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          The Frequently Questioned Answers


This is the sci.skeptic FAQ.  It is intended to provide a factual base
for most of the commonly discussed topics on sci.skeptic.
Unfortunately I don't have much time to do this in, and anyway a FAQ
should be the Distilled Wisdom of the Net rather than just My Arrogant
Opinion, so I invite submissions and let all the net experts out there
fill in the details.  Submissions from any point of view and on any
sci.skeptic topic are welcomed, but please keep them short and to the
point.  The ideal submission is a short summary with one or two
references to other literature.  I have added comments in square
brackets where I think more information is particularly needed, but
don't let that stop you sending something else.

If you are reading this with a newsreader and want to follow up on
something, please copy the question to the subject line.  This is more
informative than a reference to the entire FAQ.

This is in no way an "official" FAQ.  I am a computer scientist by
profession and deeply skeptical of paranormal claims (although I may
include some pro-paranormal arguments here).  If anyone else with a
less skeptical point of view wants to start a FAQ list, please feel
free.  I certainly can't stop you.

How to Get It

This FAQ is posted once per month on the Usenet groups sci.skeptic and
news.answers.  Look for it around the 20th of the month.

Many FAQs, including this one, are available on the archive site in the directory pub/usenet/news.answers.  The name under
which a FAQ is archived appears in the Archive-name line at the top of
the article.  This FAQ is archived as skeptic-faq.

Various people have placed copies of this FAQ on their web servers, or 
on CD-ROMS or other places.  These copies may not be up to date.  Please
check the date at the top of this document to see when it was last
updated.  Something gets changed most months.  If you send a correction,
please make sure you are referring to the latest version, or at least
quote the version number in your message.

I AM NOT A MAILSERVER.  Requests to email the FAQ will be silently

Suggestions and Updates

I am always happy to accept corrections to this FAQ.

In general it is not very useful to criticise areas of the FAQ as "not
explaining it properly".  If you want to see something changed then
please write a submission which explains it better.  Grammar and
spelling corrections are always welcome though.

If you send me information related to the FAQ, please say whether I
can use your words in the next edition.  I have to be careful about
this, lest I be accused of publishing private email.


This document is Copyright 1993 Paul Johnson.  Permission is granted
to you the reader to copy this document onto any medium, including but
not limited to paper, electronic storage systems, CD-ROM and microfilm.

Seeking Information

Please send in contact addresses for local and national skeptics
organisations not listed in section 0.11.

I'm still looking for someone to tell me about gyroscopes and the
angular momentum of the Earth.

I'd like to start up a section of references to other on-line
information, skeptical and otherwise.  If you know of publicly
accessible collections then please let me know.

Does anyone have firm information about "Area 51", and what is supposed
to be going on there?


Thanks to all the people who have sent me submissions and comments.
There isn't enough room to thank everyone individually, but some of
the more major contributors are listed here:

York H. Dobyns  provided carbon 14
dating information, notes about current psi researchers and other
useful comments.

Dendrochronology information came from .

The questions "What are UFOs?" and "Are crop circles made by flying
saucers?" were answered by Chris Rutkowski 

Ken Shirriff  provided information on
perpetual motion machines, Leidenfrost reference and the AIDS section.

Robert Sheaffer  sent information about Philip
Klass and UFO abductions.

The Ezekiel information comes from a posting by John Baskette

John Boyd  provided skeptical references on acupuncture.

Eric Raymond  contributed information on
acupuncture, the origin of life, and the CIA AIDS theory.

Kirlian photography information was paraphrased from an article by
Dave Palmer .

Cold reading information came from an article by Pope Charles

Todd Stark  sent information on acupuncture
analgesia, and provided section 10.1: "What is False Memory Syndrome".

Geoff Lane  provided
the article and references on Tunguska.

The skeptic organisation list came from Holger Stegemann

Roger Nelson  provided section 0.7:
"Is there any scientific psi research?".

Information and references on 250 million year old footprints comes from
a posting by Darby South of Baton Rouge, LA.


