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eSkeptic Archives for 2010

December 29th: Pseudo-Psychotherapy: UFOs, Cloudbusters, Conspiracies, and Paranoia in Wilhelm Reich’s Pyschotherapy

Richard Morrock discusses psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s development of pseudoscientific psychotherapy, sensational claims and extreme theories. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine, volume 2, number 3 (1994). This is a follow-up article to Epigones of Orgonomy, which appeared two weeks ago in eSkeptic.

December 22nd: The Trial of the (New) Century: Dover and the 5th Anniversary of Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District

On November 4, 2005, the first ever Evolution-Intelligent Design trial of the 21st century drew to a close in Federal court in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania: Kitzmiller et al v. Dover Area School District. On December 20th, 2005, a judgement was made against the teaching of Intelligent Design. (We reported on that important decision in eSkeptic that day.) In this week’s eSkeptic, two days after the fifth anniversary of that judgment, Andrew Williams discusses some of the details from the trial as well as the current state of affairs in the ongoing creationism-evolution debate.

December 15th: Epigones of Orgonomy: The Incredible History of Wilhelm Reich and his Followers

In this week’s eSkeptic, Joel Carlinsky recounts psychoanalyst Wilhelm Reich’s developement of pseudoscientific psychotherapy, sensational claims and extreme theories and their effect on the scientific world. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 2, number 3 in 1994.

December 8th: Cell Phones and Cancer

Ever since the publication of physicist Dr. Bernard Leikind’s article in Skeptic (see eSkeptic for June 9, 2010) and Michael Shermer’s subsequent column in Scientific American in which I cited Leikind’s arguments (both of which were skeptical of claims that cell phone use causes brain cancer), we have been inundated with letters disputing our skepticism. The letters come in a variety of flavors, so what follows are Dr. Leikind’s responses to the critics that he identifies by their email names. As well, the SkepDoc Harriet Hall, M.D. chimes in along with oncologist Dr. David Gorski (both of whom blog at which covers the ongoing controversy over cell phones and cancer).

December 1st: Inevitable Humans? Or Hidden Agendas?

In this critical review of paleontologist Simon Conway Morris’s book Life’s Solution: Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe, paleontologist Dr. Donald Prothero deconstructs the myth of progress and evolution. Morris argues that convergent evolution means certain features will inevitably arise in nature such as eyes and ears, limbs and brains, and therefore these solutions become unavoidable and thus predictable. This book review appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 10, number 3 in 2003.

November 24th: Skeptic 5-day sale

Save 25% off everything in our store from November 24–28, 2010. Sale ends at midnight Pacific Standard Time.

November 17th: The “Emily Event”: Emily Rosa and the Therapeutic Touch Wars

In 1998, at eleven years of age, a young girl named Emily Rosa published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Emily had conceived and executed an experiment that challenged the basis of one of the most accepted “alternative” healing procedures known: Therapeutic Touch (TT). She became the youngest person ever to have a research paper published in a peer reviewed medical journal. In this week’s feature article, Larry Sarner (chairman of the National Therapeutic Touch Study Group) discusses Emily Rosa’s investigation.

November 10th: We the People? Jerry Brown on Money, Politics, and Who Really Runs America

The election of Jerry Brown as the Governor of California in 2010 reminded us that back in 1996 Skeptic magazine (vol. 4, no. 3) Senior Editor Frank Miele conducted an in-depth interview with Brown, who was in between political positions and thus willing to speak quite frankly and openly about “money, politics, and who really runs America” (as the subtitle of the article states). Given the fact that Jerry Brown was Governor of California for two terms, ran for Senate in 1982 (where he lost to California Governor Pete Wilson), and ran for President twice (even giving Bill Clinton a run for his money), there are few people more qualified by experience to speak skeptically about American politics. With the mid-term elections still fresh on our minds, enjoy this candid and skeptical look into the inner workings of a modern democracy.

November 3rd: Realism & Religion: Examining the Basis for Belief

Physicist Milton Rothman examines the relationship between science and religion and the extent to which a scientist should apply his belief in realism to all aspects of our knowledge of the universe. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine vol. 2, no. 2 (1993).

