Skeptical Inquirer — Feature
Progressophobia: Why Things Are Better Than You Think They Are
by Steven Pinker
Intellectuals dislike the very idea of progress. Our own mental bugs also distort our understanding of the world, blinding us to improvements in the human condition underway globally—and to the ideas that have made them possible.
Trauma and Taboo: Traumatic Memories Are Alive and Well and Eating Your Innards Out
by Robert Stern
Percival Lowell and the Canals of Mars
by Matthew J. Sharps
The ‘canals’ of Mars don’t exist, and they never did; yet they were repeatedly reported and defended as scientific realities by many great astronomers. Why?
The Curious Question of Ghost Taxonomy
Sorry, ‘Theistic Science’ Is Not Science
by Brian Bolton
The 1849 Balvullich Ice Fall
by Randall J. Osczevski
by H. Sidky
The decades-long academic assault on science has bewildered the American public about the role and function of science, promoted anti-intellectualism, and politically empowered purveyors of supernaturalism and paranormal beliefs.
Here’s a geologist’s critical analysis of false perceptions held by many creationists about the origin of the Grand Canyon and the age of the Earth.
Drug Therapy Hype: The Misuse of Data
There are several flagrant examples of hype from cancer and cardiac therapy. The drugs Avastin and Opdivo, which have serious problems, have been greatly overhyped.
Colin Wilson’s Idiosyncratic Literary Legacy
by Brett Taylor
Rather than creating a glorious new literature of pos- itive art, Colin Wilson delivered an odd mix of dodgy philosophy, pulp novels, and paranormal studies— the latter often downright silly.
The most serious implication is that Daryl Bem, a famous and well-respected psychologist, has been guilty of “an unethical manipulation of data in search of statistical significance” to support claims of the paranormal.
by Bertha Vazquez and Christopher Freidhoff
A high school biology teacher asked the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science (a division of the Center for Inquiry) a series of questions about teaching evolution. Bertha Vazquez, director the foundation’s Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science (TIES), answered.
by Amy Frushour Kelly
You are a skeptic, and your child has autism. How do you react?
by Brett Taylor
There are many myths behind movie lore concerning jinxes and mysterious deaths, but a closer look reveals these curses to be attributable more to publicity and rumor than to the supernatural.
In What Version of Evolution Do You Believe
by David Zeigler
Medical Misinformation in the Media: Is Anorexia on the Rise?
Let’s Be SHARPs Together: The Need for a New Umbrella Term
by David J. Tyler and Gary M. Bakker
Free Energy: When the Web Is Freewheeling
by Sebastien Point
by Joe Nickell
The hairy man-beast known as the “Sasquatch” or “Bigfoot” is now ever present in North American culture. Supposedly a throwback to our evolutionary past, it is an “ape-man” version of us just as the little-bodied, big-headed, humanoid extraterrestrial is a futuristic one.
by Jeanne Goldberg
It is paradoxical that in populations supportive of science and democracy scientific issues have become politicized to the degree that objective evidence is ignored or rejected in favor of “alternative” opinions.
Souped-up galvanometers are being used to assess people’s health and determine what they supposedly need. Tests expose them as preposterous, and government agencies should stop their use.
The Fallacy Fork
Why It’s Time to Get Rid of Fallacy Theory
To support their claim that humans and dinosaurs coexisted, numerous antievolution publications—including grade-school science textbooks—assert that dragon legends were inspired by human encounters with fire-breathing dinosaurs. Here’s why that’s unrealistic.
Did Australia’s Aborigines See Plesiosaurs? Yes–in a Children’s Book
by David J. Helfand
For ourselves and our society, survival in the current era requires adopting scientific habits of mind.
by Harriet Hall
The benefits of statins far outweigh their risks, but public perception has been skewed by alarmist misinformation from statin denialists.
by Craig A. Foster and Sarenna M. Ortiz
Proponents of the vaccination-autism link have created a bogus scientific debate by providing lists of studies that supposedly support their claims but are actually either questionable or irrelevant. We identify this as a relatively new pseudoscience tactic: the promotion of irrelevant research.
The issues we address are only “soft” targets in the sense that there may be little scientific support for some of these claims. But these claims actually can be very resilient because of ideological support or commercial interests.
On the fortieth anniversary of the book that made him a scientific celebrity, biologist Richard Dawkins looks back at this “gene’s eye view” of evolution and finds it even more relevant today.
by Paul Offit
History’s unlearned lesson about pain relievers and addiction.
Shouldn’t Skeptics Know What They Are Talking about When They Are Talking about It?
by Carol Tavris and Elliot Aronson
Our brains are wired for self-justification and dissonance-reduction. We can override that impulse by learning how to admit our mistakes and separate them from our self-esteem.
