Archive for the ‘musings’ Category
This is just a quick post to say that over the next few days my website may mysteriously vanish. Don’t be alarmed, I am just moving the site over to a self hosted site. The site will be back up shortly after it vanishes – IF it vanishes at all.
I have no idea where graphic A originated from, but I’ve seen it numerous times in my Facebook feed as it is shared by my friends. It has always bothered me because up until a few years ago I didn’t know who Carl Sagan was either. Yet, I don’t consider myself to have been what was wrong with society.
People are capable of learning, and rather than being smug and blaming then for being “stupid” enough to not know who Carl Sagan is by sight, we could instead explain it to them. Share the knowledge we have and inspire people with the amazing things that we, ourselves, have learned. So I’ve redesigned it.
Don’t just embrace the cosmos, spread the love!
*edit* After posting this on Facebook I discovered that some people would prefer to punish people and call them out for being unaware of Sagan/science than just, you know, sharing. Punishing people for not being aware of things is wrong and offending them wont make them listen to you when you tell them they need to learn more. Trust me – I’m a ghost hunter who has been told she is stupid and pathetic for the beliefs I held. I didn’t listen to those people.
I noticed that someone linked to my blog over on the SGU forum, in a post where the author was asking others for advice about a potential partner that wanted to join a ghost hunting team.
They were wondering what they should do because they’re a skeptic and their potential mate wanted to join a team that goes out looking for ghosts, and it’s sort of silly and misguided and pseduo-scientific.
I’m not a relationship expert, but personally I don’t think it’s a huge deal. I occasionally go on paranormal investigations with the team I am part of, and we have all sorts of members. Some of them are married or in relationships and although their partners don’t have an interest in the subject or have different beliefs than they do, it isn’t an obstacle for them.
Not all couples have to have the same beliefs, and it’s perfectly fine for you to think that something your partner believes in is stupid, but you should just respect that it’s a decision – a conclusion, that they have reached.
With ghost hunting it’s likely that it’s an illogical conclusion that they have reached, and I would suggest a discussion could be had about why they believe what they believe, and why they want to go hang out in dark buildings in the cold.
There’s a great article on SkepticNorth by Ethan Clow called ‘Talking about ghosts’ that touches upon how to approach such a discussion and it’s well worth a read.
As someone who used be a person that would go hunting for ghosts I can tell you now that there is an element of fun and adventure involved that makes the decision for you. There’s also the element of copying what you see on TV which looks really spooky and cool. The reality is nothing like what you see on television.
One way to get someone who is a believer in ghosts to rethink their stance is to talk to them about the subject in the manner Clow suggests in the article linked to above.
I’d also suggest getting them to read ‘Scientific Paranormal Investigation’ by Benjamin Radford – maybe it would make a cool christmas present? Perhaps if you’re not at the gift giving stage of a relationship you could pass them on the link to an abstract from the book called ‘Top Five Ghost Hunting Mistakes‘ that really tackles the influences that cause people to be misguided in their quest to find ghosts.
Sometimes you can be so blinded by the excitment that a ghost hunt promises that it isn’t until someone slaps the facts in your face that you become aware of your own illogical thinking. Also, it is possible to disagree on a topic – such a ghosts – and still have a good relationship.
The fact is though that until you know why someone wants to be a ghost hunter, you can’t really talk to them about why it might be illogical. There’s a whole bunch of reasons someone might want to get involved in such a team.
I hope this post can answer the question asked on the SGU forum, and if not, feel free to get in touch.
Today the ‘Strange Quarks’ podcast released an episode in which Project Barnum was discussed and criticised. I wanted to address the points raised in the podcast.
1 – Simon Singh doesn’t lead Project Barnum as claimed in the podcast by Martin Robbins. I do.
Simon helped to form the idea of the petition, but everything else has been me with the help of people like Tannice Pendegrass, Keir Lidde, Simon Clare and a few others. That is all over the Project Barnum website and isn’t hard to find…
2 – Deobrah Hyde split Project Barnum (PB) into two ‘halves’. One half being where PB aims to spread information and inform people on how one might be tricked and how con artists use certain tricks to appear psychic which helps people make their own choices. The other half being where we “try and influence theatre overheads to a degree where they would not put on shows” which she thinks is aiming at “the distribution of a certain world view.”
