James E. Alcock, PhD, is professor emeritus of psychology at York University in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. He is a fellow and member of the executive council of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI), and a member of the editorial board of the Skeptical Inquirer. In 1994 he received CSI’s highest honour, the “In Praise of Reason” award. In 1999, he was nominated by a panel of skeptics as among the two dozen most outstanding skeptics of the twentieth century. He believes that psi phenomena are impossible, and therefore the evidence for them must be non-existent. He therefore tries to explain away the evidence as based on wishful thinking, methodological errors, failure to fit in with the materialist paradigm and blind belief. Ironically, one of his areas of research in psychology is the nature of belief, as summarized in his book Belief: What It Means to Believe and Why Our Convictions are So Compelling.
In an interview in the Los Angeles Times, he said that the brain is a machine that produces beliefs without any particular respect for what is real or true and what is not.” In 2019, together with Arthur Reber, he published a paper in the American Psychologist called “Searching for the impossible: Parapsychology’s elusive quest.” He and Reber were explicit about the dogmatic basis for their skepticism: “Claims made by parapsychologists cannot be true. The effects reported can have no ontological status; the data have no existential value.” Therefore all the evidence can be dismissed without bothering to consider it. His own brain produces a strong belief that has little respect for what is real and what is not. Like other dogmatic skeptics, he thinks he knows the truth already. Evidence is irrelevant. Alcock is an prime example of a skeptic for whom Science and Reason are a brand, rather than a practice.