Helping Teachers Teach Evolution in the United States
Everything You Know about Being Rh-Negative Is Wrong
by D. Ellen K. Tarr
by Stephan Lewandowsky, Michael E. Mann, Nicholas J.l. Brown, and Harris L. Friedman
How can scientists navigate highly polarized public controversies and how can the public’s legitimate demand for involvement be accommodated without compromising the integrity of science?
by Stephen Hupp, Amanda Stary, and Jeremy Jewell
Parents and students struggle to distinguish between pseudoscience and evidence-based ideas in child psychology. This study sampled the beliefs of 163 students and 205 parents on topics related to parenting and development.
by Michael Marshall, translated by Alexandro Borgo.
La desventaja inevitable que tiene un movimiento sin sede central es la falta de un representante para manejar el activismo y dirigir el entusiasmo en actividades eficaces contra la pseudociencia, mientras que los grupos locales concentran sus energías en las actividades locales.
by Susan Gerbic, translated by Alejandro Borgo
Yo era extremadamente crédula e ingenua. No tenía a quién preguntarle y la Guerra Fría estaba en su esplendor.
by Eugenie Scott
Every physical anthropologist secretly wishes that Yeti and Bigfoot were real.
by Harriet Hall
It changed my life. I had already rejected religion after reading atheist writings, but I was still open to belief in UFOs, ESP, and all sorts of other weird things, simply because I had never come across anyone who questioned those beliefs.
by Christopher C. French
Back in the early 1980s, I believed in quite a number of paranormal claims. In my defense, back then skeptical critiques of parapsychology were even rarer than they are now, and all the books I used in preparing the lecture were uncritically pro-paranormal.
This goes to the heart of what, for me, skepticism is about: things we can test.
I have yet to have a person name an occupation or hobby that doesn’t have some angle into pseudoscience or paranormal claims.
by Susan Gerbic
I was extremely gullible and naive, had no one to ask, and the Cold War was in full swing.
by Richard Saunders
When I was twelve years old, UFOs were real.
by Michael Marshall
The inevitable downside to a movement with no center is a lack of a figurehead to drive activism and direct enthusiasm into effective pursuits, meaning opportunities to counter pseudoscience directly and publicly sometimes pass by, with local groups focusing their energies on their own local activities.
by Bill Nye
We must employ critical thinking and our powers of reason to recognize the problems of global climate change, play the hand we are being dealt, and get to work.
“Do whatever it takes to avoid fooling yourself into thinking something is true that is not, or that something is not true that is.”
I have come to understand that scientific skepticism is a weird beast that is often difficult to understand, especially from the outside.
These are the times that try men’s souls.” This was true when Thomas Paine uttered these words, and they remain true today.
We must begin to develop more effective means of disseminating the fruits of our labors to individuals who are skeptical of our skepticism.
One of the unwelcome side effects of the mostly wonderful democratization of knowledge that has been ushered in by the age of the Internet is that we are losing consensus on what to consult when settling a bet.
by Raymond Barglow and Margret Schaefer
Had stem-cell research received the political support that it merits, it would probably have arrived by now at effective treatments for a number of severe chronic diseases.
Creationism in Europe
Project Greenglow: How Horizon Lost the Message in the Medium
by John Eades
No Time for Certainty
Thirty years ago, although dozens of tests had been mostly negative, astrologers said critics had ignored serious astrology. Now there are hundreds of tests, some of them even heroic. Has anything changed?
by John Cook
Science denial has a corrosive effect on deli- cately understood scientific concepts, and it is getting worse. But science itself holds an answer.
by Joe Nickell
A handful of twentieth-century figures “created” the modern concept of the paranormal and its leading topics, transporting fantasy, myth, or speculation into a kind of believable “reality.” Most proved to be a chimera.
by Matthew J. Sharps, Schuyler W. Liao, and Megan R. Herrera
In a normal population, dissociative tendencies contribute to many types of paranormal thinking. Psychological dissociation, even at a subclinical level, is an important factor in the cognitive processing that leads to belief in the unreal.
Nuclear Power and the Psychology of Evaluating Risk
by Craig A. Foster, Christopher K, McClernon, and Richard F. Reich
We used a classroom experiment at the United States Air Force Academy to examine whether necklaces infused with microscopic-particle titanium, such as those sold by Phiten Corporation, improve emotional well-being.
by Harriet Hall
Ear acupuncture claims to relieve sore throats. A new study seeming to support that idea is so poorly done that it provides a textbook example of how to distinguish between good and bad science.
