According to holidayinsights.com, which is the first link that comes up in Google when you do a search for "International Skeptics Day", today indeed was that vaunted day.... either that or January 13... or the first Friday the 13th of the year...
Whatever date it falls on, it appears that the international skeptical community is completely unaware of the day supposedly meant to celebrate their skepticism. The first two pages of Google search results for the day reveal no links to any skeptical website.
Although one website did provide an e-card to celebrate the day, which I guess makes it official. Even if no skeptical organization recognizes the day, there's an e-card so it must be real!
As I mentioned, the main source for this information seems to come from holidayinsights.com, and they don't give any source on where they got this data from. They also have a poor understanding of what skepticism is all about:
I came across this interesting looking show the other week, and it looked like it would be a great opportunity to record it to my computer so that I could analyze it at my leisure and see what I have to say about it.
The show is called Fact Or Faked: Paranormal Files
In concept, this is very much the kind of television programming I'd like to see more of. This is a group of six investigators gathered together by a former FBI agent in order to investigate paranormal claims. This stalwart band of paranormal sleuths is introduced during the opening credits as follows:
Ben: Former FBI Agent Bill: Lead Scientist Jael: Journalist Larry: Effects Specialist Chi-Lan: Photography Expert Austin: Stunt Expert
I'm a little concerned by the "Lead Scientist" designation for Bill. Without any more information, calling somebody a "Lead Scientist" is absolutely meaningless. What's his expertise? What are his credentials?
I've mused before about how to think about expertise. The experts are more likely to have their facts straight, so when an expert gives you a fact you should certainly take it seriously. But even when people have all their facts straight, they can still be wrong in their conclusions. That's why I don't have a problem with people questioning the experts. Even if you're wrong, I believe there's a benefit to bringing up these kind of challenges. It's just when people aren't willing to listen to the rebuttals and understand what's being said that things get out of hand.
I just came across a perfect example about how expert, in-depth knowledge of a subject, is no guarantee that your conclusions are in any way valid. I've transcribed a quote from Michael Heisser, who actually gave a very good speech debunking the claims of ancient alien theorist Zechariah Sitchin. Sitchin makes claims to be an expert on ancient languages and to have made some incredible translations. Heisser, who actually is an expert in ancient languages, shows quite clearly that Sitchin is just full of it. But that doesn't mean that Heisser doesn't have poorly thought out ideas about the subject himself, as shown by the following quote from the question and answer segment:
My analysis of the Ancient Aliens television show so far has garnered the most attention of anything that I've written. My thanks to everybody who's written in to encourage me in my efforts, and even to the people who've challenged me in the comment sections. I love all the feedback, even when it doesn't feed my ravenous dumbass ego.
I figured that it was high time that I rolled up my sleeves and tackled the next segment of the Ancient Aliens evidence show. This is my fifth article sequentially analyzing the show itself, and I've written several other related articles. If you're interested in seeing everything I've written on the subject, click on the "ancient alien theory" keyword above. Click here to watch the show, and you can decide for yourself whether I'm being fair in my analysis.
In this segment, we'll be talking about the art of ancient stone cutting, and the claims made by proponents of Ancient Aliens.
I would like to give special thanks to Yannis Deliyannis, a historian who has spent over a decade looking at Ancient Alien claims. I've mentioned Yannis' blog before, Chronicon Mirabilium, where he looks at ancient anomalous celestial phenomena and mysterious history. Yannis was nice enough to take the time to answer some of my questions and point me to some great resources that really helped me put this article together more quickly than would have otherwise been possible.
I would also like to thank Susan Johnston, archaeologist and anthropologist at George Washington University. Professor Johnston is the lecturer in a lecture series called "Myths and Mysteries in Archaeology", check out this podcast episode from Modern Scholar where she discusses archaeology and her new course. She was nice enough to take the time to talk with me over email and help me to consider different perspectives from which to tackle the claims that I've been looking at.
I came across another one of those ads just the other day that caused me to do a double-take. This time it was a banner advertising a method for parents to determine the correct dosage of medicine for their children.
Here's the ad:
I'm personally all in favour of any product that helps make the job of being a parent easier. This statistic just didn't sit right with me though. I needed to look at the source of this claim and try and determine it's context.
At first I thought I was dealing with a mutant statistic - a fact or figure which has been misremembered/misinterpreted in such a way as to render it completely inaccurate. I wasn't able to find this 72% figure in any search of the literature, so it looked like maybe there was some mutation going on here.
