determine whether or not our beliefs match reality.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Publisher of Skeptic magazine, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, an Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University, and the author of The Believing Brain.

More information

Debate: Evolution vs. Intelligent Design
Dr. Michael Shermer vs. Dr. Paul Nelson

Monday, April 21, 2014 at 7:00pm
Free and open to the public.

The Plaster Student Union Theater
Missouri State University

Paul Nelson (top), Michael Shermer (bottom)

Dr. Paul A. Nelson is currently a Fellow of the Discovery Institute and Adjunct Professor in the Master of Arts Program in Science & Religion at Biola University. He is a philosopher of biology who has been involved in the intelligent design debate internationally for over two decades.

Dr. Michael Shermer is the Founding Publisher of Skeptic magazine, the Executive Director of the Skeptics Society, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, the host of the The Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Science Lecture Series, and Adjunct Professor at Claremont Graduate University and Chapman University.



The Skeptics Society Presents: Grand Canyon, Zion and Bryce (June 13-20, 2014)

Grand Canyon, Zion & Bryce

JOIN US AS WE TRAVEL through an iconic landscape that reveals one of the most studied sequences of layered rock on earth! We will spend a day and and two nights at the less-visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a day to explore majestic Zion Canyon, a day visit to Bryce Canyon, plus additional stops at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Museum, Calico Ghost Town, Virgin River Gorge, the Dinosaur Museum in St. George, Utah, and two nights in Las Vegas. Through the entire trip, we will learn about the geology and natural history of the majestic scenery, making this a tour you could get nowhere else! Seats are limited — so make your reservations soon!

See photographs and
get more information

Don’t miss out. Register now!

“Prothero is a masterful lecturer with an encyclopedic knowledge of just about everything associated with the areas we travel … a once-in-a-lifetime experience.”
Michael Shermer

“We have previously seen some of these places, but not with our very own world renowned guide!”
Bonnie and Tim Callahan

“In addition to the “formal” lectures, the free-for-all of eclectic conversations and fun and fellowship between the participants on these trips is the icing on the intellectual cake!” Val and Bob Hoffman

What’s Included?

Tour package includes: natural science lectures en route, charter bus, hotels, all breakfasts and lunches during the trip, one dinner at the Grand Canyon (the traditional Grand Canyon Cookout Experience with a live country-western show), museum and park fees, and a tour guide booklet. The fee also includes a $200 tax-deductible donation to the Skeptics Society.

Questions?

Email Teresa LeVelle at geotours@skeptic.com.
To register, call 1-626-794-3119 with a credit card to secure your spot.

Download complete details
and registration form in PDF

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Trying Not to Try: The Art and Science of Spontaneity

Edward Slingerland (photo by Paul Joseph)

WHY IS IT ALWAYS HARD to fall asleep the night before an important meeting? Or be charming and relaxed on a first date? What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whose jokes fall flat or an athlete who chokes? In all of these cases, striving seems to backfire. In Trying Not To Try, Edward Slingerland explains why we find spontaneity so elusive, and shows how early Chinese thought points the way to happier, more authentic lives. We’ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is through careful reasoning and conscious effort. But recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying life, like happiness and spontaneity, are best pursued indirectly. Through stories of mythical creatures and drunken cart riders, jazz musicians and Japanese motorcycle gangs, Slingerland effortlessly blends Eastern thought and cutting-edge science to show us how we can live more fulfilling lives. Order Trying Not to Try from Amazon.

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14-04-09


Science Lecture this Sunday

Edward Slingerland (photo by Paul Joseph)
Trying Not to Try:
The Art and Science
of Spontaneity

with Dr. Edward Slingerland
Sun., Apr., 13, 2014 at 2 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall

WHY IS IT ALWAYS HARD to fall asleep the night before an important meeting? Or be charming and relaxed on a first date? What is it about a politician who seems wooden or a comedian whose jokes fall flat or an athlete who chokes? In all of these cases, striving seems to backfire. In Trying Not To Try, Edward Slingerland explains why we find spontaneity so elusive, and shows how early Chinese thought points the way to happier, more authentic lives. We’ve long been told that the way to achieve our goals is through careful reasoning and conscious effort. But recent research suggests that many aspects of a satisfying life, like happiness and spontaneity, are best pursued indirectly. Through stories of mythical creatures and drunken cart riders, jazz musicians and Japanese motorcycle gangs, Slingerland effortlessly blends Eastern thought and cutting-edge science to show us how we can live more fulfilling lives. Order Trying Not to Try from Amazon.

TICKETS are first come, first served at the door. Seating is limited. $10 for Skeptics Society members and the JPL/Caltech community, $15 for nonmembers. Your admission fee is a donation that pays for our lecture expenses.

Read about all
upcoming lectures

Buy past lectures on DVD


Hominids like this Australopithecus afarensis have knees angled inward, enabling a more efficient gait. Humans walk in the same way. (Courtesy of Jellyfish Pictures)

Hominids like this Australopithecus afarensis have knees angled inward, enabling a more efficient gait. Humans walk in the same way. (Courtesy of Jellyfish Pictures)

About this week’s eSkeptic

In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero reviews Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body, a three-part documentary series airing on PBS beginning on April 9, 2014.

