November 22, 2006
Catching up is hard to do
Okay, I am a very bad blogger. I plead being a new father with very little time. (The fact that the child is nearing his 2nd birthday doesn't make me any less of a new father. I'm a bit of a slow learner.)
The previous post was made in July 2005. I had a few "I ought to post about this" moments since then and filed away a few links to discuss later. Well, the discussion isn't going to happen, but I hate to see those links go unmentioned, so here they are.
(Religions, Cults, and Miracles) slacktivist on Hermeneutics
- Link: slacktivist: Hermeneutics.
(Creation/Evolution) IMAX vs. the Fundamentalists
(Religions, Cults, and Miracles) Divorce Judge bans Wicca
(Religions, Cults, and Miracles) Survey of Doctors on Religion
(Creation/Evolution) Catholics debating meaning of Cardinal's op-ed on evolution
(UFOs and Aliens) Sleep paralysis at Science News Online
- Link: Night of the Crusher.
- Link: In search of Bigfoot.
(Science and Technology) Shuttle Trouble - Where is the science?
(Creation/Evolution) Santorum says to teach the controversy
After this maybe I can start posting about stuff when it's still relevant!
March 08, 2005
Seeing is Dismaying
I finally had time to watch Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs -- Seeing is Believing the other day. As I had mentioned earlier, the publicity I had seen before the program was broadcast led me to suspect that it was going to be quite pro-UFO.
I should have known better. It was instead yet another entry in a long line of "balanced" presentations -- equal amounts of skepticism on the one side and credulity on the other. At the end, of course, after having carefully dished out equal amounts of evidence for and against the existance of flying saucers, the program leaves it up to the viewer to decide. Having been given equal amounts of evidence, however, they have ensured that nobody's mind is changed one way or the other.
The program began with an hour of evidence for UFOs (complete with computer animation reenacting the sightings), followed by an hour of evidence against them. (Actually, less than an hour of the latter, since part of that time was spent discussing SETI, which really is unrelated.)
Unfortunately, when presented in this format (here's the claim, here's the evidence against it), the debate essentially becomes "he said, she said".
Just once, I would like to see a program that spends the first half giving the viewer, in effect, a "baloney detection kit". The viewer could then apply these explanations themselves to the claims that come in the second half of the program. For example, discuss sleep paralysis and the limitations of hypnosis first, then present a claim of an alien abduction experience. Discuss the optical illusions that can result when viewing something just at the limit of visibility or when viewing points of light against a night sky, then present some UFO sightings.
Unfortunately, "UFOs are flying saucers" sells better than "UFOs are natural phenomena that are misinterpreted as flying saucers". A "balanced" presentation is the best we can hope for.
February 13, 2005
ABC News to Air UFO Program
I received an email recently from a company asking me whether I would like to post a banner ad for an upcoming ABC News special, Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs -- Seeing Is Believing. It will air on Thursday, Feb. 24 from 8-10 p.m. ET on ABC.
On Feb. 24, "Peter Jennings Reporting: UFOs — Seeing Is Believing" takes a fresh look at the UFO phenomenon. "As a journalist," says Jennings, "I began this project with a healthy dose of skepticism and as open a mind as possible. After almost 150 interviews with scientists, investigators and with many of those who claim to have witnessed unidentified flying objects, there are important questions that have not been completely answered — and a great deal not fully explained."
That last line -- "there are important questions that have not been completely answered — and a great deal not fully explained" -- would seem to imply that this is not going to be a 100% skeptical program.
So, should I advertise a program that, it appears, will not cover the topic well? On the other hand, having skeptics watch the program would make it easier to discuss it intelligently with those who are a bit more gullible. And, of course, simply by blogging about it, I am in effect advertising it. Lastly, by participating in Google's AdSense program, I inevitably wind up advertising plenty of things that I don't agree with. (At the moment, most of the ads are about creationist and Intelligent Design web sites.)
I probably won't take them up on their offer to run a banner ad, more out of inertia (I've got a 2 month old baby to deal with) than on principle.
