Tag Archives: Michael Shermer

The Law of Attraction – Debunked (The Secret – Refuted)

1. Pseudoscience:

So the first thing to be said, in my opinion, is that the Law of Attraction, and, to be blunt, New Age Thought altogether, is entirely predicated on dispensing meaningless drivel masqueraded as profound truth and wisdom… it is, to paraphrase Michael Shermer, the combination of scientific sounding words with New Age words to create the illusion that they’re somehow related…

For example, the term ‘Law of Attraction’ deliberately implies that it is a scientific law, just like the ‘Law of Conservation of Energy’ etc., and yet, science regards the Law of Attraction as pure nonsense and pseudoscience, and puts it in the same bin as creationism, homeopathy, climate change denial and tin foil hats!

2. Argument from Ignorance:

Anyhow, with that said, the first question to be asked is if the first premise is true – is everything really comprised of energy vibrating at different frequencies? Is the Law of Vibration true? Well, while it is true that everything so far appears to be an expression of matter and energy, and while matter and energy are indeed different states of the same thing (energy)… the only way someone can say that everything “vibrates” is by defining ‘vibration’ to be “energy in motion” – which only serves to confuse people.

What’s more is that if the proponents of this argument go a step further and assert that we know for sure that everything is vibrating energy, they’re actually committing an Argument from Ignorance, because absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

Continue Reading the video description – – –

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation. While some psychics are known to cheat and acquire information ahead of time, these ten tips focus on what is known as “cold reading” — reading someone “cold” without any prior knowledge about them.

Click Here For All 10 Lessons (PDF)


Click Here For All 10 Lessons (PDF)

Movie review: The Discovery – Has science proved the afterlife?

Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception

Michael Shermer says the human tendency to believe strange things — from alien abductions to dowsing rods — boils down to two of the brain’s most basic, hard-wired survival skills.

Watch on YouTube …

Conspiracy Theories – Who Believes Them, and Why?

How Can You Determine if They are True or False?

conspiracy box secret package_250pxVia Skeptic.com

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one? For the answers, download this free booklet, created by Michael Shermer and Pat Linse, the founders of Skeptic magazine and your Skeptics Society.

download PDF

When People Talk Backwards

Some people believe that your brain encodes its actual meaning in reverse within everything you say.

Brian Dunningby Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or listen here

Just when you thought there was nobody in the world crazier than yourself, along come people who believe that we all subconsciously say what we really mean in reverse, through the unconscious but deliberate choosing of careful words which, if played backwards, say what we actually mean. Get it? ear_180pxThe idea is that I think some coffee is really horrible but I still want to be polite, my brain will subconsciously choose words to make my polite compliment that, if played backwards, would say: This coffee stinks.

Proponents of this hypothesis call it Reverse Speech, because they were really creatively inspired on the day they named it. This is a small group of people — I believe there were six of them at last count — who take this completely seriously and believe that a whole world of secret information and opportunities is waiting to be unlocked by analyzing peoples’ speech in reverse. They turn first to world leaders, play their speeches backward, and listen to learn what they believe is the truth underlying the speech.

A leading advocate for reverse speech, also called backward masking, is David John Oates, an Australian. He’s written several books on the subject and even used to have a syndicated radio show promoting his theory. backward masking_250pxJust about any time a reverse speech expert is interviewed on television, it’s David John Oates. His web site is ReverseSpeech.com, and it’s loaded with all the examples you could ever hope to hear, as well as quite a few products and services he’d like to sell you if you believe his claims. He believes strongly that the human brain secretly encodes its actual meaning in reverse into a person’s normal speech. You can use this to your advantage in business, by decoding what the people across the table are actually telling you; and you can even use it in personal development by listening to your own speech backwards and learning more about what you really want. One of the examples from ReverseSpeech.com is of this man giving a talk:

And when you play it backwards, turns out he was trying to comfort you with the message “You’re frightened, lean on me”:

Pretty interesting, but not necessarily convincing to a skeptic. A skeptic is more likely to dismiss these guys as conspiracy nuts and laugh at what paranoid delusionals they are, but it’s actually way cooler and more interesting (and more constructive) to ask if there is any science behind what they’re claiming. backwards masking_300pxI’m not talking about science supporting the claim that people say what they actually mean in reverse; I’m talking about science behind the perception of order from chaos. And, it turns out, there is good science behind it. The journal Science published an article in 1981 by Remez, Rubin, Pisoni, and Carrell called Speech perception without traditional speech cues. By playing what they called a “three-tone sinusoidal replica”, or a complicated sine wave sound, they found that people were able to perceive speech, when in fact there were no traditional speech sounds present in the signal. So rather than laughing at a reverse speech advocate, instead appreciate the fact that there is good science driving their perception of what they’re hearing. They’re not making anything up, they’re just unaware of the natural explanation for their phenomenon.

To better understand what these authors did in their experiment, listen to this brief cue consisting of nothing but sine waves:

It almost does sound like speech, doesn’t it? But it’s not quite clear what it’s saying. Well, suppose someone told you that it says:

Now listen to it again:

This time, it’s almost impossible not to hear the words that you’ve been preconditioned to hear. Let’s play another one, this one is harder . . .

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The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

why-people-see-ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts (and gods, angels, demons, and aliens and why they float, fly, and travel out of their bodies)

via Skeptic.com

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience like the examples that we list in this FREE PDF booklet? If so, you know how compelling they can be. A life can be changed or an entire religion founded on the basis of a single brain-generated hallucination. These phenomena are so powerful that throughout history seekers of knowledge have sought to induce them. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be more than a waste of time and energy. It can be dangerous for both the individual and larger society.

While science has made considerable progress in discovering how the brain is hard-wired to produce these illusions, the public is largely unaware of much of this research. This is where your Skeptics Society comes in—we provide the scientific explanation.

DOWNLOAD the free PDF

Michael Shermer: The pattern behind self-deception

Michael Shermer says the human tendency to believe strange things — from alien abductions to dowsing rods — boils down to two of the brain’s most basic, hard-wired survival skills.

Watch on YouTube …

Is Leftist Science-Denial The Most Dangerous Kind?

Science Denial Is Not Exclusive To Right Wing Fundamentalists

By David Jerale via The Libertarian Republic

Michael Shermer

Michael Shermer
“The Liberals’ War on Science.”
(click to download PDF)

In a column for Scientific American January of last year, Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society, exposed what he calls “The Liberals’ War on Science.” Shermer observes that, while it is true that Republicans are more overwhelmingly opposed to well-established scientific consensus like anthropogenic climate change theory and evolution, the problem of science denial also reaches epidemic proportions on the left.

“Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—,” Shermer writes, “in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs.”

Taken only at face value, this seems fairly innocuous– and critics like Chris Mooney were quick to point out, correctly, that science denial is predominantly right-wing.

Fair enough, but I offer this riposte: Rick Santorum and his ilk don’t teach science.

What-are-GMOs-and-How-Safe-Are-They-_250pxDiscovery News, on the other hand, does– and in June, they posted a YouTube video by Laci Green, a popular online social justice advocate, feminist and peer sex educator, about genetically modified organisms.  In this video, Laci doesn’t explicitly state her own opinion with regard to whether or not genetically modified foods are safe, choosing instead to present arguments for and against, with a heavy bias against, ending by asking viewers to post their thoughts on the matter in the comments section below the video.

This is a clear example of “false balance,” a tendency for media to overstate controversy in scientific matters.  Fox News has been criticized for this because their coverage of climate science greatly over-represents those who disagree with anthropogenic global warming theory while there is a strong consensus among climate scientists that the theory is correct.  As it happens, there is a similarly strong scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods, but Laci conveniently ignores it for the sake of manufactured controversy– and she’s not alone.

