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Contact: Paul Fidalgo
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The Empirical Meets the Ineffable: Skeptical Inquirer Explores Art and Skepticism

August 20, 2012

Challenging the common misconception that those who produce works of intellect cannot appreciate works of emotion, the latest edition of Skeptical Inquirer – the premier journal of investigation of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims – examines the deep connections between art and skepticism. The ways in which these two fields of human endeavor complement and enhance each other are explored by a host of skepticism’s top thinkers—as well as its cutting edge artists.
Skeptical Inquirer Art and Science

What does a memorable Beatles tune have to do with a screed from Glenn Beck? Science journalist Samuel McNerney shows us that our tastes for certain kinds of art are as subject to “confirmation bias” as any other closely held belief. Writes McNerney: “Just as we only look for what confirms our scientific hypotheses and personal decisions, we likewise only listen to music and observe art that confirms our preconceived notions of good and bad aesthetics.” McNerney concludes that the some of our best artists are those who understand those biases and then violate them in interesting ways. 

Jeremiah Moss is confounded by an investigation of the physical origins of the bleak city diner filled with lonely patrons from Edward Hopper’s famous 1941 painting, Nighthawks. “It seems the longer you live in New York, the more you love a city that has vanished,” writes Moss. “For those of us well versed in the art of loving what is lost, it’s an easy leap to missing something that was never really there.”

Also profiled are two performers whose music is informed by their skepticism. Musician Damon Martin’s latest work is a thematic piece reacting to the underhanded practices of so-called psychic mediums. “It’s bad enough to be conning people in any way,” rails Martin, “but you have people who have just lost their children, and then you have mediums pretending to be their children . . . that absolutely makes me want to vomit.” The geek-culture-infused music of Marian Call has spurred the imaginations of hardline skeptics as well as those more mystically inclined. She explains, “I see my space as an artist, as creating a space where these people who generally don’t dialogue very well, are compelled to like the same thing and be forced to talk cordially to one another in real space.”

All this, plus: an evaluation of new theories about the death of Vincent van Gogh by Joe Nickell; a review of Chris Mooney’s The Republican Brain by Ron Lindsay; a roundup of top-notch online resources for finding skeptical performers and videos; and much more.

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Skeptical Inquirer is the official journal of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), a nonprofit scientific and educational organization. CSI encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view. Learn more about CSI and SI at www.csicop.org.