The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Behind the Rhetoric: The Untold Story of “Gender-Affirming” Clinics

Carol Tavris | April 17, 2023

What is gender identity? Why do some people feel an inconsistency between their natal sex and the gender they consider themselves to be, and when and why does that “dysphoria” begin? A few very young children, mostly boys, prefer the clothes, names, and activities of girls before they even have a concept of “boy” and “girl.” But do the reasons for their gender incongruence apply to the adolescents, mostly girls, who show no interest in transitioning until puberty or later?…

Psychotherapy Reconsidered

Harriet Hall, M.D. | April 14, 2023

Is psychotherapy effective? Which of the many types is best? Are certain therapies better suited to treat certain problems? How can you rationally choose a therapist? Is it better to pick a psychiatrist, a psychologist, or some other type of counselor? There is a veritable cornucopia of individuals offering advice about mental health issues, from celebrities to life coaches to pastors to concerned friends, some with formal training and some with no credentials at all. Does psychotherapy ever make patients…

From Sex To Gender: The Modern Dismissal of Biology

Robert Lynch | April 7, 2023

The assertion that human sex differences are socially constructed is part of a broad anti-science movement that has enveloped academia and distorted our basic understanding of science. Sex is not a simple matter of socialization and male and female are fundamental distinctions deeply rooted in biology. This is an article about how we went from sex to gender and how the push for a sexless society is a dangerous and utopian vision that cuts us off from our evolutionary history.

A Reply to Gary Whittenberger’s Critique of My Case for Free Will

Stuart Doyle | April 5, 2023

My recent Skeptic article, “Free Will Is Real,” has prompted a response from Gary Whittenberger, who has previously written a standalone article for Skeptic in which he takes a stance against free will.1, 2, 3 Whittenberger’s response to me consists of several distinct points. A few of them are misunderstandings of my position. And a […]

Newly Declassified Report on ‘Havana Syndrome’ Used the Wrong Criteria!

Robert E. Bartholomew | March 31, 2023

The panel which claimed “pulsed microwave radiation” likely zapped U.S. diplomats botched their investigation. The findings of a newly declassified study that concluded ‘Havana Syndrome’ was likely caused by “pulsed electromagnetic energy” and that a foreign adversary was likely to blame — botched their investigation. Mark Zaid, the man fighting for compensation for victims of […]

Protopian Politics and the Future of Nationalism

Michael Shermer |

In the early modern period, just before the rise of the modern nation-state, there were hundreds of political units in Europe. Now there are comparatively few. Some observers project that at some point in the future there will be just a handful of empires running the world, but others think the opposite might happen: that the nation-state as a concept will fall into disuse, and that city-states hold the future of politics. In this article Michael Shermer explores these themes.

A Skeptical Analysis of Doyle’s Defense of Free Will

Gary Whittenberger | March 28, 2023

The debate on free will vs. determinism has continued unabated for roughly 2500 years and seems to have become more prolific in the last ten years. Recently, Stuart T. Doyle presented his view in support of free will, the libertarian version. I strongly encourage the reader to study that article first. My intention here, however, […]

Post-Truth: The Tragedy of the Trust Commons

Gleb Tsipursky | March 27, 2023

In our “post-truth” world, objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief. In the U.S., citizens’ trust in their government is at historically low levels, and the trust gap is difficult to bridge because individuals who practice deceptive behaviors often gain. This type of situation is known as a “tragedy of the commons.” Behavioral scientist Gleb Tsipursky offers the Pro-Truth Pledge (PTP) as one solution to help rebuild trust in and decrease…

The Case for Nationalism: 12 Arguments

William A. Galston | March 24, 2023

By the end of World War Two, nationalism had been thoroughly discredited. Critics charged that national self-interest had prevented democratic governments from cooperating to end the Great Depression, and that nationalist passions had led not just to war, but also to some of the worst crimes groups of human beings had ever perpetrated on others. In this defense of nationalism the renowned scholar of politics William Galston presents twelve arguments in defense of the importance of national identity.

Baptism by Fire: How Christian Violence Abetted the Advent of Nationalism

Chris Edwards | March 20, 2023

In the Fourth Century, when the Emperor Constantine made the Roman Empire Christian, he created an unstable amalgam. The tenets of Christianity could only be made to support the exercise of political power through torturous forms of theology and logic. Fifteen centuries of violence would eventually cause the combination of Christianity and the state to decompose, forming secular nations in the process. Nationalist leaders, their authority upheld by the gospels of power written by Machiavelli and Nietzsche, could wield military…

Free Will Is Real

Stuart T. Doyle | March 16, 2023

Are we really free? The question “Could I have done otherwise?” is central to the issue of free will. But because choices are forward-looking, at the time of choice there is not yet any action to do otherwise. The question makes more sense when aimed at the future: “Can I do something fundamentally unpredictable?” The answer is yes! Humans possess properties that make us capable of undecidable dynamics, meaning we are fundamentally unpredictable, and so we do have free will.

