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eSkeptic Archives for 2012

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.
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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

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