A Daily Dose of Skepticism

by Wally Hartshorn

This article briefly summarizes the information I gave in a presentation at REALL’s 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. I’m thinking that’s 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, I’ve found a wide variety of "must see" skeptic web sites. Some of those are highlighted in this article.

General Skepticism

In addition to the Skeptic News, I also am the webmaster for REALL’s unofficial web site. (It isn’t paid for from REALL’s funds and items that I post on it don’t 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 news media.

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. He’s 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 doesn’t 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, Randi’s web site is also rather limited. It has more info than the Skeptic Society site, less than CSICOP’s. 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.

Skeptic’s Dictionary
Bob Carroll’s 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. isn’t 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 the best.

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.

Newsletters & Reports

I particularly like web sites that post selected articles, or better yet entire issues, from their group’s 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, didn’t 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!


National Center for Science Education
The NCSE’s 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

False Memory Syndrome Foundation
This site was created primarily to cover a recent FMS-related trial in Houston. Now that the trial is over, I’m hoping it will provide more general FMS information.

Stop Bad Therapy
Plenty of information about FMS from someone terribly injured by it.

Alternative Medicine

Dr. Stephen Barrett’s site is a treasure trove of information about all manner of questionable medical practices, and it’s updated regularly. This is one of my favorites.

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.


Urban Legends Reference Pages
Don’t forward that chain letter or repeat that rumor until you’ve checked this site! An essential reference if you don’t want to look foolish.

Lists of Links

Need more sites? Visit any of these (ignoring the line breaks in the addresses) and go exploring!

And finally….

Studmuffins of Skepticism
SkepChicks ’99 Calendar
Are you curious about what some of these people look like? Here’s your opportunity to find out!

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