Posts Tagged ‘children’
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 20, 2012
As I recently blogged, there was the all-too-predictable nutty and inhuman reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School from the religious zealots in our nation in the past few days… it’s the fault of gays and atheists, don’t ya know! Thanks to all who have reblogged (thanks to Phil at Skeptic Money ), tweeted, commented, and emailed me with feedback about that blog post. I wanted to share with you all a really good bit of correspondence I got from my online friend “Other Jesus”, because it goes to the root of some deeper questions related to religion and how people do/don’t think about it. Read on…
I liked your article. I was actually waiting for these groups to emerge. Most of the responses on all sides of the background debate have responded in predictable manner. I know the main characters are the anti- and pro-gun groups, the “more mental health” people, and the “we need more God in school…” religious folks. But some of the most annoying folks are the “prayers and hugs” crew in the periphery. Every tragedy like this evokes a “hug your kids and pray for the family of the victims”. How’s that working? (Don’t quote me on the above!)
The Huckabee premise deserves a more blatant study and response. So Mike thinks we need more God in school for protection. Meanwhile, some folks are calling for full-time armed security in schools (Sean Hannity, eg.). So what if God applied for the security guard job at a school? Well the principal would need to review His resume and he/she might ask for more explanation about the following:
1) Where was God during the murder of Able? Was it preventable?
2) Where was God during the murder of the Egyptian first born in the 10th Plague? What about His alleged
ties to the Angel of Death?
3) Wasn’t God in the land of His “chosen people” during Herod’s “murder of the innocents”? Did He take any steps to prevent the slaughter?
4) During the Great Flood, what did God do to protect the babies and young innocent children? Did he have any role in the cause of the flood?
Now these are events from long ago, so the principal might accept God’s excuse that “that was then, this is now”. So how about a more modern example? A school like Huckabee wants: With God fully in-place. Maybe God’s checkered resume can be redeemed.
5) Where was God on December 1, 1958? Was he watching a student play with matches in the basement of Out Lady of Angel’s Catholic school in Chicago? What did he do when the young man ignitee a trash barrel? Did he take any action to stop the fire before it killed 92 kids and three nuns?
I don’t think that the principal conducting the interview would have a hard time deciding whether or not God was qualified, despite the endorsement from Mike Huckabee.
(NOTE TO SELF: Be very skeptical of anyone Mick Huckabee refers.)
And here are some other good points brought up by various people who read my article:
What really irritates me are those who claim that shootings happen at schools because God is not allowed in schools. However, that does not explain why students at a Jewish school in France (earlier this year) were killed by a gunman. Does God only dwell in Christian schools? The point is, belief in God has nothing to do with these tragic events. Horrible things happen because horrible people cause them to happen – it is not the result of divine punishment.
So how is it that shootings have occurred in churches, religious schools and if no sin is greater than another; why all the child molesting and rape in churches? Has God been removed from there as well.
Also, I’d like to know how Mike Huckabee explains the fact that slavery and segregation were legal while much of that praying was going on in schools.
Hmm, good questions. Food for thought, folks… food for thought.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2012
You’d pretty much have to be living underneath a rock to not have heard about last Friday’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. All told, 20 children and 6 adults were killed by the shooter, Adam Lanza, before he killed himself. Understandably, people all over the nation are numb and puzzled about how something like this could happen. I know that at the high school where I teach, it has certainly been a topic of much debate and conversation. One of the most asked questions is “Are our schools safe?” – in general, the answer is yes.
In addition, at a time like this people are looking for answers and asking “Why?” In answer, some are talking about the issue of gun control (the shooter had easy access to guns), while others are talking about mental health issues (society doesn’t pay enough attention to mental health); what seems to be common to these, and other, analyses is that they are based mostly upon media-fueled speculation at this stage. Speculation runs rampant, and facts are frustratingly few and far between…
… Enter the God Squad. These are the dim-witted troglodytes whom you could have easily predicted would crawl out of their caves spewing the usual disgusting, vile-filled claptrap about how this is all somehow “God’s punishment”, and how they know God’s feelings on the matter! Here’s just a sample of the putrid idiocy pouring forth from the fundamentalist faithful…
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested Friday that the absence of God from the nation’s public schools may have contributed, in part, to the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, including 20 children.
