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Skeptic Authors Steven Salzberg and Joe Nickell to Receive Balles Prize in Critical Thinking

June 14, 2013

Forbes columnist Steven Salzberg and author-investigator Joe Nickell will each be awarded the 2012 Robert P. Balles Prize in Critical Thinking, to be presented by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry at the CFI Summit in October.

In the struggle against the torrent of pseudoscientific misinformation peddled to the public, there could be no more valuable ally to skeptics than a rational, critical, and intellectually honest media. Unfortunately, tales of hauntings and the paranormal, and celebrity-endorsed magic “alternative medicine” cures based entirely on hearsay have proven irresistible to much of the established press and popular media.

This is why the work of Steven Salzberg and Joe Nickell is so necessary.

In his column for Forbes, “Fighting Pseudoscience,” Steven Salzberg regularly shines the light of reason on the false or dubious claims made by those hawking homeopathy, demonizing vaccines, deifying celebrity gurus, or generally denying science and reality, often at the expense of public health. He has done so with a clear and accessible voice, and with a healthy dose of humor.

Accessibility and humor, along with unmatched rigor and curiosity, are what famed Joe Nickell, a CSI senior research fellow, has been bringing to his work for decades. In 2012, Nickell released his latest of many invaluable books, The Science of Ghosts - Searching for Spirits of the Dead, in which he explores, investigates, and exposes the many legends, myths, and hoaxes about ghosts. He gets past the mysticism and romance to examine the actual evidence for “spiritual activity,” based on diligent research and hands-on investigation.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) is therefore proud to give the 2012 Balles Prize to both Steven Salzberg and Joe Nickell. This is the first time two awards have been given in the same year.

The Robert P. Balles Annual Prize in Critical Thinking is a $2,500 award given to the author of the published work that best exemplifies healthy skepticism, logical analysis, or empirical science. Each year, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry selects the paper, article, book, or other publication that has the greatest potential to create positive reader awareness of important scientific issues.

This prize has been established through the generosity of Robert P. Balles, an associate member of CSI, and the Robert P. Balles Endowed Memorial Fund, a permanent endowment fund for the benefit of CSI. CSI’s established criteria for the prize include use of the most parsimonious theory to fit data or to explain apparently preternatural phenomena.

This is the eighth year the Robert P. Balles prize has been presented. Previous winners of this award are:

Call for Nominations: There’s amazing work being produced in 2013, with much more on the way. If you’d like to vouch for the author you think deserves the 2013 Balles Prize, contact Barry Karr at