Category Skepticism

Genius! The humour of skepticism

I went to see local fellow skeptic at Portsmouth Skeptics in the Pub the other night. Crispian Jago has a great blog called Reason Stick and is fairly famous for some of the images that he has created, some of which I have tweeted and blogged. Here are a few below:

Psychic Who Said Amanda Berry Was Dead Silent After Berry Is Found Alive

A year after Amanda Berry disappeared in Cleveland, her mother appeared on “The Montel Williams Show” to speak to a psychic about what happened to her daughter.

Psychic Sylvia Browne, who has made a career of televised psychic readings, told Louwanna Miller on a 2004 episode of the show that her daughter was dead, causing Miller to break down in tears on the show’s set.

Moving the Stones of Baalbek–The Wonders of Roman Engineering

Previously I had talked about an amazing piece of computational engineering from the ancient world, the Antikythera mechanism, which was also posted up at A Tippling Philosopher. In the comments there, a discussion came up about another wonder of antiquity which has attracted all sorts of speculations among alternative thinkers. This is the construction of the temple complex at the city of Baalbek, also known as Heliopolis, in modern-day Lebanon, about 70 kilometers* north of Damascus. The site has considerable antiquity, but it is the large stones at the temple, especially the three known as the Trilithon, that have garnered the greatest attention, each weighing in around 800 tons.* And deservedly so, as they are some of the largest single objects ever moved in the pre-modern era.

Skeptical about meditation

So, on reading some work by fellow SINner David Osorio over at Avant Garde, I was alerted to this article by John Horgan about whether or not research supports benefits of meditation or not. It seems that it doesn’t, really.

TED pull Sheldrake & Hancock talks after backlash (including mine!)

Last week, I posted this:

TEDx, Pseudoscience and the Rupert Sheldrake controversy

TED has reacted to a considerable amount of pressure from posts similar to mine. They have pulled the videos from their usual places. The TED blog explained the move, claiming they were not censoring the videos, but placing them on their blog where they can be viewed in a proper context:

TEDx, Pseudoscience and the Rupert Sheldrake controversy

As the blog HumanistLife states:

TEDx has been on the receiving end of criticism, for promoting bad science and pseudoscience, and recently, Rupert Sheldrake’s talk (below) has been on the receiving end of a lot of comment.

For those of you who are not aware of Rupert Sheldrake, he is a pretty famous investigator and ‘scientist’ looking into parapsychology and supposedly giving the best evidence (or arguing from other research evidence) for the existence of psychic powers and whatnot. His specialist area concerns Ganzfeld experiments.

Proving parapsychology. Or not, as the case may be.

I have had several arguments online about parapsychology research, from Rupert Sheldrake to Dean Radin. The people who defend parapsychology as well-evidenced and real are very adamant of the validity of the research to the point of being highly emotionally charged, often. I have even seen theists argue supernaturalism from this body of research.

“So you love paedophiles, then!” – a conspiracy theorist and fallacies

You need to know a few things before reading this:

1) The BBC got into trouble last year for having a serial paedophile (celebrity DJ and charity man Jimmy Savile) about whom I wrote this post about cognitive dissonance.

2) I went to a Skeptics in the Pub talk last night given by Rob Brotherton, a PhD psychology postgrad student doing research on cognitive biases and the causal factors involved with believing in conspiracy theories. The talk on conspiracy theories and theorist (CT) from a psychological perspective was really interesting, to say the least. Showing how certain people think, and the expressing of the huge gamut of cognitive biases and heuristics involved in fallible beliefs is always worth listening to.

Science denialism at a skeptic conference – shame!

Rebecca Watson, a speaker at skeptical conference and events, and someone who has courted controversy before (I think she was involved in the Elevatorgate issue, though I know almost nothing about it since it holds little interest to me)., has taken it upon herself at the recent Skepticon conference to diss Evolutionary Psychology (EP). I use the term diss, because that’s about the sum of it. There seemed to be no real desire to interact with the required academia or methodology involved in critiquing scientific findings. This is sad coming from the source and the event that it did.

One Month until DOOM

We are less than one month away from the winter solstice when the days get shortest and the sun is slowest in the sky. Doom, I say. DOOM. Well, not from the solstice; civilization has had thousands of those, yet no catastrophes connected to them.

But we are lead to think there is one this time because of beliefs about the Maya calendar. This is the whole 2012 apocalypse belief, and it’s one that isn’t well-founded in either archaeology or science. To show the problems with the latter, let’s look at all the proposals I can find about how the world will be destroyed on December 21, 2012.

A Defining Feature of Pseudoscience?

There is a problem in the world of philosophy (only one?) dealing with the subject of science known as the demarcation problem: what counts as science, what is good or bad science, and what is pseudoscience? Generally there is agreement that there is no fine line between science and pseudoscience, though there are clear examples of both. But what features can we look for to know which is which and avoid the bad?

Skeptical About Astrology: Dealing With Horoscopes

Since about a quarter of people in the US and even more in some countries in Western Europe continue to believe in the powers of astrological prediction, it makes sense to some degree that the blog website Patheos would start up an astrology section in their spirituality section. And since, according to one post there, Saturn the teacher is moving into Scorpio today, I’ll talk a bit about this.

First off, the planet Saturn is currently not in the constellation of Scorpio today, tomorrow, or any time soon. It’s really not, go check for yourself.Right now it is in Virgo, which isn’t even adjacent to Scorpio in the Zodiac. So why this astronomically wrong statement? …