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15 MIN READ TIME

NEW AND NOTABLE

—Kendrick Frazier

BELIEF: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions Are So Compelling. James E. Alcock. This book, by noted psychology professor (and CSI Executive Council member) James Alcock, explores the psychology of belief—how beliefs are formed, how they are influenced by both internal factors, such as perception, memory, reason, emotion, and prior beliefs, as well as external factors, such as experience, identification with a group, social pressure, and manipulation. The book is organized into five parts: The Power of Belief, The Belief Engine, Believing, Knowing Ourselves, Belief in a World Beyond, plus a final chapter “A Firewall to Folly.” As Alcock says in his intro, “Our heads are chock-a-block with beliefs.” They lead us to our great achievements. But faulty beliefs, arising from misapprehensions, misperceptions, misunderstandings, and misconceptions, “lead to inappropriate, maladaptive, and sometimes fatal actions.” This is where virtually everything we examine in SI starts, and Alcock is a congenial and well-informed guide to our understanding. Prometheus Books, 2018, 638 pp., $28.

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Find the complete article and many more in this issue of Skeptical Inquirer - May June 2018
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Progressophobia: Why Things Are Better Than You Think They Are STEVEN PIKER Percival Lowell and the Canals of Mars The Curious Question of Ghost Taxonomy and much more!

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Other Articles in this Issue


Editor’s Letter
I grew up in the 1950s when, for the most
NEWS AND COMMENT
At approximately 8:07 am on January 13, 2018, the state
Barry Williams, founder of the Australian Skeptics, has died. Tim
Newly elected CSI Fellow Michael E. Mann has been awarded
Bertha Vazquez, director of the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science
COMMENTARIES
I was recently reported for calling Britain’s heir to the
Somehow, some way, the flat-earth movement continues to make waves
SPECIAL REPORT
‘Zetetic’1 Astronomy at the University Level
INVESTIGATIVE FILES
Joe Nickell, PhD, is CSI’s senior research fellow and, among
NOTES ON A STRANGE WORLD
Massimo Polidoro is an investigator of the paranormal, lecturer, and
BEHAVIOR & BELIEF
Stuart Vyse is a psychologist and author of Believing in
SKEPTICAL INQUIREE
Benjamin Radford is a research fellow at the Committee for
FEATURES
Intellectuals dislike the very idea of progress. Our own mental bugs also distort our understanding of the world, blinding us to improvements in the human condition underway globally—and to the ideas that have made them possible
Traumatic Memories Are Alive and Well and Eating Your Innards Out
The ‘canals’ of Mars don’t exist, and they never did; yet they were repeatedly reported and defended as scientific realities by many great astronomers. Why?
The nature of ghosts remains unknown despite centuries of collective effort by legions of ghost hunters
A critical examination of the book Who Was Adam? demonstrates that creationism is not science
A mass of solid ice weighing nearly a ton fell on a Scottish farm on the estate at Ord during a thunderstorm on July 30, 1849. Theories abound as to its origin, some more fanciful than others. New analysis suggests that the ice originated locally and did not fall from the sky, as has long been thought
REVIEWS
On Human Nature
In her documentary about the disgraced doctor most identified as
The Winter 2017/2018 “Special Collector’s Edition” of Scientific American is
The Most Hated Man in America: Jerry Sandusky and the
LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
I want no more issues sent. I am specifically and
THE LAST LAUGH
As I write this we are a few days away