The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


eSkeptic: the email newsletter of the Skeptics Society

eSkeptic Archives 2011–2015

2015

December 30th: Once Upon a Time: Re-Thinking the Fight Against Extremists
What does it mean to be radicalized? Why can’t we wage a war on extremists? Why can’t we just embrace the moderates to counter extremists? In this week’s eSkeptic, investigative journalist Tina Dupuy proposes the need to re-think the fight against extremists as she examines some backward reasoning about our innate desire to get back to paradise.
December 23rd: Merry Kitzmas! The 10th Anniversary of the Dover Decision and the Demise of Intelligent Design
Sunday, December 20, marked the 10th anniversary of Judge John Jones’ decision in the landmark Kitzmiller vs. Dover Area School District case, better known as the court case that finally put intelligent design (ID) creationism on trial. In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero recounts details from that momentous case and its aftermath in the battle between creationism and evolution.
December 16th: The Appeal of ISIS: Islamism, Trust, and Costly Signaling
The blurry line between Islam and Islamism must be made clear. In this week’s eSkeptic, Drs. Peter Boghossian and James A. Lindsay discuss the choice faced by Muslims to distinguish themselves from Islamists, noting that Muslims who denounce Islamism take an enormous risk with their lives.
December 9th: Skeptic Magazine 20.4, Available Now
Skeptic magazine 20.4, available now in print and digital editions, features an excerpt from Robert Trivers’ memoir, Wild Life: Adventures of an Evolutionary Biologist. Unlike other renowned scientists, Robert Trivers has spent time behind bars, drove a getaway car for Huey P. Newton, and founded an armed group in Jamaica to protect gay men from mob violence. Learn more in the new issue of Skeptic magazine!
December 2nd: Advocatus Diaboli—the Devil’s Advocate
David Priess reviews Red Team: How To Succeed by Thinking Like the Enemy by Micah Zenko.
November 25th: SAVE 25% Now Thru Cyber Monday!
It’s our best sale of the year, on now through Cyber Monday. SAVE 25% on everything at Shop Skeptic, including: books, science lecture DVDs, clothing and other cool swag, like t-shirts and hoodies, stickers, lapel pins, Skeptic magazine subscriptions and back issues, as well as Skeptic eGift Certificates. Skeptic digital subscriptions and digital back issues are also on sale via PocketMags.com. Sale ends November 30, 2015 at 23:59:59 Pacific Time.
November 18th: An Internet Story for Our Time
Can venting angrily on the Internet lead to heart disease? In this week’s eSkeptic, Carol Tavris discusses some research that points to a significant correlation between our negative language patterns (such as anger, hatred, and aggression) and health risks such as heart disease.
November 11th: Debating the “God” Construct: Part III
The “God” Contruct debate continues. Richard Grigg explains why he thinks Douglas Navarick’s response to his essay contains serial violations of the scientific worldview.
November 4th: Science versus Intuition
How is it that naïve intuitions can survive the acquisition of contradictory scientific knowledge? Andrew Shtulman discusses the psychological concepts of knowledge enrichment and conceptual change, inquiring into why it is so difficult for scientific knowledge to take root, and whether scientific knowledge can overwrite deep-seated forms of intuition.
October 28th: Debating the “God” Construct: Part II
Richard Grigg explains why he thinks Douglas Navarick’s empirical God-hypothesis fails.
October 21st: Guns in the U.S.
In this week’s eSkeptic: Guns in the U.S. — We’re Better at Killing Americans Than Our Enemies Are (an LA Times op-ed by Michael Shermer); When Cops Kill: An Insider’s Perspective; Insight at Skeptic.com: The 10 Percent Brain Myth
October 14th: Ben Carson: Brain Surgeon—or Brain Addled?
In this week’s eSkeptic: Ben Carson: Brain Surgeon—or Brain Addled? by Donald Prothero; Halloween Events Announcement: Skepticism and the Supernatural, and a Séance with Houdini; Michael Shermer on Scientific American: Discerning Science from Pseudoscience; Tribute: The Passing of a Critical Thinking Giant: Richard Paul (1937–2015); Announcement: CSI Names 10 New Scientists and Scholars as Fellows
October 7th: Do We Need God?
On September 30, 2015, Michael Shermer and Larry Taunton debated the question “Do We Need God?”. The debate will eventually be posted online for viewing. In the meantime, in this week’s eSkeptic, we present Michael Shermer’s notes for the debate. Michael did not have time to cover the morality of the New Testament (compared to the Old) but we include his notes here nonetheless in case readers would like to use this material. Much of it comes from his book The Moral Arc.
September 30th: Debating The “God” Construct
Dave E. Matson critiques Douglas J. Navarick’s article “The ‘God’ Construct: A Testable Hypothesis for Unifying Science and Theology,” which appeared in Skeptic magazine 20.3 (2015). Following Matson’s challenge, Navarick responds.
September 23rd: Fact-Checking Vaccine Statements in the GOP Debate
Harriet Hall examines the statements about vaccines made by four candidates in the recent GOP debate. They all demonstrated a poor grasp of vaccine science, and advocated delays in the vaccine schedule that would represent a danger to the young, the immunocompromised, and to the herd immunity that is a mainstay of our public health.
September 16th: Colloidal Silver, Smurfs, and Ebola
Ebola is exotic, deadly, and has no known treatment. It is not surprising that the recent outbreak has caused an epidemic of fear. When fear takes hold, rational thought flies out the window. We want to believe, need to believe, that we can protect ourselves from Ebola. Quacks and charlatans come out of the In this week’s eSkeptic, we present Harriet Hall’s column, “The SkepDoc,” from Skeptic magazine 20.1 (2015) in which she discusses the quackery known as colloidal silver, now being promoted as a cure for Ebola.
September 9th: Forensic Pseudoscience: Can Tests be Trusted?
Skeptic Digital Back Issues Recently Added: on Cryonics, Carl Sagan, and Conspiracies; Follow Michael Shermer: Forensic Pseudoscience: Can Tests be Trusted?; Daniel Loxton on INSIGHT at Skeptic.com: A Rope of Sand; Debate: Do We Need God? Michael Shermer v. Larry Taunton
September 2nd: Skeptic Magazine 20.3, available now
Learn more about Alfred Russel Wallace—seeker, believer, heretic, scientist, skeptic—in the latest issue of of Skeptic magazine (20.3), available now; Debate: Do We Need God? Michael Shermer v. Larry Taunton (September 30, 2015); INSIGHT at Skeptic.com: Resolving Conflicts in Findings: Vaccine Promotion is Tricky (by Barbara Drescher), The Problematic Process of Cryptozoologification (by Daniel Loxton); Skepticality: Future Climate Thoughts: Interview with Donald Prothero
August 26th: Anatomy of a (Mass) Murder
Stephen Beckner reviews Joshua Oppenheimer’s documentary film The Look of Silence, produced by Signe Byrge, Executive Producers Werner Herzog, Errol Morris, Andre Singer Sørensen, Presented by Drafthouse Films, Participant Media, and Final Cut For Real.
August 19th: The Use and Abuse of Mirror Neurons
Harriet Hall reviews The Myth of Mirror Neurons: The Real Neuroscience of Communication and Cognition, by Gregory Hickok. This review first appeared on the Science-Based Medicine Blog and also in Skeptic magazine 20.2 (2015).
August 12th: Scientology’s Worst Abuses Against a Journalist Revealed
Paulette Cooper could be called the poster child for Scientology’s “fair game” abuses against a critical journalist. The story has been told many times with varying levels of detail, in most books about the history of Scientology written in the past four decades. But the story has, until now, been incomplete. In this week’s eSkeptic, Jim Lippard reviews Tony Ortega’s comprehensive account of Paulette Cooper’s story. The Unbreakable Miss Lovely: How the Church of Scientology Tried to Destroy Paulette Cooper.
August 5th: Quantum Cure-All or Quackery?
Modern-day mystics have at their disposal a vast and ever-growing arsenal of scientific vocabulary, and employ it liberally in arguing for such practices as quantum healing and energy medicine, variants of which have in recent decades grown into billion dollar industries, supported by millions of consumers. Surely that many people can’t be wrong, can they? In this week’s eSkeptic, Jérémie Harris examines some of the vocabulary often invoked by mystics in the quantum healing community, and contrasts their usage of that vocabulary with current scientific definitions. This article appeared Skeptic magazine 20.1 in 2015.
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July 29th: Are We All Potentially Evil?
Are We All Potentially Evil? A new dramatic film based on the Stanford Prison Experiment reveals why good people turn bad. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer discusses the film, the original experiment by Philip Zimbardo, and the triad of general principles behind evil posited by Zimbardo: the Person, the Situation, and the System.
July 22nd: Fine-Tuning and the Multiverse
In this essay, as a follow-up to his book, The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us (in which he showed that, based on our knowledge of this universe alone, divine fine-tuning claims are without merit), Victor J. Stenger brings the arguments up-to-date with a discussion of the eternal multiverse hypothesis. This article was published in Skeptic magazine issue 19.3 in 2014.
July 15th: The Limits of Critical Thinking
The human tendency to organize information even where no useful information exists appears to be hardwired into our brains. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present on article from the archives of Skeptic magazine issue 5.1, from 1997 wherein professional magician Jamy Ian Swiss discusses critical thinking as a way of protecting ourselves from the threat of deception.
