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  • Susan Jacoby: Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism

    Susan Jacoby: Freethinkers: A History of American Secularism
    Excellent overview of the prominent role that freethinkers (atheists, agnostics, and deists) played in America's past, including the founding of our country, the abolition of slavery, and giving women the vote. (*****)

  • Sam Harris: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason

    Sam Harris: The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason
    One of the most frightening books I've ever read. Among numerous other topics, Harris argues that it is almost inevitable that atomic weapons will fall into the hands of religious radicals -- if not terrorist, then perhaps a nation with religious radicals in charge. (****)

  • Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion

    Richard Dawkins: The God Delusion
    Highly recommended. Despite what you might have heard, Richard Dawkins does not spew venom in this book. Flames do not shoot out when you open it, nor does bile drip from the pages. Far from being an hysterical, rabid diatribe against religion, it is a quite measured, logical explanation of the evidence against God and why religion should not be treated with such reverence. (*****)

  • Daniel C. Dennett: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon

    Daniel C. Dennett: Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon
    I highly recommend this book for anyone who is about to embark on studying religion and atheism. Why do people enjoy music? Why do we like to socialize? Why do we sometimes become violent? Science has attempted to answer each of these questions. Dennett proposes that science attempt to answer another: Why are people religious? Even if one of the religions is true, that still means that billions of people believe religions that are not true. Why? What is it about our evolutionary past that makes us willing to believe? (*****)

  • Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies

    Jared Diamond: Guns, Germs and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
    Why wasn't Europe invaded by ships carrying gun-wielding Native Americans or Africans, rather than the other way around? This is an excellent explanation of why some societies became quite advanced, while others remained primitive. (*****)

  • Richard P. Feynman: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character

    Richard P. Feynman: "Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman!": Adventures of a Curious Character
    Very entertaining and thought-provoking collection of anecdates from the life of perhaps the best-known physicist of the 20th century. (****)

  • Terry Pratchett, Ian Stewart, Jack S. Cohen: The Science of Discworld
    You'll have to visit Amazon UK to locate this one. This book explains science concepts by comparing them to the decidedly different physical laws of the Discworld series. (****)
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Pseudopsychology

February 14, 2005

Global Consciousness Project reveals human foolishness

It's hard to know which category to place this one in -- it's a little bit ESP, a little bit fortune telling, and a whole lot of pseudoscience.

The Global Consciousness Project apparently is trying to use random number generators to detect changes in the the "global consciousness" of the population of the planet. They claim that, when a big event happens, such as the funeral of Princess Diana, the 9/11 terrorist attacks, or the December 26 tsunami, that they observe changes in the pattern of randomly generated zeros and ones.

In the original Star Wars, Obi Wan Kenobi felt a great disturbance in the Force -- these guys claim to be doing so in real life. Better yet, they claim to be doing so before the event happens. For example, they claim that the pattern of numbers generated changed before the first of the 9/11 attacks, as well as before the tsunami hit.

Anyone else suspect they know what's going on here? Various scientists claim to be baffled, so maybe I can help them out. Here's what's probably happening -- humans are being human. You see a spike in the numbers, you scan the news headlines to look for some big event. If you find something, then you can say that the spike you saw detected it. If you don't see anything, wait a bit and check again. Then when you find something, you can say that the spike you saw predicted it. From the other direction, if something big happens in the news, go back and look at your numbers. If you see a spike, bravo! If you don't, look farther back in time. Found one? It was a prediction! (Oh, and if you don't find a spike in the numbers, but instead find a trough, that's okay -- that counts, too.) Didn't find anything at the time of the event or before the event? Don't give up yet! Try looking after the event -- it probably had some sort of psychic impact on the population of the planet for some time after the fact.

Finally, if you weren't able to find a correlation before, during, or after the event, just chalk it up as "one of those things" -- no need to consider it as evidence against the truth of your theory.

The standard of evidence on this appears to be very low. For example, some of the events that their machine "detected" or "predicted" include Mark McGwire's homerun record, the finale of Survivor, and Oprah Winfrey visiting Africa. World-shaking events? Really? Hmm....

So this is the kind of research they're doing at Princeton these days, huh?

