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Skeptic's Toolbox

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The Skeptic's Toolbox
Skeptic's Toolbox 2012.JPG
Ray Hyman at The Skeptic's Toolbox 2012
Status Active
Genre science and skepticism
Location(s) University of Oregon, Eugene, OR
Country United States
Inaugurated 1989
Organized by Committee for Skeptical Inquiry
Website
http://www.skepticstoolbox.org

Held every August since 1992, the Skeptic's Toolbox was formed by psychologist and now-retired University of Oregon professor Ray Hyman. The workshop, held over four days, focuses on making people into better critical thinkers by investigating a central theme. The attendees are broken up into groups and given tasks that they must work on together and present in front of the entire group on the last day. The Skeptic's Toolbox is sponsored by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.

History[edit]

Hyman created the Skeptic's Toolbox in 1989 to teach people how to be better skeptics. He tells James Underdown that "we were putting out more fires by skeptics than by believers... they were going overboard". The first toolbox was in Buffalo, NY with himself, James Alcock and Steve Shaw (now called Banachek).[1][2] With the exception of one year when the toolbox was held in Boulder, Colorado, the toolbox has been held at the University of Oregon in Eugene.[3] In general, the faculty likes to keep the numbers at about 90 in order to give everyone personalized attention, and allow everyone the chance to participate. At the 1993 Toolbox, "More than a hundred people participated, from 19 states, Canada, and Hong Kong, and their enthusiasm continued to grow with each passing day, ending on the fifth day with what appeared to be a unanimous 'If only we had more time!'".[4]

In 1997 Skeptical Inquirer Magazine announced that CFI would begin offering an academic certificate for students in a three-year program. Students needed to complete 30 units in academic work as well as in workshops. The two certificates offered were Humanistic Studies and Science and the Paranormal, attending The Skeptic's Toolbox would satisfy one of the workshop requirements.[5]

Methodology and focus[edit]

While critical thinking is the overall focus, lectures designed around the theme focus on the specialties of the faculty. A reporter for the Register-Guard attended the 2003 toolbox and wrote of his experience hearing lectures on post traumatic stress syndrome, graphology, repressed memory court cases, communication with the dead, healing through prayer, traditional Chinese medicine and psychic dogs. All that and Jerry Andrus's display of optical illusions too.[6] The goal of the Toolbox is to "help skeptics add to their arsenal of tools and techniques with which to both guard against deception and properly evaluate paranormal claims". Learning how to communicate with believers is also considered important: "Skeptics search for truths, believers tend to want validation of their experiences".[7]

August 9–12, 2012 Evaluating Evidence: Garbage In, Garbage Out Faculty - Ray Hyman, Lindsay Beyerstein, Harriet Hall, James Alcock, Loren Pankratz and Richard Wackrow

Getting the skeptical message across to believers was a focus at the 1993 event. Faculty felt that non-skeptics might be more receptive if attendees understood how they were perceived by others. "Many people view skeptics as die-hard cynics and debunkers, even as enemies of free speech. Nonskeptics often hear only the "COP" in CSICOP".[4]

In 2010, interviewed by D. J. Grothe, Hyman explained, "give people the tools to think, help them to become better thinkers".[8] Mentalist Bob Fellows performed at the second conference and told the audience, "The effect (of a magic trick) on audiences who (believe the trick is real magic) can be enormously powerful. And when deceit is involved, they can be potentially harmful as well". Hyman felt that it was necessary to teach attendees with a "case-based approach... concrete examples as a first step toward extracting broad examples... (giving) the benefit of context" to the learning experience.[7]

Faculty of the Toolbox[edit]

Loren Pankratz - A founding faculty member of the Skeptic's Toolbox, Pankratz explained to Harriet Hall, about the beginnings of the Toolbox, "Ray Hyman, Jerry Andrus and I were meeting together once a month or so and we decided that maybe the three of us could put a Toolbox together."[9]