Time to Upgrade the Skeptical Operating System. Reboot.
by Sharon Hill
Why I Am Optimistic about the Future of Skepticism
The Better Angels of Our Nature vs. the Internet
by David J. Helfand
Skepticism Evolves—and So Does the Paranormal
Alternative Medicine Is a Playground for Apologists
by Edzard Ernst
Does E = mc2 Imply Mysticism?
No word stolen from physics is (ab)used in the woo literature more than energy. The most fa- mous equation in physics is often cited as proof that matter and soul are one and the same, a tenet of mysticism.
Does the Universe Revolve around Me?
by Matthew P. Wiesner
A Critical Review of the Geocentrism Documentary The Principle
The Do’s and Don’ts of Trusting Science
by Faye Flam
The man who brought us Innumeracy and touted the benefits of mathematical thinking begins his ‘anti-memoir’ by conveying concerns and questions we should have about biographies... or our own lives.
Is biological race a mere myth or a troublesome fact better left unexplored?
As well-known monsters go, the chupacabra is of very recent vintage, first appearing in 1995. However, some writers have created pseudohistories and claimed a false antiquity for the Hispanic vampire beast. These examples provide a fascinating look at cryptozoological folklore in the making.
by Sadri Hassani
Deepak Chopra attempts to connect fundamental concepts of physics to consciousness and spirituality. He started (ab)using physics with his book Quantum Healing. But does he pass the first test of a true scientist: professional integrity?
A Testament of Belief Masquerading as Science
by Michael J. Reynolds
Need there be a conflict between science and religion? Francis S. Collins thinks not, but his "evidence for belief" disintegrates under scrutiny, revealing instead a personal testament of belief.
Although the polygraph can be useful in coercing confessions, it is based on scientifically implausible assumptions of accuracy and is biased against the innocent. The scientific community justly considers it pseudoscience, and it should be abandoned.
Skepticism and the Nature of the Mind
The Mote in Thy Brother’s Eye
by Thomas Gilovich and Lee Ross
Does the Scientific Method Have Biblical Origins?
by Brian Bolton
Trends in Scientific Knowledge, Education, and Religion
by Charles S. Reichardt
The Science of Meaning
by Gleb Tsipursky
by Sadri Hassani
Pseudoscience has been rapidly gaining ground in the past few decades. Dietary supplements and homeopathic preparations, advertised by the disgraced Dr. Oz and his ilk, now constitute a multi-billion-dollar industry.
by Gary J. Galbreath
A famous sea serpent sighting has been an enduring mystery of the sea since 1848. However, new information suggests a solution.
by Brian D. Engler and Eugenie V. Mielczarek
The former National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine’s use of two U.S. government grant programs for small businesses is examined and found to lend legitimacy to the lucrative business of non-evidence-based medicine.
by Declan Fahy
Science is personified by a handful of articulate, media-savvy scientists who stimulate new thinking, drive scientific controversies, enhance public understanding, mobilize social movements, and shape policy. To millions, these scientific celebrities are the public face of science.
A skeptic sees no light at the end of the tunnel when she falls into a six-week coma and nearly dies.
by Steve Cuno
Some accusations levied against advertising are undeserved. But then, some are deserved, though perhaps not in ways you may have heard or assumed. Meanwhile, not a few bad apples engage in a heinous advertising tactic that goes largely unnoticed.
Do We Really Want to Believe in UFOs?
by Klaus Brasch
Treemonisha: Scott Joplin’s Skeptical Black Opera
by Bruce A. Thyer
by Charles S. Reichardt and Ian A. Saari
Among those who believe the Bible is the word of God, those with more formal education are less likely to believe in human evolution than those with less education.
by James McGaha and Joe Nickell
Investigations show that famous nighttime “alien light” sightings were all due to objects in the sky, but not the extraterrestrial spacecraft UFO enthusiasts imagined.
… And Ghosts, Angels, Demons, Fairies, Goblins, and Other Imagined Conspiracies?
Where do conspiracy beliefs come from? Recent behavioral research suggests that they do not reflect pathology or lazy thinking but may instead come from normal, rational minds.
Evolution: The Big and the Small of It
by Edouard Harris and Jérémie Harris
Yes, But How Do You Explain This?
by Stephen Carey
by Harriet Hall
Supporters of alternative medicine and purveyors of quack remedies love to criticize conventional medicine and science. They keep repeating the same tired arguments that are easily rebutted. This handy guide will help skeptics answer common criticisms from doctor-bashers.
The popular online dating site eHarmony claims that its matching methods are both successful and scientific. But a closer look at the evidence suggests otherwise.
Research continues to find that violent video games play a negligible role in societal violence. But the politics of a culture war won’t let the idea go.