A genuine skeptic is one who inquires with an open mind, using critical thinking and paying attention to the evidence. Unfortunately, some people who call themselves skeptics are in fact pseudoskeptics. They believe they know the truth already and dismiss any evidence as irrelevant. They are committed to the belief that minds are nothing but the activity of brains and are confined to the insides of heads. Hence psi phenomena are impossible. Minds cannot influence other minds at a distance, as in telepathy, or know the future, as in precognition, or sense when a person is being stared at from behind. Therefore all the supposed evidence for psychic phenomena can be denied or dismissed.
Skeptical About Skeptics shines a light on these actors with articles by top scientists and thinkers, revealing their faulty critiques and the underhanded methods they employ. We highlight controversies in specific fields of research and examine prominent pseudoskeptics and skeptical organizations.
Comments on Steven Pinker’s view of the Paranormal
by Brian D. Josephson, Ph.D.
Cavendish Laboratory, University of Cambridge
Nobel Laureate in Physics, 1973
In a talk in his BBC Radio 4 series ‘Think with Pinker’, Steven Pinker asked ‘why do so many of us believe in so much quackery and flapdoodle?’, characterising extrasensory perception as ‘paranormal woowoo’. I can imagine such language slipping out in the course of casual conversation, but on the BBC, in a programme where the text must have been carefully thought out in advance?
Something must have led to this being said in such an uncritical manner, so I thought I’d email Pinker to find out what had led him to speak in this way in regard to the paranormal. In response he came up with two arguments. The first has, at first sight, a degree of plausibility, and is the following: if there really are people with the claimed paranormal abilities, they could use these to win consistently at betting, and we would learn about that. However (as described in a recent Guardian article) it seems this does not happen, because when such people start to win significant sums of money the bookies take note, responding to the threat that they pose by imposing limits on how much they are allowed to bet. As a result, we cannot safely infer that there are no people who can use their paranormal abilities to win large amounts at betting.Continue Reading
Call for Grant Applications from Researchers in Subtle Energy and Biofield Healing
For researchers interested in exploring the science of subtle energy and biofield healing, the Biofield Research Fellowship Program is now seeking applications for a new grant/fellowship opportunity, which will provide six annual grants of up to $20,000 USD each, plus mentorship and community for emerging researchers across multiple disciplines.
Backed by a collaborative group of philanthropists and foundations called the Subtle Energy Collective (below), the Biofield Research Fellowship Program is funding rigorous examinations of biofield science with the goal of seeding a new generation of biofield researchers to advance the field and bolster its research base. In addition to grant funds, the Fellowship Program will provide Fellows with a collaborative community of emerging and established researchers and will pair each Fellow with a respected research mentor who has expertise relevant to their research. The findings derived from Fellows’ investigations will provide greater insight into biofield therapies and their applications for reducing suffering and promoting health and wellbeing.Continue Reading
The Man Who Destroyed Skepticism
By Mitch Horowitz
Originally published on Boing Boing, Oct 26, 2020
Several years ago I was preparing a talk on the life of occult journeyer Madame H.P. Blavatsky (1831–1891) for the Rubin Museum of Art in New York City. Someone on Facebook asked sardonically: "Will James Randi be there?" My interlocutor was referencing the man known worldwide as a debunker of psychical and paranormal claims. (That my online critic was outspoken about his own religious beliefs posed no apparent irony for him.)
Last week marked the death at age 92 of James "The Amazing" Randi, a stage magician who became internationally famous as a skeptic — indeed Randi rebooted the term "skepticism" as a response to the boom in psychical claims and research in the post-Woodstock era. Today, thousands of journalists, bloggers and the occasional scientist call themselves skeptics in the mold set by Randi. Over the past decade, the investigator himself was heroized in documentaries, profiles, and, now, obituaries. A Guardian columnist eulogized him as the "prince of reason."Continue Reading
Wikipedia’s Culture of Editorial Chaos and Malice
Originally published on the Progressive Radio Network, June 19, 2020
© Richard Gale and Gary Null PhD
Perhaps the greatest farce in the modern history of technology is the perception of Wikipedia as a legitimate encyclopedia. It has none of the qualifications as such but has all of the characteristics of a compromised propaganda machine disguised as an encyclopedia.
An authentic encyclopedia is transparent. Users can review the qualifications and expertise of its contributors. There is no personal animus or bias. If anything, these are people who are acutely conscious of the facts regarding any given subject. There is no whitewashing, no recasting or repurposing of negative content into positive opinions or vice versa. If an error is detected, it can be quickly corrected.Continue Reading