Monthly Archives: January, 2013

False Flag Attacks: Myth and Reality

by Mike Rothschild via Skeptoid

False Flag 8698_03_300pxOne of the terms most commonly used by conspiracy theorists when discussing “the real story” behind incidents like the September 11th attacks or the recent Sandy Hook shooting is “false flag,” meaning that it was caused or staged deliberately to use as an excuse to perpetrate something nefarious. A quick Google search of the phrase brings up an astonishing 42 million hits, with page after page of posts at conspiracy hotbeds like Infowars/Prison Planet, Natural News, Before It’s News, etc. If one were to work solely from this, it would be easy to get the impression that our recent history is jammed with prefabricated incidents designed to enable our government to grab more power, take away the rights of the common people and/or line their already fattened pockets.

Further complicating matters, false flags are a very real phenomenon. Unlike, say, free energy machines or alien abductions, which people claim to exist, yet don’t, false flag attacks have happened, many times for many different reasons. The United States has even been involved in some. In order to debunk the conspiracy theories, it’s important to define what a false flag actually is, and have historical examples of when they’ve actually happened, in order to better define when they haven’t.

In military terms, a false flag is any act of deception designed to make your opponent think you’re someone else. The term “false flag” originated with naval warfare, when a ship would run up a flag other than its designated battle ensign for the purposes of drawing an enemy ship closer. When the target got close enough, the deceiving ship would run up the real battle flag and open fire. This tactic has long been recognized as an acceptable use of deception, and has been used in numerous forms, by both naval and ground forces, for centuries. Both World Wars feature numerous uses of false flag strategies, from ships disguising themselves as other ships to soldiers wearing enemy uniforms.

[…]

Of course, the September 11th attacks are considered the granddaddy of all false flags, with a legion of truthers accusing the government of bombing the World Trade CenterFalse-Flag-300x292_250px as an excuse to curtail our rights, give more power to the global elite and kick off any number of wars. But after the truther theories are debunked, we’re left with one inescapable fact: unless and until definitive proof of the government’s involvement in 9/11 ever surfaces, the attacks can’t be called a false flag.

Which brings us to Sandy Hook. In the past few years, every time one of these tragedies takes place, be it in Arizona, Aurora, Milwaukee or now Newtown, conspiracy theorists instantly take to the internet, with cries of “false flag!” and accusations that the Obama administration either caused or staged the shootings as an excuse to grab our guns and curtail our rights. They offer manufactured “proof” and use the historical examples of other false flag attacks, both real and imagined, as “evidence” that “they” did it before, and will do it again.

And just like 9/11, and the other imagined false flags, these theories hold about as much water as a colander.

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New Age Energy

via InFact Video

Do you ever hear people talking about energy fields? What does that mean?

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Superstition

via The Skeptic s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

“The superstitious man is to the rogue what the slave is to the tyrant.” —Voltaire

superstition 140_300pxA superstition is a false belief based on ignorance (e.g., if we don’t beat the drums during an eclipse, the evil demon won’t return the sun to the sky), fear of the unknown (e.g., if we don’t chop up this chicken in just the right way and burn it according to tradition while uttering just the right incantations then the rain won’t come and our crops won’t grow and we’ll starve), trust in magic (e.g., if I put spit or dirt on my beautiful child who has been praised, the effects of the evil eye will be averted), trust in chance (if I open this book randomly and let my finger fall to any word that word will guide my future actions), or some other false conception of causation (e.g.,  homeopathy, therapeutic touch, vitalism, creationism, or that I’ll have good luck if I carry a rabbit’s foot or bad luck if a black cat crosses my path).

black cat03_250px_02The indiscriminate power of nature is obvious. For as long as humans have been making sounds and instruments, magical methods have been created in the attempt to control the forces of nature and the life and death matters of daily existence. Good and evil befall us without rhyme or reason. We imagine spirits or intelligible forces causing our good and bad fortune. We invent ways to placate them or direct them. Many of the superstitions we developed seemed to work because we didn’t know how to properly evaluate them. There are many instances of selective thinking that might lead to a superstitious belief that something is good or bad luck, for example. The “curse of Pele” exemplifies this kind of superstition. According to one website devoted to the legend of the Hawaiian goddess Pele:

It is well known to locals on the island of Hawaii, that there is a curse upon those who take one of Pele’s lava rocks. It is said that he who takes a lava rock, is taking something from Pele and shall receive bad luck because of it. In the old days people were said to die from the curse, but now you only receive bad luck.

Every day, Hawaii Volcanoes National Park receives several rocks from people who took them home from the park and are returning them because of the bad luck they’ve had since taking the rocks. Many of these people think there is a causal connection between their taking the rocks and their perceived bad luck because their bad luck came after they took the rocks. Of course, their perceived bad luck may have happened even if they hadn’t taken any rocks from the park. Or they may not have paid much attention to the “bad luck” had they not heard there was a curse associated with taking the rocks. Such people may . . .

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Change Blindness

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

This image is changing.

Do you see how this image is changing?
More here

Change blindness is the failure to detect non-trivial changes in the visual field. The failure to see things changing right before your eyes may seem like a design fault, but it is actually a sign of evolutionary efficiency.

Examples may be seen by clicking  here, here, and here.

The term ‘change blindness’ was introduced by Ronald Rensink in 1997, although research in this area had been going on for many years. Experiments have shown that dramatic changes in the visual field often go unnoticed whether they are brought in gradually, flickered in and out, or abruptly brought in and out at various time intervals. The implication seems to be that the brain requires few details for our visual representations; the brain doesn’t store dozens of details to which it can compare changes (Simons and Levin: 1998). The brain is not a video recorder and it is not constantly processing all the sense data available to it but is inattentive to much of that data, at least on a conscious level.

Change detection in films is notoriously poor when the change occurs during a cut or pan, as demonstrated by the color-changing card trick video and a number of other videos where a different actor appears after a cut, without the change being noticed by most viewers. Some experiments have shown that a person may be talking to someone (behind a counter, for example) who leaves (bends down behind the counter or exits the room) and is replaced by a different person, without the change being noticed.

Apparently, change blindness is due to the efficient nature of our evolved visual processing system, but it also opens the door to being deceived, much to the delight of magicians and sleight-of-hand con artists.

SOURCES HERE.

More examples of change blindness:

Logical Fallacies

Ever hear someone argue a point that was effective, even though it didn’t quite ring true? Chances are they used a logical fallacy.

Each video is only about 3 minutes long. Enjoy :)

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:



Three great websites run by Brian Dunning (in the videos above) that all skeptical thinkers ought to have bookmarked:

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

SANDY HOOK TROOF?!

This video is a bit lengthy (about 18 minutes) but it’s a very good debunking of the vile Sandy Hook conspiracy theories. Definitely worth viewing. Be forewarned though, there is a bit of salty language throughout the video – not a lot, but enough that i felt a warning was warranted.  :)

HT: Thomas J. Proffit

Video description via YouTube:

The Sandy Hook Shooting was a tragedy, but America’s growing conspiracy theorist movement has turned it into a farce.

The video I’m responding to:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wx9GxXYKx_8&feature=youtu.be

Special thanks to the invaluable research of the reddit user, Preggit.
http://www.reddit.com/r/skeptic/comments/16lkhq/this_sandy_hook_conspiracy_vi…

Immovable Object vs. Unstoppable Force – Which Wins?

Here you go – twist your brain around THIS! Fun stuff. ;)

Immovable Object vs. Unstoppable Force – Which Wins? – YouTube.

Why Do People turn to Alternative Medicine?

2011_quackery
via Science-Based Medicine

Any sociological question is likely going to have a complex answer with many variables that are not easy to tease apart. We should therefore resist the temptation to make simplistic statements about X being the cause of Y. We can still, however, identify correlations that will at least inform our thinking. Sometimes correlations can be triangulated to fairly reliable conclusions.

When the data is complex and difficult to interpret, however, evidence tends to be overwhelmed by narrative. The recent Sandy Hook tragedy is an excellent example. No one knows exactly why the shooter did what he did, so it is easy to insert your own preferred narrative as the explanation.

miracle-hat_300pxAnother example is the phenomenon of so-called complementary and alternative medicine (CAM). Why has it been increasing in popularity (and is it, really?). Is it slick marketing, relaxed regulations, scientific illiteracy, a gullible media,  or the failures of mainstream medicine? You can probably guess I think it’s all of these things to some degree. The most common narrative I hear by far, however, is the latter – if people are turning to CAM it must be because mainstream medicine has failed them. This version of reality is often promoted by CAM marketing.

The evidence that we have, however, simply does not support this narrative. Studies show that satisfaction with mainstream medicine is not an important factor in deciding to use CAM, that CAM users are generally satisfied with their mainstream care, and they use CAM because it aligns with their philosophy, and they simply want to expand their options.

None of this is to imply that mainstream medicine has no problems or failings – it does. We should, however, be working toward keeping and improving what works and fixing what doesn’t, not discarding science and reason to embrace fantasy as an alternative. This is often the false choice presented by CAM proponents, and is analogous to creationists pointing out alleged weaknesses in the theory of evolution as an argument for creationism as an alternative.

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The Trouble with Conspiracy Theories

By Lee Harris via The American Magazine

Perhaps the problem with conspiracy theorists is not that they have gone too far, but that they haven’t quite gone far enough yet. But, if James Tracy is any indication, they are getting very close.

Samuel Johnson once heatedly remarked to a man he was conversing with in a coffeehouse, “I can give you an argument, but I cannot give you an understanding.” There is no evidence that the great sage made this comment to a conspiracy theorist, but I have often been tempted to repeat it when I am talking to one, especially after I have exhausted every argument I can think of to show the conspiracy theorist the error of his ways.

tin-foil-hat-3Today I would like to offer Johnson’s remark as a word of caution to anyone who has encountered the various conspiracy theories that have cropped up in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. Of these there have been several, but I would like to focus on the theory put forth by James Tracy, a media professor at Florida Atlantic University, who on his website Memory Hole has argued that the massacre in Newtown, Connecticut, did not really happen.

Normally when you hear this kind of thing, you are tempted to argue with the assertion, to adduce evidence to show Tracy, for example, that he is wrong. But if you yield to this temptation, you will quickly find yourself at the same point to which Samuel Johnson was driven. For no matter how many arguments you may give him, you cannot give the conspiracy theorist even an ounce of understanding.

The first obstacle you will encounter in your effort to refute the conspiracy theorist is his maddening habit of sly equivocation. Here’s an example of what I mean: “While it sounds like an outrageous claim,” Tracy writes on his website, “one is left to inquire whether the Sandy Hook shooting ever took place — at least in the way law enforcement authorities and the nation’s news media have described.”

Please note the force of Tracy’s qualifying phrase “at least” and consider how one might apply this caveat to what is among the most uncontested facts in world history, namely, the assassination of Julius Caesar on the Ides of March in the year 44 BC.

FeaturedImageNow the ancient historians have told us that Caesar said to Brutus the famous words “Et tu, Brute?” as his former friend plunged his dagger into Caesar. But suppose the ancient historians got this wrong. It may well be that Caesar did not utter these touching and pathetic words, but something akin to “You dirty bastard! I always thought you were a slimy piece of donkey dung” — except, of course, in Latin. This would be sufficient grounds for asserting that Caesar was not assassinated the way ancient historians have told us — but it doesn’t in the least mean that Caesar didn’t end up lying just as dead beneath the bust of Pompey as the ancient historians all reported him. By the same logic, both the law enforcement authorities and the nation’s media may have gotten many facts and details wrong about the Newtown massacre, but that is hardly reason for concluding that no massacre ever happened.

But there I go talking about logic and reason, which is precisely what the conspiracy theorist wants you to do. Because that is where the conspiracy theorist will trap you. Since this sounds like a bit of a paradox, I had better explain it, and to do this, I will assume the role of Tracy. Ahem.

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The ‘Invisible Artist’, Disappears In His Work (PHOTOS)

If you know me, you know i love optical illusions. Try to find the “invisible artist” – Liu Bolin – in his photos. Enjoy :)

MIB

via The Huffington Post.

