Mr. Eccles Presents | Science Salon: Dr. Susan Blackmore

Dr. Susan Blackmore is no stranger to skeptics. Dr. Shermer has known Dr. Blackmore since the early 1990s. When the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine were founded in 1992 she was already a rock star in the skeptical movement, having moved from believing in the paranormal, ESP, telepathy, and all the rest, to being an arch skeptic of all such claims. After earning a Ph.D. in the paranormal she devoted a decade to testing various phenomena under rigorous laboratory conditions, and continually found null results. That is, the tighter the controls she implemented and the more rigorous the research protocols, the weaker the paranormal effects became until they disappeared entirely. She went on from there to develop a theory about the neural correlates of such altered states of consciousness as Out of Body Experiences and Near Death Experiences, and after that wrote her bestselling book The Meme Machine, in which she developed a theory of how memes can be replicated and selected in a manner first proposed by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, when he coined the term.

Dr. Blackmore went on to publish one of the leading textbooks on consciousness and is now working on a theory of tremes, or technological memes and how they can be replicated and selected in machines without human input.

This interview was recorded on November 7, 2018 as part of the Science Salon series of dialogues hosted by Michael Shermer and presented by The Skeptics Society, in California.

Listen to Science Salon via iTunes, Spotify, Google Play Music, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, TuneIn, and Soundcloud…

Mr. Eccles Presents | OCC the Skeptical Caveman: Spark of Truth

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Mr. Eccles Presents | OCC the Skeptical Caveman: A Lie by Any Other Name

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MetaCognitions | American Skeptics: On Pandering to Bad Ideas

I’ve given up on a few American skeptics, especially certain so-called thought leaders. I wash my tentacles of them. I’m much keener on most UK, continental European, Canadian, and other skeptics abroad. For the most part, as well as American skeptics I follow and am friends with on social media, they totally rock.

It makes perfect sense to me to focus on bad science, hoaxes, urban legends, pseudoscience, and claims that do real harm to people’s lives, education, and health.

But I see absolutely no sense and no real point in being “skeptical” of feminism, of anthropogenic global climate change, in “skepticism” of whatever the f*** “cultural Marxism” in academia is supposed to be, and the denial of the existence or validity of transgender and non-binary people.

That is not the skepticism I have come to know and love through such podcasts as The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, Monster Talk, Skeptics with a K, and The Reality Check.

I don’t dislike those on the political right, not over something as petty as differences of opinion. I feel that how we relate to and treat each other as human beings is more important than politics.  But touting awful ideas, advocating already tested and failed policies as fair-minded and “controversial” is just giving the pseudo-skeptics, the far, far Right, the alt-Right, the armies of the night, and reactionaries who see skepticism as a threat, ready ammunition for their culture war.

I don’t even think it’s fair or necessarily true to many I know to use the phrase “right-wing” to label these ideas, as it’s more like “nut-wing” to me and at any extreme edge along a political compass.

Stop. Just stop. I don’t care about your political leanings. I don’t care how even-handed you’re trying to be. I’ve been down that road myself. The end result is that lending even token credence to terrible ideas feeds the illiberal enemies of a free state, and aiding those who would gleefully bring down organized skepticism and destroy the (((FREE SPEECH!!!))) you think you’re defending in trying to be edgy and calling yourselves (((THE INTELLECTUAL DARK WEB!!!)))

Not all ideas deserve equal time, and some ideas are terrible enough that once they have had their hearing and been found wanting, they should rightly be discarded in the wastebin of history, not to rear their ugly heads again.

But if there’s anything skeptics know, it’s that certain ideas are roundly debunked, only to rise zombie-like from the grave to walk the earth in later generations.

“Unsinkable rubber duckies.”

Guys, the culture warriors getting free press from you in magazines, blogs, vlogs, or podcasts, don’t really give a damn about free speech, except their own, and certainly not yours. And they’ll gladly bring you down along with every other hated enemy or useful idiot in their sights once they win the war.

After all, skepticism is not something one is. It’s a process to follow, a set of methods, of thinking tools, not an identity, not a set of claims or doctrines.

