The first in a hopefully fun and informative series of columns, I want to kick-off Reductio ad Absurdum with a look at so-called “magnetic people.” As will be the case for all the columns, never mind that there is no evidence for these gaussy guys and gals, what would the world be like if people really did generate a noticeable or even intense magnetic field?
I became the “skeptic” member of the local Bigfoot group almost by chance. I owe the offer to join to the reality TV show “Finding Bigfoot” (they never actually do). The show, featuring perennial Bigfoot personality Matt Moneymaker, has a skeptic, Ranae Holland.
Every day in Indonesia you will hear or see psychics, paranormalists, parapsychologists, and pseudoscientists spreading, scaring, and scamming the nation with irrational beliefs and pseudoscience through the media. You will be able to see them planting thoughts into peoples’ heads so that they can offer solutions and take people's money.
When paranormal investigators give up on sciencey stuff, what's the alternative? The spiritual. I take you on a tour of a recent paranormal convention.
There are many ways a science news story can hit the mainstream media and become a viral hit: does it involve an adorable, terrifying, or adorably terrifying new species of animal? Did a politician say something hilariously ignorant about it? And perhaps more importantly, does it involve breasts?
La historia del ahora famoso extraterrestre comenzó hace unos diez años, cuando el huaquero -saqueador de yacimientos- Óscar Muñoz desenterró el cuerpo en un cementerio en el pueblo abandonado de La Noria, en el desierto de Atacama (Chile). El ser estaba envuelto en una tela blanca.
“The goal for Pterosaur Trouble and the other Tales of Prehistoric Life series books is persuasive photorealism—or heightened realism, anyway. I want it to look like I just popped back in time with my camera and took some nature photographs. That concept constrains every aspect of the creation of the illustrations.”
In the lore of conspiracism, few religious groups, with the exception of Jews, are more feared or thought to be more powerful than the Society of Jesus (Jesuits). As I write, it was only yesterday that the College of Cardinals elected the first Jesuit pontiff, Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis), which makes you wonder: If they were so powerful, what took them so long to ascend to power?
The Skeptic is the unwanted visitor to the paranormal-themed discussion. Questions are unwelcome; they spoil the fun. “Why do you bother nagging on the ghost hunters, the Bigfoot believers, and the UFOlogists,” they ask, “Why not go do something to stop real harm?”
From March 8 – 12, 2013, I attended and spoke at ConDor XX, a sci/fi and fantasy conference at the Town and Country Hotel in San Diego.
The Guerrilla Skepticism on Wikipedia (GSoW) project was started in May 2010 as an effort to unite editors to become more skilled at adding skeptical content to the fifth most popular Internet site in the world. I discovered that there are people in our community that have been looking for a way to become more involved but need more structure, support, and training.
Does “skeptic” equal nasty, obnoxious and shouty? No? Then why do we get automatically tagged with those characteristics even when we are not? The word carries some connotations. But that ought not bar an exchange between skeptics and believers. We have some bridges to build.
Dr. Ben Goldacre is a best-selling author, broadcaster, medical doctor and academic who specialises in unpicking dodgy scientific claims from drug companies, newspapers, government reports, PR people and quacks. For this interview, we discuss the extent of the problems that face the medical establishment and what we can do to solve these problems.
The Conspiracy Theory Roundup is an ongoing series of news items from around the web relevant to connoisseurs of conspiracism.
The IIG is—we believe—the largest paranormal investigations team in the world. With affiliate groups in several states and a Canadian province, we are in the process of creating an international network of trained investigators who will not only look into paranormal, fringe science, and extraordinary claims in their own regions, but also administer the IIG $50,000 Challenge.
From January 7 to 11, our current Director of International Programs at CFI, Bill Cooke, visited Kenya to have a look at the expansive programs CFI-Kenya has been undertaking.
On January 23, the Skeptics for the Protection of Cancer Patients delivered a birthday present to Houston cancer quack Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski and the Burzynski Clinic: a donation of around $13,000 raised in his name to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital – with a request that the clinic match those funds for the hospital.
Pseudoscience is what one might call a two-dollar word. Skeptics often throw it around because of its weightiness and the values it transmits. We need to talk about this word, where it came from, and why we should be cautious about using it.
Ever wonder what the love child of the British version of The Office and an overheard conversation about science between two reasonably informed guys would grow up to be? Ok, maybe not, but Stuff You Should Know will answer the question anyway.
