Tag Archives | Skepticism

The Conspiracy Theorist Glossary

300806jfkIf you’ve ever scoffed when someone told you that JFK’s second gunman destroyed the World Trade Center with assistance from reptilian extraterrestrials as part of a plan hatched at Bohemian Grove to corner the gold market before the return of Planet X, you’ve probably found yourself subject to a bevy of indicting catch phrases machine gunned at you so fast your head spun.

To help decode the buzzwords that form the conspiracy theorist lexicon, the Skeptic Project developed a handy glossary. Here are some highlights:

Awake: the opposite of “asleep.” Essentially, the condition of believing in conspiracy theories and not believing (supposedly) any government or “mainstream media” source. CT’ers employ numerous variations on the “asleep”/”awake” concept, such as “I woke up,” “You’re asleep,” “Why did you go back to sleep?”, “When I was asleep I believed…”, “We’re trying to wake people up!”, “A lot of people are waking up,” etc., etc.

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The Reason Stick: “The Venn Diagram of Irrational Nonsense”

Picture: Crispian Jago (C)

 

Blog The Reason Stick (Header: A blunt, shit-stained instrument wielded indiscriminately to bludgeon pseudoscience, superstition, blind faith and common or garden irrational bollocks.”) has issued a handy Venn Diagram to classify varieties of “woo”.

When you’re done with the Venn Diagram, you might also enjoy Reason Stick proprietor Crispian Jago’s “Multi-Faith Blasphemy Generator“.

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Hunting for Unicorns – Skeptic Challenges & the Illusion of Scientific Inquiry

“The attacks on the million dollar challenge are likely to continue. This is a sign, in my opinion, of the success of the challenge. Con artists know they cannot beat the challenge, and so they have no choice but to try to discredit it. Those who truly believe they have abilities but fail the challenge almost universally make up post hoc excuses for their failure.”

Our writing is an interesting window into our beliefs and opinions, even when we may not be fully aware of what it shows. What does it say to end a critical piece with a manipulative double bind that leads the reader to conclude those who question the JREF Challenge are either gullible or cons?

The opening quote comes from a recent article by Steven Novella discussing Steve Volk’s critique of the James Randi Educational Foundation Challenge. As usually happens when the JREF is brought up, either positively or negatively, Volk has ignited a vigorous back and forth between skeptics and believers.… Read the rest

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The Problem with Proving Things: NDEs and the Failures of Science

Neurosurgeon Eben Alexander wrote an account of his near-death experience that pissed off a lot of skeptics.  It sort of annoyed me too, but not as much as the skeptical annoyance annoyed me.  The conflict between NDE believers and skeptics points to bigger problems in science and culture.

“In the materialistic demand to somehow untangle ourselves from the world completely in order to understand it, we’re asked to borrow a popular theological narrative. First, researchers are meant to believe there’s a way to create an experiment and not intervene or interact with it, and that they’re meant to do everything they can to preserve this principle.  Then, they should believe that thoughts, feelings, and impressions have nothing to do with the reality they’ve set up inside the experiment and that there are laws (controls, etc.) that they’ve also created that actually prohibit them from interfering with whatever takes place inside the experiment world.  This is remarkably similar to the deist or TV-addicted version of God — an old man on a distant cloud with a billion billion TVs.  He set the show in motion so he could watch, pretending things happen independent of him.… Read the rest

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Democratic Republic of Congo – Cannibalism in the Modern Age?

I’m incredibly skeptical of this story simply because of a Universiy teacher of mine who furiously claimed to us that cannibalism was a racist myth invented by evil British Imperialists. He was, I think, inspired by the book “The Man-Eating Myth: Anthropology and Anthropophagy” by William Arens. However, a quick glance at the cannibalism wikipedia page suggests the debate may have moved on since the late 90’s and I assume it will be attened to further in the comments section of this piece.

