The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Center For Inquiry’

The Unexplained: A Skeptical Perspective

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 29, 2016

Recently I was interviewed via Skype by Dan Schneider, author of the long-standing Cosmoetica Blog. I joined Dan and my skeptical colleague James Underdown of the Center For Inquiry and the Independent Investigations Group to discuss the question of the unexplained and how both skeptics and believers approach unexplained phenomena. It was a very fun and wide-ranging interview, and below is the link to the Youtube video that Dan uploaded. Check it out, and feel free to leave any feedback in the comments section below this post 🙂

Posted in aliens & UFOs, conspiracy theories, cryptozoology, ghosts & paranormal, internet, psychics, scientific method, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

SHARE Relief Effort for Victims of Typhoon Haiyan

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 12, 2013

In an effort to continue lighting candles in the darkness, I wanted to pass along the following announcement from SHARE, the Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort – please consider helping out…

Please Donate Now for Philippines Typhoon Relief

SHARE Phillipine Typhoon ReliefTyphoon Haiyan has killed thousands of people in the Philippines, and the toll is rising. Of those who have thus far survived, 4 million people are estimated to be directly affected, right now. They need clean water, food, and shelter, right now.

We at the Center for Inquiry are asking you to help by donating to the S.H.A.R.E. (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Efforts) program to assist secular aid organizations to provide immediate and desperately needed relief and services. 100% of money raised goes directly to the relief efforts of Oxfam.

Click here to donate.

At CFI, all of our work is grounded in the values of secular humanism, values that consider every human life equal in dignity and respect. In the aftermath of this typhoon, there are millions of human beings in danger, millions in need. We’re asking you to please put your values into action, and help those affected by one of the most devastating storms in recent history, right now.

Thank you.

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Happy Birthday to Robert Green Ingersoll, “The Great Agnostic”

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 11, 2012

I just wanted to pass along this announcement from the fine folks at the Center For Inquiry regarding one of the most valuable orators and activists for freethought, science, and rationality: Robert Green Ingersoll.  This past Saturday (August 11th) was his birthday, and I think it is worth letting you know more about him:

Happy Birthday to “The Great Agnostic!”


Back before blogs, opinion-based news programs, talk radio, and even amplified sound, the American public gathered by the thousands to listen to professional orators calling out their opinions from train platforms, outdoor stages, and the steps of city hall. Oratory was wildly popular in the 1800s, and there was no lecturer more popular than Robert Green Ingersoll, a.k.a., “The Great Agnostic.”

Ingersoll continually championed science, reason, and secular values in the public square. He was an early popularizer of Charles Darwin and a tireless advocate for women’s rights, racial equality, and birth control decades before others would pick up the cause. He often poked fun at religious belief, and he defied the religious conservatives of his day by championing secular humanist values.

Ingersoll’s work and his words are highly relevant to our day, too, so the Center for Inquiry and its sister organization, the Council for Secular Humanism, work to bring his wisdom and insights to a broader audience.


— Learn more about Robert Green Ingersoll —

Happy Birthday, Colonel Bob!

Posted in free inquiry, philosophy | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

SHARE Relief Effort for Victims of the Joplin Tornado

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 1, 2011

In an effort to continue lighting candles in the darkness, I wanted to pass along the following announcement from SHARE, the Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort – please consider helping out…

SHARE Joplin, Missouri Tornado Relief

We are deeply saddened by the loss of life and suffering caused by the tornado that hit Joplin, Missouri on Sunday with at least 117 known dead.

We are launching a drive through SHARE (Skeptics and Humanist Aid and Relief Effort) to raise charitable funds to assist displaced families in this devastated city.  Donations will be sent to the American Red Cross.  The Red Cross has already opened shelters in the distressed area to assist families who have lost their homes.

The needs of those who’ve lost their family members, their homes, and their livelihoods will be very great. Your assistance is very important and together as skeptics and humanists we can make a difference for the victims of this tragic disaster.  Please join with us to help out in this crisis.  Your support is greatly appreciated!  Thank you.

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Nick Nelson Fails IIG Test to Produce “Vortex Energy”

Posted by mattusmaximus on May 3, 2011

As I outlined mere days ago, the master spinner of all things having to do with so-called “vortex energy” – the notable Nick Nelson – had finally agreed to be tested by the Independent Investigation Group from Los Angeles.  Mr. Nelson traveled to IIG’s headquarters – claiming that he could bring his “vortex powers” with him from the Montana Vortex (a location that I investigated in 2006 and found to be hilariously full of woo & nonsense).  And after he got to IIG, he allowed himself to be tested according to the protocols that both he & the IIG team agreed to ahead of time.

