They must have changed the definition of “true”: The Conjuring 2 (UPDATED)

So, I just watched the trailer for The Conjuring 2 in which crack self-righteous demonologists Ed and Lorraine Warren investigate the Enfield poltergeist case in the U.K. It begins by stating the story is based on the “true case files” of the Warrens. Yeah, no. Nothing about this is “true” in the conventional sense of the word.

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Hollywood distorts things to make entertainment. That’s their job. And apparently the job of “demonologists” is to ramp up a story to make it outrageous and frightening. Along the way, what really happened gets lost.

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Practical skepticism about being “closed-minded”

open mindIn my last post, on accepting strange ideas because “science doesn’t know everything”, I unpacked a comment from a person who was invested in believing psychic powers were genuine. Next in my series of responses to credulous, and rather vehement, commentators, I reply to accusations that I’m closed-minded, not thinking “out of the box”, stuck in the “establishment” of science. According to these “open-minded” thinkers, this attitude limits my ability to perceive and be sympathetic towards non-materialistic [1] conclusions about strange things in the world.

I’ve addressed this before because it’s really annoying. It’s used so frequently, and was brought up by a few people regarding my rejection of a TV ghost hunter’s claim that a house in Indiana was a source of actual demonic activity. Zak Bagans’ Ghost Adventures airs on the Travel Channel which suggests it has a goal of being entertaining, emphasizing exciting and mysterious places that lend themselves to adventurous exploring. That’s fine, that’s entertainment. But when Bagans suggests his outrageous adventures are evidence of paranormal reality and that he’s being scientific or careful in his investigations, I’m calling bullshit as warranted. He’s not a good investigator and television shows are not research. I called BS on this Indiana demon house story from the very beginning when it sounded exactly like a Hollywood horror movie even including physics-defying feats by so-called possessed people. The story had no credible support. I was criticized for saying that the eyewitness accounts from police, a priest, and some hospital personnel were of no special importance because it was their story and not independently verified. I think something odd was going on with that family but demon possession was NOT it.

In a nifty twist, Bagans swooped in and bought the house within days of the story breaking and apparently made a documentary there (yet to be released). Based on his credibility (which is nil), I’m not that interested in his POV. Does that make me closed-minded? About this particular situation, yep, but not without damn good reasons. Good reason is what this haunted house story lacks completely.

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Practical skepticism on “science doesn’t know everything”

I could spend hours and hours responding to really poorly thought out and terribly spelled comments to my blog posts on Doubtful News. But it would be pointless. Half the people wouldn’t read it and the other half would just argue and put up another bunch of syntactical garbage. I typically conclude that people who are vehemently and rudely opposed to what I say have their reasons for being that way, whatever they may be. Perhaps they value personal experiences and what they are told by people they trust. They probably don’t have any experience in critical thinking or were not given the tools to learn how to be objective. Or, they simply prefer to hold a position that is comforting to them in some way – by making them seem special or powerful. I’m trying to understand why some people feel the need to comment as they do but it’s hard because I can’t put myself in their place and imagine I would react the same.

I thought I would share some of the responses that I did not post and answer them on this blog. I don’t post lousy comments to any of my blogs because I employ a strict moderation policy of added value. These folks didn’t give evidence, they made fallacious arguments that didn’t add to the discussion but distracted from it and they are often rude and ignorant. I’ve heard these same arguments countless times before. It would be worthwhile to take some time and formulate a full response. I expect to refer to these piece often as these same situations arise. For the first response, I tackle “AnnMarie” and her position that science can’t explain everything.

