Skeptic (Altadena, CA)

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

Articles from Vol. 10, No. 4, Winter

A Solution to the Dangers of Teaching Evolution in Public Schools: The Creation-Evolution Continuum
Editor's Introduction On November 1, 2003, a public school history teacher named Cheryl McDonald wrote to me about a serious situation that had developed at her school as a result of her teaching evolution. By way of introduction to Eugenie Scott's...
Charioteer of the Gods: H.P. Lovecraft and the Invention of Ancient Astronauts
THE IDEA THAT EXTRATERRESTRIALS served as humanity's earliest deities came to popular attention with Swiss author Erich von Daniken's 1968 best-seller Chariots of the Gods and the influential 1973 NBC documentary based on the book, In Search of Ancient...
Do Pesticides Cause Cancer? Another Skeptical Environmentalist Examines the Original Sources
SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO GO back to the original sources! This is almost a principle among skeptics when it comes to "paranormal" topics like ESP and UFOs because, it turns out, pro-paranormal writers have an unfortunate tendency to describe actual...
Educating Believers: Research Demonstrates That Courses in Skepticism Can Effectively Decrease Belief in the Paranormal
"Man is a credulous animal, and must believe something; in the absence of good grounds for belief, he will be satisfied with bad ones." --Bertrand Russell, An Outline of Intellectual Rubbish, 1950 National polls consistently indicate that a large...
Hamlet Revisited: How Evolution Really Works
Michael Shermer's article "To Be or Not to Be a Weasel: Hamlet, Intelligent Design, and How Evolution Works" (Vol. 9, No. 4, 16-20) discussed the metaphor originally produced (independently) by Richard Hardison and Richard Dawkins, in which imaginary...
Linguistic Creationists
L. Kirk Hagen's "Creationism's Expanding Universe" (Vol. 10, No. 3) is an excellent heads-up to a disturbing trend among creationists towards publishing in the humanities and social sciences to sneak their agenda into the public school curriculum....
New "Isn't Round" Theory Demands Equal Time
LANCASTER, CA -- Supporters of a new theory about the Earth's shape are demanding equal time in the classroom. Currently, schools teach that Earth has a round shape, but a new theory is challenging that idea. "We are not flat-earthers," emphasized...
Outraged at Conway Morris's "Science"
I read Simon Conway Morris's book excerpt (in Vol. 10 No. 3) with a growing sense of outrage. Apparently he used to be a scientist? Now it's hard to believe that he's ever even spoken to a scientist. His miscomprehension of the "selfish gene" paradigm...
Paranormal and God Belief Survey Results
Fox News, of "Fair and Balanced" fame, released the results of a survey conducted September 23-24, 2003, revealing that 92% of Americans say they believe in God, 85% in heaven and 82% in miracles. Though belief in God remained at the same level from...
Science Literacy and Belief in the Paranormal-An Empirical Test
A STUDY PUBLISHED IN SKEPTIC (Vol. 9, No. 3) by Walker et al. investigated the relationship (or lack thereof) between scientific literacy and pseudoscientific belief. The authors found no significant relationship between college students' performances...
Sham Magnets as Effective as the "Real Thing"
According to Mark H. Winemiller, from the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota, and his colleagues Robert G. Billow, Edward R. Laskowski, and W. Scott Harmsen, in an article that appeared in...
Skewed Study on Wiccans and Creationists
Regarding the article by Raymond A. Eve, "Wiccans vs. Creationists" (Vol 10, No. 3), I am a practicing Neo-pragan myself, but quite a skeptical one. I find nothing in it that is particularly dismissive of the religious beliefs of either Wiccans or...
Smarter or Better at Test Taking?
The Flynn Effect, explained by Robert Ehrlich in "Are People Getting Smarter or Dumber?" (Volume 10, Number 2), is that people are scoring better on intelligence tests in each of many recent generations. One explanation is that people are simply learning...
Sonar Ban Sounded Good: A Skeptical Analysis
IN WHAT APPEARED TO BE a triumph for environmentalists, in 2003 a U.S. court limited the Navy's use of low-frequency activated sonar (LFA) to safeguard endangered marine species from its blare. After millions of dollars, years of research, and a lengthy...
The Amazing Speaking Machine of Sir David Brewster
SCOTSMAN SIR DAVID BREWSTER (1781-1868) was a remarkable intellect. Though he is, unfairly, best known for his invention of the kaleidoscope, he also developed the mathematics of the polarization of light, and made substantial improvements in the design...
