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40 Years of Skeptical Inquirer: Personal Odysseys Shared in Special Anniversary Issue

October 18, 2016

Skeptical Inquirer celebrates its fortieth anniversary with a special issue highlighting the personal journeys of some of today’s leading skeptics. An esteemed group of academics, investigators, and activists share stories and reflections of the movement that grew in large part out of this groundbreaking magazine’s pages.

Anthropologist and science education advocate Eugenie Scott remembers her realization that scientific discovery happens on the frontiers of knowledge, where new ideas are tested, not the fringes, where claims contradict established facts and evidence. As much as she once wished to find Bigfoot and Yeti, she learned “You have to think with your head, not with your heart.”

Wendy Grossman, founder of the UK magazine The Skeptic, tells of how she discovered that skepticism is not merely an exercise in proving others wrong. “The goal of the skeptical movement was never to debunk specific beliefs,” she explains. “Instead, it should be to spread critical thinking on whatever subject is shoved in front of us,” whether it concerns the paranormal, alternative medicine claims, or anything else.

Such was also the case for Harriet Hall, a retired military flight surgeon and celebrated skeptic. It was Skeptical Inquirer that began her odyssey, she says, explaining, “One of the things I most love about skepticism is the opportunity to find out I was wrong about something.” Indeed, the very existence of Skeptical Inquirer was enough to inspire many of these skeptics to seek out community and join the cause.

Benjamin Radford, the magazine’s deputy editor and author of the new book Bad Clowns, recalls discovering skepticism’s “big tent,” realizing that people of all interests and professions have something valuable to contribute to reason and critical thinking. “As long as there is darkness,” he writes, “skeptics will be there to fight for the light amid a chorus of curses.”

Also in this issue: A bold exploration of the psychological resistance to nuclear power by Daniel A. Vogel, and an attempt to understand why popular perceptions of its risks are so out of synch with the evidence for its benefits. And Massimo Polidoro delves into the fascinating partnership between Harry Houdini and “Cthulhu” creator H.P. Lovecraft and the remarkable collaboration on a landmark anti-superstition book that almost was.

The November/December 2016 issue is available on newsstands and in the Apple, Google, and Amazon app stores. For more information, visit http://www.csicop.org/si.

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Skeptical Inquirer is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a scientific and educational program of the Center for Inquiry. CSI encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. Learn more about CSI and SI at http://www.csicop.org.