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Contribution Guidelines

The Skeptics Society is a member-supported organization of scholars, scientists, historians, magicians, and the intellectually curious, that sponsors a lecture series at Caltech and publishes the quarterly magazine Skeptic, for the purpose of promoting science and critical thinking, and disseminating information on scientific controversies, scientific revolutions, proto-science, pseudoscience, pseudohistory, the paranormal, magic, superstition, fringe claims and groups, and the history of science and pseudoscience, in articles, essays, reviews, and letters. The magazine is an international publication, available to all members, as well as institutions, and university, college, and public libraries, and is available in most bookstores and magazine outlets throughout the United States and Canada, as well as Europe, Australia, and other foreign countries. Our current circulation is approximately 50,000 copies, including bookstore distribution. Video tapes of the lectures at Caltech are available through the magazine, as are all back issues of the magazine which are kept in print since each issue has a particular theme and is like a collection of essays in a book as much as it is a magazine. In addition, the Skeptics Society holds social events, takes trips, and makes field excursions related to science, for both educational and social purposes.

The Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine investigate claims by scientists and historians, pseudoscientists and pseudohistorians, and people in all fields and from all walks of life on a wide variety of theories and conjectures including but not limited to: evolution and creationism; cults and religion; alternative and complementary medicine, Holocaust revisionism and extreme Afrocentrism; conspiracy theories; near-death and out-of-body experiences; cryonics, life after death, and the quest for immortality; witchcraft and witch crazes; mass hysterias and urban myths; the relationship of science and science fiction; hypnosis and altered states of consciousness; the difference between science and pseudoscience and the difference between history and pseudohistory; magic and the paranormal; the use and abuse of theory and statistics; the role of skepticism; medical and psychiatric claims; the scope and limitations of science and technology; gender and race issues in science, society, and history; genius and intelligence; cultural influences on science and scientific influences on culture; the capacities and limitations of the human mind and body; scientific and academic fraud and hoaxes; any other scientific controversy that is news and newsworthy. The question the Skeptics Society and Skeptic asks about all claims investigated is this: How well do they hold up under scientific scrutiny?

Skeptic is primarily a science magazine, and as such we are not looking for commentaries and philosophical diatribes about and against religion. We are only interested in religion when testable claims are made, such as that prayer effects health and healing, or that the earth is only 6,000 years old, or that the Shroud of Turin is a 1st-century artifact, that the anthropic fine-tuned nature of the cosmos proves it was intelligently designed, and the like.

With regard to statements, hypotheses, theories, and ideologies considered by the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine, the organization adopts the posture of the 17th-century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza: “I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.” With regard to its procedure of examination of all claims, the Skeptics Society and Skeptic uses the scientific method developed in the 16th and 17th centuries. It recognizes the limitations and socio-cultural influences on science, yet adopts the philosophy of Albert Einstein: “All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike — and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

Skeptic publishes articles, essays, monographs, review essays, and reviews of films and television programs related to the various subjects discussed above. Major articles are either invited or submitted and refereed by the editor, members of the editorial advisory board, or an appropriate expert in the field. Length is variable from 500 to 5,000 words, though in general, the shorter the article the more likely it is to be accepted and read. Manuscripts should be submitted electronically in an attached Microsoft Word or Adobe PDF document to mshermer@skeptic.com, and should include a one-paragraph abstract summary as well as a one-paragraph author bio and full contact information (name, address, phone, fax, and email).

References in the text should be in the form of endnotes. Bibliographic listings in the endnotes at the end of the document should follow this format:

Books
Gould, S. J. 1993. Bully for Brontosaurus. New York: W.W. Norton.
Chapters in books
Randi, J. 1985. “Astrology is Bunk.” In Smith, R. Pseudoscience. New York: Prometheus.
Articles
Jones, K. 1989. “Does HIV Cause AIDS?” Scientific American, July, pp. 37–45.

Black and White photographs and line illustrations where appropriate to enhance the text are encouraged. Do not send links to Googled Internet photographs, as these are almost always low resolution. For publication purposes we need high resolution illustrations and photographs. If your article is accepted please contact the Art Director, Pat Linse (artdirector@skeptic.com) for specifics about charts, graphs, illustrations and photographs. Please indicate pull-quotes thought to be especially eye-catching to the reader who first glances through the article.

Like most scientific and scholarly publications, Skeptic magazine does not pay for articles, but we do have a high-quality readership and broad public distribution in bookstore chains, so your article will be widely read by movers and shakers in science and academia. Authors are provided with half a dozen copies of the magazine. Unless otherwise agreed, upon publication, copyright will be transferred to the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine. The article or essay may be used by the Skeptics Society and Skeptic as part of a collection of essays to be published either by Millennium Press (part of the Skeptics Society) or by another publisher in conjunction with the Skeptics Society, Skeptic, and Millennium Press. Contents of the magazine may not be reproduced in any manner without permission. After your article is published in Skeptic, you may then post it on your personal web page and/or reproduce it in a collection of essays in your own or someone else’s edited volume, and/or reproduce it for student distribution in a class as part of a photocopy package that accompanies the course.

Book reviews are generally shorter than full-length articles and should be timely, especially those that are newsworthy or controversial. The book jacket or a clean black and white photo of the book cover must be provided either by the author or the publisher. Book reviews may be considered as essays as well, where the book is a vehicle for discussing the broader implications of its subject. For example, for a review of a book on creationism the author may want to put the book in perspective by briefly discussing other books that have come before and why this book is different.

In dealing with controversial claims the author should be extremely cautious not to attack the personal motives or the character of the claimant. Background on an author or scientist might be useful in understanding something about the claimant, but ad hominem attacks are not constructive. This is also a good philosophy for avoiding lawsuits and accusations of libel. Remember, in a lawsuit both publisher and author are typically named. For example, we published a cover story about Deepak Chopra, concentrating on his claims about quantum mechanics and healing, and avoided altogether the numerous gossipy stories about his personal life.

We ask that writers subscribe to Skeptic and read recent issues of the magazine in order to get a feel for the subjects we cover and the style of writing we prefer. Skeptic readers are highly educated and well read, but are not necessarily professional scholars or scientists, so this should be kept in mind (e.g., do not assume familiarity with technical jargon).

Skeptic is open to exploring subjects not previously discussed in back issues and, in fact, is always in search of cutting-edge controversies and ideas worthy of further exploration. Skeptic is a science magazine, and therefore we are evidence driven, not position driven. One may be skeptical in either direction (e.g., when we investigated the HIV-AIDS controversy, the evidence led us to conclude that we should be skeptical of the HIV-AIDS skeptic’s claims, not the medical establishment’s claims).

Michael Shermer
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
mshermer@skeptic.com

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