False Balance and the Shakespeare Authorship “Debate” About a month ago, my phone suggested that I might want to read a Newsweek article called “The Campaign to Prove Shakespeare Didn’t Exist” by Robert Gore-Langton.
I was somewhat disturbed that my phone knew I had an interest in the manufactured controversy over Shakespeare’s authorship of the works attributed to him. I was also a little irritated that my phone, which has apparently progressed from snooping through my email to acquiring some form of telepathy, didn’t know that I was getting tired of the subject. I’ve written about Shakespeare denialism many times before (most comprehensively here), and I’ve started to feel like I’m running around in circles while simultaneously banging my head against a wall (do not try this). The Newsweek headline, though, seemed to offer a new twist: Shakespeare didn’t exist at all?! Wow, that’s taking Shakespeare denialism as far as humanly possible. Well, it turns out that Newsweek and my phone had tricked me with that headline.
Can you believe it?
2013. 2012. Five Solved ‘Unexplained Mysteries’ of 2011. December 27, 2011 Each year brings new puzzles and mysteries to challenge skeptics and put our wits to the test.
Sometimes mysteries take weeks, months, or even years or decades to solve, and while most of the public's attention naturally focuses on the still-mysterious, it's always worth reflecting on former mysteries. This past year saw two high-profile cryptozoological (monster) mysteries finally solved, that of the Puerto Rican chupacabra and the French Beast of Gévaudan. There were also three new UFO / alien cases that made international news before eventually being solved (in Russia, Isreal, and Los Angeles). I participated in solving several of these mysteries. The Los Angeles UFO In November 2010, a strange contrail was seen approximately 35 miles off the Californian coast. The Beast of Gévaudan Of all the monsters said to roam the earth, perhaps none was more feared than a mysterious creature that terrorized the French countryside in the 1760s. The Jerusalem UFO Video Comments: Why I Celebrate Death. I am a skeptic.
I will accept any claim, regardless of how insane it might initially sound, if it is supported by robust and valid evidence. And for that reason, I am also an atheist. I have access to the internet and I am fairly outspoken. All of these facts together mean that I occasionally get into discussions and debates with theists on various topics. Recently, I had an email conversation with a theist (with slight creationist leanings) that eventually drifted to a discussion about death and the fact that I’m not afraid to die. To him, death is the horrifying experience of losing your life and everyone you care about, and an equally horrifying experience for those people still alive losing you in return, and all this pain can only be coped with by understanding that it is necessary in order to make the transition to your next life in heaven.
Right now, I’m not afraid of death or dying. “I do not fear death. I won’t mind being dead at all, so that isn’t the difficult part. Stupid Sceptic Tricks. Sceptics using unfair arguments?
Surely not! Published in The Skeptic, Volume 16, Issue 3 (2003) David W Owens advises his fellow believers on how to avoid being bamboozled by their devious opponents … DO YOU EVER get into an argument with a sceptic only to end up exasperated and feeling you’ve been bamboozled? Sceptics are often highly skilled at tying up opponents in clever verbal knots. In reading, listening to, and sometimes debating with sceptics over the years, I have found certain tricks, ploys and gimmicks which they tend to use over and over again. Raising the bar (or impossible perfection)This trick consists of demanding a new, higher an more difficult standard of evidence whenever it looks if a sceptic’s opponent is going to satisfy an old on Often the sceptic doesn’t make it clear exactly what the standards are in the first place. Sock ‘em with OccamSceptics frequently invoke Occam’s Razor as if the Razor automatically validates their position.
Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science. Robert L.
Park, Ph.D The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is investing close to a million dollars in an obscure Russian scientist's antigravity machine, although it has failed every test and would violate the most fundamental laws of nature. The Patent and Trademark Office recently issued Patent 6,362,718 for a physically impossible motionless electromagnetic generator, which is supposed to snatch free energy from a vacuum. And major power companies have sunk tens of millions of dollars into a scheme to produce energy by putting hydrogen atoms into a state below their ground state, a feat equivalent to mounting an expedition to explore the region south of the South Pole.