The result: Nick Nelson failed.  Badly.  And he admitted it.

And it’s all on video:

Nick Nelson talks with the IIG’s Jim Underdown before the test begins.

In addition, Mark Edward – a member of the IIG team that tested Nick Nelson – put together a very nice & detailed blog on the whole experience at Skepticblog.  Here’s a couple of noteworthy excerpts…

… Hours of set-up, conferences and phone calls finally paid off with even more long hours of watching a grown man move magnets around the floor, stand stock still while swinging a pendulum over his hand and listening to albeit some great anecdotes about how his world has so many times “blinked” when he has experienced what he calls the “vortex phenomena.’

Unfortunately when the rules of science are applied, in this case careful measurements (really careful: using engineering calipers) of photographs; first before the creation of the fabled vortex using eight foot high wooden poles, then photos snapped and immediately developed, nothing showed up other than what would be expected from discrepancies consistent with human eye variation that were averaged mathematically and compared. …

… The best part for me as Lead Investigator was watching Nick get flustered and finally state to all present the he “…felt like a fool” when nothing happened. What did he expect?

It’s a freaking optical Illusion!

Well said, Mark.  While I must admit to feeling a bit of schadenfreude at Nick Nelson’s failure (I had, after all, figured out five years ago, on an impromptu investigation of my own, how his tricks at the Montana Vortex worked), I also feel just a wee bit sad for Mr. Nelson.  I get the sense that he probably believes what he says, and that he has believed it for so long that he is going to have a helluva time trying to rationalize away the stone cold fact that his “vortex energy” claims simply don’t work.

Perhaps Mr. Nelson and others like him who have their paranormal claims tested by folks like the IIG and fail at those claims should consider the wise words of science fiction writer Philip K. Dick:

“Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”

Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Vortex Master Nick Nelson Accepts Skeptical IIG Challenge

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 29, 2011

I just wanted to update everyone about a very interesting development concerning the Montana Vortex & House of Mystery and the Independent Investigations Group (IIG) – you may recall that I blogged about this initially last summer, when it seemed an investigative team from IIG might go to the Montana Vortex to test their paranormal claims.  Well, it seems that vortex expert of the Montana Vortex, Mr. Nick Nelson, has finally agreed to the terms of IIG’s $50,000 challenge:

The Independent Investigations Group (IIG) at the Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles offers a $50,000 prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The IIG works with the applicant in designing the test protocol, and defining the conditions under which a test will take place. IIG representatives will then administer the actual test. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform an informal demonstration of the claimed ability or phenomenon, which if successful will be followed by the formal test. The IIG conducts all demonstrations and tests at our site in Hollywood, California, except in special circumstances.

However, there is a twist.  Apparently, Nick Nelson has traveled to Los Angeles to conduct the test, as opposed to the IIG team going to Montana – this is because, in addition to all manner of other interesting claims he makes, Nick Nelson now seems to be claiming that “his vortex” (and its related effects) travels with him!  Wow…

In any case, the IIG is going to be conducting their test of Mr. Nelson’s claims/abilities this Saturday, April 30th.  The test will be streamed live via the Internet, and if you are interested in keeping up with the latest developments on this skeptical investigation you can check for updates at IIG’s investigation page.

Stay tuned 🙂

Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

SHARE Relief Effort for Japanese Earthquake/Tsunami Disaster

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 18, 2011

Folks, over the last few days I’ve spent much time and energy in trying to correct many misconceptions (and yes, some outright lies) concerning the Fukushima nuclear power plant in Japan. Of course, while the Fukushima situation is serious, the level of severity due to the broader earthquake & tsunami damage is orders of magnitude worse; so, in the spirit of lighting candles in the darkness, I want to pass along this appeal from the Center For Inquiry’s SHARE (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort)…

As the grim news unfolds in Japan, the Center for Inquiry’s SHARE (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort) is stepping up to provide assistance to victims of the earthquake/tsunami disaster.  Every dollar you give to SHARE will be sent directly to Doctors Without Borders, a wholly secular international organization.

SHARE Japan

Doctors Without Borders has sent medical teams to support the government-led earthquake and tsunami response in Japan.  Their teams are operating mobile clinics and conducting needs assessments.

