How Smart People Go Wrong

June 1, 2011


Society is riddled with intelligent people doing stupid things. Smart and accomplished men and women, sometimes even medical and science professionals, do not always make rational choices. Whether they are trusting instinct over rational thought or making ill decisions based on personal bias, human beings often take missteps.

Realizing there is more to wise thinking than brain power; this year’s Skeptic’s Toolbox will look at examples of such wrongheaded thought processes in medicine, science, finance, and more. Both faculty and participants will explore through lectures and team assignments various influences that contribute to poor reasoning by otherwise brilliant people.

The Skeptic’s Toolbox is a Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) workshop held at the Living Learning Center at the University of Oregon in Eugene, Oregon. The four-day conference will be held Thursday, August 11 through Sunday, August 14. Journalists’ contributions to irrational thinking, a reinterpretation of Reginald Scot’s Discoverie of Witchcraft, and innocent jokes that provide serious consequences are just a few of the topics of mistaken thought processes that will be covered. For a complete schedule and to register, please visit

This year’s faculty team includes: Ray Hyman, professor emeritus of psychology, University of Oregon and CSI fellow. James Alcock, professor of psychology, York University, Toronto, Ontario and CSI fellow. Loren Pankratz, forensic psychologist, Oregon Health & Science University and CSI fellow. Harriet Hall, MD, “The SkepDoc,” retired family physician and flight surgeon, author, and columnist for Skeptic magazine. Lindsay Beyerstein, philosopher, photographer, blogger, polymath, and freelance writer who lives in New York City.

The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry is a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting scientific inquiry and critical investigation, including critical investigation of claims relating to unconventional healthcare practices, such as acupuncture, therapeutic touch, and homeopathic medicine. CSI’s advisors include a number of leading scientists, some of whom are medical specialists. A list of CSI’s fellows, advisors, and staff is available on CSI’s website at

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The Center for Inquiry (CFI) is a nonprofit educational, advocacy, and research organization headquartered in Amherst, New York, with executive offices in Washington, D.C. It is also home to the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and the Council for Secular Humanism. The Center for Inquiry strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values. Visit CFI on the web at