Liu Bolin is the “Where’s Waldo” of the art world. But instead of a red skull cap and sweater, the Chinese artist dons his own painted artworks — ready-made disguises that allow the sly chameleon to hide in plain site.

Artist Liu Bolin is hidden in his work.

Bolin has been blending into his surroundings for some time now, disappearing amidst chaotic toy store shelves, grocery produce sections and graffiti walls around the world. This year, the internationally regarded “invisible man” is bringing his photographic illusions to New York City in a solo exhibition at the Eli Klein Fine Art Gallery.

Titled “Lost in Art,” the show will highlight Bolin’s newest photographs, capturing the artist and other cooperative assistants hidden in labyrinths of canned goods and barren rural landscapes. To create the images, the artist spends up to 10 hours on each of his detailed body paintings, obsessing over every crack and crevice of the scenes before snapping a photograph.

What’s the allure of being an invisible man, you ask? “Each one chooses his or her path to come in contact with the external world,” Bolin stated to The Daily Mail. “I chose to merge with the environment.”

Click on any image below to begin viewing the slideshow.

More photos:

Attribution Biases

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

head clouds_250pxHuman behavior can be understood as issuing from “internal” factors or personal characteristics–such as motives, intentions, or personality traits–and from “external” factors–such as the physical or social environment and other factors deemed out of one’s personal control. Self-serving creatures that we are, we tend to attribute our own successes to our intelligence, knowledge, skill, perseverance, and other positive personal traits. Our failures are blamed on bad luck, sabotage by others, a lost lucky charm, and other such things. These attribution biases are referred to as the dispositional attribution bias and the situational attribution bias. They are applied in reverse when we try to explain the actions of others. Others succeed because they’re lucky or have connections and they fail because they’re stupid, wicked, or lazy.

We may tend to attribute the behaviors of others to their intentions because it is cognitively easier to do so. We often have no idea about the situational factors that might influence another person or cause them to do what they do. We can usually easily imagine, however, a personal motive or personality trait that could account for most human actions. We usually have little difficulty in seeing when situational factors are at play in affecting our own behavior. In fact, people tend to over-emphasize the role of the situation in their own behaviors and under-emphasize the role of their own personal motives or personality traits. Social psychologists refer to this tendency as the actor-observer bias.
brains gears_600px
One lesson here is that we should be careful when interpreting the behavior of others. What might appear to be laziness, dishonesty, or stupidity might be better explained by situational factors of which we are ignorant. Another lesson is that we might be giving ourselves more credit for our actions than we deserve. The situation may have driven us more than we admit. Maybe we “just did what anybody would do in that situation” or maybe we were just lucky. We may want to follow the classical Greek maxim “know thyself,” but modern neuroscience has awakened us to the fact that much of our thinking goes on at the unconscious level and we often don’t know what is really motivating us to do what we do or think what we think.

Something similar to the self-serving attribution of positive traits to explain our own behavior and negative traits to explain the behavior of others occurs with regard to beliefs.

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7 people who some think lived beyond their date of death

via The Soap Box

John Wilkes Booth

John_Wilkes_Booth-portraitEveryone knows that John Wilkes Booth assassinated President Lincoln, and that twelve days later on April 26, 1865 he himself was shot and killed by Union soldiers after he refused to leave the barn that he was in that the soldiers had set ablaze, but there are rumors that Booth was not killed that day, and that in fact a look alike had been shot and killed, and that Booth had actually lived even into the early 20th century.

There is of course no proof of this, but many authors and descendants of Booth have suggested that he did escape, and there have been several attempts by the family to exhume his body to be tested for DNA.

Jesse James

174px-Jesse_james_portraitProbably one of the most famous outlaws of the Wild West, Jesse James and his gang robbed a number of banks, stagecoaches, and trains throughout his criminal career, until he was shot in the back of the head in his own house by fellow James Gang member Robert Ford on April 3, 1882 in and attempt to receive the reward on James’s head.

Now despite the fact that he was positively identified, there have been rumors going around even from back then that he faked his death, and that he may have lived under an assumed identity even into the 20th century.

John Dillinger

146px-John_Dillinger_mug_shotOn July 22, 1934 notorious American criminal John Dillinger was shot to death by FBI agents in an alley way in Chicago, but ever since then there have been rumors that he really wasn’t shot to death, and that who really was killed was just someone who just looked like him (perhaps even a payed body double).

The reason behind this is because many people said that he really didn’t look like he was suppose to. Of course there is a reason behind this: he had plastic surgery so that he wouldn’t look like himself (he even tried to get rid of the famous dimple in his chin). The most likely reason behind this is of course so that he could to live as a free man until he died (which in a ironic way is what happened).

Adolf Hitler

Stars_&_Stripes_&_Hitler_Dead2Without a doubt the most evil person in history, on April 30, 1945 Adolf Hitler and his wife Eva Braun killed themselves in an underground bunker in Berlin, Germany. There bodies were removed by Nazi Party loyalist and set on fire so that the Soviet Army couldn’t use them as propaganda pieces.

Despite the fact that the remains were found and that dental records confirm that the remains are that of the mad man, there are many people who believe that he did not commit suicide, and that he actually faked his death, and that he may have even lived past 100.

While most people believe that he escaped to either Spain or Argentina, some of the crazier claims are that he either escaped to Antarctica, or to the Moon, or to the inside of the Earth (which some Hollow Earth believers claim), and even another dimension or time period.

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Phrenology and the Grand Delusion of Experience

Geoffrey Dean via The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry – CSI

In the nineteenth century, phrenology was hugely influential despite being totally invalid. Its history shows why we must be skeptical of any belief based solely on experience.

In the nineteenth century, phrenology was hugely influential despite being totally invalid. Its history shows why we must be skeptical of any belief based solely on experience.

Today, phrenology (“head reading”) is usually seen as the fossilized stuff of cranks and charlatans. But in the nineteenth century it had a huge influence at all levels of Western society, more than all of its later competitors (such as psychoanalysis) put together. It was in­fluential because of its attractive philosophy and because practitioners and clients saw that it worked. But we now know that it could not possibly work; personal experience had led millions of people astray. Indeed, few beliefs can match phrenology for its extent of influence and certainty of invalidity. So it has valuable lessons about any experience-based belief.

Phrenology’s Influence

In the nineteenth century, phrenology affected all levels of Western life and thought. In Britain, Europe, and Amer­ica, its influence was felt in anthropology, criminology, education, medicine, psychiatry, art, and literature. In France, it eroded established power and led to wide social changes. In Australia, it rationalized the violence against Abo­rigines and explained the criminality of convicts. For ordinary people everywhere a head reading was often required for employment or marriage.1 But how could this happen if phrenology was totally invalid? For answers, we need to start at the beginning.

First Steps to Delusion

Around 1790, the German-born anatomist Franz Joseph Gall, one of the founders of modern neurology, put together his skull doctrine that later led to phrenology. He held that behavior such as painting or being careful had their own specialized organs in the brain, and that they influenced the shape of the skull. So the skull’s bumps would indicate behavior and abilities that were innate. Gall spent eleven years examining hundreds of heads to test his ideas: “If … he observed any mechanician, musician, sculptor, draughtsman, mathematician, endowed with such or such faculty from birth, he examined their heads to see whether he might point out a particular development of some cerebral part…. He also called together in his house common people, as coachmen and poor boys, and excited them to make him ac­quainted with their characters” (Spurz­heim 1815, 271).

Gall’s seemingly logical approach had two fatal defects. First, his claims were often based on a single striking case, for example “Cautiousness” was placed above the ears because an extremely cautious priest had a large bump there. Second, Gall looked only for confirmingcases and ignored disconfirming cases, a flaw not lost on his critics. Thus David Skae (1847), a physician at the Royal Edinburgh Asylum, noted that once the truth is “fixed upon our minds,” looking for confirmation is “the most perfect recipe for making a phrenologist that could well be devised.” But to Gall and the thousands of phrenologists who came later, personal experience mattered more than procedural defects. Phren­ology had taken its first giant step on the road to delusion.2 Note that the delusion of experience is not limited to artifacts of reasoning such as the Barnum effect.

How to read heads. For each “brain organ” (whose number and location depends on which book you read) you guess its development (no yardsticks here) and thus its meaning (based on speculation), which you juggle (more speculation) against all the other speculative meanings and the all-important temperament based on external signs such as build and vulgarity (i.e., on even more speculation) to obtain a final assessment of character and destiny. If unsatisfactory, try again. This was phrenology’s secret weapon—it was based on an experience that could never be wrong.

How to read heads. For each “brain organ” (whose number and location depends on which book you read) you guess its development (no yardsticks here) and thus its meaning (based on speculation), which you juggle (more speculation) against all the other speculative meanings and the all-important temperament based on external signs such as build and vulgarity (i.e., on even more speculation) to obtain a final assessment of character and destiny. If unsatisfactory, try again. This was phrenology’s secret weapon—it was based on an experience that could never be wrong.

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Psychic arrested; Didn’t see it coming

via Victorville Daily Press

Cindy Uwanawich

Cindy Uwanawich

CRESTLINE • A psychic was arrested after she allegedly embezzled a large amount of cash from a woman who was plagued by a “spirit,” San Bernardino County Sheriff’s officials said Wednesday.

Cindy Uwanawich, 56, was arrested Friday after the self-proclaimed psychic allegedly didn’t return an undetermined amount of money to a client in December, according to a sheriff ’s press release.

Uwanawich, who operates The Psychic Door on Lake Drive, invited the alleged victim to the psychic’s home on Dec. 17, where the victim paid the psychic $50 for two readings, the release said.

The psychic told the victim that she had the spirit of a person who had drowned attached to her, and if she gave Uwanawich nine pennies, nine nickels, nine dimes, nine quarters and $9,000 for nine days, the spirit would be removed, officials said.

Uwanawich, also known as Cindy McKinney, was booked into the West Valley Detention Center and bail was set at $50,000.

Investigators believe Uwanawich may have victimized other people in a similar fashion. Anyone with additional information is asked to contact Detective Scott Thies at (909) 336-0600.

psychics 1150

Support Your Local Reptoid

What started the conspiracy theory that reptilian beings control our governments?

via Skeptoid.com
Podcast: Read (below) | Listen | Subscribe
Originally posted May 21, 2007

Collect your children and run for cover. Today we’re going to look at the terrifying tale that says a race of tall reptilian beings lives among us, and even runs our government.

The concept of reptilian beings on Earth is a surprisingly widespread conspiracy theory, in which the US government and major public companies are complicit in a vast worldwide network of underground bases housing a large population of humanoid reptilian creatures called Reptoids. They speak English and are involved in every major government and corporate decision. lizardsssssss_b_300px_300pxThey are variously said to either disguise themselves or actually shape-shift into humans, where they have public lives in positions of national importance. Some say the Reptoids are of extraterrestrial origin, and some say they are native to Earth, having developed intelligence before the primates, and have been secretly running things all along.

I first heard of reptilians when planning a trip to Mt. Shasta as a youth. Shasta is one of our fourteeners here in California. As I discovered, it’s also something of a sacred hotbed for a whole range of New Age traditions. It not only has a lot of Native American spiritual history, it also figures prominently for any number of modern pagan religions. Shasta is said to be full of secret caverns, jewel encrusted tunnels, and whole subterranean civilizations peopled with all sorts of exotic races. Most notably, it’s the home of the Lemurians, an ancient race whose original continent called Mu sank and now make their home inside the mountain, in the great five-level city of Telos. Lemurians, who are tall, white-cloaked beings speaking English but with a British accent, employ invisible four-foot-tall beings called Guardians to protect their city. Bigfoots are also said to populate Shasta. Among all this exotic company, Reptoids would hardly be noticed. The story goes that Reptoids use Mt. Shasta as one of the numerous entrances to their huge underground network of bases.

lizard2790348_370Reptoids are said to serve at least one very useful purpose: They are sworn enemies of the gray aliens, and may well serve to be humanity’s last line of defense against this threat. Among the gray aliens’ holdings provided them by the US government is a large underground base at Dulce, New Mexico. Some 18,000 grays are said to reside on level 5 of the base, and they perform terrible genetic experiments on humans on levels 6 and 7. Reptilian beings have been caught trying to acquire information about the Dulce base.