In short it appears that France 24 are reporting an act of cannibalism as a weird form of vigilante behaviour amid what sounds like continuing mob rule and civil war in the region:

Recent fighting between government forces and rebel groups has dramatically destabilised the Democratic Republic of Congo. During the night between December 2 and 3, a barbaric scene unfolded in the capital Goma, in North Kivu province.

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Man Faces Death Threats and Jail for Pointing Out That Weeping Jesus “Miracle” Is Just Faulty Plumbing

Science and skepticism are under constant attack around the world; climate denial here in the United States, magic bracelets in Australia, and geologists in Italy being punished for not magically predicting earthquakes. Despite the strides of rationalists like Sanal Edamaruku in India (famous for disproving a tantric guru’s ridiculous claims), the law of the land still often sides with the religious zealots.

Picture: Koshi Koshi (CC)

via AlterNet by Henry McDonald

When water started trickling down a statue of Jesus Christ at a Catholic church in Mumbai earlier this year, locals were quick to declare a miracle. Some began collecting the holy water and the Church of Our Lady of Velankanni began to promote it as a site of pilgrimage.

So when Sanal Edamaruku arrived and established that this was not holy water so much as holey plumbing, the backlash was severe. The renowned rationalist was accused of blasphemy, charged with offences that carry a three-year prison sentence and eventually, after receiving death threats, had to seek exile in Finland.

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Reality Sandwich Interviews Rupert Sheldrake

Picture: Rupert Sheldrake (PD)

Gabriel D. Roberts of Reality Sandwich interviewed the controversial (in some quarters) biologist Dr. Rupert Sheldrake. It’s well worth a read. Here’s a snip:

You’ve experimented a good deal with the sense of being stared at. This sort of thing seems so simple to the average person, and yet a scientific materialist might say, “That’s just nonsense.” Is this another example of the dogma you refer to?

One of the ten dogmas I discuss in Science Set Free is that the mind is inside the head. The assumption of materialism is that the mind is nothing but the activity of the brain, therefore it is all inside the head. That means that when you look at somebody, your image of that person is inside your head, it’s not out there in any way. So when you look at somebody, you shouldn’t be able to affect them.

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Near-Death Experiences as Proof of Afterlife? Not Really.

Picture: Dr. Mario Markus (CC)

A rebuttal to the articles: Heaven is Real: A Doctor’s Experience with the Afterlife and A Neuroscientists Describes His Near-Death Visit to Another Realm.

Dr. Eben Alexander’s article can be summarily dismissed with one sentence in the words of the late, great, (kind of a jerk but…) inarguably intelligent, and erudite Christopher Hitchens: “that which can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.” And there you have it. However, considering the nature of my disagreement with Dr. Alexander, I suppose I should put forth an actual case for why I believe his experience does not constitute evidence (let alone proof) for life after death.

There are many possible explanations for what Dr. Alexander went through. Perhaps he really did experience an event in which his disembodied consciousness was whisked away to heaven on the wings of a magical butterfly with a hot brunette in tow.… Read the rest

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A Phantasmagoria of Scientific Jargon, Sleight of Hand and the Ol’ Scientistic Bait & Switch

“The horrors that (Mr. Clarke) witnessed in the dreary laboratory were to a certain extent salutary; he was conscious of being involved in an affair not altogether reputable, and for many years afterwards he clung bravely to the commonplace, and rejected all occasions of occult investigation. Indeed, on some homeopathic principle, he for some time attended the seances of distinguished mediums, hoping that the clumsy tricks of these gentlemen would make him altogether disgusted with mysticism of every kind, but the remedy, though caustic, was not efficacious.”

- from The Great God Pan, by Arthur Machen

A recent piece on LiveScience.com presents a study by Paul Brewer, a professor of communication at the University of Delaware, where participants were given one of four write ups, three dealt with a paranormal investigation, the fourth was on a different subject. One write up contained “science’y’ sounding terminology to describe the event, one couched it in metaphysical terminology, and the third, was the same as the first, only it contained a rebuttal from a science’y sounding authority.… Read the rest

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