Appearing on Fox News, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was asked by host Neil Cavuto how “God could let this happen.” Here’s his response:
It’s an interesting thing. We ask why there’s violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that. And so I sometimes, when people say, ‘Why did God let it happen?’ You know, God wasn’t armed. He didn’t go to the school. But God will be there in the form of a lot people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end, and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up it’s all said and done at the back end.
… My mother, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, fought to make the public schools the armed camps they are today by removing prayer, the recognition of the authority of God. In 1962 and 1963, I was attending an all-boys public high school in downtown Baltimore, Md. The school was a magnet school before the term even existed and was intended to prepare young men for college, majoring in science and engineering. There were 1,800 teenage boys in the school, and there was not a cop in the building – ever. The doors were unlocked and often the un-air-conditioned rooms had open windows. There were no metal detectors, no picture IDs, and students went in and out the doors on the honor system.
What happens when you’re raised by America’s most famous atheist? Read William Murray’s riveting and redemptive new book, “My Life Without God”
The authority of God was present, even though I am very sure many of those young men, including myself, had some pretty vile thoughts that were not in the least way moral. The presence of the authority of God, vested in the teachers by His recognition every morning, was reinforced by the churches and the families of the students.
That high school has since merged with a girl’s school in another location, for purposes of political correctness. The last time I checked, the old building itself was the headquarters of the Baltimore City Schools Police Force, something that did not exist when Baltimore’s population was nearly double what it is now. Every kid at every school now has a photo ID. All the doors of every school are locked. All doors have metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs roaming the corridors. I am told that every school in Baltimore has at least one armed “safety officer.”
In the vast majority of America’s public schools, the authority of God has been replaced with the authority of the iron fist of government. Morals? Without the authority of God, there are no morals, and none are taught in the public schools today. The ethics that are taught are situational, perhaps the same situational ethics that led to the logic that caused the tragic shootings in Newtown. …
and (of course it wouldn’t be complete without these assholes)…
The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the group and, like most members of the organization, a relative of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps, announced on Twitter on Saturday the group’s plan “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” …
So what are we to take away from this incredibly frakked up display of asshattery? Apparently, we are to all repent and come to the realization that God’s pissed off at us (“us” being the United States) for not forcing children to pray in public schools (and by “pray” I mean “pray to Jesus Christ”, because that’s what these morons really mean), or because our nation actually has the audacity to recognize and respect the rights of atheists and gays, not to mention in the United States we actually acknowledge the separation of church and state.
Yee-haw… Fun with Fundamentalism. Image Source
So what are we to make of this reaction on the part of the ultra-religious to the Sandy Hook massacre? As I’ve noted before, the fundamentalist right-wing segment of our nation is starting to slowly dwindle, and there is a more secular demographic rising in this country. I think part of what we may be seeing here is the gradual, but inevitable, unhinging of the religious right as they start to see their power over the rest of us who don’t share their twisted worldview slowly slipping away. They cannot handle the fact that their worldview isn’t THE worldview which is forced upon the rest of society through the power of the culture and the government, and that is making them nuts.
I predict more of the same in the future: every time there is a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster; every time there is a man-made disaster (such as the Sandy Hook massacre); every time anything bad happens, these self-described servants of the Almighty (who, of course, have the message straight from God himself, you know) will scurry in front of the TV cameras to spread their message of doom and judgement in a vain attempt to appear relevant. And as time goes on, they will get ever more extreme with their message, as they marginalize themselves even more.