July 8th: The Legend of the Falling Beast: Cow Tipping’s Surprising Origins
Have you ever gone cow tipping, or do you know someone who says they have? Where in the world did this strange idea come from? In this week’s eSkeptic, Pat Linse examines the surprising origins of cow tipping. This article was originally published in Skeptic magazine 20.1 (2015).
July 1st: The Times, They are a Changin’
Have you ever questioned your faith, or worried about what life would be like without it, or do you know someone who has? Have you ever wrestled with issues of how to replace religious practices and ideas with secular ones. In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald Prothero reviews Living the Secular Life: New Answers to Old Questions: a book by Phil Zuckerman.
June 24th: Post Conference Report Part 2: Fun & Entertainment in the Year 2525
Over the weekend of May 29–31 skeptics listened to talks by world-class scientists and scholars (such as Richard Dawkins and Lawrence Krauss), were dazzled and amazed by the brilliant magician and skeptical activist Jamy Ian Swiss (one of the world’s top magicians, who taught spectators how to avoid being fooled), were joined by mega movie star Johnny Depp and his wife (actress Amber Heard), rocked out to a live performance by Las Vegas headliner Frankie Moreno and his band, toured the San Andreas Fault with Donald Prothero, and marveled at the 100-inch telescope that Edwin Hubble used to discover the expanding universe.
June 17th: The Year 2525 Ain’t What It Used to Be
William M. London reviews the Skeptics Society Conference on the Future of Science and Humanity that took place at Caltech May 29–31, 2015.
June 10th: The Persistent Myth of the Mad Genius
Are the greatest artists, musicians, and writers melancholic, bipolar, alcoholic, drug addicted, schizophrenic, autistic, or disordered in other ways? How can we know, with any degree of certainty, whether creativity and mental illness are related? In this week’s eSkeptic, Dr. Carol Tavris takes a look at the persistent myth of the mad genius. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 20.1 (2015).
June 3rd: Watch Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer in conversation on the future of Religion and Morality
New in our online store: Skeptic eGift Certificates; Skeptics Conference: Watch 3 videos from the event, including Richard Dawkins; INSIGHT: Weekly Blog Recap; MonsterTalk: Let’s Get This Off Our Chest; Rent Science Lectures for as low as $1 per lecture: on Vimeo On Demand
May 27th: The Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Science Lectures ON DEMAND, and ON SALE, now through Summer 2015
With 39 lectures to choose from currently, our Summer Sale subscription rate of $39 on Vimeo On Demand means you only pay $1 per lecture, and you’ll have a full year to watch them all! Or, pay only $1.95 per lecture, and choose only the ones you want to see.
May 20th: Food Faiths & Diet Religions
In this week’s eSkeptic, Dr. Harriet Hall, M.D., the SkepDoc, reviews The Gluten Lie: and other myths about what you eat, by Alan Levinovitz.
May 13th: The Truth is Out There and Ray Hyman Wants to Find it
We are pleased to present this skeptical classic: an interview with a co-founder of modern skepticism: Ray Hyman. This interview first appeared in Skeptic magazine 6.2, back in 1998.
May 6th: From Stonewall to Indiana with a stop-over in West Hollywood
Russell Friedman—skeptic, colleague, and friend of Michael Shermer—writes in response to Shermer’s article on the gay rights revolution. Friedman recounts his experience opening the first gay bar in Los Angeles with windows that faced the street, a big deal at the time as gays were still in the closet and all such public venues were hidden to the public and you had to know where to go to get in.
April 29th: The Collision Between Religious Freedom and Gay Rights
Historically, the arc of the moral universe has been bending toward justice because we have stopped treating people based on who they are by nature, such as gender, race, and most recently by sexual preference. The recent legal imbroglio over the right of businesses in Indiana and other states to refuse service to people based on their sexual preference (gay versus straight) illuminates how quickly this rights revolution is unfolding.
April 22nd: Proof & God
In this week’s eSkeptic, Glenn Branch reviews Why Science Does Not Disprove God, by Amir D. Aczel. This review was published in Skeptic magazine 20.1 (2015).
April 15th: Commentary on “Why is Critical Thinking so Hard to Teach?”
In this week’s eSkeptic, John E. Buckner V and Rebecca A. Buckner discuss compartmentalization and conformity as possible socio-psychological mechanisms that might explain how individuals, through education, can decrease their paranormal/supernatural beliefs without improving their critical thinking skills. This commentary is a response to McCaffree and Saide’s article, “Why is Critical Thinking So Hard to Teach?” published in eSkeptic a few week’s ago and in Skeptic magazine 19.4 (2014).
April 8th: Can Science Determine Moral Values?
Marc Hauser and Michael Shermer dialogue about the problem of whether science can help determine moral values.
April 1st: Is Scientology a Cult?
On the heals of Sunday’s HBO documentary film by Alex Gibney, Going Clear, in this week’s eSkeptic we present an article by Dr. Michael Shermer from Skeptic magazine 17.1 on the cult-like nature of Scientology.
March 25th: Why is Critical Thinking so Hard to Teach?
Kevin Mccaffree and Anondah Saide present a meta-analysis of peer-reviewed empirical studies that evaluate the success of teaching critical thinking strategies in the classroom. In addition, they discuss some reasons for the limited impact of these strategies.
March 18th: What Does “Supernatural” Mean, Anyway?
Sometimes strange things happen, the causes for which seem hard to explain. Sometimes, these occurrences are referred to as “supernatural” or “paranormal.” But, what do those words really mean? In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer describes what is meant by “supernatural.”
March 11th: Decoding Food Labels
Phenylalanine, butyric acid, methionine, sodium tripolyphosphate, 2-methylbutyl ethanoate, pentyl acetate, monosodium glutamate… What are all these long, hard-to-pronounce chemicals listed on food labels? Should we avoid them? In this week’s eSkeptic, Harriet Hall, M.D. decodes the preservatives, coloring, and taste-enhancers in food.
March 4th: Merchants of Doubt
Announcing a new documentary: Merchants of Doubt; The Moral Arc book tour in the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, and New York; Shermer Responds to reviews of The Moral Arc; and El D20ablo — The Satanic Panic & Role-Playing Games
February 25th: Hang out with Lawrence Krauss May 29–31, 2015
Hang out with Lawrence Krauss at the Skeptics Society’s conference, May 29–31, 2015; On The Moral Progress Blog: “Why Islam?” by Michael Shermer; The Daily Beast’s Jake Whitney Reviews The Moral Arc; “Poes, Trolls, and Dinosaur Deniers,” by Donald Prothero; “Gotcha! Thinking About Skeptical ‘Stings’,” by Daniel Loxton; “Considering a Complaint About Skeptical Tactics,” by Daniel Loxton; io9 interviews Daniel Loxton
February 18th: Richard Dawkins Speaking at Skeptics Society’s Annual Conference in May
We are thrilled to announce that the world’s most famous evolutionary biologist and atheist activist Richard Dawkins will be participating in the Skeptics Society’s annual conference at Caltech Friday–Sunday May 29–31, joining our galaxy of science stars Jared Diamond, Lawrence Krauss, Esther Dyson, John McWhorter, Ian Morris, Carol Tavris, Greg Benford, David Brin, & Donald Prothero.
February 11th: A Critique of Lars Andersen’s Viral Archery Video
The Village Effect; Watch The Moral Arc lecture, recorded at Caltech; Read Michael Shermer’s Scientific American column for February; INSIGHT: Video critique of a viral archery video, Newsrooms Building Online Tools Skeptics Can Use; What the Empirical Evidence REALLY Says about Rock, Paper, Scissors; Mr. Deity and The Atheist
February 4th: Waking Up with Sam Harris
Rent Sam Harris’ “Waking Up” on Vimeo On Demand; Insights on Shakespeare, ghosts, and the Simpsons; Bill Nye on Skepticality; Shermer lectures on The Moral Arc at Caltech
January 28th: 2015 Skeptics Society Conference Registration Now Open
Registration is now open for the 2015 Skeptics Society Conference, at Caltech’s Beckman Auditorium (May 29–31 2015). The theme for this conference is: “In the Year 2525: Big Science, Big History, and the Far Future of Humanity.”
January 21st: Skeptical of Soft Theism
Gary Whittenberger examines Miklos Jako’s “Soft Theism" God postulated in Jako’s article “In Defense of Soft Theism,” which appeared in Skeptic Magazine 19.2 (2014). Whittenberger argues that, when considering the origins of existence, we don’t need to step outside the boundaries of science.
January 14th: Charlie Hebdo: Why Islam, Again?
Some might characterize the faith-inspired murder of satirical cartoonists as shocking. But the prospect of violent reprisal for religious criticism was hardly inconceivable to the now-deceased artists of Charlie Hebdo. In this week’s eSkeptic, Kenneth Krause describes potential relationships between religion and violence, and questions whether these murders would seem possible in the absence of religious devotion to an allegedly all-powerful god.
January 7th: The 1919 Theory That Explains Why Police Officers Need Their Guns
Michael Shermer discusses race relations and the law in America through the lens of Max Weber’s 1919 theory on “legitimate use of physical force.” A slightly different version of this OpEd was originally published at Time.com on December 23, 2014.

