Tag Archives: skepticism

WTC Building 7 Explained

EdwardCurrent via YouTube

An expanded/updated version of my 2011 video “Building 7 Explained,” focusing on 7 World Trade Center’s construction. The tube-frame steel design explains why its collapse looks similar to a controlled demolition — thus creating a generation of modern conspiracy believers.

The animation at 5:00 is scale-accurate: The east face of the frame really did tip that much to the north (the smaller building shown is Fiterman Hall). Meanwhile, the west face appears to have tipped to the south. There is no evidence whatsover that the frame collapsed “into its own footprint.”

Addressing other top talking points:

“Thousands of architects and engineers disagree…” And many, many thousands more agree. I made comedy out of the generally poor professional qualifications of those who have signed the petition put forward by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth: https://youtu.be/lpEnvGBfgnI

“You haven’t looked into the evidence…” Actually I have, because I used to be a Truther: https://youtu.be/UULUQfEQFuU

“A collapse like that due to fire would violate the laws of physics.” That’s interesting since NIST created a simulation that was quite accurate up to the last (and hardest to model) part of the collapse, using the program LS-DYNA, which — believe it or not — relies on the laws of physics to operate. If you don’t like the job NIST did, you can make your own simulation and see what happens — the construction and materials of the building are a matter of public record. In the meantime, feel free to point to one paper in a legitimate peer-reviewed engineering journal that supports this “violation of physics” claim.

“Professor Leroy Hulsey of the University of Alaska just released the results of a two-year study…” With funding by Architects & Engineers for 9/11 Truth, Hulsey and two graduate students computer-modeled two floors where NIST found that collapse initiation *might* have taken place, and found scenarios where the collapse did not initiate. The team did not attempt to model any other cases where the collapse might have initiated. Not exactly an exhaustive scientific investigation, but hey, they’re still seeking donations to keep this hope alive.

“You believe everything the government tells you.” The government in reality is fairly incompetent. And, you’re asking people to believe that this same government pulled off a perfectly executed secret operation AND has maintained this secret conspiracy for 16 years and counting, after the operation was carried out and with hundereds of thousands of people worldwide working to expose a cover-up. The skeptical person finds this to be a highly unlikely scenario. See: “How to Apply Occam’s Razor”: https://youtu.be/AQNxNeQ9cxw

“Witnesses heard explosions in WTC7 before it collapsed.” Lots of things explode in fires. Transformers, gas lines, fire extinguishers, fuel tanks, even pneumatic office chairs have been shown to explode in a fire. That’s very different from high-velocity detonations necessary to cut even one major steel column of a skyscraper, which would exceed 150 decibels a half mile away.

“You are obviously paid by the government to make these videos.” Thank you for demonstrating your standards for evidence that confirms your pre-existing beliefs.

“But military-grade super-nanothermite that no one knows anything about . . . .” Okay, we’re done.


8 Ways to tell a Conspiracy Theorist is really a Fraud

By via The Soap Box

As I have been observing conspiracy theories, and by extension, conspiracy theorists themselves. From my observations I’ve noticed that some of them may not be entirely truthful in what they believe, and that some of them may be out right frauds.

Here are eight ways to tell if a conspiracy theorist is a fraud:

1. Constant self promoter

It’s one thing for a conspiracy theorist to promote the conspiracy theories they believe in, it’s quite another for a conspiracy theorist to constantly promote their own materials and media concerning conspiracy theories they allegedly believe in.

The fact is, is that some people do make money off of promoting conspiracy theories, and some fraud conspiracy theorists do realize they can make lots of money creating and pedaling books and videos about conspiracy theories.

2. Tells people to ignore facts

While most legit conspiracy theorists will usually ask a person to examine all of the facts before asking you to conclude that they are right, a fraud conspiracy theorist will tell you to ignore any facts other then the “facts” that they present. Some even go so far as to call real facts disinformation. This is done as a way to discourage people from actually examining real facts, and by doing this a person might stop believing a certain conspiracy theory, and thus stop believe the fraud conspiracy theorist.

3. Constantly making up stuff

A fraud conspiracy theorist constantly makes up stuff, and then discards certain “information” when no one believes it any more, or no one really cares about it any more.

One of the main reasons this is done is because it keeps people coming back, wanting “new” information.

4. Claims to be withholding information until a later date

Many fraud conspiracy theorists claim they have “secret information” that they claim they are withholding until a later date. Most of the times this “information” isn’t even revealed at all, or the “information” that is revealed is actually false and made up, and sometimes not even new at all, just reworded.

Continue Reading @ The Soap Box – – –.

Random Deepak Chopra Quote Generator – Wisdom of Chopra

The Random Deepak Chopra Quote Generator generates a randomly-selected collection of words that eerily mimic the syntactically-sound, but often content-free, thoughts of new-age author Deepak Chopra.

Here are a few examples of random, computer generated gems:

“The world opens karmic chaos”
“Infinity inspires subtle timelessness”
“Evolution differentiates into positive opportunities”
“Freedom experiences a symphony of creativity”

Check it out here: Random Deepak Chopra Quote Generator – Wisdom of Chopra.

Ancient Aliens Debunked

Ancient Aliens Debunked

Ancient Aliens Debunked!

Click the link in the menu bar or the image above to view the latest updates!

Aspartame – Truth vs Fiction


If you believe everything you read on the internet, then is seems that a chemical found in thousands of products is causing an epidemic of severe neurological and systemic diseases, like multiple sclerosis and lupus. The FDA, the companies that make the product, and the “medical industrial complex” all know about the dangers of this chemical but are hiding the truth from the public in order to protect corporate profits and avoid the pesky paper work that would accompany the truth being revealed. The only glimmer of hope is a dedicated band of bloggers and anonymous e-mail chain letter authors who aren’t afraid to speak the truth. Armed with the latest anecdotal evidence, unverified speculation, and scientifically implausible claims, they have been tirelessly ranting about the evils of this chemical for years. Undeterred by the countless published studies manufactured by the food cartel that show this chemical is safe, they continue to protect the public by spreading baseless fear and hysteria.

Hopefully, you don’t believe everything you read on the internet, and you don’t get your science news from e-mail SPAM, where the above scenario is a common theme. While there are many manifestations of this type of urban legend, I am speaking specifically about aspartame – an artificial sweetener used since the early 1980s. The notion that aspartame is unsafe has been circulating almost since it first appeared, and like rumors and misinformation have a tendency to do, fears surrounding aspartame have taken on a life of their own.

Keep Reading: Science-Based Medicine » Aspartame – Truth vs Fiction.

Morals and Dogma

In 1871, Albert Pike published a book called Morals and Dogma.

Conspiracists call this book a manifesto, a primary doctrine for Masons and, contained within its pages is absolute proof Albert Pike was a Satanist who wrote secret Satan worship into the degrees of the Scottish Rite.

Who is Albert Pike? What is his book about? What was the extent of his influence? Do Freemasons worship Satan?


The Ultimate Conspiracy Debunker

Via YouTube

Most Conspiracy Theories are stupid. By the power of the internet they spread like wildfire and often poison discussions. But there is hope – we developed a way to debunk conspiracies in just a few seconds…

Another Study that Doesn’t Show How Acupuncture Works

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

The pattern is now quite familiar – a study looking at some physiological outcome while rats or mice are being jabbed with needles is breathlessly presented as, “finally we know how acupuncture works.” As is always the case, a closer look reveals that the study shows nothing of the sort.
electroacupuncture-ratThe current study making the rounds is, “Effects of Acupuncture, RU-486 on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Chronically Stressed Adult Male Rats.” We are told that acupuncture has the same effect as pain medication, but honestly I don’t see that anywhere in the study.
The study presents two experiments with rats in which there is a control group, a stress group, stress plus acupuncture, and stress plus sham acupuncture. The first thing to notice is that the rats were not actually getting acupuncture. They were getting the fiction known as “electroacupuncture.” Electroacupuncture is not a real thing – it’s just electrical stimulation through a needle which is called an acupuncture needle.
The authors claim that their results show that electroacupuncture (EA) at the St36 acupuncture point (which is behind the leg), but not sham EA on the back blunt the stress response as measured by cortisol levels, ACTH, and stress behavior in the rats.
acupuncture 835_225pxJust looking at the data itself, separate from the context of acupuncture, there are a few things to notice. The first is that the study is very small, with (in the first experiment) 7 rats in the control and stress groups, and 14 rats in the EA and sham EA groups. That’s not a lot of data points. There is no mention of blinding anywhere in the study. Unless everyone involved in those aspects of the study measuring outcomes were effectively blinded, I see no reason to take the results seriously.
Further, the results are completely unimpressive. The differences are slight. The researchers also pull a common statistical trick. They say, for example, that the difference between control and EA was statistically significant, while the difference between control and sham EA was not. However, they don’t tell us whether or not the difference between EA and sham EA was significant (and by looking at the data I would guess not).
acupucture_chinese_medicine_300pxIt is therefore not valid to conclude that there is a difference between EA and sham EA. This is a common statistical “mistake” researchers make, probably having something to do with the fact that it makes negative data look positive.
It is possible that this study tells us nothing at all. Given the small number of rats in the study, no documentation about blinding, and the unimpressive results, just a touch of researcher bias (exploiting those researcher degrees of freedom) is all that is necessary to get the graphs to look good enough to publish.
Therefore, regardless of the subject matter, these are preliminary results at best, and unimpressive preliminary results at that.
If we put these results into the context of acupuncture, we then have the equivalent of Bem’s psi research – unimpressive results used to support a massive claim.
Let’s be clear – acupuncture points are a complete fiction.

