In this episode, I make some new friends in the skeptical podcast and blogging community, I take a look at more claims from ancient aliens theorists, answer some comments, and recommend a book in the Dumbass Book Club
If you paid attention to my last podcast, you'll remember that I promoted the book The Invisible Gorilla by by
Christopher Chabris, and Daniel Simon. If you haven't looked into the book as I suggested, and you've never heard of the experiment that it references, take a look at this video before continuing:
It's a fascinating book, and to get it in audiobook format simply follow this link, and if you don't have an audible.com account you can get one here, along with a 14 day free trial and a free audiobook. The book is fascinating, and I highly recommend reading it. What I want to talk about today involves another subject mentioned in the book, and I have a couple of videos that illustrate the concept. If you've already seen these first videos, you might still want to scroll past them to the other funny videos I'm posting because I think you'll enjoy them. The first one is from Richard Wiseman's Quirkology channel:
In this episode of The Dumbasses Guide To Knowledge podcast, I do a little reflecting on my experience since creating this podcast, and I do some analysis on my interview with Karl Mamer on his podcast, The Conspiracy Skeptic. Then I read an article I wrote all about definitions and how they can be misapplied. Finally, I start up the Dumbass Book Club, and I take a look at visitor comments.
Today I want to talk to you about being abducted by aliens for fun and profit!
This is a fun, tongue-in-cheek book about the flying saucer phenomenon by Professor Solomon available as a free download online. Professor Solomon has figured out the reason that aliens are visiting us and can tell you the best way to enjoy your abduction experience.
And he's set up a live webcam on an alien ship to record his abduction adventure. If you're lucky, maybe you'll catch a glimpse of him cavorting with an alien:
Back in February I read an old book of supposedly true tales of the Paranormal called Nightmare Island:
It provided me with some good blog material, such as the title story, and the story of the Ghost Cavalry. It also provided me with an interesting story about a psychic detective that, in spite of having no details I could verify, was at least fun to talk about.
Many of the rest of the tales are even more nebulous than that, and don't have even as much substance to them to warrant a full blog post. So I've decided to pick out a few of them to analyze here:
I've talked before about how how people can be overly confident in their ability to understand the past and predict the future. A good illustration of this is a book called "The Next 100 Years" by George Friedman.
As I see it, Friedman falls into the mental trap of looking at history and seeing it's progression as inevitable. With the benefit of hindsight, it's hard to see how historical events were really uncertain and chaotic, and how the outcome really could have been different than the one that history records.
From this misunderstanding he has looked through history for patterns, and whether they actually exist or not, has found them. From these supposed patterns he's projected out into the future to try and understand the forces that will shape the next century.
This seems to me like a good case study to highlight the ways that smart people can fool themselves and build a case that sounds compelling, but when you examine it closely you see that it rests on very shaky ground.
I read this book last year and am working off notes from an online discussion I had at the time. I want to make clear that even though I criticize the book, I did enjoy reading it. Especially the narrative of the coming war in the 2050's. He admits that the details of the war are more speculative than the other areas, though to me the rest of the book is almost as speculative. But in spite of being better suited to science fiction than anything else, it's a fantastic story.
But let's look at the arguments that Mr. Friedman puts forth as the solid basis for his claims:
So I decided to send an email to Ben Radford, skeptical investigator and
co-host of the Monster Talk podcast. I had a
question about his investigation of the KiMo Ghost, and I mentioned that
I was looking forward to his new book, "Scientific Paranormal Investigation" coming out. He told me that
his book was already available, I just couldn't buy it from Amazon.com
Then he offered to personally sign a copy of the book for me. I readily agreed, and about a week later I
received the book in the mail:
As promised, the title page is signed by Radford himself:
I've never had a book actually signed by the author before, so that's kind of cool.
Of course, I take this to mean that we're now best buds. I know he still hasn't responded to the last email I sent him, but we're in tune so I understand that he's just busy and he knows that I'll forgive him for not answering my question right away.
When you're on the same wavelength like that, you don't need to put this kind of thing into words. I know that he values and respects me, after all he did show it by sending me a personally signed copy of his latest book. How many people would he do that for?
Okay fine, so he does it for everybody. Big deal! You can tell by the way he wrote "Keep It Real!" for me he really meant it. After all, he used an exclamation point and a smiley face!
In any case, even though we're best buds I'm not about to sacrifice my integrity and give him a glowing review in spite of what I might think of his book. So fortunately for him, I found the book to be very engrossing.
A couple of quotes from the book really appealed to me:
I just finished the book "Lies, Damned Lies, And Science" by Sherry Seethaler.
I enjoy books like this that help instill a greater understanding about how science and statistics work. What is taught in this book is the kind of information that we should be teaching to our children at school so that we can have a more scientifically literate population.
The book helps provide people with the tools necessary in order to understand a greater perspective on issues than that which is typically filtered through the media. Decisions on public policy relating to issues of science need to be made by weighing the pros and cons of all options, even that of keeping the status quo.
Uncertainties need to be acknowledged, and when there are trade-offs we need to recognize what kind of choices they entail and not paint issues in black and white terms. How we frame the question is also very important.
I would recommend this book to anybody who's confused by all the media claims, studies, and statistics. If you want to develop the ability to sort through it for yourself, this book will help you get there.
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