El humor es una magnífica herramienta no sólo para la divulgación del conocimiento, sino también en la lucha contra la pseudociencia, donde tan importante es tener razón como que parezca que uno la tiene.
A review of Science & Psychic Phenomena: The Fall of the House of Skeptics, by Chris Carter.
When I became a senior in high school, I finally recognized that no one had launched a repeal of the LSEA and no one was going to. For my high school senior project, I decided I had to stand up and take on creationism in Louisiana. I partnered with Senator Karen Carter Peterson, who has now sponsored two bills to repeal the LSEA.
CSI’s Senior Research Fellow, Joe Nickell, continued his work investigating the world’s strangest mysteries.
Humanists in Africa have put anti-superstition campaigns as one of their top priorities. Not only has superstition caused people to lose property and given the youths a bleak future, but it has also made people lose their lives.
New media, especially YouTube, has changed the public’s relationship to news and information in a way that has made conspiracy theories not only more prevalent but also a much more participatory pursuit. For this reason, it is vital that any student of conspiracy theory attain some degree of media literacy. A good place to start is with the information cycle.
Magician and skeptic Robert A. Steiner died on January 4, 2013 in a nursing home in Concord, California, at age 78. A longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay area, Steiner was a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and spoke at several CSI(COP) conferences.
Cara Santa Maria – Huffington Post’s senior science correspondent and host of the “Talk Nerdy to Me” series. Her published research has spanned various topics, including clinical psychological assessment, the neuropsychology of blindness, neuronal cell culture techniques, and computational neurophysiology.
Why such hate for an otherwise boring, uncontroversial medical formula?
A Discussion With Science Teacher Laurie Tarr.
Members of the public don’t know much about science, and they seem fine to leave science to the scientists. That’s Trouble.
An Interview with Quackometer’s Andy Lewis
Although we are on opposite sides of the planet, we have the same problems that you face in United States: psychics, astrologers, conspiracy theorists, doomsayers, alternative medicine "therapists,” fundamentalist preachers, creationists, and a host of charlatans who prey on the ignorance of people in the streets, either on television or privately.
A report on the wide variety of activities of CFI/Argentina in 2012, including lectures, television appearances, online organizing, and more.
An Interview with Science Television Creator Sonya Pemberton.
A review of 50 Popular Beliefs that People Think are True by Guy Harrison.
My name is Uiwon, Hwang, 35 years old. I majored in railroad engineering at university and worked as a rolling stock driver after graduating. I always had some interest in the global scientific skepticism movement, a rare case in Korea. This is how I started to work in the field of scientific journalism.
Last fall, it was brought to my attention that John Edward was scheduled to appear in downtown Oklahoma City for two seminars on March 9, 2012. I brought this information to the campus group that I advise, the UCO Skeptics, and suggested we plan a protest to help educate people on exactly what John Edward would be doing, and that it was in no way related to supernatural abilities.
The Twin Fallacies of Appeal to Righteous Indignation and Appeal to Sanctity.
Appeals to righteous indignation or sanctity—which attempt to shield ideas from contemplation, discussion, investigation, or criticism—are common, impede rational discourse, and should be recognized as logical fallacies.
The Merseyside Skeptics recently launched a video called Testing the Shuzi Sports Band. In order to find out more about its creation, I spoke to Mike Hall of the Merseyside Skeptics.
The last month has seen a disturbing number of high-profile mass shootings, and these events, when filtered through the conspiratorial worldview, become distorted and magnified in strange and interesting ways.
Inspired by her upcoming presentation at CSICon 2 in Nashville next month, CFI’s Paul Fidalgo talked to Sharon about what makes her tick, how we can process the implausible claims made in the modern news media, and how to talk about it with friends and family when they seem to be buying the hype.
Every day, I scour the Internet for news. Not just any news. Weird news. What bizarre thing was seen, heard, or found today?
Robin Ince is a comedian you might recognise as the co-presenter of BBC Radio’s The Infinite Monkey Cage with physicist Brian Cox—he’s also the creator of stage-show and author of The Bad Book Club: One Man’s Quest to Uncover the Books That Taste Forgot and the creator of the Australian feature movie Razzle Dazzle.
Skeptics are excellent at using their brains, but all that thinking can be exhausting. Luckily, at this year’s CSICon -- the conference dedicated to science and skeptical inquiry -- there’s going to be a way for the doubters to let their hair down, and win some truly excellent prizes.
An approachable and interesting man, Drake isn’t above a joke about his work or the people with whom he interacts. While at SETIcon II in Santa Clara, California, Drake took a few minutes to answer questions about his research, the future of SETI Institute, and aliens.