2014

December 24th: Nickology, the S-effect, and the Quantum of Santa
In issue 2.3 (1994) of Skeptic magazine, John Keller wrote a letter of analysis on “The Science of Santa,” taken from Spy magazine, in which he humorously demonstrated the impossibility of Santa delivering presents to hundreds of millions of children around the world in one night. In this week’s eSkeptic, we draw from the archives of Skeptic magazine issue 2.4 (1994) in which Gerald Huber, from Germany, begs to differ.
December 17th: What Really Happened on August 9, 2014 in Ferguson, Missouri?
Psychologists have known for decades that memory does not operate like a video camera, with our senses recording in high definition what really happens in the world, accurately stored in memory awaiting high fidelity playback on the viewing screen of our mind. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer discusses how the fallibility of memory can cause eyewitness testimony to contradict the evidence.
December 10th: What is the Ant, Sir?
In this week’s eSkeptic, we draw from the archives of Skeptic magazine issue 4.1 (from 1996) in which Bernard Leikind posits the ant-thropic principle: the principle that the Universe somehow exists for ants and that ants are an expression of its purpose.
December 3rd: Observations on Genius
In this week’s eSkeptic, we draw from the archives of Skeptic magazine issue 2.1 (from 1993) in which the late, great Steve Allen (1921–2000), shared his observations on genius.
November 26th: Skeptic Six-Day Sale
It’s our best sale of the year, on now through Cyber Monday, December 1. Save 25% on everything at Shop Skeptic, including: books, DVDs, print subscriptions, hoodies, t-shirts (and other cool swag), as well as printed back issues of Skeptic magazine. SHOP NOW, SAVE 25%
November 19th: Why Kennedy-Assassination Conspiracy Theories Endure
On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated by lone-gunman Lee Harvey Oswald. Yet, about three-quarters of Americans believe that President Kennedy was the victim of a multi-shooter conspiracy. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer discusses several psychological factors at work that allow conspiracy theories to persist.
November 12th: Help Bring Our Distinguished Science Lectures Series to the World
Since 1992, the Skeptics Society has sponsored over 350 of the biggest names in science in our Distinguished Science Lecture Series at Caltech, covering the most advanced, leading-edge discoveries, and controversial topics in all of science. Now we want to take it to a whole new level, and aim to reach millions of people around the world following the TED model. Find out more…
November 5th: Willpower and Won’t Power
Learning to control our impulses and delay immediate gratification may well be one of the most important things our species has ever learned. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer reviews The Marshmallow Test: Mastering Self-Control by Walter Mischel (Little, Brown; September 23, 2014). Note: A shorter version of this review was originally published in the Wall Street Journal on September 19, 2014.
October 29th: The Biological and Psychological Basis of Horror
Horror is both the human emotion, and the artistic genre designed to produce that emotion. What is it really, and why do we regularly seek out such an unpleasant experience? In this week’s Halloween edition of eSkeptic, Stephen T. Asma discusses “horror” and our fascination with it.
October 22nd: Award; Pixels Over Paper; Dark Matter; Vampires; and Alfred Russel Wallace
Daniel Loxton wins a Victoria Book Prize; Donald Prothero considers claims that the future of publishing belongs exclusively to pixels over paper; Blake Smith defends the value of the examination of monster beliefs; Katherine Freese lectures on Dark Matter; MonsterTalk interviews Richard Sugg about vampires; and UCLA celebrates Alfred Russel Wallace.
October 15th: “Chemtrail” Fail
Among the strangest of all bizarre pseudoscientific notions is the idea that ordinary contrails formed by high-flying aircraft are somehow a government conspiracy to spray us with toxic chemicals. In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero discusses how “chemtrail” conspiracy thinking fails the science literacy test.
October 8th: Geology, Zombies, Infrequencies, and a Robot Apocalypse
In this week’s eSkeptic, we announce: our next geology tour—Central California Classics (January 17–19, 2015); our next distinguished science lecture—by Dr. Bradley Voytek (Oct 19); Weekly Insights from Blake Smith and Barbara Drescher; Michael Shermer’s October column in Scientific America; and MonsterTalk interviews Daniel H. Wilson about a robot apocalypse.
October 1st: Steven Pinker; INSIGHT Highlights; Ian Harris; Mr. Deity
Steven Pinker moves to Beckman Auditorium from Baxter Hall, and tickets are now available in advance; Eve Siebert discuss the History Channel’s Vikings, and Daniel Loxton discusses the scope of skepticism and skeptical history on INSIGHT at Skeptic.com; Skepticality interviews Ian Harris; and Lucy talks with Mr. Deity about all the help he’s been giving people in the wealthier countries of the world.
September 24th: Farewell to a Skeptic Pioneer
David Knight Larue remembers one of the pioneers of the modern skeptical movement: his father, Gerald Alexander Larue, Senior, who passed away on September 17, 2014 at the age of 98.
September 17th: Discover Our New Blog: INSIGHT at Skeptic.com
The Skeptics Society is proud to announce the creation of our brand new group blog, INSIGHT at Skeptic.com. Dedicated to the spirit of curiosity and grounded in scientific skepticism’s useful, investigative tradition of public service, INSIGHT will shed light, offer critical perspective, and serve as a broadly accessible, evidence-based resource on mysteries of science, paranormal claims, and the wild, woolly, wonderful weirdness of the fringe.
September 10th: Atheist Spirituality
Sigfried Gold reviews Sam Harris’s new book, Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion.
September 3rd: Skeptic magazine 19.3: The Multiverse
We announce Skeptic magazine issue 19.3 on The Multiverse; Michael Shermer discusses how the survivor bias distorts reality in his Scientific American column for September; Daniel Loxton gets shortlisted as a Finalist for a National Literary Prize; and Chris Impey lectures on the intersection between science and Tibetan Buddhism.
August 27th: Confessions
Donald R. Prothero reviews Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason, by Seth Andrews.
August 20th: An Interview with Pope Francis
Michael Shermer interviews Pope Francis in the sixth release of our “Skeptic Presents” satirical video series; Skepticality interviews rights activist Sikivu Hutchinson; MonsterTalk interviews Brad Voytek and Tim Verstynen about zombies; Donald Prothero discusses the Mind of the Science Denier; and Edward Slingerland discusses the Art and Science of Spontaneity.
August 13th: A Two Wheeled Path
Michael Shermer reviews Bicycle Design: An Illustrated History by Tony Hadland and Hans-Erhard Lessing. This review was originally published in the Wall Street Journal on July 5, 2014.
August 6th: Why Whistleblowing Doesn’t Work
Tattletale, Ratfink, Stool Pigeon, Snitch, Informer, Canary, Turncoat, Bigmouth, Busybody, Fat Mouth, Weasel, Informer, Squealer, Backstabber, Double-Crosser, Agent-Provocateur, Shill, Judas, Quisling, Treasonist… In this week’s eSkeptic, Frederick V. Malmstrom and David Mullin explain why whistleblowing is a dangerous game. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 19.1 (2014).
July 30th: Controversies in Psychiatric Diagnosis
The problem of defining psychiatric disorders is a challenge, and increasingly a matter of debate. Some have argued that definitions of psychiatric diagnoses are arbitrary. Most psychiatric disorders can be very well described as existing on a continuum with normal human experience and that there is overlap between disorders. In this week’s eSkeptic, Ralph Lewis, M.D. discusses the challenges to understanding and defining complex mental disorders. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 18.4 (2013).
July 23rd: A Rare and Beautiful Thing
Last week, the James Randi Educational Foundation’s “The Amazing Meeting 2014” conference in Las Vegas brought together many of the most engaging voices in science and skepticism for a challenging and joyful celebration of ideas. The Skeptics Society was in the spotlight, with Michael Shermer, Donald Prothero, and Junior Skeptic’s Daniel Loxton taking the stage for feature presentations. In this week’s eSkeptic, we share the text of Loxton’s well-received speech on skeptical history, titled “A Rare and Beautiful Thing.” Although designed as a live multimedia presentation, we hope this distilled format will give a sense of the passion behind this unusual piece.
July 16th: ET Phone Me
Michael Shermer recounts the time he was abducted by aliens. This is a review of Captured by Aliens: The Search for Life and Truth in a Very Large Universe, by Joel Achenbach. This review appeared in Skeptic magazine 7.4 (1999)
July 9th: Becoming a Faith Healer
Dustin White reveals the inside story, detailing his personal experience faith healing, performing exorcisms, and doing psychic surgeries. White recounts the deception, lies, theatrics, motivations, and justifications involved. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 19.1 (2014).
July 2nd: Bountiful!
Monstertalk interviews the science advisors for the 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty television contest; and, in Michael Shermer’s “Skeptic” column for Scientific American, he takes a look at the accuracy of our perceptions about income equality and social mobility.
June 25th: Coming Out Skeptical
Sigfried Gold reviews Atheists in America, edited by Melanie E. Brewster. (Columbia University Press. ISBN: 978-0231163583)
June 18th: The Mummy’s Curse!
