Thursday, February 11, 2016

Bag of History

Damn it! Dan Brown & Nostradomus made it
to this shelf of history. (skepreview) 
I always am heartened when I stumble upon solid skeptical thinking and advice on not explicitly skeptical media.  I have been listening to The Modern Scholar series entitled Medieval Mysteries: The History Behind the Myths of the Middle Ages by Professor Thomas F. Madden.  I have listened to a rather large number of Prof. Madden's lectures.  In part, because he pretty much represents the guy I wanted to be when I was earning my B.A. in History at Gettysburg College.  Except instead of lecturing on the Crusades and The Byzantine Empire, I would be lecturing on the War of the Rebellion or San Juan Hill.  Anyway, he's a dynamite lecturer.  I hold him in high regard.  He has a really entertaining style.  

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

A Skeptic's Hangover

It was a good idea at the time. (skepreview) 
Now that the initial hubbub over Professor Richard Dawkins removal as speaker at the upcoming NECSS conference has died down, I have that same feeling I get after any intra-skeptical argument, and to some extent any extended disagreement I have been involved in or observed.  It's a hangover.   Like most hangovers, I am left wondering was all the vitriol and clambering worth it?  Has anything been accomplished?  Has anything been learned? The last tequila was not 100% agave so why did I drink it?  

I cannot say I agree with the decision of the NECSS board of directors to cut Dawkins.  On the other hand, I would not bet the farm that if I had been on the board I would not have done the same thing.  Whether I would look back at the decision and decide it had been a mistake would be speculation upon speculation.  I have read a lot of speculation on what was motivating the board as a whole to make their decision.  Even with some insights gained by the carefully worded response by Dr. Steven Novella on the NECSS board's decision, there are a lot of unanswered questions.  Exercising charity, I realize that I have made plenty of errors in my professional career only to look back at the aftermath of those decisions and thought "drat" that was the wrong choice.  Maybe the board feels this way, overall maybe they do not.  I cannot fathom them backtracking either, and on that I cannot really blame them.

Monday, October 19, 2015

The SGU & Exposing PseudoAstronomy

Death. SciFi movies. Giving Proper Credit.

The above were the most interesting topics I heard discussed on my various podcasts this week.

Giovanni Schiaparelli Mars Map with Water!: Wiki
Dr. Stuart Robbins produced quite an intriguing episode of Exposing PseudoAstronomy on when do we know what we know in science and who ought to receive proper attribution for a discovery or inventing something.  The idea for the episode was sparked by the recent N.A.S.A. announcement that liquid water actually flows on Mars, which in turn caused some better known pseudoscientists to cry foul.  The pseudo-scientists claimed they had discovered liquid water on Mars years earlier and while it feels great to be found correct by the powers that be, the discovery is nothing new.  

There is a difference between building the case for liquid water on Mars which N.A.S.A. has been doing for decades, and speculation which is what the pseudoscience crowd was performing for the most part.  Dr. Robbins breaks all this down, and by the end of it, I was a bit miffed that after N.A.S.A.'s hard work in this regard anyone would try to jump in and say me first is inappropriate.  

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Observe & Report: Skepticism done correctly; Skeptics with a K

Peter of Verona Faith Healing back in the day (Wiki)
On the last two episodes of Skeptics with a K Michael "Marsh" Marshall discussed his interaction with and observations of Peter Popoff and his ministry. The televangelist, alleged faith healer, evangelical christian prophet that had a famous run in and exposure with the recently retired James "The Amazing" Randi.  Well, Popoff is back

On episode 156 of SWaK, Marsh describes his interactions with Popoff's current prosperity gospel ministry via the United States Royal Mail.  Marsh discusses how Popoff's organization would attempt to elicit money and 'plant a seed' of money to obtain a harvest of gain.  It is interesting stuff, but even more interesting was Marsh's rather in-depth discussion of his attending a show of Popoff's that he was given free via this letter postal exchange with Popoff.  This was the content of episode 157.