The most outspoken proponent of the conspiracy theory that reptilian beings in disguise are actually running our planet is David Icke, whose book “The Biggest Secret” reveals information like this:

Then there are the experiences of Cathy O’Brien, the mind controlled slave of the United States government for more than 25 years… She was sexually abused as a child and as an adult by a stream of famous people named in her book. Among them were the US Presidents, Gerald Ford, Bill Clinton and, most appallingly, George Bush, a major player in the Brotherhood, as my books and others have long exposed. It was Bush, a pedophile and serial killer, who regularly abused and raped Cathy’s daughter, Kelly O’Brien, as a toddler before her mother’s courageous exposure of these staggering events forced the authorities to remove Kelly from the mind control programme known as Project Monarch.

This is a fair sample of most of Icke’s evidence that reptilian beings have taken over our government. Virtually any statement that Icke makes is easily falsified by minimal research if not simple common sense, but since his is a conspiracy theory, any evidence against it is simply regarded as evidence proving the conspiracy. Don’t laugh: Icke sells a lot of these books. A lot of people believe this stuff.

Where did all of these stories come from? The earliest reference I’ve come across is from a Los Angeles Times news story from January 29, 1934 . . .

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Extra bonus from iLLumiNuTTi.com:

Here is a video you will really enjoy. This is David Icke telling us all about the shapeshifting reptilian human-alien hybrids. He explains who they are, where they came from and how they came to rule the world (spoiler: they fought and defeated another alien race). Give him some kudos though – he explains all this without cracking even the slightest bit of a smile – nothing – completely straight faced. Unbelievable. I thought about adding a laugh track but it really doesn’t need it, this is hysterical as is.

Towards the end there is a bonus clip! David discusses a “real” incident where somebody shapeshifts from human to reptile then back to human!!!!!

Grab the popcorn, put on your tinfoil hat and enjoy!!!! :)

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

Related Video: David Icke: Methods Of A Madman. This is the full version of the above video, jam packed with extra crazy!!

Icke - Remember what you are

Celebrities Endorsing Stupid Things: (like) The Anti-Vaccination Movement

anti-vaccine-propaganda

via Relatively Interesting

My skeptical radar is activated each time I hear a celebrity endorse a product or promote a cause. While generally harmless, celebrities have such large audiences that they have the ability to broadcast their message to a large number of people, and can impact their decisions.

Celebrity endorsements in sports, for example, will take a famous athlete, put their name on a box/bottle, and try to catch the consumer’s eye. For substantial amounts of cash, they will lend their name to a product that they may or may not even use, and which may or may not have some benefit to the consumer.

I am concerned, however, when celebrities endorse and promote something that has an obvious negative impact to an individual or to a group of individuals, and when they claim they know the “truth” or “they are the experts” (as if there is some sort of conspiracy and only they have access to the real information).

Case and point, Jenny McCarthy.

Jenny has sipped the antivax Kool Aid, and now spreads her gospel across any media that will let her. She is a strong believer that autism is a direct result from vaccines. I will not spend any time debunking this myth, as it has been covered in countless articles and science journals, but I will review the common misconception surrounding vaccines, and the impact of these misconceptions.

You can make an argument that vaccines have saved more lives than any other medical discovery (smallpox alone has killed approximately 500 million people, until its vaccine was developed), and research shows no evidence to indicate a link between vaccines and autism. No matter which evidence or advantage is put forward, the antivax movement will not change their opinion (sure, maybe there are some, but the big names, like Jenny, won’t). Dr. Andrew Wakefield’s study on autism and vaccines* has been formally retracted by the Lancet. Surely, this would sway Jenny’s to the rational side? No, Wakefield is being treated as a martyr.

The fact of the matter is, Jenny McCarthy is not helping people. She is jeopardizing the lives of children: vaccinated, and not. When the general population loses herd immunity, then very young kids (babies), who aren’t old enough to take certain vaccines, are at risk.

Phil Plait, says it best on his blog, Bad Astronomy:

“If you think Jenny McCarthy, Jim Carrey, and the rest of the ignorant antiscience antivax people are right, then read this story. I dare you. David McCaffery writes about his daughter, Dana, who was four weeks old when she died. Too young to get vaccinated herself, she contracted whooping cough because vaccination rates in that part of Australia are too low to provide herd immunity. This poor little girl died in her father’s arms, and the blame rests squarely on the antivaccination movement.”

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*Wakefield’s Delusions

via Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield (Quack)

Andrew Jeremy Wakefield (Quack)

Andrew Wakefield’s delusions have expanded to the point where he will go down as one of the most notorious cranks in medical history. In a rambling interview with the illustrious Mike Adams of NaturalNews, Wakefield says all the great thinkers of medical history are ignored in their lifetime. Many are eventually recognized for their brilliance, but some (and I suspect Wakefield is one of these) are never recognized.

Wakefield, as you may remember, first made a name for himself at a press conference prior to the publication of what should have been a widely ignored article on an observational study of twelve children involving a possible connection between bowel disorders and developmental disorders. The paper had nothing to do with vaccine safety. At the press conference on 26 February 1998 to promote the paper (published 28 February 1998), Wakefield shocked his colleagues by using the occasion to suggest that the MMR vaccine, in use in the United States since the early 1970s and in Great Britain for a decade, could be responsible for the rising rates of autism. He speculated about “some children” having especially sensitive immune systems that made them unable to handle the three vaccines at once. He made further speculations about autism and asserted that he could no longer “support the continued use of the three vaccines given together.” We now know that he was hoping to cash in on a patent for a single shot measles vaccine. He was then, and continues now, to just make stuff up.

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Many people believe that childhood MMR (measles, mumps and rubella) vaccinations are linked to childhood autism, and that the link was covered up by the government and medical establishment. The vaccine-autism link claim was originally made by Dr. Andrew Wakefield and published in a small 1998 case report. The British General Medical Council found he had acted unethically in his research, and his paper, which was championed by celebrities including Jenny McCarthy, was retracted. The vaccine-autism link has been completely discredited in follow-up studies and research.

By Benjamin Radford – Medical Myths: When Urban Legends Kill

Vaccines and Autism Timeline: How the Truth Unfolded (courtesy My Health News)

Your Dream World

Don’t go through life unaware you are
projecting the inner world onto the outer.

by William Berry via Psychology Today

This article isn’t about dream interpretation, though the analogy is apt. The post is about how projection, which is a staple in dreaming, occurs in waking life and affects what you see. It is about no longer walking through life in a dream like state, and taking the time to delve inside of yourself, and to interpret your life.

medium 840_250pxIn Gestalt dream analysis, everything in the dream is you. Other theories, though not outright stating everything in the dream is subjective, recognize that projection is apparent. After all, it is your mind creating the images, not an actual person invading your dream. Your unconscious projects an image. The real meaning of the image lies within you, not outside in another.

Dream interpretation is very interesting, and can provide clues to the unconscious. The purpose of this post is to discuss how the waking hours can do the same. There are aspects of reality we all agree upon: the weather; who won which bowl game; there is little about these aspects of reality anyone will argue. There is a great deal of room in daily interactions and activities, however, for one to have their own truth, their own perception of reality. In fact, it could be contended that the vast majority of occurrences in a day have a large element of projection.

Projection is when an individual attributes something within him or herself onto another. Basically, you see what you are. This is not new, there are numerous quotes that impart this meaning: Anaïs Nin stated, “We don’t see things as they are, we see them as we are.” Henry David Thoreau proclaimed, “It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” Carl Jung said, “Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” These quotes, and likely many others, point to the theory that humans project their unconscious onto others. Simply, what one finds in the world is a reflection of one’s unconscious.

Who Are YouThe idea that one is projecting much of what he or she perceives maybe difficult to accept. People rely on their thinking beyond reproach. This is understandable; one has more access to his or her thoughts than any other material. One’s thinking has likely served him well. The thought of not relying on thinking could be terrifying. However, the alternative is to walk through a dream world never interpreted.

In previous posts I have touched on the theme of subjective reality. One of my more popular posts is “The Truth Will Not Set You Free.” The suggestion is similar here: question thinking. Evaluate it. Step outside of thought, look at it objectively and with an inquisitive mind, and evaluate it. Could all of these learned and insightful people, some of whom developed theories around projection, others who use the theories to assist others to increase happiness, have been wrong? Isn’t it possible or perhaps likely that what one sees is affected by their unconscious, by their experience, by their history? As such, how is projection affecting your vision?

To approach this differently, it is not being suggested that one simply cease having confidance in every thought and question everything. Nothing would get done. Automatic thinking serves the human race well. It helps discern between dangerous and benign situations. It allows for much more productivity. It eases living immensely. To be without it would be to become infantile.

Always functioning and trusting thinking, nevertheless, has its costs.

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‘UFO’ Streaks Over California!!!!!

All the quack sites have picked up on this UFO video posted on YouTube January 22, 2013:

What is it? Aliens? Annunaki? The end of the world? Another government conspiracy?

Click here to get the answer to this mystery (MetaBunk discussion).

Watergate and Iran-Contra: Two conspiracies that help disprove conspiracies theories

via The Soap Box

conspiracies02Watergate and Iran-Contra. They were perhaps two of the biggest conspiracies to come out of the later half of the 20th century, and because they are so well known many conspiracy theorists often times cite these two proven conspiracies in an attempt to prove that the government conspiracy theories that they believe in are real, or at the very least show that the government is capable of covering up a conspiracy.

While Watergate and Iran-Contra are in fact two very good examples that shows that high ranking officials in the government are capable of criminal conspiracies, the reality is that it does not prove that the government is capable of covering up a conspiracy so well that no one knows about and/or no one can find any evidence that actually proves that the conspiracy is real. If anything, it proves the exact opposite, because of:

1. These two conspiracies have been proven in courts of law.

2. People went to prison because of their involvement in these conspiracies, and one presidency ended, while another was tarnished (in fact 70 people were convicted as a result of the Watergate scandal).

3. These two conspiracies involved a lot less people then many of the unproven and/or disproved (and much larger) government conspiracy theories that are being floated around, and still got found out.

4. The evidence of these conspiracies were exposed by people who were apart of the conspiracy, or worked for the government and managed to get a hold of documents proving the existence of these conspiracies.

Now there are some real and proven conspiracies that are often also cited by conspiracy theorists that are a little bit better examples to cite in terms of government cover-ups . . . more . . .

I just bought this book. I look forward to reading about all the crazy. – MIB

Anderson Cooper 360

Author Lawrence Wright talks about “Going Clear,” which explores the secret operations inside the Church of Scientology.

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Image Forensics Techniques

As an experienced user of Adobe Photoshop, Final Cut Pro and video special effects software, i am well aware of how images and videos can be manipulated with just a few clicks of the computer keyboard.

With such software and computing power in the hands of an ever increasing number of people, it’s becoming increasingly more difficult for skeptics like myself to know with certainty if an image or a video is real or fake.

Fortunately for us skeptics there are companies like Fourandsix Technologies who specialize in image authenitcation and forensics. Even more fortunate for us skeptics is the willingness of Fourandsix Technologies to share some of their forensic secrets*.

For example, how can you use shadows or reflections to check the validity of an image? Keep reading and check it out. I think you’ll enjoy this.

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

Photo forensics from shadows

Shown below are two images in which the bottle and its cast shadow are slightly different (the rest of the scene is identical). Can you tell which shadow is consistent with the lighting in the rest of the scene?

shadow2
shadow3

Think you know the answer? Click here to find out how to analyze these shadows.

Photo forensics from reflections

Shown below … are two images of the same basic scene. The reflection of the table and garbage can are slightly different (everything else is the same) Can you tell which is correct?

reflection2
reflection1

Click here to find out how to analyze these reflections.

