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Ten Distinguished Scientists and Scholars 
Named Fellows of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

News & Comment

The Editors

Skeptical Inquirer Volume 39.6, November/December 2015

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Ten distinguished scientists, scholars, educators, and investigators from five countries have been elected fellows of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), copublisher of the Skeptical Inquirer. CSI (formerly CSICOP) is one of the world’s leading organizations for the promotion of scientific thinking and the critical examination of extraordinary claims from a scientific point of view.

Fellows of CSI are selected for their “distinguished contributions to science and skepticism.” They are nominated and elected by CSI’s twelve-member Executive Council.

In addition, CSI named four new Scientific and Technical Consultants.

The new fellows join a list of notable CSI fellows that includes astronomers Neil de Grasse Tyson and Jill Tarter; biologists Richard Dawkins and E.O. Wilson; Nobel laureate physicists or chemists Leon Lederman, Murray Gell-Mann, Steven Weinberg, and Sir Harry Kroto; philosophers Daniel C. Dennett, Susan Haack, and Mario Bunge; anthropologist Eugenie C. Scott; psychologists James Alcock, Ray Hyman, Steven Pinker, and Richard Wiseman; magician/author James Randi; science educator and television host Bill Nye; Cosmos creator/writer Ann Druyan; plus many prominent physicians and medical scientists who critique questionable medical claims.

The full list of fellows is on the inside cover of each issue of SI and on the organization’s website at csicop.org/about/csi_fellows_and_staff/.

Past fellows now in CSI’s Pantheon of Skeptics (http://www.csicop.org/about/the_pantheon_of_skeptics/) include Isaac Asimov, Carl Sagan, Martin Gardner, Nobel laureates Francis Crick and Glenn T. Seaborg, Stephen Jay Gould, B.F. Skinner, and philosopher and CSICOP founder Paul Kurtz.

The Committee’s newly elected fellows are:

“JohnJohn Cook is the Climate Communication Fellow for the Global Change Institute at the University of Queensland, Australia. He created and maintains the Skeptical Science website, one of the top online sources of information about climate science and climate denialism, and is coauthor of Climate Change Denial (2011) and the 2013 college textbook Climate Change Science: A Modern Synthesis. He also was lead author of the paper “Quantifying the Consensus on Anthropogenic Global Warming in the Scientific Literature,” awarded the best paper published in Environmental Research Letters in 2013. He has a B.S. in physics and is currently completing a PhD in cognitive psychology, researching how people think about climate change. He and colleague Stephan Lewandowsky (also a newly elected CSI fellow) wrote “The Debunking Handbook,” a guide about the problems of, and best strategies for, debunking anti-science myths.
Krista FederspielKrista Federspiel of Vienna, Austria, is a medical journalist and author with a PhD in folklore. She worked as a freelance journalist and editor in several Austrian and German magazines and newspapers. She also became known as a radio and television presenter. She is a member of the Science Council of the Society for the Scientific Investigation of Para Sciences (GWUP, the German skeptics group) and regularly publishes articles in their magazine Skeptiker. She is cofounder and an active member of the Society for Critical Thinking, the Vienna Regional Group of GWUP. Her focus is on social and women’s issues, consumer protection, medicine, and psychotherapy. Federspiel has become well known as a critic of alternative medical procedures. She is author, coauthor, or editor of a number of books in these fields.
Julia GalefJulia Galef is president and cofounder of the Center for Applied Rationality, a nonprofit think tank that trains people to be more rational. She is a writer, podcaster, and public speaker on rationality, science, and the philosophy of science, often explaining common confusions and popular misconceptions about rationality. She serves on the board of directors of the New York City Skeptics and hosts their official podcast, Rationally Speaking, which she has done since its inception in 2010, sharing the show with cohost and philosopher Massimo Pigliucci until 2015. Galef has a degree in statistics and did graduate work in economics before shifting to her present career advocating for science and rationality.
Stephan LewandowskyStephan Lewandowsky is a psychologist whose recent research has focused on the public’s understanding and misunderstanding of science and why people often embrace beliefs at odds with the scientific evidence. He is a cognitive psychologist in the School of Experimental Psychology at the University of Bristol, United Kingdom, where he is also part of the university’s Cabot Institute. Until 2013, he was at the University of Western Australia. He has published a number of notable studies examining people’s beliefs in misinformation, including one of the best-known studies of public opinion about climate change, advancing the literature on what has come to be known as “motivated reasoning.” He has also studied the relationship between believing conspiracy theories and rejection of various forms of science. He is the first digital content editor for the Psychonomic Society, running its blog at http://www.
psychonomic.org/featured-content.
Daniel LoxtonDaniel Loxton is editor of the Junior Skeptic section in Skeptic magazine (U.S.), and a Canadian writer and artist. He is lead author (with Donald Prothero, also named a fellow) of the 2013 book Abominable Science!, a scientific look at cryptozoology heralded as one of the best books about the origins of myths about Yeti, Nessie, and other famous cryptids. His book Evolution: How We and All Living Things Came to Be won the $10,000 Lane Anderson Award, Canada’s top national award specific to children’s science writing. His book Pterosaur Trouble won the $5,000 Bolen Books Children’s Book Prize at the Victoria Book Awards. Loxton has also become a kind of unofficial historian of the modern skeptical movement, with online papers such as “Why Is There a Skeptical Movement?” (2014) exploring the roots, founding principles, and purposes of scientific skepticism.
Paul OffitPaul Offit, MD, is Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Vaccine Education Center at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. He is also a professor of pediatrics and vaccinology at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Offit is co-inventor of the rotavirus vaccine, credited with saving hundreds of lives every day. He is a leading proponent for childhood immunizations and a prominent advocate for science-based approaches to medicine. His 2008 book Autism’s False Prophets catalyzed a backlash against the anti-vaccination movement in the United States. His three latest books have extended the range of his critiques even further: Deadly Choices: How the Anti-Vaccine Movement Threatens Us All (2011), Do You Believe in Magic? The Sense and Nonsense of Alternative Medicine (2013), and, most recently, Bad Faith: When Religious Belief Undermines Modern Medicine (2015).
Naomi OreskesNaomi Oreskes, a geologist turned historian of science, is a professor in the Departments of the History of Science and Earth and Planetary Sciences at Harvard University. She moved to Harvard in 2013 after fifteen years as Professor of History of Science and Science Studies at the University of California, San Diego. Her research has focused on understanding scientific consensus and dissent. Her 1999 book The Rejection of Continental Drift, her coedited volume Plate Tectonics: An Insider’s History of the Modern Theory of the Earth, and other scholarly works established her as a first-rate historian of science. In 2004, her short paper in Science “The Scientific Consensus on Climate Change” became widely cited and brought her to her detailed study of climate denialism chronicled in her 2010 book Merchants of Doubt (with Erik M. Conway), which documented how a small group of contrarian scientists obscured the truth on issues from tobacco smoke to global warming. It has been widely praised (and also attacked). That book in turn inspired this year’s feature-length documentary movie of the same title. Her most recent book (also with Erik Conway) is The Collapse of Western Civilization: A View from the Future (Columbia University Press, 2014).
James L. PowellJames L. Powell is a geochemist, author, and retired university and museum executive. He is executive director of the National Physical Science Consortium. He received his PhD in geochemistry from MIT, taught at Oberlin College, and served as its acting president. He has also been president of Franklin and Marshall College, Reed College, the Franklin Institute, and the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History. He also served twelve years on the National Science Board. In 1998 he wrote Night Comes to the Cretaceous about dinosaur extinction and the modern transformation of geology. His 2012 book The Inquisition of Climate Change is a comprehensive examination of the climate denial movement. His 2015 book Four Revolutions in the Earth Sciences: From Heresy to Truth describes how four key scientific discoveries (deep time, continental drift, meteorite impacts, and global warming) were all initially rejected, but then accepted by science, confirming science’s self-correcting nature. Asteroid 1987 SH7 is named for Powell.
Donald R. ProtheroDonald R. Prothero is a paleontologist and geologist associated with the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County and a prolific writer and author. He received his PhD in the geological sciences from Columbia University. His scientific specialty has been mammalian paleontology. He became involved with the skeptical movement in the early 1980s defending evolution and later serving on the editorial board of The Skeptics Society. His trade books include Evolution (2007), Catastrophes! (2011), Reality Check: How Climate Deniers Threaten Our Future (2013), Abominable Science! (with Daniel Loxton, also a newly elected CSI fellow), and The Story of Life in 25 Fossils (2015). He’s also written six geology textbooks, including Evolution of the Earth, in its sixth edition. Recent awards include the Shea Award (2013) for writing in geoscience and the Gregory Award (2015) for service to vertebrate paleontology.
Stuart VyseStuart Vyse is a psychologist and the former Joanne Toor Cummings ’50 Professor of Psychology at Connecticut College, where he was praised as an engaging teacher. His research specialty is irrational behavior. His book Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition was winner of the William James Book Award of the American Psychological Association. It is an account of the science behind our most irrational beliefs. Oxford University Press published an updated edition in 2014, with Vyse adding new research on jinxes, paranormal belief, and luck, and making a renewed call for scientific thinking and the naturalistic explanation of the world. Late last year, Vyse began writing a regular column, “Behavior & Belief,” for the Skeptical Inquirer website, csicop.org. Some notable recent entries include “Neuro-Pseudoscience,” “Has Science a Problem?,” “Facilitated Communication: The Fad That Will Not Die,” and “Anti-Science Trends at Mid-Decade.”

The Committee’s newly elected Scientific and Technical Consultants are:

Susan GerbicSusan Gerbic, founder and leader of the Guerilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project, skeptic activist, photographer
Gabor HraskoGabor Hrasko, chairman of European Council of Skeptical Organizations (ECSO), president of Hungarian Skeptics
John R. MasheyJohn R. Mashey, computer scientist/executive (Bell Labs, then Silicon Valley), analyst of climate-change denial, contributor to DeSmogBlog and Skeptical Science, Portola Valley, CA
Julia OffeJulia Offe, neurobiologist, science journalist, creator of German Science Slam