Skeptical Inquirer

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Skeptical Inquirer
Skeptical Inquirer.jpg
Editor-in-chief Kendrick Frazier
FrequencyBimonthly
Publisher
Year founded1976;45 years ago (1976)
CountryUnited States
Based in Amherst, New York
LanguageEnglish
Website skepticalinquirer.org
ISSN 0194-6730

Skeptical Inquirer is a bimonthly American general-audience magazine published by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) with the subtitle: The Magazine for Science and Reason. In 2016 it celebrated its fortieth anniversary. For most of its existence, the Skeptical Inquirer (SI) was published by the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, widely known by its acronym CSICOP. In 2006 the CSICOP Executive Council shortened CSICOP's name to the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and broadened its mission statement.

Contents

Mission statement and goals

Daniel Loxton, writing in 2013 about the mission and goals of the skeptical movement quoted an editor of the Swedish skeptic magazine Folkvett who felt that SI was a magazine written by '"old white men, for old white men"'. He criticized the idea that people wanted to read about the paranormal, Uri Geller and crystal skulls not being relevant any longer. Paul Kurtz in 2009 seemed to share this sentiment and stated that the organization would still research some paranormal subjects as they have expertise in this area, but they would begin to investigate other areas, S.I. '“has reached an historic juncture: the recognition that there is a critical need to change our direction."' While editor Frazier did expand the scope of the magazine to include topics less paranormal and more that were an attack on science and critical thinking such as climate change denialism, conspiracy theories and the influence of the alt-med movement, Frazier also added that "paranormal beliefs are still widespread" and quoted surveys that state that the public given a list of ten general paranormal topics will select four as a topic they believe in. While the general skeptic community believes that we should not waste more time debunking the paranormal, topics long ago discredited, Frazier says "millions of Americans accept them today." [1]

Writing for Scientific American Douglas Hofstadter states that the purpose of Skeptical Inquirer magazine is to "combat nonsense... nonsensical claims are routinely smashed to smithereens." He writes that articles are written for everyone that can read English, no special knowledge or expertise is needed, the only requirement is "curiosity about truth". [2]

History

The magazine was originally titled The Zetetic (from the Greek meaning "skeptical seeker" or "inquiring skeptic"), and was originally edited by Marcello Truzzi. [3] About a year after its inception a schism developed between the editor Truzzi and the rest of CSICOP. One side (CSICOP) was more "firmly opposed to nonsense, more willing to go on the offensive and to attack supernatural claims" [4] and the other side ("The relativist faction (one member)" [4] , i.e. Truzzi) wanted science and pseudoscience to exist "happily together". Truzzi left to start The Zetetic Scholar and CSICOP changed the magazine's name to Skeptical Inquirer. [2]

Historian Daniel Loxton speculates on the answer to the question that if CSICOP was not the first skeptical publication, why is it considered to be the "'birth of modern skepticism' (at least for the English-speaking world)"? Loxton writes that it was because CSICOP organized "this scholarship collectively [and] comprised a distinct field of study." The organization was the first to establish "best practices... specialist experts... buildings... periodicals and professional writers and researchers." [5]

Magazine content

2009 Jan/Feb - 2020 May/June art director Christopher S. Fix until his death in March 2021. [6]

The magazine contains several regular columns (and contributors). These have changed over the years as follows:

Online magazine columns and columnists

The magazine's website features new and recent articles, as well as an archive dating back to 1994; all are available without a subscription. A small selection of articles also have Spanish versions available. Most articles are organized into the following columns: [9]

Influence

Several notable skeptics have described the influence the magazine had on them during the early stages of their development as scientific skeptics. In 1995, Perry DeAngelis and Steven Novella were friends that played Dungeons and Dragons together until DeAngelis noticed a Skeptical Inquirer magazine on the table in Novella's condo. DeAngelis who was also an avid reader of the magazine, pointed out the back page to Novella and said "What is missing?" DeAngelis stated that what was missing was a Connecticut skeptic group, he said "we should do this" to which Novella agreed. They started the New England Skeptical Society and eventually the Skeptic's Guide to the Universe (SGU) podcast. [10]

Writing for Scientific American , Douglas Hofstadter asked the question, why would Skeptical Inquirer succeed when the only people who read it are people who do not believe in the paranormal? The answer, he says, lies in the back of the magazine in the "Letters to the Editor" section. "Many people write in to say how vital the magazine has been to them, their friends and their students. High school teachers are among the most frequent writers of thank-you notes to the magazine's editors, but I have also seen enthusiastic letters from members of the clergy, radio talk-show hosts and people in many other professions." [2]

Daniel Loxton, in his essay "Ode to Joy" about discovering Skeptical Inquirer magazine as a freshman at his University writes...

