The Skeptics Society & Skeptic magazine

Testing Determinism

The philosophical problem of free will and determinism—how can humans have any sort of volition in a world determined by the laws of nature?—has troubled thinkers since the time of the ancient Greeks, and here in the 21st century there is still no consensus among thinkers on a solution to the problem. Can science help? Is there some way to test determinism? There is, says Gary Whittenberger, in this evocative article in response to a debate in the pages of Skeptic on the issue.

Published January 18, 2023 by Gary J. Whittenberger

Poking Holes in Needle-Spiking: Nightclub “Attacks” Scare Sweeps Europe

Mass hysterias, moral panics, and social contagions are known social psychological phenomena that can cause large numbers of people to believe things are happening to them that upon closer inspection become literally unbelievable. In this insightful analysis the authors—experts on the subject—show how the sudden spike in needle attacks is very likely one of these ephemeral phenomena.

Published January 17, 2023 by Robert Bartholomew & Paul Weatherhead

News Media & Declining Race Relations:Social Narratives More Than Real-Life Events May Be Driving Decline in Race Relations

Everyone knows that race relations in America have a long and troubled history. By some measures race relations are very good, with polls showing that people are more tolerant of racial diversity today than they were decades ago. But by other measures it would seem race matters are more disconcerting than ever. In this analysis Chris Ferguson attributes the troubling events of recent years to the news media and how they create a social narrative driving the decline of race relations.

Published January 7, 2023 by Chris Ferguson

What Darwin Got Wrong About the Female of (All) Species

According to the standard model of evolutionary psychology females tend to be sexually coy, discriminating, and risk averse while males are sexually assertive, indiscriminate, and risk taking. Not so fast, says Carol Tavris in this skeptical look at the standard model, as context and species also matters in how we analyze behavior, especially sexuality.

Published December 28, 2022 by Carol Tavris

Abducted! Scientific Explanations of the Alien Abduction Experience

Alien abductions are among the most curious and interesting of all human psychological phenomena, and this article explores the different theories that explain from a scientific perspective what, exactly, is going on in someone’s brain when they feel like they’ve been abducted by aliens (assuming, of course, that they’re not actually being abducted by aliens).

Published December 27, 2022 by J. Randal Montgomery

Broadcasting Flapdoodle:Review of Radio Psychics: Mind Reading and Fortune Telling in American Broadcasting, 1920–1940 by John Benedict Buescher

Most skeptics are familiar with modern psychics who pretend to read people’s minds and talk to dead people. In this review essay, Michelle Ainsworth discusses the many mind readers and fortune tellers between 1920 and 1940 who practiced their art of cold reading on the radio, fooling people then as they do today into believing that somehow the spirits were able to come through from the great beyond into radio stations.

Published December 24, 2022 by Michelle Ainsworth

Why Reparations and Equity Are Bad Ideas

In this provocative article on the controversial topics reparations, and what is owed to the descendants of African Americans who were enslaved, Jason Hill argues that the Civil Rights movement and ensuing acts and laws in the 1960s and 1970s have already provided a type of reparations, and that more such reparations, particularly in the form of cash payments, are unnecessary, not to mention nearly impossible to determine who is owed what.

Published December 20, 2022 by Jason D. Hill

Systemic Racism — Explained

As Skeptic Publisher Michael Shermer wrote in his Introduction to Skeptic magazine’s special issue on Race Matters (27.3), the issues outlined in this article documenting the continuation of systemically racist social structures—even as racist attitudes have improved dramatically over the past half century—mean that race still matters very much in the USA. It is thus incumbent on all of us to properly understand the causes of these issues so that we may implement a rational and science-based response to them.

Published December 13, 2022 by Mahzarin R. Banaji, Susan T. Fiske & Douglas S. Massey

Psicoterapia Salvaje: Métodos no probados y cuestionables de asesoramiento y tratamiento psicológico

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Los psicólogos y científicos sociales con formación científica se han mostrado escépticos durante mucho tiempo con respecto a las técnicas de psicoterapia clínica porque dependen mucho de las anécdotas en lugar de los datos. En respuesta, los médicos con formación científica han desarrollado técnicas basadas en datos, como la Terapia Cognitiva Conductual. Pero estas nuevas técnicas no han llegado a psicólogos populares como Laura Schlessinger (Dr. Laura) y Phil McGraw (Dr. Phil), ni a gurús de la autoayuda como Tony Robbins. Este artículo critica estas panaceas de la psicología pop.

