A Daily Dose of Skepticism
by Wally Hartshorn
This article briefly summarizes the information I gave in a presentation at
REALLs March 1999 meeting. There are a huge number of sites on the Internet, as
everyone knows by now. In two earlier talks ("High Weirdness by Web" and
"More High Weirdness by Web"), I discussed some of the numerous, well, weird web
sites, promoting beliefs in alien abductions, Bigfoot, ghosts, astrology, tarot cards, and
all manner of assorted nuttiness.
My favorite was a web site that claimed that a "sorcerer" would cast a spell
for you over the Internet. Just send your credit card number and a description of the
spell, and the magician would cast it for you. Im thinking thats got to be
just about the easiest way to make money yet invented!
However, there are also many sites providing good skeptical information. This article
provides a brief summary of some of these.
Some Selected Web Sites
- The Skeptic News
The Skeptic News, which I created in July 1998, receives about 300 visits per day.
Nearly every day I post brief items highlighting new and updated information, located on
other web sites, of interest to skeptics. This makes it easier for users to locate new
information while it is still fresh, as well as providing an easy way for skeptic sites to
publicize their activities. As a result of seeking information for this site daily,
Ive found a wide variety of "must see" skeptic web sites. Some of those
are highlighted in this article.
- In addition to the Skeptic News, I also am the webmaster for REALLs unofficial web
site. (It isnt paid for from REALLs funds and items that I post on it
dont undergo any sort of approval process.) It receives about 85 visits per day. In
addition to electronic versions of all issues of The REALL News, it is also used to
post announcements about upcoming meetings and copies of letters REALL has sent to the
- The web site of the granddaddy of all skeptic groups is not as packed with information
as I would have hoped. It is apparently a one-man operation run entirely by Patrick
Fitzgerald. Hes done a wonderful job on limited resources, and it is definitely a
useful site. I just hope that CSICOP devotes more resources to the site in the future.
- Skeptic Society
- The web site of the Skeptic Society is quite sparse, unfortunately. Like CSICOP, the
Skeptic Society doesnt seem to be devoting as much attention to the Internet as I
would have expected. However, you should keep it in your bookmarks, if only to see whether
it becomes more active in the future.
- James Randi Educational Foundation
- The youngest of the "Big Three" national skeptics group, Randis web site
is also rather limited. It has more info than the Skeptic Society site, less than
CSICOPs. However, Randi recently mentioned that the web site is undergoing a
renovation, so hopefully the JREF will soon place more emphasis on the Internet.
So, if the Big Three have web sites that are somewhat disappointing, does that mean
there is little good information on the web for skeptics? Not at all! The web sites of
less well-known folks make up for any current lacking of the Big Three.
Newsletters & Reports
- Skeptics Dictionary
- Bob Carrolls web site is probably the single best source of skeptic reference
information on the web. For just about any conceivable skeptic topic, you can find an
entry discussing it. Rather than just a brief definition, he generally has written an
article providing an overview of the topic, with links to additional information. If you
visit only one site, visit this one.
- Australian Skeptics
- The U.S. isnt the only country with national skeptic groups. There are numerous
others. Of the ones that I can actually read (an important consideration), this is easily
- Skeptic Friends Network
Take a few friends who are skeptics. Add plenty of humor. Give them a web site to
play with. Stand back and watch.
I particularly like web sites that post selected articles, or better yet entire issues,
from their groups newsletter. Here are a few newsletters that you can find online.
- The REALL News
- The newsletter of the Rational Examination Association of Lincoln Land. (But you knew
that already, didnt you?)
- The WHY-Files
- The newsletter of the Inquiring Skeptics of Upper New York.
- Tampa Bay Skeptics Report
- The newsletter of the Tampa Bay Skeptics.
- Doubting Thomas
- The newsletter of the Sagan Society of the University of Georgia.
- Condon Report
This is the complete text of the famous Condon Report reporting on their findings in
investigating UFOs. The National Capitol Area Skeptics converted the entire thing for the
web. What a treat!
False Memory Syndrome
- National Center for Science Education
- The NCSEs web site has some useful information, but is still relatively limited.
There seems to be an inverse correlation at work. The more active an organization is
offline, the less active it is online!
- Talk.Origins Archive
- This is an absolute gold mine of information about the creation/evolution controversy!
Tons of information!
- Secular Web
This very active site of the Internet Infidels are primarily interested in atheism
and church-state separation. However, they also have some good information about
creation/evolution, faith healing, and similar topics.
- False Memory Syndrome Foundation
- This site was created primarily to cover a recent FMS-related trial in Houston. Now that
the trial is over, Im hoping it will provide more general FMS information.
- Stop Bad Therapy
Plenty of information about FMS from someone terribly injured by it.
- Dr. Stephen Barretts site is a treasure trove of information about all manner of
questionable medical practices, and its updated regularly. This is one of my
- Dr. Barrett also helps run this site, which is similar to QuackWatch, but with an
emphasis on chiropractic.
- National Council Against Health Fraud
- Includes issues of their newsletter dating back to 1993.
- Health Care Reality Check
Includes the journal Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine.
- Daily news items about many cults, with an emphasis on Scientology.
- Operation Clambake
This site has plenty of information about Scientology, particularly the
alt.religion.scientology Week in Review.
Lists of Links
- Urban Legends Reference Pages
Dont forward that chain letter or repeat that rumor until youve checked
this site! An essential reference if you dont want to look foolish.
Need more sites? Visit any of these (ignoring the line breaks in the addresses) and go
- Studmuffins of Skepticism
SkepChicks 99 Calendar
- Are you curious about what some of these people look like? Heres your opportunity
to find out!