The Skeptic's Dictionary

The Skeptic's Dictionary
Author Robert Todd Carroll
Country United States
Language English
Subject Scientific skepticism
Genre Non-fiction
Publisher John Wiley & Sons
Publication date
August 15, 2003
Media type Paperback
Pages 446
ISBN 978-0-471-27242-7
OCLC 52086432
001.9 21
LC Class Q172.5.P77 C37 2003
Followed by Becoming a Critical Thinker: A Guide for the New Millennium

The Skeptic's Dictionary is a collection of cross-referenced skeptical essays by Robert Todd Carroll, published on his website and in a printed book.[1][2] The site was launched in 1994 and the book was published in 2003 with nearly 400 entries. As of January 2011 the website has over 700 entries.[3] A comprehensive single-volume guides to skeptical information on pseudoscientific, paranormal, and occult topics, the bibliography contains some seven hundred references for more detailed information. According to the back cover of the book, the on-line version receives approximately 500,000 hits per month.


The Skeptic's Dictionary is, according to its foreword, intended to be a small counterbalance to the voluminous occult and paranormal literature; not to present a balanced view of occult subjects.[4]

The articles in the book are in several categories:

Print versions are available in Dutch, English, Japanese, Korean, and Russian.[5] Numerous entries have been translated for the Internet in several other languages. A newsletter[6] keeps interested parties up to date on new entries and an archived list of previous newsletters is available for online perusal. Norcross et al. state that Carroll has made considerable progress in exposing pseudoscience and quackery.[7]

According to the author,

“The Skeptic’s Dictionary is aimed at four distinct audiences: the open-minded seeker, who makes no commitment to or disavowal of occult claims; the soft skeptic, who is more prone to doubt than to believe; the hardened skeptic, who has strong disbelief about all things occult; and the believing doubter, who is prone to believe but has some doubts. The one group this book is not aimed at is the 'true believer' in the occult. If you have no skepticism in you, this book is not for you.”

Carroll defines each of these categories, explaining how and why, in his opinion, his dictionary may be of interest, use, and benefit to each of them. He also defines the term “skepticism” as he uses it and identifies two types of skeptic, the Apollonian, who is “committed to clarity and rationality” and the Dionysian, who is “committed to passion and instinct.” William James, Bertrand Russell, and Friedrich Nietzsche exemplify the Apollonian skeptic, Carroll says, and Charles Sanders Peirce, Tertullian, Søren Kierkegaard, and Blaise Pascal are Dionysian skeptics.[8]

Roy Herbert's review of the paperback version written for the New Scientist magazine commented that "it is an amazing assembly, elegantly written and level-headed, with a wry remark here and there", and that "this superb work is likely to be used so often that it is a pity it is a softback book."[2]

See also


  1. Poole, Steven (18 October 2003). "All the rage". The Guardian. The highest mark of success for a new-media phenomenon is, it seems, still to get translated into old media; so becomes this handy volume examining the evidence in favour of ectoplasm, the Bermuda Triangle, the Turin Shroud, chiropracty and zombies, among much else.
  2. 1 2 Herbert, Roy (22 November 2003). "Keep on doubting". New Scientist.
  3. What is The Skeptic's Dictionary? –
  4. Skeptic's Dictionary, pp. 1–3.
  5. Preface, Skeptic's Dictionary.
  6. newsletter
  7. Norcross, J.C.; Koocher, G.P.; Garofalo, A. (2006). "Discredited psychological treatments and tests: A Delphi poll". Professional Psychology: Research and Practice. 37 (5): 515–522. doi:10.1037/0735-7028.37.5.515. Retrieved 2008-02-12.
  8. Introduction, Skeptic's Dictionary.
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