Published December 8, 2022

Critical Race Theory: Noble Ends, Terrible Means

Critical Race Theory (CRT) is, at root, an American phenomenon. So thoroughly is this the case that although its ideas have been used outside the United States for some time, they are often highly flavored by U.S. racial history. CRT holds that race is a social construct that was created to maintain White privilege and […]

Published December 6, 2022 by Helen Pluckrose & James Lindsay

Race & Policing: A Data-Driven Look at Policing and Its Discontents

In his usual data-driven style of analysis, statistician and sociologist Kevin McCaffree, who also runs the Skeptic Research Center, presents the SRC finding about policing and race in America, and how political beliefs and orientation skews our perceptions of what is actually happening on the streets of the United States.

Published November 29, 2022 by Kevin McCaffree

Testicle Tanning and Perineal Sunning

Harriet Hall, M.D. examines the evidence that “testicle tanning” or red light therapy increases testosterone levels. She also discusses a related fad: butthole tanning, also known as butt-chugging, but better described as perineal sunning. Why do people fall for these fads? The answer is complex.

Published November 24, 2022 by Harriet Hall, M.D.

Blue Eyes, Brown Eyes: On Race and Jane Elliott’s Famous Experiment on Prejudice

One of the most famous experiments in education — Jane Elliott’s “blue eyes, brown eyes” separation of her third grade students to teach them about prejudice — was very different from what the public was told, as revealed in this excerpt from the in-depth story about what really happened in that classroom.

Published November 22, 2022 by Stephen G. Bloom

Race & Medicine

If race is a social construct with no meaningful biological foundation, then why do medical doctors and researchers collect information about a patient’s race, along with gender and other characteristics? Harriet Hall considers the concept of race from a medical perspective: what we know, what we don’t know, and what difference it makes.

Published November 15, 2022 by Harriet Hall, M.D.

Why Race Matters

Michael Shermer introduces the theme of Skeptic magazine volume 27, number 3: Race Matters.

Published November 10, 2022 by Michael Shermer

What Chiropractic Research Teaches Us About the Replication Crisis in Science

For nearly 20 years, Michael Menke was an influential chiropractor. In this column, he describes a meta-analysis he conducted to evaluate the efficacy of chiropractic, which ultimately led him to abandon the practice and pursue a career in quantitative research.

Published November 7, 2022 by J. Michael Menke

Not Rigged! How We Know Recent Elections Are Not Fraudulent

Over the last six years, allegations of stolen elections and massive election fraud have proliferated in the United States. The significance of claims that the results of one election—let alone several—were fraudulent, cannot be overstated. When citizens believe an election has been stolen, chaos, riots, and the potential collapse of political systems ensue. That means the question of whether an election was stolen or rigged should demand the highest level of scrutiny and the highest degree of skepticism. In this Skeptic exclusive, published one week before the 2022 midterm elections, Isaac Saul investigates the most serious claims of election fraud.

Published November 1, 2022 by Isaac Saul

Meta Ethics: Toward a Universal Ethics — How Science & Reason Can Give Us Objective Moral Truths Without God

Ever since the Enlightenment philosopher David Hume outlined the “Is-Ought” problem—that we cannot derive an ought from an is, or we cannot determine the way something ought to be morally based on the way things are in nature (the classic example being slavery—because ants practice slavery that doesn’t make it natural and therefore acceptable for humans to practice slavery)—people have struggled to figure out on what basis should moral values be grounded. Of course, theists argue that God is that grounding, but what if you don’t believe in God? Is everything relative, including murder? In this article psychologist Gary Whittenberger offers an argument grounded in science and reason for determining objective moral truths.

Published October 4, 2022 by Gary J. Whittenberger

Anti-Abortion: The Case for Life

Abortion is one of the most relevant issues of our time. As with many other subjects capable of arousing strong emotion, people tend to assume that the U.S. public is evenly divided, in this case between the “pro-choice” and “pro-life” positions. And some frequently cited polling would lead you to believe that it is indeed […]

Published September 27, 2022 by Danielle d’Souza Gill

The Discoverie of Magic

In this review of the new David Copperfield book on the history of magic our Skeptic magic historian and reviewer Michelle Ainsworth offers a concise history of the profession through the lens of the photographer who provided the illustrious photographs for the volume, based on Copperfield’s own museum and collection, including and most noteworthy artifacts from the most famous magician in history, Harry Houdini. Enjoy this gorgeous production through our review.

Published September 20, 2022 review by Michelle Ainsworth
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