Evolution Education: What a Difference a Dozen Years Makes!
A lot can happen in twelve years—even in evolution. It took just a dozen years for a population of threespine stickleback fish to evolve to lose the bulk of their armor after colonizing a freshwater lake in Alaska (Bell et al. 2004). Experimental populations of a species of wheat managed in the same amount of …
Coronavirus Crisis: Chaos, Counting, and Confronting Our Biases
The numbers were grim, changed constantly, and told only part of the story. As of early June, there were nearly 6 million diagnosed cases of COVID-19 worldwide, with over 350,000 deaths and 2.3 million recovered. Of those, over 1.6 million patients and nearly 100,000 deaths were in the United States. With only a small …
Introducing PENSAR: Spanish Language Skeptic Magazine
Alejandro Borgo, editor of the newly launched CFI online publication, Pensar, invites you to explore the Spanish language magazine for science, reason, and freethought. Check it out at Pensar.org.
ID Movement Still Stymied by Genetic Algorithms: War of the Weasels Update
I last wrote about the “War of the Weasels,” the ongoing creationist attacks on evolutionary (genetic) algorithms, in the May/June 2010 issue of Skeptical Inquirer (Thomas 2010). Genetic algorithms (GAs) are computerized simulations of evolution and are used to study evolutionary processes and also to solve difficult engineering or math problems. Intelligent design (ID) creationists …
Believing in Science Is Not Understanding the Science: Brazilian Surveys
More Brazilians believe in the importance of vaccines than in the validity of so-called alternative therapies, and almost 90 percent of the adult population accepts—at least in part—the fact that climate change is real and caused by human activity. Nevertheless, almost half of Brazilian adults reject one of the fundamental principles of the theory of …
Hot Month, Hot Year, Hot Planet: Absorbing the Latest Climate News
After this past summer’s sizzling heat, many people will undoubtedly welcome the coming of winter in the northern hemisphere. Colder weather, though seasonally temporary, will be refreshing. Australians, though, and others in the southern hemisphere, may not be looking forward to their coming summer. Globally, July 2019 was the hottest July and month on record. …
From ‘Cosmic Watergate’ to Cosmic Watermelon: The Stanton Friedman I Knew
I first started studying UFO reports on October 17, 1973. By the time I was thirteen years old, I had met and become friends with famed UFO researcher Stanton T. Friedman, who recently passed away at age eighty-four (see Joe Nickell’s piece in the September/October 2019 SI). Friedman had taken me under his wing and …
Why Parapsychological Claims Cannot Be True
The July-August 2018 issue of American Psychologist contained an article titled “The Experimental Evidence for Parapsychological Phenomena: A Review” by Etzel Cardeña. Cardeña is known for research on hypnosis and consciousness, parapsychology, and, interestingly, for his work in theater as an actor and director. The paper prompted us to examine and critique the science behind …
The Not So Divine Acts of Medium ‘John of God’
John of God (João de Deus, real name João Teixeira de Faria) is a well-known Brazilian medium who claims to have healed several people through his spiritual surgeries. According to one John of God website, he is “arguably the most powerful unconscious medium alive today and possibly the best-known healer of the past 2000 years.” …
Skepticism and the Persuasive Power of Conversion Stories
Those of us in the skeptical community have our work cut out for us. In the process of disseminating scientific thinking, we often challenge unsubstantiated beliefs that are held with considerable conviction. Every one of us who has tried to persuade committed believers in astrology or homeopathy that they are mistaken knows just how challenging—and …
The ‘Momo Challenge’ and the ‘Blue Whale Game’: Online Suicide Game Conspiracies
Kids and their parents around the world apparently have a new deadly online danger to fear: a mysterious and terrifying online figure known as “Momo,”
Brazil Launches Its First Institute for the Promotion of Skepticism
On November 22, 2018, Institute Question of Science (IQC), the first Brazilian institute for skepticism and rational thinking, was officially launched.
Natalie Grams: Medical Homeopath to Professional Skeptic
Natalie Grams was once a practicing homeopathic doctor. She decided to write a book defending homeopathy, but what she learned changed her own views instead.
Essential Oils: One Weird Workshop
Nothing prepared me for the workshops my colleagues and I were required to attend this past winter.
Skeptical Organization To Launch in Brazil
Alternative therapies in the Brazilian Unified Health System will be the first target of the new institute in defense of scientific evidence
Do 40 Percent of People Think Native Americans Don’t Exist?
Americans have misconceptions about a great many things and a demonstrable blindness to social problems facing Native Americans and others, but misinformation isn’t helpful.
