A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies - 784 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.

Also posted are over 20 years of reader comments.

Click here for Index of all Reader Comments

  • Recent Entries or Modifications

for last month's changes see current Newsletter

Date           Status* Entry

24 Apr
update: Newsletter Nov. 2015: Kevin Folta wins the 2016 CAST Borlaug Agricultural Communications Award 

18 Apr
new predatory open access journals

17 Apr
update SD Newsletter; update Joe Mercola caught in another fraud (the "personal power plate" is another)

15 Apr
new SD Newsletter April 2016

Sample the Skeptic's Dictionary

confirmation bias

"It is the peculiar and perpetual error of the human understanding to be more moved and excited by affirmatives than by negatives." --Francis Bacon (True, as long the affirmatives support your beliefs about anything but yourself or people you don't like and the negatives oppose your beliefs about anything but yourself or people you don't like. When it comes to the self or people we don't like, we seem to be much more affected by negative views than positive views. See the entry on negativity bias.)

Confirmation bias refers to a type of selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs. For example, if you believe that during a full moon there is an increase in admissions to the emergency room where you work, you will take notice of admissions during a full moon, but be inattentive to the moon when admissions occur during other nights of the month. A tendency to do this over time unjustifiably strengthens your belief in the relationship between the full moon and accidents and other lunar effects.>>more

sample Mysteries and Science (for kids 9 and up)

scientific skepticism

In a nutshell: Scientific skepticism holds that science is the best way to find out things about the world and ourselves. Scientific skeptics don't trust claims made by people who reject science or who don't think that science is the best way to learn about the world.

Scientific skepticism thinks that the best way to find out what makes things tick in the universe is the way of science. Science uses reason, logic, observation, experiments, and math to discover how things work.>>more

a blast from the past


The Skeptically-prone Personality

17 Mar 2011. (Please read the clarification in note 2.)

The main characteristics of the skeptically-prone personality (SPP) are:

  1. They are nearly impossible to hypnotize;
  2. As children they questioned the existence of Santa Claus, the Easter Bunny, fairies, and gods;
  3. As adults they continued to doubt the existence of Santa Claus and all forms of supernatural creatures;
  4. As children they played make-believe games, but they recognized the difference between make-believe and reality;
  5. As adults they do not spend more than 50% of their time fantasizing;>>more
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