Exposing PseudoAstronomy

September 14, 2016

Podcast 146: BONUS: Tracking Failed Planet X Predictions of Marshall Masters


Marshall Masters’ doom
And gloom from Planet X, is
Wrong, false, fake, and dumb.

This is a “bonus” episode which was originally going to be short but ended up being nearly 20 minutes. I document every Coast to Coast AM interview that Marshall Masters has ever given (since late 2011, plus one from 2003) and pulled out clips where he specifically put a time table for when Planet X and doom and gloom would strike. Each time, it’s about a year away. Each time, he’s wrong. Why should his interview from 13 hours ago be any different? And at what point does the interviewer have a responsibility to hold him accountable?

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

September 11, 2016

Planet X Keeps Being 1 Year Away: Anyone Want to Call Into Coast to Coast AM on Tuesday?


Gallifrey Passes by Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Gallifrey Passes by Earth (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

I know I just came back from hiatus with the podcast, but I’m already starting to plan special shorts, with the first one coming out this week. In particular, listener Dick from Florida wrote in to alert me that this week, the night of September 13, 2016, Marshall Masters is scheduled to be on the program for the latter half of the show to talk about Planet X: “Author, publisher, and producer Marshall Masters specializes in Planet X and ancient prophecy research. He’ll detail the evidence pointing to an object on the other side of the sun, which could be Planet X. He’ll cover the various ways we can cope with the coming tribulations via enlightenment and survival methods.”

I initially wasn’t going to do anything because I already covered his claims in Part 9 of the Planet X series of my podcast (episode 109). But, that was in May 2014.

And, the more I thought about it, the more annoyed I became. This guy is an unsinkable rubber ducky on C2CAM, coming back about once a year to claim that Planet X will cause planet-wide catastrophe within a year. And somehow he’s still at it.

So, I pulled every episode I have with him on – which is all of them except three from 2003 (I have one of the four from 2003) and I have listened to the roughly 14 hours of audio over the last two days (while working on other stuff and generally listening at 1.7x speed). The goal was to pull every specific prediction with a time statement and use that in a special podcast episode, matched with whatever he claims on September 13.

With the possibility of influencing the experiment, I’m posting the majority of the transcript for this planned podcast episode now, here, in advance, so you can look at it, make up your own mind, and potentially call into the program and challenge him, assuming that the host, George Noory, does not.

Planet X doom and gloom causes real harm. People get scared, they empty their savings accounts, break off social ties when no one listens to them, and literally run for the hills. Marshall Masters should be called on the unsubstantiated fear he promotes, over and over, when he’s demonstrably wrong and either a liar or his memory is so bad he should not be trusted to deliver such important prognostications.


First up was his claim in August 2003: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 05 September 2003, Hour 1, starting 09:46]

AB: “Something’s pointing to September 6 [2003], though, right?”

MM: “Right, now this was a formation that appeared back in 1995, the Titchform(??) formation. And it has, um, it has basically just a chart of our inner solar system, and when you align it, it comes up perfectly with Mars basically being the time measure on the outer ring, and, you know, we sat down, we checked it out ourselves, we vetted his work, and he’s on— you know, he’s on the money with his times. And what he’s showing on the sixth of September is that there’s going to be an object that will be between the orbits of Venus and Earth. It’ll be on the other side of the sun.”

In other words, he was predicting something would happen in just a month. This also sets the tone for at least the next decade in terms of using crop circles as his primary guide, and sets the tone at least through the present about claiming that his object is usually, somehow, just on the other side of the sun which is why you can never see it, while at the same time claiming that he has pictures of it.

Starting in 2011, Marshall started to get on the December 2012 bandwagon: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 10 April 2011, Hour 2, starting 20:39]

“Timing wise, uh, according to the Avebury 2008 formation, which I document in [my book] ‘Crossing the Cusp,’ uh, we’re going to see Planet X in December 2012. And this is also the period of the solar maximum when the sun is forecast to be its most violent.”

And, just in case that wasn’t clear, one minute later he re-iterated December 2012: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 10 April 2011, Hour 2, starting 21:51]

RS: “So when is the return date for Planet X, as you have calculated it.”

MM: “Well, according to the Avebury 2008 formation, it’s in early December that we will see it, of 2012.”