Barry Beyerstein - "One of the many enjoyable tasks I undertake for CSICOP is to lecture in Ray Hyman's annual summer workshop at the University of Oregon. Not only is it the towering presence of Ray himself, and the joy of observing the sheer brainpower of my fellow faculty at work, it is also the people, literally from around the world, who enroll in this and other CSICOP functions that keep me from suffering that occupational hazard 'skeptic's burnout.' They are a remarkable lot, genuinely nice people committed to critical thinking and leaving the place a bit better than they found it. They make me very pleased that my fate was to become a skeptical inquirer."[10]

Harriet Hall - Prior to attending the Toolbox as a student, Hall had been a "passive skeptic", "I hadn't done any writing... Ray Hyman and Wally Sampson encouraged me to try my hand at writing, one thing led to another and now I'm on the faculty of the Skeptic's Toolbox."[9][11]

Lindsay Beyerstein - She started attending the Skeptic's Toolbox when she was 14; her father Barry Beyerstein strongly influenced her involvement in the skeptical movement. "It's sorta funny, the skeptics' movement is now finally old enough, it's like Scientology, we have second gen!" She recounts, "I was always involved with my Dad in skeptical meetings... "We would have family newsletter-stuffing nights (for the BC Skeptics)." instead of hiring babysitters her father would take Lindsay to his media interviews. "Does Satanic music cause suicide? Out-of-body experiences... it was always something new and different."[12]

James Alcock - "Ray and I and a magician by the name of Steve Shaw, now known as Banachek did the very first Toolbox in Buffalo... a little while later Ray asked me if I could come out here to this group." Ray stated "It took a long while to get Jim out here, but finally we managed it."[1]

