Skeptic (Altadena, CA)

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

Articles from Vol. 17, No. 3, Spring

Bad Language: Possessed Possessions
CERTAIN PLACES ARE STEREOTYPED AS being haunted, including cemeteries, hospitals, battlegrounds, castles, dilapidated houses and sites where tragic events took place. Sometimes it's not the building but the contents that are believed to contain spiritual...
Einstein's Razor: The Principle of Making Scientific Models as Simple as Possible but Not Simpler Is Difficult to Do
ALBERT EINSTEIN SAID, "EVERYTHING SHOULD BE made as simple as possible, but not simpler." Whether in the physical, biological, or social sciences, this admonition applies, from the hypotheses generated to the explanatory models proposed. Over-simplification...
Fetus Food: Another Urban Legend Busted
FRESHMAN OKLAHOMA STATE SENATOR RALPH SHORTEY recently introduced a bill that would ban "the sale or manufacture of food or products which contain aborted human fetuses." After a collective brow-raise over such a bizarre proposal, Shortey told the...
How the World Swerved toward Science
A review of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern, by Stephen Greenblatt. New York: W. W. Norton 356 pages, $26.95 ISBN-10: 0393064476 [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] WHAT DO ATOMS, EVOLUTION, ATHEISM, and sex have in common? One answer is...
Is Ours a Christian Civilization?
EVER SINCE 9/11 THERE HAS BEEN MUCH TALK OF A "clash of civilizations" in which ours is typically portrayed as "Christian." Is ours a Christian civilization? Yes and no. Certainly Western civilization is Christian in religion, to the degree that its...
Making Room for Religion
A review of Science and Spirituality: Making Room for Faith in the Age of Science, by Michael Ruse. Cambridge University Press, 2010. 264 pages, $32.00. ISBN-13: 978-0521755948 [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] IN SCIENCE AND SPIRITUALITY, MICHAEL...
Mind Matters
A review of Incomplete Nature: How Mind Emerged From Matter, by Terrence Deacon. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2011, 624 pp. $29.95 ISBN-13: 9780393049916 [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] TERRENCE DEACON IS AUTHOR OF THE well-received 1998...
Mokele Mbembe!
HELLO! I'm Daniel, the Editor of JUNIOR SKEPTIC. Welcome to our look at the legendary Mokele Mbembe! According to stories, Mokele Mbembe is a type of long-necked sauropod dinosaur still living in the heart of Africa. Could dinosaurs still roam...
Nothing Is Negligable: Why There Something Rather Than Nothing
WHY IS THERE SOMETHING RATHER THAN NOTHING? THE QUESTION is usually posed by Christian apologists as a rhetorical argument meant to serve as the drop-dead killer case for God that no scientist can possibly rebut. Those days are over. Even though scientists...
Out of Nothing? the Genesis Creation Myth Is Not Unique
THE SKEPTICS SOCIETY GREAT DEBATE ON SUNDAY, March 25, 2012, "Has Science Refuted Religion?," featured physicist Sean Carroll and SKEPTIC publisher Michael Shermer debating physicist Ian Hutchinson and conservative author Dinesh D-'Souza. At one point...
Science, Skepticism and Democracy
RECENTLY, I ATTENDED A presentation by the noted philosopher Martha Nussbaum about the relation between a liberal arts education and democracy. It was clear from her presentation that she had the more literary of the liberal arts in mind, such as philosophy,...
Speechless: Facilitated Communication, a Long-Debunked Pseudoscience, Makes a Surprising Return
JEMIMA LEECH, AN 8TH-GRADER AT PERSHING MIDDLE School in Houston, Texas, has a life story that may leave you at a loss for words. A transplant from London, Jemma arrived in Houston with her parents in 2007, when she was nine years old. Jemma is a special-needs...
The Flake Equation: Estimating the Number of People Who Have Experienced the Paranormal or Supernatural
THE DRAKE EQUATION IS THE FAMOUS formula developed by the astronomer Frank Drake for estimating the number of extraterrestrial civilizations: N = R x [f.sub.p] x [n.sub.e] x [f.sub.l] x [f.sub.i] x [f.sub.c] f x L where ... N = the number of...
The Glare of Other Suns: An Inside Look at How Astronomers Are Searching for Extrasolar Planets
THE MAIN ROAD ON PALOMAR MOUNTAIN ENDS AT A cottage called the Monastery. The Monastery houses sleeping astronomers during the day so they can look into the sky at night. Opening a Monastery blackout shade in midday is like emerging from a matinee....
The Neuroscience of Changing Minds
THE HARD BUT INTERESTING QUESTION FOR SKEPTICS IS NOT why most people believe in New Age mysticism, creationist dogma, or psychics who bend spoons, but why smart and educated people embrace these ideas. How is it that highly educated individuals who...
The Physics of UFOs: How Realistic Is It for Spacecraft to Travel Interstellar Distances to Earth?
UFO REPORTS HAVE BEEN EVALUATED IN TERMS OF the supposed reliability of eyewitness accounts and questionable photographic evidence. The constraints that interstellar distances, time and the conservation of energy impose on interstellar space travel...
The SkepDoc: Multiple Personality Delusions
THE "NEWS OF THE WEIRD" RECENTLY reported that a man had turned himself in to the police for a crime he thought he must have committed because he didn't remember doing it! He claimed to have a split personality. He remembered becoming angry at a waiter...
Trolley Troubles: Why We Should Be Skeptical of Moral Cognition Testing Based on Hypothetical Situations
IMAGINE THE FOLLOWING SCENARIO: YOU ARE standing next to a fork in a railroad line where there is a switch. There are five workers on the one track and one worker on the other track. A trolley car is hurtling down the track and is about to hit and...
'Twas Brillig ... Celebrating Reason at the Reason Rally
My speech delivered in Washington, D.C. on March 24, 2012 I'M FULLY AWARE THAT THIS EVENT, THIS rally, is very much centered on the secular point of view, and I am firmly of the opinion that the greater part of the confusion that presently exists...
What Rocks Dream About: The Non-Existence of Nothing
AT SOME POINT DURING A DEBATE ABOUT GOD'S existence, or embedded within a believer's article about cosmology, one finds the following: God created the Universe ex nihilo--that is, Out of Nothing. (1) The notion that "nothing" was before God made "something"...
What's It like to Be a Brain?
A review of Consciousness: Confessions of a Romantic Reductionist, by Christof Koch. Cambridge MIT Press, 2012, $24.95, 184 pages, ISBN-13: 978-0262017497 [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] THE HUMAN BRAIN IS THE MOST COMPLEX system ever studied, but...