Link: RedNova News - Can This Black Box See Into the Future?.
Link: Global Consciousness Project

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September 29, 1998

FMS Foundation Newsletter, October Issue

FMS Foundation Newsletter, October Issue
The October issue of the newsletter of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation is now available. Items in this issue include "But It's in the DSM-IV," "Tyroler," "Legal Corner," "Make a Difference," "From Our Readers," and "Bulletin Board."

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September 24, 1998

Day 7 in the Houston FMS Trial: USA v Peterson et al

Day 7 in the Houston FMS Trial: USA v Peterson et al
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation has posted another of their ongoing updates on the Houston trial. "Testimony by former Spring Shadows Glen patient Mary Shanley continued on day seven of the criminal trial against Judith Peterson, Ph.D. and four others associated with the dissociative disorders unit at that hospital. ... While in therapy in Chicago, Shanley had come to believe that she had been programmed by a widespread dangerous satanic cult that was involved in torture and murder. ... Shanley expected the deprogramming to last the summer but she was in the hospital more than two years."

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September 18, 1998

Updates in the Houston FMS Trial: USA v Peterson et al

Updates in the Houston FMS Trial: USA v Peterson et al
If you have an interest in False Memory Syndrome, but haven't been checking FMSF Online, you should. It contains very frequent updates, at least one following each day of the trial. This is "the first criminal trial involving charges against therapists in connection with 'false' or 'recovered' memories.... Among other things, the prosecution intends to establish that the defendants applied techniques associated with mind control or 'brainwashing' to induce patients to believe that they had been ritually abused, sexually and otherwise, in satanic cults." One recent development of interest to many is the naming of Dr. Bennett Braun as an unindicted co-conspirator. Dr. Braun "served as Medical Director of the Dissociative Disorders Program at Rush North Shore Medical Center, Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke's Medical Center, Skokie, Illinois. Dr. Braun and Rush-Presbyterian settled a lawsuit brought by Patricia Burgus for $10.6 million last year. Most recently, the Illinois License Board has brought action to remove Braun's license."

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September 08, 1998

New Site - FMSF Online

New Site - FMSF Online
The False Memory Syndrome Foundation has created a new web site, FMSF Online. The first criminal trial concerning "false" or "recovered" memory issues began today in Houston, Texas. A sixty-count indictment has been brought against five former employees of Spring Shadows Glen Hospital. The new web site "will have background information, copies of important documents, commentary, suggestions for slants and sidebars, breaking news, and on-line access to some of our experts."

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September 05, 1998

FMSF FAQ and Brochure

FMSF FAQ and Brochure
The latest versions of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation FAQ and brochure are now online. The FAQ answers many questions people might have about FMS, while the brochure provides information about the Foundation itself.

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September 03, 1998

Tampa Bay Skeptics Report Online, Fall 1998 Issue

Tampa Bay Skeptics Report Online, Fall 1998 Issue
Articles from the latest issue of the newsletter of the Tampa Bay Skeptics are now online. Some of the articles include "UFOs, Scientists and Stanford University (Part 1)," "A 'Repressed Memory' Story From Hell," "Editorial: 'S.O.P. at CNN,'" and "TBS in the Media."

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August 28, 1998

FMSF Newsletter, September Issue

FMSF Newsletter, September Issue
The September issue of FMS Foundation Newsletter, the newsletter of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, is now online. (The date in the header is July/August, but it really is the September issue.) Feature articles in this issue are ... well, too numerous to list! You can be sure, however, that if you have an interest in false/repressed memories, you'll want to read every issue.

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August 26, 1998

FMSF Looking for a Volunteer

FMSF Looking for a Volunteer
Another item from the FMSF-News mailing list of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation. "The FMS Foundation is looking for a member who could volunteer for a 3 month period to set up and maintain a special web site for media." Check the FMSF-News archives for the details.

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Next on Jerry Springer: "I Have 15 Personalities"

Next on Jerry Springer: "I Have 15 Personalities"
The FMSF-News mailing list of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation reported yesterday morning that on the topic of that day's Jerry Springer show: "Kim says her mother constantly beat her, allowed adult men to sexually abuse her and forced her to drop out of high school at age 16 to support the family. Kim says she developed her 15 personalities to protect herself from the horror of life with her mother. Kim hasn't seen her mother, Judy, in one year and is here today to confront her." Quality television, eh? Check the FMSF-News archives for the details.

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