The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine


Putting today’s conversation about race into perspective with a look back at what it was a quarter century ago

The following articles from a 1994 issue of Skeptic magazine (2.4) capture a moment in time, not of ancient African cultures but of 1990s America, obsessed as we were — and still are — with race, in which everything is seemingly assessed by race. People in those times would have been baffled by the very question of what race everyone was. That is a question of our time, not their’s. We present these articles as a reminder that the current cultural climate of race following the rise of the Black Lives Matter movement is not new.

Stolen Legacy (or Mythical History?) — Did the Greeks Steal Philosophy From the Egyptians?

Since its publication in 1954 Stolen Legacy, by George G. M. James, has been a best-seller among peoples of African descent in this country. James was an African-American teacher of Greek, whose other writings deal explicitly with racial issues. Stolen Legacy also deals with the status of Black people, but in ancient history rather than in modern times. The message of the book is sensational and revolutionary: “The Greeks were not the authors of Greek philosophy, but the Black people of North Africa, the Egyptians” (p. 158). This novel thesis explains “the erroneous world opinion that the African continent has made no contribution to civilization, and that its people are naturally backward;” “the misrepresentation that has become the basis of race prejudice, which has affected all people of color.” Instead, James offers a “New Philosophy of Redemption for Black peoples.”

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Beyond Race Fallacies of Reactive Afrocentrism

In the last few years, there has been a stream of publications, especially in the United States, aimed at establishing a new basis for the study and teaching of African and African-American culture. Whether or not they actually use the word “Afrocentric” on their packaging, these books — which differ enormously in the quality of their thought and writing, as well as in their factual reliability — have a certain common set of pre-occupations, whose persistence entitles one now to speak of an Afrocentric paradigm. Since one of the themes of Skeptic is the study of the power of belief systems to shape our interpretation of nature and history, the Afrocentric paradigm should be treated no different from others. That is, a healthy dollop of skepticism and critical thinking is appropriate. […]

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Afrocentric Pseudoscience & Pseudohistory

There is a lot of high-quality, constructive Afrocentric scholarship. As in most fields, however, there are fringe groups and extraordinary claims that grab our attention because of their extremism, and, occasionally, their absurdity. Since it is our job at Skeptic magazine to track these groups and claims, we bring them to our reader’s attention. This is not to imply that all or most African-American scientists and historians believe such claims. The recent surge of these beliefs, however, especially when supported by such recognizable names as Louis Farrakhan, is alarming. Here are just a few quotations emblematic of this extreme.

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Was Cleopatra Black?

From Frank Snowden’s essay entitled “Bernal’s ‘Black’s’ and the Afrocentrists,” in Black Athena Revisited, edited by Mary Lefkowitz and Guy Rogers, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995.

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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

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

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Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods.

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Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

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The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

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Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and can you tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Mind altering experiences are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

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Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

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Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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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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