About This Site

Extras:

A map showing where Rochester, NY is located.

CSICOP on-line

Books for a skeptic's bookshelf – an Amazon list

James Randi's site


Note: This website has not been substantially updated since 2004.

What is this site all about?

This is the homepage of Alex Chernavsky.  I'm a 38-year-old man living in Rochester, NY (USA).  I work for the Humane Society of Rochester and Monroe County, also called the Humane Society at Lollypop Farm.  I'm the manager of the gift shop, I work at the adoptions desk, and I do various other tasks as needed.  In my free time, I dabble in web-page design.

Look, I'm a busy person.  What's the bottom line, here?

If you read only one part of this website, check out my “Pseudoscience in psych” section.  One of my main interests is exploring (and exposing) the fads, myths, and hype that are all-too-common in the mental-health industry.

What's with the weird domain name?

“Astrocyte Web Design” was the name of a short-lived company I founded.  The company is gone, but the Internet address lives on.  Astrocytes are star-shaped cells in the brain.  I used to do research on these types of cells.

Is there a common theme that unites your interests?

I'm interested in skepticism and critical thinking.  In particular, I'm interested in exposing falsehoods and superstitions, especially in fields of knowledge that might have an air of (unjustified) respectability.  “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a good guiding principle when trying to separate fact from fiction.  If this all sounds vague or bizarre, check out some of the links on the left, and you'll have a better idea of what I mean.

How can I contact you?

Send e-mail to:  alexc@aya.yale.edu

Do you have any family?

Yes.  My parents are retired and live in the Rochester area.  My brother Nick, his wife Christine, and their five children live in Webster (a suburb of Rochester).  My sister Cathy works for Queensland University of Technology in Australia.  She, her husband Greg, and my nephew Paul live in Brisbane.  I also have more-distant relatives in Russia, the Ukraine, and Canada.

Are you psychic?

Hah – I knew you were going to ask that question!  As a matter of fact, I do possess supernatural powers.  For example, I know all about you, even though we've never met:

Some of your goals are a bit unrealistic.  At times you are extroverted, friendly, and sociable, while at other times you are introverted, cautious, and reserved.  You have found it unwise to be too open or honest in revealing yourself to others.  You pride yourself on being an independent thinker and do not accept others' opinions without satisfactory evidence.  You prefer a certain amount of change and variety, and become dissatisfied when hemmed in by restrictions and limitations.  At times you have serious doubts as to whether you have made the right decision or done the right thing.  Disciplined and controlled on the outside, you can be worrisome and insecure on the inside.

While you have some personality weaknesses, you are generally able to compensate for them.  You have a great deal of unused capacity which you have not (yet) turned to your advantage.  You have a tendency to be critical of yourself.  You often feel a need for other people to like you and for them to admire you, and you feel that you have not always received adequate recognition for your accomplishments.

Not bad, eh?

What is your life story?

A pretty tall order!  I was born in Rochester, NY, in 1965.  I graduated from Irondequoit High School in 1983.  Four years later, I received my bachelor's degree in computer science from the State University of New York at Binghamton.  In 1989, I graduated from Yale University with a Master of Science degree in neuroscience.  I then went on to get an MBA from Cornell University's Johnson Graduate School of Management.  After that, I spent some time working in healthcare.  I'm on the board of directors of the Johnson School alumni club here in Rochester.  I am also on the boards of the Yale Alumni Club and the general Cornell University alumni club.

Do you have any favorite sayings?

These quotes are a bit contradictory, but I like them both:

“The whole problem with the world is that fools and fanatics are always so certain of themselves, but wiser people so full of doubts.”
— Paraphrased from Bertrand Russell

“The hottest parts of Hell are reserved for those who remain neutral in times of moral crisis.”
— Often attributed to Dante Alighieri, but actual source probably different

What's your personal best in a 10 kilometer race?

38:53 (which corresponds to a 6:15 minute-mile pace), set on March 15, 1992 at the 10K Run for Recreation in Fremont, California.

Can you put it all into perspective for us?

Sure.  I'll quote evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins:

“The total amount of suffering per year in the natural world is beyond all decent contemplation.  During the minute that it takes me to compose this sentence, thousands of animals are being eaten alive, many others are running for their lives, whimpering with fear, others are being slowly devoured from within by rasping parasites, thousands of all kinds are dying of starvation, thirst and disease...  In a universe of electrons and selfish genes, blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won't find any rhyme or reason in it, nor any justice.  The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

For another point of view – one that is perhaps marginally less bleak – see this quotation from Carl Sagan.