*If you enjoyed these two examples i encourage you to visit the mother load of image forensics techniques used by Fourandsix Technologies. Fascinating stuff.

Where are the 2012 Doomers?

Fleeing Nergal, Seeking Stars

As you may have noticed, last December was not the last month of life on Earth, nor was there some great transformation or spiritual awakening. We still have politicians, right? So I had my fun pointing this out on the alleged moment the end was supposed to come.

Now it has been nearly a month since the lack-of-doom date, and usually there are excuses for why the end did not happen. So I tried to look around the Internet, especially at the recognized websites that promoted the 2012 Apocalypse, such as December212012, 2012Apocalypse.net, and 2012Apocalypse.info. It looks like there is no updates at all since the winter solstice, at least as of now when I am writing this. My searches on Google also didn’t come up with anything much, though there may be something buried in some forum somewhere.

I’m actually surprised by the lack of reaction…

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The 12 cognitive biases that prevent you from being rational

By George Dvorsky viA io9.com

The human brain is capable of 1016 processes per second, which makes it far more powerful than any computer currently in existence. But that doesn’t mean our brains don’t have major limitations. The lowly calculator can do math thousands of times better than we can, and our memories are often less than useless — plus, we’re subject to cognitive biases, those annoying glitches in our thinking that cause us to make questionable decisions and reach erroneous conclusions. Here are a dozen of the most common and pernicious cognitive biases that you need to know about.

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Before we start, it’s important to distinguish between cognitive biases and logical fallacies. A logical fallacy is an error in logical argumentation (e.g. ad hominem attacks, slippery slopes, circular arguments, appeal to force, etc.). A cognitive bias, on the other hand, is a genuine deficiency or limitation in our thinking — a flaw in judgment that arises from errors of memory, social attribution, and miscalculations (such as statistical errors or a false sense of probability).

Some social psychologists believe our cognitive biases help us process information more efficiently, especially in dangerous situations. Still, they lead us to make grave mistakes. We may be prone to such errors in judgment, but at least we can be aware of them. Here are some important ones to keep in mind.

Confirmation Bias

ConfirmationBias2We love to agree with people who agree with us. It’s why we only visit websites that express our political opinions, and why we mostly hang around people who hold similar views and tastes. We tend to be put off by individuals, groups, and news sources that make us feel uncomfortable or insecure about our views — what the behavioral psychologist B. F. Skinner called cognitive dissonance. It’s this preferential mode of behavior that leads to the confirmation bias — the often unconscious act of referencing only those perspectives that fuel our pre-existing views, while at the same time ignoring or dismissing opinions — no matter how valid — that threaten our world view. And paradoxically, the internet has only made this tendency even worse.

Ingroup Bias

medium_250pxSomewhat similar to the confirmation bias is the ingroup bias, a manifestation of our innate tribalistic tendencies. And strangely, much of this effect may have to do with oxytocin — the so-called “love molecule.” This neurotransmitter, while helping us to forge tighter bonds with people in our ingroup, performs the exact opposite function for those on the outside — it makes us suspicious, fearful, and even disdainful of others. Ultimately, the ingroup bias causes us to overestimate the abilities and value of our immediate group at the expense of people we don’t really know.

Gambler’s Fallacy

medium-1_250pxIt’s called a fallacy, but it’s more a glitch in our thinking. We tend to put a tremendous amount of weight on previous events, believing that they’ll somehow influence future outcomes. The classic example is coin-tossing. After flipping heads, say, five consecutive times, our inclination is to predict an increase in likelihood that the next coin toss will be tails — that the odds must certainly be in the favor of heads. But in reality, the odds are still 50/50. As statisticians say, the outcomes in different tosses are statistically independent and the probability of any outcome is still 50%.

Relatedly, there’s also the positive expectation bias — which often fuels gambling addictions. It’s the sense that our luck has to eventually change and that good fortune is on the way. It also contribues to the “hot hand” misconception. Similarly, it’s the same feeling we get when we start a new relationship that leads us to believe it will be better than the last one.

Post-Purchase Rationalization

Remember that time you bought something totally unnecessary, faulty, or overly expense, and then you rationalized the purchase to such an extent that you convinced yourself it was a great idea all along? Yeah, that’s post-purchase rationalization in action — a kind of built-in mechanism that makes us feel better after we make crappy decisions, especially at the cash register. Also known as Buyer’s Stockholm Syndrome, it’s a way of subconsciously justifying our purchases — especially expensive ones. Social psychologists say it stems from the principle of commitment, our psychological desire to stay consistent and avoid a state of cognitive dissonance.

Neglecting Probability

medium-2_250pxVery few of us have a problem getting into a car and going for a drive, but many of us experience great trepidation about stepping inside an airplane and flying at 35,000 feet. Flying, quite obviously, is a wholly unnatural and seemingly hazardous activity. Yet virtually all of us know and acknowledge the fact that the probability of dying in an auto accident is significantly greater than getting killed in a plane crash — but our brains won’t release us from this crystal clear logic (statistically, we have a 1 in 84 chance of dying in a vehicular accident, as compared to a 1 in 5,000 chance of dying in an plane crash [other sources indicate odds as high as 1 in 20,000]). It’s the same phenomenon that makes us worry about getting killed in an act of terrorism as opposed to something far more probable, like falling down the stairs or accidental poisoning.

This is what the social psychologist Cass Sunstein calls probability neglect — our inability to properly grasp a proper sense of peril and risk — which often leads us to overstate the risks of relatively harmless activities, while forcing us to overrate more dangerous ones.

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Uri Geller

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

“If Uri Geller bends spoons with divine powers, then he’s doing it the hard way.”James Randi

“Because a good magician can do something shouldn’t make you right away jump to the conclusion that it’s a real phenomenon.” —Richard Feynman

“Geller is at his ingenious best in laboratories where he is being observed by scientists who believe he has extraordinary ESP ability and think—without justification—that they have ruled out every possibility of fraud.” —Milbourne Christopher

geller

Click Image To Purchase

Uri Geller is most famous for his claim to be able to bend spoons and keys with his mind. An international star in the psychic circuit, Geller is a Hungarian/Austrian who was born in Israel and lives in England. He claims he’s had visions for many years and may get his powers from extraterrestrials. He calls himself a psychic and has sued several people for millions of dollars for saying otherwise. His psychic powers were not sufficient to reveal to him, however, that he would lose all the lawsuits against his critics. His arch critic has been James “The Amazing” Randi, who has written a book and numerous articles aimed at demonstrating that Geller is a fraud, that he has no psychic powers, and that what Geller does amounts to no more than the parlor tricks of a conjurer.

Geller has been performing for many years. The first time I saw him was in 1973 when he appeared on the Johnny Carson Tonight Show. He was supposed to demonstrate his ability to bend spoons with his thoughts and identify hidden objects, but he failed to even try. He squirmed around and said something about how his power can’t be turned on and off, and that he didn’t feel strong right then. Randi had worked with Carson’s producer to change the spoons and metal items Geller planned to use, as there was a suspicion that Geller likes to work (i.e., soften) his metals before his demonstrations, as would any careful conjurer.

View Geller’s Tonight Show lack of performance (courtesy of James Randi):


(video source)

I have always been fascinated and puzzled by the attraction of Uri Geller. I suppose this is because nearly every one of our household spoons is bent and what I would like to see is someone who can straighten them, with his mind or with anything for that matter. Likewise with stopped watches. I have several of those and I would love for someone to use his powers, psychic or otherwise, to make them start running again. Of course, even I can get my stopped watches to run again for a short while by shaking or tapping them, but a permanent fix would be appreciated. There is something mysterious, however, about a person who has built a career out of breaking things.

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The Lurking Pornographer: Why Your Brain Turns Bubbles Into Nude Bodies

I love anything having to do with how the brain works. Fascinating stuff!!! Enjoy!!! :)

by Kyle Hil via randi.org

There is a pornographer lurking in some corner of your mind. He peeks out from behind the curtains of your consciousness without warning, and almost never at an acceptable time.

The lurking pornographer in your brain is ever vigilant, looking for patterns, for signs of nudity, and sometimes generating them out of nowhere. He is exceedingly good at what he does, and isn’t afraid to prove his power over your perception. Just like that, he can take a picture of Daniel Craig in a bathing suit and turn it obscene.

Craig_Bubble

If anything, Craig is more covered than he was before, but still he must be nude in the new picture, or so the pornographer would have you believe. The pornographer is sly. He takes advantage in the slightest slip in shapes and curves to insert his nudity. One of his favorite techniques is called “bubbling,” a technique that reveals how our brains actually “see.”.

Breasts and Blind Spots

Stifled by the pornography-restricting tenets of his religion, a young Mormon took to Photoshop, or so the story goes. His attempt to fool God and circumvent his law resulted in “bubbling,” a trick clever enough that how it works hasn’t yet been answered.

You eye doesn’t see everything. Right now, there are innumerable photons hitting the photoreceptors all over your retina, except in the place where your optic nerve connects to it. This area is your blind spot, and it should show up as a rather large black dot in your vision, but it doesn’t. Why not?

As your brain matures, it learns from the world. Neuronal connections are formed and broken in accordance with the deluge of information your brain receives. Over time, your brain becomes adept at predicting the world, so much so that much of our conscious lives are spent only noticing when things aren’t going as predicted. For example, there was probably a time when you got out of the car and realized you have almost no recollection of the drive you just took. It seemed automatic because it was. Consciousness didn’t need to intrude during something so routine, so it didn’t. However, introduce a near-collision into your daily commute, and consciousness quickly steps up to handle the situation.

Based on all the shapes and colors and lines and lighting schemes that your brain has encountered, your cognition makes predictions about how things will look. The surprising part is that this “software” is even good enough to fill in areas that we in fact cannot see. There is no better example of this than the blind spot test.

Blind_Spot_Test

Cover or close your right eye and look at the cross with your left eye. Move closer and closer to the screen (likely ~12 inches away) until you see the dot on the left disappear. This is your blind spot. This is where you aren’t getting any optical information, but merely the dot vanishes, not the world. No matter the background nor the pattern nor the shape, your brain will fill in the blind spot with what it sees around it, in this case the white screen. To prove to yourself how good the brain is at filling in the world, try this test involving multiple versions of the blind spot test.

The Easiest Assumption is Genitalia 

The pornographer lurking in your brain has been especially aware of human nudity since your birth. A likely outcropping of evolutionary pressure on reproduction, he looks for the body parts we try to cover up at every turn. He is familiar with nudity, but not with swimsuits.

Like how the brain fills in the background in the blind spot test, your brain makes a prediction about what is behind the bubbling when all it can see is bare skin. To the brain, a continuation of bare skin is more likely than one of the infinite variations of bathing suit. Moreover, the unconscious isn’t nearly as bound by social convention—given the choice between a naked human and a clothed one, the assumption goes the pornographer’s way.

Womens_Bubble

Bubbling gets its name from the clever use of circles to obscure people’s clothing in photos. But the technique isn’t as clever as you may think. Any way to cover all of the clothing on a person’s body while leaving the bare skin should produce a similar assumption of nudity. For example, comedy shows regularly blur out the genital regions of actors who aren’t actually naked, still producing the illusion. A black “censored” bar over the suit of Daniel Craig above would still seem risqué.

You can’t control your blind spot, and neither can you control the lurking pornographer. He is cemented in your subconscious, laboring away at any pattern or shape that could be construed as indecent. But he is only one of many pattern-seekers. He sees genitals, but others see faces.

So, don’t feel bad about where your mind goes, it’s just a product of a predicting and pattern-seeking brain. We fill in the blanks all the time, but sometimes it’s dirty.

Images (along with some other “rude” illusions) from Richard Wiseman’s blog.

Kyle Hill is the JREF research fellow specializing in communication research and human information processing. He writes daily at the Science-Based Life blog and you can follow him on Twitter.

Reiki

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

reiki_300pxReiki (pronounced ray-key) is a form of energy healing that centers on the manipulation of ki, the Japanese version of chiRei means spirit in Japanese, so reiki literally means spirit life force.

