A look at some of the flawed thinking that prompts people who believe in certain non-scientific concepts to advise others who don’t to be more open-minded.
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.
- Ask the skeptic: Why do people believe what they do? (thetimesnews.com)
- Author and professor Michael Shermer speaks at Elon University about skepticism and skeptics role in science (ccavanaugh2.wordpress.com)
- Michael Shermer is Latest to Be Demonized (atheistrev.com)
- Chopra Shoots at Skepticism and Misses (illuminutti.com)
- The Stuff of Nightmares (illuminutti.com)
- Chopra Skepticism Fail Part 2 (theness.com)
- The Best Photograph of a Ghost in New Hampshire, is me! (yankeeskeptic.com)
- Ghost Hunters Investigate Old Buchanan County House (kcrg.com)
I must issue a mild language warning – PG rating 🙂
Is there a group of conspiracy theorists more deluded and irritating and offensively irrational than the 9/11 Truthers? I think so. Their name? Well . . . I don’t know all their names, there’s too many of them — collectively, let’s call them the Moon Landing Hoaxers. And they believe some pretty stupid things.
Extensive film and video footage of the Apollo Moon landings is available from NASA at:
- Not all Conspiracy Theorists are Conspiracy Theorists (illuminutti.com)
- Moon landing conspiracy theories in popular culture (en.wikipedia.org)
- Moon Landing Hoax – Conspiracy Theory (kgr3414.wordpress.com)
This is volume 1 of The Con Academy videos—another resource in the Skeptics Society‘s arsenal of Skepticism 101 for teaching critical thinking and promoting science through the use of humor, wit, and satire. In this faux commercial for The Con Academy you’ll see how psychics count on the confirmation bias to convince people that their powers are real when, in fact, they are just remembering the hits and forgetting the misses. We also demonstrate how psychic “organizations” con people by taking their money for services that are not real.
- Psychic Sally Damages (In More Ways Than One) (illuminutti.com)
- Psychics…? They definitely saw me coming! (clarabella4.wordpress.com)
- Confirmation bias – ferreting favourable findings while overlooking opposing observations (scienceornot.net)
The Great Psychic Con
These and millions more like them represent the kinds of statements we get from people who say they’re skeptical, but who’ve been to a psychic and have come away as believers in the paranormal. Many times I’ve been asked to try to explain the “paranormal” experiences of people who tell me they’re skeptics, but who can’t think of any other explanation for something than that it was paranormal. I call it the “Explain That!” game. I’ve posted responses to some of these requests, but I can’t say I’ve been able to persuade any of the believers to consider alternative explanations, even though they ask me to provide them with one. [Some of my explanations for various psychic readings are here, here, here, and here.]
“There’s no way he could have known my grandmother’s name?” “How do you explain his predicting the lights would go off at the shop?” “How did he know my uncle’s name?” “There’s no way he could have known my father died of a heart attack.” “How could he possibly know that my brother collects cuckoo clocks?“
How do psychics know so much about me? I’ve heard or read many times variants of that question asked by people who are intelligent and educated, but naive. For example, a local sports writer visited a psychic to get a story about her predictions for the local high school athletic teams. He ended up writing two stories. I didn’t read the second one, but the first revealed how amazed he was at how much she knew about him and how accurate she was. It made him think, he wrote, that maybe there’s something to this psychic business. There is, but it’s not what he thinks. In my letter to the editor of the local paper where the sports writer plies his trade I said:
Bruce Gallaudet is an experienced journalist, but he seems to know nothing about cold reading and subjective validation, the two tarot cards up the sleeve of a working psychic. He’s dazzled within 60 seconds and befuddled when she tells the old man that she’s sorry he had to cancel a trip. Did she ask about your knee injury? Or about the outdated calendar you keep at home, along with the box of newspaper clippings? Did she mention your business venture setback (but you’ll do well in new endeavors) or the health problems a loved one is having?
Stick to local sports, Bruce. You were in way over your head with Ms. Mertino, the Davis Psychic.