But the true treasure, the lamp at the end of the cave, the thing that helped set the course of my life, was hidden away in the periodical collection: a complete set of the Skeptical Inquirer, going back to its launch in 1976. I couldn’t believe such a wealth of skeptical research existed! I worked my way through the stack systematically, hungrily.... I’ve been thinking of that experience a lot recently. These last weeks have been a rough ride for many skeptics, as longstanding debates about the scope and tone of skepticism have collided with the decentralized, organic nature of skepticism 2.0. I care a lot about those issues, advocating often for a back to basics approach to skepticism—a traditional, science-based skepticism that solves mysteries and educates the public. So, I thought: why not really go back to the beginning? Why not go back to my own roots as a skeptic, reading those old back issues—and back further, to the roots of the skeptical project? The Achilles heel of skepticism 2.0 may be that new skeptics are unfamiliar with the literature. And so, these last few days I’ve been losing myself in Skeptical Inquirer issues from 1977 and 1978. I’m falling in love all over again. The directness of those early voices is inspiring: here were investigable mysteries, and by god, skeptics were going to solve them. And they did. I’m learning a great deal by looking back once again at how they worked, about how things have changed and about how they haven’t... We’ve come a long way since 1976—further since the days of Houdini—but we’ve got things to learn from those who set us on this path. Let’s have another look at what those things are. [11]

Levy and Olynyk art project

Inspired by the four decades of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, the exhibition Some Provocations from Skeptical Inquirers by artists Ellen Levy and Patricia Olynyk, was featured at the Baruch College Mishkin Gallery in February 2016. Reviewer Eileen G'Sell writes that they "plumb the depths of the murky ontological sea that is empirical belief." [12] Reviewer states that the work represents, "this built-in confrontation between fact and fiction was the basis of the Skeptical Inquirer itself and its playful willingness to consider the most unlikely phenomena." [13]

Pensar

In June 2020, CFI announced the "newly launched CFI online publication", Pensar, "the Spanish language magazine for science, reason, and freethought." It is published by Alejandro Borgo, director of CFI Argentina. [14] [15]

See also

Related Research Articles

Skepticism Questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more items of putative knowledge or belief

Skepticism or scepticism is generally a questioning attitude or doubt towards one or more putative instances of knowledge which are asserted to be mere belief or dogma. Formally, skepticism is a topic of interest in philosophy, particularly epistemology. More informally, skepticism as an expression of questioning or doubt can be applied to any topic, such as politics, religion, or pseudoscience. It is often applied within restricted domains, such as morality, theism, or the supernatural.

Committee for Skeptical Inquiry

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), formerly known as the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), is a program within the transnational American non-profit educational organization Center for Inquiry (CFI), which seeks to "promote scientific inquiry, critical investigation, and the use of reason in examining controversial and extraordinary claims." Paul Kurtz proposed the establishment of CSICOP in 1976 as an independent non-profit organization, to counter what he regarded as an uncritical acceptance of, and support for, paranormal claims by both the media and society in general. Its philosophical position is one of scientific skepticism. CSI's fellows have included notable scientists, Nobel laureates, philosophers, psychologists, educators and authors. It is headquartered in Amherst, New York.

The skeptical movement is a modern social movement based on the idea of scientific skepticism. Scientific skepticism involves the application of skeptical philosophy, critical-thinking skills, and knowledge of science and its methods to empirical claims, while remaining agnostic or neutral to non-empirical claims. The movement has the goal of investigating claims made on fringe topics and determining whether they are supported by empirical research and are reproducible, as part of a methodological norm pursuing "the extension of certified knowledge". The process followed is sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry.