Like their counterparts in traditional Chinese medicine who useacupuncture, as well as their counterparts in the West who usetherapeutic touch (TT), the practitioners of reiki believe that health and disease are a matter of the life force being disrupted. Belief in a life force, known as vitalism, was common in the West until the 19th century. Since then, the concept of life force has joined phlogiston, ether, and many other superannuated ideas on the rubbish heap of discarded scientific notions.

The belief in vitalism is still strong in China, India (where the life force is called prana), Africa (animism), and Japan  Each believes that the universe is full of some sort of vital energy that cannot be detected by any scientific instruments, but which can be felt and controlled, often by special people who learn the tricks of the trade.

reiki-cat 1104Reiki healers differ from acupuncturists in that they do not try tounblock a person’s ki, but to channel the ki of the universe so that the client or patient heals. The channeling is done with the hands, and like TT no physical massaging is necessary since ki flows through the body of the healer into the patient. The reiki master claims to be able to draw upon the energy of the universe and increase his or her own energy while performing a healing. Reiki healers claim to channel ki into ill or injured individuals for “rebalancing.” Depending on the training and beliefs of the healer, reiki is used to treat a wide array of ailments. Larry Arnold and Sandra Nevins claim in The Reiki Handbook (1992) that reiki is useful for treating brain damage, cancer, diabetes, and venereal diseases. Many reiki healers are more modest and treat lesser problems such as fatigue or muscle soreness. I was once treated by a reiki practitioner for a wrist injury. The treatment didn’t work because I was a non-believer, or so I was told. If the healing fails—and it will inevitably fail for such things as cancer—it is because the patient is resisting the healing energy. Non-belief is one of the great blocks to healing energy. There is a reason for that, which we will explore below.

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Why does the moon look bigger on the horizon?

via Relatively Interesting

wpid-Moon-Illusion-Photo-Elias-Chasiotis_300pxWhen you look up at the evening sky as the moon begins to rise above the horizon, it seems to swell and then retract as it goes higher in the sky. This effect, where the moon looks bigger along the horizon, is known as the “moon illusion”. It’s not only limited to the moon – it can also be seen as the sun rises as sets. You can dispel the illusion by covering one eye or using a telescope. Humans’ binocular vision is only part of the reason behind the disparity in size. Not convinced? You can also hold a coin or another object up to the moon as it travels through the sky to provide a point of reference to see that the moon remains the same size despite its appearance.

How does the moon illusion work?

The true cause of the moon illusion is a mystery to scientists, both ancient and modern. The strange thing? The moon is actually roughly 1.5% smaller when it is near the horizon than when it is high in the sky, because it is farther away by up to one Earth radius.

One theory hypothesizes that the illusion occurs because when the moon or sun are along the horizon, your brain has more objects to use as a reference, thus allowing it to compare against size and distance. When you have the skyline with trees, buildings, and other objects, your brain tends to interpret the moon as larger than those objects. However, when the moon is far above the horizon, your brain has fewer objects to use as a reference to compare to the size of the moon. Therefore, when the moon is in the empty sky, it appears smaller.

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The Ponzo Illusion: how to trick your brain

Ponzo_illusionPart of the reason your brain has such a hard time interpreting the size of the moon in the sky is because the moon’s size does not change as it goes across the sky. Other objects in the world around you (that are not in the sky) appear to be smaller as they move closer to you and gain size as they move farther away. This expectation is physiologically imprinted in your brain. Optical illusions that you may have seen where you compare the size of two lines or circles, such as the Ponzo Illusion, illustrate your brain’s ability to trick itself based on the sizes of objects. Note that in the Ponzo illusion, due to the converging lines, the image that is “further” appears to be larger – even though it is the same size as its foreground version.

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Dead Wrong: Travel Channel’s The Dead Files

by Dr. Karen Stollznow via randi.org

dead-files_250pxA fellow Twitter user recently asked me for my impressions of the The Dead Files. The Travel Channel show first aired back in September, 2011, and is now into its third season. Here is the network’s glowing blurb:

The Dead Files team approaches every case from their two specific areas of expertise: Steve DiSchiavi is a Homicide Detective and Amy Allan is a Physical Medium. They are a paranormal team like no other, combining their unique, eclectic and often-conflicting skills to solve unexplained paranormal phenomena in haunted locations across America.

Across the internet viewers rave that The Dead Files isn’t like other ghost hunting shows in that they don’t use EMF readers or record EVPs. Of course, this show is more comparable to The Long Island Medium in that regard, and showcases Amy’s alleged skills as a psychic medium, sensitive and empath. Her bio claims that, “Her abilities have been studied and tested by leading parapsychologists.” She claims to have been “mentored” by the late William Roll, a parapsychologist and big believer in mediumship. Amy appears to hold a BA in psychology and other qualifications in business. However, she was working as a massage therapist in Denver before she got her TV gig.

Her bio also states that she has “worked with many private investigators and police agencies.” There is no proof offered to back up these claims. As we know, there are very few documented cases where psychics have assisted law enforcement agencies and ever fewer where the police thought they were of any use. Even then, their help is never proven to be psychic. A Denver cold case detective once said to local investigators Bryan & Baxter, “I wish we had a phone line that was specifically for psychics to call and leave their tips; and then we’d never answer it.” He added, “If someone contacted us with information that led us to a body then that person would become a suspect.”

dead-files-travel-channel_250pxIn The Dead Files, Amy and Steve travel to a “haunted” location and conduct an investigation – independently. “Each investigator’s methods and findings remain hidden from the other team member to preserve the integrity of their findings.” Before Amy visits the premises, cameraman Matthew Anderson performs a “cleaning” of the premises to remove any pieces of “leading information” that could influence Amy’s reading. Of course, removing photographs and collectibles doesn’t prevent a cold reader from gleaning information. In every episode I spotted overlooked clues, including a cross on the wall. At any rate, she is there because the place is allegedly haunted, and not to read the occupants, as such. Each place is invariably found to be “haunted”.

Amy does a walk through of the premises and Matthew films her commentary. In every episode I have watched she asserts immediately, “There’s something here”. Her repertoire of “feelings” is recycled, and in every show she claims to experience a “choking sensation”, and reports the presence of “shadow figures” and “demons” lurking everywhere. Her melodramatic visions are of typical situations that underpin alleged “hauntings”, including physical abuse, family arguments, illness and death. Amy ends the investigations by having a sketch artist draw a picture of one of the “ghosts” she saw on the premises. Alternatively, she draws an image of something she saw or felt.

All in all, Amy is a cold reader.

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My Hollow Earth Theory

by Crispian Jago via Science, Reason and Critical Thinking

You wouldn’t believe (I hope), the amount of folks there are living in the centre of the earth. Over the centuries numerous fallacious philosophies have surmised that our supposedly hollow planet is the purported domicile for numerous races, fallen angles, dammed souls, droll aliens and even spiritually enlightened super-beings.

United Under Nations

Early Christian theology of course affirmed that the head quarters of its arch nemesis is located deep beneath our feet in a damnable netherworld. But Old Nick and his painstakingly harvested souls don’t have this warm and cosy little domain all to themselves.

Indeed, Christianity was not the first ideology to locate its torturous purgatory deep underground. Greek, Nordic and Jewish creeds had already bagged the underworld as the preferred site for their very own Hades, Svartalfheim and Sheol.

Furthermore, following the somewhat misfortunate day and night that saw the sinking of Atlantis, the descendants of this soggy Utopian society also allegedly opted to relocate to these popular subterranean climes.

The already bustling underground kingdom is also famously home to the Agarthans. A race of technically and spiritually advanced immortals who occasionally like to pop up to the surface for a day trip in their nice shimmering UFO’s.

hollow_earth_300pxIt’s quite clearly a lively old place down there. One recent visitor to the inner earth, Richard Shaver, claimed he had a very nice stay with a bunch of giant people called the Elder Race. The Elder race apparently relocated to Earth from another solar system a long time ago, but found it a little too balmy on the surface for their liking. They therefore created a brave new underground world for themselves. Despite their nice new subterrestrial domain, most of the Elders got a bit bored and eventually buggered off to find themselves another planet to occupy. But being a bit of a mischievous lot, before setting off to the next planet, the Elders left behind some evil robot-like descendants called the Deros, with the express purpose of annoying the hell out of the people on the surface.

During the Nazi heyday the Thule Society were ostensibly keen to find the opening to the underworld. Convinced the entrance lay close to one of the Earth’s poles, they dispatched a fleet of submarines post haste to the Baltic island of Rügen to scout out the front door. Many even believed that rather than perishing in a bunker, the Führer himself, accompanied by his super best Third Reich buddies, legged it to the South Pole and scampered down to the underground realm in search of refuge. Indeed, a collaboration between the astute Agarthans and the renegade Jerrys could go a long way into explaining the later generations of efficient and popular well screwed together UFO’s.

MORE . . .

Snopes.com: Sandy Hook Hoax Video

Snopes.com crushes the Sandy Hook conspiracy theory. It’s a great read. There is a video associated with this snopes article which i will not embed on iLLumiNuTTi – i don’t wish to give these vile conspiracist nut jobs any more attention. I will, however, post a link to the video if you choose to watch.

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

Sandy Hook Hoax Video

via Snopes.com: Sandy Hook Hoax Video

Claim:   Video documents that the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School were a staged hoax.


redDot FALSE

Example:   [Collected via e-mail, January 2013]

• I’m seeing facebook postings regarding a conspiracy that either the Sandy Hook massacre didn’t happen and the people we see being interviewed are “crisis actors” hired to play the role of parents, etc., or it did happen but was the work of the government who used Lanza to carry out the massacre. The purpose was to move the anti-gun movement forward.

Origins:   A video widely circulated after the 14 December 2012 shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut, which left 26 victims dead at that school purported to show many contradictions in facts surrounding the Sandy Hook shootings which established that the incident was a staged “hoax.” The information presented in that video was a mixture of misinformation, innuendo, and subjective interpretation, such as the following:

    • In the immediate aftermath of the terror and tragedy of the Sandy Hook shootings, there was naturally a great deal of confusion among witnesses, police, and the news media about subjects such as the number of shooters involved, the identities of those involved, and the number of guns used. It’s hardly surprising or revelatory to note that some witnesses gave contradictory statements, that police initially followed up on the possibility of multiple shooters, or that some news outlets initially reported inaccurate information. All of this is typical in the crush for information from the news media, public, and relatives of victims that follows in the wake of disasters involving large numbers of deaths.
    • In their initial sweep of the crime scene, police detained or investigated some people who were soon cleared of any involvement with the shootings:

        • According to the Newtown Bee, a “reliable local law enforcement source” told them that a man with a gun who was spotted in the woods near the school on the day of the incident was an “off-duty tactical squad police officer from another town.”

        • Chris Manfredonia, whose 6-year-old daughter attends Sandy Hook, was briefly handcuffed by police after he ran around the school trying to reach his daughter (who had been locked in a room with her teacher).

        • An unidentified man whom some children reported seeing pinned down on the ground in handcuffs outside a nearby firehouse was also briefly detained and then released when police determined he was merely an innocent passerby.

      • Contrary to claims, Christopher Rodia (not to be confused with Chris Manfredonia), whose name can be heard on a recording of a police radio transmission reporting the license plate of a “possible suspect vehicle” parked at Sandy Hook Elementary (because he was being pulled over in a traffic stop elsewhere), was not a suspect in the shootings nor was he the registered owner of the car that accused shooter Adam Lanza drove to the school. The black Honda that police impounded at the scene belonged to a relative of Adam Lanza’s and not to Rodia. Chris Rodia himself was not at Sandy Hook Elementary when the shootings took place; he was driving a different vehicle in another town at the time.

