Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Forget Nessie, Israel’s got a mermaid!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on August 13, 2009

And a Million Dollar Challenge to go with it! The other day I wondered how deep the well of human gullability is.  Today, I learn it was a bit deeper than I thought!

According to numerous eyewitnesses, the mythical sea creature looks like a cross between a little girl and a dolphin, and only comes out at sunset. “People are telling us they are sure they have seen the mermaid and they are all independent of each other,” said Natti Zilberman, a local council spokesman.

They’re independent of each other. Well that settles it! A creature out of a Hollywood cartoon must therefore really exist!

Whatever the truth of the tale, it has done wonders for the tourist economy.

Oh ABC when will you learn the abc’s or critical thinking? “Whatever the truth“? Here’s the trugh in simple terms: People are stupid! Period!

Local officials are now offering a cash prize of $1 million for the first tourist to take a photograph of the mermaid.

Heh, local officials are slick. They are guaranteed the price will never be collected and the extra tourist money won’t hurt either. I make a prediction:  Just like the JREF’s Million Dollar Challenge, this million dollar challenge will also go uncollected for a long, long, long…..long time!

Cryptozoology Pisses Me Off

Posted in SkepticBlog by Skepdude on May 14, 2009

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “SKEPTICBLOG”

And here’s why.

It pisses me off because it’s the perfect microcosm of what’s wrong with television science reporting. They’re not interested in reporting good science or in educating their viewers; they’re only interested in tabloid stories. And they affix a “science” label to them. Send some horseback kooks into the woods with a megaphone and an infrared camera to look for Bigfoot, show it on the Science Channel, and that’s what passes for science programming in the United States. The obvious result? We have a population who believes that communication with ghosts represents the leading edge of brain research, that multilevel marketing schemes are a way to get rich, and that a mail order gadget (suppressed by the oil companies) will make your car run for free.

I grew up obsessed with cryptozoology. I knew all the Bigfoot stories, I fully believed Nessie was a relic plesiosaur, I was convinced that Neanderthals survive in Russia. Having seen, as a young boy, the skeleton of the Megatherium that died falling into the Grand Canyon Caverns millennia ago, I was thrilled to learn that a “scientist” had discovered that they may still exist in the Amazon, based on local superstitions. I had no doubt. It seemed perfectly plausible and scientific.

That’s because I, at ten years old, had an understanding of the scientific method comparable to that of the cream of today’s cryptozoologists. My reading had taught me that you start with a conclusion (”Bigfoot exists”), support it with a logical fallacy (”Either it’s true or it’s a hoax of impossible proportions”), and you’re automatically right because nobody’s disproven it. This was absolutely convincing to a ten year old boy, and that’s good enough for the TV networks. What an easy sell! If your “science” broadcasting is effective, it must be good.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT “SKEPTICBLOG”

Elf Detection 101

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 13, 2009

Hat tip to Skepchick for pointing our attention this way.

An article on Iceland’s de facto bankruptcy in the April issue of Vanity Fair notes that a “large number of Icelanders” believe in elves or “hidden people.” This widespread folklore occasionally disrupts business in the sparsely populated North Atlantic country. Before the aluminum company Alcoa could erect a smelting factory, “it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it.” How do you find an elf?

Illusration by Rober Neubecker. Click image to expand.With psychic powers. According to a poll conducted in 2007, 54 percent of Icelanders don’t deny the existence of elves and 8 percent believe in them outright, although only 3 percent claim to have encountered one personally. The ability to see the huldufólk, or hidden folk, can’t be learned; you’re just born with it. To find elves, seers don’t really need to do anything—they’ll just sense an elfin presence. The Vanity Fair article says that elf detection can take six months, but it’s usually a quick process that can last under an hour. And although the magazine claims that a “government expert” had to certify the nonexistence of elves, the Icelandic Embassy insists that these consults are performed by freelancers, not government contractors.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SLATE.COM”

Climbers find footprints of abominable snowman?

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Japanese climbers returning from a mountain in western Nepal said Tuesday they had found footprints they think belonged to the abominable snowman or Yeti.

“We saw three footprints which looked like that of human beings,” Kuniaki Yagihara, a member of the Yeti Project Japan, said in Kathmandu, after returning from the mountain with photographs of the footprints.

The climbers, equipped with long-lens cameras, video cameras and telescopes, said, however that they did not see or take any photographs of the creature.

The Yeti is said to live in the Himalayan regions of Nepal and is largely regarded by the scientific community as a mythical creature.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “REUTERS”

Mande Barung Bunk

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on October 14, 2008

Dipu Marak is referred to by the BBC in multiple articles as a “passionate yeti believer.” Recently Marak’s passionate belief was put to the test, and he passed (or failed, depending upon your perspective) with flying colors.

The mande barung is the local name for an alleged ape-like creature believed to inhabit the Garo hills in Meghalaya, India. It is the “Bigfoot” of the region. Incidentally, the “Yeti” is the name for such a mythical creature in Nepal.

Why is Dipu Marak a passionate believer? He says:

“We have so many reports of sightings that I sincerely believe there is some sort of huge creature in the Garo hills.”

He is committing the common fallacy of either limiting the number of hypotheses he is willing to consider, or prematurely dismissing some. Specifically he is failing to consider that many eyewitness reports can simply be wrong. There are many historical examples that prove this principle.

My favorite example is “The Great American Airship Mania of 1896-97″ which Robert E. Bartholomew documented so well. At the time there was the widespread belief that we were on the verge of inventing airships (heavier than air flying machines) – and so people starting seeing them. Their descriptions fit the quaint image of an airship, not the designs that eventually worked and took to the air.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “NEUROLOGICA”