October 27th: Darwin’s Dangerous Disciple

Frank Miele interviews Richard Dawkins on the triumphs, limitations, uses and abuses of Darwinism. This interview was first published in the sold out issue of Skeptic magazine volume 3, number 4 (1995).

October 20th: The End of the World & the New World Order

We present an excerpt from Tim Callahan’s book Bible Prophecy: Failure or Fulfillment? (1997). The book covers all the major biblical prophecies (especially those concerned with the end times) and examines the paranoid style of conspiratorial thinking that has lead to a cornucopia of theories about who is really running the world, determining the fate of nations, establishing the power of economies and everything from assassinating world leaders to controlling Snapple. In this excerpt from the final chapter of his book, Callahan links biblical prophecies of the end times (the “mark of the beast” and all that) with modern global conspiracy theories that involve black helicopters, Hong Kong Gurkhas, militia, and the so-called “New World Order” which are supposed to signal that the end is nigh. (This excerpt can also be found in Skeptic magazine volume 4, number 3 from 1996.)

October 13th: What Ever Happened to n-Rays?

We present the third in a series of classic historical pieces in skeptical and pseudoscience literature. Last week we presented William Jennings Bryan’s never-delivered Address to the Jury in the Scopes Case. A couple weeks before that, we republished Benjamin Franklin’s and Antoine Lavoisier’s investigation of Mesmerism for King Louis XVI of France. And, this week, we present Robert W. Wood’s famous letter that blew apart the chimerical search for n-rays, with an introduction by psychologist and skeptical investigator Terence Hines. A classic from skeptical history, this letter first appeared in Nature in 1904, republished here and in Skeptic magazine volume 4, number 4.

October 6th: Mr. Bryan’s Address to the Jury in the Scopes’ Case:
The Speech Which Was Never Delivered

William Jennings Bryan’s last speech (never delivered) for the Scopes’ Monkey Trial in 1925 was reprinted the next year as a pamphlet: a tool for believers to combat what they perceived to be a cultural threat — the theory of evolution. He deemed it “the most powerful argument against evolution ever made.” In this week’s eSkeptic, we present the speech which we also printed in Skeptic magazine volume 4, number 2 in 1996.

September 29th: Living within Limits & Limits on Living

In this week’s eSkeptic, Frank Miele interviews ecologist and social activist Garrett Hardin (1915–2003) about his views on the economy, abortion, overpopulation and assisted suicide. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 4, number 2 in 1996.

September 22nd: Testing the Claims of Mesmerism

In this week’s eSkeptic, we present the first-ever, 18th-century, scientific investigation of an extraordinary claim — mesmerism — commissioned by King Louis XVI of France, designed and conducted by scientific luminaries Benjamin Franklin, Antoine Lavoisier and others, translated by Charles and Danielle Salas, with an introduction by Michael Shermer about its importance in the history of skepticism.

Gould called the report “an enduring testimony to the power and beauty of reason,” a “key document in the history of human reason,” and said that “it should be rescued from its current obscurity, translated into all languages, and reprinted by organizations dedicated to the unmasking of quackery and the defense of rational thought.” Well, here it is, from the archives of Skeptic magazine volume 4 number 3.

