Skeptic (Altadena, CA)

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

Articles from Vol. 13, No. 3, Fall

Animals and Medicine: Do Animal Experiments Predict Human Responses?
FRANKIE TRULL OF THE FOUNDATION FOR Biomedical Research has stated, "Every major medical advance of this century has depended on animal research," (1) and Dr. Wise Young, neuroscientist from Rutgers University has said, "There's never been a (medical)...
A Rich Swiss Fondue
Chariots of the Gods makes the argument that there is clear evidence of alien visitation in the distant past--and lots of it. This evidence is of basically two kinds. First, von Daniken claims that many ancient monuments, such as the pyramids of...
Arrival of the Space Gods?
Chariots of the Gods? claims that several thousand years ago, at the dawn of human civilization, aliens landed on the Earth and interacted with humans. They might have been fairly ordinary creatures. (Imagine them as, say, working astronauts, or perhaps...
A Tribute to Don Herbert (Mr. Wizard): Television's Original Science Teacher
A few hours after being the first person to receive the Committee for Elementary Science International's Science Advocate Award and a standing ovation from a thousand science teachers, Don Herbert was asked to pull a water-balloon into a bottle. He...
Bonobos, Left and Right: Primate Politics Heats Up Again as Liberals and Conservatives Spin Doctor Science
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] IMAGINE THAT YOU'RE A WRITER AND YOU have decided to offer your readers a first-hand account of the politically correct primate, the idol of the left, known for its "gay" relations, female supremacy, and pacific life-style....
Chariots of the Gods?
Within months of Neil Armstrong's first step onto the Moon, a strange book that claimed to explain the origin of civilization soared triumphantly to the top of the bestseller lists. Chariots of the Gods?, written by a Swiss author named Erich von Daniken,...
Clearing the Air: What Does Science Really Say about Secondhand Smoke?
SECONDHAND SMOKE IS A BIT LIKE abortion and global warming: it invokes such strong emotions that it is difficult to view the evidence objectively. In his analysis of the subject (see preceding article) Sidney Zion is right about one thing: anti-smoking...
Contested Testimony: In Scientific Disputes: The Case of the Origins of AIDS
THERE IS MUCH EVIDENCE THAT, IN MANY domains of human life, lying and deception are ubiquitous. (1,2) Most children learn to lie quite successfully at an early age. It has been argued that certain types and levels of deception are selected in evolution,...
Cosmos and Coincidence: Intelligent Design Theory Fails to Account for Sub-Optimal Design
THE UNIVERSE'S BASIC CONSTANTS APPEAR free-tuned for life. For example, if the ratio between the strong and weak nuclear force were only slightly different, life would have been impossible. Many such coincidences exist. (1) Therefore, say theists,...
Curing the Common Cold
I HAVE A CARTOON PLAQUE, painted many years ago by my brother in a fit of creative zaniness, entitled "Milestones in Medicine: Dr. Harriet Hall Cures the Common Cold." It shows me masked and gowned for surgery, brandishing a chain saw. The legend explains...
Darwin V. Design: A Report on the Discovery Institute's Conference in Knoxville, Tennessee
IT WAS 9:00 IN THE MORNING WHEN I entered the Knoxville Convention Center on Saturday, March 24, 2007, for the Discovery Institute's conference on Darwin and Design. Attendance fluctuated throughout the day, but averaged an impressive 700-800 people....
Double Blind or Double Talk? Reading Medical Research with a Skeptical Eye
ONCE UPON A TIME, NOT SO LONG AGO, A new drag was tested carefully by its manufacturer, demonstrated to be safe, and approved by the FDA. After it went on the market, people started reporting a lot of side effects. An independent researcher thought...
Enter Von Daniken
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] In the 1970s, the old legend of the lost Caves of Gold reached a strange new climax. In a sequel to Chariots called Gold of the Gods, Erich von Daniken made the stunning claim that deep underground, far below" the jungles...
Mercury Rising: Exposing the Vaccine-Autism Myth
ON JUNE 11, 2007, NEARLY 5,000 PARENTS OF autistic children fried a lawsuit against the federal government, claiming that childhood vaccines (specifically the mercury-containing thimerosal in the vaccines) caused their children's autism. The previous...
Poisoning the Well?
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] When talking about yon Daniken's ideas, his critics usually begin by pointing out that he's a three-time convicted criminal. In fact, he wrote the first sequel to Chariots of the Gods? while serving one of his prison sentences...
Science and Secondhand Smoke: The Need for a Good Puff of Skepticism
THERE IS NOTHING MORE POWERFUL THAN A lie whose time has come. Thus, the smoking bans. The experts proclaim that 63,000 Americans are killed yearly by secondhand smoke, more than the victims of AIDS, drank drivers, the Iraq war, and Hurricane Katrina,...
Science Education and Belief in Pseudoscience: Good News-But the Glass Is Still Two-Thirds Empty
IN 1985 I BEGAN COLLECTING BOTH my own data and other people's studies regarding the prevalence of pseudoscientific beliefs in both small samples, and in the public at large. At the time many found the results, which indicated these beliefs were widespread...
The Comic Books in the Rocks
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] In the South American country of Peru, there is a mid-sized city called Ica. Tragically, Ica was devastated by a huge earthquake in August of 2007, from which it is still recovering. For decades before the quake, Ica had...
The Physics of Nonsense
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] Part Two: The Physics of Christianity Reviewed from the Viewpoint of Biblical Scholarship DR. FRANK TIPLER REALLY, REALLY--no, I mean really--needs to take a basic, freshman course in comparative mythology. He could also...
The Trouble with Psychiatry
[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] ONE MORNING IN JUNE OF 2005, WHILE EATING my breakfast flakes, I looked up in time to catch Tom Cruise being interviewed by Matt Lauer on the Today Show. This was supposed to be a promotional interview for his new film, War...
'Twas Brillig ... Sam Harris and the Question of PSI
OVER THE PAST TWO YEARS I HAVE BEEN ADVISED by several of my readers that my acceptance of Sam Harris--author of The End of Faith--might be unwise, not because of his writings about religion, but because of his apparent acceptance of some paranonnal...
Why Not Simply Go Back?
If his claims were true, why would von Daniken let this controversy so badly damage his career, reputation and book sales? Why tolerate accusations of fraud when all he had to do was go back to the cave and get all the proof he needed? He could...