Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

The Mentalist

Posted in The Rogues Gallery by Skepdude on September 28, 2008

This week I caught the pilot episode of The Mentalist on CBS. My first impression is that this show has the potential to be skeptically awesome. I hope it lives up to my early expectations. It was refreshing to watch a show with a lead character who is unashamedly skeptical and likable at the same time.

Other shows have done this to some degree. House is clearly a critical thinker, but we like him despite the fact that he is a complete jerk. Grissom from CSI is a likable skeptic, but his skepticism is very much in the background. And I despise pseudoskeptics like Scully from the X-Files, who relentlessly doubts the obviously paranormal activity around her. Scully was designed to be a hopeless character – because she lives in a fictional paranormal world.

Simon Baker plays Patrick Jane, a mentalist who consults for the CBI (I guess that’s a fictional FBI) using his keen powers of observation and critical thinking to solve cases. He is very much a Sherlock Holmes type character, and is very likable.

Even better, Jane used to be a stage fake psychic very much in the mold of John Edward. In the pilot episode we see Jane doing a fake reading. The TV audience is keenly aware that Jane is faking it, but the woman for whom he is giving a reading is reduced to tears of joy at contacting her loved-one.


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Were the ancients fools?

Posted in Denialism by Skepdude on September 28, 2008

I’m off to the west coast (of Michigan) for a few days, and if I don’t blog, I shall die…or something. So I have a few posts from my old blog to share with you.

Often in the discussion of cult medicines such as homeopathy, acupuncture, and reiki, supporters fall back on “the wisdom of the ancients”. This raises a question. Since “the ancients” had it wrong (i.e. their belief systems could not effectively treat disease), were they just stupid?

Any of my historian readers already know the answer, but it’s worth going over…

Our forebears were neither more nor less intelligent that we (unless you go back about 3 or 4 million years—that gets rather dicey). They were literate, intelligent, and damn good thinkers. They just had limits to their ability to investigate their environments.

Let’s take an example. This is from an English physician living in Paris in the mid-18th century, during the time inoculation against smallpox was spreading, but vaccination had not yet been invented.


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