Posts Tagged sceptic

Question of the Week: What Brings You Here?

Having recently joined the cast of the Righteous Indignation podcast, this weekend I found myself speaking to Rebecca Watson of Skepchick.org (that clang noise you just heard was the sound of names dropping).  We were recording an interview for an upcoming show, and generally chatting about this-and-that when it suddenly struck me – this was THE Rebecca Watson, of The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe fame.  Surreal.

One of the questions that came up was how Rebecca found her way into skepticism, and her response was quite telling – initially working through college as a magician, she found herself reading books from Penn & Teller.  Guided by their constant references to James Randi, she found herself on the JREF forum and things took off from there.  What interested me about her response was the familiarity of it – I got into skepticism from watching Penn and Teller’s Bullshit, and from there I began listening to the SGU simply to hear what Teller’s voice sounded like in an interview he gave with them.  From the SGU, Randi and the JREF was the next logical step.  But that’s just my story – I want to hear yours.

So, with that in mind, I ask you all:  What brings you here?  What path to skepticism did you take, and who were the inspirations and guides along the way?

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‘Boasters, Maids And Cockroaches’ – Conversations With A Believer

As many of you good, fine, upstanding and downright skeptical people will know, I like to hear from you.  I love getting your feedback, your comments, and your general thoughts – from the thought-provoking and informative, all the way through to the outright bizarre (yes Colonel Molerat, I do mean you).

Perhaps just as many of you may also know, I’m somewhat prone to receiving other comments, too.  I’ve been – in my short but somewhat-surreal skeptical career – labelled a paedophile, a fascist akin to the BNP*, accused of making myself look foolish and of having nothing more meaningful than my scouse wit – and that’s just what I can recall off the top of my head.  Fortunately, I kinda love it.

But I must admit, even my usually-calm blood was somewhat boiled by an exchange I recently had/am having on Facebook, in response to one of my regular (and actually rather innocuous) updates.  The feedbacker had, as far as I can see, taken offence to the question of the week that arose during the last Skeptics in the Pub (that’s right, I’m blaming you guys for this one!) – What would you sell your soul for?  Feel free to answer that if you haven’t already, by the way…

The nature of her feedback was somewhat remarkable to me – partly in the vehemence in the attack of British skeptics in general, and of me in particular.  But the other thing that struck me was the lack of direction – I can only assume from the tone and the aggression that she is a true believer, but curiously I have no clue what in!

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‘Psychic’ Joe Power and the Two-Man-Mob

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Cool drizzle fell onto the grey Saturday streets of Liverpool, a light breeze tumble-weeded a sweet wrapper down the road in a clichéd fashion, and I was becoming increasingly aware that this would be the strangest conversation of my life.  And I didn’t need psychic powers for that.  For I was in the company of ‘Psychic’ Joe Power, fresh from his latest in-store book-signing (signed copies of which, I add, are still on the shelves of Waterstones – supply quite exceeded demand it seems), and things were getting weird.

“The thing about you sceptics,” he said, standing on the step of a plus-size lingerie shop to raise himself to my eye-level, “is that you sit there, festering in front of your computers at 3am, thinking up ways to get at people.  What if I were to sit in front of your house and tell people you’re a paedophile?”

“Well,” I say, “that’s for you to decide to do if you want to but it’s not really the same thing – I’m raising questions over what you do and the service you claim to provide; insinuating I was a paedophile would be just a personal attack, and wildly baseless.  It’s not really the same thing.  At all.”

“Oh I think they’re very similar,” he answers, “because you’re there festering, at 3am, plotting to get at me, in the same way that paedophiles fester and plot to interfere with children – you both have to be sick in the head to do what you do.”

With Herculean effort to suspend my natural what-the-fuck? reaction, and with a curt politeness that in retrospect now seems other-worldly, I manage a swift retort:  “Sorry, can I just clarify – are you comparing sceptics to paedophiles?  Could you explain that?  I mean, are you saying that paedophiles also ask questions of you, or what exactly?”

Joe:  “I think most sceptics probably are paedophiles. I mean you’re sat around at 3am, plotting, aren’t you?  Do you deny that?”

An-incredulous-Marsh: “Do I deny what?  That I ask questions?  That I’m sometimes awake at 3am?  Or that I am a paedophile?  Could you please be clear what you’re asking me, Joe?”

It’s not often that you’re 5 minutes into a conversation with someone you’ve never met before and they’ve already played the paedophile card.  I had a feeling it was going to be one of those days. Read the rest of this entry »

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Joe Power: Psychic Detective… although not a detective, and not psychic

The Liverpool Echo today runs a charmingly-sympathetic feature on local corpse-finder and celeb-séancer Joe Power.

For those of you with good memories for niche outré pieces of pop-culture tat (and why the hell wouldn’t you?), Joe was the chap who chatted with a posthumous John Lennon back in 2006.  The reason why many of you wouldn’t have known that – coincidentally the same reason that all of modern science wasn’t turned entirely on its head, causing scientists and philosphers the world over to fall to their knees, beating their breast and cursing their wasted lives in pursuit of damned reason – was that he didn’t actually talk to John Lennon.  John Lennon’s dead, he’s not talking to anyone these days, least of all Joe Power (his name gets better the more you say it aloud. Joe Power. Joe Power).  More details on that can be found all over the internet.  Go ahead, check, I’ll wait.

These days Joe tends to use his ‘powerful gift’ (because his name’s Joe Power.  Good punning, Liverpool Echo) to help police with their investigations – the latest being his help in locating Madelaine McCann.  Joe Power says:

“I believe I have seen the face of the person who abducted Madeleine and it is not dissimilar to the sketch which the detectives released after help from Jane Tanner”

So his psychic ability appears to have led him to confirm the information police came up with on their own and which they have been working on for a while now.  Handy.  Coincidentally, my own psychic ability leads me to predict that the River Mersey is wet, that the sky is blue, and that Joe Power is a fraud.  If he can retrodict, so can I.

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