He was then on twice in 2012 and had completely jumped on the December 21, 2012 date. Here he is in April 2012: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 30 April 2012, Hour 2, starting 10:35]

“The Avebury 2008 formation is telling us that on December 21, 2012, we’ll see a comet-like object and from the northern hemisphere, if you’re standing in the fields of Avebury, down— just wait for sunset, look, you know, 45° right, 45° up – ¡Bing! – it’s gonna be there. That’s when we see it, that’s when we know the guacamole hits the fan.”

And again, four minutes later: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 10 April 2012, Hour 2, starting 14:50]

“Okay, what we’re— what I’m saying is there’s a [crop circle] formation’s appeared in— in England, in August, it was, uh, in two parts, about the size of, uh, nearly four soccer fields. It says that on December 21, 2012, we’re going to see what appears to be a— a second sun in the sky at about this time, there is going to be a horrific solar storm, similar— similar perhaps to the one that’s portrayed in the movie, “Knowing.” And uh, it’s going to be devastating for us.”

But, in his last interview of 2012 on Coast to Coast, he was already starting to hedge his bets, saying sort of that it would come when it would come, but he still did not back down from the December 21, 2012 date: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 06 October 2011, Hour 2, starting 37:56]

“What the formation shows us is that, uh in December and actually just prior to December 21, 2012, that we will see a comet-like object off to the right of the sun. Upper-right quadrant. About, you know, about 45 right, 45 up.”

Interestingly, in his first foray in 2013 AFTER his demonstrably wrong predictions for 2012, he said the he would never ever scare people. This is from March 18, 2013: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 2, starting 06:36]

MM “The thing about Planet X as a topic is that, it doesn’t matter if there’s uh, these false events, like I remember back in 2003. Uh, with, uh, Mark Hazelwood, had published a book, ‘Blind sighted.’ Really stirred up a lot of fear. […] So we published and we said, ‘Not now, it’s not that it’s not coming, it’s just not now.'”

GN: “It’s not now. And I think they were talking about May 2003. Weren’t they?”

MM: “Yeah! May of 2003, and uh, but what I remember about that – and it really stuck with us – were the letters that we got because people were writing us, because we were publishing on that— I had— I think I had my first article went up [unintelligible] 2002. And we were studying it, and they were coming to us essentially for a second opinion. And the letters were— You could see where someone was really biting their lip and trying to sound rational, and coherent, and calm— The fear and the panic was oozing out of the lines. These were people getting ready to cash out their savings and-and head for the hills!”

GN: “Which they always do when they think there’s a catastrophe impending, huh?”

MM: “Some do, some don’t! Uh, but a lot of people do, and this was so upsetting for these people that reading these e-mails and responding to them was one of the most depressing times of my life! And I just swore that I was never going to do anything like that. On the other hand, that doesn’t stop me from looking for Planet X.”

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth Causing Panic (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Gallifrey in the Skies of Earth Causing Panic (from Doctor Who episode S04E18)

Of course, he went directly on to repeat all his previous statements documented in episode 109 about how Planet X would cause giant outbursts from the sun, earthquakes, a magnetic pole shift, lots of people dying, volcanoes, meteor impacts, tsunamis, horrible weather, and that in the past it caused Noah’s Flood, the Plagues of the Book of Exodus (AKA Moses v Pharaoh), and the sinking of Atlantis. So much for being a kind, gentle, non-scaring people person. He also predicted that it would be visible in just a few months, in this clip 12 minutes after that one I just played. [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 2, starting 18:23]

“And right now, they’re saying, George, in June of this year, it’s visible, to everybody in the northern hemisphere.”

He re-iterated that an hour later, going even a bit earlier: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 3, starting 15:25]

“If we use the timing, that Zero-Zero Sky View (??) is using, and they’re actually making infrared observations of the mini-constellation and the dark star at the center of that constellation, and what they’re saying is this summer – mid-summer – it’s going to become visible. Which would mean the object that we’re looking at would become visible before that, perhaps in May. And, uh, that’ll happen!”

And then, two minutes later, he said this little gem: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 3, starting 17:54]

“I can’t debunk it! Nobody can debunk it!!”

And he doubled-down on Planet X coming in 2013 at the end of the third hour of the program: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 18 March 2013, Hour 3, starting 35:19]

GN: “And-and again, what’s the time table?”

MM: “The time table?”

GN: “Yeah.”

MM: “I think, in terms of what I’m looking at, for me it’s always been, for all the years I’ve been on your show, I’ve always said the same thing: 2012 is the warm-up band, the headline act is 2013. Whatever’s gonna pop, is gonna pop this year. If nothing happens this year – which would just plum tickle me to death! – then, at that point, we can say, ‘Aright, maybe, you know, we were lucky, and it’s a benign flyby. We’ve only had a bit of disruption, and we’ll get through this, and things are gonna be calm.'”

