Tag Archives | Skepticism
Adelaide Now has an interesting, and in my opinion misjudged, editorial piece on Tarot cards at the moment:
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A SURPRISINGLY honest tarot reader at “Psychic Tarot Insights” has tried to locate Jill Meagher.
Here’s the surprisingly honest (if understated) bit: “Tarot is not considered 100 per cent accurate by law and I cannot claim to solve issues, only show what I have in the cards.”
They go on to say: “Something must have happened quickly; that there was a male person, stronger than her; there might be a car, something, something, rural area, something, something, eight weeks, something, something, sex and weapons and southeast and someone tall and strong. And a horse. Maybe a church. A dog.”
Other possible links are: “Deserts, woods, obscure valleys, caves, dens, holes, mountains, churchyards, ruined buildings, coalmines, muddy places, wells, houses, offices.
“Perhaps some of this information will help, can’t be sure until information comes in to verify it,” they conclude.
Can you trust skepticism that isn’t based on a firm grasp of our collective history? After just penning a piece for The Teeming Brain on the serious case of cultural amnesia that our media representatives seem to enjoy regarding Isaac Newton’s mystical proclivities, I run across Sharon Hill, a leading cultural critic and skeptic with a background in Geology, writing for Doubtful News, and her brief dismissal of historical depth in a post that links to a Smithsonian article on 19th century vampire beliefs. Hill’s commentary shows a similarly stunted viewpoint as the authors of the Newton articles, only she is not just a journalist, but someone who claims to be working to educate the public on scientific rationality:
“In 1854, in Jewett City, Connecticut, townspeople had exhumed several corpses suspected to be vampires that were rising from their graves to kill the living. Yes. 1854.”
Now, I admit I’m a bit biased because I’d rather have my Forteana reported in sober academic fashion, or by a breathless Keelian storytellers (the Smithsonian article that Doubtful News links to is a nice mix of both.) However, stories filtered through naiveté, like the pontification surrounding this one on Doubtful News, show why a passive skeptical attitude can get in the way of deeper encounters with the churning waters of the cultural mythosphere.… Read the rest
Via The Daily Dot.
You’re probably an “internet kook”. Heck, we all probably are, at least according to a list created by Dale Jensen. Jensen claims to have identified eight signs that may indicate that a writer is an “internet kook”. While I have the sneaking suspicion that the purpose of such lists is to make it easier to dismiss troubling ideas wholesale as the work of a “kook”, I’m sure that there will be others who disagree with me. And you know what? They’re kooks. I can tell by looking at this list…
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1) “Don’t believe me? Do your own research.”
According to Jensen this is such a telltale phrase that it’s the first item on his list for identifying when someone is over-invested and using a sensible directive to justify irrational beliefs. It’s especially likely, Jensen says, if they repeat the phrase or apply it to a subject for which research is impossible, like the existence of God.
It seems only fair for journalism to examine every side of an issue, but what if a controversy isn’t a legitimate debate, but specifically created for the purposes of confusion and bias? Industry, politicians and religions manufacture misinformation, which is caught in the echo chamber of our lazy, uncritical mainstream media, and filtered to a harried general populace, who are often more concerned with ethical considerations than scientific nuances anyway. Corporate advertisers engage in ‘organized doubt’ campaigns, essentially changing what science and skepticism are all about.
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In one of the keynote talks at the Science Writing in the Age of Denial Conference, UW–Madison genetics and molecular biology professor Sean Carroll outlined what he calls “a general manual of denialism”—six tactics used time and again in denial campaigns since at least the nineteenth century. First, cast doubt on the science. Second, question the personal motives and integrity of the scientists.
Salon.com has published an essay on cryptozoology, UFOs and other Fortean pursuits by Busy Monsters author William Geraldi. It’s as dismissive as you’d expect it to be (and undoubtedly rightfully so, as some readers might think), and downright smug at moments.
Take Geraldi’s swipe at cryptozoologists in this paragraph on the Patterson-Gimlin Bigfoot film:
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It didn’t occur to me as a kid that the name of the creek in which the footage was shot, Bluff Creek, was a clue to Roger Patterson’s shaky relationship with veracity. Still, educated experts with the best software ever devised haven’t been able to prove conclusively that the footage is a hoax, and so grown men with a child’s inextinguishable wonder — they call themselves cryptozoologists — continue to pursue a North American apeman. Half of me wants to help these unemployable man-boys study for the high school equivalency test, but the other half quietly applauds their dopey dedication and yearns to join their rowdy jaunt.
The Committee for Scientific Inquiry has a great article about the hunt for the Yeren, the Chinese ape-man, including a humorous anecdote in which a hirsute westerner is mistaken for the legendary beast:
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Some have suggested that the wild man is some human throwback—neither Gigantopithecus nor Peking Man surely but possibly some oddity like those sometimes exhibited in carnival sideshows (Nickell 2005, 150–58, 202–208). A “monkey baby,” for instance, that lived in Xhin Xhan County of Hubei Province, was simply an unfortunate individual with genetic deficiencies who “walked with a shuffling gait, had a slouched back, had a low misshapen forehead, could only make sounds with no articulate speech, and grinned constantly” (Poirier et al. 1983, 30). Yeren researcher Frank E. Poirier—only a normally hairy westerner who is about five feet eleven inches tall—frightened some local children who “ran away horrified at their encounter with what they screamed to others was the Wildman in their midst” (Poirier et al.
In the opening statement at the Council on Foreign Relations (31 May, 2012), Professor Cohen of New York University made it clear that Chen “had never studied law” when “the State Department” asked him to meet Chen nine years ago (that is, in 2003).
Despite such an open piece of information linking Chen to the “State Department” in a forum that was packed with journalists, I only managed to find the full content of Cohen’s opening statement via YouTube, the Council on Foreign Relations and NYU websites.
Amazingly, as far as my research is concerned, none of the news media during and after the forum appear to show any interest in persuading or reporting the relationship between the State Department and Chen. Just a few examples (none of these media report a thing on the content of Cohen’s opening statement):
Via Skeptical Analysis:
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Natural selection tends to avoid incest. Incest — more properly, inbreeding — allows recessive genetic traits to accumulate, often to the detriment of affected individuals. If a child gets a bad gene (doesn’t make a needed protein) from one parent, it’s best if the other parent doesn’t also contribute the bad gene.
Popular literature suggests wild populations, such as wolves, seek mates from outside their own packs. Also, primitive peoples may raid neighboring clans for wives, and friendly exchanges of eligible women between ruling European families provided genetic diversity while maintaining royal status.
Cultural and intellectual incest is a problem of a slightly different nature. Lack of cultural diversity can deprive a nation of the benefits of innovation and can also result in the development and retention of perverse cultural traits. Open societies are the fix. Honor killings within some European societies have lost fashion as a result of the cultural dilution that resulted from advances in communications and exchange of populations in the twentieth century.