The Christian Nationalist Threat Gets Real

Katherine Stewart | March 15, 2023

What are we to make of the fact that a number of far-right politicians and activists are now owning the label “Christian Nationalist”? Conversely, conservative Christian leaders are repudiating Christian nationalism by reframing it as a type of extremism relegated to the fringe or, oddly, a “virulent form of secularism”. According to the Family Research Council the term is part of a plot to suppress the votes of conservative Christians. This article explores these tensions in this rising threat to…

The Death of Havana Syndrome (2016-2023): R.I.P.

Robert Bartholomew | March 13, 2023

The convoluted saga of ‘Havana Syndrome’ appears to be winding down with the release of a new assessment by five different U.S. intelligence agencies concluding that involvement of a foreign adversary is “very unlikely.” The Syndrome was first reported in American diplomats in Cuba in late 2016 and consisted of a series of unexplained health ailments ranging from fatigue and difficulty concentrating to tinnitus. Instead, prosaic explanations were deemed as more likely including previously undiagnosed illnesses, environmental factors, and anxiety.…

Iranian Schoolgirl “Chemical Attacks”: Mass Poisonings or Mass Hysteria?

Robert Bartholomew | March 10, 2023

Since November 2022, scores of girls in schools across Iran, have reportedly fallen victim to mysterious attacks with poison gas, sparking protests and outrage. While authorities are baffled, these incidents have all the hallmarks of mass psychogenic illness. In recent decades, remarkably similar outbreaks have occurred in different parts of the world – several involving Islamic females. What these episodes have in common is a group of oppressed girls under extreme, prolonged stress.

Why Nationalism Is Hostile to America

Yaron Brook & Elan Journo | March 7, 2023

America is being torn apart. Amid growing strife, many people are experiencing angst concerning the future of this country, a country once renowned for its exuberant spirit of discovery, progress, liberty. From across the increasingly tribal political landscape, one can observe attacks on the ideas that fueled America’s spectacular rise: reason, individualism, and political freedom. From the illiberal left the “woke” phenomenon has emerged, rising to dominance in cultural institutions and calling for “canceling” those institutions, symbols, and even thoughts…

Political Polarization: Uncertainty and the Neurobiology of Why We’re So Divided

Natasha Mott | March 4, 2023

While many essays have addressed the social events and psychological traits that drive polarized thinking, the neural underpinnings of uncertainty and polarization are largely unknown. We know the brain processes information and makes decisions, but we know little about how politically polarized information is encoded, and even less about how attitudes about uncertainty influence that processing. Why is it important? In this article Natasha Mott explains that uncertainty may be seen as a threat, which moves individuals toward certain positions…

Flat Earthers Around the Globe: Review of Off the Edge by Kelly Weill

Terence Hines | February 28, 2023

In this review of investigative journalist Kelly Weill’s important book on the flat Earth movement, the people involved, and their psychology, readers will discover that the flat Earth movement contains a great diversity of beliefs. As an example, an obvious question is why don’t we find an edge? Well, some say, there is an edge—it’s the Antarctic which forms an ice wall around the flat Earth to keep the oceans from spilling over the edge. But regular people can’t go…

Bad Behavioral Science Exposed: Review of The Quick Fix: Why Fad Psychology Can’t Cure Our Social Ills by Jesse Singal

Terence Hines | February 25, 2023

There is probably no other scientific discipline in which fads come and go so quickly, and with so much hype, as psychology. In his Quick Fix, Jesse Singal discusses eight different psychological ideas that have been promoted as quick fixes for different social problems. He refers to these as “half-baked” ideas—ideas that may not be 100 percent bunk but which are severely overhyped. This review of Singal’s book discusses the many different flawed studies that derailed psychology for years.

There is Only Entropy: Unifying the Narrative of Science

Chris Edwards | February 21, 2023

Entropy keeps the arrow of time moving; today is less ordered than yesterday, and this is certain. If we extrapolate this concept backwards, through our scientific narrative to the origins of the universe, then we must postdict a universe that was once ordered only through its lack of movement, which means it was frozen. But even then, as Galileo once said of the Earth, eppur si muove, but it does move. And if it moves, it creates heat, and understanding…

Look! Up in the Sky… Chinese Balloon Scare Rekindles Memories of Similar Panics and Feeds Excitement About Aliens

Robert E. Bartholomew | February 15, 2023

A string of mysterious balloon sightings generates fear and excitement as thousands of anxious residents scan the skies to glimpse floating objects that are believed to emanate from a hostile foreign power. The Chinese spy balloon scare of 2023? No, the balloon panic of 1892 in Russian-occupied Poland. In this analysis of the history of balloon sightings Robert Bartholomew puts the Chinese spy balloon incident into perspective and shows why more such sightings are expected.

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