We present the text of the last three pages of the Junior Skeptic 18 on the sinister legend of a lethal supernatural curse associated with Tutankhamun’s tomb. Did the explorers who found the tomb pay for their discovery with their lives?
June 11th: Evolution and the Inquisition
On Skepticality, Derek speaks with two science advocates about their new books on evolution, for young readers. On Vimeo On Demand, Jonathan Kirsch delivers a sweeping and provocative history of the Spanish Inquisition.
June 4th: Conspiracy Theories, Nukes, Death Worms, and Yetis
Announcing the latest issue of Skeptic magazine (19.2): Boston Bombing Conspiracy Theories; Shermer asks whether deterrence prohibits the total abolishment of nuclear weapons; MonsterTalk discusses the legends and facts behind the Mongolian Death Worm; and Loxton reflects on monster hoaxes—and Discovery Channel’s tarnished reputation.
May 28th: Penis Panics: The Psychology of Penis Shrinking Mass Hysterias
In parts of Asia and the Orient entire regions are occasionally overwhelmed by terror-stricken men who believe that their penises are shriveling up or retracting into their bodies. Episodes can endure for weeks or months and affect thousands. Psychiatrists are divided as to the cause of these imaginary scares. Some believe that it is a form of group psychosis triggered by stress, while others view it as mass hysteria. How can groups of people come to believe that their sex organs are shrinking? In this article from Skeptic magazine issue 7.4 (1999), Robert E. Bartholomew discusses the anatomy of mass hysteria, their similarities, and the factors involved in triggering them.
May 21st: Eye Movement Magic
In this article from Skeptic magazine issue 7.4 (1999), three psychologists examine in detail the most recent scientific evidence (at the time) regarding the efficacy of Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) therapy. The authors consider strategies employed by EMDR’s proponents to deal with negative findings, and note historical parallels between EMDR and other controversial treatments. This scientific and historical analysis of EMDR may help shed light on a variety of other potentially pseudoscientific practices in the field of clinical psychology. In this respect, EMDR serves as a useful object lesson in the study of pseudoscience.
May 14th: The Great Dilution Delusion
You might ask why, as skeptics, we must continue to fight the same battles against quackery over and over again, long after the nonsense has been debunked. The short answer: because belief in nonsense persists. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present one of James Randi ’Twas Brillig… columns from Skeptic magazine issue 10.1 (2003), about the persistence of homeopathy, entitled: “The Great Dilution Delusion.”
May 7th: Gimme That New-Time Religion!
Donald Prothero reviews Karen Stollznow’s book, God Bless America: Strange and Unusual Religious Beliefs and Practices in the United States (Pitchstone Publishing, 2013, ISBN: 978-1939578006).
April 30th: Bigfoot Skepticism is Alive and Well
Harriet Hall, M.D., The SkepDoc, reviews Abominable Science! Origins of the Yeti, Nessie, and Other Famous Cryptids by Daniel Loxton and Donald R. Prothero (Columbia University Press, 2013. ISBN: 978-0231153201). This review appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 18.4 (2013)
April 23rd: On the Margin
Michael Shemrer reviews Will Storr’s book, The Unpersuadables: Adventures with the Enemies of Science. A shorter version of this review ran in the Wall Street Journal on April 1, 2014.
April 16th: Unravelling the Mysteries of the Large Hadron Collider
Particle Fever follows the inside story of six brilliant scientists seeking to unravel the mysteries of the universe, documenting the successes and setbacks in the planet’s most significant and inspiring scientific breakthrough. Find out about our screening of this film, and more, in this week’s eSkeptic.
April 9th: Discovering Your Inner Fish, Reptile, and Monkey
Donald R. Prothero reviews Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion Year History of the Human Body, a three-part documentary series airing on PBS beginning on April 9, 2014.
April 2nd: Lying, Sports, and Werewolves
Michael Shermer discusses the science of lying; Derek interviews Executive Editor of Sports Illustrated, Jon L. Wertheim on Skepticality; and Blake reveals his findings from more than two years of werewolf research on MonsterTalk.
March 26th: The Case for Yoda
Andrew Harter’s presents his case for the existence of Yoda. This piece appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 6.3 (1998).
March 19th: Imagine There’s No Heaven
We present an excerpt from Mitchell Stephens’ new book, Imagine There’s No Heaven: How Atheism Helped Create the Modern World: a comprehensive history of atheism starting with the ancient Greeks. Michael Shermer called it “the most thorough chronicle to date” that he has read. We selected a portion of the book related directly to what led to the current state of unbelief in America and Western Europe today, but we encourage you to read the entire book to get the full context of what intellectual currents came before us. This excerpt has been reprinted with permission from Palgrave Macmillan, and appears in Skeptic magazine issue 19.1 (2014).
March 12th: Cosmos Reboots
Pseudoscience runs rampant in much of the popular media, reducing science to stereotypes of evil mad scientists. With the recent reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos documentary, we see the return of science popularization in a manner that inspires people (especially children) to be fascinated by science, to think about careers in science, and to pass Sagan’s mantle on to another generation. In this week’s eSkeptic, scientist and educator Donald Prothero reviews the first episode of Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey, which premiered March 9, 2014.
March 5th: A Voyager in the Cosmos
The PBS broadcast of Carl Sagan’s 13-part documentary, Cosmos: A Personal Voyage, was one of the most watched series in the history of American public television. The soon-to-be-released sequel, Cosmos: A Space-Time Odyssey (see above), written, executively produced and directed by Ann Druyan, premieres Sunday, March 9, 2014 at 9pm/10pm ET/PT on FOX. In light of the rebirth of this stellar production, we present to you, in this week’s eSkeptic, an interview with Ann Druyan conducted by Michael Shermer in 2007, which appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 13.1—our tribute issue to Carl Sagan. There are several tribute articles to Carl Sagan that you can read for free on skeptic.com, listed in the table of contents for that issue. Issue 13.1 is available in digital format only via the Skeptic Magazine App.
February 26th: Believe the Survivors or the Science?
In this week’s eSkeptic, in the wake of passionate and polarized commentary following Dylan Farrow’s recent allegations that Woody Allen sexually abused her when she was 7 years old, social psychologist Dr. Carol Tavris discusses how the science of memory may help guide how we think about cases like this. Carol Tavris, Ph.D., is a coauthor, with Elliot Aronson, of Mistakes Were Made (But Not by Me): Why We Justify Foolish Beliefs, Bad Decisions, and Hurtful Acts. Tavris’ lecture at Caltech, based on the book, is available on DVD from Shop Skeptic.
February 19th: Dead Silence: Our Experience at a “Live” Seminar with John Edward
Three skeptics join a crowd of about 2500 people at a seminar with renowned psychic, John Edward, and relay their experience in the following piece. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 10.2 (2003).
February 12th: In Search of the Intelligent Designer
In celebration of Darwin Day, we present an excerpt from Michael Shermer’s book, Why Darwin Matters: The Case Against Intelligent Design, from Chapter 4: “Who the Designer Is.”
February 5th: Scientific Utopia; Debating Pseudoscience; Critical Thinking
Michael Shermer asks whether a scientific utopia can succeed; Daniel Loxton shares some thoughts from Carl Sagan about the value of scientific confrontation of pseudoscientific ideas; and Skepticality interview Robert Blaskiewicz and Guy Harrison about critical thinking.
January 29th: Academic Obfuscations: The Psychological Attraction of Postmodern Nonsense
Much of postmodern writing is deliberately obscure and nonsensical, indistinguishable from parody. It’s easy to mistake obscurity for profundity. What is so enticing about a scholarly approach that results in texts that can scarcely be understood? Why would a whole scholarly subculture prefer to write and read unclear prose? What are they getting out of it? In this week’s eSkeptic, Jim Davies shares his ideas on the psychological attraction of postmodern nonsense.
January 22nd: What Scientific Idea is Ready for Retirement?
Ideas change, and the times we live in change. Perhaps the biggest change today is the rate of change. What established scientific idea is ready to be moved aside so that science can advance? Michael Shermer answers the Edge.org Annual Question for 2014: “What Scientific Idea is Ready for Retirement?
January 15th: Bigfoot or Baloney? Confessions of a Bigfoot Hunter
In light of recent chatter that a genuine Bigfoot has been captured, we share these confessions from Jonathan Blais — a Bigfoot-hunter-turned-skeptic. This article apeared in Skeptic Magazine issue 18.4 (2013).
January 8th: Why Professors Believe Weird Things: Sex, Race, and the Trials of the New Left
Norman Levitt discusses some of the intellectual follies of leftist postmodern academics who would denounce science in favour of fringe science, pseudoscience, and outright antiscience. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 6.3 (1998).
January 1st: The Top 10 Most Shared Articles of 2013, and a tribute to Isaac Asimov
On the first day of this new year, we feature an article from the premiere issue of Skeptic magazine (1992): Steve Allen’s tribute to Isaac Asimov (January 2, 1920 – April 6, 1992). Also, we provide our top 10 list of most shared articles on skeptic.com in 2013 for your reading enjoyment.