Dates Theme Faculty Notes
October 20–22, 1989 Skeptical Inquiry: The Role of the Skeptic[13] Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Banachek Held at the University of New York, Buffalo
August 20–24, 1992 The Skeptic's Toolbox
The Complete Skeptic's Field Guide - the goal was to create a pocket-sized manual for skeptics[14]
Ray Hyman, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz, Jeff Mayhew, Jerry Andrus First one held in Eugene, Oregon
August 19–23, 1993 The Skeptic's Toolbox II
Case-Based Reasoning - Using model cases to generate principles for use in a similar situation[15]
Ray Hyman, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Bob Fellows, Loren Pankratz
August 4–8, 1994 The Skeptic's Toolbox III: Thinking
Good, Bad & Critical[16]
Ray Hyman, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz, Jerry Andrus Held at the University of Colorado, Boulder
August 17–21, 1995 Human Error
Psychology of belief and error[17]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz
No Workshop Conflict with celebration ceremonies of CSICOP's 20th Anniversary
August 21–25, 1997 The Skeptic's Toolbox '97
Seven critical questions to apply to any skeptical inquiry[18]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz
August 20–24, 1998 Psychology of Deception: Scams, Cons and other Deceits
Deception, Self-deception, Advertising, Illusions, Psychopaths[19]
Ray Hyman, Wallace Sampson, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz
August 19–23, 1999 The Skeptic's Toolbox '99: Science vs Pseudoscience
Model cases: Oregon Vortex, Near death experiences, Fooling scientists[20]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz, Wallace Sampson
August 17–20, 2000 The Inquisitive Skeptic Workshop
Examples of claims for the participants to examine[21]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz, Wallace Sampson, Massimo Polidoro
August 16–19, 2001 Talking to the Dead and other Transcendental Seductions
Mediumship, Dissociation, etc.[22]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz, Wallace Sampson, Massimo Polidoro
August 15–18, 2002 How to Be a "Whys" Skeptic
Getting our message across[23]
Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz, Wallace Sampson, Ray Hyman, James Alcock
August 14–17, 2003 Critiquing Research: Determining Adequacy
Evidence, Statistics, Persistence[24]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Barry Beyerstein, Loren Pankratz, Wallace Sampson
August 12–15, 2004 The YOU You Don't Know
Unconscious, Ideomotor, Hypnosis[25]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Loren Pankratz, Wallace Sampson, Barry Beyerstein In The Trenches Award winners - Carol & Ben Baumgartner and Wilma Russell
August 11–14, 2005 The Classics of Skeptical Investigation
Pitted windshields, Clever Hans, Memory in Water, etc.[26]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Loren Pankratz, Barry Beyerstein, Wallace Sampson In The Trenches Award winners - Herb Masters and Jeannine DeNorma
August 10–13, 2006 The Healthy Skeptic
Quackery, Bogus therapies, Self-help, Personal testimony, alternative medicine[27]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Loren Pankratz, Barry Beyerstein, Wallace Sampson In The Trenches Award winners - Chris Clarke and Harriet Hall
August 9–12, 2007 Changing Minds
Persuasion, Conversion, Brain-washing, Ethics of behavior control[28]
Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Jerry Andrus, Loren Pankratz, Lindsay Beyerstein, Wallace Sampson, In The Trenches Award winner - Judy Kjellerman
August 7–10, 2008 Your Wonderful Brain
Free-will, Cognitive illusions, Brain fitness programs, Eye witness testimony, Blindspots[29]
Ray Hyman, Lindsay Byerstein, Loren Pankratz, Wallace Sampson, James Alcock In The Trenches Award winners - Susan Beyerstein and Charles Wynn
August 6–9, 2009 The Scientific Method[30] Ray Hyman, Harriet A. Hall “Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine.”,[31][32] Lindsay Byerstein, Loren Pankratz, James Alcock In The Trenches Award winner - Steve Campbell
August 12–15, 2010 SCAMS![33] Ray Hyman, James Alcock, Loren Pankratz, Anthony Pratkanis, Lindsay Beyerstein, Harriet Hall In The Trenches Award winner - Michael Bennett[34]
August 11–14, 2011 How Smart People Go Wrong[35] Ray Hyman, Loren Pankratz, Lindsay Beyerstein, Harriet Hall, James Alcock[36] In The Trenches Award winner - Heidi Shaw
August 9–12, 2012 Evaluating Evidence: Garbage In, Garbage Out[37] Ray Hyman, Lindsay Beyerstein, Harriet Hall, James Alcock, Loren Pankratz, Richard Wackrow In The Trenches Award winner - Susan Gerbic[38]
Barry Karr awarded 25 year's of service.
Also, Toolbox faculty recognized as honorary Trenches winners[39]
August 8–11, 2013 Using Probabilistically Challenged Minds to Cope with Uncertainty[40][41] Ray Hyman, Lindsay Beyerstein, Harriet Hall, James Alcock, Loren Pankratz In The Trenches Award winner - Richard E. Wackrow
August 7–10, 2014 Using Model Cases to Deal with Dubious Claims[42] Ray Hyman, Lindsay Beyerstein, Harriet Hall, James Alcock, Loren Pankratz In the Trenches Award winner - Jerry Schwarz[43]

Other[edit]

