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The New Look

I just picked up the new SKEPTIC today and I wanted to compliment you on the making some nice changes in the overall appearance of the magazine which really add some visual snap and modernization to the look. But what happened to the book reviews this issue? That's generally the first section I turn to. The changes in appearance also point out that the magazine could use an editorial every issue; those changes happening without the usual explanations and commentary I'm accustomed to in other magazines.

--Brian Wagner, Joplin MO

Redesigning a magazine is no small task. The new lay) layout was generously donated by graphic designer Brian Dalton, a long time skeptical activist and supporter. Reviews will reappear in future issues. --Editors

Pondering Skepticism

I enjoyed your article on Fox TV's Did We Go To The Moon? show. I saw that program and the evidence seemed believable, until I read what SKEPTIC, Vol 9 #1 had to say. This is the first time picking up your magazine and I had to ponder my own skepticism. I'm skeptical about UFOs. I'm skeptical about ghosts. Why couldn't I have been skeptical of the claim that we never landed on the moon' Now I have to be skeptical of the conspiracy skeptics. Hmmm...gets confusing at times.

--Robert Crain, Jr., Paradise, CA

A Senior Junior

I just got my first issue of SKEPTIC, which I enjoyed. I am 53 and so don't count as Jr., but I thought the best article in the magazine was the one about the moon landing hoax hoax. I liked the magazine and am looking forward to future issues.

--John Plotz, Monte Rio, CA

The Crackpot Committee

I very much enjoyed "The Crackpot Index" on page 18 of Vol. 8/No. 4 of SKEPTIC, but I do feel that Dr. Baez was a little harsh and, perhaps, somewhat unfair.

It is my hope that SKEPTIC tries to reach the layperson. It is true that much good science has its origins in nonsense, and this article might have had a little more credibility if Dr. Baez had explored this issue more thoroughly.

Here are a few examples of pseudo-science which have led to science:

The life-saving drug digitalis (from Purple Foxglove) came from interrogating a witch on her herbal medicines.

Astronomy originated from astrology. Smallpox vaccination originated from old wive's tales concerning milkmaids and cowpox. Plate tectonics was rejected as crackpot science the first time it was proposed, and had to be revived long after its discoverer was dead.

There are many more examples, but the point is made. Obviously, busy scientists can't concern themselves with answering every crackpot letter from every lunatic that decides that he or she has found an answer to everything.

By way of compromise, I propose a "Crackpot Committee" of friendly, open-minded, and tolerant scientists from every discipline. In order for the crackpot to submit an idea to this committee, he or she must pay a reasonable fee. This money would be used to advance the cause of skepticism and scientific education, while the crackpot would have an outlet for his or her ideas. It might even happen that a legitimate scientific discovery would come from winnowing through this mountain of nonsense, in which case the crackpot would get a refund and scientific recognition besides.

There seems to be considerable precedent for this idea. Fossil hunters and archaeologists will often process hundreds of tons of worthless dirt for each meaningful discovery.

--Kevin Levites, Boynton Beach, FL

Romancing Science

This letter is written in response to the article by David Brin, "Seeking a New Fulcrum," Vol. 9, No. 1, 2001. In that article David Brim addressed the relationship between science and popular belief systems such as parapsychology. Although I am very skeptical of parapsychology, I wish to take issue with some of the statements made by Mr. …