The fact is, psychics may know certain things about you in the same way that many people know many things about others by knowing their age, sex, occupation, education, where they live, how they dress, what kind of jewelry they’re wearing, or their religion. Does anyone have perfect knowledge of others based on what are sometimes called warm reading techniques? Of course not. We’re dealing with probabilities, not absolute certainties here, but it doesn’t matter. The psychic is not obligated to stop the reading when she makes a mistake. If she misinterprets your wearing black as a sign of grieving for someone who has died, she doesn’t have to say “oops, wrong again.” No, she just slithers on to the next question or statement, ignoring her “miss” and counting on you to ignore it as well. Eventually, she’ll hit something that resonates with you, that you can validate. The key to a psychic reading is not the psychic’s ability to tap into a world you are not directly privy to. The key to a psychic reading is your willingness to find meaning or significance in some of the statements she makes or questions she asks. If mentioning the death of a loved one evokes no response from you, the psychic will move on to another statement, another question.
It is also possible that the psychic you are dealing with is a very sleazy professional fraud who investigates her clients before she does the reading. Doing a hot reading, however, is not likely if you are a drop-in. Although, even drop-ins can be conned by distracting the client and looking through her purse or wallet. Some psychics who work fairs, for example, have a colleague who walks by those in line trying to pick up information about various clients who are in conversations. The colleague passes on the info to the “psychic” via a wireless device. Most people who visit psychics on a whim are probably not going to be a victim of someone using hot reading, however. Why? Because it’s really unnecessary. Cold reading works just as well. (For a special case of using hot readings by sharing information in order to con wealthy clients who go from psychic to psychic, see Lamar M. Keene. The Psychic Mafia. Prometheus, 1997).
- More Psychic News (iLLumiNuTTi.com)
- Medium (illuminutti.com)
- 50 Things That Look Like Faces – Pareidolia (illuminutti.com)
- Hutchison hoax (illuminutti.com)
- Cattle Mutilation (illuminutti.com)
- Electro-sensitives (illuminutti.com)
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… Psychics (illuminutti.com)
- Online Psychic Service Warns Public to Avoid Psychic Scams (seriously) (illuminutti.com)
via The Soap Box
There are a lot of stereotypes that conspiracy theorists believe about skeptics, and for the most part they’re just not true. Most of the time these beliefs are either the result of manipulation, or just misunderstandings.
Here are some of the most common claims that conspiracy theorists have against skeptic, and why these claims are not true:
• All skeptics work for the government.
One of the most common claims by conspiracy theorists about skeptics is that skeptics work for, or at least are being paid by the government, or to a lesser extent, private companies, to run debunking websites (they’re usually referred to by conspiracy theorists as “dis-information agents”). Usually these accusations are followed up with a joke by a skeptic, usually something like, “I’m still waiting for my check.”
The reality is that most skeptics don’t work for the government, and most likely never would. Those that do work for the government are not being paid by the government to run these skeptic websites, and they are doing what they do on their own free will.
• Skeptics believe whatever the government or media says.
No they don’t. In fact skeptics are highly critical of both the government and the media.
Skeptics know that the government lies to the public all the time to try to make itself not look as bad, and that the media tends to report things way to early, or sensationalizes stuff, so bad information gets to the public, rather then correct information.
• Skeptics don’t believe in conspiracies.
Skeptics actually do believe in conspiracies. The difference is between skeptics and conspiracy theorists is that the conspiracies that skeptics believe in either have been proven to be true, or has enough evidence (real evidence, not made up evidence) to prove the conspiracy to be true, or at least likely to be true.
• All skeptics are alike.
One of the biggest misconceptions about skeptics in general is that we are all alike, and that we have similar beliefs and education, and that we all see things exactly the same, but in reality this is not true at all.
We all debunk things differently, and we sometimes come to different conclusions on things, and there are fights within the skeptics community.
- KTH: Newtown harassed by conspiracy theorists (illuminutti.com)
- The Trouble with Conspiracy Theories (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy Theorists: No longer harmless (illuminutti.com)
- You might be a conspiracy theorist if… (thegreatantagonizer.wordpress.com)
- Could The Pope Be Arrested? Conspiracy Theorist Speculate Arrest Warrant Out For Pontiff (americanlivewire.com)