Playing by the Rules

 It is useless for skeptics to argue with someone who doesn’t play by the rules of science and reason. If no amount of evidence will change your opponent’s mind, you are wasting your breath. I recently read Flock of Dodos (no relation to the movie of the same name). It’s a hilarious no-holds-barred send-up of

On Being Certain

Neurologist Robert A. Burton, MD has written a gem of a book: On Being Certain: Believing You Are Right Even When You’re Not. His thesis is that “Certainty and similar states of ‘knowing what we know’ arise out of involuntary brain mechanisms that, like love or anger, function independently of reason.” Your certainty that you

Popular Fallacies: Ancient Wisdom, It Works for Me, and Natural is Good

Advocates of so-called alternative medicine (i.e. unproven treatments) don’t always use the best critical thinking skills. False assumptions and logical fallacies abound.  Three that I encounter constantly are (1) “ancient wisdom,” (2) “it works for me,” and (3) “it’s natural.” Ancient Wisdom The argument usually goes something like this: Our wise ancestors used X to

How the Medical Mind Works

JEROME GROOPMAN’S BOOK How Doctors Think is a superb commentary on the intersection between medical science, compassionate personal interactions, and critical thinking. My only caveat is that it may be exploited by “doctor-bashers” because it shows how doctors make mistakes; but the overall impact of the book is very positive. It is a good lesson

Homeopathy: How It Really Works

Book Review of  Homeopathy: How It Really Works, by Jay Shelton, published by Prometheus in 2003 This will not be the last book written about homeopathy, but perhaps it ought to be. It says everything that needs to be said unless homeopaths can succeed in supporting their claims with better evidence than they have produced in the

Teaching Pigs to Sing: An Experiment in Bringing Critical Thinking to the Masses

A skeptic encounters psychics, astrologers, and other strange creatures and discovers firsthand how they react to science and reason. Included: a fable about testing the Tooth Fairy. A couple of years ago, I saw an announcement for an astrology presentation to a local discussion group called Mingling of the Minds. My first reaction was, “Surely,

My Response to An Alt-Muddled Friend

I’ve been discussing “alternative medicine” with a friend who is very intelligent but has no training in science. She uses chiropractic, magnets, vitamins, and acupuncture, and she says she doesn’t care what science says because science can be wrong, she trusts her personal experience more, and if something “works” for her, she doesn’t care how

Blind Spots, Brain Maps, and Backaches: A New Chiropractic Delusion

My trip down the rabbit hole started when an ad in the newspaper caught my eye: “Do you have a good brain or a bad brain? One simple test may tell you… call today for a free brain exam.” I started to worry. I had always thought I had a pretty good brain, but what

Wired to the Kitchen Sink: Studying Weird Claims for Fun and Profit

An evaluation of Dr. John Upledger’s craniosacral therapy illustrates an exercise proposed for skeptics to develop critical thinking and a better understanding of human psychologyAfter reading some particularly egregious nonsense, you have probably asked yourself; “How could anyone in his right mind believe that?” There is an answer to your question. In. fact, the person