Continue Reading – – –

Critical Thinking

Fun stuff.

Critical Thinking – YouTube.

The burden of proof

Makers of supernatural claims have an inescapable burden of proof.

Via The burden of proof – YouTube.

World of Batshit – #3: Chemtrailer Trash

Though a bit lengthy (23 minutes) i found this video really entertaining and full of good information.

One caution: There is some occasional use of adult language and humor.

Enjoy 🙂


By CoolHardLogic via YouTube

Freemasons & Satan

Originally posted June 12, 2012.

Enjoy 🙂

In 1871, a man named Albert Pike published a book called Morals and Dogma.

Conspiracists call this book a manifesto, a primary doctrine for Masons and, contained within its pages is absolute proof Albert Pike was a Satanist who wrote secret Satan worship into the degrees of the Scottish Rite.

Who is Albert Pike? What is his book about? What was the extent of his influence? Do Freemasons worship Satan?

Ancient Aliens Debunked

Vacation Post: By far THE most popular and hotly researched topic here at Illuminutti is the Ancient Aliens section that was originally posted May 2, 2012.

Enjoy 🙂

Ancient Aliens Debunked

Part 1 Part 2 Part 3 Part 4
Part 5 Part 6 Part 7 Part 8

The information contained in this 8 part series is based on the work at “ART and UFOs? No Thanks, Only Art” by Diego Cuoghi.

If you wish to conduct more investigating into this subject matter i highly recommend visiting ART and UFOs? No Thanks, Only Art. The website is written in Italian, but some pages have been translated into English. The Italian pages are translated using MicroSoft Translator:

The Science Behind 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.


Para.Science – Orbs ARE a Load of Balls

quick note_150pxFor some believers in the paranormal, the site of orbs in a photo is confirmation of a spirit energy. To people like me, orbs are nothing more than something like dust.

For the last word on orbs, head on over to the ParaScience web site. You will never believe in orbs again.

Enjoy 🙂


Identical pictures. Taken at the same instance. Why does an orb appear in the photo on the left but not in the photo on the right?. Read the answer at Para.Science.

Identical pictures. Taken at the same instant.
Why does an orb appear in the photo on the left
but not in the photo on the right?
Read the answer at Para.Science.

Deepak Challenge to Skeptics

steven_novellaBy Steven Novella via NeuroLogica Blog

Deepak Chopra doesn’t appear to like skeptics much, or understand them. He just put out a YouTube video challenging ”Randi and his cronies” to his own fake version of the million dollar challenge.

All we have to do, apparently, is make 50-100 years of scientific advance in neuroscience in a single peer-reviewed paper. Chopra_711_250pxI’ll get started on that right away.

Actually, even that probably would not be sufficient. The whole point of pseudoscientific goal-post moving is to keep forever out of reach of current scientific evidence. It doesn’t matter how much progress science makes, there will always be gaps and limitations to our knowledge. Chopra lives in the gaps.

Here is his exact challenge:

Dear Randi: Before you go around debunking the so-called “paranormal,” please explain the so-called “normal.” How does the electricity going into the brain become the experience of a three dimensional world in space and time. If you can explain that, then you get a million dollars from me. Explain and solve the hard problem of consciousness in a peer-reviewed journal, offer a theory that is falsifiable, and you get the prize.

The challenge is absurd because it is completely undefined. “Explain” to what degree? Science often advances by developing theories that are progressively deeper. Obviously we can explain consciousness on some level, CHOPRAand just as obviously Chopra would not accept that level as sufficient, but he gives absolutely no indication of how much deeper an explanation he would require.

A challenge without a clear way of judging the outcome is worthless. This is very different than the JREF’s million dollar challenge (now supervised by Banachek) which negotiates a very specific protocol with clear outcomes and a clear threshold for what will be considered success.

The vacuous nature of Chopra’s challenge reveals it for what it is – an insincere stunt that Chopra no doubt wishes to use for rhetorical purposes.

If you listen to the rest of the video challenge it is also clear that Chopra likes to operate in the gaps – he is making a massive argument from ignorance, or “god-of-the-gaps” type argument. In essence he is saying that because neuroscientists cannot now explain consciousness to an arbitrary level of detail (determined at will by Chopra, with an endless option to revise), therefore magic.

MORE – – –

Deepak Chopra Gets Owned

Solar Roadways, a VERY expensive joke?

Intro by Mason. I. Bilderberg

TSolar Freakin’ Roadways_225pxhis is the third video in the Solar Roadways series. If you’re not familiar with this topic, you might want to two previous videos:

  1. Solar FREAKIN Roadways, are they real?, and

If you want some background information, click one of the links above. Otherwise, enjoy 🙂


Via YouTube.

From the video description:

So the solar roadways has a page up to ‘answer’ its critics.

Previously I had suspected that they have no technical expertise, now Im sure.

They claim that asphalt is softer than glass.
They claim LEDs will be fine for roads because of powerhungry LED billboards or LED traffic lights that work in the shade.

People gave them over 2 million dollars for this. You really have to laugh or cry at this.

This video was supported by donations of viewers through Patreon:


Intro by Mason. I. Bilderberg:

This video is a followup to the video we featured here on iLLuMiNuTTi.com in a story titled “Solar FREAKIN Roadways, are they real?” and this followup video is just as enjoyable as the first.

If you want some background information, click the link above. Otherwise, enjoy 🙂


Via YouTube

From the video description:

Ball park numbers: 25 000 sq miles = 90 bn square meters.

At about 4 tiles per m2, thats 240 billion tiles.

At 50 LEDs each, thats 12 trillion LEDS.

These need to be light up ALL the time you want road markings!

300 LEDs takes about 60 Watts.

Cheap electricity is about 0.06 dollars per kW Hr

So to run 300 LEDs for 1 hr coast about half a cent.

To run 12 trillion LEDs for 1hr costs about 150 million dollars!
4 billion dollars per day,
1.4 trillion dollars per year.

They will take more power just to run the LEDs than will be generated by the road!!!
And thats not including the cost of building the infrastructure, or the fact that the LED probably will need to be replaced about every 5 years.

This video was supported through Patreon:

Correlation and Causation

steven_novellaby via NeuroLogica Blog

Every skeptic’s new favorite website is Spurious Correlations. The site is brilliant – it mines multiple data sets (such as causes of death, consumption of various products, divorce rates by state, etc.) and then tries to find correlations between different variables. The results are often hilarious.


The point of this exercise is to demonstrate that correlation does not necessarily equal causation. Often it is more effective to demonstrate a principle than simply to explain it. By showing impressive looking graphical correlations between phenomena that are clearly not related (at least proposing a causal connection superficially seems absurd.), it drives home the point that correlation is not enough to conclude causation.

I think most people can intuitively understand that funding on science, space, and technology is unlikely to have a meaningful causal connection to suicide by hanging, strangulation, or suffocation.

Yet – look at those curves. If a similar graph were shown with two variables that might be causally connected, that would seem very compelling.

Screen Shot 2014-05-16 at 7.51.27 PM_600px

There are a couple of points about this I want to explore a bit further. First is the important caveat that, while correlation is not necessarily causation, sometimes it is. Two variables that are causally related would correlate. I dislike the oversimplification that is sometimes presented: “correlation is not causation.” But it can be.

The second point is a statistical one. The important deeper lesson here is the power of data mining. Humans are great at sifting through lots of data and finding apparent patterns. In fact we have a huge bias toward false positives in this regard – we find patterns that are not really there but are just statistical flukes or complete illusions.

Correlations, however, seem compelling to us. If we dream about a friend we haven’t seen in 20 years then they call us the next day, that correlation seems uncanny, and we hunt for a cause. We aren’t even aware of the fact that  .  .  .

MORE – – –


Climate Change in 12 Minutes – The Skeptic’s Case

I am a global warming climate change climate disruption skeptic. I catch a lot of heat (pun intended) for my skepticism.

global-warming-Gore 02_225pxBut i have my reasons and this video does a very level-headed job of explaining where skeptics are coming from in the global warming climate change climate disruption debate.