GN: “At least this time.”

MM: “But, on the other hand, it could be, you know, by the time we finish this year, we’re going to see all kinds of havoc that’s going on!”

Forgive me for pointing this out, but so far, I have literally played for you every single clip from every appearance by Marshall Masters since 2011, plus one in 2003, where he stated any sort of time for his predictions. And, he never EVER mentioned 2013. So that’s just a flat-out, unadulterated lie.

And, after he was proven wrong, yet again, in August of 2013, he still was not challenged on his consistent failures and instead just predicted that something would happen later in the year, that we would start to notice solar storms and Earth changes in a few months: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 March 2013, Hour 2, starting 16:46]

“The timeline right now is [cough], I would say, uh, late 2013 to early 2014.”

For Planet X specifically, he said that we would start to see Planet X in 2015, setting the date almost 1.5 years ahead: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 August 2013, Hour 3, starting 24:51]

“What really concerns me is what’s going to start happening, I’d say from 2015, on. Uh, this is uh— In 2015, first off, the outer-most orbital, which right now, we’re tracking from a volcano at, right, 7000 feet, uh— That’s the whole problem that this stuff hasn’t come close enough that’s visible below the clouds for the rest of us mundane mortals, if you will. And, so, uh, but in 2015, that object is going to become— that outer-most orbital [unintelligible] the ‘Blue Bonnet’ that we’ve been tracking – that’s going to become visible below the clouds. We’re going to be seeing that.”

He also may have finally learned his lesson and expressed his distaste for setting dates: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 August 2013, Hour 3, starting 33:45]

“And I’m really loathe to do dates anymore.”

He also repeated his sad story from several months earlier about 2003 and people being afraid. George followed up with a question: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 07 August 2013, Hour 3, starting 37:24]

GN: “Well, uh, are we gonna start that again by talking about 2015?” [referring to the fear-mongering frenzy in 2003]

MM: “I, you know, I thing— I think it’s a different thing. 2003 was a tempest in a teapot. I think with 2015, I’m not interested in going down the Nancy Lieder path. Uh, my position right now is December 21, 2012— Alright, which was, uh, a media event principally driven by the cable channels.”

And, just a month later, he was still at it, back to naming dates: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 26 September 2013, Hour 3, starting 32:29]

GN: “What is your time table, Marshall?”

MM: “Time table is, I think by the end of this year, we’re— it’s— you know, we’re seeing it now, the question is, ‘Are people going to start looking?’ But we’re seeing it now. My concern, because particularly if, and-and your caller, who called about this fireball – I think he’s really got the right instinct because we could very well have some impact events that start happening.”

His interview in 2014 was in June, when he said: [Clip from Coast to Coast AM, 19 June 2014, Hour 4, starting 04:44]

“We’re fairly convinced that, sometime in 2016, Nibiru is going to be naked-eye visible all around the globe.”

Interestingly, in 2015, Marshall did not state, and was not asked, when we would definitely see Planet X. The only reference to a timeline was this:

GN: “How many times could some of those past people say, ‘Hey! It’s coming! It’s coming!’ And then nothing happens.”

MM: “Well, you know, I have never, in-in the past, and you can go through my work— We’ve talked about projections—”

GN: “Yeah, no, this is the most adamant you’ve ever been.”

MM: “This is now, because all of this, all of the trends, all of the empirical data that we have been following, it is happening, and we are in the 11th hour.”

Now, to be fair, in the clip I played he said he always presented his work in terms of projections. I suppose that’s true, but he always presented his projections as 100% true and valid and absolutely, 100% what was going to happen. In episode 109, I played for you that clip where he said he was absolutely certain that Planet X was going to swing by very soon (a few years ago), and separately that he was 100% certain it was going to cause catastrophe on Planet Earth. So, forgive me if I don’t put much stock in forgiving him for now claiming that his predictions before were just “projections” with the implication that he wasn’t sure about them.

And so, while that was the only reference to a specific, observable date or time period, he spent his entire two hours reiterating, yet again, for the Nth time, just restating, over and over, how he was seeing Planet X in all these images and it was going to create havoc and mayhem and catastrophe and only 1 out of every 15 people in the world would survive.