And that’s the key thing right there… what these preachers, prophets, and fundamentalist believers really fear is exactly what’s happening to them: they are slipping into irrelevance. Let them, I say, because civilized society has no need for their sociopathic mythologies.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on January 7, 2012
I recently wrote another guest post for the James Randi Educational Foundation over at the Swift blog, and I just wanted to share it here as well. I hope you find it thought-provoking…
Anyone who knows me knows that I have no children of my own, and in all honesty I try to avoid little kids when I can. However, there is one thing I find really endearing about kids, especially the younger ones: their unbridled curiosity and willingness to ask questions.
I think the reason why I like this curious nature in children is pretty simple: to them the world is so new and fresh, everything is wondrous and interesting. In addition, they come at things so much more openly and honestly than most adults, because they are ignorant in the truest sense of the word and have no embarrassment whatsoever about asking direct questions about pretty much anything. To them, no subject is off limits or taboo; they manifest the spirit of free inquiry in its most unblemished sense.
And this sense of free inquiry and curiosity usually comes out in the form of asking question after question on all manner of topics. I think it is most especially interesting when it is related to topics regarding mythology, religion, life, death, the afterlife, etc. And how many times have you been interrogated by a particularly precocious young child, only to be bombarded by more questions once you’ve provided what you thought were adequate answers? I have had this happen to me more times than I can count, both as an educator and an uncle.
Sadly, this wonderful behavior of kids doesn’t often last into their adult years. Somewhere between those wonder-filled years of curiosity and college age, a lot of kids are too often encouraged by the adults around them to specifically not ask questions, especially on certain topics (often on the most important topics). Why this is I’m not sure, but I have a few guesses…
I think part of the problem is that some adults are made quite uncomfortable by the questions that little children can ask, precisely because they tend to break those social taboos which have been conditioned into the adults. Another thing that happens is that some adults tend to discourage children from asking questions because the adults don’t have the answer to the question, or they’re just tired of the kid asking questions, so rather than admit ignorance (or frustration) they tell the child to stop asking questions. And while kids are innately curious, if they get exposed often enough to the adults in their life telling them not to ask such questions, then they’ll eventually start to believe that they shouldn’t be asking such questions. And that’s a sad thing to see.
For example, I witness something along these lines a couple of years ago as I was traveling to Utah with some of my family. One of my nieces, a little girl of six years of age, and I were looking out over the gorgeous scenery of Bryce Canyon, admiring all of the columns, stratigraphy, and erosion patterns within the canyon walls. And, in accordance with that curiosity of young children, my niece asked me where the canyon came from. I proceeded to explain to her about the idea of erosion due to rainfall and the flow of water, pointing out to her some very small rivulets in the dirt off to the side of the trail due to a recent rainstorm. I further explained that given enough time, these erosive processes can eventually produce wondrous geologic structures such as the canyon which stretched out before us.
I eagerly awaited her next question, when something very interesting happened. My little niece’s older sister (a teenager) came along and told her that “God did it, just like we learned in Sunday school and the Bible says in Genesis”. I wasn’t surprised by this reaction from my older niece, seeing as how the members of her immediate family tend to be young-earth creationists who believe the Earth was created in six literal days about 6000-10,000 years ago. But what did surprise me (and delight me greatly) was my younger niece’s response to her older sister’s “explanation”; she looked up at her older sister and, without skipping a beat, simply asked: “Yeah, but how did God do it?” …
Click here to read the rest of the post at Randi.org
Posted in education, free inquiry | Tagged: answers, blog, children, creationism, critical thinking, curiosity, education, James Randi Educational Foundation, JREF, kids, questions, religion, school, skepticism, Swift, teaching | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 27, 2011
Based upon my recent blog post concerning using mythology as a critical thinking tool for children, I was interviewed a few days ago by my skeptical colleague Kylie Sturgess of the Token Skeptic podcast. In the interview we discussed a variety of topics related to this issue, with a touch of fun thrown in for good measure. Check it out!