Paul Kurtz American philosopher

Paul Kurtz was a prominent American scientific skeptic and secular humanist. He has been called "the father of secular humanism". He was Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at the State University of New York at Buffalo, having previously also taught at Vassar, Trinity, and Union colleges, and the New School for Social Research.

Ray Hyman American professor of psychology (born 1928)

Ray Hyman is a Professor Emeritus of Psychology at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon, and a noted critic of parapsychology. Hyman, along with James Randi, Martin Gardner and Paul Kurtz, is one of the founders of the modern skeptical movement. He is the founder and leader of the Skeptic's Toolbox. Hyman serves on the Executive Council for the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

The Skeptics Society is a nonprofit, member-supported organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs. The Skeptics Society was founded by Michael Shermer as a Los Angeles-area skeptical group to replace the defunct Southern California Skeptics. After the success of its magazine, Skeptic, introduced in early 1992, it became a national and then international organization. The stated mission of Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine "is the investigation of science and pseudoscience controversies, and the promotion of critical thinking."

Marcello Truzzi

Marcello Truzzi was a professor of sociology at New College of Florida and later at Eastern Michigan University, founding co-chairman of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), a founder of the Society for Scientific Exploration, and director for the Center for Scientific Anomalies Research.

Kendrick Frazier Science writer

Kendrick Crosby Frazier is a science writer and longtime editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine. He is also a former editor of Science News, author or editor of ten books, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). He is a fellow and a member of the executive council of Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), an international organization which promotes scientific inquiry.

The New England Skeptical Society (NESS) is a non-profit educational organization dedicated to promoting science and reason. It was founded in January 1996 as the Connecticut Skeptical Society, by Steven Novella, Perry DeAngelis and Bob Novella. The group later joined with the Skeptical Inquirers of New England (SINE) and the New Hampshire Skeptical Resource to form the New England Skeptical Society (NESS).

Steven Novella American neurologist, professor and skeptic (born 1964)

Steven Paul Novella is an American clinical neurologist and assistant professor at Yale University School of Medicine. Novella is best known for his involvement in the skeptical movement. He is also a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) and GWUP.

Barry Beyerstein Canadian psychologist and scientific skeptic (1947–2007)

Barry L Beyerstein was a scientific skeptic and professor of psychology at Simon Fraser University in Burnaby, British Columbia. Beyerstein's research explored brain mechanisms of perception and consciousness, the effects of drugs on the brain and mind, sense of smell and its lesser-known contributions to human cognition and emotion. He was founder and chair of the BC Skeptics Society, a Fellow and member of the Executive Council of the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal (CSICOP), now known as the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Associate editor of the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine Journal as well as a contributor to Skeptical Inquirer, Beyerstein was one of the original faculty of CSICOP's Skeptic's Toolbox. Beyerstein was a co-founder of the Canadians for Rational Health Policy and a member of the Advisory Board of the Drug Policy Foundation of Washington D.C. He was a founding board member of the Canadian Foundation for Drug Policy and contributed to the International Journal of Drug Policy. According to long-time friend James Alcock, Beyerstein once addressed the House of Commons Standing Committee on Health during discussions leading up to the passage of the Controlled Substances Act". Along with his brother Dale, Barry was active "in the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association".

D. J. Grothe American writer and public speaker (born 1973)

Douglas James "D. J." Grothe is an American writer and public speaker who talks about issues at the nexus of science, critical thinking, secularism, religion and the paranormal. As an active skeptic, he has served in leadership roles for both the Center for Inquiry (CFI) and the James Randi Educational Foundation. While he was at CFI, he hosted their Point of Inquiry podcast. After leaving Point of Inquiry he hosted the radio show and podcast For Good Reason. He is particularly interested in the psychology of belief and the steps involved in deception and self-deception. His writing has been published by both Skeptical Inquirer magazine and The Huffington Post. He also co-edited On the Beauty of Science, about the worldview and life's work of Nobel Laureate Herbert Hauptman.

Daniel Loxton

Daniel Loxton is a Canadian writer, illustrator, and skeptic. He wrote or co-wrote several books including Tales of Prehistoric Life, a children's science trilogy, and Abominable Science!, a scientific look at cryptozoology. As editor of Junior Skeptic, Loxton writes and illustrates most issues of Junior Skeptic, a children's science section in the Skeptics Society's Skeptic magazine.

