Archive for the ‘Skepticism’ Category

Fallacies, Fallacies, Everywhere!

February 2, 2012

Sometimes I get stuck in a conversation with someone who is making piss-poor arguments, and I just want to shoot ’em all down. Sometimes I don’t get a chance to do this because I can’t get a word in edge-wise, or because I’m not quick enough on my feet that day to identify the particular BS being spouted. I have a lot of respect for people who can dissect an argument into its components and separate the bogus from the the valid points. This is a skill – a learnable skill – that can take discussions to the next level and allow topics to be examined rationally.

Evan Bernstein from the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe recently responded to a fabulously fallacious and nonsensical email from a listener on the SGU blog, The Rogue’s Gallery. First Evan presents the email in its entirety, then proceeds to break it down one sentence at a time. This is an epic response, and I wanted to share with all of you.

“I don’t like your attitude on the show. You said the Chem-trails are not real. I have seen them myself and have taken many pictures. I have also seen footage of a weatherman in Oregon saying that the military was doing experiments and laying the chem-trails. Why would you be so sure that they are not real. Who are you?? A bunch of snotty punks that never leave your office? I bet the whole show is there to make real people who seek real truth; look stupid. The “experts” like you claim to be, lie all the fucking time; and so do the people on your show. Thats why you dont have the guts to put up a phone number for calls. I bet you are funded by the goverment, or drug companies or something. No normal people are so arrogant. You are not the “experts” of anything, except lies.”

Wow, that’s quite an email.  Allow me to reply one sentence at a time.

 “I don’t like your attitude on the show.” 

Unsubscribe.

“You said the Chem-trails are not real.”

Yes.

“I have seen them myself and have taken many pictures.” 

 You saw contrails, not “chem-trails”.

“I have also seen footage of a weatherman in Oregon saying that the military was doing experiments and laying the chem-trails.” 

Argument From Authority (a very poor one, to boot) 

“Why would you be so sure that they are not real.” 

Evidence, lack thereof.

Who are you??

I see where the question mark from the prior “question” went.  

 A bunch of snotty punks that never leave your office?”

Ad Hominem.

“I bet the whole show is there to make real people who seek real truth; look stupid.”

Only those who regularly botch their punctuation.

The “experts” like you claim to be, lie all the fucking time; and so do the people on your show.

Asshole Fallacy.

“Thats why you dont have the guts to put up a phone number for calls.”

(212) 384-1000

“I bet you are funded by the goverment, or drug companies or something.”

Something.

“No normal people are so arrogant.”

(Fill in your own thought, I really have no idea what this means.)

“You are not the “experts” of anything, except lies.”

Lies indeed, especially exposing the people who spout and regurgitate them.

See? EPIC. Not that this response would make any difference to the listener, but sometimes it’s enough to examine the message, deconstruct it, realize that there’s nothing you could say to make a difference, and move on with your life.

I think I’ve mentioned this before, but the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe was my gateway drug into skepticism back in late 2009. My sister recommended the SGU podcast for its laid-back presentation of science and critical thought. And it is laid-back. This isn’t a hard-core science podcast; there is a sharp focus on skepticism and rationality (of which science and evidence play a huge part).

Listening to SGU renewed my interest in recognizing logical fallacies, and has even pushed me outside of my normal biology and medicine comfort zones to explore cosmology, physics and robotics. Each show has several regular weekly sections and the rest is a bunch of unscripted bantering between the five hosts. I describe it to newbies as a nerdier version of NPR’s Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me! If this sounds like your gig, check it out The Skeptics Guide to the Universe on iTunes.

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Happy Friday the 13th!

January 13, 2012

I have a new post up at Minnesota Skeptics about Friday the 13th! Here’s an excerpt:

The fear of Friday the 13th is called friggatriskaidekaphobia (Frigga being the name of the Norse goddess for whom “Friday” is named and triskaidekaphobia meaning fear of the number thirteen), or paraskevidekatriaphobia a concatenation of the Greek words Paraskeví (Παρασκευή, meaning “Friday”), and dekatreís (δεκατρείς, meaning “thirteen”) attached to phobía (φοβία, from phóbos, φόβος, meaning “fear”).

Try saying either of those 13 times in row.

To read the rest of my article, please go here to the Minnesota Skeptics blog.

Banachek Visits University of Minnesota

December 4, 2011

I have a new post up at Minnesota Skeptics about Banachek’s recent mentalism show at the U of MN! Here’s an excerpt:

The opening bit was a card/”body language reading” trick.  Before I tell you the audience’s perspective, I have to go back to when the Hubby and I walked into the auditorium. When Banachek greeted us, he had a deck of cards in his hands. He shuffled the deck and had the Hubby and I flip the middle of the deck up halfway so that we could see one card, but so that Banachek couldn’t. We were told to think very hard about the card, to remember it because he might call on us during the show to try and guess our card. He told us that he was going to use our body language to guess which cards we had drawn.

