Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye

Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye

by Michael Shermer
Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye

Skeptic: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye

by Michael Shermer


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Collected essays from bestselling author Michael Shermer's celebrated columns in Scientific American

For fifteen years, bestselling author Michael Shermer has written a column in Scientific American magazine that synthesizes scientific concepts and theory for a general audience. His trademark combination of deep scientific understanding and entertaining writing style has thrilled his huge and devoted audience for years. Now, in Skeptic, seventy-five of these columns are available together for the first time; a welcome addition for his fans and a stimulating introduction for new readers.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250119636
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 01/10/2017
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 5.60(w) x 8.80(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

MICHAEL SHERMER is the author of The Moral Arc, Why People Believe Weird Things, The Believing Brain, and many other books on the evolution of human beliefs and behavior. He is the founding publisher of Skepticmagazine, the editor of, a monthly columnist for Scientific American, and Presidential Fellow at Chapman University. He lives in Southern California.

Table of Contents


Introduction: Viewing the World with a Rational Eye

I. Science
1. Colorful Pebbles and Darwin's Dictum: Science is an exquisite blend of data and theory
2. Contrasts and Continuities: Eastern and Western science are put to political uses in both cultures
3. I Was Wrong: Those three words often separate the scientific pros from the posers
4. The Shamans of Scientism: On the occasion of Stephen W. Hawking's sixtieth trip around the sun, we consider a social phenomenon that reveals something deep about human nature
5. The Physicist and the Abalone Diver: The differences between the creators of two new theories of science reveal the social nature of the scientific process
6. A Candle in the Dark: Instead of cursing the darkness of pseudoscience on television, light a candle with Cable Science Network
7. The Feynman-Tufte Principle: A visual display of data should be simple enough to fit on the side of a van
8. The Flipping Point: How the evidence for anthropogenic global warming has converged to cause this environmental skeptic to make a cognitive flip
9. Fake, Mistake, Replicate: A court of law may determine the meaning of replication in science
10. Wronger Than Wrong: Not all wrong theories are equal

II. Skepticism
11. Fox's Flapdoodle: Tabloid television offers a lesson in uncritical thinking
12. Baloney Detection: How to draw boundaries between science and pseudoscience, Part I
13. More Baloney Detection: How to draw boundaries between science and pseudoscience, Part II
14. Hermits and Cranks: Fifty years ago Martin Gardner launched the modern skeptical movement. Unfortunately, much of what he wrote about is still current today
15. Skepticism as a Virtue: An inquiry into the original meaning of the word "skeptic"
16. The Exquisite Balance: Science helps us understand the essential tension between orthodoxy and heresy in science
17. The Enchanted Glass: Francis Bacon and experimental psychologists show why the facts in science never just speak for themselves
18. Fahrenheit 2777: 9/11 has generated the mother of all conspiracy theories

III. Pseudoscience and Quackery
19. Smart People Believe Weird Things: Rarely does anyone weigh facts before deciding what to believe
20. Mesmerized by Magnetism: An eighteenth-century investigation into mesmerism shows us how to think about twenty-first-century therapeutic magnets
21. Show Me the Body: Purported sightings of Bigfoot, Nessie, and Ogopogo fire our imaginations. But anecdotes alone do not make a science
22. What's the Harm?: Alternative medicine is not everything to gain and nothing to lose
23. Bunkum!: Broad-mindedness is a virtue when investigating extraordinary claims, but often they turn out to be pure bunk
24. Magic Water and Mencken's Maxim: Social critic H. L. Mencken offers a lesson on how to respond to outrageous pseudoscientific claims
25. Death by Theory: Attachment therapy is based on a pseudoscientific theory that, when put into practice, can be deadly
26. Cures and Cons: Natural scams "he" doesn't want you to know about

IV. The Paranormal and the Supernatural
27. Deconstructing the Dead: "Crossing over" to expose the tricks of popular spirit mediums
28. Psychic Drift: Why most scientists do not believe in ESP and psi phenomena
29. Demon-Haunted Brain: If the brain mediates all experience, then paranormal phenomena are nothing more than neuronal events
30. Codified Claptrap: The Bible code is numerological nonsense masquerading as science
31. The Myth Is the Message: Yet another discovery of the lost continent of Atlantis shows why science and myth make uneasy bedfellows
32. Turn Me On, Dead Man: What do the Beatles, the Virgin Mary, Jesus, Patricia Arquette, and Michael Keaton all have in common?
33. Rupert's Resonance: The theory of "morphic resonance" posits that people have a sense of when they are being stared at. What does the research show?
34. Mr. Skeptic Goes to Esalen: Science and spirituality on the California coast

