As I mentioned in the Ups and Downs post, I’m blogging at different locations these days.
First, make sure you head over to Doubtful News, updated every day (except the occasional day where I’m not able to be online). The purpose of that site is to provide a one stop location for all paranormal and skeptical news hot off the internet. I work pretty hard to be first so check in often to find stories before they hit the mainstream. Some are ridiculous (alien and Bigfoot reports) and some are very serious (children’s health). But all are hand-picked to be interesting. And, we try to be funny. That sometimes works out. T and I were happy to have the blog syndicated on Skeptic.com as well.
Follow @doubtfulnews on Twitter for some live tweeting, like I recently did from the premier of the movie The Bigfoot Hunter: Still Searching and from the PA Bigfoot Convention. I’ll have more about those events coming up here. Hopefully. Kinda busy…but it was a great weekend.
Don’t miss my guest post on Sheril Kirshenbaum’s site the Culture of Science. I wrote about how paranormal investigators fool the public into thinking they are credible science.
A few years ago, I attended a presentation by a popular paranormal investigation group which was hosted by a university student activities club. The room was crowded with people of all ages – kids, college students and local citizens. The audience was mesmerized by the information (or possibly just by the “celebrity” presenter) as I grew increasingly uncomfortable and dismayed. The stories were dramatic but their evidence was pathetic. Yet, people believed these researchers had recorded proof of actual paranormal occurrences.
This experience later translated to a research project of my own where I examined how these amateur research and investigation groups (ARIGs) presented themselves to the public. Specifically, I had noticed many of them claimed to be scientific. What did they mean by that? Did it have any merit?
With just a modicum of science experience, one can pick apart the amateur research and investigation groups (ARIGs) activities. ARIG participants do not generally show an understanding of the concepts of validity, controls, objectivity, bias, interference, statistical analysis, skepticism and peer review – or what we might refer to as the ethos of science . That’s no surprise; neither does the average non-scientist citizen. Yet, as part of their promotion, ARIGs will co-opt use of the culturally established image of science as a stamp of legitimacy, a means to exhibit their seriousness and commitment to truth, to project competence, qualifications, professionalism, accuracy and honesty.
This is common. We find the same associations to science-like concepts used to promote health and beauty claims, political and religious-based ideologies and many products in the marketplace.
At the beginning of October, I wrote about my experience with the local school in A Tale of Fail: Schools pass on opportunities to teach skepticism over at the JREF’s Swift blog
It is an oft-repeated complaint that our schools tell kids what to think, not teach them how to think. Questioning of the material presented is not encouraged (presumably to maintain order in the room). Since my children began school, I noticed certain “facts” that arose from classroom information that I’ve had to address. Mostly, I do this directly with my child, not to the teacher. I provide the framework to be thoughtfully critical of what they have been told. I’ve not hesitated to tell my kids that the teacher is NOT always right. There is more to the story that is not given. The world is a complicated place and one should not simply accept whatever is being presented as truth, without thinking about it first.
I recognize I’m probably not going to persuade teachers to be a bit more accurate with the story of Christopher Columbus or to talk about animals in terms of evolutionary relationships (as I would prefer). It’s clear that science, art and music is marginalized to make way for intense reading and math so that standardized test score goals are met but I am willing to supply educational enrichment myself or through opportunities outside of school. But, I’m also convinced that golden opportunities within the classroom are frequently missed.
Last year, two situations came up where I chose to become directly involved. The results, you will see, made me less than hopeful about the state of education.
And today, a new post on the differences between science, paranormal, supernatural and everything in between is over at the Skeptoid blog:
When considering or investigating unusual claims, establishing the cause is the goal we try to reach. What caused this event?
Today we have thousands of self-styled “paranormal investigators” to help the public with such claims. Often, they attribute the cause as “paranormal”. But, what does it mean to attribute something to the “paranormal” or to be “paranormal”? Is it the same as “supernatural”?
The words paranormal and supernatural get thrown around a lot in skeptical circles, usually interchangeably. Though they have loose definitions that change over time and somewhat overlap, it’s pedantic fun to consider the distinction that can be made between the two. And, since I could rightly be called pedantic, here we go.
As always, thanks for reading.