I usually look forward to getting the Skeptical Inquirer every other month, but I’m starting to think that they need (a) a better copy editor and (b) someone to fact-check their articles. For a publication devoted to truth, there was quite a bit of questionable material in the May/June 2012 edition. I’ll confine my critique to material directly related to ancient history.
In Peter Barglow’s article on whether post-traumatic stress disorder meets the criteria for a real psychiatric illness, there is a questionable assertion about Greek mythology. (I’m not much of a fan of the increasing number of dull, though sadly necessary, articles on whether some disease or another is a figment of doctors’ imaginations. As the old guard of skeptics have, as a group, aged into late middle age and beyond, the amount of attention they pay to medical issues, not coincidentally, has risen proportionally.)
Barglow writes that the first PTSD sufferer was
Almost everything in here is false.
This is also false.
I also take issues with Shneour’s thesis that religion is inexorably declining and fading away. While it is true that in the United States there has been a marginal uptick in the number of people claiming to be atheist or agnostic, the number of people expressing belief in God, heaven, and angels has remained fairly steady for decades. Organized religion may be declining (though it was never as strong in the U.S. as believers claim), but religious belief is not declining except among a certain segment of the population that not coincidentally happens to be the same upper-class, academic elite to which Shneour belongs.
In Europe and among elite populations in the United States, yes, religion is in decline. But outside of that, and especially among non-elite populations, religion continues to play the same role in daily life that it did when those “bloody” “Arians” finished reading the “Epic of Gamesh” and high-tailed it to India.
I am an author and researcher focusing on pop culture, science, and history. Bylines: New Republic, Slate, etc. There's more about me in the About Jason tab.
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