Tag Archives | Skepticism

James Randi: debunking the king of the debunkers

an-honest-liar-film-festival

via The Telegraph:

There are few public figures who’ve had decades of an almost perfectly positive press, as James Randi has. The 87-year-old debunker of the paranormal was Richard Dawkins before God invented Richard Dawkins – angry, verbally aggressive, a hero to the kinds of people who don’t believe in Big Foot and are rational enough to become sleepless with fury at the brainlessness of the idiots who do.

Author and thinker Isaac Asimov once claimed Randi’s “qualifications as a rational human being are unparalleled”, whilst the New York Times has called him our “most celebrated living debunker”. More recently he’s been the star of an award winning documentary film telling his incredible story.

Originally a magician and escapologist known as The Amazing Randi he graduated, as a young man, to the more serious business of exposing con-men and the self-deluded who claim supernatural powers. His long life and career has been devoted to the pursuit of truth above all else.

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Capitalism is God’s Will and the Cat Drank all the Milk: How our Language Creates our Biggest Problems and Why We Can’t do Anything about It

Felipe Del Valle (CC BY 2.0)

Felipe Del Valle (CC BY 2.0)

I have a confession to make, one that a good number of readers will find disgusting and emetic and prevent many of them from reading further. Others, however, might relate or find it interesting regardless, and so those people will continue to read, which, I suppose, is good enough for me. You see, when I was a child, from a very early age, probably as early as I can remember, I felt all around me the “Presence of God.” It was and is, in all actuality, an impossible feeling to properly describe, but I suppose to some extent that I could say that I felt some sort of “immanent-transcendent energy” “flowing” through me and through my surroundings. Having lived in a rural area hours away in any direction from something resembling civilization, many of my childhood memories consist of me sitting in the backseat of a Toyota 4Runner driving somewhere else, usually toward civilization somewhere.… Read the rest

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Assertions of Scientific Certainty Are Greeted With Skepticism

epSos .de (CC BY 2.0)

epSos .de (CC BY 2.0)

via Pacific Standard Magazine:

New German research suggests the public is wary of statements suggesting a scientific debate has been closed.

On many fronts, scientists continue to be frustrated by the public’s unwillingness to accept their conclusions. On issues ranging from Ebola to climate change, their impulse is often to re-state their case in ever-more-vigorous terms, forcefully noting that there is no serious doubt about their assertions.

Newly published research from Germany suggests that sort of language may, in fact, be counterproductive.

In a small online study, participants who read about another hot-button topic—the effects of computer games on children—were more skeptical “when statements were presented as overly certain,” according to a research team led by Stephan Winter of the University of Duisberg-Essen. Its research is published in the Journal of Language and Social Psychology.

Read More: http://www.psmag.com/navigation/health-and-behavior/assertions-scientific-certainty-greeted-skepticism-94269/

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Richard Dawkin’s Privilege Delusion

Matti Á (CC BY 2.0)

Matti Á (CC BY 2.0)

Rebecca Watson writes at Skepchick:

Well, PZ Myers, Jen McCreight, Phil Plait, Amanda Marcotte, Greg Laden, Melissa McEwan and others have all already said it, but I figured I should post this for the record: yes, Richard Dawkins believes I should be a good girl and just shut up about being sexually objectified because it doesn’t bother him. Thanks, wealthy old heterosexual white man!

When I started this site, I didn’t call myself a feminist. I had a hazy idea that feminism was a good thing, but it was something that other people worried about, not me. I was living in a time and culture that had transcended the need for feminism, because in my world we were all rational atheists who had thrown off our religious indoctrination so that I could freely make rape jokes without fear of hurting someone who had been raped.

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A skeptical website of skeptics

inner life of a skeptic by Joana Coccarelli via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

inner life of a skeptic by Joana Coccarelli via Flickr (CC by 2.0)

http://www.skepticalaboutskeptics.org

Skeptical About Skeptics is dedicated to countering dogmatic, ill-informed attacks leveled by self-styled skeptics on pioneering scientific research, researchers, and their subjects.

Healthy skepticism is an important part of science, and indeed of common sense. But dogmatic skepticism uses skepticism as a weapon to defend an ideology or belief system, and inhibits the spirit of inquiry.

Most self-proclaimed skeptics are believers in a materialist worldview, and dismiss any evidence for phenomena that do not agree with their presumption that minds are nothing but brain activities confined to the insides of heads.

Members of militant skeptical organizations often think of themselves as defending science and reason against superstition and credulity.”