If you’re a global warming climate change climate disruption believer and you wish to understand the skeptic’s perspective, i ask you to watch just the first 2 minutes.

The first 2 minutes of this video does an excellent job of spelling out the very thin line between believers and skeptics. So close, yet so far.

This video appears to be based on an article written by Dr. David M.W. Evans called The Skeptic’s Case. As such, you might find the video easier to understand if you read along with the original text (The Skeptic’s Case) or download the PDF here.

Actually, the PDF text version is worth downloading as a standalone resource for those times when people ask why you’re a global warming climate change climate disruption skeptic.

Enjoy 🙂

Mason I. Bilderberg

By Dr. David M.W. Evans via YouTube

Battling Psychics and Ghosts: The Need for Scientific Skepticism

Rodney SchmaltzBy Rodney Schmaltz via The Huffington Post

Many years ago I was asked to give a talk to incoming university students on the nature of psychology. As a social psychology professor, I had a lot of interesting material that I was sure students would find fascinating, from blind obedience to authority to the everyday persuasion techniques of salespeople. The secret_300pxYet to my surprise, at the end of my presentation, I had but two questions from the students: “Does The Secret really work?” and, “Can psychics really read minds?” For those unfamiliar with The Secret, it is a bestselling book and film that promotes the idea that we can have whatever we want merely by thinking about it, all couched in New Age terms and a gross misrepresentation of quantum physics. And as for psychics, there has yet to be any solid experimental evidence of extrasensory ability, even though there is $1 million on the line (more on that later). I initially thought that students asked these questions because they did not have much formal training in science at this point in their academic career, though I soon came to realize otherwise.

College and university students, from freshmen to seniors, have asked me similar questions, along with queries about aliens, ghosts, and a wide variety of New Age and alternative health and psychological treatments. Through countless questions on these topics, I’ve realized the need to teach scientific skepticism, and that using examples of pseudoscience — claims that appear to be scientific but are not — can be an invaluable resource for helping students become discerning consumers of real-world claims.

MORE – – –

Can You Solve This?

I found this to be a great lesson in critical thinking. Check it out 🙂


Via Can You Solve This? – YouTube

How do you investigate hypotheses? Do you seek to confirm your theory – looking for white swans? Or do you try to find black swans? I was startled at how hard it was for people to investigate number sets that didn’t follow their hypotheses, even when their method wasn’t getting them anywhere.

This video was inspired by The Black Swan by Nassim Taleb and filmed by my mum. Thanks mum!

Should we call Conspiracy Theorists “Conspiracy Theorists”?

By via The Soap Box

conspiracies02Of all the things that I have observed about conspiracy theorists one of the things that has always stood out about them to me is that they hate the terms “conspiracy theorist” and “conspiracy theory”. This is for two different reasons:

The primary reason is because they consider the terms to be insulting. This is actually understandable because skeptics and debunkers have used these terms in insulting tones and in an insulting way.

The secondary reason is because they claim that both terms to be “shill” words that were created by the CIA to discourage people from believing in a conspiracy theory (the terms actually first came into use in the late 1800’s to early 1900’s and pre-dates the CIA, it only came to be used in a derogatory way in the mid 1960’s, but there is no evidence to suggest that the CIA had anything to do with that). Some even claim that only “shills” use the terms conspiracy theory and conspiracy theorist. Whether they actually believe this or are just claiming this in order to get people to stop using these terms and/or to scare a skeptic off is another question entirely.

Regardless of the reasons why, the fact is that conspiracy theorists do not like the terms conspiracy theorist and conspiracy theory, and to be all honest I don’t really like those terms either. The reason for this is that simply put a theory is based off of facts and evidence. Conspiracy theories are rarely made up of facts and evidence, and even the ones that do have some facts and evidence behind them are often mangled by conspiracy theorists and is manipulated into something that it is infact not…

To put it bluntly in my personal opinion using the word “theory” in conspiracy theory (and by extension conspiracy theorist) is actually inaccurate and inappropriate.

So what would be an accurate and appropriate term to replace conspiracy theory and theorist with?

MORE – – –

True Fact: The Lack of Pirates Is Causing Global Warming

By Erika Andersen via Forbes

It’s true.  This extremely scientific graph proves it:


You can see that as the number of pirates in the world has decreased over the past 130 years, global warming has gotten steadily worse. In fact, this makes it entirely clear that if you truly want to stop global warming, the most impactful thing to do is — become a pirate.

Hope you’re laughing.  My husband told me this wonderful premise a few months ago, and I couldn’t resist sharing it with you, for a very specific reason. I’m fascinated by why it’s so funny. I believe it’s because it’s an only slightly more extreme version of the fake logic we hear every day — the conclusions that pass for critical thinking in these days of completely unleashed 24-7 communication. For example:

  • Someone who has cancer drinks gallons of lemon water and their cancer goes into remission: they create a website to talk about how lemon water cures cancer.
  • A business is doing badly and they move to a new building and things start to pick up: the CEO writes a book about how changing your environment is the key to success.
  • Statistics show that people who leave their jobs after less than a year are more likely to smoke: someone starts a campaign to reduce smoking by encouraging people to stay at their jobs longer.

My older sister, a very wise and smart woman who is a political scientist at Syracuse University, teaches a statistics class to freshmen, where she endeavors to teach them critical thinking.  She talks about this as being the most common error in logic: confusing simultaneity with causality.  In other words, assuming that because two things are happening at the same time, they exist in a cause and effect relationship with each other.

Because anyone can say anything anywhere these days (pretty much), there’s a lot of fuzzy thinking floating around that seems more legitimate than it would have in former times because it’s in print. Now, don’t get me wrong: I’m a huge proponent of free speech.  I just feel we all have to be more discriminating than ever before about what we believe.  Not cynical or negative: discriminating.

So, when someone proposes a cause and effect relationship between two things – reduction in pirates causing global warming; Obama creating the global economic crisis; young people ruining American business – ask for the data that shows they’re related, rather than simply that they’re happening at the same time.

But if you’re dead set on becoming a pirate, I’m not going to stop you.


This is Not a Conspiracy Theory (Part 1) – YouTube

I’m curious to know what everybody thinks of this new series being released on the web. I’ve watched this first part and i’m not sure i’m clear on where it’s going.

If it looks worthwhile i will pay for future installments just to post them here on iLLumiNuTTi.com for all of us to watch.

Your thoughts? Leave a comment 🙂

Mason (MIB)

This is Not a Conspiracy Theory (Part 1) – YouTube.

On The Web: This is Not a Conspiracy Theory

10 Tips for Telling Fact From Fiction

by via HowStuffWorks

[ . . . ]

10: Beware of Cognitive Bias

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one's beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one's beliefs.

Confirmation bias: Selective thinking whereby one tends to notice and to look for what confirms one’s beliefs, and to ignore, not look for, or undervalue the relevance of what contradicts one’s beliefs.

Our brains are designed to make sense of the onslaught of sensory stimulation and information that they get from the world by filtering and organizing. We have a tendency to focus on certain details and ignore others, to avoid being overwhelmed. And we habitually organize information into patterns, based on things we’ve seen or learned about before. That leads us to process what we hear, read or see in a way that reinforces what we think we already know. That phenomenon is called cognitive bias (source: Science Daily).

To make matters worse, some theorize that we also engage in selective exposure — that is, we pick sources of information that tell us what we want to hear. Ohio State researchers, for example, found that when college students spent a few minutes reading news articles online, they selected ones that supported their already-held views 58 percent of the time (source: Hsu).

 The famous 1934 photograph of the Loch Ness monster. Just before his death in 1994, Chris Spurling confessed that he and some other men had staged the picture. Keystone/Getty Images

The Loch Ness monster
Keystone/Getty Images

So, we’re vulnerable to information that fits what we want to believe — even if it’s of dubious authenticity. That’s probably why the infamous photograph of the Loch Ness monster, taken in 1934 (source: Nickell), was so convincing for many people. The silhouette resembled a long-necked dinosaur, which was something they had seen pictures of in natural history textbooks. And the idea that ancient creatures might have survived extinction already had surfaced in fiction such as Arthur Conan Doyle’s 1912 novel “The Lost World,” so it wasn’t too much of a leap conceptually. It wasn’t until 1994 that researchers got an elderly man who had been part of the hoax to reveal that the monster in the photo actually was a foot-high model, fashioned from a toy submarine (source: Associated Press).

9: Pay Attention to the Unspoken Message

Used-Car-Salesman_250pxIf you’ve ever sold used cars or peddled vacuum sweepers door-to-door, you probably know this from experience: Researchers have found that an attractive physical appearance and positive nonverbal cues, like eye contact, smiling and a pleasant tone of voice, may have as much or more of an influence upon us than the actual words that the person is saying. In fact, someone who is skilled at nonverbal messaging can actually foster what communication experts call a halo effect. That is, if we think that a person looks good, we assume that he or she is intelligent or capable as well. That’s a big help in fostering credibility (source: Eadie). But just as a salesperson can learn to project a convincing demeanor, a swindler or a dishonest politician can practice the same tricks.