2013

December 25th: Area 51, Zombies, Cults, and Demons
In this week’s eSkeptic, Swoopy’s back for a special episode of Skepticality and Karen Stollznow’s back for a special episode of MonsterTalk.
December 18th: Debunking Plantinga
William S. Moore reviews Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism.
December 11th: Conversion Confusion
Patrick Arnold reviews The Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert: An English Professor’s Journey into Christian Faith by Rosaria Butterfield.
December 4th: 50 Years of JFK Conspiracy Theories
We present a letter to the editor of the Los Angeles Times from a reader in response to this op-ed written by Michael Shermer, followed by Shermer’s reply.
November 27th: Skeptic Five-Day Sale
It’s our best sale of the year, on now through Sunday, December 1. Save 25% off everything at Shop Skeptic, including: books, DVDs, print subscriptions, hoodies, t-shirts (and other cool swag), as well as printed back issues of Skeptic magazine. SHOP NOW, SAVE 25%
November 20th: Join us to promote rationality and science
Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience like the examples that we list in this FREE PDF booklet? These phenomena are powerful and are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. As skeptics are well aware that accepting these beliefs can be dangerous. The Skeptics Society the much-needed scientific explanation for these and other phenomena. Join us in our many efforts to do that and make a tax-deductible donation online today.
November 13th: The Stuff of Nightmares: James Van Praagh and the Afterlife
Ingrid Hansen Smythe wittily dissects the farcical visions of the afterlife presented by James Van Praagh in his book Growing up in Heaven.
November 6th: The Psychic Industry
Ryan L.A. Shaffer reviews How to Get Rich in Your Own Psychic Business, by Herb Dewey and Marc Sky. Dewy and Sky. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 15.3 (2010), which is available digitally with the Skeptic Magazine App.
October 30th: The End is Nigh…Or Not
How many people can our planet hold? Can we expect calamities to result from overpopulation and resource depletion when our planet reaches ten billion people? In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer reviews two books: Ten Billion by Stephen Emmott (Vintage Books, 2013), and Countdown: Our Last, Best Hope for a Future on Earth? by Alan Weisman (Little Brown, 2013). This review appeared in the Wall Street Journal on October 4, 2013.
October 23rd: Neuroscience and its Discontents
Neuroscience—one of the great intellectual achievements of modern science—often suffers from spasms of “premature extrapolation” due to oversimplification, interpretive license, and premature application in the legal, commercial, clinical, and philosophical domains. In this week’s eSkeptic, Harriet Hall, M.D. (a.k.a. The SkepDoc), takes a look at the science of neuroscience in light of Sally Satel and Scott Lilienfeld’s book Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience.
October 16th: In the Belly of the Beast
Donald R. Prothero reviews Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Lines, by Jason Rosenhouse (Oxford University Press, 2012, 256 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0199744633). This post also appeared on Skepticblog.org
October 9th: Ayurvedic Medicine: Does it Work?
Practitioners of an ancient Indian health care system claim be able to treat cancer, epilepsy, schizophrenia, psoriasis, ulcers, asthma, malaria and many other diseases. They do this by balancing invisible vital forces that cannot be seen, touched, measured, or quantified in any way. In this week’s eSkeptic, Marc Carrier discusses some of the scientific literature on Ayurveda as well as the harm that can come from the use of alternative medicine therapies. (This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 16.2 in 2011.)
October 2nd: What’s it Like? The Science of Scientific Analogies
Dr. Chris Edwards reviews Surfaces and Essences: Analogy as the Fuel and Fire of Thinking by Douglas Hofstadter and Emmanuel Sander.
September 25th: The Spark and the Hype
Dr. Chris Edwards examines some of the claims made by Kristine Barnett about her autistic savant son, James, in her book entitled The Spark: A Mother’s Story of Nurturing Genius.
September 18th: A Skeptic in Court, Part II
We present James Randi’s ’Twas Brillig… column from Skeptic magazine 18.2 (2013) in which he discusses the detection of deception using the infamous polygraph “lie detector.”
September 11th: Free Tilly!
Donald R. Prothero reviews Gabriela Cowperthwaite’s film Blackfish (Magnolia Pictures, 2013), about Tilikum — a killer whale in captivity at SeaWorld responsible for the deaths of several people.
September 4th: Martian Chronicles
George Michael reviews Mary Roach’s book, Packing for Mars: The Curious Science of Life in the Void (W.W. Norton & Company, 2013, ISBN: 0393068471).
August 28th: Multiple Answers to Why the Universe Exists
Lump together literally everything contained in ultimate reality. Now call it all by the simple name “Something.” Why is there “Something” rather than “Nothing”? Is not Nothing, no world, simpler and easier than any world; is it not so that Nothing would have been the least arbitrary and “most natural” state of affairs? In this week’s eSkeptic, Robert Lawrence Kuhn explores the essence of Nothing, or what he calls “Levels of Nothing.” This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 18.2 (2013).
August 21st: Inside the Psychic Mind
John Rael reviews Mark Edward’s book Psychic Blues: Confessions of a Conflicted Medium—a book “written by a long-time and current practicing psychic who freely admits to the reader that there is no such thing.”
August 14th: Born in First Place
Michael Shermer reviews David Epstein Current’s book The Sports Gene on the relative roles of genes and environment—nature and nurture—in the building of a professional athlete. A version of this article appeared July 26, 2013 in the U.S. edition of The Wall Street Journal.
August 7th: Stephen Meyer’s Fumbling Bumbling Amateur Cambrian Follies
Donald R. Prothero reviews Darwin’s Doubt: The Explosive Origin of Animal Life and the Case for Intelligent Design by Stephen Meyer (HarperCollins, 2013).
July 31st: Evolution v. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith. Guess Who Wins?
Could it be that geneticists, biochemists, zoologists, biologists, geologists, paleontologists, ecologists, comparative anatomists, physiologists, and cosmologists are all wrong about evolution? In this week’s eSkeptic, Ingrid Hansen Smythe reviews documentary film by Ray Comfort called Evolution vs. God: Shaking the Foundations of Faith. The film makes the audacious claim that “there is no evidence for Darwinian evolution; that it’s not scientific.”Watch the trailer and then read the review.
July 24th: Bigfoot DNA? It’s Playing Possum!
When the story came out that Bigfoot DNA had been found, everyone was talking about it—and some of us were skeptical. In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero reports on what happened when an independent lab checked the samples. This post first appeared on Skepticblog.org.
July 17th: How to Think Like a Skeptic
In this week’s eSkeptic, Harriet Hall, M.D reviews Richard Burton’s book A Skeptic’s Guide to the Mind: What Neuroscience Can and Cannot Tell Us About Ourselves (St. Martin’s Press, 2013, ISBN-13: 978-1250001856. Available on Kindle).
July 10th: Steve Jobs’s Reality Distortion Field
Apple Founder, Steve Jobs, had more than a knack for convincing anyone that seemingly unrealistic things were possible. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer discusses how self-deception and a pervasive optimistic bias—Jobs’s “reality distortion field”—contributed both to his success and his demise. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 17.4 (2012).
July 3rd: Alien Invaders!
Where did we get our ideas about being attacked from “outside”—from other lands, or from outer space? How has this idea been expressed in stories? How do exotic species here on Earth “invade” new regions? Can life forms from one planet really invade another? In this week’s eSkeptic, we present a bit of fun from the current issue of Junior Skeptic entitled Alien Invaders! Junior Skeptic comes physically bound within every issue of Skeptic magazine. You’ll find this issue of Junior Skeptic in our current issue of Skeptic magazine (18.2), available in print and digital versions now.
June 26th: Body Language: (Don’t) Read My Lips
Body language “experts” claim they can “read” posture, facial expressions, and other body movements. In this week’s eSkeptic, Karen Stollznow discusses some of the ideas promoted by body language gurus and cautions that “reading” body language may be a superficial and unreliable practice. Skeptic magazine volume 17, number 1 (2011).
