Skeptical Inquirer column

As of January 2022 I have resumed writing for the most venerable and influential skeptical magazine in the world, Skeptical Inquirer. My first SI column, “Thinking about Science,” ran for twelve years from 2002 to 2015. Here are the essays published under the new column, “The Philosopher’s Corner” (most recent entries on top). Enjoy!

On Pigeon Chess and Debating (May/June 2022). “Debating creationists on the topic of evolution is rather like trying to play chess with a pigeon—it knocks the pieces over, craps on the board, and flies back to its flock to claim victory.” This famous quote is by Scott D. Weitzenhoffer, who wrote it as an Amazon.com review for Eugenie Scott’s book Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction. It raises an important question: When and how should we debate people who hold to opinions that we consider entirely unscientific and either ideologically or religiously motivated? …

How to Talk to Science Deniers (Mar/Apr 2022). There is a pernicious belief spreading within the skeptic community that it’s a waste of time to talk to science deniers, so our efforts are better spent, well, doing what, exactly? I’ve been to plenty of skeptic conferences where we all talk to each other and pat ourselves on the back in recognition of just how cleverly we know how to debunk Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest Goop nonsense. Meanwhile, Paltrow keeps laughing all the way to the bank. …

Science Denialism Is a Form of Pseudoscience (Jan/Feb 2022). The term pseudoscience has been the object of a renewed interest by philosophers of science in recent years. This is not just because the so-called demarcation problem—the question of what distinguishes science from pseudoscience—is inherently interesting to philosophers and epistemologists. It is also because pseudoscience matters, as in the case of the increasingly clear negative personal and societal effects of, for instance, vaccine and climate change denialism. …