September 27, 1998
Salon Magazine Says, "Take Us to Your Professor"
- Salon Magazine Says, "Take Us to Your Professor"
- There's an article in Salon Magazine about academic interest in UFOs. An excerpt: "Since the time of Galileo, astronomers have pointed their telescopes at the heavens and asked, 'Are we alone in the universe?' Now, that same question is being posed by historians, political scientists, psychologists and sociologists who don't use telescopes but the more elusive instruments of the soft social sciences: research, oral history, theory and, finally, conjecture."
Roahn Wynar Listens to Abductees in Austin
- Roahn Wynar Listens to Abductees in Austin
- In this new article on Roahn H. Wynar's Clearinghouse of Pseudoscience and Quackery in Central Texas (quick, say that five times fast!), Roahn says, "In the first lecture, author, radio personality, metaphysics educator and alien abductee Robert Perala filled us in on the contents of his new book, The Divine Blueprint, available now at Barnes and Noble. If you roll up greed, self-delusion and shamelessness in a single piece of pita bread, then you have just constructed Perala's brain." But tell us how you really feel, Roahn! Later in the same article, Roahn reports, "we spent a half hour at a lecture called 'The Metaphysics of Being Gay,' delivered by a sincere but wacky guy named Kurt Wagner. Metaphysics is the systematic investigation of 'first principles' and the philosophical examination of ultimate reality. It is a fascinating subject that is legitimately studied by philosophers all over the world. We did not know, however, that it shed light on being gay." Hey, any theory involving "chakras" has to be fun!
September 20, 1998
If you're out there, ET, log on
- If you're out there, ET, log on
- The Australian Skeptics have posted a new Media Watch article by Paul Davies that appeared in the Sept. 14 edition of The Adelaide Advertiser. "Now a Canadian scientist, Allen Tough, has come up with a novel idea. Rather than mess about with large bits of expensive equipment, why not simply invite ET to log on to the Internet?" Uh... okay.
September 16, 1998
- This is very cool! It's only tangentially related to skepticism, but it's close enough! "SETI@home is a grand experiment that will harness the spare power of hundreds of thousands of Internet-connected computers in the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI). With SETI@home, computer users from around the world will participate in a major scientific experiment. Each participant will have the slight but captivating possibility that his or her computer will detect the faint murmur of a civilization beyond Earth. ... The SETI@home program is a special kind of screensaver. Like other screensavers it starts up when you leave your computer unattended, and it shuts down as soon as you return to work. What it does in the interim is unique. While you are getting coffee, or having lunch or sleeping, your computer will be helping the Search for Extra-Terrestrial Intelligence by analyzing data specially captured by the world's largest radio telescope." In short, when the software becomes available next spring, they hope to have 100,000 people running the software on their PCs to analyze the radio signals they receive in an attempt to detects signs of intelligent life. Slick idea! Tired of fuzzy photos of UFOs that turn out to be Venus? This sounds much better!
The Skeptical Believer
- The Skeptical Believer
- John Shirley updated his column not long ago on The Devil's Advocate. "First," he says, "let me tell you about My Three UFOs." Very good stuff! He also talks about examining some video for Phil Klass. Some people live such interesting lives!
September 15, 1998
Response to TNT's KGB UFO Files
- Response to TNT's KGB UFO Files
- Another item from CSICOP. "James Oberg, CSICOP fellow, science writer, space consultant for ABC News and former NASA engineer provides his commentary on last night's TNT special Secret KGB UFO Files." Also include is an article by Oberg on Soviet UFO investigations from the April 1994 issue of OMNI magazine.
SI Electronic Digest, September 10 Edition
- SI Electronic Digest, September 10 Edition
- CSICOP has released a new edition of the SI Electronic Digest, their biweekly e-mail news update. Features in this issue include "CSICOP Announces Research Scholarship," "Council for Media Integrity Webpage Launched," "TNT to Air New UFO Special," "CSICOP Goes to Yale in Effort to Heat Up Campuses with Skepticism," "NY Times Science Examines False Memory Debate in Child Abuse Cases," False Memory Syndrome Foundation Press Release," "OPINION: Faith or Deception in the Audrey Santos Miracle Case," and "Tampa Bay Skeptics to Test Psychic."