A `*' indicates a new or rewritten entry.  A `+' indicates an altered

0.1: What is sci.skeptic for?
0.2: What is sci.skeptic not for?
0.3: What is CSICOP?  What's their address?
0.4: What is "Prometheus"?
0.5: Who are some prominent skeptics?
0.6: Aren't all skeptics just closed-minded bigots?
0.6.1: Why are skeptics so keen to rubbish fringe ideas?
0.6.2: How do we know Randi is honest?
0.6.3: Why don't skeptics challenge religions?
0.6.4: How can I persuade the other side?
0.7: Is there any scientific psi research?
0.8: What is a "conspiracy theory"?
0.9: What is "cold reading?"
0.10: Is there a list of logical fallacies?
0.11: What national and local skeptics organisations are there?
0.12: Where can I get books on paranormal phenomena?
0.13: Where can I find skeptical information on-line?
0.14: Where can I find paranormal information on-line?

The Scientific Method

1.1: What is the scientific method?
1.2: What is the difference between a fact, a theory and a hypothesis?
1.3: Can science ever really prove anything?
1.4: If scientific theories keep changing, where is the Truth?
1.5: "Extraordinary evidence is needed for an extraordinary claim."
1.6: What is Occam's Razor?
1.7: Galileo was persecuted, just like researchers into  today.
1.8: What is the "Experimenter effect".
1.9: How much fraud is there in science?
1.9.1: Did Mendel fudge his results?
1.10: Are scientists wearing blinkers?

Psychic Powers

2.1: Is Uri Geller for real? +
2.2: I have had a psychic experience.
2.3: What is "sensory leakage"?
2.4: Who are the main psi researchers?
2.5: Does dowsing work?
2.6: Could psi be inhibited by the presence of skeptics?
2.7: Why don't the skeptics test the *real* psychics?
2.8: What is the ganzfeld?

UFOs/Flying Saucers
3.1  What are UFOs?
3.1.1: Are UFOs alien spacecraft?
3.1.2: Are UFOs natural phenomena?
3.1.3: But isn't it possible that aliens are visiting Earth?
3.2: Is it true that the US government has a crashed flying saucer?
3.3: What is "channeling"?
3.4: How can we test a channeller? +
3.5: I am in telepathic contact with the aliens.
3.6: Some bozo has just posted a load of "teachings" from a UFO.  What
     should I do?
3.7: Are crop circles made by flying saucers?
3.7.1: Are crop circles made by "vortices"?
3.7.2: Are crop circles made by hoaxers?
3.7.3: Are crop circles radioactive?
3.7.4: What about cellular changes in plants within crop circles?
3.8: Have people been abducted by UFOs?
3.9: What is causing the strange cattle deaths?
3.10: What is the face on Mars?
3.11: Did Ezekiel See a Flying Saucer?
3.12: What happened at Tunguska?
3.13: How did the Dogon know about Sirius?

Faith Healing and Alternative Therapies

4.1: Isn't western medicine reductionistic and alternatives holistic?
4.2: What is a double-blind trial?  What is a placebo?
4.3: Why should scientific criteria apply to alternative therapies?
4.4: What is homeopathy?
4.5: What is aromatherapy?
4.6: What is reflexology?
4.7: Does acupuncture work?
4.8: What about psychic surgery?
4.9: What is Crystal Healing?
4.10: Does religious healing work?
4.11: What harm does it do anyway?

Creation versus Evolution

5.1: Is the Bible evidence of anything?
5.2: Could the Universe have been created old?
5.3: What about Carbon-14 dating?
5.4: What is "dendrochronology"?
5.5: What is evolution?  Where do I find out more?
5.6: "The second law of thermodynamics says...."
5.7: How could living organisms arise "by chance"?
5.8: But doesn't the human body seem to be well designed?
5.9: What about the thousands of scientists who have become Creationists?
5.10: Is the speed of light decreasing?
5.11: What about Velikovsky?
5.12: Are there human footprints from 250 million years ago?


6.1: Is fire-walking possible?
6.2: Can science explain fire-walking?

New Age

7.1: What do New Agers believe?
7.2: What is the Gaia hypothesis?
7.3: Was Nostradamus a prophet?
7.4: Does astrology work?
7.4.1: Could astrology work by gravity?
7.4.2: What is the `Mars Effect'?
7.4.3: But couldn't there be some undiscovered connection between
       people and planets?
7.5: What is Kirlian photography?

Strange Machines: Free Energy and Anti-Gravity

8.1: Why don't electrical perpetul motion machines work?
8.2: Why don't magnetic perpetual motion machines work?
8.3: Why don't mechanical perpetual motion machines work?
8.4: Magnets can levitate.  Where is the energy from?
8.5: But its been patented!
8.6: The oil companies are conspiring to suppress my invention!
8.7: My machine gets its free energy from 
8.8: Can gyroscopes neutralise gravity?
8.9: My prototype gets lighter when I turn it on.
8.10: Can magnets improve fuel efficiency or descale pipes?


