Skeptic (Altadena, CA)

Magazine promoting scientific method, critical thinking and the skepticism of the paranormal and superstition.

Articles from Vol. 15, No. 3, Winter

A Skeptical Look at Screening Tests
I'M AN EQUAL OPPORTUNITY SKEPTIC. I'm skeptical about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, and quackery; but I apply the same standards of skepticism to conventional medicine. I don't write about conventional medicine so much, because I don't need...
Coma Man Media Hoax: "Communication" by Coma Man Is Just "Ideomotor" Ouija Board Effect
IT'S A HOAX, FOLKS. SORRY TO BE THE spoiler of a feel good story--that of Rom Houben, the Belgian man who allegedly "woke up" f-com a 23-year long coma--but the hard truth must win out over hopeful emotions. Houben's "communications," his "statements"...
Don't Throw out Positive Psychology with the Bathwater
In his response to Waldman and Newberg in the Positive Thinking Forum in Vol. 15, No. 2, Steve Salerno states that his article on positive thinking was critical of "the frenzied overselling of optimism as a blanket prescription for all that ails us."...
Instant Language, Just Add Software
WHETHER YOU'RE A VEGETARIAN WHO wants to avoid accidentally ordering steak tartare in a French restaurant, or you're wanting to speak more than the international language of love with your Spanish spouse, sometimes we have sufficient incentive to learn...
Magic, Skepticism, and Belief: An Empirical Study on What Magicians Believe about the Paranormal
IN 1868, THE FAMOUS MAGICIAN, ROBERT-HOUDIN, wrote that a conjuror is an actor playing the part of a magician. One way of interpreting this statement is by understanding that it is a warning to many people who perceive magicians as having real powers...
Norman Jay Levitt 1943-2009
IT IS WITH MUCH SADNESS THAT WE REPORT THE DEATH OF Norman Jay Levitt on Saturday, October 23, 2009, due to heart failure. Norm Levitt received his Ph.D. from Princeton University in 1967 and taught mathematics, specializing in topology, for forty...
Oh, the Horror! Why Skeptics Should Embrace the Supernatural in Fiction
FOR AS LONG AS THERE HAVE BEEN STORIES OF THE supernatural, some who heard them believed that the menacing creatures depicted in them really existed. There have also always been skeptics who doubted the reality of such supernatural monsters. Mythological...
Placebos Don't Cure Anything
In Newberg and Waldman's response to Steve Salerno (Forum, Vol. 15 No. 2), there was a glaring error. They said "placebos can cure, on the average, 30% of the majority of physical and emotional diseases" This is so false it is laughable. Placebos can't...
Prognosis Negative Psychiatry and the Foibles of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual V (DSM-V)
SPENT TOO MUCH MONEY ON PRADA LOAFERS OR Gucci handbags? Still upset over not getting to play starting quarterback for the big game your senior year? Maybe you're overcome by the desire to surf the web, which your boss refuses to acknowledge is disabling....
Swine Flu Vaccine Fearmongering
This article was originally written in September 2009 prior to the release of the H1N1 vaccine. As we go to press, one out of six Americans has had H1N1 flu and about 10,000 have died. After the first two months of vaccine use and 46.2 million doses,...
The Beverly Hills Battle for Evolution (against Intelligent Design): Prothero/Shermer V. Meyer/Sternberg
ON MONDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2009, Donald Prothero and Michael Shermer were teamed up against Intelligent Design proponents Stephen Meyer and Richard Sternberg. The topic was, "Has Evolutionary Theory Adequately Explained the Origins of Life?" for which...
The Cottingley Fairies
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Hello! I'm Daniel, the Editor of Junior SKEPTIC. I'd like to introduce you to Jillian Baker and Jason Loxton, guest writers for this issue. Hi! We had a lot of fun researching one of history's most unusual ... [ILLUSTRATION...
The Dangers of First Contact: The Moral Nature of Extraterrestrial Intelligence and a Contrarian Perspective on Altruism
ON OCTOBER 6, 2006, AN EDITORIAL IN THE prestigious journal Nature commented on a recent meeting of the International Academy of Astronautics SETI study group regarding METI--or "Messages to Extraterrestrial Intelligence." Also known as "Active SETI"--to...
The Mind Is Not a Kludge
MANY RECENT BOOKS AND ARTICLES HAVE characterized the human mind-brain as a diverse collection of pre-existing faculties and functions inelegantly adapted by evolution to work together. The engineering slang for such an improvised device is a "kludge."...
The Top Ten Myths of Popular Psychology
VIRTUALLY EVERY DAY, THE NEWS MEDIA, TELEVISION SHOWS, FILMS, AND THE INTERNET BOMBARD US WITH claims regarding a host of psychological topics: psychics, out of body experiences, recovered memories, and lie detectors, to name a few. Even a casual stroll...
The Trashing of Margaret Mead: How Derek Freeman Fooled Us All
THROUGHOUT THE 1980S AND 1990S, anthropologist Derek Freeman waged a tireless campaign against Margaret Mead, claiming that the famous American anthropologist had been hoaxed by her Samoan informants. He alleged that Samoan women innocently joked with...
'Twas Brillig ... How to Convince People You Are Psychic
IN HIS STORY MURDERS IN THE RUE Morgue, Edgar Allen Poe relates how the protagonist is amazed that super-detective Auguste Dupin has observed his silent behavior and by this means alone has successfully deduced exactly what he was thinking. He then...