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The Association for Skeptical Enquiry

Casting a critical eye over suspect science, dubious claims and bizarre beliefs

Articles from ASKE

Below is a sample of articles, most of which have appeared in ASKE publications. There are three categories:

Simply click on the titles to access.


Language on the fringe

This is a sample of three articles by Dr Mark Newbrook, which will be replaced periodically by other articles he has written. For many years Mark has contributed a column to the Skeptical Intelligencer entitled 'Language on the Fringe' and numerous book reviews.

Mark completed a BA (Honours) in Classics (including Indo-European philology) at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and went on to take an MA and a PhD in linguistics at the University of Reading. He has authored several books, including Strange Linguistics (Lincom-Europa, Munich, 2013), the first book-length survey work on non-standard claims and theories about language. But his skeptical contributions are not just about linguistics; they also cover anthropology, ancient history and mythology, archaeology, philosophy, religion, cryptography, cryptozoology, claims of extra-terrestrial communication, and many other areas.

Mark's three articles at present are:

  1. Coelbren y Beirdd and Ogham: The Welsh epigraphic fringe, in which he examines non-mainstream, often mystical notions involving scripts formerly or allegedly used to write Celtic languages.
  2. 'Translations' of books which never existed, in which he examines the claims of Edmond Szekely (1905-1979).
  3. Gods and Demons in the Greek Old Testament, in which he addresses the question whether the gods mentioned in the Old Testament were assumed to exist.


The early history of ASKE

This article on ASKE was written by Wayne Spencer shortly after ASKE had come into existence. Wayne was a co-founder of the association and former editor of the Skeptical Intelligencer.

Did a medium identify a murderer?

In this article, Tony Youens and Adrian Shaw challenge a claim that a medium, through direct contact with the dead victim, identified a murderer 18 years prior to his conviction.

Michael Heap's papers on neuro-linguistic programming (NLP)

In 1988 and 1989 Michael Heap published three papers reviewing experimental evidence for the claims of NLP, and a fourth paper in the Skeptical Intelligencer, 2008. The first three papers are still cited in contemporary critiques of NLP and all four may be accessed on this website by clicking on the heading above.

Practical Guides

Before you see a psychic

This was originally published by ASKE as a booklet.

Tony Youens has twice appeared on television posing as both an astrologer and a tarot reader and on both occasions he was accepted as 'genuine' by the sitters. The tarot reading was for Meridian TV's 'Focus' and the most recent programme was 'The New Zodiac' by Pioneer Productions which was shown on Channel 5, Monday 16th April 2001. Tony who is available for lectures also bends spoons, reads minds and occasionally predicts the future.

Testing psychics and others claiming extraordinary powers

The genesis of this article by Tony Youens was seeing and hearing psychics appear on both television and radio and being allowed to promote their dubious claims without so much as a hint of an adequate test. Too often presenters simply 'ooh' and 'ahhh' at the claims and/or demonstrations given by psychics that even the simplest of controls would have probably exposed as mere trickery.

How to write a newspaper article promoting an unconventional remedy

Michael Heap has prepared this useful template, based on by many newspaper and magazine articles, for journalists who are writing a feature promoting any form of quack treatment.

Placebo therapy: How to develop an effective and ethical quack treatment

Michael Heap presents a blueprint for creating your own 'alternative therapy'. Like most practitioners of alternative medicine, you will be able to make a great deal of money and seemingly benefit lots of patients who come to see you, even though your treatment itself is complete quackery.

Oh, be a dowser!

Michael Heap explains the art of dowsing or water divining using metal rods. The information provided will enable anyone, with practice, to become a dowser although, like every other dowser, they will be unable to demonstrate any such ability under scientifically-controlled conditions.