Dr. Donald R. Prothero was Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He earned M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Columbia University in 1982, and a B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of California, Riverside. He is currently the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 32 books and over 250 scientific papers, including five leading geology textbooks. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. Read Prothero’s full bio after the article.

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Discovering Your Inner Fish,
Reptile, and Monkey

by Donald Prothero

In 2008, Neil Shubin published his best-selling book, Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body. Based on his experience teaching medical school anatomy at the University of Chicago, the book explored the evidence of our evolutionary past demonstrated in the peculiar jury-rigged anatomy of humans. Interspersed with the anatomical evidence of evolution were stories about his field work discovering important fossils that showed the transition from fish to amphibians (Tiktaalik), as well as other important finds. Shubin’s research is not only in anatomy and paleontology, but also in evolutionary developmental biology (“evo-devo”), so there were many stories in the book detailing the new discoveries in genetics that explain the oddball poorly-designed way we are constructed, and how these genetic mechanisms were inherited from our ancestors. The book was named “Best Book of the Year” by the National Academy of Sciences. After his earlier career at the University of Pennsylvania, Shubin is currently the Robert Bensley Distinguished Service Professor at the University of Chicago and Associate Dean for academic strategy of the university’s Biological Sciences Division. He was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2011.

Shubin’s book was such a success that it was a natural fit for a documentary series. Finally, all those years of planning and filming are about to be seen on PBS. Broken into three hour-long episodes (“Your Inner Fish,” “Your Inner Reptile”, and “Your Inner Monkey”), the TV series does visually what no book could do: take us out into the field (from the Canadian Arctic to South Africa to the hominid beds of Ethiopia to many other places) to see and understand how the fossils are found and collected, often with the famous paleontologists who made those discoveries. It takes us to the labs of geneticists and embryologists to watch experiments being done before our eyes. And it takes us into the med school anatomy lab to see parts of the human body and brain. (My young boys were a little grossed out to see the dissection of a human hand, or slicing a human brain, but it’s filmed with taste and discretion). Like any good modern film series with a budget, there are plenty of clever CG animations, from fossil creatures coming to life in Shubin’s hands, to graphics capturing the immensity of the “Tree of Life” or the landscapes of the past when these fossils were alive, to morphing the anatomy of one organism into that of its descendants.

Neil Shubin with Tiktaalik Fossil. (Courtesy of Tangled Bank Studios, LLC)

Neil Shubin with Tiktaalik Fossil. (Courtesy of Tangled Bank Studios, LLC)

Shubin reviews many of the striking examples of our anatomy that are poorly designed or jury-rigged, and can only be explained as a result of inheritance from our distant ancestors: our stumpy tail bone and poor adaptations for bipedalism; our embryonic gill slits and tail, and the pattern of bones in our limbs similar to that in lobe-finned fish; our peculiar ear apparatus that begins as reptilian jaw bones while we are embryos, then migrates to our middle ear; and many more. These are impressive, although seeing the harsh conditions of collecting fossils in the wild places like South Africa, Ethiopia, and the Canadian Arctic may impress people even more. (I was pleased when they talked about how they found the Devonian outcrops of the Canadian Arctic, and showed a map from the first edition of the classic historical geology book Evolution of the Earth by Dott and Batten. Since the 5th edition that book has been authored by myself and Bob Dott). In short, there is no shortage of stunning and impressive evidence and footage throughout all three episodes.

But in one particular way, the documentary is much more powerful than any book could be. Not only do we see the filmed footage of things that the book could only suggest in words, but we get the full impact of Neil’s charming, winning personality, his high energy and bubbling enthusiasm and excitement for what he does, and wonderful skills bringing the viewer into the wonders of evolution (something that was obvious to me when we worked together as students in the 1980s). The series introduces us to the data supporting the reality of evolution in a subtle but extremely persuasive way, without mentioning creationism or religion once, so most people who don’t already have strong creationist views will be entranced, not alienated.

Neil Shubin and Roger Smith with two Thrinaxodon fossil. (Courtesy of Tangled Bank Studios, LLC)

Neil Shubin and Roger Smith with two Thrinaxodon fossil.
(Courtesy of Tangled Bank Studios, LLC)

This strategy of showing the overwhelming evidence for evolution and appealing to our common sense worked remarkably well when Bill Nye beat Ken Ham in their debate in February, and for Neil DeGrasse Tyson in his current reincarnation of Cosmos (although there are digs at religion and creationism in many episodes). Shubin’s friendly, enthusiastic, non-confrontational but matter-of-fact style of showing the proof of evolution in our anatomy seems to be the best way to win over nearly everyone who is not already a hard-core creationist. Of course, the creationists are still going to be screaming bloody murder, as they are currently doing about Cosmos—but anyone with a fair mind and a willingness to listen and see the evidence will find it hard not to be persuaded by Shubin. I strongly feel that this kind of approach, broadcast to millions of viewers, will have more impact on America’s lagging public understanding of science, biology, and especially evolution, than any number of books or YouTube videos or cartoons.