9.1: What about these theories on AIDS?
9.1.1: The Mainstream Theory
9.1.2: Strecker's CIA Theory
9.1.3: Duesberg's Risk-Group Theory
9.2: What About the Sailor with AIDS in 1959?

You Must Remember This

10.1: What is "False Memory Syndrome"?
10.2: How Can I Contact the False Memory Syndrome Foundation?



0.1: What is sci.skeptic for?

Sci.skeptic is for those who are skeptical about claims of the
paranormal to meet with those who believe in the paranormal.  In this
way the paranormalists can expose their ideas to scientific scrutiny,
and if there is anything in these ideas then the skeptics might learn

However this is a very wide area, and some of the topics covered might
be better kept in their own newsgroups.  In particular the evolution
vs. creation debate is best kept in  General New Age
discussions belong in talk.religion.newage.  Strange "Heard it on the
grapevine" stories belong on alt.folklore.urban, which discusses such
things as vanishing hitchhikers and the Everlasting Lightbulb
conspiracy.  Serious conspiracy theories should be kept on
alt.conspiracy, and theories about the assassination of President
Kennedy should be kept on alt.conspiracy.jfk.  CROSS-POSTING from
these groups is NOT APPRECIATED by the majority of sci.skeptic

The discussion of a topic in this FAQ is not an attempt to have the
final word on the subject.  It is simply intended to answer a few
common questions and provide a basis for discussion of common topics.

Conversely, the omission of a topic from this FAQ does not indicate
that the topic is not suitable for sci.skeptic.  It just means that it
has not been discussed recently.  If you want to start a thread on it
then go ahead.

0.2: What is sci.skeptic not for?

The scope of sci.skeptic extends into any area where hard evidence can
be obtained, but does not extend into speculation.  So religious
arguments about the existence of God are out of place here (take them
to talk.atheism or talk.religion.*).  On the other hand discussion
about miracles is to be welcomed, since this is an issue where
evidence can be obtained.

Topics that have their own groups should be taken to the appropriate
group.  See the previous answer for a partial list.

Also out of place are channelled messages from aliens.  If your
channelled message contains testable facts then post those.  Otherwise
we are simply not interested.  Take it to alt.alien.visitors.

The posting of large articles (>200 lines) is not a way to persuade
people.  See the section on "closed minded skeptics" below for some
reasons for this.  I suggest you summarise the article and offer to
mail copies to anyone who is interested.

Sci.skeptic is not an abuse group.  There is a regrettable tendency
for polite discussion here to degenerate into ad-hominem flames about
who said what to whom and what they meant.  PLEASE DO NOT FLAME.  You
won't convince anyone.  Rather the opposite.

0.3: What is CSICOP?  What's their address?

CSICOP stands for the "Committee for the Scientific Investigation of
Claims Of the Paranormal".  They publish a quarterly magazine called
"The Skeptical Inquirer".  Their address is:

    Skeptical Inquirer,
    Box 703,
    Buffalo, NY 14226-9973.

Tel. 716-636-1425 voice, 716-636-1733 fax.
Email: (for information requests to CSICOP) (to send a letter to the editor
                           of _Skeptical Inquirer_ magazine)

Note that this is a new address.

Europeans should contact:

   Mike Hutchinson,
   10 Crescent View,
   Loughton, Essex IG10 4PZ

   Telephone:  +44 81 508 2989

CSICOP should not be confused with the Skeptics Society (2761
N. Marengo Ave.  Altadena, CA 91001).  They are separate
organisations, although there is some overlap with CSICOP.  The
Skeptics Society publishes _Skeptic_ four times a year, and it's
currently up to almost 100 pages/issue, full-size magazine format.
Circulation is up to around 8000, and climbing rapidly.  (It far
outsells _Skeptical Inquirer_ on the newsstands, but has a much
smaller base of subscribers.)

0.4: What is "Prometheus"?

Prometheus Books is a publisher specialising in skeptical books.
Their address is:

    Prometheus Books
    59 John Glenn Drive,
    Buffalo, NY 14215-9918

    Phone (800)-421-0351.
    Fax   (716)-691-0137.
    URL:  http://www/

Mike Hutchinson is also the European agent for Prometheus.  See 0.3
for contact details.

