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

From Abracadabra to Zombies

Essential Books for Skeptics

Fads and Fallacies
 Other books by Martin Gardner
Fads & Fallacies in the Name of Science is Martin Gardner's classic study of dozens of pseudosciences, including Wilhelm Reich, Atlantis, Bridey Murphy, L. Ron Hubbard, flying saucers, hollow earth, dowsing, medical quackery, ESP, etc. 
errors Errors and Eccentricity in Human Belief is Joseph Jastrow's classic study of rationalization by smart people.

Two classics

Christopher,Milbourne. ESP, Seers & Psychics (Thomas Y. Crowell Co. 1970).

Christopher, Milbourne. (1975). Mediums, Mystics & the Occult. Thomas Y. Crowell Co.

Spiritism by Amy Tanner Classic example of how to investigate psychics. Tanner's account of the Leonora Piper sittings with G. Stanley Hall is a model of intelligent analysis and writing. Plus much more on the early days of scientific misinvestigation of telepathy and spirits.
Flim Flam!





online version




Other books by James Randi 

Flim Flam! is James Randi's classic study of dozens of pseudoscientific notions and fraudulent schemes.

An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural by James Randi. Arthur C. Clarke writes in his introduction that this book "should be issued with a mental health warning, as many readers--if they are brave enough to face unwelcome facts--will find some of their cherished beliefs totally demolished."

The Faith Healers exposes the demons who prey upon the sick and desperate, including the infamous Peter Popoff.

Randi should be required reading in all our schools

The Demon-Haunted World






 Other books by Carl Sagan

The Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan is a collection of twenty-five essays, several written with Sagan's wife, Ann Druyan. The essays range in scope from eloquent paeans to science to impassioned denunciations of bigotry, from humorous accounts of a variety of pseudoscientific endeavors to serious attempts to understand the nature of alien abduction delusions.

Broca's Brain by Carl Sagan. This is one of the classic antidotes to pseudoscience and flim-flam! Every chapter is unique.

Gone but not forgotten: the voice of science and reason for generations to come


Other books by Michael Shermer

Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time, revised ed. by Michael Shermer. There is a lot of personal experience behind his discussions of such things as creationism, alien abductions, Ayn Rand, megavitamin therapy, deep-tissue massage and Holocaust denial.

from the premier spokesman of our time for science and reason

Extraordinary Popular Delusions and the Madness of Crowds by Charles MacKay is a 19th century classic collection of popular fads fallacies, and follies.







The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins. The single best book on the evidence for evolution against all comers, including creationism.

Well, this was the single best book on the evidence for evolution until

1. Donald Prothero's Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters. (Columbia University Press, 2007);

2. Jerry A. Coyne's Why Evolution Is True. Viking Adult.  2009;

3. Dawkin's own The Greatest Show on Earth: the Evidence for Evolution. Free Press. 2009.

How We Know What Isn't So
How We Know What Isn't So: The Fallibility of Human Reason in Everyday Life by Thomas Gilovich. This is a difficult book, but worth the effort of plowing through the jargon. Those who doubt that psychology has anything to contribute to critical thinking should read this book. Here you can discover why brilliant people often believe dumb things.
Conjuring Science: Scientific Symbols and Cultural Meanings in American Life by Christopher P. Toumey. This book provides a fresh look at science and science journalism essential to understanding the power of fringe scientists.

The Connection interview

Voodoo Science: the Road from Foolishness to Fraud by Robert L. Park, the head of the Washington, D.C., office of the American Physical Society, subjects to rational analysis such topics as cold fusion, homeopathy, "Star Wars," quantum healing, and various attempts to repeal the laws of thermodynamics.
Anomalistic Psychology: A Study of Magical Thinking 2nd edition by Leonard Zusne and Warren Jones. The standard text for those who want to delve into the depths of why people believe weird things.
Don't Get Taken! - Bunco and Bunkum Exposed - How to Protect Yourself
by Robert A. Steiner
(Wide-Awake Books 1989)
Pseudoscience and the Paranormal 2nd ed. by Terence Hines covers the usual suspects: alien abductions, alternative medicine, astrology, faith healing, ghosts, life after death, parapsychology, psychics, and UFOs. The 2nd edition has extended sections on psychoanalysis, recovered memory therapy, facilitated communication, and environmental pseudoscience.
Believing in Magic: The Psychology of Superstition by Stuart A. Vyse. This is a great book for understanding perceptual and cognitive illusions that lead to superstitious belief and to many pseudoscientific and paranormal beliefs as well.
The Psychic Mafia by Lamar M. Keene. A reformed "psychic" reveals how he and his colleagues deceive and con the gullible.
"Crazy" Therapies
"Crazy" Therapies by Margaret Singer and Janja Lalich who discuss the origins and dangers of many "crazy" therapies, including entity-release therapy, past-life regression, alien abduction, primal screaming, reparenting, rebirthing, neuro-linguistic programming (NLP), facilitated communication (FC), Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR), Neural Organization Technique (NOT) and a host of other unscientific notions.

