Memories: Constructed, Confused, and Confabulated

July 1998 by Robert Novella Human memory routinely performs amazing events with effortless ease. Experiences decades old can be vividly recalled with the subtlest of triggers. But our brains are not like a computer hard drive inside our heads where details are laid down and recalled with absolute fidelity. Memory is a creative process like [...]

The Power of Coincidence

October 1996 by Robert Novella Coincidences are ubiquitous events in everyone’s lives. Some are trivial, like being dealt a flush in poker, but others really grab our attention, like thinking of a friend you have not seen in years only to have them call on the phone moments later. What these events have in common [...]

A Skeptic Joins Scientology

July 1999 by Perry DeAngelis Well, I am the newest member of the New Haven, Connecticut Church of Scientology. I am on the road to being “clear,” and releasing the long dead alien engrams trapped in my reactive mind and destroying any chance I have at becoming enlightened. Thank goodness. If the above seems a [...]

Cold Reading: The Psychic’s True Power

April 1997 by Robert Novella You have just left a psychic reading and you are amazed. The psychic knew many things about you that no one else knew and other things that couldn’t possibly have been figured out. The only explanation you can think of is that some kind of extrasensory perception was involved. What [...]

The Starchild Project

February 2006 by Steven Novella, MD An American couple present to the media the skull of a child they claim was obtained 60-70 years ago from a cave in Mexico. The cranial cavity of this skull is grotesquely enlarged, and the other features appear human, but in a distorted form. The media dub the skull [...]

Believing Is Seeing

January 2001 by Robert Novella “You are a creative genius. Your creative genius is so accomplished that it appears, to you and to others, as effortless. Yet it far outstrips the most valiant efforts of today’s fastest supercomputers. To invoke it, you only need to open your eyes.” (Hoffman ’98) Vision is indeed the paragon [...]

Skepticism and Denial

April 2002 by Steven Novella, MD Aristotle advanced a philosophy of vice and virtue which he termed the philosophy of the mean. He proposed that virtue is best viewed as a mean of moderation between two extreme vices. The virtue of frugality is a mean between the vices of excess and stinginess, for example. I [...]

How To Argue

updated: June 2011 by Steven Novella, MD Arguing is one of those things most people do but few people do well. Many do not understand what a logical argument even is or how to do it correctly. Yet arguing is an essential skill of critical thinking. How we argue reflects how we think, how we [...]

Anatomy of Pseudoscience

December 2000 by Steven Novella, MD An American couple present to the media the skull of a child they claim was obtained 60-70 years ago from a cave in Mexico. The cranial cavity of this skull is grotesquely enlarged, and the other features appear human, but in a distorted form. The media dub the skull [...]

Fear Not: Vaccines Do Not Cause Autism

June 2005 by Steven Novella, MD One of the most memorable scenes in The Big Lebowski , the classic 1998 Coen Brothers movie starring Jeff Bridges as “the Dude,” is when Walter Sobchak, played with overweight aplomb by John Goodman, shows up at the house of the young boy he believes stole the Dude’s car. [...]