Category Archives: Skepticism
I had a discussion with Melba Ketchum today on Twitter regarding her continued claims that Bigfoot will be proven true. Some of it spilled over to Facebook – her favorite communication outlet. I was surprised she responded and it went on for quite a while. For those of you who missed it, good for you. But here it is mostly in its entirety (a few other tweets weren’t worth adding); see what you can glean from this.
For background, note that my site, Doubtful News, has been critical of Melba’s work with good cause (melba ketchum | Doubtful News). I also wrote a chronicle of the history of her project for Skeptical Briefs (which you can see here The Ketchum Project: What to Believe about Bigfoot DNA ‘Science’ – CSI) and in Skeptical Inquirer. I’m not some lone skeptic picking at her claims. She has the entire scientific community against her. She revels in being the maverick, persecuted, pulls the Galileo gambit. I find it distasteful.
This is the first time she responded to me in public. She should totally stop doing that.
Skeptics often get put down for speaking out against a community’s or a individual’s cherished belief. They call us downers or haters, ignorant or closed-minded (all are often baseless accusations). Or, as some of emails and comments from wankers suggest, I’m a “whiney bitch”. I don’t appreciate that crap because you don’t know me, you just see what I write and project your own feelings onto it – argue about what I say, don’t judge my personality or call me names because you look like an idiot. Attacking the person is easier and more cowardly than dealing with the claims themselves. I just ignore those people or let it roll off with a laugh.
In order to progress in a field, there must be civil discussion, but there will also be disputes. I try to keep it civil as long as others do. But everyone won’t be friendly or supportive – that’s a given.
Here’s the thing… as much as I hate being pigeonholed into the stereotype of mean skeptic, I wonder how paranormalists who are very interested and committed to their subjects get along in society?
Ghost hunting and Bigfoot tracking is popular and mainstream from my perspective, but not understood or appreciated by everyone. Do these folks get harassed by others – their friends, family and work colleagues – for their perceived unusual interests? I’d suspect they sure do. They have as much passion and drive to understand their subject area as skeptics do, they just choose a different approach to it.
It’s not fair for me to complain about getting picked on for a skeptical stance when I think people get picked on for a credulous stance too. I’d like to hear about it. How is your interest in fringe topics perceived? Is it cool to be an investigator of fringe topics? Or is it ridiculed? Are you respected or rejected? Lauded or laughed at?
[Note: Comments are moderated which is why you don't see the "whiney bitch" stuff get through. So it might take a bit for your approved comments to be posted. Also, for purposes of this post, I'm using "paranormalist", for lack of a better word, in a way that means anyone who subscribes to the idea there are things to discover that are currently outside of scientific acceptance, which includes ghosts, Bigfoot, UFOs, psi, etc. I mean no offense to those who think these phenomena have a non-supernatural explanation yet to be found.]
The past week was weird!
I have no idea why Deepak Chopra found it necessary to tweet back at me (apparently he has a very thin skin for criticism and nothing better to do than refresh his twitter page). I wasn’t really talking to him, I was praising a brilliant example of exposing pseudoscience. Perhaps he just does not like my Twitter account name. Anyway, here is what happened.
Yeah, I got a few Chopralites chiming in that I didn’t “get it” but mostly I got some new followers out of it. Read the rest of this entry
I had the best time last weekend. I gave a talk for the National Capital Area Skeptics which was held at the National Science Foundation building ON CARL SAGAN DAY. It was perfect. The talk, about an hour, is linked below. Thanks to J.D. Mack of NCAS for the excellent editing and production. It is very important to me to have talks and interviews recorded so I can promote them to people who couldn’t be there. While there was a nice turnout, putting these talks online greatly increases the distribution and lets my folks see it too.
Here is something we don’t think about for our websites and blogs: How do they respond to DMCA complaints? As critics of those who HATE to be criticized, we are GOING to get this kind of nonsense threat and intimidation.
I spent a harrowing Friday and Saturday moving my Doubtful News site to a new host after a crapload of issues from my existing host: InMotion Hosting. I was using VPS which made me a mid-tier customer. Because of the site traffic, we had to add on Cloud Flare to help ease the server load. Nearly every week, I was logging into chat or calling InMotion support to inform them that the website was down. They gave me tips on cache plugins (which sometimes messed up the site or didn’t help at all), told me my plugins were problems, that Apache had crashed on the server or that there was up and down load. Obviously, this was not a great fit but it was better than the 3 previous hosts we outgrew within months.
The final straw came from their horrendous and incompetent response to a bogus copyright complaint by a “psychic” businesswoman who claimed infringement by use of her trademark in our web post. This was regarding a news story that was NOT about her in any way. I didn’t even know she existed. Not only is that not applicable to copyright law (none of us would be able to write about Apple or Microsoft or any name brand), but we didn’t even use her damn trademark in the post. You can read about it here and have a look at what kind of person does this sort of thing.
I’d like to touch on a few points this week, really quickly…
It’s clear that those who continue to refer to me as dismissive and a “scoftic” are not actually paying attention but are ironically just being dismissive scoftics. That’s incredibly closed minded. You look foolish calling people “skeptards” and such. If you don’t get the value of critical thinking in life then you are in for either temporary bliss due to ignorance until it bites you in the ass or real trouble sooner rather than later. Life is short and it’s all you got. Choose wisely who you follow and goals you wish to pursue.
