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Skeptical Inquirer Volume 42.4

Skeptical Inquirer

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Skeptical Inquirer is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. It is published by the Center for Inquiry in association with the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Six times per year Skeptical Inquirer publishes critical scientific evaluations of all manner of controversial and extraordinary claims, including but not limited to paranormal and fringe-science matters, and informed discussion of all relevant issues. In addition to news, articles, book reviews, and investigations on a wide variety of topics, Skeptical Inquirer has a stellar stable of regular columnists including Joe Nickell (“Investigative Files”), Massimo Polidoro (“Notes on a Strange World”), Massimo Pigluicci (“Thinking About Science”), and SI managing editor Benjamin Radford's reader-driven (“The Skeptical Inquiree”). Yale University neurologist Steven Novella, M.D., founder of the New England Skeptical Society and executive editor of the Science-Based Medicine blog, contributes a new "The Science of Medicine" column, and contributing editor Kenneth W. Krause adds a regular science column, "ScienceWatch."

Skeptical Inquirer is an unusual hybrid, part semi-popular magazine, part scientific journal. It’s fair to say that we not only help to cross disciplinary barriers within scientific fields but bridge the gaps between the hard and soft sciences and between science and the general public.”

Kendrick Frazier, Editor, Skeptical Inquirer

“I know of no greater antidote to pseudoscience than the contents of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. I wait with high anticipation for the arrival of every next issue. And when it arrives, I read every word. And when I am done, my fuel tanks are once again topped off for my next round of encounters with all those who have yet learned how to think.”

Neil deGrasse Tyson, Astrophysicist and Director Hayden Planetarium, NYC

“When so many of our fellow citizens are igniting brushfires of irrationality and then fanning the flames, Skeptical Inquirer is a great fire extinguisher to keep handy: trustworthy, effective, and a pleasure to read. Don’t leave home without one!”

Daniel Dennett, Director, Center of Cognitive Studies, Tufts University

“If only the Skeptical Inquirer could be distributed to every home in the land! There would be fewer idiotic dinner-party conversations about ghosts, crop circles and ‘uncanny’ coincidences. More importantly, people might learn by example how to think for themselves, to the enormous benefit of the world.”

Richard Dawkins, Ethologist and Evolutionary Biologist, Oxford University

Skeptical Briefs

Skeptical Briefs was the quarterly newsletter of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, active until 2017. It was published four times per year (in March, June, September, and December), and included articles; news from skeptical groups across the country and around the world; and regular columnists Joe Nickell ("Investigative Files"), Lewis Jones ("Inklings"), Victor Stenger ("Reality Check"), Henry Huber ("Group News"); and Benjamin Radford ("Briefs Briefs").

Special Articles

Web exclusives from CSI contributors

  • SkepDoc's Corner

    A column by Harriet Hall

  • ¬°Paparruchas!

    A column by Luis Alfonso G√°mez

  • Behavior & Belief

    A column by Stuart Vyse

  • Curiouser and Curiouser

    A column by Kylie Sturgess

  • Guerrilla Skepticism

    A column by Susan Gerbic

  • Media Mind

    Media Mind looks at the "why"s and "how"s of media messages: why they take the form they do, how they spread, and how we make sense of them to form a picture of our world. But these days, media isn't just newspapers and TV: it's you and me. Media Mind will look, too, at how we communicate with each other - and how we can do it better. A column by Tamar Wilner.

  • Online Extras

    Skeptical Inquirer Online Extras

  • Practical Debunking

    I'm a debunker, which means I investigate dubious claims of evidence and if I find things wrong with those claims then I try to communicate that to the people who were taken in by them (or who might fall for it in the future). I mostly look at A) conspiracy theories that have some kind of science based claim, and B) unidentified phenomena, which are usually, but not always, flying. I do what I do because I find it fun and interesting, but also because I think I am helping people - both at the individual level and more broadly at a societal level. Truth is important, false claims (even seemingly ridiculous ones like Flat Earth) can have a harmful effect. Effective debunking presents two challenges. Firstly there's the challenge of investigating the claim or the unidentified phenomena. That's the fun part and often the easier part to get results from. The tricker part is in explaining the results of the investigation to people. This is a more significant challenge because most people are not very good at math and science, and because people who believe in conspiracy theories and strange causes of phenomena are often strongly motivated to reject alternative explanations. So the communication phase of debunk presents a significant challenge that I enjoy trying to figure out. So that's what I'd like to cover: investigation and communication - and in both cases covering the general "how too" aspect in combination with actual interesting and relevant examples and lessons learned in the field - ideally with real people.

  • Consumer Health

    A column by William M. London, College of Health & Human Services, Department of Public Health, Cal State L.A.

    A favorite quotation among epidemiologists comes from Michael Gregg: "We are always dealing with dirty data. The trick is to do it with a clean mind." I try hard to pull off Gregg's trick; many people don't.

  • Skepchick

    A column by Skepchick.org's Rebecca Watson

  • Sounds Sciencey

    Unmasking "scientifical" claims, sham inquiry, and science imposters in popular culture. A column by Sharon Hill.

  • Special Report

    Special Reports from CSI

  • The Conspiracy Guy

    A column by Robert Blaskiewicz

  • The Well-Known Skeptic

    If you are reading this, it may be because you are wondering about the name of my column. “How is this guy Rob Palmer—who I never heard of—writing an online column named ‘The Well-Known Skeptic’?

    Well, for a long time I have been known by friends, family, and co-workers as the guy who “doesn’t believe in anything.” That’s because I am always the one to challenge woo claims in any discussion—even conversations I wasn’t originally part of (and I wonder why I don’t get invited to parties!) But even frequent personal interactions are not nearly enough to justify that description.

    Could it be because, as a member of the Guerrilla Skeptics team, my skeptical outreach efforts put skeptical content in the hands of millions of Wikipedia readers as I detailed in my first SI article?That can’t be it. I am anonymous on Wikipedia, as are most contributors.

    So, then what is the explanation? I actually have to thank Jay Novella; he inexplicably assigned me that honorific on The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe in early 2018. (Listen to the clip here.) I was beyond surprised to hear this phrase applied to myself, as it was certainly premature. But now, out of the blue, I was afforded this column to periodically share my musings on a range of topics (hopefully) of interest to readers of the most popular source of skeptical analysis! 

    Uncharacteristically, I believe this turn of events may reveal Jay’s description of me to have been the first proven, honest-to-goodness, paranormal, psychic, clairvoyant premonition. Somebody needs to contact the IIG to have Jay tested! On the other hand, maybe there is a simpler explanation: using Occam’s Razor, I have deduced that that SGU crew has more likely simply invented a time machine.

  • The Skeptics UFO Newsletter

    The Klass Files, by journalist and UFO researcher Philip Klass. Download the full collection (PDFs, ~40 MB) or browse individual volumes.

  • TIES

    News from the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science project, funded by the Center for Inquiry and Richard Dawkins Foundation.

  • Woo Watch

    "Woo Watch" with Kavin Senapathy explores the claims and claimants in the alternative health, clean food, and spurious parenting worlds, and examines the institutions and personalities driving these movements. Spanning the infuriating, heartbreaking, and just plain mind-boggling, the column will take a fresh look at old school woo, and keep an eye on the newest spurious health trends.