September 15th: The Mattoon Phantom Gasser
What really happened in Mattoon, Illinois in September, 1944? In this week’s eSkeptic, we present an article culled from a 1994 issue of Skeptic magazine (volume 3, number 1) which marked the 50th Anniversary of the Mattoon Phantom Gassing. In one of the most poignant examples of social influence and mass hysteria in history, the story of the Phantom gasser of Mattoon Illinois reveals what happens when people come to believe something for which there is no proof.
September 8th: The Origin of Superstition, Magical Thinking, and Paranormal Beliefs
We present an article from the archives of Skeptic magazine, volume 13, number 1 in which Marjaana Lindeman & Kia Aarnio offer a new and integrative model that aims to explain superstition, magical thinking, and paranormal beliefs.
September 1st: The Top Ten Myths of Popular Psychology
We present an excerpt from 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions About Human Nature, by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, and Barry L. Beyerstein (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009). This excerpt appears in the sold out issue of Skeptic magazine volume 15, number 3 and has been published by permission of the publisher and authors.
August 25th: Wiccans v. Creationists: An Empirical Study
Raymond A. Eve discusses an empirical study of the difference between the beliefs of wiccans versus those of creationists.
August 18th: A Cornucopia of Darwinian Gems
Dr. Donald. R Prothero reviews Darwin’s Universe: Evolution from A to Z by Richard Milner.
August 11th: Broadcasting from the Great Beyond
Donna Harris reviews Consciousness Beyond Life: The Science of the Near-Death Experience, by Pim van Lommel. Donna Harris is a skeptic and the editor of the Manitoba Humanist newsletter.
August 4th: Distorting Darwin
Jonathan Lowe reviews the film Darwin: The Voyage that Shook the World, produced by Creation Ministries International and Fathom Media, 2009.
July 28th: Was Hypatia of Alexandria a Scientist?
S. James Killings reviews the film AGORA, distributed by Focus Features, produced by Fernando Bovaira and Álvaro Augustin, directed by Alejandro Amenábar, written by Amenábar and Mateo Gil, starring Rachel Weisz.
July 21st: Waterworld
James N. Gardner reviews The Flooded Earth: Our Future in a World Without Ice Caps, by Peter D. Ward.
July 14th: How Much Does Being Right Matter?
Dr. David H. Voelker reviews Wrong: Why Experts Keep Failing Us — And How to Know When Not to Trust Them, by David H. Freedman.
July 7th: If you don’t understand evolutionary biology,
don’t write a book about it!
Dr. Donald R. Prothero reviews What Darwin Got Wrong, by Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piatelli-Palmarini.
June 30th: Macroevolution & Microcreationism
We present David Eller’s article from the archives of Skeptic magazine Volume 10, Number 3 in which he argues that Intelligent Design Creationism’s concept of microcreation fails to strengthen the case for macrocreation nor weaken the case for macroevolution.
June 23rd: Hamlet Revisited: How Evolution Really Works
We present William Stansfield’s article from the archives of Skeptic magazine Volume 10, Number 4 in which he critiques the typing monkeys metaphor generated by Richard Hardison and Richard Dawkins as being too unlike the biological realities of natural selection.
June 16th: Flashbulb Memories
We present Daniel Greenburg’s article from the archives of Skeptic magazine Volume 11, Number 3 in which he discusses how psychological research shows that our most powerful memories may be untrustworthy.
June 9th: Do Cell Phones Cause Cancer?
We present the shortened, non-technical companion essay to physicist Bernard Leikind’s article of the same title that appears in the printed edition of Skeptic magazine Vol. 15, no. 4. Leikind describes what all physicists know to be true about what happens when human tissue absorbs microwave radiation from cell phones.
June 2nd: Science in the Spirit of Mythbusters
Harriet Hall, M.D. (aka the SkepDoc) reviews The Book of Potentially Catastrophic Science: 50 Experiments for Daring Young Scientists by Sean Connelly.
May 26th: Martin Gardner 1914–2010
In light of the death of Martin Gardner (1914–2010) we present an interview between Martin Gardner and Michael Shermer that appeared in Skeptic magazine Vol. 5, No. 2 (1997). Also, in response to last week’s feature article in eSkeptic, author Frank S. Robinson responds to Victoria Bekiempis’ review of his book The Case for Rational Optimism.
May 19th: Optimism v. Realism
Victoria Bekiempis reviews The Case for Rational Optimism by Frank S. Robinson.
May 12th: Meaning-Making Neurons
Dr. Michael Shermer’s reviews The Brain and the Meaning of Life by Paul Thagard. This review appeared in Science magazine (May 7, 2010, Vol. 328. no. 5979, pp. 693–694).
May 5th: Golden Fleeced: The Misuse of the Argonaut Myth in Robert Temple’s Sirius Mystery
