On February 15, 2013, the million inhabitants of the central Russian city of Chelyabinsk experienced a half-megaton explosion from a disintegrating space rock. What happened, and how did the people of Chelyabinsk react?
An update of our “Psychic Defective” analysis examines developments in eleven cases Sylvia Browne made predictions about, explores a new reading, and scrutinizes her other failed predictions about the papacy and American politics.
A Navy neurologist’s credulous venture into acupuncture advocacy serves as a useful case study. Here are twelve mistakes he made rambling down the garden path of self-delusion.
Acclaimed Harvard psychologist and best-selling author Steven Pinker was interviewed by Indre Viskontas and Chris Mooney in a rare live edition of Point of Inquiry, the flagship podcast of our Center for Inquiry. Here is the majority of that interview.
The RMS Queen Mary, a ship of enormous historical import, has been transformed into a roadside attraction whose owners profit off the allure of “ghosts.” Her glorious factual history has been brushed aside in a bid to pander to eager ghost-hunting tourists who aren’t thinking critically about the claims.
Can people move or alter physical objects simply by using a hidden power of the mind called psychokinesis? I have encountered many claims of such powers in the course of my work (since 1969) as a paranormal investigator.
A review of Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine by Paul Offit, MD.
Do You Believe That? Poll Zeroes in on Conspiracy Beliefs/Goat Sacrificed for Chicago Cubs Curse/Sylvia Browne Blunders Again, Telling Mother of Kidnap Victim Amanda Barry She Was Dead/British Businessman Sentenced in Bogus ‘Bomb Detector’ Scam
A review of The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail—but Some Don’t by Nate Silver
A review of The Untold Story of Champ: A Social History of America’s Loch Ness Monster by Robert E. Bartholomew
What causes the startling, unbidden perception of something that seems very real but has no material existence outside of our own minds? The “poet-laureate of medicine,” Oliver Sacks, takes us through the looking glass and into the fascinating world of hallucinations.
The famous “Mansi photo” of the Lake Champlain monster has been held up for decades as strong proof for cryptozoology—the so-called best evidence for the existence of a hidden animal. Yet, newly uncovered documents reveal troubling questions about the photo and the circumstances surrounding it.
What do you do when your heart says one thing and the data says another? When science conflicts with values, which wins the battle for your soul? Which, for that matter, gets your vote?
What a privilege to be living through a time of such miracles. These are not literal miracles, of course, in the sense of divine intervention, and so miracles is not the correct word.
Joe Nickell continues his investigation of Scottish enigmas—based in part on his excursion following the 2012 skeptics QED conference in England, with intrepid skeptical investigator Hayley Stevens and her father Andy, who is a photographer and professional guide.
"Is there any chance you could put my mind at ease and explain why the Social Security Death Index would list [Sandy Hook shooter] Adam Lanza as having died on December 13, 2012, the day before the Sandy Hook shooting?"
We very likely have Katie Holmes to thank for the timing of this latest crop of books on Scientology, the belief system so notably promoted by her ex-husband, Tom Cruise. Yes, at least two of these authors have been researching their books for many years, but for promotional opportunities you can’t beat a good celebrity crack-up.
A review of The Martians Have Landed!: A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes by Robert E. Bartholomew and Benjamin Radford
Allegedly invisible entities—popular belief notwithstanding—are indistinguishable from imaginary beings.
Indian astrologers claim they can tell a person’s intelligence from his or her horoscope. But twenty-seven astrologers failed to perform better than chance when given forty horoscopes of intellectually bright subjects and mentally handicapped subjects.
Experiments attempting to replicate Bem’s results were quickly conducted at various universities, but none were accepted for publication by Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Now the journal has had an apparent change of heart.
A Lively CSICon 2012 Nashville Eyes Latest Trends in Science, Pseudoscience, and Belief
The archaeological record shows clearly that our human ancestors were enormously intelligent and resourceful. They were more than capable of developing sophisticated technologies on their own.
Herbal supplements are big business. The industry has managed to maintain a “mom and pop” image to the public, the righteous underdog constantly under attack by Big Pharma. In reality, the herbal product industry is just another drug industry, one selling products that are poorly regulated and likely don’t work for their claimed indications.