SciShow, hosted by Hank Green, is a YouTube channel with over 1.5 million subscribers devoted to discussing scientific topics.  Last year, Hank posted a video wherein he discusses genetically modified organisms– what they are, why they exist, how they’re made, etcetera– which included some cherry-picked information and outright fabrications about the supposed dangers of genetic modification, in spite of the existing scientific consensus to the contrary.  It was later removed, and re-uploaded by another YouTube user– in the comments section there, Hank explains “We dropped it because we cited studies that have since been discredited.”

 Bill Nye “The Science Guy” - perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive - supports the global warming theory while trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.


Bill Nye “The Science Guy” – perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive – supports the global warming theory while trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.
Science education programming being used to spread pseudoscience?


But Hank and Laci Green are just a couple of online personalities– No real harm, right?

Enter Bill NyeThe Science Guy.”  Bill has been, for the most part, strongly against science denial– he has spoken against teaching creationism to children as well as climate change denial, but oddly, he breaks form when the topic is genetically modified organisms.

Let that sink in for a moment– perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive, Bill Nye, trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.

That’s a far cry from some preacher doing the same thing because it conflicts with his religious dogma.  It’s science education programming being used to spread pseudoscience, and the consequences could be devastating.

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Skeptic Presents: Get Your Guru Going

Via Skeptic Magazine

In this video — the fifth in our series of videos that promote science and critical thinking through the use of humor, wit, and satire — we present a Con Academy mini course in the techniques of New Age Spiritual Gurutry.

If you missed our first four videos, check them out:

When Noam Chomsky says that’s an idiotic idea, he’s probably right

Sharon_hill_80pxby  via Doubtful News

One of the world’s most prominent intellectuals says it’s nonsense to buy into 9/11 conspiracy theories – get off the internet and think for yourself.

Noam Chomsky slaps down 9/11 truther: People spend an hour on the Internet and think they know physics | The Raw Story.

During a lecture on “Policy and the Media Prism” at the University of Florida a few weeks ago, 9/11 truth activist Bob Tuskin said the mainstream media had covered up evidence that Building 7 imploded in a controlled demolition. Tuskin asked Chomsky if he was finally ready to “jump on board with” 9/11 conspiracy theories.

“You’re right that there’s a consensus among a miniscule number of architects and engineers,” Chomsky replied. “They are not doing what scientists and engineers do when they think they’ve discovered something.”

“There happen to be a lot of people around who spend an hour on the Internet and think they know a lot physics, but it doesn’t work like that. There’s a reason there are graduate schools in these departments,” he continued.

Chomsky dismissed the claim that scientists and engineers hadn’t followed typical procedures because they felt intimidated by the government. He said publishing an article in an academic journal was virtually risk-free compared to other forms of political activism.

“There is just overwhelming evidence that the Bush administration wasn’t involved,” Chomsky added. “Very elementary evidence. You don’t have to be a physicist to understand it. You just have to think for a minute.”

Chomsky is advocating obtaining expertise and considering that the consensus view is most likely the right one. This is a good lesson – consider authorities who have specialized knowledge and see that it makes the most sense. Don’t rely on unrefereed stuff on Google. Anyone can publish crap on the Internet. Have some sense of reliable sources.

Michael Shermer has a piece that fits in well with this today. He talks about how people will want to subscribe to conspiracies anyway.

Conspiracy theories: Why we believe the unbelievable – latimes.com.

Why do so many people refuse to accept this simple and obvious conclusion? The answer: psychology.

There are three psychological effects at work here, starting with “cognitive dissonance,” or the discomfort felt when holding two ideas that are not in harmony. We attempt to reduce the dissonance by altering one of the ideas to be in accord with the other. In this case, the two discordant ideas are 1) JFK as one of the most powerful people on Earth who was 2) killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone loser, a nobody. Camelot brought down by a curmudgeon.