January 4, 2016

Richard Hoagland: As Slippery in 1998 as He Is Now


I suppose I might get called a “troll” for that kind of subject line, and I also am at risk for this post seeming to be an ad hominem, but I think it’s important to show how pseudoscientists argue when confronted by, well, any challenge to their claims. “Slippery” is the thought that came to mind yesterday while listening to an old Coast to Coast AM episode from May 26, 1998.

During the interview, Art Bell brought up one of Richard Hoagland’s critics, Ralph Greenberg, then and now a mathematics professor at the University of Washington. Prof. Greenberg heavily criticized Richard’s mathematical claims about the Cydonia region of Mars, something that I have done, as well. Basically showing that Richard was drawing lines that he claimed were significant and ignoring ones that weren’t.

Art said that Prof. Greenberg was sending him e-mail after e-mail and wanted to debate Richard Hoagland, on-air. What followed was many, many minutes of what really is best described as Richard being “slippery.” Richard ended up really arguing, in the end, that the math he claims to have found at Cydonia is meaningless because he’s moved beyond that, and Prof. Greenberg was still mired in the past and refused to consider any new arguments about things Richard was making. Which I classify as “slippery” – as well as, in hindsight knowing how things have played out over the subsequent 17 years, “disingenuous.”

Basically, Prof. Greenberg wanted to debate a specific claim. Richard wouldn’t even entertain that. Because he’s “moved beyond” it (despite clearly not). Whenever Art tried to bring it up in a different way, Richard kept saying different things to that effect, and he misrepresented Prof. Greenberg’s claims.

And, Richard does the same thing today. An excellent example is from 2010, when Richard claimed that an earthquake happened right at 19.5° on Earth. The actual center was at 18.5° N latitude, not 19.5°. When called out on that, Richard said, “I was thinking of geodetic latitude – not geographic – the latitudes change because the Earth is not a perfect sphere, it’s an oblate spheroid.”

Slippery. Why? Because it’s something that sounds plausible to almost anyone. It’s a term that seems like it could be correct. Problem is, as Expat pointed out at the time, this shifts his latitude by a mere 0.1°. Not 1.0°. And, if that were the case, everything else that he claims is at 19.5° (because that’s a magic number for him), he suddenly loses because he used geographic, not geodetic, latitude.

They are completely different kinds of examples, but I think that this illustrates well that while I may disagree with practically everything Richard Hoagland has said or done over the years, I must admit that he’s quick on his feet and clearly able to slip through peoples’ lines of defense, getting them to move on to a topic more favorable to him.

April 1, 2015

Podcast Episode 129: The Saga of Comet Hale-Bopp and its Fugacious Companion, Part 3


Great Comet Hale-Bopp,
Part 3: The cult members’ death
And continued bull.

Second in the three-part series: The saga of the great and powerful Comet Hale-Bopp and the conspiracy, mystery, intrigue, lies, schemes, hoaxes, and suicides that accompanied it. The idea came when I started listening to a new Art Bell set of interviews that I had obtained, and I realized early in the episode (November 14, 1996) that I was listening to THE interview that started the whole thing. I found another dozen or so interviews and decided to make an episode out of it that has blossomed into three episodes.

The three episodes are meant to be stand-alone in that they don’t need the others to be understandable. But, put them together and they tell the story in a lot more depth. This third part is all about the “meat” of the issue: The tragic suicide of the cult members of Heaven’s Gate. I devote the first half to them and the second half to a discussion of the continued pseudoscience related to Comet Hale-Bopp that persisted after their deaths.

The logical fallacy of the episode is the Straw Man.

Looking ahead, the next episode is an interview with Dave Draper on potentially pseudoscientific conference submissions and what the program committee of a conference does when they get work that appears to be pseudoscience.

Looking back, I was a guest panelist on episode 342 of The Reality Check podcast. It was fun, and I recommend checking them out.

And, finally, I plan to do a small tribute to Leonard Nimoy on the episode 131, due out on May 1. The tribute will be from you: If he or any of his characters affected you (especially as perhaps related to an interest in science or astronomy or critical thinking), please send in a few sentences. Or, record no more than 30—60 seconds and send the file to me.

March 14, 2015

Podcast Episode 128: The Saga of Comet Hale-Bopp and its Fugacious Companion, Part 2


Great Comet Hale-Bopp,
Part 2: On remote viewing
The comet’s partner.