After years of crummy movies and TV shows pushing pseudoscience and religious dogma and creationism, we finally have an embarrassment of riches with the airing of Cosmos and Your Inner Fish in the same month. I’m grateful for this glut of science programming, but I wish we had many such shows on a year-round basis to compete with the thousands of hours of programming of religious nonsense and pseudoscience. If we came even close to parity, maybe America wouldn’t be so embarrassingly ignorant or misinformed about science as it is now. END

About the Author
photo

DR. DONALD R. PROTHERO was Professor of Geology at Occidental College in Los Angeles, and Lecturer in Geobiology at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena. He earned M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. degrees in geological sciences from Columbia University in 1982, and a B.A. in geology and biology (highest honors, Phi Beta Kappa) from the University of California, Riverside. He is currently the author, co-author, editor, or co-editor of 32 books and over 250 scientific papers, including five leading geology textbooks and five trade books as well as edited symposium volumes and other technical works. He is on the editorial board of Skeptic magazine, and in the past has served as an associate or technical editor for Geology, Paleobiology and Journal of Paleontology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of America, the Paleontological Society, and the Linnaean Society of London, and has also received fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Science Foundation. He has served as the President and Vice President of the Pacific Section of SEPM (Society of Sedimentary Geology), and five years as the Program Chair for the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology. In 1991, he received the Schuchert Award of the Paleontological Society for the outstanding paleontologist under the age of 40. He has also been featured on several television documentaries, including episodes of Paleoworld (BBC), Prehistoric Monsters Revealed (History Channel), Entelodon and Hyaenodon (National Geographic Channel) and Walking with Prehistoric Beasts (BBC). His website is: www.donaldprothero.com. Check out Donald Prothero’s page at Shop Skeptic.


Charles Adler, on Vimeo On Demand
Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction

Charles Alder

From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn’t work at all? In this lecture, professor of physics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Dr. Charles Adler, delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy—time warps, shape changing, rocket launches, and illumination by floating candle—and shows readers the physics and math behind the phenomena. Read more…

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The Amazing Meeting 2014, July 10-13, South Point Casino, Las Vegas

Join Us For The Amazing Meeting
South Point Casino, Las Vegas
July 10–13, 2014

How does cognitive science inform the project of skepticism? What brain sciences should you be skeptical about? Are brains hard-wired for belief in the unbelievable? Explore the science of the brain at The Amazing Meeting 2014: the world’s largest celebration of science and skepticism!

Our theme this year—Skepticism & The Brain—focusses on the cognitive and brain sciences and how they inform the project of skepticism. Keynote speakers include the acclaimed philosopher, cognitive scientist, and best selling author DANIEL DENNETT, Scientific American Editor-in-Chief MARIETTE DICHRISTINA, and MICHAEL SHERMER, Editor-in-Chief of Skeptic magazine. Other speakers include neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland, Australia’s Dr. Karl, Evolution & Human Behavior Editor-in-Chief Robert Kurzban, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience authors Scott Lilienfeld and Sally Satel, M.D., influential memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, clinical neurologist Steven Novella, M.D., immunologist Paul Offit, M.D., National Center for Science Education’s Eugenie Scott, psychologists and best selling authors Carol Tavris and Richard Wiseman, and many, many more!

This annual celebration of critical thinking is an unparalleled opportunity to make like-minded friends, enjoy some of the brightest minds on issues important to skeptics, and leave with tools for spreading a helpful and educational message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief. Join James Randi and over a thousand other like-minded folks for four days of fun, friendship, and critical thinking!

Enter “SKEPTICMAGAZINE” when registering and save $25.

Register for TAM today!

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Holistic Airlines: The Natural Way to Fly

Holistic Airlines: The Natural Way to Fly (Carbon Comic by Kyle Sanders in Skeptic magazine issue 19.1)

Holistic Airlines: The Natural Way to Fly appeared in Skeptic magazine 19.1 (2014).

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Carbon Comic, which appears in Skeptic magazine, is created by Kyle Sanders: a pilot and founder of Little Rock, Arkansas’ Skeptics in The Pub. He is also a cartoonist who authors Carbon Dating: a skeptical comic strip about science, pseudoscience, and relationships. It can be found at carboncomic.com.

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future

The battles over evolution, climate change, childhood vaccinations, and the causes of AIDS, alternative medicine, oil shortages, population growth, and the place of science in our country—all are reaching a fevered pitch. Many people and institutions have exerted enormous efforts to misrepresent or flatly deny demonstrable scientific reality to protect their nonscientific ideology, their power, or their bottom line…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Top 10 Things You Should Know About Alternative Medicine

Topics include: chiropractic, the placebo effect, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the questionable benefits of organic food, detoxification, and ‘natural’ remedies.

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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