The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Interview with Peter Buffett (son of Warren Buffett)
Peter Buffett

In this episode of Skepticality, Derek sits down with Peter Buffett, the son of the famous investor, Warren Buffett. Peter became famous not for his investing and banking skills but for his work in music and composing. He and his wife now run a non-profit charity, NoVo, that works to empower women as the primary agents of change in the world. Hear what it was like growing up as a Buffett, and why Peter and his wife decided to spend much of their time, money, and effort focused on the women’s rights around the world.

a sexual orientation symbol created by AnonMoos [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When it comes to understanding sexual orientation “nobody knows anything” is a pretty close assessment. In this week’s eSkeptic, Carol Tavris explores various notions and definitions of sexual orientation. This column was originally published in Skeptic magazine 21.3 (2016).

What is Sexual Orientation?

by Carol Tavris

If you want to study sexual behavior, choose the fruit fly. Its behavior is not nearly as obvious as you might think, and you aren’t likely to raise a storm of protest from opponents of sex research or from advocates of the fruit fly.

If you want to study human sexuality, though, watch out. Just about every aspect of sexuality evokes powerful beliefs and prejudices, causing people to scrutinize research findings through the prisms of their own sexual behavior, their political and social ideologies, and wishful thinking. Add to this Congress’s antediluvian attitudes toward sex and sex research (Congress apparently acts on the theory that “if we don’t study it, no one will do it”), and no wonder it’s so difficult for science and skepticism to even get their foot in the bedroom door. And if your interest is sexual orientation —its causes, expression, variations, development— you’ll have to steer a course between the Scylla of conservatives who know that same-sex orientation is a sinful, psychologically determined “life-style choice” and the Charybdis of liberals who know that it is biologically determined and no more “chosen” than eye color.

Skeptic magazine 21.3

This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 21.3 (2016)

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The view that sexual orientation is biologically determined through the action of genes or hormones was an important weapon in the struggle for gay and lesbian rights. But what if it’s more complicated than that? What if that causal dichotomy (“biological v. learned”) is oversimplified? And so what, anyway? If sexual orientation proves to be far more complex and varied than we thought, why should that have anything at all do with extending rights to any group? If a person wants to be mono-sexual, bisexual, or, hell, trisexual, whose business is it? As the great screenwriter William Goldman famously said about filmmaking in Hollywood, “nobody knows anything.” When it comes to understanding sexual orientation, that’s a pretty close assessment. Consider this fascinating array of controversies and findings:

Is sexual orientation a matter of categories—straight, gay, bi—or is it a continuum?

Eminent sexologists differ. In their extensive review of the research for the eminent journal Psychological Science in the Public Interest, J. Michael Bailey and his colleagues argue for the category view.1 But sexologist Ritch Savin- Williams holds with Alfred Kinsey’s original assertion that “Males do not represent two distinct populations, heterosexual and homosexual. The world is not to be divided into sheep and goats.” Savin-Williams, drawing on a study of some 71,000 men and 118,000 women, argues for a five-point continuum that includes exclusively straight, mostly straight, bisexual, mostly gay or lesbian, and exclusively gay or lesbian.2 […]

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Bill Nye Saves the World!

Get Skeptic 22.1 in print or digital formats. Topics include: Climate Change • Travel to Mars • Artificial Intelligence • Nuclear Power • GMOs • Miracle Water • Lone Wolf Terrorism • Cyber Radicalism • Mass Hallucinations • Shoddy Journalism • ET v. Earth Pathogens • Trouble in the Multiverse • Science v. Subjectivity • Functional Medicine • Prejudice • Determinism • Cosmic Consciousness • Conjuring Magic • Baloney Detection, and more…

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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.

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Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

Harriet Hall M.D. discusses: alternative versus conventional medicine, flu fear mongering, chiropractic, vaccines and autism, placebo effect, diet, homeopathy, acupuncture, “natural remedies,” and detoxification.

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.

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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.

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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 can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences 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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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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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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