Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Michael Shermer on Mr. Deity

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 15, 2009

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It’s a Mad Mad Mad Mad Day on the Set

Posted in SkepticBlog by Skepdude on June 4, 2009


OK, this is weird.

Today I was invited to host an episode of a new series for a major cable network in which I was to interview and administer a test to three professional psychics. This was the first episode they’d shot, and the producers and director were really nice and cool and it had all the makings of a fun and productive day. They had located three psychics who were all game, and were fully willing to undergo the tests under controlled conditions. Moreover, the show had even secured a $50,000 prize that any psychics who passed today’s tests would be qualified to try for. I arrived fully prepared, with some detailed protocols, and a raft of properly controlled materials.

Here’s the rub. The entire day was a setup. It was a gag, with Michael Shermer and myself as the unwitting victims.

The psychics and I began each interview with a discussion of each psychic’s personal history, what they knew about their abilities, and what they were able to tell us about them. Two of them, a pair of very friendly and positive ladies named Sylvie and Austyn, gave very fair descriptions of what they believed they could do, and sportingly undertook the tests. You can probably guess the results. But those tests were certainly not what the day ended up being about…

The third psychic was, unfortunately, not a psychic at all, but a young comedian who used to have a show on the BBC, and now appears to be trying to make a name for himself with a new character who is a wannabe nemesis of skeptics. He’s going to find this an uphill battle, as he’s neither clever, funny, particularly talented in any apparent way, nor does he seem to know much about psychics or criticism of psychics.

He goes by the moniker “Shirley”, and looks like a televangelist in a gaudy white suit with colored piping, and either the world’s worst hair or a gauche orange wig, I couldn’t quite tell which. When it was his turn to come out, Shirley came up to me, took his seat, refused to return my friendly greeting, and launched into what he seemed to think was a clever attempt to “get into my head” – insulting my parents, my wife, and “revealing” to all my terrible guilt at how I’ve treated people. Essentially, his routine was to ignore the reason [that I believed] he was supposed to be there, and try to establish himself as – well, I can’t even think what. He refused to participate in the arranged tests, instead throwing tantrums about each, constantly demanding that he be paid his $50,000.


The Skeptologists want to hear from you!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on May 19, 2009

It is the greates show not to have graced your TV set…yet! Phil Plait, Steve Novella, Michael Shermer, Brian Dunning and the whole gang from the Skepticblog, are trying really hard to get it to your TV. But they need your help, you have to write and tell them why you are so thrilled about The Skeptologists. They need as many writen testimonials as possible to use as leverage whne talking to TV companies. So go, go, go, go…GO now! In their own words:

It’s a daunting task to track down and collect all the opinions of TV viewers. We have what we know is a hit series, but in order to make it happen, we need to hear from the most powerful people affecting our success: You! You, our fantastic TV viewer. What do you think about this show concept?  Have you heard of any of these talented stars?  What network would you like to watch this on?  Would you support the advertisers that supported The Skeptologists?  Tell us here, place your comments below, we are watching and so are the networks!


Creating a Television Series is Hard.

Posted in SkepticBlog by Skepdude on October 28, 2008

All the elements of TV production are difficult and require much attention, time and money.

Landing a network TV production deal to have the opportunity to show all that hard work to a nation, and even the world, is much like hitting the lottery.

Too bad I don’t play the lottery.

Convincing entrenched, and complacent programming TV executives that you have a program that will change the way people consider their TV entertainment seems to be next to impossible.

I set out on a journey to do just that, and with the help of an amazing production team and an all-star skeptical cast, we’re going to make it a reality!

In my last blog, I shared some of the process to get this idea off the ground.  In this second installment, I want to give you an idea about how we came to decide who should be on our esteemed panel of brilliant minds for the show.

As you no-doubt have gleaned by the official contributors of SkepticBlog, the Skeptologists are: Brian Dunning, Steven Novella, Phil Plait, Yau-Man Chan, Kirsten Sanford, Michael Shermer and Mark Edward.  One doesn’t just open a book and check the boxes next to: Awesome Skeptical Soon-to-be-TV-Celebrities.  Much thought went into who should be a cast member and the type of background each individual should have.


Skeptics Sellout to Christians

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 10, 2008

I spent the weekend at CalTech to attend a Skeptics Society conference. This particular event was titled “Origins: the Big Questions,” addressing whether science renders divine faith obsolete. The speakers who drew me there were quantum physicist Leonard Susskind, entertainer Keith Dalton (creator and star of the hilarious and irreverent online series Mr. Deity), and of course Michael Shermer, who founded the society and edits the great Skeptic Magazine.

The Good Part moz-screenshot-15.jpg

The conference began with a real bang – the Big one of course, and a lesson on what preceded that singularity as best understood today by physicists. Susskind condensed his Stanford undergraduate cosmology course into a beautiful one-hour primer on the universal constants (Planck’s, gravitational constant, speed of light…) that support life. It turns out that life can only evolve and survive in a narrow window of values for these constants, a fact that Christians have recently embraced as proof of an intelligent designer. But Susskind explained how quantum mechanics support the existence of a multiverse that regularly spawns new universes with different sets of constants, making it inevitable that our comfy universe should appear. (I asked him whether a future day Dr. Strangelove could create the conditions that spawn a new universe in our own – he said no, but without a compelling explanation.)


How Anecdotal Evidence Can Undermine Scientific Results

Posted in General Science, Medicine by Skepdude on August 2, 2008

The recent medical controversy over whether vaccinations cause autism reveals a habit of human cognition—thinking anecdotally comes naturally, whereas thinking scientifically does not.

On the one side are scientists who have been unable to find any causal link between the symptoms of autism and the vaccine preservative thimerosal, which in the body breaks down into ethylmercury, the culprit du jour for autism’s cause. On the other side are parents who noticed that shortly after having their children vaccinated autistic symptoms began to appear. These anecdotal associations are so powerful that they cause people to ignore contrary evidence: ethylmercury is expelled from the body quickly (unlike its chemical cousin methylmercury) and therefore cannot accumulate in the brain long enough to cause damage. And in any case, autism continues to be diagnosed in children born after thimerosal was removed from most vaccines in 1999; today trace amounts exist in only a few.

Read the rest of Michael Shermer’s article at Scientific American.