However, other nonverbal cues provide useful information for evaluating whether someone is telling the truth or a lie. Researchers who’ve studied the questioning of criminal suspects, for example, note that even highly motivated, skillful liars have a tendency to “leak” nonverbal clues to their deception in the course of a long interview, because of the difficulty of managing facial expressions, physical carriage, and tone of voice over time. The trick is to watch for those tiny flaws in the subject’s demeanor to emerge.

When making an untrue statement, for example, a person may flash a “microexpression”– a frown, perhaps, or a grimace — that reflects his or her true emotions, but clashes with what the person is saying. Since some of this microexpressions may happen as quickly as the blink of an eye, the easiest way to detect them is by replaying a video. But it is possible to do it in a real-time conversation as well. U.S. Coast Guard investigators trained in spotting such leakage, for example, have been able to spot such clues about 80 percent of the time (source: Matsumoto, et al.).

8: Watch for the Big Lie

 Master of the Big Lie, Adolf Hitler is welcomed by supporters at Nuremberg. Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Master of the Big Lie, Adolf Hitler is welcomed by supporters at Nuremberg.
Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Throughout history, purveyors of falsehoods seldom have bothered with piddling minor fibs. Instead, they generally have opted for what propaganda experts call the “Big Lie” — that is, a blatant, outrageous falsehood about some important issue, and one that’s usually designed to inflame listeners’ emotions and provoke them to whatever action the liar has in mind. The Big Lie is most often associated with Adolf Hitler, who advised in his book “Mein Kampf” that the “primitive simplicity” of ordinary people makes them vulnerable to massive deceptions. “It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and would not believe that others would have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously,” the Nazi dictator wrote.

Ironically, even as he explained the method of the Big Lie, he used it to promote an especially brazen untruth — that Jews and Communists somehow had deceived the German people into thinking that their nation’s loss in World War I was caused by reckless, incompetent military leaders. The Nazi dictator was onto something, though perhaps even his own twisted mind didn’t grasp it: Some of the most effective Big Lies are accusations of someone else being a liar (source: Hitler).

Hitler, of course, didn’t invent the Big Lie, and a liar doesn’t necessarily have to be a bloodthirsty dictator to pull it off. But the best way to protect yourself against the Big Lie is to be an educated, well-informed person who’s got a broad base of knowledge and context. Sadly, we live in a culture where fewer and fewer people seem to have that background. In a 2011, Newsweek gave 1,000 Americans the U.S. citizenship test; more than a third scored a failing grade — 60 percent or lower — to questions such as “How many justices are on the Supreme Court?” and “Who did the U.S. fight in World War II?” That’s kind of scary (source: Quigley).

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A Magical Journey through the Land of Reasoning Errors

Four common types of analytical errors in reasoning that we all need to beware of.

Brian DunningBy Brian Dunning via skeptoid
Read transcript below or Listen here.

Today we’re going to cover a bit of new ground in the basics of critical thinking and critical reasoning. There are several defined types of common analytical errors to which we’re all prone; some, perhaps, more so than others. Reasoning errors can be made accidentally, and some can even be made deliberately as a way to influence the acceptance of ideas. We’re going to take a close look at the Type I false positive error, the Type II false negative error, the Type III error of answering the wrong question, and finally the dreaded Type IV error of asking the wrong question.

By way of example we’ll apply these errors to three hypothetical situations, all of which should be familiar to fans of scientific skepticism:

  1. From the realm of the paranormal, a house is reported to be haunted. The null hypothesis is that there is no ghost, until we find evidence that there is.
  2. The conspiracy theory that the government is building prison camps in which to orderly dispose of millions of law-abiding citizens. The null hypothesis is that there are no such camps, until we find evidence of them.
  3. And from alternative medicine, the claim that vitamins can cure cancer. The null hypothesis is that they don’t, unless it can be proven through controlled testing.

So let’s begin with:

Type I Error: False Positive

type I errorA false positive is failing to believe the truth, or more formally, the rejection of a true null hypothesis — it turns out there’s nothing there, but you conclude that there is. In cases where the null hypothesis does turn out to be true, a Type I error incorrectly rejects it in favor of a conclusion that the new claim is true. A Type I error occurs only when the conclusion that’s made is faulty, based on either bad evidence, misinterpreted evidence, an error in analysis, or any number of factors.

In the haunted house, Type I errors are those that occur when the house is not, in fact, haunted; but the investigators erroneously find that it is. They may record an unexplained sound and wrongly consider that to be proof of a ghost, or they may collect eyewitness anecdotes and wrongly consider them to be evidence, or they may have a strange feeling and wrongly reject all other possible causes for it.

The conspiracy theorist commits a Type I error when the government is not, in fact, building prison camps to exterminate citizens, but he comes across something that makes him reject that null hypothesis and conclude that it’s happening after all. Perhaps he sees unmarked cars parked outside a fenced lot that has no other apparent purpose, and wrongly considers that to be unambiguous proof, or perhaps he watches enough YouTube videos and decides that so many other conspiracy theorists can’t be all wrong. Perhaps he simply hates the government, so he automatically accepts any suggestion of their evildoing.

Finally, the alternative medicine hopeful commits a Type I error when he concludes that vitamins successfully treat a cancer that they actually don’t. Perhaps he hears enough anecdotes or testimonials, perhaps he is mistrustful of medical science and erroneously concludes that alternative medicine must therefore work, or whatever his thought process is; but an honest conclusion that the null hypothesis has been proven false is a classic Type I error.

Type II Error: False Negative

type II errorCynics are those who are most often guilty of the Type II error, the acceptance of the null hypothesis when it turns out to actually be false — it turns out that something is there, but you conclude that there isn’t. If you actually do have psychic powers but I am satisfied that you do not, I commit a Type II error. The villagers of the boy who cried “Wolf!” commit a Type II error when they ignore his warning, thinking it false, and lose their sheep to the wolf. The protohuman who hears a rustling in the grass and assumes it’s just the wind commits a Type II error when the panther springs out and eats him.

Perhaps somewhere there is a house that actually is haunted, and maybe the TV ghost hunters find it. If I laugh at their silly program and dismiss the ghost, I commit a Type II error. If it were to transpire that the government actually is implementing plans to exterminate millions of citizens in prison camps, then everyone who has not been particularly concerned about this (myself included) has made a Type II error. The invalid dismissal of vitamin megadosing would also be a Type II error if it turned out to indeed cure cancer, or whatever the hypothesis was.

Type I and II errors are not limited to whether we believe in some pseudoscience; they’re even more applicable in daily life, in business decisions and research. If I have a bunch of Skeptoid T-shirts printed to sell at a conference, I make a Type I error by assuming that people are going to buy, and it turns out that nobody does. The salesman makes a Type II error when he decides that no customers are likely to buy today, so he goes home early, when in fact it turns out that one guy had his checkbook in hand.

Both Type I and II errors can be subtle and complex, but in practice, the Type I error can be thought of as excess idealism, accepting too many new ideas; and the Type II error as excess cynicism, rejecting too many new ideas.

Before talking about Type III and IV errors, it should be noted that these are not universally accepted. Types I and II have been standard for nearly a century, but various people have extended the series in various directions since then; so there is no real convention for what Types III and IV are. However the definitions I’m going to give are probably the most common, and they work very well for the purpose of skeptical analysis.

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Global Warming: I Have Questions

By Mason I. Bilderberg (MIB)

"A conspiratard? Fascinating."

“A conspiratard? Fascinating.”

Question: What happens when a skeptic like myself questions the global warming theory in a facebook group that considers themselves skeptics?

Answer: I get labeled a conspiracist, conspiratard, sheeptard, right-winger, troll, denialist and all kinds of other interesting things. It was also suggested that i do certain things to myself and go away.

As Mr. Spock would say, “Fascinating, Jim.”

I have always had  issues with the question, “Do you believe in global warming?“, because it’s really two questions:

  1. Has the earth warmed (over some time frame)?
  2. Are humans responsible?

Because simply answering “yes” to the above question can be misunderstood to mean you agree warming has occurred AND that humans are primarily responsible, i always split the issue:

  1. I do agree there has been some warming over the last 100 years, BUT
  2. I’m not convinced humans are the main cause. I’m inclined to think our climate is primarily driven by the same natural forces that have driven our climate since the earth was created 4.5 billion years ago – and humans are a small part of that natural cycle.

It’s this position that gets people all worked up. But why do feel this way? Because i have questions.