An Interview with SETI Researcher Jill Tarter
Ariel Waldman Tells Us How to Hack Space Exploration and Get Involved
Prof. Pratkanis will be among the incredible team of speakers at CSICon in Nashville this October, and CFI’s Paul Fidalgo talked to him about what led him to the main topic of his presentation at CSICon: how and why we get bamboozled by con artists.
The Failure of the Science Community to Take Reality into Account
“One of the important contributions of CSICon is that we’re bringing the actual research to bear on the issues people are talking about.”
Xoçai! Exotic, enticing, and unpronounceable to monolingual English tongues—the perfect name for an expensive chocolate product sold exclusively through multi-level marketing (MLM) using dodgy health claims.
Part 2 of Harriet Hall, MD’s presentation from the 2009 Skeptic’s Toolbox conference.
Part 1 of Harriet Hall, MD’s presentation from the 2009 Skeptic’s Toolbox conference.
It was an opportunity to share meaningful and informative time with extraordinarily accessible microbiologists, planet scientists, astrobiologists, physicists, engineers, entrepreneurs, geologists, philosophers, linguists, astronauts, artists, and science fiction stars.
This October, Dr. Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education, will speak at the much-anticipated CSICon 2012 in Nashville, Tennessee. She’ll be focusing on the anti-science initiatives now rampaging their way into Tennessee schools, and I wanted to get some perspective from her about where all this troubling activity is leading, and what’s behind it all.
Due to the continued poverty, corruption, and other disasters of the third world, most East Africans and a good number Africans in general have avoided thinking and believing that they came through the gradual process called evolution.
«Hola, Petey. ¿Puedes oírme? ¡Si no puedes, tienes un problema!», decía Elizabeth Popoff por radio a su marido el 23 de febrero de 1986. El telepredicador Peter Popoff estaba a punto de hacer una de sus demostraciones de sanación por mediación divina en un abarrotado Auditorio Cívico de San Francisco.
After the first QEDCon in 2011, I interviewed Mark Henderson for Token Skeptic Episode #55, while attending a session of the Westminster Skeptics in the pub. We talked about a book he was in the process of writing while working as the Science Editor for The Times newspaper. That book, The Geek Manifesto: Why Science Matters, is out now.
Falling into the trap of illogical thinking is very easy. You can quickly invest a lot of yourself into your new beliefs, and thus they become an important part of your life. I speak from experience when I say that calling people who hold such beliefs “stupid” because of their lack of rationale does nothing to make them reconsider the conclusions they have reached about those subjects.
Proponents have no plausible explanation for how astrology might work. Whenever you have to resort to “insert supernatural here,” your concept is no longer a scientifically testable hypothesis.
The first Muslim Nobel Laureate scientist was shunned by his native Pakistan.
My memory may be biased, but doesn’t it seem like every unsolved mystery television program has ended with the proposition “you decide?”
An Interview With Jonny Scaramanga
The case against Sanal Edamaruku reveals the inherent flaws in legally protecting “religious feelings.”
Demographic and social changes, augmented by an entrenched and politically active nativist movement that targets illegal immigrants, should encourage our awareness of the ideological fountain from which the racist subset of these militias draw, including The Turner Diaries.
Called the gateway to Bigfoot country, the starting point of The Bigfoot Scenic Byway, home of the Bigfoot Collection at the Willow Creek-China Flat Museum, and Bigfoot hotspot, Willow Creek is the home of the best evidence for the existence of Bigfoot ever collected.
Interview from the Sixth World Skeptics Congress, Berlin
At the occasion of the 6th World Skeptics Congress in Berlin, CSI, ECSO and GWUP adopted a resolution calling for high standards of scientific practice in scientific institutions and in science education.
I had a startling realization a few years ago: I discovered that not everyone thinks science is good for humanity. How can that be? Scientific discovery makes our lives better, richer, longer, and healthier.
How do you treat your iPhone when it contains the iQuran?
The source of the dread, foreboding, or control that conspiracy theorists sense is often outside the range of the normal experience of everyday life, which in no way diminishes the sense of a real threat. Therefore, they locate the locus of power just beyond the normal citizen's perceptual range. . . .
There’s two things the general public are guaranteed to be concerned about: their health and the contents of their wallets. Yet somehow we are drawn to claims that you can make your thighs thin via a tube of goop and eagerly purchase promises of perfect complexions through using gunk best slapped on with a spatula.