That doesn’t feel right. To balance the scale, conspiracy elements are stacked onto the Oswald side: the CIA, the FBI, the KGB, the Mafia, Fidel Castro, Lyndon Johnson and, in Oliver Stone’s telling in his film “JFK,” the military-industrial complex.

A second psychological effect is the “monological belief system,” or “a unitary, closed-off worldview in which beliefs come together in a mutually supportive network,” in the words of University of Kent researchers Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton in a 2012 paper titled “Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories.” A conspiracy theory, they wrote, is “a proposed plot by powerful people or organizations working together in secret to accomplish some (usually sinister) goal.” Once you believe that “one massive, sinister conspiracy could be successfully executed in near-perfect secrecy [it] suggests that many such plots are possible.”

A third psychological effect is “confirmation bias,” or the tendency to look for and find confirming evidence for what you already believe and to ignore disconfirming evidence. Once you believe, say, that 9/11 was an inside job by the Bush administration, you focus on the handful of anomalies that fateful day and connect them into a seemingly meaningful pattern, while ignoring the massive evidence pointing to Al Qaeda. JFK conspiracy theorists ignore the massive evidence pointing to Oswald while seeking deep meaning in trivial matters, such as the man with the umbrella on the grassy knoll, or the puff of smoke behind the picket fence, or the odd noises echoing around Dealey Plaza. Each become pregnant with meaning when the mind goes in search of cabals.

We are never going to not have people who believe in conspiracies. But we can make it embarrassing. There is no shame in telling people that their ridiculous conspiracy theories are RIDICULOUS NONSENSE. Belief in conspiracies take us off track and we waste our time and efforts on useless dead ends.


[END]

Conspiracy theories: Why we believe the unbelievable

Michael ShermerBy Michael Shermer via latimes.com

With the passing of the 50th anniversary of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy last week, and the accompanying fusillade of documentaries purporting to prove there was a conspiracy behind it, we might expect (and hope) that cabalistic conjecturing will wane until the next big anniversary.

conspiracy_theory 831_250pxDon’t count on it. A poll this month found that 61% of Americans who responded still believe that JFK was the victim of a conspiracy, despite the fact that the preponderance of evidence points to Lee Harvey Oswald as the lone assassin.

Why do so many people refuse to accept this simple and obvious conclusion? The answer: psychology.

There are three psychological effects at work here, starting with “cognitive dissonance,” or the discomfort felt when holding two ideas that are not in harmony. We attempt to reduce the dissonance by altering one of the ideas to be in accord with the other. In this case, the two discordant ideas are 1) JFK as one of the most powerful people on Earth who was 2) killed by Lee Harvey Oswald, a lone loser, a nobody. Camelot brought down by a curmudgeon.

The most powerful person on Earth was killed by a nobody. This doesn’t feel right. To balance the scale, conspiracy elements are stacked onto the Oswald side.

The most powerful person on Earth was killed by a nobody. This doesn’t feel right. To balance the scale, conspiracy elements are stacked onto the Oswald side.

That doesn’t feel right. To balance the scale, conspiracy elements are stacked onto the Oswald side: the CIA, the FBI, the KGB, the Mafia, Fidel Castro, Lyndon Johnson and, in Oliver Stone’s telling in his film “JFK,” the military-industrial complex.

Cognitive dissonance was at work shortly after Princess Diana‘s death, which was the result of drunk driving, speeding and no seat belt. But princesses are not supposed to die the way thousands of regular people die each year, so the British royal family, the British intelligence services and others had to be fingered as co-conspirators.

By contrast, there is no cognitive dissonance for the Holocaust — one of the worst crimes in history committed by one of the most criminal regimes in history.

