Photo on 5-27-16 at 9.03 AM

You (didn’t) WIN: Jackpot scams from the car dealer

I’m usually pretty good at spotting the “small print” on gimmick mailers and promotional contests. The latest one from a local car dealership was well-hidden. I looked and looked. Got out my hand-lens and scanned the tiny print in the margins. Hmm. This one was sneaky.

Mail flyers from car dealers that say you’ve won cash or prizes are bogus ploys to get you to come to the business. This one, from Brenner Pre-Owned in Harrisburg, PA and addressed to “Future Customer”, contained a scratch-off ticket. Some contain “keys” that you bring into the dealer to try for a new car.

Alright, I’ll play. [Put on skeptical spectacles]

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Rainbow+Rose

Skeptic Rose

Front-cover-2-664x1024I first heard about Rose Mackenberg from The Witch of Lime Street and thought, “Why haven’t I heard of her before!?” I was a bit behind on my reading.

Rose appeared in the Junior Skeptic issue of Winter 2013 written by Daniel Loxton, and in Massimo Polidoro’s book Final Seance (2001) that is on my reading list. She was Houdini’s “special agent” who busted psychics – a kick-ass Skeptic woman and we should all know and appreciate.

Thankfully (thanks Tim Farley), Rose has her own Wikipedia page now.

And today, she is featured on the front page. So there is no excuse to be unaware of this remarkable person. Read More »

End of an era: the last Skeptic’s Dictionary newsletter

rtc2014Dr. Robert T. Carroll created the Skeptic’s Dictionary – a source I have used for, oh gosh, over 10 years now. I was upset to hear of Bob’s serious illness. I consider Skepdic.com to be a PRIMARY go to source for skeptical reference. With nearly 800 entries, I have, by default, linked to his site for topics I reference in my blog posts.  Bob has just released his last newsletter to the email list of subscribers. John Renish has been assisting since his diagnosis in May 2014 with stage IV pancreatic neuroendocrine cancer.

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soft bigfoot

Anti-Skeptics are out of touch with the public

There is much ado, again, about soft targets in skepticism – the topics that are easily dismissed, should be ignored, are a waste of time and effort. So some say. Once again, we hear that we should be paying greater attention to things that really matter like cancer and war. Therefore, I’m getting the impression that people like me who write about these oh-so-silly things like cryptozoology, paranormal and misleading news stories are less important in the skeptical scheme of things. No one is listening to me, says John Horgan, who has a shallow and limited knowledge about the skeptical community and astoundingly is out of touch with public interest.

These beliefs and disbeliefs deserve criticism, but they are what I call “soft targets.” That’s because, for the most part, you’re bashing people outside your tribe, who ignore you. You end up preaching to the converted.

Gosh, this crap is SO OLD. “Bashing”? “Tribe”? “Ignore me”? “Preaching to the converted”? All very wrong.

Pushing this sloppy argument shows you are completely out of touch with the average Joe Q. Public (who really DOES believe in ghosts, Bigfoot, and thinks the government is spraying mind-control chemicals). Or, some wish to emphasize their own agenda and values like world peace, equality, animal rights or social justice for marginalized communities which makes them feel morally superior, I guess. Or, like I’ve experienced, it’s used by people who are annoyed that you keep ruining their great comment threads by inserting relevant questions and correcting their ridiculous inaccuracies – harshing their mellow. They want you out of the way so they can keep up their carefully constructed worldview. Those are all valid social reasons, if problematic in parts, and an indication that in the real world, dealing with “soft targets” requires tact, perseverance and a strong backbone.Read More »

wiki-shirt

Citations needed: Anti-science proponents hate skeptics on Wikipedia

I’ve seen a few remarks going around about how angry the anti-skeptics are about critical comments towards them. Yep, that’s a decent indication that arrows have hit the mark. A common scapegoat seems to be Wikipedia and the volunteers who edit it. But a solution to their problem is simple – add the citations to support their claims. Instead, they throw temper tantrums.

It’s currently a top subject on Natural News (which I wrote about yesterday) prompted by the hubbub over the anti-vaccination documentary by Andrew Wakefield that was cut from the Tribeca Film Festival. The admins of NN have undertaken a campaign to lash out at skeptics in a personal (juvenile and unfair) way. Snarling at skeptical critique is routine. But with the current volume of it, I think it signals that the barbs are cutting, particularly to alternative medicine proponents, paranormalists, and parapsychologists.Read More »

Out-of-body experiences and out-of-comfort-zone challenges

Most of the people who follow what I write are of a skeptical inclination and can be admittedly dismissive of any hint of paranormal ideas. My position is that it’s crucial to be aware of what those involved in these topics firsthand are doing, thinking, and promoting. This is why I follow the fringe and sometimes get quite mired in it. Seriously, we can’t ask people to explore the skeptical literature if we have not explored their niche as well. There is much to learn across the spectrum whether you buy the speculative and paranormal or not.

I became a member of the Society for Psychical Research a few years ago. The SPR was “the first society to conduct organised scholarly research into human experiences that challenge contemporary scientific models.” Based in London, it’s been around since 1882. This post is a glimpse into the January 2016 Journal of the SPR; it mostly pertains to out-of-body experiences (OBEs).Read More »