The perils of “balanced” reporting

by Greg Mayer Curtis Brainard, editor of The Observatory, the Columbia Journalism Review‘s online science journalism section, has a nice article up tracing the role of the news media in encouraging and spreading anti-vaccination pseudoscience, including the role of the disgraced British physician Andrew Wakefield, and the fear mongering of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. (The […]

Robert L. Park on Templeton

by Greg Mayer Robert L. Park is a physicist, fellow of CSICOP, and former head of the American Physical Society‘s Washington office who has long been active in the skeptical community. His first book, Voodoo Science (Oxford, 2000), is one that I have used in preparing my undergraduate non-majors course on “Science & Pseudoscience”. Until […]

Snake oil in the New York Times

by Greg Mayer Perhaps just by coincidence, today’s New York Times features two articles concerning snake oil: one about an exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art of posters promoting dubious remedies, and the other about the relationship between Senator Snake Oil, Orrin Hatch of Utah, and the “nutritional supplement” industry. The exhibit at the […]


by Greg Mayer The spotted lion is a favorite topic within cryptozoology. Bernard Heuvelmans, the late Belgian zoologist known as the “father of cryptozoology”, defined cryptozoology as The scientific study of hidden animals, i.e., of still unknown animal forms about which only testimonial and circumstantial evidence is available, or material evidence considered insufficient by some! […]

Pseudoscientist reprimanded, pseudoscience retracted

by Greg Mayer Following up on a comment by Glen Davidson to my latest dowsing post, in which he noted that the UK’s General Medical Council had ruled against anti-vaccination activist Dr. Andrew Wakefield, finding him callous, unethical and dishonest, I note that The Lancet (registration required) has retracted Wakefield and coauthors’ 1998 paper that […]

The NY Times on the Iraqi dowsing rods

by Greg Mayer The totally bogus dowsing rods sold to Iraqi security forces by an unscrupulous (and now arrested) British manufacturer (noted at WEIT here, here, and recently here) were the subject of an editorial, “Shock, Awe and Abracadabra“, in today’s New York Times. Money quote: The junk science should have been obvious: the slender […]

Pseudoscience– banned in Britain

by Greg Mayer A while back, I posted on the shocking use of high priced, English-made dowsing rods by Iraqi security services to detect explosives, dowsing rods being a notorious and well-debunked form of pseudoscience. Use of these devices not only wastes tens of millions of dollars, but costs lives (see the original NY Times […]

More on dowsing

by Greg Mayer Over at Bad Astronomy, Phil Plait also has a post on the Iraqi bomb dowsing: When Antiscience Kills: Dowsing Edition. Here are some videos by James Randi showing how dowsing works. The first is about someone who wanted to claim Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. The second is a clip from […]

Pseudoscience in the news

by Greg Mayer Although they’re a little bit off the usual topics here, two items in today’s New York Times caught my attention. First, there’s an article by Rod Norland on the use of dowsing rods (!!!!) by Iraqi police and military to detect explosives. The Iraqis have spent tens of millions of dollars on […]

Not all biological pseudoscience comes from creationists

by Greg Mayer In unrelated browses through the interwebs this morning, I came across two references to some high-priced gab fest called TED, whose slogan is “Ideas worth spreading”. Both the Dish and John Hawks link to this talk at TED by Elaine Morgan of aquatic ape infamy (see Jim Moore’s website). Whoever TED is, […]