The ‘Secret Hand Signs’ Conspiracy
Things took a turn from the political to the surreal with conspiracy rumors that a lawyer sitting behind Brett Kavanaugh was caught on camera flashing a white nationalism sign with the fingers of one hand.
On the Set of Cosmos’s Season Two
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey aired in 2014 to much acclaim.
Ghostly ‘Black Monk’ or Random Tourist?
Several British tabloids and paranormal-themed websites reported that a ghostly black monk appeared in a photograph taken by Jon Wickes during a visit to Eynsford Castle in Kent. Wickes had taken his twelve-year-old son to the castle because he was learning about medieval castles in school. The photo, taken from outside the ruined remains of …
NECSS 2018 Looks Ahead
Despite returning to its regular home at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan, change was in the air for NECSS 2018.
On Countering Pseudoscience, Educating about Vaccinations, and Intereuropean science Communication
An Interview with Dr. Anna Zakrisson
‘The Las Vegas Timewarp’
An unexplained distortion of time and space—or catalogue of simple errors and a misunderstanding of how science works?
Busting the ‘Elvis Presley in Home Alone’ Movie Myth
The film spawned several sequels as well as dozens of conspiracy theories.
Gullible Reporting about ESP on CBS
In the 1970s and 1980s, belief in the paranormal was the most common target of skeptics. Topics such as extrasensory perception (ESP), astrology, and faith healing were at the top of the list of skeptical concerns. In the past thirty years, skepticism has evolved quite a bit, and while we never stopped being watchdogs on …
CBS Sunday Morning Seers Don’t See So Well
On March 18, 2018, CBS Sunday Morning featured an insufficiently skeptical segment, “ESP: Inside the Government’s Secret Program on Psychic Spies.” One of the psychics presented—Angela Ford (formerly Angela Dellafiora)—is described as a former Pentagon Project Stargate “psychic spy.” She recalled one of her best assignments in which, allegedly, she psychically tracked down fugitive drug …
The Anatomy and Pathology of Jihad
The Halloween 2017 terror attack in New York brought forth the usual affirmations of courage and resilience amid the sorrow, though these have been joined by a growing sense of frustration that the United States is not making progress in its struggle against Islamic extremism. Such confusion stems from the fact that Americans are far …
Skepticism in Pharmacy
Skeptics are likely already familiar with homeopathic products being sold in pharmacies.
Pink Slime and the Failure of Skepticism
Skeptics typically work hard to reassure the public that their fears of many things are exaggerated or outright fabricated.
Demon House Deconstructed
Demon House is a documentary by Zak Bagans, best known for his Travel Channel series Ghost Adventures.
Bigfoot Sighting in New Jersey? Maybe Not…
“Whatever this was had, literally, leaped across the entire road. It was about six feet tall. Like a light-colored hair, like a deer, but I’m like it certainly wasn’t a deer because it had its legs splayed and it almost looked like a ballerina leaping across the road.”
Did a New Study Find That Men Think They’re Smarter Than Women? Debunking Sexism Clickbait
You may have seen headlines about a recent study at Arizona State University that found, among other things, that college men think they’re smarter than women.
A Doctoral Dissertation on a Geocentric Flat Earth
On April 1, 2017, Professor Hafedh Ateb, a scientist who founded the Tunisian Astronomical Society, published a post on his Facebook page to denounce a forthcoming PhD thesis (Ateb 2017). Its subject? The geocentric universe with a flat and young Earth. It was not an April Fool’s joke. With a bit of condescension, the astronomical …
Ghostly ‘Black Monk’ or Random Tourist?
Several British tabloids and paranormal-themed websites have reported that a ghostly black monk has appeared in a photograph taken by Jon Wickes during a visit to Eynsford Castle in Kent.
Light Bulb Luminosity Demonstration
A claim against the paranormal through controlled tests
Why ‘They’ Aren’t Calling It ‘Terrorism’: A Primer
The issue is not terribly complicated, but it is nuanced and often counter-intuitive.
The Blackwell Ghost
Kenny Biddle debunks this “work of fiction” as seen on Amazon Prime.
Numb and Normal: Phantom Fears of an Indifferent America
The reaction to the latest school shooting in Florida suggests that Americans are anything but numb or indifferent to the violence.
Committee for Skeptical Inquiry Elects Six New Fellows
CSI fellows are elected for their distinguished service to science and skepticism, serving as advisors to CSI and its magazine, Skeptical Inquirer, and are invited to share their expertise and advice on the program’s issues and projects.