Posted by Podblack on Sunday, December 25, 2011 · Leave a Comment
Podcast: Play in new window | Download (Duration: 27:59 — 25.6MB) | Embed
Recently Matt Lowry wrote a blog-post on Using Mythology as a Critical Thinking Tool: The Lesson of Santa for Kids – just as Tim Minchin wrote a piece for the New Statesman about his own efforts to balance a pro-naturalistic worldview and living a life unencumbered by superstition, while raising kids and encouraging a love of fiction.
Matt Lowry is best known as the Skeptical Teacher - a high school physics teacher, plus a part-time physics and astronomy college professor, contributor to the James Randi Educational Foundation Education Advisory Group and awesome presenter for kids’ shows at Dragon*Con.
For this interview we talk about all of these things (and whether Santa might actually be a Time Lord with a sleigh made out of quantum-something-or-other).
During the discussion, we also talk about Barbara Drescher’s blog-post at the JREF Swift: An Argument for Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and (gasp!) Even Jesus. Here’s another great link to the Physics of Santa!
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: analysis, children, Christmas, critical thinking, education, evidence, Holidays, interview, kids, Kylie Sturgess, mall, myth, mythology, observation, physics, podcast, reality, Santa, santa claus, skepticism, Token Skeptic | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 20, 2011
As I’ve mentioned before, every year I do a quick physics lesson on Santa Claus, with the result being a devastation of the Santa myth (see my previous post “How I Killed Santa”: The Physics of Santa Claus for more on this ) Yeah, I admit it – I’m evil.
Of course, that lesson is more geared towards students who are in their late teenage years, because by then they already know that Santa isn’t real. So, while the humor involved in my analysis is quite dark (Santa dies pretty spectacularly in the end), there isn’t going to be any real psychological trauma done to my students.
However, this year it got something of a debate going among some of my students. Some wondered about the appropriateness of sharing such a lesson with young children, who might still harbor a sincere belief in Santa Claus. Personally, I expressed the view that if I were to try to get my own children (if I had any) to think more critically about the Santa myth, I certainly wouldn’t do it using the same method in my physics classes where he ends up bursting into flames and squashed to jelly by atrociously large g-forces!
So, the question was put to me: “How would you deal with the whole Santa Claus thing if you had kids?” It is a worthwhile question, because I certainly wouldn’t want my kids to be simply blindly believing in Santa just because all the other kids are doing it. Chances are, when the kids are of the appropriate age (I’d think 5 or 6 would be about right), I would ask them some leading questions about the nature of Santa.
Specifically, if I were at the mall with one of my children and there were a worker there dressed as Santa meeting with kids (you know the usual scene), I would encourage them to observe Santa closely…
I would encourage them to note carefully details such as how big is Santa, exactly what is he wearing, and so on. In order to help them with their observations, I would probably take photos for later analysis. Then I would make sure to tell them to pay careful attention to Santa’s voice as they sit on his lap to discuss what Santa and kids discuss (I might also record video of the event for this reason).
After that, I would take my children to another mall (because, let’s face it, most of us do our shopping at more than one place, right?). I would make sure to find the Santa at that second mall, and have my kid go through the entire process again. And so on.
Then, at a later time, I would take some time to sit down and look over the evidence with my children, leading them through it and noting inconsistencies between the multiple Santas they’ve observed. This would be especially interesting if we saw more than one in the same night! (“So Dad, how did Santa get from one mall to the other so quickly?” )
The bottom line here is that I wouldn’t want to come right out and tell my kids that Santa is a myth (though a fun and jolly one at that). Rather, I would use the entire experience as a lesson for my kids to try thinking it through on their own, making careful observations, weighing the evidence, and drawing the obvious conclusions. I think this would be a far more useful way to introduce children to the reality that Santa isn’t real, and it would also be an excellent exercise in encouraging critical thinking and skepticism in youngsters.
