This collection of the best recent articles published by The Skeptical Inquirer is a refreshingly clear-eyed examination of several prevalent beliefs that are based upon misleading information, outdated convictions and pseudoscience. The essays are divided into three sections that include Science and Skeptical Inquiry; Critical Inquiry and Public Controversies; Understanding Pseudoscience, Investigating Claims. They begin by looking at the importance of skeptical inquiry and what criteria must be met in any valid scientific study before getting into more controversial issues like “intelligent design”, evolution, global warming, vaccines, terrorism and much, much more.Of particular interest is Predator Panic: A Closer Look that examines the genuine threat posed by child predators, A Skeptical Look at September 11th, which looks at the cost of America’s knee jerk reaction to terrorism, and Global Climate Change Triggered by Global Warming. Additionally, there is a fascinating question and answer piece by Carl Sagan that touches on current scientific theories, religion and the need to maintain a level of skeptical inquiry.
With the media focused on an assortment of dubious claims sometimes cleverly packaged to appear scientific, the general public would be well served to educate themselves on what makes a study scientific and the importance of maintaining a healthy degree of skepticism. Although some readers may find a couple of the essays too dry, the majority are approachable, balanced looks at some of the commonly held beliefs.