0.5: Who are some prominent skeptics?

James "The Amazing" Randi is a professional stage magician who spends
much time and money debunking paranormal claims.  He used to offer a
reward of $10,000 (briefly augmented to $100,000 by a TV company some
years ago) to anyone who can demonstrate paranormal powers under
controlled conditions.  Unfortunately he has had to exhaust that fund
to pay legal expenses in the series of lawsuits that have been brought
against him since 1988.  Anyone who wants to contribute to his defense
can do so via:

    The Randi Fund
    3555 West Reno Street
    Suite L
    Las Vegas, NV  89118
Checks should be made payable to The Randi Fund.

The lawsuit by Geller against Randi has now finished.  Geller was
ordered to pay costs of $150,000.  However he has not yet done so,
and Randi is still in debt for his legal costs.  There is a
mailing list for updates on the situation, which originates from the
account .  To subscribe, you should send mail
to .]  James Randi can also be
reached directly at <>, and has a Web page
at .

Martin Gardner is an author, mathematician and amateur stage magician
who has written several books dealing with paranormal phenomena,
including "Science: Good, Bad and Bogus" and "Fads and Fallacies in
the Name of Science".

Philip J.  Klass retired after thirty-five years as a Senior Editor of
"Aviation Week and Space Technology" magazine, specializing in
avionics. He is a founding fellow of CSICOP, and was named a Fellow of
the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE). He has
won numerous awards for his technical journalism. His principal books

   UFO Abductions, A Dangerous Game   (Prometheus, 1988)

   UFOs, The Public Deceived  (Prometheus, 1983)

   UFOs Explained  (Random House, 1974)

Susan Blackmore holds a Ph.D in parapsychology, but in the course of her
Ph.D research she became increasingly disillusioned and is now highly
skeptical of paranormal claims.

Ray Hyman is a professor of psychology at the University of Oregon.
He is one of the major external, skeptical critics of parapsychology.
In 1986, he and parapsychologist Charles Honorton engaged in a
detailed exchange about Honorton's ganzfeld experiments and
statistical analysis of his results which was published in the Journal
of Parapsychology.  A collection of Hyman's work may be found in his
book The Elusive Quarry: A Scientific Appraisal of Psychical Research,
1989, Prometheus.  This includes "Proper Criticism", an influential
piece on how skeptics should engage in criticism, and "'Cold Reading':
How to Convince Strangers that You Know All About Them."

James Alcock is a professor of psychology at York University in
Toronto.  He is the author of the books Parapsychology: Science
or Magic?, 1981, Pergamon, and Science and Supernature: A Critical
Appraisal of Parapsychology, 1990, Prometheus.

Joe Nickell is a former private investigator, a magician, and
an English instructor at the University of Kentucky.  He is the
author of numerous books on paranormal subjects, including Inquest
on the Shroud of Turin, 1982, Prometheus.  He specializes in
investigating individual cases in great detail, but has recently
done some more general work, critiquing crop circles, spontaneous
human combustion, and psychic detectives.

Isaac Asimov wrote a great deal on skeptical issues.  He had a regular
column in _Fantasy and Science Fiction_, and collections of essays
from it have been published.  Some of these essays are on assorted
crackpottery, like UFO's, Velikovsky, creationism, and so forth. They
have titles like "Worlds in Confusion" (Velikovsky), "Look Long upon a
Monkey" (creationism), "Armies of the Night" (crackpottery in
general), "The Rocketing Dutchmen" (UFO's), and so forth.; these are
usually on a rather general sort of level.

Marcello Truzzi was one of the founders of CSICOP, but broke away from
the organisation when it became too "dry" for him (see section 0.6.1 on
wet vs. dry skeptics).  He now publishes the "Zetetic Scholar" on an
occasional basis.  He can be contacted at the Dept. of Sociology,
Eastern Michigan University, Ypsilanti, MI 48197, or at P.O. Box 1052,
Ann Arbor, MI 48106. [Does anyone know if this address is still good?

0.6: Aren't all skeptics just closed-minded bigots?

People who have failed to convince skeptics often say "Well all
skeptics are just closed-minded bigots who won't listen to me!".  This
is not true.  Skeptics pay close attention to the evidence.  If you
have no evidence then you will get nowhere.