For more on this topic and approach, I highly recommend reading my colleague Barbara Drescher’s well-written post at the JREF Swift blog titled An Argument for Santa, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and (gasp!) Even Jesus.
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: analysis, children, Christmas, critical thinking, education, evidence, Holidays, kids, mall, myth, mythology, observation, physics, reality, Santa, santa claus, skepticism | 6 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 8, 2011
I had a recent blog post about my presentation at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9′s “Skepticism in the Classroom” workshop, but that was just a warmup, folks! I’m happy to say that this past weekend, while at the American Association of Physics Teachers summer meeting in Omaha, Nebraska, my skeptical physics colleague, Dean Baird, and I presented a more detailed and physics-oriented version of Skepticism in the Classroom
Our workshop was about 4 hours long, and we took turns presenting a wide variety of physics lessons that incorporate some aspect of skepticism and critical thinking into them (what I like to call “guerrilla skepticism”). For reference, all of Dean’s lessons are available at this link over at his Blog of Phyz. I share my lessons with you below, so feel free to use, adapt, and share them as you wish:
1. Astrology Debunking Activity and Solutions – This activity allows you to test out the notion of astrology with your students in a controlled manner. It illustrates pretty clearly that astrology doesn’t really work.
2. Bed of Nails – I’ve made a very detailed blog post already on the subject (at the link). However, at the end of that blog post the Youtube video of the moron cutting his arm with a razor sharp machete doesn’t work – try this one instead [warning: not for the squeamish!]
3. Board Breaking & Karate – This is another subject on which I have written before (click the link). However, included in my blog analysis of the topic are some additional materials: an article about the physics of karate and a notesheet that I use in my classes to illustrate the physical principles behind this not-so-miraculous feat.
4. Einstein Cranks – This is a link to a blog post I wrote earlier about how many physics cranks and pseudoscientists abuse physics and the rules of science in an attempt to promote their nonsense.
5. EMF Woo – These are a collection of blog posts I have made over the years regarding the nonsense and pseudoscience surrounding EMFs (electromagnetic fields). These posts – and the lessons associated with them – range from addressing claims of low-frequency EMFs inducing cancer to ghost-hunting woo (and the companies that promote such nonsense).
6. ESP Claims – Here I have collected a couple of lessons dealing with the claims of ESP and psychics. Most notable are the notesheet for James Randi’s Secrets of the Psychics video and an article from Skeptical Inquirer magazine I have my students read on the issue. You can find Randi’s excellent video for free on Youtube…
7. Glasswalking – This is just a blog post and video of why it is that walking barefoot on broken glass won’t cut you, provided you don’t slide your feet. Hint: nothing paranormal or supernatural is required!
8. Haunted Lab – Every year around Halloween I do a special, exploration-based lab that incorporates a lot of cool physics concepts in with some debunking of paranormal claims. It’s great fun!
9. Hot Stuff! – In this collection of lessons I address pseudoscientific claims from the standpoint of thermal physics. Specifically, I have my students learn about how firewalking isn’t paranormal, and I also have them look at the claims that a man uses his “chi” to avoid getting burned when he puts molten lead into his mouth!
10. Magnetic Therapy – This lesson is an article and notesheet regarding this time-honored classic of alternative “medicine” woo.
11. Mega-Woosh Water Slide – A couple of years ago, this Internet video went viral, supposedly showing a man making a near-impossible jump across a valley using a huge water slide. Well, it wasn’t real, but a basic analysis of physics also shows it is highly implausible as well.
12. Neat Tricks – These include some nice, off-the-cuff critical thinking exercises for your students: my “Uncle Harry” card trick, and my self-tying knot trick (the solution is here). Enjoy!
13. Optical Illusions – This is a really broad category: it includes a PowerPoint I give on illusions and pareidolia, an article I have my students read on so-called “mystery lights”, and some stuff about how spirit orbs are not what New Agers claim.