The petition was a small part of what PB is about and not ‘half’ of what we do. The petition was asking theatres to reconsider hosting shows that are, by their very nature, misleading and upsetting to many. It wasn’t trying to censor people, it was simply asking “is this appropriate?”
The petition led to us being able to understand the extent to which theatres use ‘entertainment only’ disclaimers which, after a little research on our part, we have been able to advise people don’t mean very much at all (e.g. just because a psychic claims to be for entertainment purposes only doesn’t mean you can’t ask for your money back if you think you’ve been misled by them – learn more here.)
No psychic shows were cancelled, and we didn’t think they would be, we were really using that petition to demonstrate how strongly people felt about the subject, and also to discover the extent to which theatres hide behind useless, misleading ‘entertainment purposes’ disclaimers.
3 – Martin Robbins says he has a problem with the way in which the term “fraud” has been banded around. I don’t know if this was in regard to PB, or whether it was a general observation – but I will just point out that PB has always clearly stated on the website and elsewhere that we’re not interested in accusing people of fraud or cheating -we’re interested in helping people work out for themselves if they’re being misled or not.
PB has never used the term ‘fraud’ in relation to anyone. We list some examples on the site of mediums and psychics who have been documented as cheating in certain examples (with evidence to back those examples up), or accused of cheating in case of Sally Morgan.
It is concerning that basic information about Project Barnum, that is easily accessible, was not researched before the episode was aired.
Recently I was interviewed, amoung other things, about Project Barnum by the lovely Kylie Sturgess who I had the pleasure to meet briefly at QEDcon in Manchester earlier this year. Kylie is the host of the Token Skeptic Podcast and I can be heard on episode 79.
Also this week, the guys at Sceptici.ro released the interview they did with me during Denkfest in Zurich last month in which I talk about paranormal research, weird beliefs and more. I’ve embedded the video below and a transcribed (and translated) version will be available via their website here.
It’s just two weeks until I travel to Edinburgh to talk to Edinburgh Skeptics in the Pub. I’m hugely excited because in days gone by, when I used to be a Most Haunted fan and got spooked by my own shadow, Edinburgh was the one place I always wanted to visit because of its ghosts and folklore and I’M GOING! While there I hope to be able to visit some of the places that have always fascinated me, such as the Edinburgh vaults.
Following that I’ll be revisiting friends at Bristol Skeptics in the Pub on October 27th and then onto Westminster Skeptics in the Pub for Halloween.
Apart from that, the only other thing I really have to say is please, please, please keep your donations coming in to me to go towards the cost of tickets to QEDcon next March for skeptics who are on low incomes and cannot afford to attend.
If you are interested in one of the free tickets I have already raised funds for (yay!) then please fill in your details below and you will be entered into a random name drawing in a couple of weeks time! This application round will close in one weeks time [October 13th at 22:00]
Sally Morgan has mentioned on Twitter that the press coverage and reaction to the allegations that she cheated at one of her shows is akin to ‘a modern day witch hunt’.
I personally find this comparison to be distasteful and wonder how Sally can view herself as a victim of a ‘witch hunt’ when it she who brings it upon herself by refusing to provide evidence of her alleged abilities.
That is after all, all that those of us who are skeptical of her claims are asking; we want Sally to prove that she can do what she says she can do – and personal testimonies don’t count because those people can be potentially misled by trickery (whether Sally is aware she is using it or not.)
Being asked to prove that you can do what you claim you can do is in no way similar to being persecuted for being non-religious, poor, weird or for being considered as ‘cunning women’ or ‘witches’ by local people. People were hung for their non-crimes, and based on the word of eye-witnesses whose reliability wasn’t that credible.
Those of us who doubt Sally Morgan and her claims are not the bad people unless we persecute her for her beliefs and I truly hope that nobody is doing so. Having watched Sally Morgan on television though I know that she lumps those who doubt her abilities all together as cynics and bad people who she doesn’t have to respond to. That’s a bad assumption to make because as the person making huge claims she is the very person to has to answer to her critics. Turning a blind eye to valid criticism and questions helps her make a whole other point about herself…