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

From Abracadabra to Zombies

The Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter

Volume 10 No. 11

November 2011

Seek out argument and disputation for their own sake; the grave will supply plenty of time for silence.--Christopher Hitchens

In this issue

What's New?

I am about finished with a new book, Unnatural Acts: Critical Thinking, Skepticism, and Science Exposed! The table of contents includes:

1. Believing in the Palpably Not True
2. How to Lose Friends and Alienate Your Neighbors
3. Believing is Seeing: Trust No One, Not Even Yourself—Especially If You Find Meaning In A Dirty Diaper
4. Extraordinary Renditions and Graphic Illusions in a Vaguely Familiar Universe
5. Driving an Edsel to the Bay of Pigs
6. Reliable Sources of Confusion and Collusion
7. Seductive Stories and Varieties of Scientific Experience
8. The Fallacy-Driven Life
9. Are We Doomed to Die with our Biases On?
10. 59 Ways to Develop Your Unnatural Talents in Critical Thinking, Skepticism, and Science
Appendix One - Cell phones, radiation, and cancer
Appendix Two - UFOs and Interstellar Space Travel
Appendix Three – Acupuncture, CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicine), and Faith Healing

A free preview of chapter one in Adobe PDF format is available by clicking here. The e-book should be available in a few weeks.

Addition to the Skeptic's Dictionary: Dragon's Triangle

Reader comments: organic farming

Translations of the SD: Indonesian translations for adults and for kids

Book review: The Magic of Reality by Richard Dawkins

What's the harm? Psychic scares young girl into stealing jewelry

Many files were updated. A complete list with links to the updates may be found at skepdic.com/updates.html. One of the more important updates concerns the largest cell phone study ever that finds no link to brain cancer.

Joe Mercola takes the low road on his high horse

Dr. Stephen Barrett's Consumer Health Digest reports that Joe Mercola has ponied up $1,000,000 to form a swell-sounding outfit called Health Liberty. The stated purpose is to promote organic foods and provide disinformation about fluoridation, vaccination, genetically modified foods, and amalgam dental fillings. (OK, he calls it information.) The promo in his quotidian ubiquitous newsletter sounds like it was written by the Republican National Committee: "Take Back Your Health Freedoms!"

David Gorski of Science-Based Medicine notes that Mercola's reach has been greatly boosted by repeated promotion on the "Dr. Oz Show."

For more information on Dr. Barrett's Consumer Health Digest click here.

What's in a Name?

The following was posted on an Australian ex-Scientologist's forum:

Has anyone heard of Human Potentials, formerly Spirit of Freedom? Former members of Scientology created courses strongly based on Scientology teachings and have been operating from Gold Coast and Sunshine Coast with centres up and down the East Coast of Australia (and formerly New Zealand) making a fortune. After an initial feeling of hope, 'advanced' courses leave people reliant, poor, often distant from family & friends and trapped. Wedges have been created in relationships, under the guise of 'helping closeness', through intimate examination by the group and particularly by the leaders who have major relationship problems themselves and will not be challenged! For people who have already come out of cults, none of this will be a surprise, but for those still in, or those contemplating doing courses, have a good look.

The names "Human Potentials" and "Spirit of Freedom" were selected, it seems, because in Australia those names are already associated with quite respectable outfits. (Would anyone associated with Scientology be a sneaky deceiver?) Human Potentials is almost generic these days with so many people claiming to have the secret to unleash your human potential. The human potential movement needs no introduction, though it might be nice to watch it do a swan song as it concludes the farce that it has become. From what I can tell by looking at websites, the legitimate and useful Australian outfits that use "human potential" in their name offer job training. One interesting exception is the Centre for Human Potential, which specializes in helping the GLBTI community. "Spirit of Freedom," another expression that has become almost generic, is used in Australia by religious ministries and outfits that specialize in water sports such as diving.

If you have attended this ex-Scientology group's training, let me know and I will pass on to others what a wonderful experience you had. Or not.

Ben Radford's latest book

Paranormal investigator and deputy editor of Skeptical Inquirer has a new book out:The Martians Have Landed! A History of Media-Driven Panics and Hoaxes.

The book is co-authored with sociologist Robert Bartholomew (who also co-authored Ben's first book, the excellent Hoaxes Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking.

Radford's new book surveys a wide breadth of social panics and scares that were fueled by the mass media, from classics like the 1938 War of the Worlds scare by Orson Welles and the Halley’s Comet panic of 1910, to recent panics like murders following Hurricane Katrina and anti-vaccination fears.

Leading Secular Women to Speak at Historic 2012 Conference

Next spring the Center for Inquiry (CFI) will be putting on a Women in Secularism conference at the Crystal City Marriott at National Airport, "just steps away from fantastic restaurants, theaters, and shops, and a short Metro ride away from Washington, DC." The conference will run May 18-20, 2012. "This historic conference will discuss and celebrate the many contributions women have made to the secular movement while critically examining both the successes and failures of secularism in addressing women's concerns." If I sound like a brochure, that's because the quotes are from the CFI e-flyer announcing the event.

For information on registration click here.

Written by Bob Carroll
with the assistance of John Renish
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This page was designed by Cristian Popa.