14. Ouija Board – At the link is a blog post I wrote on a lesson I use involving magnetic fields to get students to question the claims behind Ouija boards.
15. Pyramids & Aliens – These lessons focus on addressing claims by various UFOologists that aliens built the Egyptian pyramids. I have my students read an article from Skeptical Inquirer on the subject, then I give them a lecture on the physics of how humans (using simple technology) can build a pyramid, given time and a large workforce.
16. Movie Physics – In this end-of-the-year lesson, I get my students to think a bit skeptically regarding the physics presented in various movies.
It is our hope that through these workshops we can get more and more teachers to consider pursuing these skeptically-oriented topics in their own classrooms. We have plans to try doing workshops at future teacher conferences, such as the upcoming National Science Teachers’ Association meeting in 2012. Stay tuned!
Posted in education, physics denial/woo, skeptical community | Tagged: AAPT, American Association of Physics Teachers, Blog of Phyz, children, critical thinking, Critical Thinking Education Group, CTEG, Dean Baird, education, educators, kids, Matt Lowry, National Science Teachers Association, NSTA, physics, phyz, public school, resources, school, skeptical community, skepticism, students, TAM, TAM9, teacher, teachers, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 27, 2011
This year at The Amaz!ng Meeting 9 in Las Vegas, I had the honor of presenting once again at the Skepticism in the Classroom workshop with my skeptical education colleagues, Michael Blanford of the JREF and Barbara Drescher of ICBSeverywhere.com. Together we put on a workshop for about 200 people, mostly teachers, on the topic of how to incorporate skepticism and critical thinking into the classroom.
After a brief introduction from Michael, I tackled the issue from the standpoint of a high school teacher and shared some of the practical tips and tricks that I use in my classes to “sneak in” skepticism into lessons I normally teach. I really like how my partner in the workshop, Barbara, described my contribution:
Matt recapped the most important concepts from his piece last year and presented more of his fun and interesting demonstrations. I used to think that cognitive psychologists had all of the fun because we study the interesting ways that our brains and minds fool us and can blow those minds by showing them. However, after some thought I realized that the physics teachers I know have the coolest, scariest, ickiest, and most surprising demonstrations. They deal with the physical world and there are almost as many bizarre things in the physical world as there are in the mind.
Matt did not walk on fire or lie on a bed of nails, but he has done those things and has the video to prove it! What he did do is show the audience that getting your hands dirty can be a great way to reach minds.
Barbara then gave a very interesting lecture on the importance of trying to get students to think critically at an early age, such as in elementary school, and how to use the basics of philosophy and philosophical discussion to engage students. I found her points to be very thought-provoking, and I am seriously considering working something like this into my own teaching if I’m able.
I could go on and on about it more, but I think it would be more useful for you to see and hear for yourself. Below is my PowerPoint lecture from the workshop, complete with an audio recording of the workshop. In addition, you should take a few minutes to go see Barbara’s ICBS blog post on the workshop; and while you’re at it, see this link to the resources that both Barbara and I are providing for anyone interested!
More stuff you might find useful:
TAM9 Lecture: Inquiry-Based Skepticism for the Classroom (my PowerPoint file I presented)
Audio of TAM9 Skepticism in the Classroom (Audio file embedded in PowerPoint file – about 1.5 hours long)
Posted in education, skeptical community | Tagged: Barbara Drescher, children, critical thinking, Critical Thinking Education Group, CTEG, education, educators, kids, Las Vegas, Matt Lowry, Michael Blanford, public school, resources, school, skeptical community, skepticism, students, TAM, TAM9, teachers, The Amaz!ng Meeting, The Amazing Meeting | 2 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 12, 2011
It seems that in Texas an anonymous “psychic detective” tipped off the police to the fact that there was a gruesome scene in a farmhouse which contained the remains of about 30 people, including the dismembered bodies of multiple children. Unfortunately, the police of the Liberty County’s Sheriff’s Office actually took these tips seriously, because after they mobilized a massive amount of resources, they found absolutely nothing at the site…
A false tip from a psychic prompted Texas authorities to swarm a rural home searching for a nonexistent mass grave and up to 30 bodies, including those of dismembered children.