Robert Temple is lauded and often cited by the New Age and alternative archaeology movements for his excellent scholarship and broad understanding of mythology and ancient history. In this week’s eSkeptic, Jason Colavito explores Temple‘s use of the Greek myth of Jason’s quest for the Golden Fleece to see if it stands up to scrutiny.
April 28th: Motorcycle Maintenance Without the Zen
Chris Edwards provides some much-need maintenance on the fallacious reasoning found in Robert Persig’s ever-popular Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance.
April 21st: The Remarkable Story of Professor Antony Flew 1923–2010
On April 8, 2010, the British philosopher Antony Flew (one of the world’s most outspoken and prominent atheists) passed away after a long life in academic philosophy. Flew changed his mind in the closing years of his life, apparently impressed by the arguments from Intelligent Design creationists. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present an article by Kenneth Grubbs, which was written before Antony Flew died and aims to get at the truth of his conversion.
April 14th: The Good News … Again?
Kenneth Grubbs reviews The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller. Kenneth Grubbs is a long-time skeptic and freelance writer living with his family in Southeast Michigan.
April 7th: The Tea Leaves of Sports Talk
Andrew Bernardin discusses the tendency to find meaning in random patterns. in particular, he discusses sports talk notions such as the “hot hand” and being “in the zone.” Bernardin endeavors to deconstruct the zone and plunge the hot hand in a bucket of ice water. Skeptic magazine, volume 11, number 2.
March 31st: Homeopathy: A Position Statement by the NCAHF
Culled from the archives of Skeptic magazine Volume 3, Number 1: Pseudomedicine, we reprint the position statement on homeopathy of the National Council Against Health Fraud. More than 15 years since its publication homeopathics are still widely available, reminding skeptics that our jobs are never done.
March 24th: The Ten Percent Solution: Anatomy of an Education Myth
Dr. Jeremy E.C. Genovese examines an educational urban legend that suggests a willingness to accept assertions about instructional strategies without empirical support. This article appeared in a SOLD OUT issue of Skeptic magazine Volume 10 Number 4 (2004).
March 17th: Is There Not Grandeur in this View?
Kenneth Grubbs reviews The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution by Richard Dawkins as well as and The Case for God by Karen Armstrong. Kenneth Grubbs is a freelance writer living in Michigan.
March 10th: The Place of Science
Massimo Pigliucci examines the alleged parallels that religious scholar, Huston Smith, draws between science and religion.
March 3rd: Is Baked Alaska Half-Baked?
David Naiditch looks at why Alaska’s High-Frequency Active Auroral Research Program (HAARP) is such an attractive target for conspiracy theorists.
February 24th: The Mythbusters of Psychology
Dr Harriet Hall, MD, (aka the Skepdoc) reviews 50 Great Myths of Popular Psychology: Shattering Widespread Misconceptions about Human Behavior by Scott O. Lilienfeld, Steven Jay Lynn, John Ruscio, and Barry L. Beyerstein.
February 17th: Superfreakonomics
P.J. Rooks reviews SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance, By Steven D. Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner.
February 10th: Animal Prognosticators
William D. Stansfield asks whether groundhogs and swallows are really able to predict the arrival of spring as accurately as reported in the popular press. Stansfield is Emeritus Professor in the Biological Sciences Department at the California Polytechnic State University.
February 3rd: Why Do Women Have Sex? Here’s Why.
Victoria Bekiempis reviews Why Women Have Sex: Understanding Sexual Motivations from Adventure to Revenge (and Everything in Between) by Cindy M. Meston and David M. Buss.
January 27th: The View from Nowhere or Somewhere?
Maia Caron reviews 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein.
January 20th: Announcing the New Season of Lectures at Caltech
Mark your calendar! The Skeptics Society is pleased to announce its new season of the Skeptics Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech with lectures by: Rebecca Goldstein, Jared Diamond, Deepak Chopra, Sam Harris, Jean Houston, Leonard Mlodinow, David Goodstein, Roger Farmer, Mark Moffett and John Long.
January 13th: Legends of the Dogon: Mystery Resurfaces
Could a remote African people have gained esoteric knowledge about the sky without having telescopes? Were aliens, lost technology or something else entirely involved? In this week’s eSkeptic, Liam McDaid examines these claims.
January 6th: Pseudoscience in Consumer Audio Engineering
Ethan Winer (an audio engineer, musician, and skeptic), reveals that the worlds of audio engineering and consumer electronics are filled with pseudoscience.
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