Unfortunately life is short.  Most of us have better things to do than
investigate yet another bogus claim.  Some paranormal topics,
especially psi research and UFOlogy, produce vast quantities of low
grade evidence.  In the past people have investigated such evidence
carefully, but it always seems to evaporate when anyone looks at it
closely.  Hence skeptics should be forgiven for not bothering to
investigate yet another piece of low grade evidence before rejecting

Isaac Asimov has suggested a triage process which divides scientific
claims into three groups: mundane, unusual and bullshit [my terms].
As an example, a claim that "I have 10kg of salt in my lab" is pretty
mundane.  No-one would disbelieve me, but they wouldn't be very
interested.  A claim that "I have 10kg of gold in my lab" would
probably result in mild disbelief and requests to have a look.
Finally a claim that "I have 10kg of Einsteinium in my lab" would be
greeted with cries of "Bullshit!".

Of course there are some who substitute flaming and rhetoric for
logical argument.  We all lose our temper sometimes.

0.6.1: Why are skeptics so keen to rubbish fringe ideas?

Skeptics vary on the attitude they take towards a new fringe idea,
varying from the "wet" to the "dry".  The question of which attitude
is better is very much a live issue in the skeptical community.  Here
is a brief summary of the two extremes:

DRY: There is no reason to treat these people seriously.  Anyone with
     half an ounce of sense can see that their ideas are completely
     bogus.  Time spent trying to "understand their ideas" and
     "examine their evidence" beyond that necessary for debunking is
     wasted time, and life is short.  Furthermore, such behaviour
     lends them respectability.  If we take them seriously, so will
     other people.  We must ridicule their ideas so that others will
     see how silly they are.  "One belly laugh is worth a thousand
     syllogisms" (H.L. Mencken, quoted by Martin Gardner).
WET: If we lay into these people without giving them a fair hearing
     then we run two risks:
     1: We might miss someone who is actually right.  History contains
        many examples.
     2: We give them a weapon against us.  Ad-hominem attacks and
        sloppy logic bring us down to their level.  If we are truly
        the rational, scientific people we claim to be then we should
        ask for their evidence, and then pronounce our considered
        opinion of it.

The two extremes are perhaps personified by Martin Gardner (dry) and
Marcello Truzzi (wet).  Note that no particular judgement is attached
to these terms.  They are just handy labels.

People who read articles by dry skeptics often get the impression that
skeptics are as pig-headed as any fundamentalist or stage psychic.  I
think that this is a valid criticism of some skeptics on the dry end.
However, an article which ridicules fringe beliefs may also contain
sound logic based on careful investigation.  As always, you have to
read carefully, distinguish logic from rhetoric, and then make a

0.6.2: How do we know Randi is honest?

Randi has offered a large prize to anyone who can demonstrate
paranormal powers under controlled conditions.  He also has a lot of
professional prestige tied up in his self-appointed role of psychic
debunker.  This leads to allegations that if he ever did find a
genuine psychic then he would lie rather than lose so much money and

When Randi tests psychic claims, he is always very careful to agree
with the claimant before the test exactly what the conditions will be.
The test will proceed only if both he and the claimant agree that this
will be a fair test of the claim.  The conditions usually involve
video tapes and independent witnesses specifically to rule out
cheating by either side.

On one occasion Randi did agree that the claimed ability existed.
Arthur G. Lintgen claimed an ability to identify LP records without
labels.  Randi tested him on behalf of Time magazine, and found that 
Lintgen could in fact do this by reading the patterns of loud and
quiet in the groove.  Lintgen did not get Randi's reward because he 
had not demonstrated (or claimed) any paranormal ability.

0.6.3: Why don't skeptics debunk religions?

Skeptics aim to debunk false claims and silly theories by using the
*evidence*.  The question of whether God exists is not one for which
evidence is available, and so skeptics tend to treat it as a private
matter.  When someone claims to have evidence (such as a miraculous
healing) then skeptics are as ready to test this claim as they are any

Most skeptics agree that it is perfectly possible to be a skeptic
about paranormal claims but still honestly believe in God.  Martin
Gardner is a "dry" skeptic and one of the founders of CSICOP.  He also
believes in a personal god and describes himself as a "philosophical

Most skeptics tend to take an "agnostic-atheist" attitude, assuming
that God does not exist until evidence to the contrary turns up.

If you are interested in organisations that oppose religion in general
then see the talk.atheism FAQ "Atheist Resources" for a list of atheist
and humanist organisations.