      The fact that press coverage of these people was soon dropped is not evidence of the news media’s compliance in a suppression of information about the involvement of multiple shooters; these persons were all quickly cleared of any wrongdoing and were therefore peripheral to much larger stories about the Sandy Hook tragedy. As Connecticut State Police spokesperson Lt. Paul Vance stated, “Were there other people detained? The answer is yes. In the height of battle, until you’ve determined who, what, when, where and why of everyone in existence … that’s not unusual.”

    • The seeming contradiction over how Adam Lanza could have used a Bushmaster version AR-15 rifle in the shootings when that same weapon was supposedly found locked in the trunk of his car afterwards was cleared up a few days later. The weapon found in the trunk of Lanza’s car was a shotgun, not an AR-15:

      Adam Lanza brought three weapons inside Sandy Hook Elementary school on December 14 and left a fourth in his car, police said. Those weapons were a Bushmaster AR-15 rifle and two handguns — a Glock 10 mm and a Sig Sauer 9 mm. In the car he left a shotgun …

      The medical examiner was therefore correct, not mistaken, when he stated that the rifle was the primary weapon used in the shootings.

    • The video questions whether “frantic kids [wouldn’t] be a difficult target to hit” and suggests that a “20 year old autistic psyco [sic] with no gun history” would be unlikely to hit so many targets 3 to11 times each. Such a statement is mind-bogglingly inane: Adam Lanza was not picking off comprehending adults who had free range of action to escape his onslaught; he was using a semi-automatic rifle to shoot at terrified schoolchildren who were trapped in small, enclosed spaces and had little or no understanding of what was taking place.
    • The answer to the question arising from the initial misidentification of Adam Lanza as his brother Ryan, about how Adam Lanza “could possibly have Ryan’s valid ID if he has not seen him in years?” is a simple one, provided by Ryan Lanza himself: “Ryan told police that his brother … might have had his ID even though they had not seen each other in two years.” Ryan had last seen his brother in 2010, and many forms of ID are valid for two years or more. (And nothing says the ID in Adam Lanza’s possession had to be “valid”: even expired ID found on a person is generally assumed to belong to that person until proved otherwise, unless the ID is immediately ruled out due to an obvious mismatch with the characteristics of a photograph or physical description.)
    • One of several erroneous pieces of information promulgated in early reporting on the Sandy Hook tragedy was the claim that Adam Lanza’s mother Nancy was a kindergarten teacher at that school. By the following day, most major news outlets were correctly reporting that Nancy Lanza did not have any connection to Sandy Hook Elementary School.Sarah (Sally) Cox, the Sandy Hook school nurse whom USA Today mistakenly reported as saying that Nancy Lanza was a “very caring, experienced kindergarten teacher” is in fact a real person who gave numerous interviews about what she experienced during the shootings. A search run on the Connecticut state eLicensing web site using her given name of Sarah Cox (rather than “Sally Cox,” as shown in the video) confirms that she is indeed a registered nurse in the state of Connecticut.
      • Out of all the interviews and public statements made by parents, relatives, friends, and classmates of Sandy Hook victims, the video plucks two brief snippets of Robbie Parker (father of slain 6-year-old Emilie Parker) and Lynn McDonnell (mother of slain 7-year-old Grace McDonnell) smiling and laughing in conjunction with television appearances in which they spoke about their children, offering this as evidence that a hoax is being perpetrated by people who are merely pretending to be grieving parents. But parents who have lost children don’t all walk around afterwards utterly glum and disconsolate, never allowing themselves to exhibit any emotion other than sadness. Either of them might have been laughing and smiling during or immediately prior to talking about their children for any number of reasons: because they were reacting to something funny, because they were expressing nervous anxiety about facing a national television audience, or because they were recalling fond memories of their deceased children.Indeed, the audio from the portion of Lynn McDonnell’s interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper which was used in this conspiracy video is conveniently muted so that viewers can’t see for themselves exactly why she was smiling — because she was remembering what a terrific, happy child her daughter was, and how much she loved her:

        COOPER: What do you want people to know about Grace?

        LYNN MCDONNELL: Well, Grace had such a great spirit. She was a kind and gentle soul. And she was just the light and love of our family. She was just truly a special, special little girl that we loved, and she loved her brother so much. And she loved her school, Sandy Hook.

        In fact, this week, I was telling somebody she had a stomach ache one day, and I said to her, “Why don’t you stay home with Mom?”

        And she said, “No way, I have too much fun there, and I don’t want to miss anything.” She would skip to get on the bus. It wasn’t even — you know, every morning, it was the backpack was packed the night before and ready to get on the bus in the morning and head off to school. We would blow kisses every morning to each other.

        And I remember that morning putting her on the bus. She had a habit of blowing kisses, but then she’d give me a big little liver lips like this. But then she — I knew she was so happy to go off and get there.

        So it — I’d like to say that she was at a place that she loved, and so we take comfort in that, that we know she was in a place that she really loved.

    • Gene Rosen, the man who sheltered in his home six children who escaped from the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, did not, as claimed by the video, take in a group of kids whom a bus driver unquestioningly left with a stranger and then keep custody of them for half an hour without contacting anyone or ascertaining what had happened to them. Rosen and the bus driver both stayed with the children at Rosen’s house, elicited from them what had taken place at the school (a process which took some time because the children were initially reticent to talk about what they had witnessed), obtained and called emergency contact numbers to reach their parents, and took them to authorities at a nearby fire station:

KEEP READING . . .

Even Jesse Ventura Doesn’t Buy The Sandy Hook Conspiracy Theory

You know a conspiracy theory is in big trouble when even Jesse Ventura doesn’t buy it! :)

By Jesse Ventura

Jesse-Ventura-TruTV_250pxI dont see enough evidence to think Sandy Hook was a false flag operation. This is more of a tragic event turned into political opportunity than it is a staged event. Was there investigative bungling and the sensationalist media reporting unverified stories? Yes. Was there confusion and were facts lost and gained in that confusion? Yes. Are there people, even witnesses, looking for their 30 seconds in the spotlight? Yes. Are there individuals and institutions using and shaping this event for their own political agendas? Yes, and we must keep a very watchful eye on those institutions to keep them from twisting the facts of this event. Sadly, everything I mentioned above can, when taken out of context, make one think manipulation is afoot. Most chaotic events can come across that way. In examining the event, I don’t see government hands at work mainly because they would have covered their tracks better. We can’t expect them to pull off elaborately planned hoaxes while at the same time leaving behind so many easy “smoking guns” for us to find. It took years for independent investigators to uncover JFK. It took years for us to begin scratching out the truth about 9/11. Those of us who study real history, not state sanctioned history, can very easily become just as close minded and biased for conspiracy as those who stand in our way and refuse to accept the truth about our government and the people running it. It’s very easy to fall into that trap, especially when knowing how much of our history and world events are not what they appear to be. So please, do not immediately jump up and yell “Fire!” just because someone makes a youtube video. Research, research, research. You only hurt our cause by promoting false conspiracies and crackpot agendas. Much like the Birther conspiracy, I am starting to think that a lot of the so called “evidence” of conspiracy coming out about Sandy Hook is designed and fabricated to make us “conspiracy theorists”, us truth seekers, look foolish. Why? So that when good people argue against the destruction of our Second Amendment they can easily be painted with the “crackpot” brush.

View a screen shot of this facebook post..

Did NASA delete evidence of UFOs from its photo archive?

By Annalee Newitz via io9.com

UFOlogists are freaking out today over the removal of several photos from a NASA archive. These photos, which you can see here, have been used by various UFO groups to support their belief that aliens have been visiting Earth and governments are covering it up.

According to The Examiner:

The UFO photos first appeared on the NASA Johnson Space Center website in May 2011 and clearly showed a spacecraft of some advanced design. Without any fanfare, the photos were uploaded and stayed on the NASA website for over a year and half until being recently removed.

alien2Believers say the removal of the photos is tantamount to admitting that NASA is trying to cover up extraterrestrial vistors.

The pictures are gorgeous, by the way. I’m guessing they are pictures of a few satellites, and possibly the Hubble.

If NASA really were involved in an elaborate cover-up, though, it seems unlikely that they’d leave the photos up for over a year before noticing that their ultra-super-top-secret alien ship snapshots were on a public website. Slightly more likely is that they were removed after the space agency realized that they were fueling alien conspiracy theories.

More photos on UFO Sightings Daily

[…]

UPDATE 2: Commenter metoposaurus notes that at least some of these photos are still available on NASA’s websites, just in a different location. NASA identifies these as images of “space debris.” If you want to have a lot of fun, try searching this NASA database for “space debris.” Tons of potential UFOs, people!
Note from iLLumiNuTTi:

As the writer of the above article points out, all these “UFO” pictures weren’t removed by NASA, they were simply moved to another location on the NASA website. I did some digging and they were indeed relocated (links below the images):

Space debris being misidentified as alien craft.

Space debris or a satellite being misidentified as an alien craft by conspiracists.

These images have been relocated to here, here, here, here, here and here.

As usual, conspiracists come up short on research. NASA is not hiding these photos.

Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)
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Why the Moon Landings Could Have Never EVER Been Faked: The Definitive Proof

via gizmodo.com

This video is so good, so incredibly brilliant, solid and simple, that you will want to paste it all over your Facebooks and Twitters just to piss off all the IMBECILES who still claim that the Moon landings were faked (those idiots exist, yes). The reason is simple: the technology to fake it didn’t exist.

It’s a very simple argument. It’s not about showing how ignorant the hoaxers demonstrate to be with their idiotic “proofs”, which actually show they don’t know anything about physics, photography or even perspective. Or the fact that simple there’s tons of physical proof that we were there. Or the fact that the Soviet Union was monitoring it too and accepted the American victory in the Space Race.

No, it’s something even more obvious. This video explains why there was absolutely no way to fake it at the time. Even the cameras needed to fake it didn’t exist back then.

It’s completely convincing and undeniable argument and worth watching from beginning to end. I enjoyed it so much that I was giggling at some points. Especially one of them: we have gone from a world in which we couldn’t possibly fake a landing on the Moon but we went there for real to a world in which we are no longer going to the Moon but we can easily fake it.

OH. YOU. IRONY. [Thanks Karl!]

UFO Photo of “Vintage” Flying Saucer Purportedly Snapped, But..

via Who Forted? Magazine

Click image for larger view

Click image for larger view

A student in Sakon Nakhon, Thailand claims to have unwittingly snapped a photo of a “vintage-looking” flying saucer on Christmas day, stirring some talk over whether or not the extraterrestrials have a thing for classic vehicles.

During an afternoon of “Sport Day” festivities scheduled by the Sawang Dindaeng School on December 25th, Thidarat Boonlee whipped out her cell phone to take a photo of the grandstands where her friends were seated. However, upon going back and reviewing the snapshot, Boonlee claims to have found something strange hovering just through the trees. When she went to snap another photo, the craft was gone.

Weeyaros Yuttarin, an English teacher at Boonlee’s school, claims that UFO sightings have been on the rise in the area.

“I heard many teachers talking about their UFO experience on the same day, but I did not believe since there was no concrete evidence,” Weeyaros told The Phuket News (tee-hee). He also stated that he didn’t believe Boonlee would make such a story up.

Ah, but in the age of camera phone apps that will let you insert ghosts into your photos with a tap of the screen, what are the chances that this photo could be a joke that got a bit out of hand? Pretty high, actually, according to the sleuths at the Above Top Secret forums.

They dug up this photo contains a UFO snapped in California, reported to MUFON at the end of December. Looks familiar no? And if that wasn’t enough evidence for you, have a look at the UFO Camera GOLD app available on the itunes marketplace, loaded with classic images of flying saucers that you can add to your photos “like magic”. The developers even promise that your UFO pictures will be “better than Mulder’s”.

Blasphemy.

If you speak Thai, you can watch this clip of newscasters being duped by a high schooler and actually understand it.

