Posts Tagged “credulity”

Pac Man GhostThe “hauntings as news” phenomenon is one I’ve blogged about many times, as a sterling example of lazy journalism at its most obvious. A nearby newspaper, the Torrington Register Citizen (part of the barely-alive collection of rags known as Journal Register Company) is a chief offender in this regard; they’ve reported several times on hauntings and ghosts as though they are real news stories deserving professional journalistic attention. That ghosts do not exist, and that hauntings do not really happen, appears not to matter to the RC‘s hypercredulous staff. They just continue running after every ghost they hear about, including this latest example of their idiocy and laziness (WebCite cached article):

RISEUP Paranormal CT, an affiliate of the Rhode Island based RISEUP Paranormal Group will be investigating the Warner Theater in Torrington, Connecticut on January 16th. The Connecticut based group is led by Gail Capolupo, Ann Collette, Don Krantz and Thomas Flanagan.

We are to be confident that these people are experts on ghosts, for reasons the RC carefully copies verbatim (I assume, since it reads that way) from the group’s press release:

RISEUP (The Rhode Island Society for the Examination of Unusual Phenomena) is a non-profit organization that specializes in researching, investigating, and documenting reported hauntings, UFO/USO experiences, and unidentified mysterious animal sightings. Members are trained to apply science in order to seek logical explanations about supposed paranormal events through the use of surveillance tools, recording devices and common sense. While RISEUP remains open to the existence of ghosts, spirits, extraterrestrial beings and crypto zoological animals, each investigation is conducted without pretensions allowing the group to conduct research as unbiased observers.

These are not really valid “credentials” granting weight to any of their determinations, however. That they’re non-profit does not mean they can’t be deluded or incompetent. That they “document” things does not grant veracity to what they document. That they claim to “apply science” to things, does not mean they actually do. That these people are “open” to strange things means they may be too credulous to bother looking into mundane, non-mystical explanations for things. That they claim to investigate “without pretensions” does not mean they actually do. That they say they’re “unbiased” does not mean they actually are. For all I know, these folks may sincerely believe the pablum and nonsense they’re serving up. But that also does not grant them any veracity.

The only way to establish the veracity of ghosts, is to subject them to rigorous, valid scientific testing. To date, this has never even been attempted, much less tried and failed. Anyone who is certain s/he can do so, would do well to submit an application to the James “the Amazing” Randi’s One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, collect his/her prize, and become instantly wealthy.

And yes, the Randi Foundation has that money set aside. Yes, you will be allowed a say in how your own test is conducted. And not to worry if you don’t need all that money, you can always donate it to charity … so don’t let that stop you! If you’re right, you have absolutely nothing to lose, and everything to gain, by doing so.

Lastly … I’ve been to the now-magnificent Warner Theater in Torrington many times, beginning way back in the 70s when it was a dreary, run-down movie theater, rather than the art-deco live theater it is now. I’ve been in its backstage areas and all around the building. But never once have I seen even the slightest hint of anything that could even remotely be called a ghost. I grant that I’m a cold-hearted godless agnostic cynic and skeptic, so I guess the ghosts there have — quite obviously — read my mind, detected that, and steered clear of me so that I would remain skeptical.

Or something like that, the true believers love to say.

Photo credit: acordova.

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The Drudge Report this morning relayed the breathless headline from the [UK] Sun:

Is this Atlantis?

Google Oceans photo of the supposed Atlantis, found at the UK Sun
Map from Atlantis … spotted on ocean floor

THIS is the amazing image which could show the fabled sunken city of Atlantis.

It shows a perfect rectangle the size of Wales lying on the bed of the Atlantic Ocean nearly 3½ miles down.

A host of criss-crossing lines, looking like a map of a vast metropolis, are enclosed by the boundary.

They seem too vast and organised to be caused naturally.

Gee, it’s nice to see a newspaper decide things based on how they “seem.” We all know that things must always be the way they “seem,” don’t we? The earth certainly “seems” flat on most occasions … so I guess that’s how it must be, no?

Fortunately there is a ready explanation for this, as reported by CNET:

It pains me to say that I am the winkler of bad tidings. For I have discovered the words of one of those excitement dampeners employed by Google official job title “spokesperson.” …

“In this case, what users are seeing is an artifact of the data collection process. Bathymetric (or sea-floor terrain) data is often collected from boats using sonar to take measurements of the sea-floor…The lines reflect the path of the boat as it gathers the data. The fact that there are blank spots between each of these lines is a sign of how little we really know about the world’s oceans.”

Whew! It’s good to know that “seems” still does not equal “veracity,” and that critical thinking is still alive and well somewhere in the vast, increasingly-credulous world of the mass media.

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I already blogged about the psychic tip that launched a child-abuse investigation. As if the mindless credulity of Barrie, ON school officials weren’t bad enough, there are actually people who are defending their actions! Here is one example:

Under section 72 of Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act, the school had a duty to report if they had “reasonable” grounds to believe that a child was being sexually abused or exploited. While we can laugh and say that a psychic’s ramblings about a girl named “V” and a male in his late 20s is not reasonable grounds to believe that Victoria had been sexually abused, the school officials merely erred on the side of caution.

The school did not, in fact, “err on the side of caution.” They had absolutely no reason whatsoever to “err on the side” of anything! A psychic’s tip is not the least bit “reasonable” as instigation for an investigation. Not in any way, not ever.

It just is not. No matter how one slices it.

I cannot imagine how any rational mind could possibly defend this, because there is no defense for it. None. Zero. Nada. Zip. Zilch. Nichts.

I can only assume that people who feel inclined to assume the Barrie schools “erred on the side of caution” probably are just trying to justify their own beliefs in the validity of psychics. Most know better, but they are compulsively unable to admit it … so they end up defending the indefensible and looking like clowns and morons as a result.

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People often ask me what harm there is in believing in psychics. They can offer comfort, it’s often said. Mediums who claim to speak to the dead, for example, can reassure the bereaved, regardless of whether or not they are actually in touch with “the Other Side,” so why worry about it? Unfortunately, faith in the power of psychics is not harmless, as at least one Canadian mother and daughter can attest:

Psychic’s vision sets off sex-abuse probe

A Barrie mother of an autistic girl is considering legal action against her local school board after a psychic’s prediction to a special educational assistant sparked a sexual abuse report to the Children’s Aid Society.

“I’m in shock,” said Colleen Leduc, 38. “They reported me to Children’s Aid because of a psychic. Can you imagine?”

It seems an educational assistant at Victoria Leduc’s school had visited a psychic. The psychic told the EA that a child she works with whose name begins with “V” was being sexually abused. School officials are citing “zero-tolerance” policies as the reason the report of abuse was submitted to CAS … but I wasn’t aware that the ambiguous ramblings of a psychic constituted a sufficient trigger. The fact is that the reason for this is not “zero-tolerance,” but the deluded credulity of an EA and school officials who actually considered this “tip” enough of a reason to call in the authorities.

Thankfully, in this case, CAS quickly dismissed the case and all is now well … but it might easily have blown up into a serious matter and caused a lot of trouble and expense. Ms Leduc is still waiting for an apology from the hypercredulous EA and school officials, and offered this amusing quip:

She can only assume that the closing of the file by CAS ends the school’s concerns, said Ms. Leduc.

“Unless they take out a Ouija board and decide to do something else. They might want to take out a Ouija board or hold a seance, I’m not sure.”

Hopefully those involved will mature to the point where they can find it in themselves to say “I’m sorry” to this family … but somehow I doubt it.

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