The Skeptics Society

The Skeptics Society

Infobox Organization
name = The Skeptics Society

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formation = 1992
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location = Worldwide
membership = 55,000 [cite news | url= | title=Making a living of bullshit detecting | publisher=VUE Weekly |date=Aug 27, 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate =2008-10-10 ]
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leader_title = Editor
leader_name = Michael Shermer
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The Skeptics Society is a nonprofit, member-supported organization devoted to promoting scientific skepticism and resisting the spread of pseudoscience, superstition, and irrational beliefs. The Skeptics Society was originally founded as a Los Angeles-area skeptical group to replace the defunct Southern California Skeptics. After the success of its magazine, "Skeptic", introduced in Spring 1992, it became a national — then international — organization.

History and philosophy

Formed in 1992, in 2008 it has 55,000 members worldwide including Bill Nye “The Science Guy,” Saturday Night Live alumnus Julia Sweeney, biologist Richard Dawkins and popular astronomer Neil deGrasse Tyson. [cite news | url= | title=Making a living of bullshit detecting | publisher=VUE Weekly |date=Aug 27, 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate =2008-10-10 ]

When investigating extraordinary claims, the Skeptics Society adopts the view of the 17th Century Dutch philosopher Baruch Spinoza:

:"“I have made a ceaseless effort not to ridicule, not to bewail, not to scorn human actions, but to understand them.”"

With regard to the procedure by which such claims are investigated, the Society uses the scientific method developed in the 16th and 17th Century, which the Society believes adheres to Albert Einstein’s philosophy:

:"“All our science, measured against reality, is primitive and childlike—and yet it is the most precious thing we have.”

The Skeptics Society contends that whereas some may perceive skeptics to be cynics or curmudgeons who reject all new ideas that may challenge the status quo on an a priori basis, skepticism is actually a provisional approach to claims. The Society contends that skepticism is merely the application of reason and the acknowledgement of the need for evidence for any and all ideas, even “sacred cows”, and that it is merely a method, and not a position. The Skeptics Society contends that skepticism has a long historical tradition dating back to Socrates’ observation, “All I know is that I know nothing”, and that its modern embodiment is the scientific method, which involves gathering data to formulate and test explanations for natural phenomena and other claims. A claim, according to this view, becomes factual when it is confirmed to a rigorous extent, but that all facts remain provisional and subject to challenge, because the ongoing accumulation of knowledge may one day yield information that requires revision, correction, or even abandonment of the prevailing model.


The Skeptics Society activities include:

* Production of a quarterly journal, "Skeptic" magazine, of which Michael Shermer is Publisher and Editor-in-Chief.
* Investigating and researching controversial claims.
* Sponsoring a monthly lecture series at the California Institute of Technology.
* Production and sale of audio and video tapes of the lectures.
* Maintaining a catalogue of books on science and skepticism discounted for members.
* Organizing an annual scientific conference centered around a particular theme.
* Conducting field trips for scientific research and education.
* Holding social events to promote good will among like-minded individuals
* Maintaining a speaker’s bureau for schools and organizations to access.
* Maintaining a telephone referral service for the public and the media to access information on controversial claims from a skeptical viewpoint.
* Maintaining a website for "eSkeptic" on breaking paranormal news.
*"Skepticality" is the group's official podcast.

A primary activity of the Skeptics Society is the publication of "Skeptic" magazine. "Skeptic" is a quarterly science education and science advocacy magazine available by subscription or on major newsstands in the U.S. and Canada. Over 100 pages long, the magazine examines many of the aforementioned topics. Its cover stories have ranged from examination of alleged UFOs in religious icons [ [ Skeptic, Vol. 11 No. 1 - Medieval UFOs?] ] and theories of the likelihood of artificial intelligence [ [ Skeptic, Vol. 12 No. 2 - Artificial Intelligence] ] to tributes to luminaries such as Isaac Asimov [ [ Skeptic, Vol. 1 No.1 - (Premiere Issue) Tribute to Isaac Asimov] ] and Ernst Mayr. [ [ - Skeptic, Vol. 11 No. 4 Ernst Mayr] ] Some editions feature special sections devoted to a particular topic or theme that is examined through multiple articles by different authors, such as intelligent design, a frequently recurring topic in the magazine, given the ongoing creation-evolution controversy.

The magazine also features a large correspondence section called "Forum", that includes not only letters from lay readers, but also in-depth comments and rebuttals from professionals for extended academic debate across issues from past editions. Bound into most issues is also a 10-page young readers section called "Junior Skeptic", which focuses on one topic, or practical instruction that is written and illustrated in a style more appealing to children.

In 2007, "Skepticality" was adopted as the group's official podcast.


The Society's magazine "Skeptic", like Committee for Skeptical Inquiry and the James Randi Educational Foundation, the investigates extraordinary claims, such as extra sensory perception, Atlantis, 9/11 conspiracy theories, the Loch Ness Monster, Bigfoot, creationism, pyramid power, etc. It does not limit itself to potentially pseudoscientific claims, but also investigates such controversies such as pseudohistory (as in the examples of Holocaust denial and extreme Eurocentrism), the use or misuse of theory and statistics, conspiracy theories, urban legends, witch hunts, mass hysteria, genius, and intelligence, and cultural influences on science, as well as controversies involving protosciences at the leading edge of established science, and even fads like cryonics and low-carb diets.

Caltech Lecture Series

The Caltech Lecture Series offers speakers on a wide range of topics relating to science, psychology, social issues, religion/atheism, skepticism, etc. Past speakers include Julia Sweeney, Richard Dawkins, Philip Zimbardo, Dinesh D'Souza, Steven Pinker, Carol Tavris, and Sam Harris at California Institute of Technology. The lectures occur on Sunday afternoons, and are open to the public for a nominal fee. [cite news | url= | title=Caltech Lecture | publisher=The Skeptics Society |date= 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate =2008-05-17] The Skeptics Society also sell recordings of the lectures. [cite news | url= | title=Order Caltech Lectures | publisher=The Skeptics Society |date= 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate =2008-05-17]

In addition, the Skeptics Society is hosting the "Origins Conference" in October 2008 with Nancey Murphy, Hugh Ross, Leonard Susskind, Sean Carroll, Paul Davies, Stuart Kauffman, Christof Koch, Kenneth R. Miller, Nancey Murphy, Donald Prothero, and Victor J. Stenger. [cite news | url= | title=Origins Conference October 3–4, 2008 | publisher=Skeptics Society |date=2008 | first= | last= | accessdate =2008-10-10 ] [cite news | url= | title=The truth is out there - and science can prove it | publisher=The Age |date=August 21, 2008 | first= | last= | accessdate =2008-10-10 ]

ee also

*Australian Skeptics
*The Skeptic (UK magazine)


External links

* [ The Skeptics Society] - Official
* [ Skeptic Magazine] - Official

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