Posted by mattusmaximus on November 9, 2009
Happy Carl Sagan Day… or, to be more accurate, belated Carl Sagan Day 🙂
November 7th is the birthday of that great communicator of science & skepticism, Carl Sagan. In a time when many of his fellow scientists were loath to communicate directly with the public, Sagan was a unique link between the scientific community and the general populace. He communicated the power, joy, and importance of science to us through lectures, books, and television. In particular, I think I can honestly say that an entire generation of scientists were inspired by Carl Sagan’s book and television series Cosmos (which aired in 1980) – I count myself among them. Were it not for the inspiration provided to me in my teenage years by my beat-up copy of the book Cosmos, I may have never pursued a career in science…
The unforgettable introduction to Cosmos: The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean is available on Youtube…
And a recently auto-tuned remix of Carl Sagan’s dialog from Cosmos, called “A Glorious Dawn (featuring Stephen Hawking)”, is also available on Youtube. Check it out…
**Note: You can download your own copy of “A Glorious Dawn” from its creator’s website – SymphonyofScience.com
– where there are many other cool videos & music files available.
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in scientific method, skeptical community | Tagged: A Glorius Dawn, A Personal Voyage, book, Carl Sagan, Cosmos, critical thinking, education, PBS, pseudoscience, public, public television, Real Patriots Ask Questions, science, scientific community, scientific method, skeptical community, skepticism, Stephen Hawking, Symphony of Science, television, The Demon Haunted World, The Shores of the Cosmic Ocean, TV | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 5, 2009
On Tuesday, Nov. 3rd, psychic Sylvia Browne made a surprise guest appearance on The Jay Leno Show. This is very surprising, seeing as how Leno is a definite skeptic when it comes to psychics & their woo (he coined the now famous phrase “Why don’t you ever see this headline: ‘Psychic Wins Lottery‘?”). So why was Browne there in the first place?
What happened is that his show has a segment called Earn Your Plug, whereby celebrities who wish to have their TV show or movie plugged have to do something on the show to merit the advertising. Well, last night the celebs were Katie Featherston and Micah Sloat of the movie “Paranormal Activity”, and for the Earn Your Plug segment they decided to surprise Leno by having Sylvia Browne give him a reading. See for yourself how it went…
Right off the bat, Leno was completely blindsided by the fact that a psychic like Browne was even on his show. Notice how he makes the crack at the beginning of the reading about replacing some employees in the near future; something tells me that this is one prediction which is likely to come true. Had he known that Featherston & Sloat had wanted to bring Browne onto the show, Leno would have likely stopped it from happening.
In addition, I want to point something else out that Leno did – he was openly, though playfully (his show is about entertainment, after all), skeptical of what Browne was attempting to do. Whenever she made a claim, rather than allow her to prattle on and on with all manner of nonsensical “predictions” (often known as cold reading), he would stop her and challenge her on specific points. It is also worth noting how she reacted to Leno not simply believing what she said or at least playing along with her: she got angry with him. She didn’t get screaming mad, but watching her demeanor and body language speaks volumes about how upset she was that he even dared to question her supposed divine prowess (she did claim, after all, that her “abilities” were “from God”). Essentially, she was doing little more than making a blatant argument from authority in this regard, and it was painfully (for her) obvious that Leno wasn’t having any of it.
I think a good example was this exchange:
Browne: “Do you know how many people over the years have told me that I’m wrong about something, but came back later to tell me that I was right?”
Leno: “No. How many?”
In the end, I think that while it was a negative that a psychic scumbag like Sylvia Browne even got onto Leno’s show in the first place, Leno himself turned it into a more positive experience by not treating her seriously & acting openly skeptical and asking questions. The result was, in my opinion, that by the end of the reading – which was mercifully short – the vast majority of the audience was laughing at Ms. Browne and not with her. And if there’s anyone who deserves to be laughed at, it is Sylvia Browne and her ilk.
Good move, Jay, for educating people on how to deal with such supernatural claims. Johnny Carson would be proud of you 🙂
Posted in psychics | Tagged: cold reading, Earn Your Plug, God, Jay Leno, Katie Featherston, Micah Sloat, paranormal, Paranormal Activity, prediction, prophecy, psychic, skeptic, skepticism, supernatural, Sylvia Browne, television, The Jay Leno Show, TV | 10 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 3, 2009
I just wanted to pass along a little info to you all concerning some upcoming protests this Thursday, November 5th, of the Church of Scientology by the group called Anonymous. An image that has become synonymous with the Anonymous protests is the mask of Guy Fawkes, who is recognized for his involvement in the infamous Gunpowder Plot on the 5th of November every year in the United Kingdom.
Many Anonymous protesters wear the Guy Fawkes mask when peacefully picketing CoS centers & passing out information to passersby about the cultish practices of the Church. Contrary to CoS propaganda, these are peaceful protests which are designed to get out the truth about the Church and its practices; in no way, shape, or form do I, nor does Anonymous, encourage or condone any kind of violent or illegal action against the Church of Scientology!
So what’s with the Anonymous wearing the Guy Fawkes masks? The answer is twofold: they do this not only to make a statement but also to protect themselves from the Scientologists who would attempt to ID them & label them as “suppressive persons” (SPs) and therefore target them for harassment. Believe me, even though I’ve never participated in an Anonymous event nor have I ever had a run-in with the CoS, from what I understand you do not want to be on that SP hit list. So if you’re going to participate in one of these events, protect yourself (and others) and conceal your identity.
Anonymous tends to get its message out via the Internet, specifically through using online video. For example, below are two Youtube videos: one of the first videos ever released by Anonymous back in January 2008…
… and a very recent video about the upcoming worldwide protests of the Church of Scientology on November 5th…
If you want more information regarding these protests, then check out the WhyWeProtest.net website. For more information on Scientology in general, it’s hard to find a better site than Xenu.net, also known as Operation Clambake. Spread the word.
Knowledge Is Free.
Posted in cults, skeptical community | Tagged: Anonymous, belief, Church of Scientology, CoS, cult, Dianetics, Gunpowder Plot, Guy Fawkes, L. Ron Hubbard, November 5th, Operation Clambake, Project Chanology, religion, Remember remember the 5th of November, Scientology, skeptical community, SP, suppressive person, Tom Cruise, V, Vendetta, Why We Protest, Xenu, Xenu.net | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on November 2, 2009
I wanted to pass along the audio of a panel discussion I moderated at Dragon*Con this past Labor Day weekend – the title of the panel was “Darwin’s Bulldogs: Teachers on the Front Lines” and it was about creationism & how to deal with it in public schools. I proposed the panel, and I was joined by Kylie Sturgess of the Podblack Cat blog, C. Kevin Barrett (a writer and biological anthropologist), Martin Bridgstock of Griffith University and author of the forthcoming book ‘Beyond Belief: Skepticism, Science and the Paranormal‘, Barbara Drescher, a cognitive psychologist and lecturer at California State University, Northridge, and our guest of honor, Dr. Eugenie Scott of the National Center for Science Education.
The audio file is available at the Skeptic Zone podcast website; it’s their October 30th recording. Hat tip to Kylie Sturgess at Podblack Cat for passing this along to me 🙂
Click here or on the image below to download the podcast…
Posted in creationism, education, skeptical community | Tagged: creationism, Darwin's Bulldogs, DC, Dragon Con, Dragon*Con, education, Eugenie Scott, evolution, National Center for Science Education, NCSE, Podblack Cat, podcast, schools, skeptic, Skeptic Zone, skeptical community | 1 Comment »