Gallery of photos

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Skeptic Toolbox Interviews Pt 2". Retrieved 2012-08-11. 
  2. ^ Ray Hyman - Honorary Degree Recipient, Vancouver, BC, Canada: Simon Fraser University, October 4, 2007, retrieved 2009-07-27 
  3. ^ "Conversations with Ray Hyman - Part 2". Retrieved 2012-06-18. 
  4. ^ a b Henry, Porter (Winter 1993). "Skeptics Analyze Tools for Analysis and Persuasion". Skeptical Inquirer Magazine 17 (2): 16–18. 
  5. ^ Nickell, Joe (July–August 1997). "Center for Inquiry Institute Launches Three-Year Academic Program". Skeptical Inquirer Magazine 21 (4): 7–8. 
  6. ^ Baker, Mark (August 17, 2003). "Skeptics gather to sort out normal and paranormal". The Register-Guard. 
  7. ^ a b Goldstein, Steven (1994). "Watch What You're Thinking! The Skeptic's Toolbox II Conference". Skeptical Inquirer Magazine 18 (4): 11–13. 
  8. ^ "Ray Hyman - The Life of an Expert Skeptic, Part 2 – For Good Reason". JREF. 2012-01-20. Retrieved 2012-05-21. 
  9. ^ a b "Loren Pankratz and Harriet Hall discuss the Skeptic's Toolbox". Retrieved 2012-08-10. 
  10. ^ Barry Beyerstein, “From Fate to Skeptical Inquirer”, Paul Kurtz (ed) (2001). Skeptical Odysseys: Personal Accounts by the World's Leading Paranormal Inquirers. Prometheus Books, pgs. 101-119. ISBN 1-57392-884-4.
  11. ^ "TRC #49: Homeopathy 101 + Harriet Hall Interview + Sex on the Mind Myth". The Reality Check podcast. Ottawa Skeptics. August 1, 2009. Retrieved 2009-08-01.  (Interview from 16:08 to 33:25)
  12. ^ "Skeptic Toolbox Interviews Pt 2". Retrieved 2012-08-11. 
  13. ^ Skeptical Inquiry: The Role of the Skeptic (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1989. 
  14. ^ The Skeptic's Toolbox (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1992. 
  15. ^ The Skeptic's Tooolbox II (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1993. 
  16. ^ The Skeptic's Toolbox III "Thinking" (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1994. 
  17. ^ Human Error (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1995. 
  18. ^ The Skeptic's Toolbox '97 (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1997. 
  19. ^ The Psychology of Deception (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1998. 
  20. ^ The Skeptic's Toolbox '99 (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 1999. 
  21. ^ The Inquisitive Skeptic Workshop (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2000. 
  22. ^ Talking to the Dead and other Transcendental Seductions (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2001. 
  23. ^ How to be a "Whys" Skeptic (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2002. 
  24. ^ Critiquing Research: Determining Adequacy (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2003. 
  25. ^ The You You Don't Know (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2004. 
  26. ^ The Classics of Skeptical Investigation (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2005. 
  27. ^ The Healthy Skeptic (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2006. 
  28. ^ Changing Minds (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2007. 
  29. ^ Your Wonderful Brain (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2008. 
  30. ^ The Scientific Method (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2009. 
  31. ^ Hall, Harriet. "Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 1". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  32. ^ Hall, Harriet. "Tooth Fairy Science and Other Pitfalls: Applying Rigorous Science to Messy Medicine, Part 2". Skeptical Inquirer. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  33. ^ SCAMS! (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2010. 
  34. ^ "Skeptic's Toolbox - 2010 "In the Trenches" award winner Michael Bennett". Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  35. ^ How Smart People Go Wrong (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2011. 
  36. ^ "How Smart People Go Wrong". Skeptical Inquirer Magazine. 1 June 2011. Retrieved 2012-06-24. 
  37. ^ Evaluating Evidence: Garbage in Garbage Out (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2012. 
  38. ^ "Skeptic's Toolbox - In the Trenches Award - 2012". Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  39. ^ "Skeptic's Toolbox Awards - 2". Retrieved 2012-08-12. 
  40. ^ Using Probabilistically Challenged Minds to Cope with Uncertainty (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2013. 
  41. ^ "The Skeptic's Toolbox". The Skeptic's Toolbox. Center for Inquiry. Retrieved July 19, 2014. 
  42. ^ Using model Cases to Deal with Dubious Claims (Brochure ed.). Buffalo, NY: CSICOP. 2014. 
  43. ^ Gerbic, Susan (November 13, 2014). "Susan Gerbic Reports on the 2014 Skeptics Toolbox". The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Retrieved 2015-07-18. 
  44. ^ "Skeptic's Toolbox Awards - 2". Retrieved 2012-08-12.