Archive for September, 2009

Skeptics with a K: Special #002

Marsh returns to City Talk FM to discuss astrology with clairvoyant and astrologer Claire Petulengro.


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Divination 101: The A-Z of ‘-mancies’

Rooster - courtesy of Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany I’ve written here on the ideomotor effect, specifically with regards to a Ouija board. Feel free to read it again, if you like. In researching that, I found I was coming across a wide variety of methods for getting answers about the future, and not all can be explained by the ideomotor effect. So, with that in mind, I wondered: could I fill a full A-Z with bizarre methods people have used to tell the future? Is there a form of divination for every letter of the alphabet? Well, sit tight kids, and you might just find out…

The word Divination itself derives from the Latin ‘Divinare‘ – “to foresee, to be inspired by god or gods”, the dictionary defines Divination as:

The practice of attempting to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means.

It’s the supposedly occult or supernatural means that will make up the main scope of this article. Some of these methods you may have heard off, some you won’t, some may seem non-too-outlandish and some are just downright odd. I’ve only picked 26 ways to supposedly foretell the future but whilst researching this blog series I discovered at least 157 methods. I hope I’ve included one or more of your favourites but if not please feel free to add it in the comments. Also this is meant to be both irreverent and sarcastic and in one or two special cases accurate, unlike divination itself. This week: A-E! Read the rest of this entry »



The Daily Mail says ‘Don’t Worry, She’s Not Foreign’

On Wednesday, I wrote about the vicious pillow fight between a pair of Christian hoteliers and their Muslim guest. I had reservations about taking either party’s side – both seemed frustratingly petty and argumentative, and the greater issue seemed to me to be the danger of using the police to forcibly resolve silly arguments.

Well, today the Daily Mail have released an update, in which they interview the Muslim woman involved, Ericka Tazi. She is a recent convert to Islam, being brought up a ‘staunch Catholic’ until a year ago (maybe one day she’ll settle on something sensible). The odd thing about the Mail’s approach is how they desperate they seem to be to separate her religion from any ‘foreign’ connotations. They quote her saying:

I only took up the Muslim faith a year ago. And it had nothing to do with my husband. Although he was born into the Muslim faith, he is as English as I am. He goes around in jeans and T-shirts and has even got a season ticket for Everton

Wow! He’s got a season ticket for Everton! He’s more English than me! The Mail seems, as always, utterly confused. “He may be Muslim, but he’s not foreign!” How bizarre (yet, of course, expected) that the Mail isn’t worried about the oddness of a person’s beliefs, just as long as they make sure they are thoroughly English. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cosmic Ordering: Real Or No Real?

Noel Edmonds, host of Deal or No Deal

Noel Edmonds, host of Deal or No Deal

This week it’s emerged that bearded box-opener Noel Edmonds of the granny-pleasing game show ‘Deal or No Deal‘ has something other than dumb luck and a penchant for stripey jumpers on his side. Noel, who’s career was saved by the quiz show after his popularity plummeted with the demise of his long-running 90s show ‘Noel’s House Party‘, has pinned his recent success firmly on ‘Cosmic Ordering‘.

For the uninitiated of our listeners, Cosmic Ordering is the mystical self-help movement whereby followers are encouraged to write down a wish list of things they want to come true and submit it to the cosmos and wait for it to happen. In that way it’s a lot like the Oprah-tastic self-help piddle ‘The Law of Atraction‘, essentially telling people that if you wish hard enough, anything you want will come to you.

In Noel’s case he was turned on to the power of the cosmos by that sure-fire source of life expertise – his reflexologist. Because, obviously, anyone who spends their day magically rubbing the feet of strangers clearly has the secret to getting ahead in life… but enough of the ad hominems. Instead lets look at this from a professional, respectable angle. Oh, sorry, mistake – let’s look at this in the Daily Mail. Read the rest of this entry »

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Putting The ‘P’ In Space

We’ve seen a lot of explanations for UFO sightings in the past – most notably Lighthouses, Surveillance balloons, Chinese lanterns, clouds, meteors, Mars, stars, Venus, the moon, mistaken identities, hallucinations, exaggerations, lies, aircrafts and aliens. Wait, no, that last one shouldn’t be on that list. Not aliens. But the latest explanation to emerge has to top them all – discarded urine. Well, by discarded I mean urine ejected from a shuttle, specifically, not as in ‘left lying around’. In the latter sense a lot of urine gets discarded, granted, but only the former sense leads to UFO sightings.

I’m talking specifically about a bright sparkling glow seen in the night sky over Wisconsin, USA, which left skygazers searching for an explanation. Was it a comet? Could it have been aliens? Well, no, as it turns out – it was in fact the frozen waster water from the shuttle Discovery, which was jettisoned by pilot Kevin Ford in preparation for a landing attempt the following day. Rumours that he had previously attempted the jettison but had been unable to complete the task while his fellow-astronauts were watching are not true, most notably because I just made them up. Because I’m childish sometimes. Read the rest of this entry »


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Standing-Room Only With Chris French

A Great NightOn Thursday 17th September, the Crown Hotel in Liverpool was the setting for our first Liverpool Skeptics in The Pub guest lecture. Guardian writer, TV personality and psychology professor, Chris French, came up to talk about his main area of research, ‘Anomalistic Psychology’. And what a night it was, too!

The event exceeded all our expectations, with at least 75 people turning up (to a room meant for 60!) to hear Chris’s entertaining lecture on a wide range of topics –  from alien abductions to ghosts, to Led Zeppelin and psychics – all under the rational umbrella of  ‘Anomalistic Psychology’. The room was filled to capacity – with many of you standing, though no-one seemed to mind! Everyone seemed to enjoy the night immensely, not least of all us here at the Merseyside Skeptics Society, who were overjoyed to have such a successful and fun night for our first guest lecture.

The talk lasted an hour, featuring among other things, a look at so-called satanic messages in rock music, why people see faces in random patterns, and how everyday psychological and physical quirks can account for many reports of UFOs and psychic ability. It was entertaining and insightful in equal measure. As well as being head of the ‘Anomalistic Psychology’ department at Goldsmith University, Chris is also editor of The Skeptic magazine, and his knowledge and sceptical eye seemingly left no stone unturned. Afterwards, he was kind enough to hold a riveting question and answer session with the audience, and the night ended with many of the audience taking advantage of the opportunity to chat and share a drink with him.

Everyone had a great night, and the large turnout just went to show how big Skepticism is becoming on Merseyside. We truly are part of something great , and it’s people like you who come to events like this, that keep it going. So, thanks to everyone who came, and thanks also to everyone involved in the organisation of this event who helped to make it possible. You know who you are! Thanks also to The Crown for letting us have their upstairs room for the night, and of course, thanks to Chris French himself for agreeing to come up to Merseyside and give the talk in the first place.

The Man Himself!Last but not least, don’t forget that this isn’t a one-off! We have plans for several guest lectures in the coming months, information on which will be released nearer the time. Our next event, however, is fully confirmed: on October 15th, in conjunction with The Liverpool Humanist Group, we have journalist and comedy writer (don’t call her a ‘comedienne’!), Ariane Sherine, coming up from London to talk to us about how she created the now-global Atheist Bus Campaign. More details can be found on this site. If the last event is anything to go by, this is bound to be huge, so whatever you do, don’t miss it!


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