What period of time are global warming believers referring to when they use phrases like, “the warmest ‘on record'”,  “since records have been kept” orsince measurements began”?

Al Gore is notorious for using these kinds of references to a mystery time frame. When he says “this is the hottest year ‘since measurements began'”, am i the only one wondering when “the measurements began”? After all, if the measurements began at 5 o’clock this morning, then by noon it really would be the warmest since measurements began, wouldn’t it?

Here is Al Gore from 1997 using these types of vague references to a mysterious period of time:

The IPCC[1] (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) used similar language in their 1990 Scientific Assessment report when they wrote, “the five warmest years on record have been in the 1980s.[2]

Sounds ominous, doesn’t it? It almost sounds like they’re saying, “the five warmest years since the beginning of time have been in the 1980s,” or “the five warmest years EVER have been in the 1980s,” doesn’t it?

The truth is, when the IPCC, Al Gore and the other global warming theorists compare temperatures to “the record” (i.e. “The warmest on record“) they are actually referring to the last 150 years of temperature data. Allow me to explain. Here are the temperatures from the last 1,000 years:

1000 Years_0600px

With current temperatures located on the far right of the graph and the dotted line representing temperature conditions near the beginning of the twentieth century[3], you should notice something right off the bat.

Beginning about 950 AD and continuing for about 400 years until almost 1350 AD there is a period of time when the temperatures were warmer than they are today. According to the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – 1990), this warmer period is referred to as the “Medieval Warm Period.”

The Medieval Warm Period (MWP) was warmer than any temperatures seen today, so global warming theorists must use a period of time after the Medieval Warm Period to make claims of record breaking temperatures.

Here is that period of time referred to as “the record”[4] by global warming theorists when they say “… on ‘the record'”:

The Record_600px

The above graph is “the record” as depicted in the 1990 IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) Scientific Assessment Report. It only goes back approximately 150 years to the year 1860.

From the same IPCC report: “The instrumental record of surface temperature is fragmentary until the mid-nineteenth century, after which it slowly improves[5] . . . ” and it “shows current estimates of … surface temperature over land and ocean since 1860.[6] [7]” [all emphasis mine]

So when the IPCC[8] and other global warming theorists say, “the warmest temperatures on record,” what they’re really saying is, “the warmest temperatures since 1860!”

Now look again at the 1,000 year temperature graph, this time with “the record” put in perspective:

Click image for larger view

Click image for larger view

It becomes clear why global warming theorists say “the warmest temperatures on record” -­ because if they were honest and said “the warmest temperatures since 1860,”­ the deception would become as painfully obvious as it is here.

What else do you notice?  Notice where “the record” begins on the 1,000 year timeline. It begins at the end of a period in history called the “Little Ice Age.”  The Little Ice Age (LIA) is a 500 year period of cooling that occurred from about 1350 to approximately 1850[9].

I’m sure it’s just pure happenstance that the purveyors of global warming use the end of an ice age as their temperature comparison starting point. Sort of like wanting to convince your friends you’re a gambling guru by bragging about how you won $3,000 on your last day in Las Vegas while conveniently forgetting to mention how you lost $5,000 on your first day in Vegas. You’re the man (until your friends learn the inconvenient truth)!

For more perspective let’s go back some more. Here is 8,000 years of temperatures:



[1] http://www.ipcc.ch/
[2] 1990 IPCC Scientific Assessment, page xxix.
[3] 1990 IPCC Scientific Assessment, Page 202.
[4] 1990 IPCC Scientific Assessment, page xxix.
[5] 1990 IPCC Scientific Assessment, page xxviii.
[6] 1990 IPCC Scientific Assessment, page xxviii.
[7] Also see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Temperature_record
[8] http://www.ipcc.ch/
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Little_Ice_Age

Penn & Teller: Bulls**t: Hypnosis

By Penn&TellerBullshit via YouTube

Penn & Teller examines the various promises made by professional hypnosis, and seeks to refute the idea of “mind over body”.

What’s the deal with homeopathy?

Via Stuff They Don’t Want You to Know – YouTube

Skeptics dismiss homeopathic medicine as pseudoscience and claim the industry bilks the gullible and desperate. However, advocates of homeopathic medicine believe the conspiracy lies within the pharmaceutical companies and western medicine.

Fukushima “Death Cloud” Kills hundreds on US Warship

H/T: (Skeptic Wars)

Video via Thunderf00t – YouTube.

Recently it has been widely covered in the media that ~70 members of the US 7th fleet are suing TEPCO (the company responsible for the Fukushima for THREE BILLION DOLLARS.

On paper they claim all sorts of cancer, however I can find no interview of anyone with cancer. Further the lawsuit doesn’t say what the claims are for. What I do find is interview after interview of people describing non-quantifiable symptoms that are wholly inconsistent with radiation poisoning.

The thing that bugs me the most here is radiation is being sold as the ‘invisible boogey man’ that causes all the ills that you cannot otherwise explain.

Sure radiation can cause some serious problems, but then again so can asbestos. But this does not mean you can blame any unaccounted for maladies on asbestos or radiation!

In Africa when anything goes wrong (crop failures etc), there are those only too happy to blame witches. The only thing different here is the boogey man is radiation.

Delysid’s Guide to Thinking and Debating Like a (bad) Conspiracy Theorist

by Delysid via dailypaul.com

conspiracist 1200Step 1: Start with the premise that any tragic incident is a massive, intricate government conspiracy.

Step 2: Denounce any information presented by a mainstream, non-conspiracy source that directly counters the predetermined conspiracy narrative as corrupt and part of the conspiracy.

Step 3: Monitor these same mainstream sources for information that supports the predetermined conspiracy narrative, even if only remotely. Mainstream media reporting mistakes that support your conspiracy (or any conspiracy really) must be treated as rare moments of truth, glimpses inside the Matrix. Any mainstream media reports in favor of the conspiracy should be treated like the word of God. Spam that information everywhere.

Step 4: Imagination is the same thing as undeniable fact. There is nothing wrong with manipulating Youtube videos and using Photoshop to edit information to make it more obvious for the stupid sheeple to understand.

Step 5: Reject the skeptics to the conspiracy theories aggressively. Call them out for being sheep, shills, Cointelpro, paid agents, et cetera. Do not ever doubt yourself, because if you think they are any of these nouns, then it is undeniably true. After all, the conspiracy theory you are trying to wake the world up to is a fact. Only a sheep would think otherwise.

conspiracist clicktivism_300pxStep 6: Bring up the founding of the Federal Reserve, the Bay of Pigs, The Gulf of Tonkin, and other well known deceptive schemes by the government often (every conversation if need be.) These actions were confessed by government, therefore every other conspiracy theory is true!

Step 7: Cite declassified documents often, as they are invaluable. If the government reports that a secret program was started and ended 60 years ago- DO NOT BELIEVE THEM. The secret programs for sure are still occurring and are now more massive, sinister, and successful than before.

Step 8: Remember that most of witnesses and victims involved in conspiracy event are actors. Medical examiners, emergency responders, the police, reporters, they are almost all in on it. The innocent people caught up in the conspiracy were either killed or have been threatened by the conspirators and are too afraid to come forward (or they possibly never existed to begin with.)

Step 9: Blitz the world with the truth until everyone deletes you on Facebook or you are banned from your favorite web sites. Lay low for a period, regroup at your favorite alternative web sites, get encouragement and reinforcement from the other awakened truth seekers, and start the process all over again with a new conspiracy.


Your personal pseudoscience detector

Via Skeptical Raptor

sasquatch-pseudoscience_300pxIf you read something that makes some medical claim, here’s a quick and easy checklist to determine if it’s pseudoscience. Or real science-based medicine.

  1. The discoverer pitches his claim directly to the media. Going to media directly bypasses the all-important peer-review process, where real scientists can evaluate whether the claim is real science. There are some journalists that are thorough scientific skeptics, but it is rare. That’s why press releases rank near the bottom of acceptable scientific evidence.
  2. The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his/her work. Special pleading for a conspiracy is just a logical fallacy. If someone discovers a cure for all cancers (probably not possible, since there are so many different cancers), the powers that be will be bringing truckloads of dollars to buy it, because they could market it for even more truckloads of money. But if you have no evidence that it cures all cancers, you’re not going  get anything.
  3. The scientific effect is always at the very limit of detection. This is the very definition of “it doesn’t work.” Moreover, if the thing being promoted has a tiny effect, then more of it will have more of an effect, the typical dose-response relationship expected from all compounds.
  4. Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal. Anecdotes are not data. More anecdotes are not data. Anecdotes are not controlled, but they are subject to all sorts of bias. Like confirmation bias, where the observer only picks anecdotes that support their belief. The problem with that is we have no idea if the anecdote is, in fact, accurate; and we ignore all the data that does not support the anecdote. Randomized clinical trials remove bias, remove observer partiality, and blind the patients and the researchers to the experiment itself.