Friday’s double tragedy has caused unimaginable misery.  In many areas there is no running water or power. As we write millions of people face a fourth night without water, food or heating in near-freezing temperatures throughout the coastal area devastated by Friday’s disasters.  People are suppressing hunger while dealing with the loss of loved ones and homes.  Ensuring that these victims can access the medical care they need is among the highest priorities.

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We hope that you can give generously to the SHARE campaign to help the Japanese people who are in such great need. Thank you!

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Center For Inquiry Chicago Event: “On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions and Other Things to Die For”

Posted by mattusmaximus on September 12, 2010

Anyone involved in skepticism in and around the Chicago area no doubt knows that one of the key organizations in the local skeptic/freethought movement is the Center For Inquiry Chicago. They have an upcoming event that I would like to pass along to you all in case anyone’s interested in attending…

The Center For Inquiry/Chicago invites you to our multi-media, participatory, Fall extravaganza!

On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions
and Other Things to Die For

In Wicker Park at “St. Paul’s” Cultural Center – 2215 W. North Ave. – Chicago
Saturday, September 18th 2010, from
7:00 pm – 11:00 pm

The program includes:

  • Mark Twain “in person”Warren Brown, a nationally renowned Twain scholar, will perform as Twain, Huck, and Jim, the runaway slave, and will illuminate their views on science, humanism and slavery. A Q&A discussion will follow the performance.
  • Davis Schneiderman, a thought provoking multimedia author, college professor, and editor will read sections from his new book: “Drain.
  • Miki Greenberg of “It’s A Girl” will mobilize us with his satirical songs.
  • Poetry Slam! Write your own verse and then sign in with Davis Schneiderman, the host! Be ready to present! As always with a Slam, everything goes: reading, reciting or singing your poem/song, in costume or in plain clothes. Use your creativity, but stay with the theme, “On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions and Other Things to Die For.” Be prepared—in keeping with the Slam tradition, the audience will express its admiration or disapproval of your wordsmithing!
  • Art exhibit by three CFI/Chicago members—Ayala Leyser, Eric Wall and Ivan Phillips—on the theme “Not What Meets the Eye: On Deities, Doctrines, Superstitions and Other Things to Die For”

Throughout the evening:

  • Food and snacks included with your admission. Cash bar is available for very reasonably priced drinks and soft drinks.

Free street parking, public transportation is nearby, and bike stands are available.

Click here to register online! Don’t miss this one!

Admission:

If you’ve never before been a Friend of the Center, become a Friend at $60 and pay only $7 more for this event—over half off!

Price if purchased online by Sept. 11th (one week before):

Regular: $15
Current Friend of Center: $12
Student: $8

Price if purchased online after Sept. 11th, or at the door (if at door, cash is much preferred):

Regular: $18
Current Friend of Center: $15
Student: $10

See below for performers’ bios:

Warren Brown, a nationally known Illinois Humanities Council “Roads Scholar,” presents a first-person Chautauqua-style program as Mark Twain. Twain will take us on a journey on water, land, and air, sharing insights from the “Diaries of Adam and Eve” and thoughts about Galileo and Newton. Mark Twain is claimed by freethinkers as one of our own for his still remarkably contemporary, funny and humanist viewpoints on religion, hypocrisy, and the straight-laced Victorian “virtues” of Then and Now.  Brown received the Studs Terkel Humanities Service Award for his Chautauqua-style portrayal of Samuel Clemens, “bridging the lessons of history with the demands of contemporary living.”

A multimedia artist and writer, Davis Schneiderman is the author and editor of eight books, including the novels Drain, Abecedarium, and the forthcoming blank novel, Blank: a novel. He co-edited the collections Retaking the Universe: Williams S. Burroughs in the Age of Globalization and The Exquisite Corpse: Chance and Collaboration in Surrealism’s Parlor Game; as well as the audio collage Memorials to Future Catastrophes. His creative work has appeared in numerous publications. He is Chair of the English Department, and Director of Press/&NOW Books, at Lake Forest College.

As a pianist, composer and arranger for Maestro Subgum & the Whole, Miki Greenberg has been making music on Chicago’s underground scene since 1986. He co-founded the Lunar Cabaret in 1994 and is currently with the group “It’s A Girl,” working on his 16th album. Superstition, religion and things people die for were his obsession while working with his previous band, “Fetal Position,” as he continues to mix good entertainment with wit and critical thinking.

For more information, please visit centerforinquiry.net/chicago or email chicago@centerforinquiry.net.

