How We Believe

In James Alcock’s classic 1995 article “The Belief Engine,”  he said, “Our brains and nervous systems constitute a belief-generating machine, a system that evolved to assure not truth, logic, and reason, but survival.” Now he has expanded that thesis into a book, Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling.It’s

Premature Ejaculation in the News

No, this is not about sex. Ejaculation doesn’t only mean discharge of semen, it also means “a short, sudden emotional utterance.” People make verbal ejaculations when they’re excited or have something important to say. Headlines are frequently ejaculations. They often express premature enthusiasm, hyping the questionable results of a new research study as if it

Not In Your Stars

Astronomy is science; astrology is superstition, mythology, and pseudoscience. Depending on how surveys ask the question, anywhere from 22 percent to 73 percent of people believe astrology is valid. Horoscopes still appear regularly in newspapers. Over 90 percent of adults know their zodiac sign. It never occurs to some people to question whether horoscopes are

Myths About Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity and Multiple Chemical Sensitivity

As if we didn’t have enough things to worry about already, now we are being told to fear our toasters. A typical headline trumpets “The Effects of Invisible Waves.” We are increasingly exposed to electromagnetic radiation from cell phones, cell phone towers, wireless Internet routers, cordless phones, and power lines. Other sources 1,2 are our

Acupuncture miracle

Correspondent Lorne Oliver is highly skeptical of acupuncture, but faced cognitive dissonance because he believed acupuncture saved his life. He describes the experience on his blog at http://www.filletofseoul.com/2008/10/acupuncture.html Briefly, he developed itching after eating a dried persimmon, broke out in hives, developed a rapid pulse, then shallow, rapid breathing and dizziness. He concluded that his

Announcing: Video Lecture Course on Science-Based Medicine

A couple of years ago, the James Randi Educational Foundation commissioned me to develop a series of 10 video lectures on Science-Based Medicine. After a lot of work and many vicissitudes, it is now available. The lecture titles are: Science-Based Medicine vs. Evidence-Based Medicine What Is CAM? Chiropractic Acupuncture Homeopathy Naturopathy and Herbal Medicine Energy Medicine Miscellaneous

Freud Was a Fraud: A Triumph of Pseudoscience

Psychiatry is arguably the least science-based of all the medical specialties, and Freudian psychoanalysis is arguably the least science-based psychotherapy. Freud’s theories have been widely criticized as unscientific, and treatment of mental disorders has increasingly turned to psychotropic medications and effective therapies like cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). Freud’s impact on 20th century thought is undeniable, but

Self-Hatred: The Cause of Autoimmune Disease?

When we get sick we naturally want to understand what is happening to us. Our first question is: What is it? We want to put a name to our suffering by establishing a diagnosis. Then we ask: “Why is this happening to me?” “What caused it?” “Could I have done something to prevent it?” For

Psychology and Psychotherapy: How Much Is Evidence-Based?

Despite all those Polish jokes, Poland has its share of good scientists and critical thinkers. A superb new book illustrates that fact in spades: Psychology Gone Wrong: The Dark Side of Science and Therapy, by Tomasz Witkowski and Maciej Zatonski, http://www.amazon.com/Psychology-Gone-Wrong-Science-Therapy/dp/1627345280  Witkowski is a psychologist, science writer, and founder of the  Polish Skeptics Club; Zatonski

Who’s Crazy Now? DSM-5 and the Classification of Mental Disorders

What does it mean to be crazy? We use the word loosely. In casual conversation we might say “He’s crazy” or “That’s insane!” but that doesn’t mean we really think the person is certifiable. Sometimes all it means is “He doesn’t agree with me.” What does it take to be formally diagnosed with a mental