SkeptiCal, a one day conference billed as Northern California's science and skepticism conference, was host to more than 260 skeptics at the DoubleTree Hotel in Berkeley, California on April 21, 2012.
Once upon a time, not so long ago, I came across a website that provided “Bigfoot Facts” for kids. The site didn't say from where these facts were derived but they were commonly circulated in various books and all over the web.
Somehow, the conspiratorial world has convinced itself that, to use Richard Dreyfus’s phrase as he sculpts his mashed potatoes into a replica of the Devil’s Tower, the Denver International Airport “means something.” What exactly it means is unclear, but conspiracy theorists know its meaning is sinister.
On my regular stop to see the newest beverages one day, I noticed a slick, thin black bottle. The label read “Spring water enriched with Fulvic Acid.” Intrigued, I bought the 16.9 ounce bottle for $1.89.
Interview with Documentary Filmmakers Justin Weinstein and Tyler Measom
Does the American Psychiatric Association's Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders propose that there are twenty-two forms of “sexual orientation”? The Islamic Republic of Pakistan (and Focus on the Family) want you to think so.
They were science-based Doomsday agents, effective in scaring the bejeezus out of generally rational people. And the arrival of 2012—heavily weighted with (very commercially exploited) “End of the World” overtones—serves to popularize these stories even more.
We have a long history of being afraid of the wrong people: the Masons, the Illuminati, the Commies, those cunning homosexuals—all of these groups at some point or another have been identified as the enemy, the embodiment of evil that would tear the heart out of America and deliver it to perdition.
CSI Senior Research Fellow Joe Nickell had yet another very busy year, utilizing his varied background as stage magician and mentalist, private detective for a world-famous detective agency, forensic science writer, historical document consultant, and university scholar in literature.
An interview with Amardeo Sarma, founder and chairman of the German Society for the Scientific Investigation of Para-Sciences (GWUP), chairman of the European Council of Skeptical Organisations (ECSO), and fellow and Executive Council member of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry.
Today's topic: strange sounds coming from the sky, which have taken YouTube by storm. I'm going to explain some of them, but as soon as I do, someone will upload a new video using a new trick and someone else will have to start all over again to debunk it.
In 2011, CFI-Argentina presented courses, lectures, meetings, group organizing, television appearances, and more.
Gracias a Internet y a la intensa actividad de unos pocos blogueros -no nos engañemos, los activos son cuatro-, la denuncia de la charlatanería nunca ha sido tan eficaz como en la actualidad.
Despite the advancement of science and technology in this century, many African republics have incessantly clung to belief systems that are a thwart to human progress in this age of enlightenment.
According to its website, FoFPF (pronounced: "fawf-pfffff") "revolutionizes paranormal programming by investigating the evidence witnesses post on the Internet every day." Finally, someone is paying attention to "amateur paranormal researchers" who post fuzzy videos on YouTube!
Protesting by Plane with the Stop The Anti-Vaccination Network
The following is a report of an investigation conducted after learning of four local individuals with claimed psychic abilities. Pradityo asked each of the claimants to bring their own magical object for the test, performed double-blind tests of the claimants’ abilities, and reported back to us.
Science is all these things: a process, a way of looking at a topic, a community, an infrastructure, a career, a set of results, an authority, and more. We can use the word in many ways. That means it can be abused in many ways as well.
This is another of the “Most Haunted Houses in America,” but this isn’t so much a paranormal story as one about a woman whose life was reputedly ruled and ruined by belief in the paranormal.
An Interview with Andy Lewis of Quackometer
Yet another claimant to the title of America’s “most haunted” place, Alcatraz certainly reigns as one of the world’s most notorious jails.
Sexism, Skepticism and Civility Online: an Interview with Jennifer Ouellette
In 2010 (the best year for Polish charity), we were able to donate 43 million PLN to improve early cancer diagnosis in children. That’s forty-six times less than the money Polish people have thrown away for fortune tellers. This comparison quite effectively shows the preferences and beliefs of an average Pole.
A review of Little Red Riding Hood (DVD).
Founded in 2011, the Menrva Foundation for Science and Reason is striving to popularize science in Indonesia.
Project Barnum exists to educate the public and venue providers about techniques that psychics and mediums often attempt to pass off as supernatural ability.
I attended Communicating with Spirit, a live performance by De Angelis, unaided by editing.
Astronomer Phil Plait worked for ten years on the Hubble Space Telescope and writes the Bad Astronomy blog for Discover magazine.