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I wrote a piece that was extremely skeptical about 19-year-old “celebrity medium” Tyler Henry and disagreed that we need ANY such TV shows that portray psychic powers as “reality”. I question why Tyler is doing a TV show instead of demonstrating his powers to scientists and parapsychologists studying mediumship who could learn about life after death. This would be valuable for humanity, not just the Kardashians…
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The State of the Science: Parapsychology (Book Review)

In October of last year I wrote a blog post about a review of a new parapsychology compendium. Finally, I’ve gotten to read the entire book referenced for myself, cover to cover, 400+ pages.

cardena coverParapsychology: A Handbook for the 21st Century (2015) edited by Etzel Cardeña, John Palmer, David Marcusson-Clavertz

It took about 7 weeks to get through the whole thing. I took copious notes, as I always do, to help me remember and understand. But why do this? Most people have zero interest in academic parapsychology. They can’t even explain what it is or why I might pay any mind to it. Most of my skeptic friends dismiss it outright. I’ve been interested in professional and amateur endeavors in this subject area for 20 years. There are two main reasons why I spent so much time crawling through this book:

  1. I wanted to see what they have to offer. What is the state of the science? Where has it been? Where is it going? What is the feel of the academic scene? What do they consider important? What does the future of parapsychology look like?
  2. I have been working on amateur research and investigation groups and it was necessary to consult an expert source in order to compare to professional standards. In both respects, this book was incredibly helpful and perfect for that need.

An academic book like this is not well suited for a typical review. You can scan the contents online. So, perhaps the most useful thing I can do is to explain what I derived from the information provided as a person educated in science with a great interest in the scientific and popular aspects of this particular field. It’s an outsider’s view, certainly, but as the book itself alludes, there really aren’t that many insiders. If this book can compel me to be motivated about parapsychology research, it’s a real prize.

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doomed

If Trumpers take over, we’re doomed as doomed could be

The daily news is a parade of absurd and thoughtless things Trump said and did. It’s awful stuff. Today, as I was perusing the latest Trump-Hitler comparison, I saw this article on Huffington Post in news results labeled “in depth” and was surprised to find that it was hard-hitting and possibly, scarily, true. (Note, it was based on this piece by Amanda Taub on Vox.) The premise of the article is that it’s not the person that’s the problem, it’s that people accept the twisted rhetoric he delivers and will vote for him. How did we go so low?  There will always be big-mouthed, narcissistic, sexist, racist, very rich white guys, but it’s concerning that a large part of the population will support such a person for one of the most critical and demanding jobs on earth. President. And it may be just the beginning. Or the End.

The article by Jeff Schweitzer lists all the really disturbing things Trump promotes that causes 40 to 70% of the audience to cringe or swear while the remaining portion loudly cheers and agrees:Read More »

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Don’t skip the bats!

At Disney’s Animal Kingdom, you can skip the bat display. There is a sign that directs you past the enclosure of Malayan flying foxes (Pteropus vampyrus) should you, for some incomprehensible reason, wish to not see them. These large fruit bats are impressive and utterly lovely; I could not wait to catch a glimpse.

The woman in front of me split from her husband and toddler and pushed a stroller past the exhibit with an audible intention of avoiding the bats. She was afraid.

I’m at a loss.

She was afraid of this:

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Going down the same road gets boring

dull road

In a sort of continuation of my “All News is Doubtful” piece about why producing Doubtful News has lost interest for me, I was listening to a podcast interview with Brooke Gladstone of On The Media (one of my favorite shows) and what she said resonated with me. She was talking to Max Linsky of Longform Podcast about how she evolved and how her show evolved. She noted that to go down the same road for several years, covering the same stories over and over again, will wear you down and make you want to tear your face off. That’s how I felt about Bigfoot stories a while back because they were so stupid. And it’s how I feel now about news of strange sounds from the sky, the local paranormal group investigating a so-called haunted location, the “chupacabra” seen in the neighborhood, and the latest UFO flap. These stories are so alike that they are boring and feel like we’ve written them before. I would rather just link to what I said before. Same shit, different day. I admit I may have reached my limit for writing about weird news.

I guarantee there will be others that will come along and write the same stories, with the same information, from the same angle, over and over again. And they will be new to a new audience.

Is there a value in these weird news stories? Lots of people love them!Read More »