V. Aliens and UFOs
35. Shermer's Last Law: Any sufficiently advanced extraterrestrial intelligence is indistinguishable from God
36. Why ET Has Not Phoned In: The lifetime of civilizations in the Drake equation for estimating extraterrestrial intelligences is greatly exaggerated
37. The Chronology Conjecture Projector: Time machines, extraterrestrials, and the paradoxes of causality
38. Abducted!: Imaginary traumas are as terrifying as the real thing

VI. Borderlands Science and Alternative Medicine
39. Nano Nonsense and Cryonics: True believers seek redemption from the sin of death
40. I, Clone: The Three Laws of Cloning will protect clones and advance science
41. Bottled Twaddle: Is bottled water tapped out?
42. Quantum Quackery: A surprise-hit film has renewed interest in applying quantum mechanics to consciousness, spirituality, and human potential
43. Hope Springs Eternal: Can nutritional supplements, biotechnology, and nanotechnology help us live forever?
44. Full of Holes: The curious case of acupuncture
45. Airborne Baloney: The latest fad in cold remedies is full of hot air
46. Eat, Drink, and Be Merry: Or why we should learn to stop worrying and love food

VII. Psychology and the Brain
47. The Captain Kirk Principle: Intuition is the key to knowing without knowing how you know
48. None So Blind: Perceptual-blindness experiments challenge the validity of eyewitness testimony and the metaphor of memory as a video recording
49. Common Sense: Surprising new research shows that crowds are often smarter than individuals
50. Murdercide: Science unravels the myth of suicide bombers
51. As Luck Would Have It: Are some people really luckier than others, or is it all in their heads? Both
52. SHAM Scam: The Self-Help and Actualization Movement is an $8.5-billion-a-year business. Does it work?
53. The Political Brain: A recent brain-imaging study shows that our political predilections are products of unconscious confirmation bias
54. Folk Science: Why our intuitions about how the world works are often wrong
55. Free to Choose: The neuroscience of choice exposes the power of ideas
56. Bush's Mistake and Kennedy's Error: Self-deception proves itself to be more powerful than deception

VIII. Human Nature
57. The Erotic-Fierce People: The latest skirmish in the "anthropology wars" reveals a fundamental flaw in how science is understood and communicated
58. The Ignoble Savage: Science reveals humanity's heart of darkness
59. The Domesticated Savage: Science reveals a way to rise above our natures
60. A Bounty of Science: A new book reexamines the mutiny on the Bounty, but science offers a deeper account of its cause
61. Unweaving the Heart: Science only adds to our appreciation for poetic beauty and experiences of emotional depth
62. (Can't Get No) Satisfaction: The new science of happiness needs some historical perspective

IX. Evolution and Creationism
63. The Gradual Illumination of the Mind: The advance of science, not the demotion of religion, will best counter the influence of creationism
64. Vox Populi: The voice of the people reveals why evolution remains controversial
65. The Fossil Fallacy: Creationists' demand for "just one transitional fossil" reveals a deep misunderstanding of science
66. Rumsfeld's Wisdom: Where the known meets the unknown is where science begins
67. It's Dogged as Does It: Retracing Darwin's footsteps in the Galápagos shatters a myth but reveals how revolutions in science actually evolve
68. Darwin on the Right: Why Christians and conservatives should accept evolution

X. Science, Religion, Miracles, and God
69. Digits and Fidgets: Is the universe fine-tuned for life?
70. Remember the 6 Billion: For millennia we have raged against the dying of the light. Can science save us from that good night?
71. God's Number Is Up: Among a heap of books claiming that science proves God's existence emerges one that computes a probability of 67 percent
72. Miracle on Probability Street: The Law of Large Numbers guarantees that one-in-a-million miracles happen 321 times a day in America
73. Mustangs and Monists: The dualist belief that body and soul are separate entities is natural, intuitive, and with us from infancy. It is also very probably wrong
74. Flying Carpets and Scientific Prayer: Scientific experiments claiming that distant intercessory prayer produces salubrious effects are deeply flawed
75. Bowling for God: Is religion good for society? Science's definitive answer: it depends


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