A Collection of Strange Beliefs, Amusing Deceptions, and Dangerous Delusions

From Abracadabra to Zombies - 785 entries | View All

The Skeptic's Dictionary features definitions, arguments, and essays on hundreds of strange beliefs, amusing deceptions, and dangerous delusions. It also features dozens of entries on logical fallacies, cognitive biases, perception, science, and philosophy.

Also posted are over 20 years of reader comments.

Click here for Index of all Reader Comments

  • Recent Entries or Modifications

Date           Status* Entry

15 Jul
update argument to ignorance

11 Jul
new reader comments: Atlantis

04 Jul
new reader comments: psychokinesis

02 July
new reader comments: firewalking

25 June
updated firewalking

15 June
revised confirmation bias

14 June
new In Memoriam: William Jarvis

11 June
new Trump University

06 June
new reader comments: Joel Wallach, the Mineral Doctor

04 June
update Trivedi's lawsuit against journalist thrown out of court

02 June
new reader comments: energy

Sample the Skeptic's Dictionary

multiple personality disorder 
[dissociative identity disorder]

....students often ask me whether multiple personality disorder (MPD) really exists. I usually reply that the symptoms attributed to it are as genuine as hysterical paralysis and seizures....
--Dr. Paul McHugh

Multiple personality disorder (MPD) is a psychiatrichydrat.jpg (5717 bytes) disorder characterized by having at least one "alter" personality that controls behavior. The "alters" are said to occur spontaneously and involuntarily, and function more or less independently of each other. The unity of consciousness, by which we identify our selves, is said to be absent in MPD. Another symptom of MPD is significant amnesia which can't be explained by ordinary forgetfulness. In 1994, the American Psychiatric Association's DSM-IV replaced the designation of MPD with DID: dissociative identity disorder. The label may have changed, but the list of symptoms remained essentially the same.>>more

sample Mysteries and Science (for kids 9 and up)

control groups

In a nutshell: A control group is a group in a scientific study that is given nothing special to compare it with a group given something scientists are testing. Control group studies help scientists test a claim that one thing causes another.

Many scientists use control groups when testing new medicines. Let's say you want to find out if your creation, the Greatest Ever Medicine or GEM for short, really gets rid of poison oak rash and itch. You might give GEM to six of your friends who have had a bad camping experience and now have severe rashes because of cuddling a little dog who had been playing in some poison oak. How will you know whether GEM works? You might think that if your friends' rashes go away, then GEM did the job. But you might be wrong. Maybe the rashes would have gone away on their own if your friends had done nothing special to treat them.>>more

a blast from the past

What if Gary Schwartz is right? 

by Robert Todd Carroll 

December 12, 2010. Gary Schwartz, author of The Afterlife Experiments: Breakthrough Scientific Evidence of Life After Death (Atria 2003), has collected “extraordinary data in many experiments over many years” that support the hypothesis that consciousness is independent of the brain and survives the death of the brain (268). That the spirit survives the death of the body is something that many people on our planet already believe, so it is not clear exactly what impact this data will have on the billions of people who already strongly believe in immortality or reincarnation. True, most people come to such beliefs by being taught them from birth onward and by growing up in communities where such beliefs are constantly reinforced. Many of these people also have anecdotal evidence to support their belief. But Schwartz thinks his scientific data might have an enormous impact. Presumably, one impact would be that even skeptics would come to accept what he calls “the living soul hypothesis.”>>more

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