I think that those most vocally claiming to be skeptical of identity politics should be most wary, first and foremost, of their very own.

Ubi dubium | That’s Absurd [1]

If it’s claimed that those who are not members of a given religion, ethnicity, status, ideology, belief-status, sexual orientation, species, national or planetary origin, parallel (or askew) dimension of residence, or gender identity will be consigned to unpleasantness in an imagined hereafter, whether in a kind of Hell, stuck in an infinite loop on a karmic wheel, inside Morgarn the Lizard God’s stomach, or the like, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that the Piri Re’is Map of 1513 really shows Pleistocene Antarctica, and it is an uncannily accurate depiction of the earth as seen from space, it’s evident on the basis of the claim alone, given a look at the actual map in a museum in Istanbul, that that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that life, the universe, and everything were magically commanded, spoken, dreamed, or otherwise brought into being in their current form by a supernatural being literally in six or seven days less than 10,000 years ago, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that science is just a myth or subjective narrative no more valid than any other in factual accuracy or worth, that’s absurd. Science works, hence the science and engineering behind the computer servers hosting this blog.

If it’s claimed that the evidence for the paranormal is scientifically overwhelming, yet at the same time rejected by a hidebound Scientific Establishment™, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that having an open mind means accepting any claim regardless of the bad reasoning and lack of good evidence for it, that’s absurd, and  it confuses what it means to have an open mind.

Having an open mind means applying consistent standards to all claims, and proportioning belief to the evidence for the claim.

If it’s claimed that cratering on planetary bodies is really caused by scarring from giant electrical arcs in space and not the impact of asteroids, meteorites, or comets and other interplanetary objects, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that the sun is really powered by giant, invisible, and otherwise undetectable electrical currents on its surface, lit literally like a lightbulb, and not by thermonuclear reactions in its core, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that nothing can really be known through science because it doesn’t and maybe can’t explain absolutely everything in excruciating detail, that’s absurd.

Everything we can really say we know about the world, regardless of nationality, culture, and period of time, we know through science in some form, from early science to modern.

If it’s claimed that Occam’s razor justifies the any claim desired as the simplest explanation for allegedly unsolvable mysteries, that’s confusing the unexplained for the unexplainable, committing an argument from ignorance. And that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that being an expert in one field instantly carries unimpeachable authority in another field, that commits an argument from authority, and that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that one can argue against reason, evidence, or science, using reason, evidence, or science without contradicting oneself and merely affirming these things in the process, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that the Clever Hans effect isn’t real because it is used to invalidate much animal and some human paranormal research, that’s absurd.

If it’s claimed that subjective personal accounts are an accurate guide to what’s objectively true or works, because something merely seems to work, given what is known about errors in human thinking and perception, that’s absurd.

If I claim that science solves all problems, answers all questions, and that it’s fully immune to human error or institutional context, then that’s absurd, it’s dogmatic, and dogmatism is for fools.

So I don’t know about you, but I’d rather be as little of a fool as I can manage, and minimise my absurdities as much as possible.

For my part, it’s really the method used, the process of thinking, and not the conclusion reached, that really matters.

Tf. Tk. Tts.

Mr. Eccles Presents | Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories


“Why do people believe conspiracy theories? What’s the harm if they do? And just what is a conspiracy theory, anyway? Conspiracy theories captured the attention of philosophers and historians decades ago, but it is only within the last few years that psychologists have begun gathering data on these kinds of questions. In this talk, Rob Brotherton provides a psychological perspective on conspiracism, drawing on his own research as well as other insights explored in his book Suspicious Minds: Why We Believe Conspiracy Theories. In particular, research into cognitive biases and heuristics – quirks in the way our brains are wired – suggests that we’re all intuitive conspiracy theorists; some of us just hide it better than others. Rob Brotherton is an academic psychologist. He completed a PhD on the psychology of conspiracy theories with the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London. He now lives in New York City and teaches classes on conspiracy theories, social psychology, and science communication at Barnard College. This talk was recorded live at CSICon Las Vegas on Saturday, October 28th 2017. See more at!”