Why the WTC towers fell at almost free-fall speed

OR . . . Static Versus Dynamic Loading

By Dave Burton via Burton Systems Software – (burtonsys.com)

WTC_Tower_2_collapse_200pxSome conspiracy theorists are puzzled about why the WTC towers fell at almost free-fall speed on Sept. 11, 2001. They suppose that the speed of collapse is evidence that something or someone must have destroyed the structural integrity of the undamaged lower part of each tower.

After all, they reason, “only the upper floors of the building were damaged, so why did the lower floors collapse, and why did they fall so fast?”

This web page answers those questions, simply enough for even a conspiracy theorist to comprehend (I hope). I do use some simple math and some very basic physics, but even if you don’t understand that part you should still be able to comprehend the basic reasons that the towers fell so fast.

What the conspiracy theorists apparently don’t understand is the difference between static and dynamic loading. (“Static” means “while at rest,” “dynamic” means “while moving.”)

If you don’t think it can make a difference, consider the effect of a stationary bullet resting on your chest, compared to the effect of a moving bullet striking your chest. The stationary bullet exerts a static load on your chest. A moving bullet exerts a dynamic load.

bullet apple 03_flat

As a more pertinent example, consider a 110 story building with a roof 1,368 feet high (like the WTC Twin Towers). Each floor is 1368/110 = 12.44 feet high, or aproximately 3.8 meters.

Now, suppose that the structural steel on the 80th floor collapses. (Note: I’m using as an example 2 WTC, which was the building that collapsed first.)

The collapse of the 80th floor drops all the floors above (which, together, are equivalent to a 30 story building!) onto the 79th floor, from a height of aproximately 12 feet.

Of course, the structure of the lower 79 floors has been holding up the weight of the top 31 floors for many years. (That’s the static load.) So should you expect it to be able to hold that same weight, dropped on it from a height of 12 feet (the dynamic load)?

The answer is, absolutely not!

Here’s why.

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Download HD version of this video for reposting: http://tinyurl.com/7rjrsjr

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:

The Science Behind 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.


Chopra Shoots at Skepticism and Misses

By via NeuroLogica Blog

CHOPRADeepak Chopra apparently has no love for organized skepticism. This is not surprising and his particular brand of spiritual pseudoscience has been a favorite target of skeptical analysis. He is also not the only one who has decided to fight back against the skeptics – if you cannot defend yourself against legitimate criticism, then shoot the messenger.

In a recent article Chopra renews his attack against what he calls “militant skepticism.” This is a blatant attempt, of course, to portray skeptics as extremist and on the fringe, a strategy that has been used against “militant atheists.” Chopra also uses his article to conflate skepticism with atheism, almost as if he is completely unaware of the internal discourse that has been taking place for decades within the skeptical movement.

Chopra writes:

The rise of militant skepticism clouded the picture, however, beginning with its popular attack on religion. The aim of Richard Dawkins, as stated in his best seller, The God Delusion, was to subject “the God hypothesis” to scientific scrutiny, the way one would subject anti-matter or black holes to scrutiny. In fact he did no such thing with God, for the scientific method requires experiments that can be replicated and facts that can be verified. Dawkins offered no experiments to prove or disprove the existence of God. What he actually did was to subject religion to a barrage of scorn and ridicule, attacking it on the rational improbability – as he sees it – that a deity could possibly exist.

This is an interesting bit of historical revisionism, although I think it probably just reflects Chopra’s complete unfamiliarity with his subject matter. The modern skeptical movement predates Dawkins by decades. We have had a clear philosophy and scope long before Dawkins appeared on the scene.

Dawkins is a highly respected figure among skeptics because of his powerful writing, his popularizing of science, and his unflinching criticism of pseudoscience. Most skeptics are atheists, and we also respect his defending science from the intrusion of religion and spirituality.

Richard Dawkins

Richard Dawkins

Where many skeptics, myself included, disagree with Dawkins is precisely in treating “the God hypothesis” as if it were only a scientific question. I say “only” because certainly it is possible to treat any supernatural hypothesis as if it were in the realm of methodological naturalism, and there is general agreement among skeptics when approached in this way the only reasonable conclusion is that there is no credible evidence to support the conclusion that any god exists, or that the laws of the material universe need to be extended to account for any alleged supernatural phenomena. If you frame God as a scientific hypothesis, it can be scientifically refuted. Looked at another way, the psychocultural hypothesis is a far better and more parsimonious explanation for belief in God than the actual existence of such a being.

The big “but” is that not everyone believes in God as a scientific fact. Some people choose to have faith in an unfalsifiable god, one that resides outside the realm of science. Once someone’s faith has retreated outside the realm of science, then science is no longer the tool by which one should address such faith. Logic and philosophy are now more appropriate, but you cannot say, by definition, that an unfalsifiable God can be scientifically proven to not exist.

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5 Things I’ve noticed about… Bizarre Conspiracy Theories


by via The Soap Box

eye all seeing_250pxWhen you dive into the world of conspiracy theories (either as a skeptic, or a conspiracy theorist, or just a curious onlooker) you will ultimately come across some conspiracy theories that sound really, really bizarre…

In fact ever since I started doing serious skepticism and debunking and investigating conspiracy theories I have found conspiracy theories so strange that I could never have possibly have thought of them (which is probably a good thing).

Now while there are a lot of things I have noticed about bizarre conspiracy theories, I have narrowed it down to five different things.

So here are five things I’ve noticed about bizarre conspiracy theories:

5. They’re indicators of mental illness.

schizophrenia 932_250px_250pxFirst I want to say that anyone who believes that the world is controlled by shape-shifting aliens, or that the World Trade Center towers were brought down by lasers, or that the government is using radio signals to attack peoples minds, or believes in crisis actors, or believes that chemtrails are real is not necessarily mentally ill… I’m just saying it’s a pretty strong indicator of mental illness, especially when you consider the fact that others who also believe in such conspiracy theories have engaged in behavior that strongly indicates that they are mentally ill (such as making long and incoherent rants, or harassing people, or making threats), or actually has been found out or proven to be mentally ill.

It’s not just the people who believe in them either. Many of the people whom have created the most bizarre conspiracy theories out there are they themselves believed to be mentally ill. Even the ones who are very intelligent and hold college degrees, but come up with these weird conspiracy theories, are automatically assumed to be mentally ill because it’s really the most logical explanation for many skeptics concerning a person whom is very smart but believes in really weird stuff.

4. There is no deep end to them.

tunnel tumble_200pxHave you ever heard or read about a conspiracy theory that made you think, “there is no way that there can be something stranger than this…” Well, I don’t mean to burst your bubble, but trust me when I say this, there is a conspiracy theory out there that is more bizarre than what you have just heard or read about. And if there isn’t one, one will be invented soon enough.

Now I don’t blame anyone for believing that whenever they hear about a crazy conspiracy theory that they believe that it is the craziest conspiracy theory out there, I use to believe that myself when I came across a really bizarre conspiracy, but then I would be proven wrong again and again whenever I kept coming across one even more bizarre than the next one, it kind of destroyed my ability to believe that there is a bottom to conspiracy theory craziness.

In fact some are so bizarre that…

3. They are confused for satire.

what-hi_200pxIt really should not surprise anyone that there are some conspiracy theories out there that are either so weird, or so bizarre, that some people don’t believe that it is a real conspiracy theory (well, as real as one can be) and that it was made up as a parody of other conspiracy theories, or some type of satire, or, as some conspiracy theorists may claim, dis-information.

This is something that even I have assumed at times whenever I see a bizarre conspiracy theory, either in the hope that no one can seriously be so crazy that they could come up with such a thing, or that it just looks like satire.

In fact some have actually turned out to be satire (or a hoax) but because some conspiracy theorists can’t tell the difference between what is real and what is fake, some of them assume that it is real.

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inFact: Conspiracy Theories

Via inFact: Conspiracy Theories.

What is a Sheeple?

The Conspiracy Theorist definition, and the reality based definition.

by via The Soap Box

Recently on Facebook came across a picture on my feed that, considering the group it was posted in (it was a comedy page) I thought was very… unusual, to say the least.

This is the picture that was posted in said group:


I found this picture a tad bit disturbing, not only because it was posted in a group meant for comedy, but because it clearly showed what at least some conspiracy theorists thinks about people who disagree with them or out right do not believe (and most of the time, for good reason).

In fact this description would be far more accurate if the word “Sheeple” was replaced with “Conspiracy Theorist”, as many skeptics would agree that this would more accurately describe many conspiracy theorists (or at least the far more psychotic ones).

Now, a far more accurate definition for the word “Sheeple” would probably be this:

Sheeple – A derogatory word that combines the words “sheep” and “people“, and is typically used by conspiracy theorists to try to describe a person whom does not believe in their conspiracy theories (see Skeptic).