Bible Code

by Crispian Jago via Science, Reason and Critical Thinking

Many conspiracy theorists seem very keen on the idea of hidden messages or codes secretly embedded within ancient writings. Believers claim hidden prophecies of significant world events and disasters can be uncovered and deciphered by analysing the Bible. By simply selecting a random paragraph and taking out the punctuation and merely inserting the passage into a matrix a skeptic, if suitably motivated, and with the benefit of hindsight is easily able to uncover whatever it is they fancy. Believers see predictions of the assassination of President Kennedy and the 9/11 twin towers terrorist attack uncovered in the bible as irrefutable evidence of divine revelation even though rational thinkers can locate predictions of the death of Leon Trotsky and Princess Diana secreted within “Moby Dick”.

Click image for larger view

Click image for larger view

via Science, Reason and Critical Thinking: Bible Code.

The Halo Effect

via Unnatural Acts that can improve your thinking

halo_effect 1126The halo effect refers to a bias whereby the perception of a positive trait in a person or product positively influences further judgments about traits of that person or products by the same manufacturer. One of the more common halo effects is the judgment that a good looking person is intelligent and amiable.

There is also a reverse halo effect whereby perception of a negative or undesirable trait in individuals, brands, or other things influences further negative judgments about the traits of that individual, brand, etc. If a person “looks evil” or “looks guilty” you may judge anything he says or does with suspicion; eventually you may feel confident that you have confirmed your first impression with solid evidence when, in fact, your evidence is completely tainted and conditioned by your first impression. The hope that the halo effect will influence a judge or jury is one reason some criminal lawyers might like their clients to be clean-shaven and dressed neatly when they appear at trial.

The phrase was coined by psychologist Edward Thorndike in 1920 to describe the way commanding officers rated their soldiers. He found that officers usually judged their men as being either good or bad “right across the board. There was little mixing of traits; few people were said to be good in one respect but bad in another.”* The old saying that first impressions make lasting impressions is at the heart of the halo effect. If a soldier made a good (or bad) first impression on his commanding officer, that impression would influence the officer’s judgment of future behavior. It is  very unlikely that given a group of soldiers every one of them would be totally good or totally bad at everything, but the evaluations seemed to indicate that this was the case. More likely, however, the earlier perceptions either positively or negatively affected those later perceptions and judgments.

The halo effect seems to ride on the coattails of confirmation bias: once we’ve made a judgment about positive or negative traits, that judgment influences future perceptions so that they confirm our initial judgment.

Some researchers have found evidence that student evaluations of their college instructors are formed and remain stable after only a few minutes or hours in class.  If a student evaluated a teacher highly early on in the course, he or she was likely to rank the teacher highly at the end of the course. Unfortunately, for those teachers who made bad first impressions on the students, their performance over the course of the term would be largely irrelevant to how they would be perceived by their students.

MORE . . .

Perfect Prediction Scam

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

Scam Alert 1114_300pxThis scam involves making a series of opposite predictions (on winners in the stock market, football games, or the like) and sending them to different groups of people until one group has seen your perfect track record sufficiently to be duped into paying you for the next “prediction.”

For example, Notre Dame is playing Michigan next week, so you send 100 letters to people, predicting the outcome of the game. It doesn’t really matter whether the recipients of your letter are known to bet on college football games. The information you provide will stimulate some of them to want to bet on the game. You name your letter something swell like The Perfect Gamble. In 50 letters you predict Notre Dame will win. In the other 50 you predict Michigan will win. You write a short introduction explaining that you have a secret surefire method of predicting winners and to prove it you are giving out free predictions this week. Notre Dame wins.

The next week you send a free copy of The Perfect Gamble to the 50 who got the letter that predicted a Notre Dame victory. In the introduction you remind them of last week’s prediction and you inform them how much they would have won had they followed your advice. To show there are no hard feelings and to give them one more chance to take advantage of your surefire system you provide—free of cost—one more prediction. This week Notre Dame is playing Oregon State. You divide your list of recipients and you send 25 letters predicting Notre Dame will win and 25 predicting Oregon State will win.

After the second game, you will have 25 people who have seen you make two correct predictions in a row. Three correct predictions in a row should convince several recipients of your letter that you do have a surefire way to pick winners. You now charge them a substantial fee for the next prediction and, if all goes as planned, you should make a handsome profit even after postage and handling costs.

MORE . . .

Are Angels Real?

via LiveScience

Images of angels surround us all the time, and especially during the holidays. They appear in paintings, figurines,T-shirts, and just about everything else. Angels appear in several religions; in Islam angels are said to be made of light. Early versions of angels had no gender, though later Christian angels were tall, slender males with soft features, often dressed in flowing robes specially tailored around their large white wings.

angel_275pxThe word “angel” can be traced back to the Greek word “anglos,” which means “messenger” in Hebrew. Angels can take many forms, usually appearing as human or a glowing light or aura. Often—especially in cases of averted tragedy or disaster—angels will not be seen at all, but instead recognized by their actions. If something good, unexpected, and seemingly inexplicable happens, it’s often assumed to be the result of angelic intervention. [Pareidolia: Seeing Faces in Unusual Places]

The angels most people are familiar with today are the Christian angels, which originated from the Hebrew Testaments. The Catholic Church has devoted considerable effort to describing and developing an extensive hierarchy of angels. There are nine different types of angels within three groups or choirs — seraphim, cherubim, thrones, dominions, virtues, powers, principalities, archangels and angels — with an official census of 496,000 angels.

In Christianity and Islam, angels function mainly as God’s messengers (mostly announcing births and deaths), but in modern times they function more as guardians. Indeed, the word “angel” has come to describe any hero or benefactor. Angels are said to appear to people in times of need; other times they are sensed as comforting but unseen presences.

‘Real Angels’

Despite centuries of theological speculation about angels — from their number to their duties to how many can dance on the head of a pin — no one knows if they exist outside of stories and legends. Many people believe they do: Polls suggest that nearly 70 percent of Americans think angels exist. In their book “Paranormal America,” sociologists Christopher Bader, F. Carson Mencken, and Joseph Baker note that “Angels pervade popular culture in books, television shows, and movies…. Believers exchange informal testimonials in newsletters and interpersonal conversations about the potential power of angels to influence the world, and more than half of Americans (53 percent) believe that they have personally been saved from harm by a guardian angel.” [Senator Claims Angels Visited Him in Hospital]

A 2007 Baylor Religion Survey found that 57 percent of Catholics, 81 percent of Black Protestants, 66 percent of Evangelical Protestants, and 10 percent of Jews reported having a personal experience with a guardian angel. Curiously, 20 percent of those who identified themselves as having no religion also claimed having encountered an angel.

In one famous 2008 angel encounter, a North Carolina woman . . . more . . .

Sicko Conspiracy Sociopaths Harass Man Who Sheltered Kids During Sandy Hook Massacre

The Age of Blasphemy

This man helped save six children, is now getting harassed for it

Gene Rosen sheltered six kids during the Sandy Hook massacre. Now he’s become a target of conspiracy theorists

By Alex Seitz-Wald

This man helped save six children, is now getting harassed for it
Enlarge  (Credit: AP/Mary Altaffer)

“I don’t know what to do,” sighed Gene Rosen. “I’m getting hang-up calls, I’m getting some calls, I’m getting emails with, not direct threats, but accusations that I’m lying, that I’m a crisis actor, ‘how much am I being paid?’” Someone posted a photo of his house online. There have been phony Google+ and YouTube accounts created in his name, messages on white supremacist message boards ridiculing the “emotional Jewish guy,” and dozens of blog posts and videos “exposing” him as a fraud. One email purporting to be a business inquiry taunted: “How are all those little students doing? You know, the ones that showed up at your house after the ‘shooting’. What…

View original post 1,045 more words

Newtown families targeted, intimidated

Anderson Cooper 360

Anderson Cooper speaks with Salon.com reporter Alex Seitz-Wald, who has been covering the Sandy Hook conspiracy theories, and Jordan Ghawi, whose sister was killed in the Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting. Ghawi was targeted by conspiracy theorists days after Jessica died.

Seitz-Wald researched conspiracy theories in the U.S. and found most followers are “inclined to believe the government is out to get them” and is collaborating with the media. “They have this confirmation bias, as psychologists call it, to look for only evidence that supports their theories and disregard anything that says otherwise,” he says.

View original post 150 more words

Newtown harassed by conspiracy theorists

Anderson Cooper 360

A tenured associate professor is making outrageous claims that the Sandy Hook shooting massacre did not happen the way it was reported and may not have happened at all. Families who lost loved ones and residents in Newtown have been inundated with hateful messages by people who believe they are part of a government and media conspiracy related to a gun control agenda. One family had to remove the Facebook memorial page created for their little girl because it was bombarded with negative and offensive comments. Anderson Cooper is Keeping Them Honest.

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Sacramento ‘UFO Explosion’ Mystery Revealed

By Lee Speigel via The Huffington Post

The explanation for what many people thought was an exploding UFO above Sacramento is no longer a mystery — it was a weather balloon.

After HuffPost reported how Elijah Prychodzko videotaped a circular, bright aerial object through his telescope over Sacramento on Dec. 20, 2012, the volume of explanations began rolling in for the possible identity of the object.

Those included alien spacecraft, military weapons test, a runaway planet, Doomsday rock headed to Earth and shot down by the Air Force, North Korea’s satellite, and, even, a hoax.

This exploding weather balloon over Tampa Bay, Fla., was recorded on July 2, 2012. It looks nearly identical to the object that exploded over Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2012.

This exploding weather balloon over Tampa Bay, Fla., was recorded on July 2, 2012. It looks nearly identical to the object that exploded over Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2012 (below).

If the images above and below look similar, it’s because they both show the same type of event as seen through telescopes — the difference being that the picture above was taken over Tampa Bay, Fla., on July 2, 2012, and the one below was the object photographed over Sacramento on Dec. 20.

o-SACRAMENTOUFO-570

This object exploded over Sacramento, Calif., on Dec. 20, 2012.

Many readers speculated that what Prychodzko captured on video was a weather balloon and not something that occurred in deep space.

“Obviously, something of this magnitude (planetary-size space explosion) would have been noticed by government (NASA) and or professional astronomers along with a host of amateur astronomers,” 40-year veteran UFO researcher Frank Warren told HuffPost in an email.

Warren, editor and publisher of The UFO Chronicles website, did a follow-up investigation of the Sacramento video and concluded the object was clearly terrestrial in origin.

“After reviewing several videos of ‘weather balloons bursting’ at altitude, it leaves no question as to what the image in the Prychodzko video really is. Like any case we dig into, one either finds ancillary evidence in support of a claim, none, or just the opposite. This one fell apart rather quickly — research 101.”

In videos of weather balloon explosions — which can be found on the Internet — it looks like something is “orbiting” the main balloon, when, in fact, it’s an instrument package called a radiosonde that swings under the balloon, giving the appearance of being in orbit around the balloon. As the balloon rises, the decreased air pressure causes it to expand until it eventually bursts.

According to NBC News.com . . . MORE . . .

A Conspiracy of One

by Joachim I. Krueger, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

TheTruthIsNotThere_05_400pxConspiracy theories thrive at the fringes of polite discourse. They have the smell of paranoia if they get out of hand. Some conspiracy theories are true and being on one’s guard is a good idea. Caesar dismissed warnings about Cassius and Brutus plotting and paid with his life. Other conspiracy theories are so far-flung that the question of whether they are true is not even meaningful. These theories are not testable. They are deaf to the sound of evidence—at least on the disconfirmatory side. In a German-language paper, I explored what I call The Grand Conspiracy Theory (Krueger, 2010). The GCT suggests that a small group of individuals controls every aspect of the world that matters: the economy, the media, war and peace, what have you. The governments and their representatives that we see are not really in charge; they are front pieces of darker and stronger forces that remain out of view, and they may not even know it. With a bit of googling you can find examples of this sort of thinking. Amazon is not above selling books on the matter. Try Illuminati as a key word.

According to the GCT, there are no accidents in world affairs. Everything that happens is part of a grand design to put and keep the masses in material and spiritual bondage, and to further increase the power of the cabal (This idea is problematic because if their power were already as great as claimed, there would be no room for further increases—but I digress). Believers in the GCT claim that they are on to the cabal—that is a necessary part of the theory itself. They further claim that the conspiracy might fail, and that indeed such a collapse may be imminent, if only enough people awakened to the stark facts. This basic arrangement can go on and on over many generations, with the presumed identity of the conspirators changing with the times (Templars, Jews, Freemasons, aliens, and reptiles being favorites).

