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How We Believe

Harriet Hall

Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling. By James E. Alcock. Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books. 2018. ISBN: 9781633884038. 638 pp. Hardcover, $28.

In James E. Alcock’s classic 1995 Skeptical Inquirer article “The Belief Engine,” he wrote, “Our brains and nervous systems constitute belief-generating machine, a system that evolved to assure not truth, logic, and reason, but survival.”

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About Skeptical Inquirer

A SKEPTICAL LOOK AT UFOS AND ALIENS Arthur J. Cramp: The Quackbuster Who Professionalized American Medicine Grand Illusions and Existential Angst

Other Articles in this Issue


Editor’s Letter
People are weird about aliens and UFOs. The topic is
NEWS AND COMMENT
At many pharmacies in the United States, homeopathic remedies are
NASA is concerned about aliens. No, not undocumented immigrants or
Having last year waded into a topic that reporters seem
Thought processes and belief systems that people develop early in
Over a year has passed since The History Channel suffered
The prolific and iconoclastic writer Harlan Ellison died June 27,
SPECIAL REPORT
Continuing education is part of most professional jobs. Having been
COMMENTARY
When Skeptics Meet Deniers
I am always interested in seeing how countries and cultures
INVESTIGATIVE FILES
Joe Nickell, PhD, is CSI’s senior research fellow. For nearly
THE SCIENCE OF SCIENCE COMMUNICATION
A New Way of Thinking about Climate Change and Human Progress
BEHAVIOR & BELIEF
Stuart Vyse is a psychologist and author of Believing in
REALITY IS THE BEST MEDICINE
Harriet Hall, MD, also known as “The SkepDoc,” is a
SKEPTICAL INQUIREE
Q: Benjamin Radford is a research fellow at the Committee
A SKEPTICAL LOOK AT UFOS AND ALIENS
There is a wide variety of natural explanations for things we see in the sky that are easy to misinterpret
UFOlogy is replete with varying descriptions of UFOs and their occupants—so much so that concluding an alien intelligence is piloting them goes against the more logical and reasonable conclusion that the only intelligence behind the phenomenon is the human brain itself
Many believe life on alien planets would likely include intelligent humanoids, and much of science fiction uses this idea. Based on what we know of evolution on Earth, there is really no basis for this belief; however, one supportable prediction for alien lifeform would be worms
FEATURES
How a pioneering physician at the American Medical Association fought medical fraud on a national scale in the early twentieth century
Natural illusions have impeded civilization’s progress toward enlightenment for millennia. Here’s an inventory of a few prominent illusions that have had a tenacious grip on our collective wisdom
REVIEWS
Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions
In the 1990s, it was common to see ads in
The body parts of some wildlife, such as rhino horn,
NEW AND NOTABLE
Listing does not preclude future review
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
As a natural resource economist, I appreciated the supply and
THE LAST LAUGH