I will assume you are a good person with good intentions by default. Please don’t try to pull a fast one. If you wish to associate in a worthwhile way, I’m all for it. Some groups and people clearly are not. I will not “be nice” to them anymore since they are not returning the courtesy. I hold out hope that will change. But I’m not naive.
Some people and groups are courageous enough to step away from the stereotype of the ARIG and to be open to advice and constructive criticism. That is really awesome. I’m very happy to give credit to even-handed and well-intentioned research groups, websites and writers who show thoughtfulness and diligence as well as respect to others. There are a few. Just as I appreciate their efforts to engage with me, an apparent “outsider”, I appreciate their efforts to NOT be the generalized awful paranormal research group or Bigfoot trackers. I wish them all the best in their search for answers and am happy to help if I can.
I’ve attracted some attention from online Bigfoot forums and blogs lately. The up side of that is that I’ve made connections with super people like Brian Brown of The Bigfoot Show who invited me on as a guest. The show is here and I hope you give a listen because it’s important for what I have to say next. 
Recently, the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Org) Facebook group called me out as being antagonistic after posting a news story I wrote for Doubtful News. It was good information, important to share so I thought, and said nothing about the BFRO. The moderator and maybe four or five others (out of a group of nearly 3500) expressed annoyance with my participation on the forum. They were not familiar with my writing about cryptozoology, they were not aware of who I was or what my purpose is. I got the feeling they categorized me as a “know it all” skeptic who has never had a personal experience and so it was ridiculous for me to even be there. (They questioned my credentials so I posted my bio, but less than 7 people actually viewed it according to my web stats.)
Pointing out my other work in order to help clarify my position was called “self promotion”. One of my comments was deleted and I was told to “be nice” (I was, they just didn’t like what I had to say). So, I left. There was no point in discussing anything there. It was not my goal to be argumentative but when someone directly confronts me on something, I feel compelled to reply if I feel it’s worth it. After I left the thread, a commenter noted that I was ‘trouble’, other forum admins had been warned about me. I’m labeled. Gee, that’s childish. Good to know I can’t “hang out” in Bigfoot forums anymore. I’m crushed. Oh well…
So, a couple of observations here.
Last Doubt and About was the end of August. Things ramped back up in September as I returned to Virtual Skeptics and got some book reviews and other writing out there. Book Reviews were for American Gypsy and In the Name of God (soon to be released). More book reviews are on the way.
People just send me books to review. I love that. But I don’t have unlimited time so I like to stick with subject areas I really like. ALL cryptozoology books are welcome. Drop me a line and I will send you a mailing address.
A new piece I did for my column Sounds Sciencey was fun thanks to the help I got from a wide network of friends. Check it out here: Ghost Meters: I Can Name that Ghost in 5 Milligauss. I didn’t give a glowing review to EMF meters or ANY equipment to detect ghosts. My recommendation is for ghost hunters to change their procedures: Read the rest of this entry
This is an interesting article that rings true. Activism leads to negative stereotypes. You know the ones. Environmentalists are liberal tree-hugging hippies. Feminists are braless man-haters. Skeptics are curmudgeonly know-it alls. We have to change this. I consider myself an environmentalist, a feminist and a skeptic and I do not fit those stereotypes at all.
Researchers who looked at the studies regarding perception of activists say this:
“Unfortunately,” they write, “the very nature of activism leads to negative stereotyping. By aggressively promoting change and advocating unconventional practices, activists become associated with hostile militancy and unconventionality or eccentricity.”
“Furthermore, this tendency to associate activists with negative stereotypes and perceive them as people with whom it would be unpleasant to affiliate reduces individuals’ motivation to adopt the pro-change behaviors that activists advocate.”
So the message to advocates is clear: Avoid rhetoric or actions that reinforce the stereotype of the angry activist. Realize that if people find you off-putting, they’re not going to listen to your message. As Bashir and her colleagues note, potential converts to your cause “may be more receptive to advocates who defy stereotypes by coming across as pleasant and approachable.”
My latest post, regarding the rational vs non-rational response to the new cryptozoology book by Loxton and Prothero, Abominable Science, went live on Huffington Post yesterday.
When critical thinkers approach the subject of Bigfoot (or cryptozoology in general) with a focus on the evidence, they are met with reproach. We are challenging much more than the claim; we challenge their belief. They will resort to what Biblical literalists will do to evolutionists – they demonize, call us names, misquote, pick at small mistakes, and take words and ideas out of context. They create an extreme position and shoot it down (called a “straw man” argument) because it’s a power play to make them feel superior. (Note that some aggressive “skeptics” will do that and it’s not fair play in that case either.) All the while, they skirt the MAJOR flaws in their own conclusions.
Bigfoot-themed and other cryptozoology blogs and forums are typically hostile to skeptics, even moderate ones like myself. They can’t understand why we even want to participate since we are going to “deny” everything. Gee, sorry for being interested in the topic and in getting a good answer for peoples’ experiences. Questioning is not denying, it’s thinking.
A while back I challenged cryptozoologists to read the book and make a fair assessment. Some seem to have read it. Three known men gave it ridiculous reviews. They only read the parts that interested them and presumed judgement on the whole book. That is intellectually dishonest and really shallow, not to mention extremely arrogant, behavior. This is why we can’t take self-proclaimed cryptozoological experts seriously. They treat their subject more like a religion, based on faith.