Good Landing Pads Make Good Neighbors
October 26, 2020 by

The chat between Richard Dawkins and Javed Akhtar on Saturday was really interesting, in ways even I didn’t expect. You can see the live-tweeting we did here. While of course largely in agreement with Dawkins, it was fascinating to get Akhtar’s perspective on some areas of either disagreement or at least nuanced difference. Oh, also, …

Kill All the Birds!
October 23, 2020 by

We’ve got two big events queued up over the next week for you. Tomorrow morning (well, morning if you’re in the U.S., 11am ET), it’s the 2020 Richard Dawkins Award ceremony on Zoom, where Richard himself will be in conversation with this year’s winner, Indian poet, lyricist, and screenwriter Javed Akhtar. It is not too …

Elfin and Mephistophelian
October 22, 2020 by

James Randi has died at the age of 92. Randi helped found what would become the Center for Inquiry in 1976, alongside greats such as Carl Sagan, Isaac Asimov, and Paul Kurtz. Here’s what CFI president and CEO Robyn Blumner said in our statement last night: To the skeptical movement, he was a hero. To …

The Asteroid Called. It Wants its Dirt Back.
October 21, 2020 by

Understandably, Americans’ trust in the information they get about COVID-19 has dropped since the spring, with trust in Trump on the topic dropping from a sad 23 percent to a piddling 16 percent. The only thing more mistrusted than Trump on COVID is social media. Here’s info you CAN trust, CFI’s Coronavirus Resource Center. Consider …

Lessons from the Space Shuttle Challenger
October 13, 2020 by

In 1986, the space shuttle Challenger exploded 73 seconds after takeoff from Florida’s coast, an accident that laid bare not only institutional flaws in the application of high technology but also flaws in the public’s understanding of science. Many myths have emerged in the years since the accident, such as that the shuttle exploded—it didn’t, …

‘SF Weekly’ ‘Helps’ Readers Tell Real from Fake Psychics
October 1, 2020 by

Skeptics are known for warning the public about the perils of psychics (ranging from exploitation to fraud), but it may surprise to know that “real” psychics sometimes join in as well, offering advice about how to avoid those “fake psychics.” Sometimes they do it directly in books or during interviews; other times they do it …

George Cherrie and the Venezuelan Dancing Devil
September 17, 2020 by

One of the most celebrated American naturalist/explorers was George K. Cherrie (1865–1948), who in his 1930 book Dark Trails: Adventures of a Naturalist (G.P. Putnam’s Sons) wrote about his adventures, primarily in Central and South America. Cherrie engaged in many expeditions, perhaps most famously accompanying Theodore Roosevelt on his nearly-disastrous 1913–1914 jungle descent of Brazil’s …

Another Week, (Yet) Another Trump Conspiracy
August 11, 2020 by

President Trump has long been known to peddle unfounded conspiracies, and has done so for years.  Most recently Trump has revived years-old, long-debunked claims about widespread voter fraud, especially by mail. There is no evidence at all that voter fraud is significant, much less rampant, but nevertheless Trump succeeds in sowing uncertainty about the validity …

Texas Hospital Finds ‘Covid Party’ – Or Legend
July 11, 2020 by

As if on cue! Following my recent CFI article “The Truth About Covid Parties” and Squaring the Strange podcast episode on ‘covid parties,’ titled “Tonight We’re Gonna Party Like It’s Covid 1999” there’s a news article suggesting they’ve been confirmed! A July 10 WOAI/KABB news story from San Antonio, Texas headlined “‘I thought this was …

‘This Is America’ and the Ambiguity of Memes
July 2, 2020 by

Misleading memes are a dime a dozen, to use a phrase originating in the 1800s (though today they’re not only free but available by the tens of thousands). People who spend time on social media interact with them constantly, usually in the context of reading, endorsing, and sharing them. Less often they’re refuted or mocked, …