Massimo Polidoro Italian psychologist and writer (born 1969)

Massimo Polidoro is an Italian psychologist, writer, journalist, television personality, co-founder and executive director of the Italian Committee for the Investigation of Claims of the Pseudoscience (CICAP).

Skeptics Toolbox

The Skeptic's Toolbox is an annual four-day workshop devoted to scientific skepticism. It was formed by psychologist and now-retired University of Oregon professor Ray Hyman, has been held every August since 1992, and is sponsored by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. The workshop focuses on educating people to be better critical thinkers, and involves a central theme. The attendees are broken up into groups and given tasks that they must work on together and whose results they must present in front of the entire group on the last day.

Joseph Rinn

Joseph Francis Rinn (1868–1952) was an American magician and skeptic of paranormal phenomena.

The Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism is a four-day conference focusing on science and skepticism held annually in New York City. Its purpose is exploring the intersection of science, skepticism, the media, and society for the purpose of promoting a more rational world. It was founded in 2009, run jointly by the New York City Skeptics (NYCS) and the New England Skeptical Society (NESS). The Society for Science-Based Medicine joined as a full sponsor of the conference in 2015. Attendance is estimated at almost 500 people.

Piet Hein Hoebens was a Dutch journalist, parapsychologist and skeptic.

CSICon

CSICon or CSIConference is an annual skeptical conference typically held in the United States. CSICon is hosted by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), which is a program of the Center for Inquiry (CFI). CSI publishes Skeptical Inquirer, subtitled The Magazine for Science and Reason.

References

  1. Loxton, Daniel (2007). "Where do we go from here?" (PDF). Skeptic Blog. The Skeptic Society. Archived (PDF) from the original on January 12, 2020. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  2. 1 2 3 Hofstadter, Douglas (February 1, 1982). "About two kinds of Inquiry: 'National Enquirer' and 'The Skeptical Inquirer'" . Scientific American . 246 (2): 18–26. Archived from the original on January 25, 2020. Retrieved March 31, 2016.
  3. Paul Kurtz (October 29, 2010). Exuberant Skepticism. Prometheus Books. p. 218. ISBN   9781615929702 . Retrieved December 14, 2015.
  4. 1 2 Douglas Hofstadter. Metamagical Themas. Penguin. p. 95. Retrieved April 14, 2020.
  5. Loxton, Daniel (May 13, 2013). "Modern skepticism's unique mandate". Skeptic Blog. The Skeptic Society. Archived from the original on January 12, 2020. Retrieved March 30, 2016.
  6. "In Memoriam: Chris Fix, Our Former Art Director". Skeptical Inquirer. Committee for Skeptical Inquirer. 45 (3): 12. 2021.
  7. Harris, Ian (2018). "The Take a Wish Foundation". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (3): 66. Archived from the original on February 10, 2020.
  8. Hall, Harriet (September 2018). "The Care and Feeding of the Vagina". Skeptical Inquirer. 42 (5): 28. Archived from the original on January 25, 2020.
  9. "Online Exclusives". Skeptical Inquirer. January 7, 2019. Retrieved June 17, 2020.
  10. Bernstein, Evan (August 19, 2013). "Remembering Perry DeAngelis Today". The Rogues Gallery. The Rogues Gallery. Archived from the original on January 5, 2014.
  11. Loxton, Daniel (April 27, 2010). "Ode to Joy". Skeptiblog. The Skeptic Society. Archived from the original on April 10, 2016.
  12. G'Sell, Eileen (March 19, 2016). "Sumptuous Skeptics: Ellen K. Levy and Patricia Olynyk Stage Creative Inquisition". Arte Fuse. Archived from the original on July 3, 2019. Retrieved March 25, 2016.
  13. Corwin, William (April 2016). "Truth in the Visual Arts Skepticism in the Work of Ellen K. Levy and Patricia Olynyk". The Brooklyn Rail. Archived from the original on June 15, 2017.
  14. "Introducing PENSAR: Spanish Language Skeptic Magazine". Skepticalinquirer.org. CFI. June 17, 2020. Archived from the original on February 17, 2021. Retrieved February 17, 2021.
  15. "Pensar (Home)". pensar.org. CFI. Retrieved February 17, 2021.