Volume 26 Issue 2: Susan Blackmore

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consciousness, altered sates & freedom of speech

Debunking for all

Direwolves, dragons, lions & maths

Standards of proof reporting the supernatual in the Middle Ages


Plus all the regular features, reviews and columns from Chris French, Wendy Grossman, Michael Heap, Mark Duwe and Mark Williams

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Changes to this site

You may have noticed some recent changes here. Technology has moved on in the 18 years since this site was launched, some of the systems we used were no longer supported and many of our visitors are now using smartphones and tablets. Therefore we have copied all the old content into a modern system that is easier to navigate and maintain, and restyled it with a “responsive” theme that works with mobiles. If you have used our online shop before you will need to re-register, I’m afraid. Apart from that all the old information is still here somewhere – the menus haven’t changed much and the search box now works for the entire site. We apologise for any inconvenience and hope you like the new look.

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Volume 25 Issue 4: The Monster of Lake Champlain

Magazine cover image issue 25:4

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A Nessie researcher investigates one of the USA’s most enduring cryptozoological mysteries

Thoughts on the philosophical basis of death for entertainment

The unfamiliar trajectories of scientific uncertainty – what’s wrong with asking bad questions?

Hosted at QED in Manchester

The Chemistry of Ice-Cream

Plus all the usual columns, puzzles, reviews and features.

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Call for participants: Belief and Causality Relating to Accidents

Andrew Bober, a postgraduate researcher at the University of Strathclyde is seeking respondents for his survey about “Belief and Causality Relating to Accidents”. Bober has written the summary below for The Skeptic and we’d invite you to complete the survey and provide *protected email, enable Javascript to view* if you have 10 minutes spare.   […]

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The Uncontested Word: Why do Some Historians Treat Religious Texts as Sacred?

Richard Firth-Godbehere contemplates the historical provenance and value of religious texts.
Published for The Skeptic online on 17th April 2013.

Photograph: Kevin Peters

There are a great many historians who practice religions of all flavours. Some historians jump headlong into the history of their particular faith, blending it with apologetics and philosophy. Others simply ignore their religious predilections and concentrate on other areas of history, sealing their faith in a mental box with a sign huge on the lid reading ‘do not enter while studying’. I am sure this arrangement or something similar to it is found throughout all walks of academic life, but I find it particularly puzzling when I find it amongst historians. I know of many good historians who take their collection of fables as absolutely true; it is one of the most fascinating and puzzling examples of cognitive dissonance I know of.

After all, a historian is, by definition, someone who is deeply sceptical about old texts and artefacts. It is a historian’s job to dust off manuscripts, wade through archives, dig things out of dark corners and not believe a word of it (unless there is some good supporting evidence, of course). Even when a historian does believe a word of it, he tempers this with a deep analysis of the text or object at hand, stripping it down in order to work out what the narrative really is, as opposed to what the text or object claims it is. In short, we historians are deeply sceptical pedants: each and every one of us. So why does pedantry, suspicion and obsessive checking, cross-checking, double checking and rechecking disappear so often in the face of a religious text? Here, I’ll take a lightly meandering journey through the peripheries of the philosophy of history in order to find out if there is any validity in accepting a religious text as good source of history.

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An Honest Liar

The following is from Merrill Sterritt of Film Presence: For the past two years Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein have been filming James “The Amazing” Randi for a feature-length documentary entitled An Honest Liar. The film will tell the story of Randi’s colorful life and explore the dangers of magical thinking and deception. An Honest […]

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