New Sounds Sciencey post is about How to Think About Weird News
Every day, I scour the Internet for news. Not just any news. Weird news. What bizarre thing was seen, heard, or found today?
This interest in the unexplained, mysterious, and Fortean is a perpetual thing for me. The first books I ever recall picking out as favorites were about ghosts, monsters, and UFOs. But the qualification for my interest was that I cared about them only because I thought they might be real.
I began a website to highlight these paranormal and anomalous news stories. While there are a lot of strange news feeds and news aggregators that do this, mine is different. I didn’t just want to share these stories so you can pass them along your virtual circles. I wanted to discuss these stories. What about them was true? What was missing? Why did people latch onto certain ones and enthusiastically share them with everyone they knew, even if they were almost certainly hoaxes or exaggerations? One of my goals was for my website to show up in online searches for these topics so perhaps interested readers would stumble upon a more thoughtful analysis than what was found in comment sections after the news stories or on Internet forums.
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I once went to a presentation by the Paranormal Research Society, held at a local Pennsylvania State University campus. It was not sponsored (nor endorsed) by the university but by a student activities group. I chuckled softly to myself when Ryan Buell flubbed information about some very famous “ghost” photographs. His background on parapsychological history seemed thin. I was thoroughly unimpressed. (I’ve since watched the show and was even more unimpressed.) I’m sure he’s better now, being under the tutelage of Lorraine Warren, clairvoyant/demon enthusiast. PRS has announced that in response to tremendous public requests, they will be offering educational webinars.
“PRS will begin hosting and offering classes and lectures on paranormal research and various topics through the means of online webinars. PRS will offer both individual lectures and web courses, as well as invite outside experts/researchers to offer classes.”
Color me skeptical about the seriousness of such a venture…
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I’m quite pleased with this exchange at the PA skeptical site Keystone Society for Rational Inquiry. A guest poster noticed an article in the local paper about a new alternative therapy – Himalayan salt cave – and looked into it. What was found can benefit lots of people and can assist people in make more informed choices.
Skeptics say “what”? This “salt cave” stuff obviously rings bells that go “woo woo”. And, well it should. There were some obvious issues about credentials and research and consequences. Check out the comments to see how proponents argue for their POV when the criticism may take away from their businesses’ credibility. This exchange is quite full of logical fallacies which I can spot but am not very good at labeling. Read More »
In a world where we crave the answers to life’s great questions and order from chaos by any means, people love psychic predictions. Too many STILL believe psychics have some credibility. Here is a stark reminder of why that belief is complete and utter nonsense:
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There are some ideas that are so silly that one REALLY wishes they didn’t have to be addressed at all.
An article appearing here was my introduction to a new, very confused and counterintutive concept: aquifers cause cancer and health problems for humans. Mr. David Reecher, who runs the website Aquifers and Health Institute, has undertaken a public campaign to warn of the hazards of aquifers. When I read the news article, I laughed, thinking it was from The Onion. The statements displayed such ignorant of how nature works that it HAD to be satire. I underestimated human imagination; it was real. I was compelled to investigate this one further.
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I used to have a cat. That cat was pretty mean. He hated other people and animals. He messed up my house. I’ll never have another cat because they don’t make good house pets.
The little story above is an anecdote. It has characters, reflects a real-life experience in a narrative form and is intended to provide you with “facts”, an opinion and my reasoning for the conclusion I’ve made there at the end.
Did it convince you? Perhaps – if you are open to the idea that cats are bad pets. Is it generalizable to the entire population of people considering pets? No. It’s simply one person’s experience with a cat.Read More »
On episode #208 of the Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe podcast, the SGU folks took questions from the audience at TAM7. The best question, I thought, came from my friend Bruce who asked how to explain a skeptics convention and skepticism so that a teenager might understand.Read More »