Second in the three-part series: The saga of the great and powerful Comet Hale-Bopp and the conspiracy, mystery, intrigue, lies, schemes, hoaxes, and suicides that accompanied it. The idea came when I started listening to a new Art Bell set of interviews that I had obtained, and I realized early in the episode (November 14, 1996) that I was listening to THE interview that started the whole thing. I found another dozen or so interviews and decided to make an episode out of it that has blossomed into three episodes.

The three episodes are meant to be stand-alone in that they don’t need the others to be understandable. But, put them together and they tell the story in a lot more depth. This second part is about one of the primary drivers behind the Hale-Bopp companion, Courtney Brown, and his remote viewing claims. While he provided the hoaxed photographs to Art Bell and Whitley Strieber (per Part 1), he claimed that all of his evidence for the companion was “good data” and based on remote viewing.

Part 3 will be on the Heaven’s Gate cult and aftermath and continued conspiracy, including a brief entry by Richard Hoagland.

I have decided that, while I may do my interview with Dave Draper on potentially pseudoscientific conference abstracts before Parts 2 or 3 are finished, I will wait to put it out, such that Parts 1-3 will be back-to-back-to-back.

While there was one logical fallacy in the episode (argument from authority), I instead used the segment to discuss part of the skeptical toolkit: The BS Meter. And, what should trigger it and what you should do about it. The bottom-line is that you should question any claim that sets off your BS meter, and even when something seems innocuous and small and not even part of what could have led to the anomalous result, you should still check it.

And, finally, I plan to do a small tribute to Leonard Nimoy, no earlier than April 1. The tribute will be from you: If he or any of his characters affected you (especially as perhaps related to an interest in science or astronomy or critical thinking), please send in a few sentences. Or, record no more than 30—60 seconds and send the file to me. I will read/play them either on episode 130 or 131.

Finally, this episode is coming out a bit early because I’m leaving for a week for a planetary science conference and won’t be able to do much of anything else while I’m there.

March 2, 2015

Podcast Episode 127: The Saga of Comet Hale-Bopp and its Fugacious Companion, Part 1


Great Comet Hale-Bopp,
Part 1: On the claimed photos
Of your companion.

I’ve been working on this episode for awhile: The saga of the great and powerful Comet Hale-Bopp and the conspiracy, mystery, intrigue, lies, schemes, hoaxes, and suicides that accompanied it. The idea came when I started listening to a new Art Bell set of interviews that I had obtained, and I realized early in the episode (November 14, 1996) that I was listening to THE interview that started the whole thing. I found another dozen or so interviews and decided to make an episode out of it. About three months and over 10,000 words of notes and transcripts later, this is the release of Part 1 of what will be a three-part series on Hale-Bopp.

The three episodes are meant to be stand-alone in that they don’t need the others to be understandable. But, put them together and they tell the story in a lot more depth. This first part is about the image – the “hard science” – claims about the companion. Next one will be on the remote viewing claims and aftermath, and the third will be on the Heaven’s Gate cult and aftermath and continued conspiracy, including a brief entry by Richard Hoagland.

I have decided that, while I may do my interview with Dave Draper on potentially pseudoscientific conference abstracts before Parts 2 or 3 are finished, I will wait to put it out, such that Parts 1-3 will be back-to-back-to-back.

There were two logical fallacies pointed out in this episode: Argument against authority, and correlation ≠ causation (cum hoc ergo propter hoc).

And, finally, I plan to do a small tribute to Leonard Nimoy, no earlier than April 1. The tribute will be from you: If he or any of his characters affected you (especially as perhaps related to an interest in science or astronomy or critical thinking), please send in a few sentences. Or, record no more than 30—60 seconds and send the file to me. I will read/play them either on episode 129, 130, or 131.

December 1, 2014

Podcast Episode 121: James McCanney’s Views on Other Stuff in the Universe, Part 2


Some random claims based on
Electric Universe thinking
By James McCanney.

The long-awaited sequel to the critically-acclaimed (ha!) first part on James McCanney’s ideas about stuff. As I said last time, I’ve wanted to talk about James McCanney’s ideas ever since I heard him on Coast to Coast AM, and doing so isn’t hard — he’s been on the show dozens of times over the last two decades. I’ve heard him talk about a lot of things, but I mostly remembered him sounding like a broken record talking about how comets “discharge the solar capacitor.” This episode gets at many of his other ideas, though there are still many others and I reserve the right to do a Part 3 in the future.

Because this episode runs nearly 55 minutes, the only additional segment is two New News items (one sent in by Graham and the other by Callum (@ApproxPurified). Also, I plan on the next episode to be about conspiracies surrounding the Rosetta mission and its now host comet, so if you happen to see something relevant, please let me know before December 12, 2014.

