There is certainly no shortage of diet fads and weight loss myths. The plethora of contradictory information can make it difficult for us to distinguish between sound nutrition science and plain old nonsense. In our second review of the year of Gary Taubes’ latest book Why We Get Fat and What To Do About It (read the first review here), Harriet Hall, M.D. (the Skepdoc) advises against jumping on any bandwagons.
In this rich article on an ancient problem, Skeptic contributor Phil Mole discusses the problem of free will. The problem is this: how can we hold people accountable for their actions if we live in a determined universe? A variety of solutions to the problems are reviewed from the ancient Greeks to modern scientists, philosophers, and even science fiction writers such as Philip K. Dick in his classic novel Minority Report. Mole finds compelling new arguments from complexity theory and cognitive neuroscience that reveal the intricate network of causes and effects at work in our conscious minds. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 10 number 4 (2004).
In this week’s eSkeptic, Justin Trottier reviews Ray Jayawardhana’s new book Strange New Worlds: The Search for Alien Planets and Life Beyond Our Solar System.
In a soon-to-be-published controversial paper entitled “Feeling the Future: Experimental Evidence for Anomalous Retroactive Influences on Cognition and Affect,” Daryl Bem claims to have found significant statistical data in support of precognition in various situations through a series of nine experiments. Nicolas Gauvrit presents several analyses critiquing the methodology and statistical data presented in Bem’s study.
For decades, controversy has surrounded the so-called “Mars Effect.” On one side, believers claim proof that astrological signs predict specific human outcomes (e.g. the success of sports stars). On the other side, skeptics claim that no such evidence has been demonstrated in controlled experiments and data analysis.
We ran an article by Alexander Panchin (The Saturn-Mars Effect) in volume 16, number 1 of Skeptic magazine offering an explanation for the effect as a statistical artifact. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present Australian skeptic Geoffrey Dean’s critical analysis of Panchin’s article followed by Panchin’s response.
Since the earthquake and subsequent tsunami that hit Japan on March 11, 2011, a storm of misinformation about earthquakes and natural disasters has followed. In this eSkeptic, professor of geology and author of the new book Catastrophes: Earthquakes, Tsunamis, Tornadoes, and other Earth-Shattering Disasters, Dr. Donald R. Prothero shines a scientific light on some of this misinformation and discusses the difficult nature of earthquake prediction.
Michael Shermer conjectures about the many paradoxes that arise from theories of time travel. Shermer reviews some of the problems which scientists have determined will relegate time travel to the realm of science fiction.
In a spin on David Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks,” psychologist Bryan Farha examines the very real world of stupid pet psychic tricks—people who think their pets have psychic power. Farha not only debunks the claims of psychic pet owners but reveals how the tricks are done through a series of techniques based on natural (not supernatural) powers.
James N. Gardner reviews Brian Greenes’s book The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.
Jason Colavito reviews Scott Sigler’s book Ancestor and follows up by interviewing the author.
Bob Conrad reviews Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God by Greg Graffin and Steve Olsen.
The Skeptics Society announces Science Symposium: 100 years of adventures in science and pseudoscience. Skepticism’s leading luminaries offer their expertise in a series of lectures and workshops designed to sharpen your skepticism and fine tune your critical thinking skills. Friday–Sunday, June 24–26, 2011.
In this (1999) interview with one of the pioneering women in the skeptical movement, Carol Tavris picks up where Stephen Jay Gould left off on his book The Mismeasure of Man with her mythbusting book The Mismeasure of Woman. Tavris uncovers a host of myths about women and shows what science actually tells us about gender difference with respect to cognition. This piece was published in Skeptic magazine vol. 7, no.1.
In this week’s eSkeptic Massimo Pigliucci reviews Sam Harris’ latest book The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values. Because it is somewhat critical of Harris’s thesis that science can determine human values, you may wish to also read Michael Shermer’s more positive column in Scientific American on the subject (which he too has written extensively about in his own book, The Science of Good and Evil). Finally, read Harris’ extended response to critics in the Huffington Post.
J. S. Snelson discusses how our biological immune system protects our bodies from an invasion of foreign agents and pathogens, and, in the context of the historical discovery and treatment of malaria, how our ideological immune system protects our minds from an invasion of foreign ideas and doctrines. This article is copyright © 1992 by J. S. Snelson and was first published in Skeptic magazine volume 1, number 4 in 1992.
MARK YOUR CALENDAR! The Skeptics Society is pleased to announce its new season of the Skeptics Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech. This continues the seventeen-year-long series, presenting nearly 300 lectures by some of the most distinguished experts in the world. Unless otherwise stated, all lectures take place in Baxter Lecture Hall, Caltech, Pasadena, CA. Book signings will follow all lectures. Also in this week’s eSkeptic, we announce the Skepticality Podcast App for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android mobile devices!
We present Mikhail Simkin’s findings from a study wherein he applied a scientific approach to literature in evaluating its quality and worth. participants were asked to blindly distinguish between passages written by Charles Dickens and passages written Edward Bulwer-Lytton (the author who penned the infamous line ‘It was a dark and stormy night. ’ Is Mikhail Simkin’s scientific approach to assessing the quality of literature valid? Take our poll at the end of the article.
Barry Rein reviews Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes.
eSkeptic is our free email newsletter. Delivered once a week, you’ll receive fascinating articles, announcements, podcasts, book reviews, and more…
Can’t make it to Caltech for a Skeptics Distinguished Science Lecture? Watch the live stream of our lectures for free online, right here, broadcast live from Caltech!
Here are the articles that people have been sharing over the last few days.
Planning on shopping at Amazon.com? Start your shopping by clicking the button below, and the Skeptics Society will receive a commission. Your prices for all Amazon products will remain exactly the same, yet you’ll provide essential financial support for the work of the nonprofit Skeptics Society.
See our affiliate links page for Amazon.ca, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de, and iTunes links.
In this, his magnum opus, Dr. Michael Shermer presents his comprehensive theory on how beliefs are born, formed, nourished, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished. Sam Harris calls The Believing Brain “a wonderfully lucid, accessible, and wide-ranging account of the boundary between justified and unjustified belief.” Leonard Mlodinow calls it “a tour de force integrating neuroscience and the social sciences.”
This concise pamphlet provides answers to common objections to evolution, such as: If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans?; Only an intelligent designer could have made something as complex as an eye; The second law of thermo-dynamics proves that evolution is impossible; Evolution can’t account for morality; and more…
Harriet Hall, MD (aka the SkepDoc), shares her wit and wisdom about alternative medicine including: chiropractic, the placebo effect, homeopathy, acupuncture, and the questionable benefits of organic food, detoxification, and ‘natural’ remedies.
Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation. While some psychics are known to cheat and acquire information ahead of time, these ten tips focus on what is known as “cold reading” — reading someone “cold” without any prior knowledge about them.