Posts Tagged ‘skepticism’

Real X-Files

April 28, 2016

Alright, I am not going full conspiracy theory on you today. I am also not talking to you about the X-Files television show. I loved the X-Files back when it was first on but my attitude has somewhat cooled on it after too many years and a really bad movie. I have yet to see the revival and I am not exactly itching to watch it the more I think about it. I have so many other things to watch that a return trip to Mulder’s basement office is not as appetizing as it once would have been. That is not what we are doing today. In the wake of X-Files returning and Ghostbusters coming up, let us talk briefly about the “real” paranormal investigators out there.

I loved Ghostbusters as a kid and one of the main reasons I loved it was that the main characters were scientists. Presumably, just about everything they did was backed by science and engineering and they were eventually able to prove that ghosts were real. I imagine a lot of the actual science was done offscreen because experimentation and the scientific method often takes a long time and can be a little tedious. An old roommate of mine was very much into the Ghost Adventures type of show. This was a show where the viewer follows the adventures of real-life plumbers who somehow decided they could investigate ghosts. There was no hard science involved and after several seasons, there was never a single ghost to show for it. Not to mention they go in as the most credulous people of all time so that every single sound throws them into fits.

On top of this, paranormal investigators are often not wanted or not permitted around supposedly haunted sights. Then, like this group, they end up accidentally damaging or actually destroying the historic home they were supposed to be investigating. By the way, I am sure marijuana and alcohol are really conducive to studying unexplained phenomena. I feel like we have the opposite problem from Mulder. It is not that nobody believes. The problem is that too many people believe or are willing to be tricked into believing without evidence. There is little to no regulation or oversight like there is for real scientific endeavors. Paranormal sciences are really appealing but they have yet to advance our species or help invent anything useful. All we have are interesting stories that we cannot prove are true.

I am not an unbeliever. I am a skeptic and I have been for a very long time now. I love a good ghost story and I do believe in investigating strange occurrences. However. anytime you go into a situation with a firm belief of the cause, you will most likely fail to find the real cause or at least misunderstand what is actually happening. If somebody proves the existence of ghosts, bigfoot or vampires here on Earth then I will be the first person on board. However, they have to prove it scientifically because I lived too many years without evidence of these things. Of course, I also have a vested interest in these things not existing because they sound terrifying. Only the future can tell and so far we are still living in an amazing but mundane world.

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Media Update 3/17/2016

March 17, 2016


An Honest Liar

I have had my eye on this documentary for a long, long time and my anticipation really paid off in a big way. If you look back through my blog, you will realize that I am a huge advocate for skepticism. There are a lot of flim flammers and woo woo practitioners out there that will just as soon steal your money as look at you. This documentary was about The Amazing Randi, a young magician who decided to devote his life to debunking the supernatural. He especially targets those who would prey on those desperate enough to believe anything. The documentary follows his career in magic up to his retirement. It then follows two of his most notable feuds (Peter Poppoff and Uri Gellar) and how he has debunked them both over the years. It then gets personal as it explores a very personal untruth that permeated his life that shows even more how dedicated he is to helping people. Check it out and see what I’m raving about.


Parks and Recreation

This is a show that I keep saying ‘Oh I’ll get around to watching that’ or ‘Yeah it’s on my list’. I had heard it was really good and it is the project that brought Chris Pratt to the level where he could be cast in a brilliant Marvel movie. The show was always there and I would eventually get to it. Eventually came this week as I finally decided to just sit down and watch this show. I had gotten into Amy Poehler through Tina Fey so I was curious whether I would like this one. The show is made in a documentary style like The Office before it. However, the characters feel like they are a lot more down to Earth. Amy Poehler is great as Leslie, a government employee who tries too hard but often fails at her job. Chris Pratt plays that guy who you know is a total loser but you can’t help but really like him. My favorite is Nick Offerman who plays grumpy Ron Swanson, a government supervisor who hates the government. I have only watched four episodes but I’m itching for more.


Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s Island of Dr. Moreau

Another documentary this week, a genre I have neglected for a little while but I love watching them. I especially love watching documentaries about the art of film. This one is about a truly disastrous movie and the even more horrible events behind the scenes. The Island of Dr. Moreau was a book by HG Wells that attracted the attention of Richard Stanley, a young but rising writer/director. He had a vision for a movie version and pushed hard for the studio system to fund it. They got funding by adding big Hollywood names who were uninterested in doing a good job on the movie. After four days on location, Richard Stanley was fired from his own movie. I don’t want to spoil anything but that is where the behind the scenes events got even darker. The end result was a mess and the documentary really gets deep into what happened and how it all went wrong. It is definitely worth a watch.

Links of the Week:
Harry Nilsson – Everything’s Got ‘Em
She – Headshot
Miles Davis – So What
Pun Fiction
He Had One Job

Weekly Updates:
– American Crime Story is still an engaging show
– I’ve loved Legends of Tomorrow lately
– I really want to see 10 Cloverfield Lane
– I still have not seen Zootopia
– I am listening to so many podcasts lately
– I may have to talk about Serial on here soon

Happy Saint Patrick’s Day!

Be Skeptic

August 13, 2008

To take a line from Charlotte’s Web (2006): “Just because you’re sheep, doesn’t mean you have to follow!” – Head Sheep (John Cleese). And it is true. For as long as there have been humans there has been an affliction of blindness on the human race. I used to call myself a cynic but I do not like the negative connotation there. Cynics are bitter people for the most part. I am a skeptic. Much more positive. I really want to believe in a lot of things but I have yet to see proof.

One of these things is the paranormal. There are some things I believe in (ghosts for example) but I’m not sure what ghosts are. I do not believe in psychic powers of any sort. I want to believe in them because of all the comics I want to read. One of the problems I have is the psychics in the public eye are mostly jerks. They all have this sort of mystic, motherly,/brotherly air to them but as soon as they are challenged they get pissy. They are also obviously lying through their teeth. At least it is to me. You can just see it in their eyes. Big ol’ signs that say “Don’t trust me!”

These people also give no proof. Ok, no real proof. They demonstrate their “skills” on television constantly but they never submit to scientific testing to determine the validity or accuracy of these abilities. When they do get caught out, they falter big time. An example is Uri Geller on the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. Uri Geller did and still does claim to have special powers. He bends spoons and keys with his mind and he reads peoples minds. However, when Carson was tipped off and told to keep Geller away from the props ahead of time, Geller could not complete a single task. The thing of it is, I would respect Geller if he advertised himself as a magician. Penn and Teller and many other magicians do similar tricks but they do them as illusions not as “reality”.

However, so-called psychics and mediums are the worst. If done for “entertainment purposes” like a horoscope in the paper, that’s fine. However, when these psychics offer their services to police and parents in missing persons cases it is wrong. They have no abilities. They are wrong far more than they are right. They are preying on vulnerable, grieving people and taking their money. These people are vultures.

Be a skeptic. If somebody tells you the sky is blue, look at the sky and check. If somebody tells you there are nuclear weapons in the Middle East, ask them to prove it. If a psychic tells you they are talking to your dead Aunt, just don’t believe it on principle. We are not sheep. What I’m trying to say is believe in what you want but when it comes to money or personal risk, open your eyes and ears.

Do yourself a favor: Go to youtube.com and look up James Randi, Sylvia Brown and Uri Geller/Carson. You won’t be disappointed.

Also: Fellow skeptics should go to Randi.org (make sure it is .org as I’m not sure what .com would be and I don’t want to find out)

Steven


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