P.S. My internet connection is being flaky — please let me know if you have issues downloading this episode or getting it to show up in iTunes or another RSS reader.

November 18, 2014

Episode 120: James McCanney’s Views on Comets, Part 1


Comets: Are they weird,
Electrical phenom’na,
Or just dirty snow?

My first personal foray into electric universe claims (don’t forget part 1 and 2 intros via an interview with Tom Bridgman). I’ve wanted to talk about James McCanney’s ideas ever since I heard him on Coast to Coast AM, and doing so isn’t hard — he’s been on the show dozens of times over the last two decades. I’ve heard him talk about a lot of things, but I mostly remembered him sounding like a broken record talking about how comets “discharge the solar capacitor.”

I’ve been putting him off for awhile because I really really don’t like Electricity & Magnetism, so doing this was going to be a bit out of my comfort zone. It ended up not being that far out, thanks in part to generous help by Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy website and the 2012 Hoax website.

However, listening to Coast to Coast for clips took a very long time. Two straight days, listening at 1.7–2.5x speed. I took pages of notes, including numerous direct quotes. I mined these and wrote an incredibly lengthy episode that used 18 clips totaling nearly 15 minutes.

Then I decided to split it into two parts. This first part covers just his ideas about comets. This episode also has a Q&A (first time in many episodes) and Feedback.

September 21, 2014

Philosophy: On Skepticism and Challengers


Introduction

I’m taking a break because I don’t want to work on this proposal at the moment. I’m great at procrastination, when I get around to it.

Anyway, I want to muse philosophical-like for a few minutes, reacting to some recent things I’ve heard regarding skepticism and people challenging your views.

“Healthy” Skepticism

George Noory, the now >1 decade primary host of late-night paranormal radio program Coast to Coast AM, had Dr. Judy Wood on his program for the first two hours of his “tribute” to the September 11, 2001 (I refuse to call it “9/11” because I think that trivializes it — we all have our quirks) terrorist attacks. Judy Wood is author of the book, “Where Did the Towers Go?” Her thesis is that a directed “zero-point energy” weapon “dustified” the towers, or that they suffered “dustification.”

It was a very difficult interview for George, I’m sure, since Judy refused to speculate on anything. I’m also growing slightly more convinced that he may have questions written down on cue cards because he asked the exact same question a few minutes apart (“how much energy is required to ‘dustify’ the towers?”) and she refused to speculate both times. Just repeating what she “knows she knows that she knows.” She is also incredibly defensive and clearly doesn’t know what the word “theory” is.

All that aside, early in the interview, George did a tiny disclaimer saying that they always get people writing or calling in saying that doing shows like that is unpatriotic and/or disrespectful to everyone who died in the attacks and the aftermath. But, that it’s healthy to have skepticism and to always question the official story.

*cough*

Okay, George, you are correct in theory (yes, I used that word purposely), but completely wrong in practice. Skepticism does not mean doubting or denying or not accepting everything. Skepticism, as we use the term today, means to not accept something unless we have good evidence to do so. It’s a method of investigation, to look into claims, examine the evidence, and put it in context with all the other evidence and plausibility given what has been established about the way the world works.

At least, that’s how I tend to define it, and it’s how I tend to practice it.

Do I believe “the government” on everything? No. For example, President Obama recently announced that the US is going to take on ISIS in some form or fashion, but that there would be “no boots on the ground.” Given past experience when politicians have said that, and given the realities of ISIS and the Middle East area in general, I’m … shall we say … “skeptical,” and I will reserve acceptance of his statement until it actually plays out.

Do I believe that NASA “tampers” with photographs of the moon to “airbrush out” ancient ruins and alien artifacts, or do I accept what “they” give us? (I put “they” in quotes because “NASA” is an organizational administration within the federal government; it’s the people involved who do everything, and it’s contractors and grant awardees who deal with data and other things.) I accept what they give us. I tend to not question it.

Why? Because of past experience and my own experience in investigating the claims to the contrary. I look at other images of the area from multiple spacecraft. From spacecraft from other countries. They are consistent. They don’t show different kinds of anomalies you’d need in order to have the scenario that the conspiracists claim is happening. They do show what you’d expect if the data were faithfully represented, as it was taken, after standard spacecraft and basic data reduction steps (like correcting for geometric distortion based on how the spacecraft was pointed, or removing artifacts from dust on the lens).

