SKEPTIC Frequently Asked Questions (Sort Of)
This is not a list of paranormal-related questions and skeptical
answers; for that, consult Taner
Edis's SKEPTIC Annotated Bibliography [archivist's note: possibly
vanished; I'm checking -- RM], or the
sci.skeptic FAQ. Here
are answers to some common questions about using the SKEPTIC
For any other questions, bother your friendly list owner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
That might provide an occasion to include another item in this FAQ.
Rough Ground Rules
SKEPTIC is an unmoderated list. The list owner will, however, butt in
when it looks like the discussion is spinning out of control. Anyone
can subscribe, but the list owner will throw off anyone who makes a
major pest of him/herself, beyond the usual amount of flaming
Usually, courtesy and some common sense will prevent you from getting
into hot water, either with others on the mailing list or with the
list owner. After all, we are all mainly interested in a free,
informative discussion of paranormal and fringe-science ideas,
preferably without having to wade through tons of irrelevant and
boring postings in the process.
These rough guidelines might help you:
- Try to keep on-topic. SKEPTIC is about paranormal and
fringe-science issues, and the scientific and philosophical
matters that arise in debating these. We try not to be too rigid
in drawing boundaries; in the past, we have gone into urban
legends, Marxist and libertarian politics, feminism and
anti-feminism, conspiracy theories, meta-ethics, the merits of
vegetarianism, religion, educational questions, weird philosophy,
math, and a whole host of topics besides the standard paranormal
fare. As long as there is a clear connection to skepticism, and
the discussion does not become a firestorm which drowns out our
primary concerns, things usually work out fine.
- Avoid making skepticism an ideology. Yes, "skepticism"
is a vague notion, but we still have a rough idea what we are
interested in criticizing, and what we are content to leave to
other mailing lists. You might be convinced the ideology you
despise is the epitome of irrationality, and that the duty of
every True Skeptic is to combat it unto his or her last breath. Too
bad. We don't mind the occasional foray into politics or religion
here, but, if you find yourself evangelizing, it's time to slow
down and move onto something else.
- Don't waste bandwidth. This can be a busy list in the
heat of a debate. When you're receiving a hundred messages a day,
it can be rather irritating if many of these are just one- to
three-line messages that don't say much besides expressing agreement,
disagreement, or making some less-than-crucial comment. These are
best done by private e-mail sent to the original poster. This
doesn't mean you should act like a stuffy academic and stamp out
all humor or personal chattiness wherever you see it. Just use
your judgement -- keep in mind that hundreds of people will read
what you post, so try to say something worthwhile.
First of all, bookmark this FAQ. When it doesn't help, send all
questions related to the list to email@example.com. This
includes requests for help and any and all complaints. Please do
not post such material to SKEPTIC itself unless there is a good
reason. Another address to avoid is
firstname.lastname@example.org; that is reserved for automatic
error messages alone.
If you can't deal with the volume this list generates every day, but
would like to look at what's going on periodically, you might consider
subscribing in digest mode. This means you will get everything
bundled together and sent as one piece of mail about once every 24
hours, instead of being mailed every posting individually. Send
SET skeptic DIGEST
Digests can be convenient to delete all the day's message traffic at
once, if you feel disinclined to read it, or if the number of
messages received in a day is a problem for you.
Sending "SET skeptic MAIL" reverts to the usual operation;
individual mail received as posted.
Suspending List Mail
If you're going to be away for a while, and would like to stop
receiving SKEPTIC mail during that time, send:
SET skeptic NOMAIL
This'll suspend your mail, while keeping you on the list. This is
safer than signing off and rejoining later. When you want to start
receiving mail again, use:
SET skeptic MAIL
(or "SET skeptic DIGEST".) Note that you shouldn't include names
or anything in the commands, they're perfectly fine exactly as
If you want to leave SKEPTIC, send:
Since SKEPTIC is a fairly active list, it will be unusual to have one day
where you receive nothing, let alone a few in a row. In this case,
chances are that the list has had trouble sending mail to you. You
have either been auto-deleted from the list, or Sympa has
suspended your mail.
The way to check if something like this is going on is to send
If you find you're not subscribed, you have to rejoin the list. If
you suspect your mail might be set to "postpone," sending
SET skeptic MAIL
(or "SET skeptic DIGEST") will restart your list mail.
If you get no reply at all, this probably means the list server is
down. In that case, all you can do is wait. The list owner will be
aware of the problem, and is probably working to get things going
SKEPTIC is archived by Sympa, with each month in a separate
file. The usual way to
request Sympa archives is by e-mail, sending a line
get skeptic YYYY-MM
to email@example.com, the YYYY-MM being a year and month, like "2009-07" for July
At this writing, Sympa has archived all postings going back to July 2009.
Be forewarned that any archive file you retrive will be large.
To determine what exact monthly archives Sympa has, send the line
to firstname.lastname@example.org, and you'll receive a catalogue.
The "Reply-To" Header
The "Reply-To:" mail header on SKEPTIC mail is munged in an attempt to
force most replies back to the mailing list, itself. The result with
most mail clients is that 'r' (or similar) reply-to-sender command
is persuaded to send mail back to the mailing list only. If you
desire to send offlist mail to a fellow participant, be warned that
you may need to manually overcome this forced reply semantics (substituting
the desired recipient's e-mail address before sending), else you may
find that you have accidentally sent a private communication to the
entire mailing list.
Conversely, it may be the case that you're replying to a poster and
attempting to include in your post header "Reply-To:" for its
standards-specified purpose of indicating an alternate address for replies.
Be warned that Sympa will auto-discard your header in the act of
forcing in its munged "Reply-To: email@example.com" header,
so, unfortunately your use of the header will be foiled by the munging
activity applied by Sympa.
The SKEPTIC list is managed by:
Leonard R. Cleavelin, SKEPTIC list owner
Len took over from founding list owner
This page has been lightly modified by Rick Moen from
Taner's original, which covered details of the prior
mailing list manager software, ListProc, which ran on now-defunct host
listproc.hcf.jhu.edu. That host in turn was a replacement for
the list's primordial BITNET hosting, where the mailing list was known as
SKEPTIC@YORKVM1.BITNET. Please correct obsolete references elsewhere
on the Internet to the two former hosts and their software.