A few hours later it was clear the tip was nothing more than a gruesome wild goose chase.
“There’s no crime scene,” Liberty County Judge Craig McNair told reporters as deputies, Texas Rangers and FBI agents wrapped up a fruitless search that gained national media attention. [emphasis added]
Yup, you read that right. Not only did the local Sheriff’s Office get into the mix, but the Texas Rangers and FBI were also involved in this fiasco! I think these agencies have opened themselves up to some much deserved derision, because it has been shown conclusively in great detail that, despite numerous claims to the contrary, psychics do not do anything to help with police investigations. In fact, most police and detectives do not use psychics because they know the track record of such “help” (i.e. it doesn’t work), and they know that chasing down false leads provided by these morons would just be a waste of time and resources (as it was in the spectacular failure of the case in question).
So why is it that these alleged “psychic detectives” keep on cropping up? Because they are very good self-promoters, and they are playing off people’s desire to have closure on certain topics – it is, after all, very difficult when dealing with certain crimes (especially child abductions) to be patient and follow established and well-tested investigatory procedures. These psychics play on this sense of unease on the part of the family in question (or perhaps the community) to swoop in and offer a measure of hope (however empty it is) while also garnering some fame for themselves.
In his article in Skeptical Inquirer magazine titled “The Case of the ‘Psychic Detectives’”, I really like how skeptical investigator Joe Nickell puts it…
Although mainstream science has never validated any psychic ability, self-styled clairvoyants, diviners, spirit mediums, and soothsayers continue to sell their fantasies—and in some cases to shrewdly purvey their cons—to a credulous public. Particularly disturbing is a resurgence of alleged psychic crime-solving.
In fact, the media—especially Court TV’s Psychic Detectives, NBC’s Medium, and various programs of Larry King Live—have shamelessly touted several self-claimed psychic shamuses as if they could actually identify murderers and kidnappers, or locate missing persons. Here is an investigative look at five such claimants. (Another, Phil Jordan, was featured in an earlier SI [Nickell 2004].) …
… psychics do not solve crimes or locate missing persons—unless they employ the same non-mystical techniques as real detectives: obtaining and assessing factual information, receiving tips, and so on, even sometimes getting lucky. In addition to the technique of “retrofitting,” psychics may shrewdly study local newspaper files and area maps, glean information from family members or others associated with a tragedy, and even impersonate police and reportedly attempt to bribe detectives (Nickell 1994). It is bad enough that they are often able to fool members of the media; detectives, if they do not know better, as most do, should learn better. They should, well, investigate their alleged psychic counterparts.
Well, in the Texas case, there is a silver lining. It seems the agencies in question disliked being deceived by the supposed psychic tipster, and they have decided to try charging them with filing a false police report – perhaps if more of these charlatans were actually held to account, then there would be fewer of the psychic glory-hounds clamoring for their 15 minutes of fame. We can only hope.
Posted in psychics | Tagged: bodies, children, crime, detective, false lead, FBI, hoax, investigation, Joe Nickell, Liberty County, massacre, murder, police, psychic, psychic detective, Rangers, scene, sheriff, Skeptical Inquirer, Texas, Texas Rangers, tip, tipster, wild goose chase | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on June 4, 2011
[**Note: This is a guest post I made over at the Women Thinking Free Foundation's blog, WTF Is Going On?!, and I thought I would share it with you]
by Matt Lowry, WTFF Secretary
As another part of the WTFF’s effort to simultaneously inform the public about the benefits of vaccines while also countering anti-vaccinationist propaganda, we make an effort to keep tabs on what the anti-vaccination movement is doing. This includes having some of our Skeptical Ninjas attend anti-vaccinationist conferences, such as last week’s Autism One Conference in Lombard, Illinois.
