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The Reading Room

The Reading Room is a comprehensive, free resource of articles relating to science and skepticism. The Library contains an ever-growing index of articles, reviews and opinion editorials culled from our extensive archives, offering an in depth look into the myriad of subjects the Skeptics Society has explored over the years. You can help us continue to expand on the Reading Room by donating to the Skeptics Society.

Constructive Conspiracism
Why We Are Wired for Detecting Danger

Nov 05, 2019 by Michael Shermer

In this article, originally published in Quillette on Halloween, October 31, 2019, Dr. Shermer argues that patternicity, agenticity, pessimism, the negativity bias, and the Second Law of Thermodynamics provides a deeper explanation for why conspiracy theories are so popular and enduring. The article is based on Dr. Shermer’s new course from Audible and The Teaching Company on Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories.


Why We Are Not Living in a Post‑Truth Era
An (Unnecessary) Defense of Reason and a (Necessary) Defense of Universities’ Role in Advancing it

Oct 28, 2019 by Steven Pinker

Is the statement “We are living in a post-truth world” true? If your answer is “yes” then the answer is “no” because you’ve just evaluated the statement in an evidentiary manner, so evidence still matters and facts still matter. Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker explains why were are not living in a post-truth world in this deeply insightful cover story from Skeptic magazine 24.3 (2019).


Shedding Light on the Intellectual Dark Web
A Preliminary Empirical Study

Oct 20, 2019 by Michael Shermer, Anondah Saide, and Kevin McCaffree

Ever since Bari Weiss introduced the world to the “Intellectual Dark Web” much has been written on what the members of the IDW believe. Pundits, journalists, and scholars have confidently espoused their “hot take” of the IDW without the slightest bit of systematic data collection to back up their claims. This empirical study of members of the IDW offers a preliminary summary of their beliefs on a wide range of issues.


The Persistence of Memory…
and of the Memory Wars

Oct 15, 2019 by Carol Tavris

Are you old enough to have a memory of the memory wars that were sparked by a debate that began more than 30 years ago? In this column from Skeptic magazine 24.3 (2019), Carol Tavris expounds on the persistence of belief in recovered memories.


Spin-Doctoring the Yąnomamö
Science as a Candle in the Darkness of the Anthropology Wars

Oct 01, 2019 by Michael Shermer

On the occasion of the recent death of Napoleon Chagnon, one of the world’s most famous and controversial anthropologists, we reprint Dr. Michael Shermer’s analysis of the charges leveled against Dr. Chagnon by the journalist Patrick Tierney in his book Darkness in El Dorado.


Coconut Oil
Health Food or Health Hazard?

Sep 24, 2019 by Harriet Hall, M.D.

Incredible health claims are being made for coconut oil — from reversing Alzheimer’s, heart and liver disease, to treating epilepsy, slowing aging, and reducing asthma. Marketing hype has triumphed over scientific evidence. In this column from Skeptic magazine 24.3 (2019), Harriet Hall, M.D. looks at the evidence for some of these extraordinary claims.


The Fabulist and the Publisher
A Journalistic and Academic Fraud Exposed

Sep 05, 2019 by Michael Shermer

John Anthony Glynn claimed to have a Ph.D. in psychology and professorships of psychology at several universities. He committed academic fraud by representing himself as a Ph.D. psychologist to several academic institutions and under those credentials committed journalistic fraud by publishing over 40 articles in 15 different outlets in 2019 alone. The extent of this calculated, systematic, and repeated deception warrants publishing our findings, the details of which follow.


Laser Therapy: Hope or Hype and Hokum?

Aug 13, 2019 by Harriet Hall, M.D.

Lasers are everywhere and have many applications, from bar codes to printers, surgery to welding, entertainment to law enforcement, DVD players to pointers (great for giving lectures and for playing with cats). However, in this column from Skeptic magazine 24.2 (2019), Harriet Hall M.D. examines whether laser therapy is more hype than hope.


Guns Don’t Kill People, Beliefs Kill People

Aug 06, 2019 by Michael Shermer

In response to last week’s trifecta shootings in Gilroy, El Paso, and Dayton, Michael Shermer offers an analysis of the psychology of mass public shooters, or why people act on their beliefs, why almost everyone thinks their beliefs are ontologically true and morally right, and why political rhetoric matters.


Is Cousin Marriage Dangerous?

Jul 23, 2019 by Gabriel Andrade

The incest taboo is a human institution; we universally prohibit having sex with siblings, parents, or grandparents, but vary culturally regarding cousins, uncles, and others on our family tree. We disagree on how far prohibition should go, and why. Indeed, natural selection primed us for cousin marriage as it offers some evolutionary advantage. In this article, which appeared in Skeptic magazine 24.2 (2019), Gabriel Andrade asks: How truly dangerous is cousin marriage, and should it be legalized?


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Detecting Baloney

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

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE PDF Download

Wisdom of Harriet Hall

Top 10 Things to Know About Alternative Medicine

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

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

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

FREE PDF Download

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.

FREE PDF Download

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.

FREE PDF Download

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?

FREE PDF Download

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…

FREE PDF Download

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!

FREE PDF Download

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.

FREE PDF Download

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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