Posted in religion, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Skeptics, Humanists, and Atheists Reach Out to Give Aid to Pakistan

Posted by mattusmaximus on August 27, 2010

We’ve all been hearing the news of the devastation in Pakistan due to the unprecedented floods they are experiencing now.  I honestly cannot comprehend the level of human tragedy which must be on display there, but I can see how to help out.  In the spirit of providing aid to those in their time of need, I would like to pass along to you all a message I recently received from the Center For Inquiry concerning the SHARE (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort) program. Read on, and whether you are religious, non-religious, skeptical, or whatnot, please consider helping out…

Increasing Need in Pakistan

As Pakistan faces the worst natural disaster in its history, SHARE (Skeptics and Humanists Aid and Relief Effort) must provide assistance: every dollar you give will be sent directly to Oxfam to provide food and clean water. We have selected Oxfam as our partnering charity because the need for adequate nutrition and hydration is increasing in the aftermath of the flood.

Share Pakistan Logo 082010

Pakistan’s flood is of unprecedented proportions. At least 20 percent of the country’s land mass has been affected. According to BBC reports, “The damage is extraordinary. The sheer force of the rushing water swept away everything in its path—even roads and bridges. Recovery will be long and slow.”

Consider this news from BBC mobile: “UN officials have described the humanitarian situation in Pakistan as critical.” Here are the grim statistics (as of August 26):

  • 1,539 people have died
  • 17 million have been directly affected
  • 1.2 million houses have been destroyed, leaving an estimated 8 million people homeless
  • 3.2 million hectares of standing crops have been lost or damaged
  • A large proportion of people have no access to clean water or sanitation

Today, millions are at risk of contracting waterborne diseases such as cholera while struggling with other health problems including diarrhea and dehydration. In flood-affected areas, health problems usually increase after four to six weeks. Without adequate nutrition and clean drinking water, conditions in Pakistan will only worsen.

As the situation continues, human misery is mounting. More funds are desperately needed. Pakistan’s infrastructure has been shattered—making it more difficult to provide aid where needed. Unfortunately, this disaster will have a major and lasting impact on the people of Pakistan.

Image-CFI-Share-Donate-Button.jpg

We hope that you can give generously to the SHARE campaign to help Pakistanis in need. Thank you!

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A Skeptical Investigation of the Montana Vortex & House of Mystery

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 25, 2010

Recently, I was contacted by the Independent Investigation Group (IIG) out of Los Angeles, California, concerning an impromptu skeptical investigation my wife and I had conducted of the Montana Vortex & House of Mystery back in the summer of 2006 during our vacation.  Apparently, a man named Nick Nelson (whom I had met briefly at the site) – somewhat of a pseudoscientific guru regarding all New Age “vortex” claims – had contacted IIG about taking them up on their $50,000 Challenge. IIG’s prize follows in the spirit of James Randi’s famous Million Dollar Challenge:

The Independent Investigations Group (IIG) at the Center for Inquiry-Los Angeles offers a $50,000 prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. The IIG works with the applicant in designing the test protocol, and defining the conditions under which a test will take place. IIG representatives will then administer the actual test. In most cases, the applicant will be asked to perform an informal demonstration of the claimed ability or phenomenon, which if successful will be followed by the formal test. The IIG conducts all demonstrations and tests at our site in Hollywood, California, except in special circumstances.

Well, it seems the folks at IIG could be actually going to the Montana Vortex site, outside of Columbia Falls, Montana, at the request of Nick Nelson to test out the various claims by the proprietors.  If Mr. Nelson can come up with the money to fly some IIG investigators out to Montana and put them up for a couple of days, then perhaps there will be some serious investigation of the supposedly “paranormal” phenomena at the Montana Vortex.  I’m not sure, as of this writing, whether or not IIG and Nick Nelson have finalized any plans, so stay tuned for more info.

**Note: the IIG investigators want me to make clear in no uncertain terms that Nick Nelson initiated discussion of their $50,000 Challenge with them, and not the other way around!

Anyway, as I stated earlier, the IIG folks contacted me, because they heard (probably through this post I made on the JREF Forum) about my desire to send the results of my off-the-cuff skeptical analysis to James Randi.  They wanted my notes to see what I thought of the tricks & optical illusions (that’s all they are, in my professional opinion as a physics professor) taking place at the Montana Vortex, and I eagerly shared them with IIG.  And I shall also share them with you here.  I hope you enjoy the read… 🙂

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 44 Comments »

 
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