George, there is a difference between healthy skepticism – looking into claims – and beating a dead horse. Or beating over 3000 dead victims to a terrorist attack.

There is no plausibility to Dr. Wood’s arguments. Her claims made to back them up are factually wrong. (Expat has addressed some of them in his blog, here, here, here, and here.) She is ridiculously defensive, refuses to delve further into her model to actually back it up, and has a name for herself only because people like you give her airtime to promote her ideas. True skepticism is to examine the arguments from both sides and draw a conclusion based on what’s real and what’s most probable. Which has been done by thousands of people who debunk every single claim the conspiracists make about the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. But you won’t go to them. You bring on Dr. Wood, or people from the Architects and Engineers for Truth.

A one-sided investigation is not faithful, not genuine, and is disrespectful to everyone.

Challenging Your Conclusions

In a related vein, but completely different context, I was reading through my RSS news feeds and came upon the headline to the effect (because it’s disappeared from my feed since I started to write this): Michelle Obama explains to school children that challenges [probably, though I read it as “challengers”] are a good thing.

So true. Most people in the skeptical movement know that this is “a True.” Most scientists know this is “a True.” Most pseudoscientists are vehemently against being challenged.

I’ll take the subject of my last blog post to illustrate this example, not that I want to pick on him per se, but he’s the last person I listened to in detail that I can use to illustrate this point, other than Dr. Wood, who I discussed much more than I want to in the above section. Mike Bara.

Mike was somewhat recently on another late-night (though not quite as late) internet radio program, “Fade to Black,” where Jimmy Church is the host. It’s on Art Bell’s “Dark Matter Radio Network,” where I was also a guest several months ago. I have since called in twice to the program, both times to discuss the possibility of debating Mike Bara on some of his claims.

The very brief backstory on that is Mike was on Coast to Coast, and basically attacked me. I called in, George said he’d arrange a debate, then stopped responding to my e-mails. A year later, the same thing happened, and George actually e-mailed me (I couldn’t call in because I lost power that night — happens sometimes in the mountains of Colorado, though we now have a generator), he wanted to arrange a debate, he claimed on air that I had stopped responding to his e-mails … and then he stopped responding to mine so the debate never happened. Later, I learned that it was Mike who may have dropped his acceptance. I related that to Jimmy.

Jimmy asked Mike if he’d be willing to debate me, and Mike’s response was effectively, “what do I get out of it?” Mike opined that what I (Stuart) would get out of it is a platform and attention which, according to Mike, I so desperately want (or maybe that’s Michael Horn’s claim about me … I get some of what each says is my motivation a bit confused). Meanwhile, Mike already has attention, so he said that he wouldn’t get anything out of it and therefore didn’t want to do it. Jimmy countered that it would make great radio (which I agree with).

I did call in, but unfortunately Mike got dropped when Jimmy tried to bring me in. It was the last 10 minutes of the program, anyway, so I told Jimmy what I thought we both (me and Mike) would get out of it: We would each have to back up what we say, and when challenged, it forces us in a radio setting to make our arguments concise, easily understandable, and actually back up what we’re saying.

That’s what we do in science: We have to back up what we say. We expect to get challenged, we expect to have people doubt our work, we expect to have people check our work, and we expect people to challenge our conclusions. Only the best ideas that can stand up to such scrutiny survive. That’s how science progresses. That’s where pseudoscience fails. Science is not a democracy, and it is not a communistic system where every idea is the same and equal as every other idea. It’s a meritocracy. Only the ideas that have merit, that stand up to scrutiny, survive.

The point of science is to develop a model of how the world works. If your model clearly does not describe how the world works and make successful predictions (and have repeatable evidence and have evidence that actually stands up to scrutiny), then it gets dropped.

Final Thoughts

I hope you found these musings at least mildly interesting. And let me know if you agree or disagree. Challenge my ideas, but if you do so, make sure you back them up!

September 24, 2013

David Wilcock: Skeptics Argue Because They Get High Off It


Introduction

I’m behind on a lot of things these days. The Colorado flooding and being with out power for a week put me more behind. On my To Do list was to address a quote from August 19, 2013, spoken by David Wilcock on the paranormal late-night radio program Coast to Coast AM.