June 19th: A Room with a Conspiratorial View
Will Dowd conspiracy thinking in this review of Room 237, a documentary directed by Rodney Ascher, produced by Tim Kirk, and distributed by IFC Films (released January, 2012, 102 minutes).
June 12th: How To Be a Skeptical News Consumer
We are surrounded by information: on TV, the Internet, in magazines, books, and emails from friends, family, commercial advertisers, politicians and other advocates making extraordinary claims. In this week’s eSkeptic, Donna L. Halper discusses some examples of how society has been duped, and shares some media literacy rules (skepticism and critical thinking) that will help you evaluate and assess claims for accuracy. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine issue 17.4 (2012).
June 5th: Food For Thought
Kenneth W. Krause reviews Pandora’s Lunchbox: How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal by Melanie Warner (Scribner, 2013).
May 29th: Written in Our Genes…and Our Atoms
Donald R. Prothero reviews The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People, by Neil Shubin (Pantheon, New York, 2013).
May 22nd: Sylvia Browne Takes The Case!
On April 21, 2003, the day before her 17th birthday, Amanda Berry was kidnapped in Cleveland, Ohio. In 2004, on an episode of the Montel Williams show, “psychic” Sylvia Browne told Amanda’s mother that Amanda was dead. Sylvia Browne’s “psychic powers” failed miserably that day. Amanda Berry is alive today, having escaped from the house where she had been held for 10 years. In this week’s eSkeptic, in light of these recent events, Ingrid Hansen Smythe reviews Sylvia Browne’s latest book Past Lives of the Rich and Famous in order to glean some insight into the mind of the “great psychic.”
May 15th: Growing Up in the Amityville Horror
Trevor Fehrman reviews Eric Walter’s documentary film My Amityville Horror (IFC Films 2012), in which, for the first time ever, Daniel Lutz delivers his perspective on perhaps the most famous ghost story in America: the 1975 Amityville haunting.
May 8th: The Struggle of Bangladeshi Bloggers
In a nation whose laws protect free speech we easily forget that many places in the world hold atheism and the expression of religious skepticism to be a crime—a thought crime—punishable by jail. The following article, by Dr. Avijit Roy, reminds us that we need to be vigilant in our quest for freedom of speech everywhere in the world.
May 1st: Of Martians and Media
Sharon Hill reviews The Martians Have Landed: A History of Media-driven Panics and Hoaxes, by Robert E. Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford (McFarland, 2012, ISBN: 978-0786464982).
April 24th: It’s Getting Better All the Time
Dr. Edward Hudgins reviews two books: Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think, by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler and Merchants of Despair: Radical Environmentalists, Criminal Pseudo-Scientists, and the Fatal Cult of Antihumanism, by Robert Zubrin.
April 17th: Witch Doctors and Con Artists
In the small Ugandan village near the capital city of Kampala, a man named Ronald Kapungu had been accused of practicing witchcraft or hiring witch doctors to curse a nearby family. In this week’s eSkeptic, freelance reporter and travel writer, Justin Chapman, describes his experience at the witchcraft ceremony that he witnessed while covering the story with local journalist Luke Kagiri.
April 10th: Scientology Exposed
In this week’s eSkeptic, Jim Lippard reviews three books: Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief by Lawrence Wright (Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), The Church of Fear: Inside The Weird World of Scientology by John Sweeney (Silvertail Books, 2013), and Beyond Belief: My Secret Life Inside Scientology and My Harrowing Escape by Jenna Miscavige Hill with Lisa Pulitzer (William Morrow, 2013).
April 3rd: Anthropology No More
L. Kirk Hagen reviews Human No More: Digital Subjectivities, Unhuman Subjects, and the End of Anthropology, edited by Neil Whitehead and Michael Wesch (University Press of Colorado, 2012, ISBN 978-1607321897).
March 27th: Non-Designer Design
Chad Jones reviews Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization, by Dr. Adrian Bejan and J. Peder Zane (Doubleday, 2012, ISBN 9780385534611). The reviewer questions whether the authors’ notion of “the contructal law” adds anything to Darwin’s theory of evolution via natural selection.
March 20th: What Science Really Says About the Soul
The majority of Americans believe that the soul lives on after the body dies. How can we know whether consciousness can survive bodily death? In this week’s eSkeptic, Stephen Cave takes a look at the belief that souls exist, and reminds us that modern brain imaging technology provides scientific evidence to strengthen the case against such fuzzy notions.
March 13th: The Progressive War on Science
Kenneth W. Krause reviews Science Left Behind: Feel-Good Fallacies and the Rise of the Anti-Scientific Left, by Alex B. Berezow and Hank Campbell (NY: Public Affairs, 2012 ISBN-13: 978-1-61039-164-1).
March 6th: Savage Science: Interview of Napoleon Chagnon (excerpt)
We present an excerpt from Frank Miele’s interview with Napoleon A. Chagnon, usually described as “the most controversial anthropologist,” hero to some, villain to others. His studies of the Yanomamö of the Amazon basin formed a cornerstone in the application of sociobiological theory to humankind. Chagnon himself helped found the discipline of evolutionary psychology and the Human Behavior and Evolution Society (HBES). However, his findings were disputed by other anthropologists who argued for the primacy of culture over genes and evolution. An expanded version of this interview will appear in Skeptic magazine, volume 18, number 2 (later this summer).
February 27th: The Carl Sagan of Chemistry
Harriet Hall, MD, (aka “The SkepDoc”) reviews Joe Schwarcz book entitled, The Right Chemistry: 108 Enlightening, Nutritious, Health-Conscious and Occasionally Bizarre Inquiries into the Science of Everyday Life (Doubleday Canada, 2012, ISBN 9780385671590).
February 20th: Contemplating Extraterrestrial Civilizations
George Michael reviews the book Civilizations Beyond Earth: Extraterrestrial Life and Society edited by Douglas A. Vakoch and Albert A. Harrison (Berghahn Books, 2011, ISBN 978-0857452115).
February 13th: Magnetic Myths
Should we worry about pole shifts and changes in the Earth’s magnetic field causing a global apocalypse? In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald R. Prothero discusses some of the common misconceptions about magnetism and Earth’s magnetic field.
February 6th: Why Is There a Skeptical Movement?
We’re pleased to present Daniel Loxton’s challenging and provocative new project, “Why Is There a Skeptical Movement?”. Almost two years in the writing, these two meticulously-researched chapter-length explorations dig deeply into the roots, founding principles, and purpose of scientific skepticism. Arguing that it is essential for skeptics to “appreciate that we’re caretakers for the work of those who have come before,” Loxton carries forward the discussion about the scope and limits of scientific skepticism.
January 30th: The Remarkable Mr. Rinn
Daniel Loxton shares a story about Joseph F. Rinn—a leading media skeptic from the early 20th century— whose classic volume Sixty Years of Psychical Research, though rarely consulted today, remains the deepest and most important sources of skeptical literature on paranormal investigation from about 1890–1950.
January 23rd: More Physics of UFOs
In Skeptic magazine 17.3, Michael Gainer wrote “The Physics of UFOs” in which he sought to determine if it is possible to construct an interstellar spacecraft that fits the description of reported UFOs. In response to that long-time skeptic, Peter Huston penned a skeptical analysis entitled, “Another Physics of UFOs.” We published both articles in last week’s eSkeptic. In this eSkeptic, Gainer responds to Huston.
January 16th: The Physics of UFOs
We present an article by Michael K. Gainer (from Skeptic magazine 17.3) about the feasibility of interstellar travel, followed by a rebuttal from Peter Huston.
January 9th: Not Fooled by Randomness
Michael Shermer reviews Antifragile: How to Live in a World We Don’t Understand, by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (2012, U.S. edition published by Random House, subtitled “Things That Gain from Disorder”). Order the hardcover book or the Kindle Edition. This review was originally published in Nature, Nov. 21, 2012.
January 2nd: A Gentle Journey Through the Truth in Rocks
Donald Prothero reviews The Rocks Don’t Lie: A Geologist Investigates Noah’s Flood, by David R. Montgomery.

