Posts Tagged paranormal

Astrology 101: Debunking The Dirty Dozen

As we were sat around MSS HQ (which, being skeptics and all, you’re no doubt 100% aware of the fact it doesn’t actually exist), it occurred to us that there is an awful lot of woo out there, and not everyone can be expected to be fully versed in every bit of it.  I’d never heard of Pascal’s Wager (as Mike charmingly announced to the world).  People we’ve spoken to had no idea why homeopathy and acupuncture were pseudomedicine.  Some forms of woo are so obscure people may not have even heard of them (please please please spend 5 minutes looking up Breatharianism, for your next ‘what’s the harm?’ conversation).  We’ll be giving a basic intro to the pseudoscience and fuzzy thinking behind some of those in the near future, as part of our ‘Skeptic 101‘ series.

Then there are the other topics – the ones where everyone knows it’s nonsense, but you might not have the facts to hand next time you’re accosted by a woo-peddler on the subject.  Bigfoot.  Crop Circles.  Dowsing.  For me, Astrology falls firmly into this second category.

Twelve signs, twelve months, twelve types of people.  In the whole world. From looking at the positions of the stars and planets at precisely the moment of birth, it’s possible to predict character, future events, love life and a whole manner of cold, hard facts about a person.  Except it isn’t.  Because that’s ridiculous.  We all know that.  So here’s your at-a-glance guide to the woo that is astrology. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Psychic

Samuel glanced up nervously at the noon sun shining through the dim room’s thick, dusty windows. He had been feeling worried all morning, but couldn’t put his finger on it. No doubt the man who had visited earlier hadn’t helped. He had simply poked his head into the apothecary and, upon sighting Samuel, left again. Very suspicious. Perhaps it was innocent enough. Perhaps he had come into the wrong shop by accident. Or perhaps it was more sinister. Perhaps they were scouting him out.

The shop had been quiet all day. Books were piled high around him, and what few customers had been in had barely given him enough money for the day’s bread. Samuel sighed deeply, but stopped himself short as a mouse looked out from behind a bookshelf. He watched it silently, as it sniffed at the thick air and eyed the mottled floor. Timidly, it scurried a couple of feet along the edge of the wall, before gaining confidence and darting to the table at which Samuel was sitting, in order to better investigate the scraps he had spilled during breakfast.

Suddenly, the mouse stopped shock still, pricking up its ears. Samuel was still holding his breath, frozen like a gargoyle. It wasn’t him who had startled the mouse. It stood up on its hind legs and sniffed the air and then, with a panicked leap, it ran back to its home behind the books.
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How to demonstrate ghosts are real in one easy step

Imagine a conversation between two people.  We’ll call them Bill and Frank.

  • Frank claims: “God is real.”
  • Bill claims: “God is real.”
  • But Bill disagrees with Frank’s claim;
  • and Frank disagrees with Bill’s.

The solution to this simple problemette is that Bill and Frank define the word “God” in different ways. Bill, a fundamentalist Christian, worships the abrahamic god Yahweh.  Frank is a pantheist, and worships a spinozan god who might also be called “nature”.  The apparent contradiction in their conversation arises because they both use the word “god” to refer to the object of their worship, even though the concepts they are expressing are not equivalent.

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