Looking at conspiracy theories, and the grand one in particular, I noticed certain similarities with judeo-christian ideation. There is the idea of the all—or at least very—powerful force that is hidden, that has a plan, and that moves the world toward a cataclysmic end. The major differences are that the god of monotheism has no one with whom to conspire and that the human-based GCT has fewer good things to say about the power that be.

Given the similarities in the psychological pattern, I felt that mundane conspiracy theories might be derivatives of religious belief. This is not a new idea. Sir Karl Popper suggested that “The conspiracy theory of society…comes from abandoning God and then asking: What is in his place?” Umberto Eco noted . . .

MORE . . .

Scientific evidence that you probably don’t have free will

By George Dvorsky via io9.com

brain_911_cropped_250pxHumans have debated the issue of free will for millennia. But over the past several years, while the philosophers continue to argue about the metaphysical underpinnings of human choice, an increasing number of neuroscientists have started to tackle the issue head on — quite literally. And some of them believe that their experiments reveal that our subjective experience of freedom may be nothing more than an illusion. Here’s why you probably don’t have free will.

Indeed, historically speaking, philosophers have had plenty to say on the matter. Their ruminations have given rise to such considerations as cosmological determinism (the notion that everything proceeds over the course of time in a predictable way, making free will impossible), indeterminism (the idea that the universe and our actions within it are random, also making free will impossible), and cosmological libertarianism/compatibilism (the suggestion that free will is logically compatible with deterministic views of the universe).

Now, while these lines of inquiry are clearly important, one cannot help but feel that they’re also terribly unhelpful and inadequate. What the debate needs is some actual science — something a bit more…testable.

And indeed, this is starting to happen. As the early results of scientific brain experiments are showing, our minds appear to be making decisions before we’re actually aware of them — and at times by a significant degree. It’s a disturbing observation that has led some neuroscientists to conclude that we’re less in control of our choices than we think — at least as far as some basic movements and tasks are concerned.

At the same time, however, not everyone is convinced. It may be a while before we can truly prove that free will is an illusion.

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In new Scientology tell-all book, Tom Cruise explains his “special powers”

By Annalee Newitz via io9.com

You’ve seen the insane video of Tom Cruise blasting Scientologists with his truth beams:

You’ve heard the rumors. But now, you’ll get the full story. Over at the New York Post, Maureen Callahan has a fascinating article about journalist Lawrence Wright’s new book about Scientology, called Going Clear: Scientology, Hollywood, and the Prison of Belief. There is a lot about Cruise in the book, partly because he’s Scientology’s most famous acolyte and partly because he is apparently the second-in-command of the church.

Writes Callahan:

He wasn’t just a movie star. He was a transformational leader in a church that claims 8 million members globally, a religious figure with true moral authority and the power to save the planet. cruise052333--525x300_300pxCruise came to believe he had special powers, that he was more equipped to helping a woman suffering postpartum depression than the medical establishment, that addicts would be better off consulting him than in rehab.

[Scientology head David] Miscavige encouraged Cruise’s grandiosity. Marty Rathbun said that Miscavige told Cruise that they were among a select group of chosen ones, “big beings” who were destined to meet up with LRH on a planet called “Target Two.”

Cruise used his celebrity to lobby Bill Clinton and ex-British Prime Minister Tony Blair in pursuit of tax breaks for the church, which ex-members say has at least $1 billion in holdings.

Cruise was elated yet distracted by more earthly concerns. He was openly complaining about his lack of a girlfriend, and so once again Miscavige tasked church members with solving this problem. Cruise himself held auditions at the Celebrity Centre, under the guise of casting for his next “Mission: Impossible” film. On his list: Lindsay Lohan, Jessica Alba, Kate Bosworth, Scarlett Johansson and Jennifer Garner, whom he found the most compelling.

book_250pxAlso on his list: Katie Holmes. Researchers on the search for Cruise’s next wife had come across a profile of Holmes, in which she spoke of a childhood crush on him.

Their first date was arranged in April 2005. Cruise took her for a night flight over LA in a helicopter stocked with take-out sushi – his typical, over-the-top, getting-to-know-you approach. Two weeks later, Holmes had moved in with him and cut off all contact with her friends and representatives. She was shadowed everywhere. In April 2006, Holmes gave birth to a daughter, Suri, and in November of that year, she and Cruise married . . .

For his part, Cruise believes his true aim in life is to convert all nonbelievers into the church, which, according to Scientology, will result in Earth’s salvation. “Look,” he said, “I wish the world was a different place. I’d like to go on vacation, and go and romp and play, you know what I mean? But I can’t. Because I know. I know. I have to do something about it. You can sit here and wish it was different, but there’s that moment where you go, ‘You know, I have to do something. Don’t I?’

Apparently Cruise’s special powers don’t extend to meeting women, since (at least according to Wright’s book), the Church of Scientology arranged all his marriages for him. Read the full article over at The New York Post.

curiosity, the ineluctable correlate of scepticism

the new ussr illustrated

Reflexology-Foot-Chart-10During a recent gathering with neighbours I found it hard to keep my cool when someone told me recent evidence had come out supporting reflexology’s credentials as a healing technique. Expressing just a touch of scepticism, ho ho, I got the irritated response that ‘science doesn’t know everything’. I’ve already treated that ‘criticism’ in my introductory ‘fountains of good stuff’ podcast, transcribed here, but I feel the need to go further in dealing with this odd line of attack, because it annoys the shit out of me.

‘Science doesn’t know everything’ is one of those semantically not-quite-right phrases that reminds me of the half-opaque lines of Ringo Starr (examples are ‘tomorrow never knows’ and ‘it’s been a hard day’s night’) that tickled Lennon and McCartney into basing songs around them. Science isn’t a sentient being as far as I’m aware – and if it is I hope it’s not a…

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Exposing Newtown conspiracy theory

via Anderson Cooper 360 – Keeping Them Honest

Some people are actually claiming the Newtown school shooting was staged by the government and media who are in support of stricter gun control laws. One of those individuals is James Tracy, a tenured associate professor at a Florida university. Anderson Cooper is Keeping Them Honest.

Also See:

Thoughtography

via The Skeptic’s Dictionary – Skepdic.com

Thoughtography was made popular by psychiatrist Dr. Jule Eisenbud, who wrote a book about a Chicago bellhop named Ted Serios, who claimed he could make images appear on Polaroid film just by thinking of an image.

ted_300px

Theodore “Ted” Judd Serios was a Chicago bellhop known for his production of “thoughtographs” on Polaroid film. He claimed these were produced using psychic powers. (Wikipedia)

Since the publication of Eisenbud’s The World of Ted Serios: ‘Thoughtographic’ Studies of an Extraordinary Mind (1966), others have claimed to be able to perform this feat. Eisenbud claimed that Serios made his thoughtographs by psychokinesis and that some of them were instigated during out-of-body experiences.

Charlie Reynolds and David Eisendrath, both amateur magicians and professional photographers exposed Serios as a fraud after spending a weekend with him and Eisenbud. Serios claimed he needed a little tube in front of the camera lens to help him concentrate, but he was spotted slipping something into the tube. Most likely it was a picture of something that the camera would take an image of, but which Serios would claim came from his mind rather than his hand. The exposé appeared in the October 1967 issue of Popular Photography. Serios’ psychokinetic powers began to fade after the exposure and he has remained virtually unheard from for the past thirty years.

Many years after Serios faded from the paranormal spotlight, Uri Geller began doing a trick in which he produced thoughtographs. Geller would leave the lens cap on a 35mm camera and take pictures of his forehead. He claimed the developed film had pictures on it that came directly from his mind. There is no doubt that the images came from Geller’s mind, but perhaps they took a more circuitous route than he says. James Randi, magician and debunker of all things paranormal, claims that thoughtography is actually trickery done using a handheld optical device (Randi 1982: 222ff.; 1995: 233) or by taking photos on already exposed film. Intelligent people who are ignorant of photography are susceptible to being duped about psychic photographs and photographs of  prehistoric monsters or fairies, as was Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, the creator of Sherlock Holmes.

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10 Lies Truthers Tell

via The Soap Box

The 9/11 conspiracy theories are probably some of the most thoroughly debunked conspiracy theories out there, with thousands of people devoting hundreds of hours to debunk these theories. Some of these theories have been debunked for so long, and so early on, and have such clear evidence (including photographic evidence) that they can only be best described as lies.

Here is what could be considered 10 of the biggest lies people in the 9/11 Truth movement (or Truthers, as they are commonly called) tell:

(Author’s note: these are just the 10 I remembered off of my head. There are actually a lot more than this.)

• 10. There were pools and rivers of molten steel at the WTC site.

No there wasn’t. There are satellite pictures of hot spots where the towers stood, and pictures of steel beams that were red hot, but never any pictures of molten steel, nor has anyone who was actually at the site after the towers fell have ever claimed to have seen pools and rivers of molten steel.

CruiseMissile_250px

NOTE: The image above is a fake.
Click the image for more information.

The satellite pictures that show these hot spots show that those areas were actually places where underground fires were, and not molten steel because the temperature of the heat being given off from those areas was not hot enough to cause steel to melt.

• 9. No plane was witnessed hitting the Pentagon.

Actually there are multiple witnesses to the plane hitting the Pentagon. There is also video taken from a security camera that, while it is very difficult to tell for many people, does show a plane hitting the Pentagon.

• 8. No pieces of American Airlines Flight 77 was ever found at the Penatgon.

Actually much of the plane was recovered, including remains of the passengers on board (including the five hijackers), and the flight recorder (although damaged to the point where nothing usable could be recovered on it). In fact there are actually photos of pieces of the planes that were being recovered from the crash site and removed from the site for further investigation.

• 7. The towers fell at free fall speeds.

Click the image to watch
9/11: Were Explosives Used?

No they didn’t. The towers fell at speeds slower then free fall. There are videos that show the towers falling at free fall speeds, but these videos have had their speed altered to make it look like they are falling at free fall speeds.

• 6. The towers imploded.

No they didn’t. If you were to watch any videos of the towers collapsing then you would see that the towers collapsed on top of themselves rather then implode into themselves, the results of which spewed out a lot of debris over the site, heavily damaging many of the other buildings there.

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Saved by Psychic Powers

via NeuroLogica Blog

eye_see_the_future_250pxIn just about every disaster or event in which there are many deaths, such as a plane crash, there is likely to be, by random chance alone, individuals who survived due to an unlikely sequence of events. Passengers missing their flight by a few minutes can look back at all the small delays that added up to them seeing the doors close as they a jog up to their gate. If that plane were then to crash, killing everyone on board, those small delays might seem like destiny. The passenger who canceled their flight because of flying anxiety might feel as if they had a premonition.

This is nothing but the lottery fallacy – judging the odds of an event occurring after the fact. What are the odds of one specific person winning the lottery? Hundreds of millions to one against. What are the odds of someone winning the lottery? Very good.

Likewise, what are the chances that someone will miss or choose not to take any particular flight? Very high – therefore this is likely to be true about any flight that happens to crash. If you are that one person, however, it may be difficult to shake the sense that your improbable survival was more than just a lucky coincidence.

A similar story has emerged from the Sandy Hook tragedy. A mother of a kindergartener there, Karen Dryer claims that her 5 year old son was saved by his psychic powers. She reports that her son, after a few months at the school, started to cry and be unhappy at school. He was home schooled for a short time, during which the shooting occurred. Now, at the new elementary school that recently opened, he seems to be happy.

In retrospect it may seem like a compelling story – if one does not think about it too deeply. As Ben Radford points out in the article linked to above, the story as told is likely the product of confirmation bias. The mother is now remembering details that enhance the theme of the story (her son’s alleged psychic powers) and forgetting details that might be inconsistent.

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