A few days ago someone asked me what my astrological sign was. I replied "Dollar.". This answer did not make the questioner happy.

A day or two later I realized that this question was a good candidate for my F.A.Q. page. People do occasionally ask me what my sign is... once. After they get a non-answer, they usually give up.

This little anecdote nicely introduces one of my beliefs: skepticism. I try to maintain a skeptical outlook on the world. Depending on the subject, this can be an easy or a difficult task. When people are discussing alien abductions or numerology, being a skeptic is a trivial endeavor. On the other hand, when the subject is Microsoft's software, it's a little harder for me to be skeptical and objective. I try, though.

Usually, any mention of the paranormal will set off my skeptical sense. If I'd ever seen convincing evidence of just one supposedly paranormal phenomenon, then it might be easier for me to accept that paranormal phenomena exist. Yet those who profess belief in, say, astrology offer nothing more than anecdotal evidence. How many times must one point out the following?

  • Anecdotal evidence is not proof.
  • Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.
  • The advocate for paranormal phenomena must prove that it exists, rather than the skeptic proving that it doesn't.
  • It is impossible to prove something's nonexistence.
  • Just because a phenomenon is currently unexplained does not mean that is unexplainable.

Frankly, I enjoy a good skeptical argument every now and then, but they always seem to degenerate into the same endings (appeals to authority, ad hominem attacks, etc.). After a while it usually isn't worth the energy to continue.

So, in the end, I fall squarely in the skeptics' camp. Without extraordinary evidence, I refuse to believe in:

alien abductions · angels · animal magnetism · aromatherapy · astral projection · astrology · Atlantis, etc. · auras · the Bermuda Triangle · Bigfoot, etc. · biorhythms · black helicopters · chakras · channeling · chiropractic · creationism · crop circles · deities · dianetics · dowsing · elves · facilitated communication · fairies · feng shui · flat-earth theories · fortune-telling · ghosts · graphology · holistic medicine · hollow-earth theories · homeopathy · intelligent design · intentionality · ley lines · magic · all -mancy (except perhaps pogonomancy) · mesmerism · millenniallism · miracles · morphogenetic fields · mystic crystal powers · near-death experiences · numerology · Ouija boards · out-of-body experiences · palmistry · past lives · phrenology · poltergeists · possession · postmodernism · psychic powers · psychic surgery · qualia · recovered memories · reincarnation · Reiki · religion · scientology · souls · spirits · spontaneous human combustion · stigmata · subliminal messages · teleology · therapeutic touch · UFOs · voodoo · walk-ins · weeping icons · zombies

(Don't get me started on vampires.)

If you find that you believe in some of the items on this list, I suggest getting a one-year subscription to Skeptical Inquirer. Equal weight is given not only to discussion of paranormal phenomena but also to developing one's critical thinking skills. Read it for a year, and you'll gain a great set of tools for objectively evaluating the impressive claims of paranormalists.

Hey -- treating your brain to something that helps it work better! What a great gift to yourself. Aren't you worth it?

Come to think of it, perhaps an even better gift would be to buy a subscription for your local library. Who knows? You could spread clear thinking throughout your area.

This page was inspired in part by Skeptical Inquirer, Penn & Teller, and Emily and Linda Rosa.

Last updated 5 October 2005
All contents ©2000-2002 Mark L. Irons