Your Common Sense Can Fail You

JREF LogoJREF LogoMy third article for the James Randi Educational Foundation's "Education Initiative," whose purpose is to promote teaching of critical thinking and skepticism, has been posted. Please take a look if you get a moment.

In this article, I try to convince readers that common sense is not a good replacement for scientific inquiry, and provide a few examples that teachers of critical thinking can use.

CLICK HERE to read it.


Please join me on Monday, April 1st at 7 pm for the Ohlone College Psychology Club Speaker Series' presentation of "Bryan & Baxter: What THEY Don't Want You to Know," a fun-filled one hour romp Bryan & BaxterBryan & Baxterthrough some of Bryan & Baxter's investigations of paranormal claims.

Bryan & Baxter operate out of in Denver, CO, and have investigated the claims of dozens of haunted houses and businesses, cryptozoological creatures, possessions, etc. Their presentation will include a demonstration of the ideomotor effect, video clips from some of their more entertaining investigations, and even a live "exorcism" on stage!

Tickets are $15 for general admission ($10 for students with ID), and can be purchased by
CLICKING HERE.


J. Allan Danelek: The Great Airship of 1897: a Provocative The Great Airship of 1897The Great Airship of 1897Look at the Most Mysterious Aviation Event in History. Adventures Unlimited Press 2009. (A review by Norman Sperling, February 10, 2013.)

A mysterious bright light in the night sky sparked this big flap at the end of the 1800s. It was unexpected and unexplained. Reports grossly contradict one another, so investigators can favor very different inferences, interpretations, and explanations simply by selecting different reports to prefer.

In the 1800s, no one considered the light to be a space ship from another planet. Paranormal boosters have made that case more recently. Since this book's author energetically investigates paranormal and Fortean matters, I was all prepared for the author to go Paranormal.

He never did. The one place where the paranormal is invoked by others, Danelek dismisses it tersely. This book has nothing at all to do with the paranormal. Every explanation is purely naturalistic. Danelek invokes real physics,


As some of you may recall, I recently hosted James Randi at Ohlone College, where he delivered a wonderfully entertaining An Honest LiarAn Honest Liartalk on “Prophecy, Divination, and Faith Healing” to an adoring overflow crowd.

That weekend, I was lucky to also spend time with a film crew who were making a documentary about Randi’s life entitled “An Honest Liar: The Amazing Randi Story.” Heading up this endeavor are Tyler Measom and Justin Weinstein, both talented and accomplished documentary filmmakers. Since that time, Tyler and Justin have kept in touch, and they recently wrote to ask that I help spread the word about their new approach toward completing this important, and no doubt entertaining, work.

Please

This is from an obituary composed by Robert Schaeffer. Other Bob SteinerBob Steinertributes will follow:

Robert A. Steiner (1934-2013)

Magician and skeptic Robert A. Steiner died on January 4, 2013 in a nursing home in Concord, California, at age 78. A longtime resident of the San Francisco Bay area, Steiner was a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry, and spoke at several CSI(COP) conferences. A professional magician, he was a former president of the Society of American Magicians, and a member of the Magic Castle in Hollywood. He also was a Certified Public Accountant.

Any social event where Steiner was present typically had him giving an impromptu public demonstration of “psychic powers.” He always explained to audiences afterward that he had fooled them with a trick. He was also a life member of Mensa, and frequently hosted social events for Mensa, for skeptics, and other friends, at his home in the East Bay. These events typically included a demonstration of his “psychic” powers, always delivered in a presentation filled with humor. For a number of years, Steiner sponso


The Voynich Manuscript is just as good a story now as when I first read about it 50 years ago. If you're not familiar with Voynich ManuscriptVoynich Manuscript it, Wikipedia's article hits the highlights, and its bibliography gives a number of ways to dig deeper.

The Voynich Manuscript was probably written in the early 1400s, probably in Europe, possibly in Northern Italy. Most of it resembles an herbal (though the plants are unrecognizable), plus sections whose pictures suggest astrology and pharmacy, plus lots of naked and clothed women (only the naked ones get mentioned much), and less-understandable illustrations and pure-text pages. The text appears to be written in a cipher, which has tantalized and taunted people since the 1500s. No one has ever cracked it.

Not only is this book truly, deeply weird, so are several of t


Your Beliefs Are Malleable

As some of you may recall, I was recently asked to join the James Randi Educational Foundation's "Education Initiative," JREF LogoJREF Logowhose purpose is to promote teaching of critical thinking and skepticism.

My second article, entitled "Your Beliefs are Malleable," was recently posted. Its topic is cognitive dissonance, and it focuses on how it can be applied to teaching students to evaluate their beliefs in a more rational way.

CLICK HERE to check it out.


Dr. Mehmet Oz's November 28th, 2012 episode is bringing him Dr. Mehmet OzDr. Mehmet Ozgrief due to its investigation of so-called "Ex-Gay" therapies, techniques designed to help someone change his or her sexual orientation from gay to straight.

On the episode were Julie Hamilton, a representative of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (or NARTH), as well as the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), who said later that they were not aware that NARTH would be represented, and that they would not have participated had they known.

NARTH's claim that individuals can change their sexual orientation was one of the main topics of my recent talk for the Bay Area Skeptics, and the scientific community (The American Psychology Association, the American Psychiatric Association, The National Association of Social Workers, among many others) strongly condemn these practices as ineffective, unsupported by


November’s SkepTalk provided the perfect opportunity to Minda Berbeco, PhDMinda Berbeco, PhDintroduce to the Bay Area Skeptics the newest member of the NCSE family, Dr. Minda Berbeco.

As their new Programs and Policy Director, Dr. Berbeco works to defend science education in the United States using experience she has culled from a career investigating the effects of climate change on terrestrial systems. Her investigation of the unexpected and unusual effects of climate change on biological organisms was the focus of her talk this month for the BAS.

Dr. Berbeco began her presentation by surveying the audience about their knowledge of the effects of global climate change. Answers included such things as extreme weather, the endangerment of wildlife, a rise in global sea levels, etc. After pointing out how the audience’s feedback suggested a good working knowledge of the effects of global warming, as well as the disparate areas of concern, Dr. Berbeco announced that she would concentrate her talk on a few specific examples through which she hoped to reveal some of the key concerns s


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