The Quote

This sucker is long and it took much longer to transcribe it than the ~3 min 45 seconds it comprised. It started at 9:37 into Hour 3:

What we’re seeing is, okay, not only is this time pattern is cyclical, but we can use those cycles to make predictions about things that haven’t actually happened yet, and it happens that we’re at the end of a whole big cycle, 25,000 years, and what it predicts in over 30 ancient cultures — so, I’ve harped on the Bible here, but this is not a Christian– a strictly Christian prophecy, it’s over 30 ancient cultures that all said we’re going to go into a golden age, and they gave very specific mathematical codes about these various cycles, and-and you know we go through that in the book.

So, the point is, we have a global nemesis. Now skeptics, to some degree, have been influenced by this force that tries to take anybody who tries to look at the very real corruption in our world and–and–and marginalizes them.

And so, there was a fascinating scientific study that just came out the other day, and I love to quote references but I don’t remember who it was because I just read it and I haven’t written about it yet, so I just have to say there was a study – right for now, but I’ll have it in an article coming up – and, a group of scientists recently researched why people laugh. And it’s amazing that it’s been so long before someone really got into that! And what they ultimately concluded was, similar to things like hunger or thirst or sexual arousal or being tired and wanting to go to sleep, that our biology has given us a basic mechanism that wants to look for errors and mistakes in our environment, and ma– and tickles our brian when we find a mistake or an error in our environment. And that’s the basis of all humor, that’s why we laugh. After all this scientific research they did, that’s the conclusion they came to. And I think they’re right. Um, John Clease, from the Monty Python Flying Circus said that humor is about embarrassment, and you’re embarrassed when things don’t go the way they should for you. Because there’s an error or mistake in your environment.

So, I think that a lot of times what skeptics are doing is that they’re so conditioned to believe that anybody who talks about the stuff that’s on your show or anybody who’s out there listening to your show, those people are an error and a mistake in the environment, and these skeptics are so much– th-they get such a serotonin rush – such a high – off of being right and making other people wrong that it is like an addition.

And then they start trolling and then they start writing all these hateful comments in discussion forums, and every time they do that, they’re getting high. And they’re actually getting high off of like, you know, denigrating people. But, I make a very interesting– there’s a– there’s a whole chapter in the book where I talk about scientific proof of energy vampires, and we actually all have a certain degree of vital energy, and other people can in fact absorb your vital energy by denigrating you, humiliating you, shaming you, and creating a negative emotional state in you. And I actually spell out, with a great deal of scientific evidence, that this actually works, and that people can get totally addicted to that rush that they get, because there is an energy transfer, they actually do absorb your energy, and on a microbiological level we see it happening in laboratory experiments.

Premise

The setup for this quote was that he was talking about cycles of enlightenment and spiritual progress and history repeating. That lead into the first paragraph.

And then something about humor and some study that says something and therefore the stuff about skeptics. It’s really those last two paragraphs, roughly the last ~1 min 30 sec of the quote, that I wanted to address.

Purpose

I can’t speak for other people because I am not other people. But I can guarantee that I don’t get a “high” from showing that people are wrong. I normally get a headache. Especially from listening and transcribing nearly four minutes of B.S. from Wilcock. (For those who don’t know, Wilcock now makes a living off of claiming to be the reincarnation of Edgar Cayce, and also making various spiritual or practical predictions that never come true — such as alien disclosure in the fall of 2010. I guess I just got a little giddy from pointing that out.)

I would also point out that skeptics don’t “make other people wrong.” Other people are wrong. Skeptics use critical thinking of the claims and actual demonstrable and repeatable observations of the world around us to analyze claims and make a conclusion based on those claims. It just so happens that the vast majority of the ones that David makes – and that are made on C2C – are wrong.

I’m not addicted to pointing that out. I consider it a public service and personal growth. I’ve discussed this many times before, but briefly, (1) it helps me know how to qualify and better present my data as a scientist, and (2) critical thinking is important in all aspects of everyday life and not just to deciding if Planet X is going to kill you next year.

Final Thoughts

Just after talking about how skeptics get high on “making other people wrong,” lamenting how skeptics post “hateful comments in discussion forums,” and generally complaining that they’re hurtin’ his new-age buzz (my terms), he talks about energy vampires. And how there is allegedly “scientific evidence” that there is an actual transfer of “energy” when you denigrate someone and get high off it. Evidence on the microbiological level.

Now, in fairness, he did go on to cite one or two of about five studies that get trotted out on Coast to Coast whenever this kind of claim is made. Studies that I’ve looked into but have either not been able to verify or find anyone who’s replicated them (see my podcast on David Sereda’s claims, part 1, specifically about Masaru Emoto’s work on water).

So, yeah. Energy vampires. David, sometimes you make it too easy.

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