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

The Care and Feeding of the Vagina

The status of women in our society continues to improve. As the cigarette commercial says, “You’ve come a long way, baby.” Indeed, it seems we now have Equal Opportunity Quackery. Sex sells. It’s always been a popular target for quackery, but the quackery used to be directed mainly at men. In the early 20thcentury, Dr.

The Case That CAM Is Unethical

Edzard Ernst is arguably the world’s foremost expert on the claims and the evidence (or lack thereof) for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (CAM). Now he has teamed up with a medical ethicist, Kevin Smith, to co-author a new book, More Harm than Good? The Moral Maze of Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Much has been written on

Shermer Tackles the Big Questions

A review of Heavens on Earth: The Scientific Search for the Afterlife, Immortality, and Utopia, By Michael Shermer, Henry Holt and Co., 2018. $30.00. 320 pages. ISBN-13: 978-1-62779-857-0. In 1997, Michael Shermer wrote one of the classics of skepticism, Why People Believe Weird Things. He has continued to produce skeptical books at regular intervals, with topics

The Riddle of Consciousness

For most of human history, people have assumed that some kind of vitalistic essence had to be added to matter to produce life. The belief in an immaterial soul was pervasive. At one point, scientists even tried to weigh the soul by weighing a body right before and after death, expecting to find a decrease

Answering Vaccine Skeptics

The anti-vaccine movement is full of conspiracy theorists who deny the evidence for the effectiveness of vaccines, call vaccines “poisons,” think doctors and manufacturers (in collusion with the government) only promote vaccines to boost their incomes, and blame vaccines for all manner of adverse events. These vaccine denialists must not be confused with vaccine skeptics,

Statin Denialism

When Richard Dawkins was asked to justify his belief in the scientific method, he answered, “It works, bitches!”1 When the scientific evidence is compelling, one would have to be willfully perverse to reject it. But some people do; they reject findings that don’t fit with their ideology. We call them denialists. We have climate change

My Personal Odyssey in Skepticism

I discovered the Skeptical Inquirer shortly after its name change from The Zetetic. It changed my life. I had already rejected religion after reading atheist writings, but I was still open to belief in UFOs, ESP, and all sorts of other weird things, simply because I had never come across anyone who questioned those beliefs.

The Gene: An Intimate History

Six years ago I reviewed Siddhartha Mukherjee’s book The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer. It was hands-down one of the best books I have ever read on a medical topic. Now he’s done it again. His new book is titled The Gene: An Intimate History. Mukherjee is a superb writer. Much of what I said

Stick It In Your Ear! How Not To Do Science

Have a sore throat? No worries! No need for lozenges, medicines, or home remedies. All you need to do is let someone stick needles in your ear! According to a recent study, ear acupuncture relieves sore throats. Do you believe that? I don’t. That’s one of those extraordinary claims that would require extraordinary evidence, but