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Origins Conference Buzz:
Michael Shermer v. John Lennox, in Sydney, Australia

In the weeks leading up to the Origins — the BIG Questions Conference at Caltech, we’ll be posting links to various topics of interest in this “Origins Conference Buzz” section. The content in these links does not necessarily represent our position; we simply aim to host the full range of dialogue around the issues.

This week, we link to a debate between between Michael Shermer and John Lennox about the existence of God and about the belief in God.

WATCH the debate

Origins — the BIG Questions Conference runs from October 3–4, 2008 in the Beckman Auditorium at the California Institute of Technology.

LEARN more & REGISTER online


the Fall Season of Lectures at Caltech

Mark your calendar! The Skeptics Society is pleased to announce its Fall season of the Skeptics Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech. This continues the fifteen-year-long series, presenting over 200 lectures by some of the most distinguished experts in the world. First up…


Jonathan Kirsch

The Grand Inquisitor’s Handbook:
A History of Terror in the Name of God

with Jonathan Kirsch

Sunday, September 14, 2008 at 2:00 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech (map)

The twelfth century birthed a new brand of sanctioned terror, an international network of secret police and courts, an army of inquisitors whose sworn duty was to seek out anyone regarded as an enemy, and a casualty list numbering in the tens of thousands. The original agents of the Inquisition — priests and monks, scribes and notaries, attorneys and accountants, torturers and executioners — were deputized by the Church and their worst excesses were excused as the pardonable sins of soldiers engaged in a holy war against heresy.

In this lecture based on his new book, Jonathan Kirsch delivers a sweeping and provocative history that explores how the Inquisition was honed to perfection and brought to bear on an ever-widening circle of victims by authoritarians in both church and state for over 600 years. Ranging from the Knights Templar to the first Protestants, from Joan of Arc to Galileo; from the torture and murder of hundreds of thousands of innocent women during the Witch Craze to its greatest power in Spain after 1492, when the secret tribunals were directed for the first time against Jews and Muslims to the modern war on terror — Kirsch shows us how the Inquisition stands as a universal and ineradicable symbol of the terror that results when absolute power corrupts.

Jonathan Kirsch is the author of the best-selling and critically acclaimed The Harlot by the Side of the Road, Moses, The Woman Who Laughed at God, and A History of the End of the World. Kirsch is also a book columnist for the Los Angeles Times, an attorney, and a guest host and commentator on NPR.

Book signings will follow all lectures.

followed by these lectures…

The Enemy Within:
2,000 Years of Witch-Hunting in the Western World

with Dr. John Demos

Sunday, October 19, 2008 at 2:00 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech (map)
READ about this lecture >

Superstition:
Belief in the Age of Science

with Dr. Robert Park

Sunday, November 23, 2008 at 2:00 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech (map)
READ about this lecture >

Black Holes Sing:
Black Holes, Their Orbits & Gravitational Waves

with Dr. Janna Levin

Sunday, December 14, 2008 at 2:00 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech (map)
READ about this lecture >

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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall, M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods. The lectures each range from 32 to 45 minutes.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

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

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

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…

FREE PDF Download

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!

FREE PDF Download

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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