You know how we often hear pseudoscientists and other folks make the claim that skeptics are not interested in allowing dissenting views or that “they” (academia, the establishment, Big Pharma, whatever) are “expelling” those brave scientists and activists who dare to challenge the orthodoxy of scientists, etc? Yes, we’ve all heard this tired old argument many, many times and rolled our eyes at the overly melodramatic and irrational nature of it (which is simply a blatant attempt to avoid the facts of the argument in favor of making an emotional appeal). Well, the interesting thing is that some pseudoscientists, such as the anti-vaccintationists, appear to want to have it both ways: they wish to make this argument while simultaneously “expelling” their critics.
Case in point: two Skeptical Ninjas – the WTFF’s very own VP Jamie Bernstein and journalist Ken Reibel – were “expelled” from the Autism One Conference because… they paid for their registration and showed up. Yup, that’s it – these anti-vaccination loons kicked them out of the conference, even though they had paid to be there and were not causing any disruptions whatsoever. In fact, they not only kicked them out, but the organizers actually had seven (seven!) security personnel escort Jamie and Ken off the premises – the hypocrisy is so thick you can cut it with a knife!
To read more about the incident in question, here are a variety of perspectives from various skeptical blogs on the matter:
Jamie’s views — Skeptics will be Prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law (via Skepchick) and How I Got Kicked Out of the AutismOne Con: Part 2 (at The Friendly Atheist blog)
Ken Reibel’s perspective — Expelled 2.0
Orac of Respectful Insolence blogs here — Expelled!, anti-vaccine style, 2011 edition
Jamie is interviewed by the SGU Rogues
Now, I’ve never met Ken Reibel, but I personally know Jamie Bernstein and I have to say that she is about the most least intimidating person I know. In fact, here is a photo of her standing next to James Randi (who is about 5 feet tall)…
The ultra-menacing Jamie Bernstein next to James Randi – if you add their heights together, they might reach up to the usual person’s knee
So the obvious question is: WTF Autism One?!! Why are you throwing Jamie and Ken out simply because they attended the conference? Folks, this sort of mindless Orwellian crap doesn’t occur at skeptics’ conferences, I know that for a fact. Last year at TAM8 I met both a renowned self-declared psychic and one of the world’s leading Moon hoax conspiracy theorists. Both were perfectly welcome at TAM8 and, while there were understandably a lot of skeptics rolling their eyes and laughing at these folks, nobody was entertaining the idea of having them thrown out. We don’t play that game.
And there’s the rub: when it comes to questions of real free inquiry and open discussion, the skeptics such as those represented by the JREF and WTFF practice what they preach. While we may not agree with them, we welcome our critics and allow them to participate within our discussions. On the flip side, pseudoscientific scare-mongers like the anti-vaccinationists at Autism One openly display their hyprocrisy by saying one thing and doing another, and in so doing they show that they’re not driven by an objective search for truth but rather an ideological zeal which is dangerously disconnected from reality.
And that is why they must be opposed at every turn: because in the distorted reality-challenged worldview of the anti-vaccinationists, a lot of innocent people will die of perfectly treatable and curable diseases if they get their way.
Posted in medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: anti-vaccination, anti-vaccination movement, anti-vax, anti-vaxxers, autism, Autism One, AutismOne, AVM, babies, baby, CDC, Centers for Disease Control, children, conference, doctor, health, herd immunity, Illinois, Jamie Berstein, Ken Reibel, kids, Lombard, medicine, mercury, movie, pertussis, science-based medicine, Skeptical Ninja, squalene, theater, thimerisol, toxins, vaccination, vaccines, vax, whooping cough, Women Thinking Free, Women Thinking Free Foundation, WTFF | Leave a Comment »