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Debunking Debunkers

English: Wizard with another spell.

This may be refreshing to some, challenging of worldviews to others, and possibly rankle some curmudgeons. Please do continue reading to get to the meat and potatoes.

via Thrive:

I love debunkers — the REAL ones. I am a rational skeptic and I know a dedicated and skillful debunker can save us all time and help keep us from being duped yet again in dangerous and impactful ways. The problem is finding and identifying the real ones in a murky sea of fake naysayers and hating trolls with a hidden and biased agenda that does not prioritize truth.

We are living in an unprecedented era where one person or a small team can use independent and alternative media to communicate key perspectives to millions of people worldwide — in a short amount of time. Given what we are dealing with in the way of planetary demise, this is a really good thing!

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Why the Price of Theism is Normative Skepticism

Image from page 318 of "With the world's people : an account of the ethnic origin, primitive estate, early migrations, social evolution, and present conditions and promise of the principal families of men : together with a preliminary inquiry on the time. Via Flickr

Image from page 318 of “With the world’s people : an account of the ethnic origin, primitive estate, early migrations, social evolution, and present conditions and promise of the principal families of men : together with a preliminary inquiry on the time. Via Flickr

This post was originally published on Philosophical Disquisitions.

This is the third edition of the Philosophical Disquisitions Journal Club. The goal of the journal club is to encourage people to read, reflect upon, and debate some of the latest works in philosophy. The club focuses on work being done in the philosophy of religion (broadly defined). This month we’re looking at the following paper:

Sharon Street “If everything happens for a reason, then we don’t know what reasons are: why the price of theism is normative skepticism” in Bergman and Kain (eds) Challenges to Religious and Moral Belief: Disagreement and Evolution (Oxford: OUP, forthcoming)

Longtime readers of this blog will know that I’m a big fan of Sharon Street’s work in metaethics.… Read the rest

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An Anatomy of Paranoia

"Sister Anna," by Carl Fredrik Hill (1887)

“Sister Anna,” by Carl Fredrik Hill (1887)

We all agree that it’s important to question conventional wisdom, and that ideas which are too bizarre for most people to accept may, nonetheless, turn out to be true. Some people, however, seem to reach a tipping point where scores of obsessive strange beliefs feed upon one another to such a degree that they impair the individual’s ability to maintain relationships or function in society. By searching mental health forums, one can find countless posts by concerned individuals who worry that they are losing a loved one to the world of conspiracy. Here is a typical example:

My husband and I have been married for over 3 years (been together 5 years).  For the last two years of our marriage, my husband has become obsessed with conspiracy theories.  Initially, I chalked it up as a new hobby/interest.  But lately (over the past year) his obsession has progressed and has me alarmed.  He spends countless hours on the internet researching conspiracy theories, mostly political (i.e.Read the rest

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James Randi’s “Evidence” Against ESP Turns Out to Be Fabricated

James-Randi-LIAR

Some Disinfonauts might recall that last month I posted a rather scathing commentary in regards to the career of blow-hard skeptical debunker James Randi. Of course I hope people realize that I write polemic rants like this to reflect the negativity that the closed minded “skeptical” community, hardline materialist types, and religious people alike have been directing at anyone with alternate spiritual practices for the vast majority of recorded history. We deal with this condescension constantly and to pretend there isn’t a bias against things like Shamanism, the Occult, or Psi is sort of like pretending there’s no homophobia or misogyny, or that racism is just a thing of the past. For the record, we’re not talking about a fictional “sky-god” but rather the potentiality of the human imagination. It’s incredibly bizarre how many people desperately want to believe that this potentiality doesn’t exist and will eat up anything that reinforces this deeply held belief no matter how short on facts or evidence their claims happen to be.… Read the rest

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Thoughts on James Randi and His Flat Earth Conference for Superstitious Dorks

James Randi

James Randi

I have a confession to make. Before I started writing for Disinfo about a year and a half ago, I wasn’t really familiar with James Randi. I’d heard his name come up a few times on the internet in comments threads regarding fringe spirituality, but that was about it. Much like Carl Sagan’s utterly retarded book The Demon Haunted World (which I make fun of here), I wasn’t super familiar with his M.O., but the more I delved into this stuff, the more I realized I was always going to have to deal with superstitious idiots referencing his “work”. So finally, a couple of weeks ago I decided to spend a minor amount of time on the interwebs actually digging into who this loser is and how he convinced a bunch of seemingly at least semi-intelligent people to passionately raise their pitchforks at anyone insinuating the legitimacy of psi.… Read the rest

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