A second psychological effect is the “monological belief system,” or “a unitary, closed-off worldview in which beliefs come together in a mutually supportive network,” in the words of University of Kent researchers Michael J. Wood, Karen M. Douglas and Robbie M. Sutton in a 2012 paper titled “Dead and Alive: Beliefs in Contradictory Conspiracy Theories.” A conspiracy theory, they wrote, is “a proposed plot by powerful people or organizations working together in secret to accomplish some (usually sinister) goal.” Once you believe that “one massive, sinister conspiracy could be successfully executed in near-perfect secrecy [it] suggests that many such plots are possible.”

With this cabalistic paradigm in place, conspiracies can become “the default explanation for any given event.” For example . . .

MORE – – –

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

why-people-see-ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts (and gods, angels, demons, and aliens and why they float, fly, and travel out of their bodies)

via Skeptic.com

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience like the examples that we list in this FREE PDF booklet? If so, you know how compelling they can be. A life can be changed or an entire religion founded on the basis of a single brain-generated hallucination. These phenomena are so powerful that throughout history seekers of knowledge have sought to induce them. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be more than a waste of time and energy. It can be dangerous for both the individual and larger society.

While science has made considerable progress in discovering how the brain is hard-wired to produce these illusions, the public is largely unaware of much of this research. This is where your Skeptics Society comes in—we provide the scientific explanation.

DOWNLOAD the free PDF

Why People Believe Invisible Agents Control the World

A Skeptic’s take on souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens and other invisible powers that be

Michael ShermerBy Michael Shermer via Scientific American

Souls, spirits, ghosts, gods, demons, angels, aliens, intelligent designers, government conspirators, and all manner of invisible agents with power and intention are believed to haunt our world and control our lives. Why?

Our human tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise causes us to see this face on Mars.

The answer has two parts, starting with the concept of “patternicity,” which I defined in my December 2008 column as the human tendency to find meaningful patterns in meaningless noise. Consider the face on Mars, the Virgin Mary on a grilled cheese sandwich, satanic messages in rock music. Of course, some patterns are real. Finding predictive patterns in changing weather, fruiting trees, migrating prey animals and hungry predators was central to the survival of Paleolithic hominids.

The problem is that we did not evolve a baloney-detection device in our brains to discriminate between true and false patterns. So we make two types of errors: a type I error, or false positive, is believing a pattern is real when it is not; a type II error, or false negative, is not believing a pattern is real when it is. If you believe that the rustle in the grass is a dangerous predator when it is just the wind (a type I error), you are more likely to survive than if you believe that the rustle in the grass is just the wind when it is a dangerous predator (a type II error). Because the cost of making a type I error is less than the cost of making a type II error and because there is no time for careful deliberation between patternicities in the split-second world of predator-prey interactions, natural selection would have favored those animals most likely to assume that all patterns are real.

But we do something other animals do not do. As large-brained hominids with a developed cortex and a theory of mind—the capacity to be aware of such mental states as desires and intentions in both ourselves and others—we infer agency behind the patterns we observe in a practice I call “agent­icity”: coincidences there are no_250pxthe tendency to believe that the world is controlled by invisible intentional agents. We believe that these intentional agents control the world, sometimes invisibly from the top down (as opposed to bottom-up causal randomness). Together patternicity and agent­icity form the cognitive basis of shamanism, paganism, animism, polytheism, monotheism, and all modes of Old and New Age spiritualisms.

Agenticity carries us far beyond the spirit world. The Intelligent Designer is said to be an invisible agent who created life from the top down. Aliens are often portrayed as powerful beings coming down from on high to warn us of our impending self-destruction. Conspiracy theories predictably include hidden agents at work behind the scenes, puppet masters pulling political and economic strings as we dance to the tune of the Bilderbergers, the Roth­schilds, the Rockefellers or the Illuminati. Even the belief that government can impose top-down measures to rescue the economy is a form of agenticity, with President Barack Obama being touted as “the one” with almost messianic powers who will save us.

There is now substantial evidence from cognitive neuroscience that humans readily find patterns and impart agency to them . . .

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