UFO Identification Process
There is a wide variety of natural explanations for things we see in the sky that are easy to misinterpret.
UFOs: Why Humanoid Aliens? Why So Varied?
UFOlogy is replete with varying descriptions of UFOs and their occupants—so much so that concluding an alien intelligence is piloting them goes against the more logical and reasonable conclusion that the only intelligence behind the phenomenon is the human brain itself.
Those Supposed Aliens Might Be Worms
“There is nothing in natural selection that allows you to predict any particular pattern that it might generate.” —Henry Gee “Life is not oriented towards increasing complexity, nor is it fated to become ever more complex.” —Alexandre Meinesz When most people hear the word aliens, as in life from other worlds, they immediately …
Arthur J. Cramp: The Quackbuster Who Professionalized American Medicine
How a pioneering physician at the American Medical Association fought medical fraud on a national scale in the early twentieth century.
Grand Illusions and Existential Angst
The great promise of a hyper-connected society having the world’s knowledge at its fingertips was better decisions and a more enlightened citizenry. The great disappointment is the proliferation of fake news and ways to confirm to ourselves what we already felt to be true—whether that is the case or not. In many ways, society progresses …
Essential Oils: One Weird Workshop
Nothing prepared me for the workshops my colleagues and I were required to attend this past winter.
The Salton Sea Flat Earth Test: When Skeptics Meet Deniers
Today, skeptics fight not only false assertions and misinterpretation of facts but also a fundamental distrust of science and a deep-seated paranoia about reputable institutions lying to the entire culture.
Thoughts on Visiting Darwin’s Home, Down House
I am always interested in seeing how countries and cultures honor their scientists, thinkers, and innovators. Today, entertainers and athletes get the bulk of popular acclaim. I don’t begrudge their fame—it is well deserved—but it is always nice to see when people who have advanced our understanding of the world in profound ways get their …
Aliens and UFOs: What They Tell Us about Ourselves
People are weird about aliens and UFOs. The topic is perennially fascinating, I know. I have been involved with it nearly my entire career. But it’s one of those subjects where hope, wishful thinking, and unfettered speculation seem to overwhelm reason, facts, and evidence. The gap between what we know scientifically and what devout enthusiasts …
Center for Inquiry Sues CVS Pharmacies for Marketing of ‘Sham’ Homeopathy
At many pharmacies in the United States, homeopathic remedies are displayed side by side along with tested and approved over-the-counter medications, giving the public the misleading impression that they have also been found legitimate and effective. The Center for Inquiry (CFI), copublisher of the Skeptical Inquirer, has been working diligently for the past few years …
Fear of Aliens: How to Protect Alien Microbes (and Us)
NASA is concerned about aliens. No, not undocumented immigrants or the scary space invaders loved by Hollywood. The real science questions are related to the search for microbial life in our solar system: on Mars, Europa, Titan, or Enceladus. Each of these has a possibility of supporting life: Mars has a geological and climate history …
New York Times Again Hypes Saucers
Having last year waded into a topic that reporters seem perpetually ill-equipped to handle—unidentified flying objects—The New York Times has done it again. In the August 3, 2018, edition, reporter Laura M. Holson revisited the July 1952 “invasion of Washington” flap with the obvious intention of peddling a mystery, along with selling newspapers. The Times …
Why We’re Susceptible to Fake News and How to Defend against It
Thought processes and belief systems that people develop early in life to help protect against the anxiety and stress of an uncertain world may help explain why some individuals fall victim to what has come to be known as fake news, but psychologists can offer some strategies to defend against it, according to a series …
A Year Later, History Channel Mystery Remains
Over a year has passed since The History Channel suffered one of the highest-profile blows to its credibility in, well, the history of the channel. On July 9, 2017, History premiered an “investigative special” titled Amelia Earhart: The Lost Evidence, which claimed to have discovered—after an exhaustive search by a team of world-class researchers, including …
‘I Was There …’: Harlan Ellison Witnesses the Birth of Scientology
The prolific and iconoclastic writer Harlan Ellison died June 27, 2018, at his home in Sherman Oaks, California, at the age of eighty-four. Preferring the term speculative fiction to science fiction, Ellison wrote more than 1,500 short stories (such as “I Have No Mouth, and I Must Scream”), essays, and reviews. He also wrote film …
Arkansas’s White River Monster: Very Real, but What Was It?
Can we finally solve the mystery?
A New Way of Thinking about Climate Change and Human Progress
Una nueva forma de pensar sobre el cambio climático y el progreso humano
Autism Wars: Science Strikes Back
In the field of autism treatment, the forces for science and evidence have won a few battles and lost a few. Unfortunately, some of the most recent victories have been on the side of pseudoscientific and fad therapies—but a new army of researchers, practitioners, and advocates is fighting back. Twenty years ago, it looked like …
Diving into the VAERS Dumpster
Fake News about Vaccine Injuries
Channeling Ancient African Wisdom or Not
Q: I’m producing a documentary about channeler Neferatiti Ife; I would like your opinion about her work and on channeling from a historical perspective. What’s your take on what she does? —M. Shabazz A: I received this query from a filmmaker seeking an analysis in early 2018. I explained that time constraints didn’t allow for …
Letters to the Editor
Wildlife Apocalypse? As a natural resource economist, I appreciated the supply and demand framework in “Wildlife Apocalypse” (July/August 2018). The trade driving animal extinctions is complex, with legal, social, and economic dimensions, and the myth foundation underlying the problem provided readers with insights to what is driving the demand that threatens some endangered species. That …
How We Believe
Beliefs guide all our thoughts and behaviors, from brushing our teeth to voting for a particular political party.
Creencia: qué significa creer y por qué nuestras convicciones son tan persuasivas. Por James E. Alcock, Amherst, NY, USA: Prometheus Books.
When Psychics Come Under Control of Organized Crime
A Deal with the Devil: The Dark and Twisted True Story of One of the Biggest Cons in History. By Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken. New York: Atria Books. 2018. ISBN: 978-1-5011-6384-5. 304 pp. Hardcover, $26. In the 1990s, it was common to see ads in British magazines—chiefly aimed at women, if I remember correctly—for …
A Detailed Primer in Fighting Wildlife Crime
Wildlife Crime: From Theory to Practice. Edited by William Moreto. Philadelphia, PA: Temple University Press. 2018. ISBN: 978-1-4399-1472-4. 306 pp. Hardcover, $104.50; softcover, $37.95; Kindle, $37.95. The body parts of some wildlife, such as rhino horn, are more valuable than gold or heroin. The worldwide illegal trade is, in fact, one of the top four …