2012

December 26th: Cracked Earth and Crackpot Ideas
Donald Prothero discusses why the notion of an expanding earth is false.
December 20th: Time is Running Out
This is a call to action: help us continue to make the world a more rational place and defend the role of science in society. Please take this opportunity to maximize your tax-deductible charitable donations for 2012 and make a donation to your Skeptics Society.
December 19th: Children Waiting for the End of the World
Daniel Loxton warns that skeptics may underestimate the amount of distress caused by fears of a 2012 apocalypse, especially among children.
December 12th: Michael Shermer on Feminism and Secularism
In an article entitled “Nontheism and Feminism: Why the Disconnect?” in the latest issue of Free Inquiry magazine, author and journalist Ophelia Benson targets Michael Shermer as the embodiment of misogyny. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer publicly responds to Ophelia Benson.
December 5th: The Making of a Modern Myth: Edward Leedskalnin and The Coral Castle
Peter Hancock discusses an apparently unexplained mystery that, once explained, turns out to be even more amazing than what any paranormalist or supernaturalist could conjure.
November 28th: The Evolution of Evolution
Jason Rosenhouse reviews three books: Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution, by Rebecca Stott (Spiegel and Grau, 2012, ISBN 978-1400069378); American Genesis: The Evolution Controversies From Scopes to Creation Science, by Jeffrey P. Moran (Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0195183498); and Darwin the Writer, by George Levine (Oxford University Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0199608430).
November 21st: Announcing the Skeptic 5-day Sale!
Announcing the Skeptic five-day sale.!Shop now and save 25% off everything at Shop Skeptic, November 21 through November 25, 2012 (PST).
November 14th: Celebrating 20 Years of the Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine
We’re geared up and energized for the next 20 years and we hope you will support us in our mission of promoting science and skepticism. Make the world a more rational place and defend the role of science in society. Please make a tax deductible donation now…
November 7th: Introducing the Skeptic Magazine App
Get the free Skeptic Magazine App and enjoy digital subscriptions and back issues on your iOS and Android devices, PC, Mac, Kindle Fire and BlackBerry PlayBook!
October 31st: How Astronomers are Searching for Extrasolar Planets
Apurva Narechania takes an inside look at how astronomers are searching for extrasolar planets. This article was published this year in Skeptic magazine (17.3).
October 24th: Paul Kurtz and the Virtue of Skepticism
Michael Shermer remembers Paul Kurtz, who died October 20, 2012 at the age of 86. Kurtz was one of the founders of the modern skeptical movement, and he embodied the principle of skepticism as thoughtful inquiry.
October 17th: A Flood of Nonsense!
Skeptic magazine’s Religion Editor, Tim Callahan, and our resident geologist Donald Prothero, debunk Noah’s Flood both from a mythological and geological standpoint.
October 10th: The Not-So-Skeptical Buddhist
Mike Moran reviews Brad Warner’s book Hardcore Zen Strikes Again (Cooperative Press, 2012, ISBN: 978-1937513078).
October 3rd: Foundation of a Founder of Evo-Devo
Donald R. Prothero reviews Rudolf A. Raff’s Once We All Had Gills: Growing Up Evolutionist in an Evolving World (Indiana University Press, 2012, ISBN 978-0253002358).
September 26th: The Devil’s Finest Trick, The Human Mind’s Worst
Frank Miele reviews The Last Myth: What the Rise of Apocalyptic Thinking Tells Us About America by Mathew Barrett Gross and Mel Giles (Prometheus Books, 2012, ISBN 978-1616145736).
September 19th: Is Magical Thinking Good?
Kevin J. McCaffree reviews Matthew Hutson’s new book The Seven Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy and Sane (Hudson Street Press, 2012, ISBN 978-1594630873).
September 12th: Of Miracles and Magisteria
Richard Morrock reviews New Atheist Victor Stenger’s new book God and the Folly of Faith: The Incompatibility of Science and Religion (2012, Prometheus Books, ISBN 978-1616145996).
September 5th: Engaging the Anti-vaxxers
Vaccines are one of science’s greatest achievements. Yet, fears and anxieties about immunization persist. In this week’s eSkeptic, Christian Orlic reviews Mark A. Largent’s new book Vaccine: The Debate in Modern America (2012, John Hopkins University Press, ISBN 978-1421406077).
August 29th: Why Do Cyclists and Other Athletes Dope?
We present the complete version of Michael Shermer’s article, originally published in Scientific American, that attempts to answer this question using game theory and behavioral economics and psychology. It is, for the most part, a “rational choice” made by athletes in general and cyclists in particular when it comes to the decision to dope or leave the sport altogether because it is almost impossible to compete if everyone else is doping. And if you only think everyone else is doping the temptation to choose the cheating option becomes psychologically overwhelming. You can read the original article with the graphs and charts (not included in this text version) via Scientific American Digital.
August 22nd: The Muddle of Truth
Travis Walton responds to Michael Shermer, explaining his side of what happened on the Fox TV show The Moment of Truth on July 31, 2008.
August 15th: Travis Walton’s Alien Abduction Lie Detection Test
Michael Shermer recounts his 2008 appearance on Fox’s game show The Moment of Truth, in which he got to ask Travis Walton a question about his alleged abduction by aliens on the evening of November 5, 1975. This was also published on Skepticblog yesterday. Leave your comments there, or on this eSkeptic archive.
August 8th: Eden Sought
In this week’s eSkeptic, Glenn Branch reviews Brook Wilensky-Lanford’s book Paradise Lust: Searching for the Garden of Eden (New York: Grove Press, 2011, ISBN 978-0-80211-980-3).
August 1st: The Unknown Unknowns
Michael Shermer reviews Stuart Firestein’s book Ignorance: How it Drives Science (Oxford University Press, 2012, ISBN 13: 97801-998-28074). This review was originally published in Nature, 484, 446–447 (26 April 2012) as “Philosophy: What we don’t know.”
July 25th: A Magician in the Classroom
Paul Goodin explains how he uses magic tricks and mentalism to introduce the theme of skepticism to students in his classroom and teach the importance of critical thinking in everything from pseudoscience to buying a car. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 15.4 (2010).
July 18th: Unto Others
Evolutionary “selfish gene” theory well accounts for why we would be nice to our kin and kind but why would strangers would be nice to one another? In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer reviews The Moral Molecule: The Source of Love and Prosperity by Paul J. Zak (Dutton, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-525-95281-7) and Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame by Christopher Boehm (Basic Books, 2012, ISBN: 978-0-465-02048-5). This review was originally published in both the print and online edition of the Wall Street Journal on May 26, 2012, as “Kin and Kindness.”
July 11th: Why There is Something Rather than Nothing
Scientists are edging closer to providing logical and even potentially empirically testable hypotheses to account for the universe. In this week’s eSkeptic, Michael Shermer discusses 12 possible answers to the question of why there is something rather than nothing.
July 4th: How the Blind Watchmaker Made Eyes
Donald R. Prothero reviews Ivan R. Schwab book, Evolution’s Witness: How Eyes Evolved (Oxford University Press, New York, 2012, ISBN 978-0-19-536974-8).
June 27th: Announcing Skepticism 101 Beta Launch
Michael Shermer proudly announces the beta launch of our Skepticism 101: The Skeptical Studies Curriculum Resource Center, where we provide skeptical resources, freely available to anyone, anywhere, anytime. Brought to you by the Skeptics Society and under the direction of Anondah Saide and William Bull, Skepticism 101 is a resource center for educators, teachers, administrators, students, and skeptics in all fields and walks of life to provide you with the resources you need to teach people how to think skeptically and critically about any and all claims.
June 20th: Bogus, Bunk, and B.S.
Who needs make-believe, when nature offers so much excitement and so many mysteries waiting to be solved? In this week’s eSkeptic, Peter Boghossian reviews Guy P. Harrison’s latest book, 50 Popular Beliefs That People Think are True (Prometheus Books, 2012, ISBN-13: 978-1616144951). Dr. Peter Boghossian teaches critical thinking, science and pseudoscience, and atheism at Portland State University.
June 13th: One Nation, Another Religion?
Rachel Pridgen reviews two books: Nonbeliever Nation: The Rise of Secular Americans by David Niose (Palgrave/Macmillan, 2012, ISBN 13: 978-0-230-33895-1) and Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion by Alain de Botton (Pantheon, 2012, ISBN 13: 978-0-307-37910-8).
June 6th: Deepak’s Dangerous Dogmas
We present a gem from one of the early issues of Skeptic magazine in which Phil Molé examines some of the teachings and philosophy of Deepak Chopra, and reminds us of the power of science to enlighten. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 6, number 2 (1998).
May 30th: A Universe From Nothing?
Andrew Zak Williams reviews Lawrence Krauss’ latest book A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing, with an Afterword by Richard Dawkins (Free Press, 2012, ISBN-13: 978-1451624458). This review appears in the Skeptic magazine 17.2 (2012).
May 23rd: Don’t Be Depressed About Depression Treatment
Dr. Harriet Hall, M.D., the SkepDoc, critiques an article from Skeptic magazine (17.2) entitled, “Depression Treatment: What Works and How We Know” (pp. 23–27) by Bruce Levine.
May 16th: Mind Matters
Sam Mackintosh reviews Terrence Deacon’s book, Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter.
May 9th: Exposing the Chupacabra: A Morphing Modern Monster
Sharon Hill reviews Benjamin Radford’s latest book, Tracking the Chupacabra: The Vampire Beast in Fact, Fiction, and Folklore. The book was nominated as a Finalist for the 2011 ForeWord Reviews’ Book of the Year Award in the social science category, and was a Finalist for the New Mexico Book Awards.
May 2nd: What’s it Like to be a Brain?
Ueli Rutishauser reviews Christof Koch’s latest book entitled, Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist.
April 25th: The Genesis creation myth is not unique
Skeptic magazine’s religion editor demonstrates how the Christian apologetic argument of creation ex nihilo (that God created the universe out of nothing), is not dissimilar to earlier creation myths.
April 18th: How the World Swerved Toward Science
Matthew Ainsworth reviews Stephen Greenblatt’s book: The Swerve: How the World Became Modern.
April 11th: One Last Kick at the UFO Can
George Michael and Robert Sheaffer have one last kick at the UFO can in this, the final segment of the dialogue that has happened over the past two weeks. Today, we present George Michael’s response to Robert Sheaffer’s rebuttal, followed by the last word from Robert Sheaffer.
April 4th: The Day the Skeptics Society Wasn’t Skeptical
We present Robert Sheaffer’s rebuttal to George Michael’s review of UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record that we published in last week’s eSkeptic. This rebuttal, republished here with permission, originally appeared on April 2, 2012 in Sheaffer’s blog Bad UFOs: Skepticism, UFOs, and The Universe.
March 28th: Best Evidence for UFOs
George Michael reviews Leslie Kean’s book UFOs: Generals, Pilots, and Government Officials Go on the Record. This article is rebutted by Robert Sheaffer in eSkeptic for April 4th, 2012.
March 21st: Fetus Food: Another Urban Legend Busted
Tina Dupuy examines the history of straw men inherent in anti-abortion and other vilification campaigns. Dupuy is an award-winning writer, investigative journalist, and managing editor of Crooks and Liars. Tina appears frequently on MSNBC, Current TV, RT and BBC and all over the radio frequencies via KCRW’s To The Point, The Stephanie Miller Show, The Block Radio and The Leslie Marshall Show. She writes for Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic, Fast Company, Alternet, LA Weekly and Newsday among many others. Her weekly op-ed column is nationally syndicated through Cagle Cartoons.
March 14th: The Father of “Jurassic Park”
Donald R. Prothero reviews Richard Milner’s new book, Charles R. Knight: The Artist Who Saw Through Time. The review copy of this book was so popular in the Skeptics Society office that everyone wanted it!
March 7th: Science Education is No Guarantee of Skepticism
Despite the best efforts of skeptics and teachers to advance scientific thinking, paranormal beliefs and pseudoscientific thinking continue to be commonplace. It is a common popular stereotype that knowledge of science and belief in the paranormal are like opposite ends of a teeter totter: with one tending to rise as the other falls. However, the landscape of belief is considerably more complicated than that. Science education may not be enough when we lack the ability to critically evaluate the evidence for claims. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present an article from Skeptic 9.3 that examined the relationship between science knowledge and paranormal beliefs.
February 29th: It’s Getting Better All the Time
Michael Shermer reviews a just-released book called Abundance: The Future is Better Than You Think by Peter H. Diamandis and Steven Kotler.
February 15th: Darwin’s Legacy
Donald R. Prothero remembers Charles Darwin (on the occasion of what would have been his 203rd birthday this past Sunday). Prothero reminds us that it was 40 years ago this year that the most frequently cited paper in the history of paleontology was published: none other than the legendary 1972 article by Niles Eldredge and Stephen Jay Gould which proposed the “punctuated equilibrium” hypothesis. Prothero also shares some insights from his own research.
February 8th: How We Know Global Warming is Real and Human Caused
Donald R. Prothero addresses climate change denialism head on, demolishing deniers’ arguments and rebuttals, and clearly demonstrating how we know global warming is real and human caused.
February 1st: Can Hallucination Account for the Post-Crucifixion Appearances of Jesus?
Gary J. Whittenberger applies the hallucination hypothesis to the alleged post-crucifixion appearance of Jesus summarized in three Gospel stories. Based on careful examination of the Gospels and our current knowledge of the human mind, is the hallucination hypothesis far superior to a resurrection hypothesis in accounting for the “facts” of the post-crucifixion story?
January 25th: People Like to be Fooled
Peter Moon interviews Michael Shermer on why people believe weird things. This interview first appeared in Portuguese in the magazine ÉPOCA on January 16, 2012. Thank you to Michael Silva for translating the interview.
January 18th: A review of Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness
Robert L. Martone reviews Nicholas Humphrey’s book Soul Dust: The Magic of Consciousness (University Press, 2011, ISBN: 978-0691138626). Martone is a research scientist and is the Neuroscience Therapeutic Area Lead for the Covance Biomarker Center of Excellence. He has extensive experience in neuropharmacology research, having led neuroscience drug discovery and technology teams through all phases of drug discovery from target identification through clinical trials with expertise in both small molecule and protein therapeutics. He also has several years of academic research experience in molecular neurobiology, with a focus on the molecular genetics of familial neuropathies, and CNS tumor biomarker development.
January 11th: Debate: Christopher Hitchens vs. Kenneth Miller on the question “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?”
Christopher Hitchens and Kenneth Miller debate the question “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?” Hitchens (self-proclaimed anti-theist and author of God Is Not Great) and Kenneth Miller (a pro-evolution Christian and author of Finding Darwin’s God) are worlds apart both by profession and belief, and yet both have brilliant minds for dissecting arguments both scientific and philosophical.
January 4th: Christopher Hitchens on: Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?
Christopher Hitchens responds to the Templeton Foundation’s Big Question: “Does Science Make Belief in God Obsolete?” Hitchens is the author of God Is Not Great.