Skeptics often say they are trying to expose pseudoscience, but in reality we tend to use this term loosely. Creationism, homeopathy, alternative medicine, and cold fusion are clearly pseudoscientific, but what about ancient aliens, UFOs, alien abductions, Bigfoot, crystals, the Moon hoax, and many other claims investigated in the pages of the Skeptical Inquirer?
The intent of Medusa’s Gaze and Vampire’s Bite is to provide scientific explanations for various monsters found in historical legend and literature up through the monsters of today as seen, mostly, in film. Had Kaplan succeeded in this task, he would have produced an exciting and interesting book.
Cognitive science research on belief in the 2012 “apocalypse” demonstrates that dissociative processes contribute directly to this belief through reduction of the “feature-intensive” cognitive processing that would engender appropriate skepticism.
Appeals to righteous indignation or sanctity—which attempt to shield ideas from contemplation, discussion, investigation, or criticism—are common, impede rational discourse, and should be recognized as logical fallacies.
There is no field of inquiry that young-Earth creationists can’t distort. In the area of literary and linguistic studies, they misinterpret, misrepresent, and mistranslate Beowulf to fit their agenda.
According to legend, the astronomer J. Allen Hynek was a skeptic before becoming an outspoken UFOlogist, but is the legend true? This article takes a look at Hynek’s unusual life and career.
El Santuariò de Chimayó in New Mexico is a place of pilgrimages. Scores visit the little adobe church daily, while thousands walk miles to worship there on Good Friday. Many come seeking a cure for their afflictions, scooping from a small pit in the church floor a reddish soil that they rub on afflicted areas of their bodies or even sprinkle on their food or brew in tea.
“Searching for Hitler’s DNA in Antarctica.” This is the bizarre headline that made the news a few months ago, launched by Russian news agency Ria Novosti and picked up by the world media after scientists were able to successfully drill into Antarctica’s Lake Vostok.
A review of Solving the Communion Enigma: What Is to Come by Whitley Strieber.
A review of Twenty-Two Faces by Judy Byington.
In the nineteenth century, phrenology was hugely influential despite being totally invalid. Its history shows why we must be skeptical of any belief based solely on experience.
An evaluation of the clinical research by the group that has published most of the papers in homeopathy, 2005–2010, finds numerous flaws in the design, conduct, and reporting along with a tendency to overinterpret weak data.
Of the many aspects of alternative medicine, one of the most bizarre is live blood cell analysis. This unapproved blood test supposedly identifies nutritional deficiencies and other nebulous conditions.
With the rise of Islamic extremism in Pakistan, the country not only has to protect people from fraudulent healers but also has the challenge of protecting these fraudsters from violence.
There we sat, listening, scanning, searching, and adjusting. While Alec worked with the equipment, I kept a watchful eye for anyone who might interfere. The time dragged. Now the service inside the auditorium was about to start; we had searched for more than an hour, and we still hadn't found what we were looking for.
Following an investigation published by journalists Kostas Vaxevanis and Stefanos Gogos, the General Consumer Secretariat (GCS), a Greek government agency, ordered the immediate removal of key health and product claims by Viotech Ltd., makers of the Nanobionic clothing line.
Together, as we shall see, these cases illustrate that UFOlogy continues its long tradition of mystery mongering and the implicit reliance on a logical fallacy called “arguing from ignorance”: “We don’t know what was seen in the sky; therefore, it must have been an extraterrestrial craft.”
Paranormal legends about paintings have always existed. Some think that a picture falling off the wall represents a bad omen for the person depicted or photographed in it. Others feel watched by some portraits whose eyes seem to follow onlookers as they move through a room. And still others claim that paintings can come alive...
A review of A Universe from Nothing by Lawrence M. Krauss.
A review of Encyclopedia of Urban Legends: Updated and Expanded Edition by Jan Harold Brunvand.
A review of You Are Not So Smart: Why You Have Too Many Friends on Facebook, Why Your Memory Is Mostly Fiction, and 46 Other Ways You’re Deluding Yourself by David McRaney.
A review of Handling Truth by William Gardner.