0.6.4: How can I persuade the other side?

This isn't a FAQ, but it should be!  Originally this question referred
only to persuading skeptics, but of course the paranormalists are not
the only ones who need to learn how to argue.

* Be prepared to offer evidence.  Ideally evidence consists of an
  experiment I can reasonably do myself.  Failing that, list articles
  in peer-reviewed journals.

* Make predictions.  These predictions should be specific and
  surprising.  For example a prediction that "crime will cause
  concern" is not specific (it does not say who is going to be
  concerned about what aspect of crime when) and it is not surprising
  (someone, somewhere is going to be concerned about it).  On the
  other hand a prediction that "The British House of Commons will hold
  an Emergency Debate on Juvenile Crime next month" is both specific
  (it specifies an event which either will or will not happen) and
  surprising (emergency debates on this subject don't happen every

* Be prepared to look at the evidence presented by the other side.  On
  the other hand, if you claim as your evidence a paper that came out
  in some obscure journal in 1903, don't be too surprised if no-one
  goes to the expense of digging it out just to debunk it for you.

* Don't try argument by assertion.  A statement such as "The evidence
  for psi is overwhelming" will generate lots of queries asking where
  this evidence may be found.  Conversely the "extraordinary claims
  require extraordinary evidence" line should only be used when
  someone tries to shift the burden of proof.

* Don't try argument by authority unless the authority you are citing
  is generally acknowledged as an expert on the subject.  I might cite
  C.S. Lewis in a debate on the nature of Christianity.  I would not
  cite him on the age of the Universe because he is not an authority
  on that.

For more on how to construct a logical argument, see the
and talk.atheism FAQs, both of which have extensive sections on this

0.7: Is there any scientific psi research? 

[Contributed by Roger Nelson of PEAR]

In short, yes.  According to a recent National Research Council report,
there is a 130 year history of scientific research, albeit with no clear
conclusion that the classical psi effects, telepathy, clairvoyance,
psychokinesis, precognition, have been demonstrated.  Most knowledgeable
scholars would date the advent of controlled research later, to the early
1930's when J. B. Rhine began his work with McDougall in Duke University's 
psychology department.  Rhine's work has been much criticized, and is
widely discounted, but inappropriately for the most part.  

In any case, later workers built on these foundations of experimental
design and statistical analysis, and there has been a cumulative
increase in scientific rigor and sophistication.  Most of current psi
research is conducted by a small number of investigators in
universities and established institutes, and reports are presented at
conventions of professional organizations such as the
Parapsychological Association, and the Society for Scientific
Exploration, and published in professional journals of these groups
or, occasionally, in mainstream journals in physics, psychology, and
statistics.  Professionals familiar with the literature, including
recent meta-analyses, find persuasive evidence for small, replicable
anomalous effects correlated with human consciousness and intention.

There are currently perhaps a dozen active research laboratories,
worldwide, and on the order of 50 to 100 researchers actually doing
experiments.  It is a fact that their work is not well known to the
general public including most of the sci.skeptic readership.  Thus,
the frequently negative, and sometimes disdainful commentary on psi
research from "skeptics" tends to be ill-informed, or refers to
something other than scientific research.  Language usage is part of
the problem, as the terms psychic research, parapsychology, esp,
telepathy, etc., have been usurped by non-scientists and media people.
With suitable modifiers, the term anomalous is often used to describe
the subject of investigation in modern research, partly to avoid the
implied mechanisms and relationships attached to the older terms.

Much of current experimental psi research is not only scientific, but
adheres to more rigorous standards than are found in much contemporary
work in the social and physical sciences, largely because the
investigators understand the technical difficulties as well as the
implications of positive findings for our general scientific models.
It should be noted that constructive criticism from skeptics has made
important contributions to research quality.

0.8: What is a Conspiracy Theory?

There are two general categories of conspiracy theory: Grand and

A Grand conspiracy theory is a belief that there is a large-scale
conspiracy by those in power to mislead and/or control the rest of the
world.  Consider the following example:

    There is a conspiracy amongst the computer programmers to
    control the world.  They are only allowing the public to have
    simple machines, while they control the really powerful ones.
    There is a computer in  they call "The Beast".  It has
    records about everyone.  They use this information to
    manipulate the politicians and businessmen who ostensibly rule
    the world into doing their will.  The Beast was prophesied in

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