From Abracadabra to Zombies - 768 entries | View All
The Skeptic's Dictionary features definitions, arguments, and essays on hundreds of strange beliefs, amusing deceptions, and dangerous delusions. It also features dozens of entries on logical fallacies, cognitive biases, perception, science, and philosophy.
- Recent Entries or Modifications
for last month's changes see current Newsletter
Date Status* Entry
New Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter
Sample the Skeptic's Dictionary
A crop "circle" is a geometric pattern, often very intricate and complex, appearing in fields, usually wheat fields and usually in England. Most, if not all, crop circles are probably due to pranksters. For example, Doug Bower and David Chorley admit to hoaxing approximately 250 circles over many years.
Some believe that the crop designs are messages from alien spacecraft. Some maintain that the aliens are trying to communicate with us using ancient Sumerian symbols or symbolic representations of alien DNA. Those who engage in such serious study and theorizing about crop circles are known as cerealogists(after Ceres, the Roman goddess of agriculture and fertility) orcroppies. >>more
sample Mysteries and Science (for kids 9 and up)
In a nutshell: Ghosts are spirits of dead people. Scientists have tried for centuries to prove ghosts exist. The evidence for ghosts includes photos, eyewitness accounts, and performers who say they are getting messages from ghosts to pass on to people. Scientists don't think much of this evidence.
Ghosts are spirits of dead people. Most people who believe in spirits think they are not physical but yet are able to do things that people can do, like see, hear, move around, and make sounds. Can something that isn't a body do the same kinds of things that bodies can do? It doesn't seem possible, yet many people say they've seen ghosts and talked to them. Others say that ghosts exist only in the imagination. Some say that ghosts exist and they are physical, but we don't know what they're made of. One thing is certain: there are lots of ghost stories.>>more
a blast from the past
Pranks, Frauds, and Hoaxes from Around the World
by Robert Todd Carroll
We want to be deceived.—Blaise Pascal
It’s pretty easy to hoax people. We all want to be deceived, but only up to a point. Some hoaxes are fun and pleasant, others malicious and unpleasant. We’d like a way to tell the difference.
I think Pascal is right. We want to be deceived. Deception is an essential tool for the survival of our species. We might well be hardwired for deceiving others and taking delight in being deceived. On the other hand, there are many times when we don’t appreciate deceiving or being deceived. And most of us feel uncomfortable when we’re not sure whether we’re being hoaxed. Is there any way to reconcile our love of a good prank or magic trick with our hatred of being defrauded or made to look foolish? Is there any surefire way to avoid being hoaxed?
Maybe. Maybe not.>>more