Typically the word “Sheeple” is used in arguments over the internet as a blatant insult directed at a skeptic, and is also used as an attempt to intimidate a skeptic into backing down or backing away from an argument concerning a conspiracy theory, and/or even bully them into agreeing with the conspiracy theorist.

This is not to be confused with the word “Shill” which is typically directed towards people who not only do not believe in a conspiracy theory that a conspiracy theorist is presenting, but also presents evidence and/or logical reasoning to show why they don’t believe in a conspiracy theory.

Both “Shill” and “Sheeple” are also used by conspiracy theorists as an attempt to end an argument over the internet while trying to save face when it becomes obvious to them that they can not win and are just making themselves appear as someone of either low intelligence and/or questionable sanity.

SHEEPLE 04_300pxThat would be a far more accurate description for the word “Sheeple”. Basically speaking, it is just a typical insult that conspiracy theorists use to try to scare away a skeptic.

The best thing to do if someone calls you a sheeple is to ask them why they think you are a sheeple, and then explain to them why you are not one (this also works if they call you a shill). If this does not work either ignore the accusations, ignore the person completely, or (if you feel like just making them mad) tell them that they are actually conceding defeat in that they actually have nothing left to counter argue, and that they are actually trying to end the argument while at the same time attempting to make it appear as if they have actually won the argument.

Regardless of how you decide to actually handle someone who calls you a a sheeple or a shill, you just have to remember that this is typical conspiracy theorist speak, and that they’re only saying it because they’re mad that you don’t believe them.

[END] The Soap Box

Debating Homeopathy Part I

by Steven Novella via Skepticblog

warning-homeopathy-not-medicineSix years ago I was asked to participate in a group debate over the legitimacy of homeopathy at the University of CT (there were six speakers, three on each side). This year I was asked to participate in another homeopathy debate at UCONN, but this time one-on-one with Andre Saine ND from the Canadian Academy of Homeopathy taking the pro-homeopathy side. (I will provide a link when the video is posted online.)

While the basic facts of homeopathy have not changed in the past six years, the details and some of the specific arguments of the homeopaths have evolved, so it was good to get updated on what they are saying today. In this post I will discuss some overall patterns in the logic used to defend homeopathy and then discuss the debate over plausibility. In tomorrow’s post I will then discuss the clinical evidence, with some final overall analysis.

Believers and Skeptics

As with the last debate, the audience this time was packed with homeopaths and homeopathy proponents. When I was introduced as the president of the New England Skeptical Society, in fact, laughter erupted from the audience. But that’s alright – I like a challenge. It did not surprise me that the audience, and my opponent, were unfamiliar with basic skeptical principles. Andre, in fact, used the word “skeptic” as a pejorative throughout his presentation.

medicine badThe difference in our two positions, in fact, can be summarized as follows: Andre Saine accepts a very low standard of scientific evidence (at least with homeopathy, but probably generally given that he is a naturopath), whereas I, skeptics, and the scientific community generally require a more rigorous standard.

The basic pattern of Andre’s talk was to quote from one of my articles on homeopathy declaring some negative statement about homeopathy, and then to counter that statement with a reference to scientific evidence. The problem is, his references were to low-grade preliminary evidence, and never to solid reproducible evidence.

That is one functional difference between skeptics and believers – the threshold at which they consider scientific evidence to be credible and compelling (there are many reasons behind that difference, but that is the end result).

I was asked what level of evidence I would find convincing, and that’s an easy question to answer because skeptics spend a great deal of time exploring that very question. In fact, I have discussed this in the context of many things, not just homeopathy.

For any scientific claim (regardless of plausibility) scientific evidence is considered well-established when it simultaneously (that’s critical) fulfills the following four criteria:

  1. Methodologically rigorous, properly blinded, and sufficiently powered studies that adequately define and control for the variables of interest (confirmed by surviving peer-review and post-publication analysis).
  2. Positive results that are statistically significant.
  3. A reasonable signal to noise ratio (clinically significant for medical studies, or generally well within our ability to confidently detect).
  4. Independently reproducible. No matter who repeats the experiment, the effect is reliably detected.

This pattern of compelling evidence does not exist for ESP, acupuncture, any form of energy medicine, cold fusion or free energy claims, nor homeopathy. You may get one or two of those things, but never all four together. You do hear many excuses (special pleading) for why such evidence does not exist, but never the evidence itself.

The reason for this is simple – when you set the threshold any lower, you end up prematurely accepting claims that turn out not to be true.


homeopathyThe less plausible, the more outrageous and unconventional a scientific claim, the more nitpicky and uncompromising we should be in applying the standards above. This follows a Bayesian logic – you are not beginning with a blank slate, as if we have no prior knowledge, but rather are starting with existing well-established science and then extending that knowledge further.

To clarify – if a new claim seems implausible it does not mean that it is a-priori not true. It simply means that the threshold of evidence required to conclude that it is probably true is higher.

Scottish philosopher David Hume sort of captured this idea over two centuries ago when he wrote:

No testimony is sufficient to establish a miracle, unless the testimony be of such a kind, that its falsehood would be more miraculous than the fact which it endeavors to establish.

I like to think of it this way: The evidence for any new claim that contradicts prior established scientific conclusions must be at least as robust as the prior evidence it would overturn. You can also ask the question – what is more likely, that the relevant scientific facts are wrong, or that the new claim is wrong?

What is more likely, that much of what we think we know about physics, chemistry, biology, physiology, and medicine is wrong, or that the claims of homeopathy are wrong? I think this is an easy one.

MORE . . . Debating Homeopathy Part I

• Debating Homeopathy Part II

Skeptics poked holes in acupuncture study which needled the study’s author

By idoubtit via Doubtful News

Accupuncture_250pxAn INTERESTING follow up to this story… A sharp difference: Study of sham vs real acupuncture appear good or bad depending on how you view it.

The lead author of this acupuncture study complains about “ad hominem” attacks from skeptics. Two skeptical medical blogs give him what’s what.

Here is the abstract.

In September 2012 the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration published the results of an individual patient data meta-analysis of almost 18 000 patients in high quality randomised trials. The results favoured acupuncture. Although there was little argument about the findings in the scientific press, a controversy played out in blog posts and the lay press. This controversy was characterised by ad hominem remarks, anonymous criticism, phony expertise and the use of opinion to contradict data, predominantly by self-proclaimed sceptics. There was a near complete absence of substantive scientific critique. The lack of any reasoned debate about the main findings of the Acupuncture Trialists’ Collaboration paper underlines the fact that mainstream science has moved on from the intellectual sterility and ad hominem attacks that characterise the sceptics’ movement.

Nope. Not close to the mark. There was plenty of substance in the critiques at the time include those from Edzard Ernst, emeritus professor of complementary medicine at the University of Exeter, who said the study “impressively and clearly” showed that the effects of acupuncture were mostly due to placebo. “The differences between the results obtained with real and sham acupuncture are small and not clinically relevant. Crucially, they are probably due to residual bias in these studies. Several investigations have shown that the verbal or non-verbal communication between the patient and the therapist is more important than the actual needling. If such factors would be accounted for, the effect of acupuncture on chronic pain might disappear completely.”

MORE . . . .

Ten characteristics of conspiracy theorists

via urban75.org

A look into the mind of conspiraloons, nutjobs and tin foil hatters

1. Arrogance. They are always fact-seekers, questioners, people who are trying to discover the truth: sceptics are always “sheep”, patsies for Messrs Bush and Blair etc.

tin foil hat_250px2. Relentlessness. They will always go on and on about a conspiracy no matter how little evidence they have to go on or how much of what they have is simply discredited. (Moreover, as per 1. above, even if you listen to them ninety-eight times, the ninety-ninth time, when you say “no thanks”, you’ll be called a “sheep” again.) Additionally, they have no capacity for precis whatsoever. They go on and on at enormous length.

3. Inability to answer questions. For people who loudly advertise their determination to the principle of questioning everything, they’re pretty poor at answering direct questions from sceptics about the claims that they make.

4. Fondness for certain stock phrases. These include Cicero’scui bono?” (of which it can be said that Cicero understood the importance of having evidence to back it up) and Conan Doyle‘s “once we have eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, however unlikely, must be the truth”. What these phrases have in common is that they are attempts to absolve themselves from any responsibility to produce positive, hard evidence themselves: you simply “eliminate the impossible” (i.e. say the official account can’t stand scrutiny) which means that the wild allegation of your choice, based on “cui bono?” (which is always the government) is therefore the truth.

5. Inability to employ or understand Occam’s Razor. Aided by the principle in 4. above, conspiracy theorists never notice that the small inconsistencies in the accounts which they reject are dwarfed by the enormous, gaping holes in logic, likelihood and evidence in any alternative account.

