‘1917,’ War, and The Frailty of Knowledge
January 22, 2020 by

As advertised, the World War I film 1917 takes place in April 1917, when two British soldiers, William Schofield (George MacKay) and Tom Blake (Dean-Charles Chapman), are rousted from a weary daytime slumber. They’re ordered to cross enemy territory (a no man’s land littered with death and decay) and deliver an urgent message to another …

Neil Peart, Skeptic
January 17, 2020 by

Last week Neil Peart, the drummer and main lyricist for the rock band Rush, died. He’d been living in California and privately battled brain cancer for several years. The Canadian trio (Alex Lifeson on guitar, Geddy Lee on vocals, bass, and keyboards, and Neil Peart on drums) announced they’d stopped touring in 2015, after 40 …

‘Richard Jewell,’ Skepticism, and Media Literacy
December 27, 2019 by

The recent Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell holds interesting lessons about skepticism, media literacy, and both the obligations and difficulties of translating real events into fictional entertainment. It’s no secret that non-police security officers get little or no respect. They’re universally mocked and ignored in malls, security checkpoints, and airports. The stereotype is the self-important, …

Crackpots, Serial Killers and Flat Earthers
November 6, 2019 by

Things are a bit different now. Any crackpot with a 6th grader’s knowledge of computers can design and launch a website, shoot, edit and post a You Tube video that is wrong in every sense of the word, and search the world for people who share their same fetishes, dopey ideas, or sick fantasies.

Halloween Scary Phantoms and Phantom Scares
October 31, 2019 by

Today is Halloween, and amid the make-believe witches, ghouls, and goblins, there are supposedly real-life villains who hope to harm children every October 31. News reports and scary stories on social media leave many parents concerned about protecting children from Halloween threats. But are they real or myth? Here are five scary myths and legends …

My Psychic Scam Letter to CSICon: Presenting the Balles Prize for Critical Thinking
October 23, 2019 by

On Friday night at CSICon 2019 in Las Vegas, I presented the Balles Prize in Critical Thinking to reporters Blake Ellis and Melanie Hicken for their book A Deal with the Devil, which was about the infamous “Maria Duval scam,” in which a fake psychic scammed people out of millions of dollars through very personal-seeming …

How to Live Your Best Life, No Pseudoscience Required, in ‘Skeptical Inquirer’
October 23, 2019 by

Self-help gurus are unavoidable on bookstore shelves, daytime talk show panels, and sometimes even presidential debate stages, and each promises to help you “live your best life,” as long as you buy their pseudoscience-saturated books, supplements, videos, and power crystals.  The latest issue of Skeptical Inquirer, the magazine for science and reason, offers a reality-based alternative …

The Belief Barrier: Moving an Immovable Object at CSICon
October 19, 2019 by

After his presentation at CSICon 2019, the great actor John de Lancie referred to Q, the cosmic superbeing he played in the Star Trek franchise, as “a god with clay feet,” an entity of incredible power but lacking the character to use it in any meaningful way.  It’s a telling observation on de Lancie’s part, as I …

Skeptics of CSICon: A Tight and Clever Pack
October 19, 2019 by

Many skeptics know what it is to feel alone. If you’re the only parent in your social circle who accepts the science of vaccines, or you’re an atheist in a deeply religious family, or you’re the bubble-burster to refuses to concede that your friend spoke to their dead relative through a psychic medium, a skeptic …

Flaws, Courage, and Conviction at CSICon
October 19, 2019 by

If nothing else, to be a skeptic is to be willing to accept the universe as it is. That’s not the same as being apathetic or content with the status quo, but it does mean that we have to start with the facts as they are, not as we would have them be. So if …