Banachek helps an audience member bend a spoon with “the power of her mind”!

To read the rest of my article, please go here to the Minnesota Skeptics blog.

Inner Dimensional Sound Chamber

October 10, 2011

I have a new blog post up at the MN Skeptics Blog!

I’d never heard of an inner dimensional sound chamber. To the interwebs!

I found a website called soundheal.com and these are a few of the things that they have to say about the principles of the magic music box:

Inner Dimensional Sound Chamber is a blending of science and metaphysics in vibrational technology. It provides a low level oscillating energy field which assists with the restoration of cellular integrity.

The sound chamber honors the body’s natural geometric ability to heal itself at the cellular level. It sends specialized music or sound through the structure creating interference patterns.

I do not think these words “geometric” and “interference patterns” mean what you think they mean.

To read the rest of my article, please go here to the Minnesota Skeptics blog.

Back to Reality and Rumpology

September 6, 2011

Okay, it’s been about two weeks of awesomeness and now it’s time to get back to work. I had a great time at Dragon*Con. I arrived home at about 11:30pm last night, and spent today unpacking, watching TV, doing a few light chores and in general just getting back into the everyday routine mindset. I’m not loving the fact that there’s an everyday routine mindset, but it is good to be home.

I’ve got a few blog posts in draft that I’m pretty excited to finish and get up on the blog, but I figured today I would tell you about my favorite new word and woo, and a then share a few final Dragon*Con photos.

Okay, first the new (to me) woo: RUMPOLOGY

I first heard this word from Tim Farley during a skeptics panel at Dragon*Con. The woman next to me leaned over and whispered, “What’s rumpology? It sounds like it has something to do with butts.” Friends, there is no gentle way to put this: Rumpology is butt reading. You’ve heard of palm reading? Apply that same idea to the ass and you’ve grasped the subject. Jackie Stallone is a self-described astrologer, psychic and rumpologist. If you send her a photo of your bottom she will tell you about your past, your future and your “natural personality characteristics”, whatever that means. And all for the LOW, LOW PRICE of $600! The website claims are embarrassing – there are no references or anything that looks like supporting evidence for the supposed history of rumpology, or the claims that one butt cheek tells you about your past, the other about your future and the gluteal cleft (Read: hairy ass crack) tells you about your personality.

Seems legit. Let me get my checkbook.

Butt while I’m doing that, enjoy a few final Dragon*Con costumes (click on any photo for the making bigger):

This is probably my favorite “I was at Dragon*Con” souvenir photo. In my opinion, the weeping angels are one of the creepiest Doctor Who characters that I’ve seen, and this was the best angel costume at the con.

A very well done Blade. The weapons are dead on – the sword, the fictional gun, the silver spikes and EDTA darts. Bravo to the detail!

The Vision

Captain America

A Sasquatch in Minnesota

August 29, 2011

I have a new blog post up at the MN Skeptics Blog!

A Bigfoot sighting in our own backyard? Cool!

Thank goodness for all of the verbal interpretation of the blurry video, otherwise I never would have know that I was looking at a Sasquatch!

Caution: Blurry video and huge leaps in deductive reasoning may cause nausea and/or uncontrollable laughter in some viewers.

To watch the video head on over to the MN Skeptics blog.

That was a good Monday

July 25, 2011

Not the work part. At work there were some things, and then there was some stuff, so the work part of Monday was just meh. But after work has been fun!

Last week I was invited to write a blog post about my experience with Virtual Drinking Skeptically, a social videoconferencing group that brings people together to discuss skeptic topics. My piece is just a write-up of a recent VDS event, but I was honored to be asked to write about it, and today it was published on the Virtual Drinking Skeptically website. So that was cool.

After work I went to the doctor for a routine check up and then I had dinner plans with some friends. My appointment was done at 4:15 and dinner wasn’t until 6:30, so I decided to stop in to Half Price Books. I don’t know why I did that; I have an entire five-shelf bookcase filled with books that I haven’t read yet. But (as always), I made a great find:

Background: So, I’m all excited about going to Dragon*Con this year, right? I’m so excited that I forced my Mom to listen while I listed and described all of the different tracks that will be available at the convention. She perked up a bit when I told her that there is an entire track devoted to Anne McCaffrey. I confided that I hadn’t read anything by McCaffery and she ordered me to go read The Ship Who Sang. I’m easy so I put it on my must acquire and read list.

I couldn’t get it at Barnes and Noble without a special order, and there weren’t any copies conveniently located at the local library. I went online to purchase an e-book, but ended up finding a free PDF of the book instead. Unfortunately there were typos in it and I couldn’t download it to my phone without paying for it. But, I started reading it on the computer and was hooked.

It’s a really interesting story: In the future those who are born with physical disabilities but healthy brains are either euthanized or turned into “shell-people”; brains that control machinery. They are individuals with rights, and are self-aware, highly intelligent and possess a wide range of human emotions. They are employed by the Central Worlds to do things like man spaceships. The Ship Who Sang is about a shell-person named Helva and the adventures she has with her various “brawns” – the pilots who accompany her on her missions.