AlexJonesMoron_200px6. Inability to tell good evidence from bad. Conspiracy theorists have no place for peer-review, for scientific knowledge, for the respectability of sources. The fact that a claim has been made by anybody, anywhere, is enough for them to reproduce it and demand that the questions it raises be answered, as if intellectual enquiry were a matter of responding to every rumour. While they do this, of course, they will claim to have “open minds” and abuse the sceptics for apparently lacking same.

7. Inability to withdraw. It’s a rare day indeed when a conspiracy theorist admits that a claim they have made has turned out to be without foundation, whether it be the overall claim itself or any of the evidence produced to support it. Moreover they have a liking (see 3. above) for the technique of avoiding discussion of their claims by “swamping” – piling on a whole lot more material rather than respond to the objections sceptics make to the previous lot.

MORE . . .

Keeping Up the Pressure

Written by Dr. Steven Novella via Randi.org

Click image for larger view.

Click image for larger view.

Homeopathy is the second most used medical system in the world, after real medicine. It is legal, and in fact enjoys privileged status in the US and many other industrialized nations. Most people, however, do not really understand what it is, or the fact that years of research and hundreds of studies show conclusively that it does not work – for anything.

Homeopathy is an example of 100% pure unadulterated pseudoscience. Its underlying principles are not only unscientific, they are as close to impossible as you can get in science, meaning that vast amounts of physics, chemistry, and biology would have to be rewritten if homeopathy were true.

Proponents abuse the scientific evidence, and propose one absurd pseudoexplanation after another to desperately justify their magic potions.

This is all likely very familiar to most skeptics, prompting some to criticize the apparent obsession of some segments of the skeptical community with homeopathy. This misses a very important point, however. The purpose of the skeptical literature is not just to educate and entertain the already skeptical, but to influence the broader culture.

warning-homeopathy-not-medicineFor this purpose we need to keep up the pressure, we need to keep countering homeopaths whenever they emerge to offer a new distortion of science and evidence. This is part of what we do as activists – it is only scientific skeptics who are pushing back against this dangerous nonsense.

I can tell you from personal experience that mainstream physicians and scientists largely do not know and do not care about homeopathy. At best they are “shruggies” who think it is harmless, and at worst they are confused enough to actually support it (Dr. Oz comes to mind, but perhaps he is not the best example).

Science journalists are mixed, some get it, and some don’t. I was recently involved with a documentary on homeopathy by an honest documentarian who was just trying to understand homeopathy (in other words, not a propaganda piece by proponents). Unfortunately she simply came to the exact wrong conclusion about homoepathy, convinced by anecdotal evidence. She was not prepared to understand how so many people could be wrong, how easy it is for people to be fooled, and how difficult it is to get reliable and unbiased results from scientific study. In other words – she was not a skeptic (not sufficiently skilled in critical thinking and understanding the difference between science and pseudoscience). The film is not out yet, so I have yet to see the final result, but I know it’s not going to be good.

There is a bright side, however – skeptics constantly pushing back against the nonsense, and we are making some headway. The more the public understands about homeopathy, the more it is marginalized.

MORE . . .

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?


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?


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.

The Power of Confirmation Bias

via NeuroLogica Blog

It is … not enough to have a generally skeptical outlook, or even to call oneself a skeptic. Skepticism is a journey of self-knowledge, exploration, and mastering the various skills that comprise so-called metacognition – the ability to think about thinking.


ConfirmationBias2As an example of the need for metacognitive skills in navigating this complex world there is confirmation bias. This is definitely on my top 5 list of core skeptical concepts, and is a major contributor to faulty thinking. Confirmation bias is the tendency to perceive and accept information that seems to confirm our existing beliefs, while ignoring, forgetting, or explaining away information that contradicts our existing beliefs. It is a systematic bias that works relentlessly and often subtly to push us in the direction of a desired or preexisting conclusion or bias. Worse – it gives us a false sense of confidence in that conclusion. We think we are following the evidence, when in fact we are leading the evidence.

Part of the illusion of evidence created by confirmation bias is the fact that there is so much information out there in the world. We encounter numerous events, people, and bits of data every day. Our brains are great at sifting this data for meaningful patterns, and when we see the pattern we think, “What are the odds? That cannot be a coincidence, and so it confirms my belief.” Rather, the odds that you would have encountered something that could confirm your belief was almost certain, given the number of opportunities.

Another factor that plays into confirmation bias is using open-ended criteria, or ad-hoc or post-hoc analysis. This means that we decide after we encounter a bit of information that this information confirms our belief. We retrofit the new data into our belief as confirmation.

Confirmation bias is further supported by a network of cognitive flaws – logical fallacies, heuristics, and other cognitive biases – that conspire together to reinforce our existing beliefs. In the end you have people who, based on the same underlying reality, arrive at confidently and firmly held conclusions that are directly opposing and mutually exclusive.

I encounter examples of confirmation bias every day. (My now favorite quote about this is from Jon Ronson, who said, “After I learned about confirmation bias I started seeing it everywhere.”) Of course, at first it is easy to see confirmation bias in others, and only later do we learn to detect it in ourselves, which forever remains challenging.

MORE . . .

Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You

by Tomas Chamorro-Premuzic, Ph.D. via Psychology Today

Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You | Psychology TodayImagine that everything we think we understand about how the world works is, in fact, an elaborate hoax. Democracy is a sham designed to fool us into believing we are in control. That a small group of unknown, unaccountable elites is actually pulling the strings and pretty much deciding the course of history; everything from the world economy and the conduct of nations to the media and pop culture is under their complete control. Anyone who says otherwise has either been fooled by the conspiracy or is an agent of disinformation.

Does this seem plausible to you? Our latest test is designed to assess your belief in conspiracy theories.

Conspiracy theories are now a firm feature of popular culture – the recent furore around Wiki-leaks provided compelling evidence for this. But the popularity of conspiracy theorising dates back to the shocking assassination of American President J.F.K. in broad daylight and in front of dozens of onlookers on November 22nd, 1963. Immediately, many people claimed that there was more than one gunman, and conspiracy theories arose implicating everyone from the CIA to the communists. More recently, films like Oliver Stone’s JFK and T.V. shows like The X-Files brought conspiratorial themes further into the mainstream. The terrorist attacks of September 11th 2001 have become perhaps the most widely debated events of the current generation. Many people doubt the ‘official’ story, believing instead that the events were the result of a conspiracy.

So, what has psychological research told us about belief in conspiracy theories? Not much. Indeed, so far only a handful of studies have looked at the personality of conspiracy theory believers. This research has found that believers tend to be lacking in trust and higher in levels of anomie – the feeling that things are generally getting worse – when compared to people with low levels of conspiracy beliefs. However, these findings show correlation, not causation. On the one hand, it may indicate that people’s conspiratorial beliefs are a result of their underlying lack of trust; people who see conspiracies behind everything are simply be projecting their own jaded view of the world onto events. Alternatively, lack of trust may follow from the perception of a conspiracy, reflecting a rational response to the reality of living in a world of conspiracy.

Read More: Personality and Conspiracy Theories: What Your Beliefs Say About You | Psychology Today.

Thank you!

I’d like to take this moment to thank everybody for their continued support of iLLumiNuTTi.com. Since we first opened our doors in April we have had a fantastic growth in the number of visitors. Thank you! Keep telling your friends about us and don’t forget to “Like” us on FaceBook and we’ll continue to bring you the weird, wacky and fun stuff!

Have fun and feel free to comment your ideas and suggestions. 🙂

Mason I. Bilderberg

Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories: Radical Conspiracy Theorist = Dis-information Agent

via The Soap Box

One of the most common claims by conspiracy theorists is that there are dis-information agents all over the place. Normally these accusations of being a dis-information agent are made against skeptics and debunkers, since skeptics and debunkers are the people who show just how faulty conspiracy theories really are. But sometimes, claims of being a dis-information agent are made by conspiracy theorists, against other conspiracy theorists.

In fact, it’s actually quite common for some conspiracy theorists to accuse other conspiracy theorists of being dis-information agents, especially if those who are being accused, promote conspiracy theories that are either so radical, or so strange, that other conspiracy theorists actually debunk them. Sometime it doesn’t even have to be really weird, just very different from what another conspiracy theorist believes.

Because of this, and other actions, such as spamming the comments section on conspiracy theorists web sites, blogs,  message boards, and skeptics and debunker web sites and blogs, with their extremely strange conspiracy theories, many “mainstream” conspiracy theorists have “concluded” that these people who promote these extremely strange conspiracy theories must be dis-information agents because… who else would promote such insane conspiracy theories.

Read More: The Soap Box: Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories: Radical Conspiracy Theorist = Dis-information Agent.
See also: The Soap Box: Embarrassing Conspiracy Theories: Debunker Bloggers = Dis-information Agent.