Other books by J.A. Paulos

Innumeracy by John Allen Paulos examines scientific and mathematical illiteracy in popular culture. He shows how many misperceptions result from our inability to deal with large numbers, probability and ratios.
The Elusive Quarry : A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research 
by Ray Hyman is an examination of the way parapsychologists go about their business of trying to find some evidence of psi.
The Search for Psychic Power: Esp & Parapsychology Revisited by C.E.M. Hansel recounts the scientific community's efforts to provide evidence of the paranormal, while at the same time seeking to expose the confusion, trickery, and deception that has permeated the search for psychic power.
The Psychology of the Psychic by David F. Marks is a thorough refutation of the claims of serious parapsychologists such as Russell Targ, Harold Puthoff, Edwin C. May, Charles Honorton, Rupert Sheldrake, and Jessica Utts, as well as a thorough debunking of Uri Geller.
Multiple Identities & False Memories : A Sociocognitive Perspective by Nicholas P. Spanos argues that Multiple Personality Disorder is a bogus disease (a socio-cognitive construct) invented by therapists. Explores the role of therapists in creating false memories in their patients.

Other books by Stephen Jay Gould

Hen's Teeth and Horses Toes is one of several collections of essays written for his column in Natural History magazine. This collection contains the essential "Evolution as Fact and Theory."
Darwin, Charles. From So Simple a Beginning: Darwin's Four Great Books (Voyage of the H.M.S. Beagle, The Origin of Species, The Descent of Man, The Expression of Emotions in Man and Animals). ed. E. O. Wilson.
Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (2007) by Donald R. Prothero. Columbia University Press. The best single book refuting all the wildest claims of young earth creationists.
The Ancient Engineers by L. Sprague De Camp is one of those little books you never forget. He explains the mysteries of the ancients without belittling their intelligence and ingenuity.

Other books by Paul Kurtz


The New Skepticism - Inquiry and Reliable Knowledge by Kurtz, Paul. (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1992). The main founder and spirit of CSICOP explains the connection between skepticism and science.
House of Cards - Psychology and Psychotherapy Built on Myth by Robyn M. Dawes is an exposé of the flawed foundations of modern therapeutic techniques, which are often without basis in empirical science.
The Hundredth Monkey and Other Paradigms of the Paranormal, ed. Kendrick Frazier, is a great collection of essays from the Skeptical Inquirer. Other collections include Science Confronts the Paranormal, The Ufo Invasion: The Roswell Incident, Alien Abductions, and Government Coverups and Encounters With the Paranormal: Science, Knowledge, and Belief.


How to Think About Weird Things 3rd ed. (McGraw Hill 2001) by Theodore Schick Jr. and Lewis Vaughn. Teach critical thinking with a focus on evaluating claims in the paranormal, pseudoscientific, supernatural, and the occult.

Other books by Joe Nickell

Looking For A Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions and Healing Cures by Joe Nickell. The author offers rational explanations for miracles, weeping statues, stigmata, etc., including pious fraud on the part of the religious.


Science Meets Alternative Medicine: What the Evidence Says About Unconventional Treatments ; edited by Wallace Sampson and Lewis Vaughn.
Frauds, Myths, and Mysteries: Science and Pseudoscience in Archaeology, 5th edition, by Kenneth L. Feder. A scientist looks at the usual suspects: the Cardiff Giant, Piltdown Man, the Shroud of Turin, Von Daniken, Atlantis, and more.
Bad Astronomy: Misconceptions and Misuses Revealed, from Astrology to the Moon Landing "Hoax" by Philip C. Plait exposes a lot of bad science in a humorous and educational way.

Other books by Philip Klass

The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup by Philip J. Klass is a classic skeptical analysis of the kind of thinking that is behind belief in UFO crashes and government coverups of alien landings.


4th edition now available

The Full Facts Book of Cold Reading (third edition)
by Ian Rowland is the most complete book on the various kinds of behaviors that are collectively known as "cold reading."
Don't Believe Everything You Think: The 6 Basic Mistakes We Make in Thinking  by Thomas E. Kida reviews cognitive errors involving statistics, confirmation bias, chance, misperception, oversimplification, and memory.
A Consumers Guide to Alternative Medicine : A Close Look at Homeopathy, Acupuncture, Faith-Healing, and Other Unconventional Treatments; edited by Stephen  Barrett and Kurt Butler.

Other books by Stephen Barrett

Nibbling on Einstein's Brain (updated and revised edition) by Diane Swanson is the book to get for the young thinkers in your life if you want them to learn to think critically and scientifically about the things that matter.
Turn it Loose - The Scientist in Absolutely Everybody by Diane Swanson (Grades 4-8)







by Jamie Whyte

Crimes Against Logic - Exposing the Bogus Arguments of Politicians, Priests, Journalists, and Other Serial Offenders

A book on logical fallacies written with razor sharp wit

 Parapsychology: Science or Magic by James E. Alcock, (Pergamon Press 1981)

The Psychology of Transcendence by Andrew Neher (Prentice-Hall 1980)

The Psychology of Anomalous Experience: A Cognitive Approach by Graham Reed (Prometheus 1988)

Three classics that delve into the psychological aspects of belief in the paranormal.

More Books

Kaminer, Wendy. Sleeping With Extra-Terrestrials : The Rise of Irrationalism and Perils of Piety (Pantheon, 1999).

Raso, Jack. "Alternative" Healthcare: A Comprehensive Guide (Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1994).

Rawcliffe, Donovan Hilton, Illusions and Delusions of the Supernatural and the Occult; the Psychology of the Occult (New York: Dover Publications, 1959).

Shermer, Michael. editor  The Skeptic Encyclopedia of Pseudoscience (ABC-Clio Inc. 2002).

Stein, Gordon. editor, The Encyclopedia of the Paranormal (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1996).

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