Category Archives: Pseudoscience

In my own back yard

I recently moved to Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. I don’t really know anyone here or what the local general air is yet. But I’m getting an idea… More…

Don’t facepalm in public

Or people will think you’re insane. Moar…

Beyond Belief: Strange, True Mysteries of the Unknown – Part 7

This is it. The final countdown…uh, I mean chapter. Chapter 10: Animals that Talk, Spell, and Find their Way Home. See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, and 6 for other “interesting” topics.

This chapter is about animals that have special cognitive powers. There are lots of pretty cool animals that can do pretty cool things. Bonobos have their sex. Dolphins have their trickery. Crows have their fishing lines. African gray parrots have their, well…pretty interesting stuff. But these are not special magical powers. They are highly trained in some cases and rudimentary versions of more complex behaviours in other cases (ex: often people, even scientists, can confuse “communication” in animals with “language”). Other behaviours are impressive, yes, mysterious, for now, unexplained/beyond belief? no.

Imagine my surprise when I’m browsing this inappropriate chapter (because, again training =/= magic and anecdotes =/= data) and I see a glaring example of failing to do basic research. It’s one thing to tell a story that’s probably wrong, it’s another to irresponsibly promote a story that is definitely wrong – and known to be so for over 80 years before the publication of this book.

I have to give Brad credit for this one example. It would have taken a lot of effort not to realize that this particular animal is used in probably every single animal behaviour class in North America as an example for classic blunders of experimental design. This animal is so famous that, chances are, even people who didn’t take so much as an intro psych class have probably heard this story. This is a story so classic that its mere presence in this already condemnable book eliminates all doubt that this is the most profoundly thick dumbshittery ever set to a printing press. More…

Beyond Belief: Strange, True Mysteries of the Unknown – Part 6

Sorry for the delay (if anyone cared), I was a little busy this week with not writing this. Welcome to Chapter 9 The Terror of Spontaneous Human Combustion. See parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 for more chapters from this hilarious and infuriating book. More…

Beyond Belief: Strange, True Mysteries of the Unknown – Part 3

So I’ve been exploring the book Beyond Belief: Strange, True Mysteries of the Unknown, by Brad Steiger (1991). Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here. Now onto Chapters 4 and 5 – Missing Civilizations and Vanishing Islands (note: chapter titles presented minus the excessive adjectiving). I’m sure this is the part of the book where he turns things around and critically examines the evidence for and against his claims. More…

Beyond Belief: Strange, True Mysteries of the Unknown – Part 1

Finally living up to my promise. It’s almost too easy. I almost feel bad. Almost. I think I’m going to have to do this in several parts, because there’s just too much here to address in one go. So here’s a brief introduction and the first topic. More…

Hoaxes as lessons

During Joe Nickell’s talk at TAM 7, the concept of hoaxes came up. Sometimes skeptics will, for example, take pictures of an alleged Bigfoot and post them online. They’ll let it go for a few weeks/months, letting the Bigfoot people ponder over it before finally revealing “AHA! It was all a scam!” I don’t know how I feel about these little demonstrations.  More…