2011

December 28th: Shroud of Turin Redux
Recently, global headlines have resurrected the decades-old case of the Shroud of Turin in response to a group of Italian researchers who have studied its authenticity and claim that the image it bears (ostensibly of Jesus) was not faked. Though the case for fraud has indeed been strong since the 14th century, skeptics know all too well that some topics just never seem to get laid to rest. In this week’s eSkeptic, Daniel Loxton responds to the media hype.
December 21st: Skeptics Society Fundraiser Drive
It is Time Again to Support Your Skeptics Society! The Skeptics Society is a non-profit, member-supported 501(c)(3) organization whose goal is to promote skeptical thinking (i.e. thinking like a scientist). Your donations will help put skepticism into schools and teach students how to think, not just what to think. Make a tax-deductible donation online.
December 14th: On the Margins of Science
Michael Shermer reviews Margaret Wertheim’s Physics on the Fringe: Smoke Rings, Circlons, and Alternative Theories of Everything. This book review first appeared in the Wall Street Journal on December 10, 2011.
December 7th: Healing and Harming Sounds
Karen Stollznow looks at some of the pseudoscientific claims about the healing powers of sounds. Though most sound healing claims are just a lot of hot air, could there be some legitimate applications of sound technology being used to heal? (This is Stollznow’s “Bad Language” column from Skeptic magazine volume 16, number 4, 2011)
November 30th: As Far As Her Eyes Can See
Michael Shermer reviews Lisa Randall’s Knocking on Heaven’s Door: How Physics and Scientific Thinking Illuminate the Universe and the Modern World (Ecco, 2011), a book in which Randall attempts “the herculean task of explaining to us uninitiated the daunting science of theoretical particle physics.” This review was originally published in the November 2011 issue of Science magazine.
November 23rd: Skeptic Five-Day Sale
We announce our best sale of the year: 25% off everything in our store including subscriptions, from November 23–27, 2011. Sale ends at midnight November 27, 2011 (Pacific Time).
November 16th: Making Room for Religion
Paul J. Cech reviews Michael Ruse’s Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science (2010, Cambridge University Press).
November 9th: Happy Birthday Carl Sagan!
Few celebrities in science have done more for the promotion of science, reason, rationality, and critical thinking than Carl Sagan, whom we remember today upon the occasion of his birthday: November 9, 1934. Carl would have been 77 years old today. Happy Birthday Carl!
November 2nd: Where the Substance Really Isn’t
Tim Callahan reviews Alvin Plantinga’s Where the Conflict Really Lies: Science, Religion, and Naturalism (2011, Oxford University Press).
October 26th: Antioxidants? It’s a Bit More Complicated
Harriet Hall, M.D. (a.k.a. the SkepDoc) takes a look at antioxidants. What are they? How do they work? How much is enough? What happens when we ingest more antioxidants than we need? Is the excess excreted? Does it just sit there doing nothing? Does it do something we didn’t intend? And, if they’re so good for us, wouldn’t more of them necessarily be better? Unfortunately, it’s a bit more complicated than that. Find out why. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 16, number 4 (2011).
October 19th: Science by Think Tank: The Rise of Think Tanks and the Decline of Public Intellectuals
We present an excerpt from Massimo Pigliucci’s book Nonsense on Stilts: How to Tell Science from Bunk in which he discusses the alleged decline of the public intellectual, especially in the United States, as well as at the parallel ascent and evolution (some would say devolution) of so-called think tanks. He treats both as rather disconcerting indicators of the level of public discourse in general, and of the conflict between science and pseudoscience in particular. It is an area that is both usually neglected within the context of discussing science in the public arena and yet crucial to our understanding of how science is perceived or misperceived by the public. This excerpt appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 16, number 1 (2010).
October 12th: Bob White’s UFO Artifact Mystery—Solved!
Pat Linse (Skeptic magazine’s Art Director, and co-author of The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience) solves the mystery of Bob White’s UFO artifact—supposedly hard evidence for the existence of UFOs—by consulting a retired steel foundry expert. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 16, number 3 (2011).
October 5th: A Skeptic Meets C.S.I.
Sociologist Eric Goode presents a light-hearted skeptical analysis of the C.S.I. (Crime Scene Investigation) television series in which extraordinary claims are made for the power of science to solve crimes.
September 28th: Denialist Demagogues and the Threat to Science
Donald R. Prothero reviews James L. Powell’s book, The Inquisition of Climate Science, a masterful compilation of nearly all the evidence for the reality of anthropogenic global warming (AGW). The book skillfully articulates the consensus of climate scientists around the world and answers, point-by-point, the ridiculous attempts by AGW deniers to cloud and distort the evidence.
September 21st: The End is Not Nigh Enough
In this week’s eSkeptic, comedian Mike Moran reviews Richard Horne’s tongue-in-cheek book, A is for Armageddon: A catalogue of disasters that may culminate in the end of the world as we know it (New York: HarperCollins, 2010). Mike Moran is a Baltimore, Maryland based comedian, writer, and musician. He performs standup comedy, improvisational acting (with the Baltimore Improv Group), writes a humor column for AOL’s Patch North Baltimore, and plays bass guitar in several bands.
September 14th: Extraterrestrial Aliens: Friends, Foes, or Just Curious?
For nearly 50 years, the SETI (Search for Alien Intelligence) project has searched for evidence of alien civilizations and has occasionally sent messages into space with the intention of communicating with intelligent sentient extraterrestrial beings. How likely are we to come into contact with an extraterrestrial civilization? If they do exist, their aspirations could differ markedly from our own. Could visitors from extraterrestrial civilizations pose a threat to Earth? What would motivate aliens to visit the Earth? In this week’s eSkeptic, George Michael discusses these fascinating questions.
September 7th: 9/11 and the Science of Controlled Demolitions
Is there any scientific validity to the claims of 9/11 controlled demolition conspiracists about the collapse of the World Trade Center buildings? This Sunday marks the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center Buildings. 9/11 conspiracists such as Richard Gage (a member of the American Institute of Architects and founder of Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth) continue to assert that WTC7 was brought down by controlled demolition. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present Chris Mohr’s thorough analysis of the controlled demolition theory, based on his debate with Richard Gage earlier this year.
August 31st: James Randi Reports from the Paranormal Trenches
We present a transcript of a classic lecture on skepticism delivered by James Randi at the inaugural session of the Skeptics Society’s Distinguished Lecture Series at Caltech on April 12, 1992. With wit and wonderfully illustrative examples, Randi teaches us several lessons on the scientific investigation of unusual claims. (This transcript appeared in Skeptic magazine volume 1, number 1, Spring 1992.)
Order this lecture on DVD.
August 24th: By Any Other Name: Canonical Forgeries in the Bible
Tim Callahan reviews Forged: Writing in the Name of God—Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are by Bart D. Ehrman.
August 17th: What’s So Great About Kant? A Critique of Dinesh D’Souza’s Attack on Reason
Michael Dahlen examines Dinesh D’Souza’s Immanuel Kant-inspired philosophy that “reality as a whole is, in principle, inaccessible to human beings” and that “it is in no way unreasonable to believe things on faith that simply cannot be adjudicated by reason.”
August 10th: Anecdotes Do Not Make a Science
We present an article from Skeptic magazine’ (volume 1, number 4) in which Kevin Todeschi, the Director of Public Information at the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment, responds to Michael Shermer’s investigation of the A.R.E.’s extraordinary claim regarding proof of ESP (which we published last week in part one of this two-part series). Following Kevin Todeschi’s response, we present a reply from Michael Shermer, Arthur Benjamin and James Randi.
August 3rd: Deviations: A Skeptical Investigation of Edgar Cayce’s Association for Research and Enlightenment
In this first part of a two-part series, we present an article from Skeptic magazine’ (volume 1, number 3) in which Michael Shermer investigates an extraordinary claim regarding proof of ESP made by the Edgar Cayce Association for Research and Enlightenment (A.R.E.). In their study, two classic (but extremely common) blunders were committed: (1) misinterpreting statistical results, and (2) ignoring a basic tenet of scientific testing—repeatability.
July 27th: What’s in the Number 19?
On June 28, Michael Shermer published a post on Skepticblog.org on the number 19 and the attempted ambush interview that he turned into a lesson in patternicity (the tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise) and numerology, calling for our readers to chime in with their own examples of such patternicity. In this week’s eSkeptic, we present 19 of the more intriguing, delightful, instructive, and funny responses from that blog.
July 20th: Jesus Potter Harry Christ
In this week’s eSkeptic, Tim Callahan reviews Derek Murphy’s book Jesus Potter Harry Christ (Portland, OR: Holy Blasphemy Press).
July 13th: Religion in Harry Potter
In light of the final installment of the übersuccessful Harry Potter series having hit theaters, we present Ari Armstrong‘s examination of religion in J. K. Rowling’s novels.
July 6th: To Sleep, Perchance to Dream
We present an excerpt from Richard Wiseman’s just released book, Paranormality: Why We See What Isn’t There (reprinted by permission of the author and publisher). Richard Wiseman is the Professor of the Public Understanding of Psychology at the University of Hertfordshire, UK.
June 29th: The Number 19: An Ambush Interview
Michael Shermer recounts his experience of a recent interview-turned-ambush by a film crew who claimed to be making a documentary about the arguments for and against the existence of God. The interview provides an excellent background for a lesson in what Shermer calls patternicity: our tendency to find meaningful patterns in both meaningful and meaningless noise.
June 22nd: Skepticism’s Oldest Debate—A Prehistory of “DBAD”
What is the right approach to dealing with people who believe in the paranormal or some particular idea we could call pseudoscience? Naturally no one considers their beliefs to be pseudoscience or faith-based nonsense, so saying something along those lines to a believer’s face is likely to close off conversation. In this remarkable article, our own Daniel Loxton tackles the matter head on. Daniel shows that a controversy that erupted at last year’s The Amazing Meeting conference was just the latest in a very long history of skeptical debates about the “tone” of our criticism and educational outreach. (Please note: this is a long article, running over 4500 words.)
June 15th: The Physics of Atheism
Andrew Zak Williams reviews Victor Stenger’s new book The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed for Us.
June 8th: A Skeptic Among the Cadavers
Into the trenches of a rousing, blood-flecked battle in the ongoing war between good science and bad science, a new book reminds us that the stakes of the game have always been nothing less than life and death. In this week’s eSkeptic, Stephen Beckner reviews Douglas Starr’s new book, The Killer of Little Shepherds: A True Crime Story and the Birth of Forensic Science.
June 1st: The Record Tornado Season of 2011
The tornado season of 2011 is already a record breaker. Is it due to global warming? In this week’s eSkeptic, Donald Prothero takes a look at this phenomenon.
May 25th: Announcing Michael Shermer’s new book: The Believing Brain
Announcing the release of Michael Shermer’s latest book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts, Gods, and Aliens to Conspiracies, Economics, and Politics—How the Brain Constructs Beliefs and Reinforces Them as Truths. Synthesizing 30 years of research, Shermer presents his comprehensive theory on how beliefs are born, formed, nourished, reinforced, challenged, changed, and extinguished.
May 18th: Paranormal America
Anondah Saide reviews the book Paranormal America: Ghost Encounters, UFO Sightings, Bigfoot Hunts, and Other Curiosities in Religion and Culture by Christopher D. Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph O. Baker.
May 11th: Layers of Confusion: Alleged Fraud on Obama’s Long Form Birth Certificate
Pat Linse’s debunks the alleged fraud on Obama’s long form birth certificate.
May 5th: Myths About Fat and What to Do About It
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.
April 27th: Zeno’s Paradox and the Problem of Free Will
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).
April 20th: Stranger Than We Can Imagine
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.
April 13th: Precognition or Pathological Science? An Analysis of Daryl Bem’s Controversial “Feeling the Future” Paper
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.
April 6th: The Mars Effect & True Disbelievers
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.
March 30th: Quacks & Quakes
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.
March 23rd: The Chronology Projector Conjecture
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.
March 16th: Stupid Pet Psychic Tricks
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.
March 9th: The Ultimate Multiverse
James N. Gardner reviews Brian Greenes’s book The Hidden Reality: Parallel Universes and the Deep Laws of the Cosmos.
March 2nd: Interview with Scott Sigler
Jason Colavito reviews Scott Sigler’s book Ancestor and follows up by interviewing the author.
February 23rd: Science, Nihilism & Punk Rock
Bob Conrad reviews Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God by Greg Graffin and Steve Olsen.
February 16th: Announcing Science Symposium
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.
February 9th: The Measure of a Woman: An interview with Carol Tavris
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.
February 2nd: Science and the Is/Ought Problem
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.
January 26th: The Ideological Immune System: Resistance to New Ideas in Science
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.
January 19th: Announcing the New Season of Lectures at Caltech and the New Skepticality App for iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch and Android mobile devices
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!
January 12th: Scientific Evaluation of Charles Dickens
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.
January 5th: Good Calories, Good Science or Bad Calories, Bad Science?
Barry Rein reviews Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes.
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Retrospective

Skeptic cover art by Pat Linse

Art of the Skeptic

In celebration of Skeptic magazine’s 100th issue, we present sage graphic art advice for skeptical groups and a gallery of art reflecting more than 47 years of skeptical activism from Skeptic’s long time Art Director, Pat Linse

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

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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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Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

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The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

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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 do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
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The Yeti or Abominable Snowman

5 Cryptid Cards

Download and print 5 Cryptid Cards created by Junior Skeptic Editor Daniel Loxton. Creatures include: The Yeti, Griffin, Sasquatch/Bigfoot, Loch Ness Monster, and the Cadborosaurus.

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