There is, alas, no scientific claim so preposterous that a scientist cannot be found to vouch for it. Before 1993, court cases that hinged on the validity of scientific claims were usually decided simply by which expert witness the jury found more credible. Justice Stephen G. What are the warning signs? 1. Top 20 Logical Fallacies.
Introduction to Argument Structure of a Logical Argument Whether we are consciously aware of it or not, our arguments all follow a certain basic structure.
They begin with one or more premises, which are facts that the argument takes for granted as the starting point. Then a principle of logic is applied in order to come to a conclusion. This structure is often illustrated symbolically with the following example: Premise1: If A = B, Premise2: and B = C Logical connection: Then (apply principle of equivalence) Conclusion: A = C In order for an argument to be considered valid the logical form of the argument must work – must be valid. Also it is important to note that an argument may use wrong information, or faulty logic to reach a conclusion that happens to be true. Breaking down an argument into its components is a very useful exercise, for it enables us to examine both our own arguments and those of others and critically analyze them for validity. Examine your Premises Ad hominem Straw Man. Faulty generalization. A faulty generalization is a conclusion about all or many instances of a phenomenon that has been reached on the basis of just one or just a few instances of that phenomenon.
It is an example of jumping to conclusions. For example, we may generalize about all people, or all members of a group, based on what we know about just one or just a few people. If we meet an angry person from a given country X, we may suspect that most people in country X are often angry. If we meet a lazy recipient of social welfare benefits, we may suspect that all welfare recipients are lazy. Faulty generalizations may lead to further incorrect conclusions. Expressed in more precise philosophical language, a fallacy of defective induction is a conclusion that has been made on the basis of weak premises. Logic The proportion Q of the sample has attribute A. Therefore, the proportion Q of the population has attribute A. Inductive fallacies See also References
Project Alpha. Project Alpha was an elaborate hoax that began in 1979 and ended with its disclosure in 1981.
It was orchestrated by the stage magician and skeptic James Randi. It involved planting two fake psychics, Steve Shaw (now better known as Banachek) and Michael Edwards, into a paranormal research project. During the initial stages of the investigation, the researchers came to believe that the pair's psychic powers were real. However, more formal experiments, as well as criticism from both the parapsychology community and Randi himself, led them to dismiss their initial trust. The hoax was later revealed publicly. Following Project Alpha, Randi went on to use variations of the technique on several other occasions. Peter Phillips' experiments In 1979, James S. Throughout the early phases of the project, many people claiming to have psychic powers presented themselves to the lab. Steve Shaw and Michael Edwards Revelation and aftermath Notes References Project Alpha. The Skeptical Inquirer Summer 1983 The Project Alpha Experiment: Part one.
The First Two Years What would happen if two young Conjurors posing as psychics were introduced into a well-funded university parapsychology laboratory? Generous funding doesn’t make scientists smart . . . Nor are they able to detect trickery without help. James Randi We learned that the lab had considered some 300 applicants who contacted them in response to notices in the media. We had established well in advance of the beginning of Project Alpha that at a suitable date we would reveal the deception. Even before the boys were tested at the lab, I sent Phillips a list of eleven “Caveats” concerning tests done with human subjects. From the very beginning, the researchers ignored the rules I had suggested. Though I had specifically warned Phillips against allowing more than one test object (spoon or key, for example) to be placed before a subject during tests, the lab table was habitually littered with objects. Food for The Eagle - Adam Savage's speech to Harvard Humanism Society.
I hope you don't mind, but I'm going to read my speech from my new iPad. Yep. I'm not only a humanist, I'm also an early adopter. I want to start by saying that, to me, any discourse from me about how one can live a moral existence without religion or the church would sound improperly defensive. That there's an opposite to be defended is absurd and based on a provably false premise. (To be clear: I'm referring to the humanist axiom "Good without God," whereby "good" means morality. By what route does anyone come to believe what they believe? For me it was pretty simple. Here are a few things I've learned. Prayer doesn't work because someone out there is listening, it works because someone in here is listening. See, I order my life by the same mechanism that I use to build things. I've concluded by this that someone is paying attention—I've concluded that it's me.
I think one of the defining moments of adulthood is the realization that nobody's going to take care of you.