So, to bring a long story to an end, I was very excited to find the first three books in the series at the used bookstore, and as soon as I’m done with this blog I intended to spend the rest of the evening finishing The Ship Who Sang.

This next part is a little gossipy and petty, but I like it.

After Half Price Books I still had a little over an hour until dinner. I stopped in to a Caribou Coffee to sit back in one of their big comfy reading chairs, drink a frosty summer coffee drink, read and check the Twitters. Sadly, the comfy chairs were taken up by a man and his two young daughters. And when I say taken up, I mean I think they had moved in a few days ago. They had two netbooks on the table, the girls were laying on the couch watching a movie on a third computer, magazine were strewn every which way and the dad had his socked feet on the coffee table and was reading a book. Ah well, there were plenty of the hard high-back chairs so I took a table nearby the comfy chairs in case the man and his daughters left.

About 10 minutes after I sat down I heard the Dad say, “Girls, let’s go next door and have some dinner.” So they get up and leave their shit all over the comfy chairs. All over MY comfy chair. That’s not cool! You don’t get to hog all of the good comfy chair seating in the coffee shop while you go to dinner! And they left all of their expensive stuff just sitting there for any yahoo to steal. So…I go up to the barista and say, “I just heard that man tell his daughters that they should go get some dinner, and they left all of their computers and stuff behind.” The barista gave me a look like she understood the situation perfectly, and with a slightly naughty look said, “Really? They left? Hmmm…maybe I should put it behind the counter so nobody steals it.” And she did. She gathered up all of their junk, put it in a box and put the box behind the counter. When dude came back 30 minutes later he saw me reclining on “his” chair and said, “Hey, I had a bunch of stuff over here.” I gave him big doe eyes and said, “Yeah, the barista put it behind the counter so no one would steal it. You had, like, three laptops just sitting out in the open.” He got all sputtery and mad.

And then it was exactly time to go to dinner.

Dinner was…oh, dinner was fabulous. I went for sushi with five lady-friends and we had a ball talking pop culture, books, travel, food and all of those other relaxing dinner topics. We ordered a ton of appetizers, drinks, one of those big sushi boats, and a few desserts at the end of the meal. The food was very good and reasonably priced. If you’re looking for sushi in the Lakes/Uptown area of Minneapolis I highly recommend Wakame.

And now if you’ll excuse me…the shell-people are waiting.

Drinking Skeptically…For Night People!

July 8, 2011

I have a new post up over at the Minnesota Skeptics blog! It’s about my experiences at a local Drinking Skeptically…For Night People! event.

Tonight I ended up meeting a lot of new (to me) people. Hello new skeptical friends! I met a nurse, three engineers, a past member of the Secular Student Alliance, some Tim Minchin fans, some people who are pretty excited about going to The Amazing Meeting next week, and a whole mess of atheists (deconverted Catholic over there, former Hindu over there, raised Fundamentalist Christian in that corner, past altar boy in that one – the list went on and on!).

To read the article in it’s entirety, please go here to the Minnesota Skeptics wordpress blog.

The Challenges of Being a Skeptic

June 2, 2011

I have a new blog post up over at the Minnesota Skeptics blog!

The Challenges of Being a Skeptic

In 2009 I discovered The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe. Shortly thereafter I started reading skeptical blogs and books and listening to other skeptical podcasts. In 2010 I found local meetups and attended my first skeptics’ conferences. Along the way there have been ah-ha! moments, but there have also been challenges.  More on the challenges in a minute.

Skepticism provides for me a way of looking at the world, at evaluating the massive amounts of information that come to us every day. Skeptics have a wide range of interests – politics, medicine, economy, science, the gamut of human rights and social issues, paranormal investigation, and religion, to name a few. But what we all share is…

To read the rest of my article, please go here to the Minnesota Skeptics blog.

A Lake Monster In Minnesota!

May 26, 2011

I have a new article up over at the Minnesota Skeptics’ blog!

A Lake Monster In Minnesota!

We love our lake monsters, don’t we? Everyone is familiar with Nessie, but here are a few you might not know:

Brosno Dragon – Lake Brosno, West Russia. Said to resemble a dragon or dinosaur, with potential sightings going back to the 13th century.

Lagarfljóts Worm – Lagarfljót, Iceland. Otherwise known as the Iceland Worm Monster. Walks on land and swims in the water, spits poison. Mean beastie, but that may be because it was thrown in a cold lake when it was just a baby monster.

Morag – Loch Morar, Scotland. Nessie may be Scotland’s best known monster, but it certainly isn’t…

To read the rest of this piece, which includes my own real-life lake monster sighting in Richfield, MN – and a picture of the beast! – please visit my full article at Minnesota Skeptics’ blog.