So I wrote to the people at Accudial asking for information about this claim. Normally when I make these kind of inquiries, they go unanswered. But this time I actually did get an answer, and now I can tell you what I found out:
This is a segment from a Canadian science news show from back in February of 2009 regarding Obama's first visit to Canada as president.
I wanted to talk about this because it seems to me like a case where somebody builds himself up as an expert on something when there's really not a whole lot verifiable to what he's saying.
Perhaps there's something to the suggestion that Obama's body language indicates a take-charge type of personality. I can see that. The extra directional gestures he makes do kind of look as though he's trying to be in complete control of the situation.
But what about him jogging down the stairs? Is that really a statement about Canada's relationship with the U.S.? That seems to be really reaching to me. Those were a lot of stairs, and Obama's a busy man!
And what about how they walked between those columns? Was Harper's being off center really a statement about the balance of power? I kind of doubt it. The stairs they walked up were off center with the columns, and they just had to adjust to that a little bit awkwardly.
If you ask me, this guy's just spitballing and coming up with what we expect to hear based on what he already knows of the political situation.
As you know, I've been puzzling for the past few days about what Tsoukalos could have possibly been talking about with that statement on the white paper-like substance.
That in itself should tell you how much of a dumbass I am. A smart person would have just left it as is and wasted no more thought on it. But I've got this compulsion to track things down to their source and figure out exactly where the claims are coming from. And Thoukalos' statement is just begging for somebody to figure it out.
I haven't found the exact source of the quote yet, but I noticed something while looking over yesterday's entry about the forum thread. What I noticed was that I made a mistake when transcribing Tsoukalos' quote.
Tsoukalos actually said that "they wrote on it". I heard "they rode on it", which seemed a little strange, but then that's par for the course in this show.
Once I realized my mistake, something clicked. White paper that they write on in order to generate magical effects.... that sounds like Shinto paper charms, aka Ofuda. These are usually just good luck or protection charms, but in folk tales, as well as anime, they're often used in order to perform magical feats.
Sailor Mars Reporting For Pyramid Building Duty!
My guess is that he's going off of an account of a Shinto folk tale in which an Ofuda was used to move a stone. He says it moved by six feet, which sounds to me like perhaps somebody in the story wanted to move a stone away from a cave entrance or something.
I've been searching for such a story, and have found a few where Ofuda's are used to create a magical effect, but I haven't found anything that looks like it might be Tsoukalos' source yet.
But while I don't know his exact source, I feel confident that this is what he was talking about. This is the same guy, after all, who believed that the tale of King Solomon's flying carpet was actually a reference to an alien airship.
I found Tsoukalos' email address a couple of days ago and asked if he could clarify his statement. I haven't gotten any response back yet. My guess is that even he knows that this claim is weak, and doesn't want to talk about it.
If anybody knows of a folk tale that Tsoukalos could possibly be referring to, write a comment here and let me know.
I've been looking for information about that magical white substance that Giorgio Tsoukalos mentioned. No luck yet, but I did find an interesting thread on the History Channel's online forum from a few months ago.
I love the way it starts out:
I find it hilarious that this was his "only issue" with the show. Apparently, even the believers who accept all the rest of the nonsense that I've been debunking are saying "Hey Tsoukalos... what the hell, man?"
There were some nice skeptical posts in there, which is refreshing to see:
A couple of people mentioned the possibility that the white substance could be something called "monoatomic gold". From what I can gather online, this appears to only be some sort of snake oil alternative medicine product... nothing that would grant anything like levitation abilities.
Nothing else in the thread lead anywhere productive. Although one person interestingly decided to comment on Mr. Tsoukalos' physical appearance:
I'm not sure what he means by that, I thought Mr. Tsoukalos had a perfectly fine hairstyle...
Okay, so it might seem odd to some people.... but I'm sure that's just the result of the aliens beaming this knowledge directly into his brain.
In any case, the final post of the thread reads:
I would have guessed that it had more to do with "special herbs".... but what do I know?
The last three segments dealt mostly with flight, but we're finally moving away from that. Now we're talking about construction techniques, and this is the topic that I see most frequently brought up in support of Ancient Aliens theory by theorists and laypeople alike.
Everybody knows that the pyramids are seriously big-ass buildings, made up of big, heavy stones. Many people wonder, if the ancient Egyptians didn't have modern machinery, how the hell did they do it?
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