The Cartesian Lie Detector
EFFECT Using "The Cartesian Lie Detector," you indicate the truthfulness of a volunteer's answers to your questions. PROPS * A liter-sized plastic soda bottle with the label peeled off, with its screw-on cap. * Water to fill the bottle...
The Creation-Evolution Continuum: How to Avoid Classroom Conflicts
Many--if not most--Americans think of the creation and evolution controversy as a dichotomy with "creationists" on one side, and "evolutionists" on the other. This assumption all too often leads to the unfortunate conclusion that because creationists...
The Mummy's Curse!
The sense of ancient ritual and mystery surrounding Tut's tomb quickly inspired rumors that it was protected by supernatural forces. Decades later, those rumors are still with us. According to the legend, an inscription near the tomb's entrance warned...
The Murder of King Tut? A Case Far from Closed!
So, how did Tut die? He died very young, even by the standards of his time. Was the young Pharaoh assassinated? It's become fashionable to assume so, particularly after the success of a 1998 book and TV documentary called The Murder of Tutankhamun...
The Pleasure of Finding Things Out: Why Scientists Do Science
SCIENCE IS A PERSONAL ACTIVITY. With very few exceptions, scientists throughout history have plied their craft not through a lust for glory or material reward, but in order to satisfy their own curiosity about the way the world works. Some have taken...
The Quest for the King
Eventually, European nations began to dominate the world. By the dawn of the 20th century, when an Englishman named Howard Carter began his search for Tutankhamun's tomb, the British Empire was a global superpower at the peak of its might. Carter...
The Skeptic Meets CSI (Crime Scene Investigation): How Far Should Artistic License Go?
THE LEAD INVESTIGATOR BEGAN burning some residue from a human corpse "directly over gunpowder that still covered the body." That left Danny Thomas, former member of the Clarke County Fire Department "staring at his TV screen." Exclaimed "Thomas, "No,...
The Skeptics Society
The Skeptics Society is a member supported 501(c)(3) nonprofit scientific and educational organization of scholars, scientists, historians, magicians, professors and teachers, and anyone curious about controversial ideas, that does the following: ...
The Skinny on Fat: A Skeptical Evaluation of the Atkins and Other Low Carb Diets
Editor's note. As we went to press with this issue the controversy over the death of Dr Atkins erupted upon the unauthorized release of documents indicating that he may have died not just of complication of a head injury from a fall, but from being...
The Ten Percent Solution: Anatomy of an Education Myth
FOR MANY YEARS, VERSIONS OF A CLAIM that students remember "10% of what they read, 20% of what they hear, 30% of what they see, 50% of what they see and hear, and 90% of what they do" have been widely circulated among educators. The source of this...
The Tomb of King Tut
After five years of backbreaking work, the project seemed to be a monumental failure. Morale was low and most Egyptologists thought that it was a waste of time and money. The search had become a target of ridicule--people dismissed it as the foolish...
Tutankhamun
Once Upon A Time, a boy became king. When he took the throne, at about 9 years old, his nation had already been the most powerful and advanced nation on Earth for well over a thousand years. For ten years, this boy was the ruler of most of the known...
Was Einstein Learning Disabled? Anatomy of a Myth
MANY ORGANIZATIONS THAT PROMOTE THE interests of individuals with learning disabilities claim that Einstein had a learning disability, and this claim has become widely accepted. A review of biographical sources, however, provides little or no evidence...
What Is a Skeptic?
What does it mean to be a skeptic? Some people believe that skepticism is rejection of new ideas, or worse, they confuse "skeptic" with "cynic" and think that skeptics are a bunch of grumpy curmudgeons unwilling to accept any claim that challenges...
Why Smart People Believe People Are Getting Smarter
In their quest to list and analyze the underlying factors that cause smart people to believe in weird things and to assess whether we are getting smarter or "dumber" (SKEPTIC, Vol. 10, no. 2, 2003), Michael Shermer and Robert Ehrlich (respectively)...
Zeno's Paradox and the Problem of Free Will
JOHN ANDERTON, THE PROTAGONIST played by Tom Cruise in Steven Spielberg's science fiction film Minority Report, finds himself in a nightmarishly paradoxical situation. As a policeman for the futuristic Pre-Crime office, Anderton relies on an elaborate...