The 40th Skeptics' Circle

The doors of the Observatory are closed, and an eager crowd has gathered before them, milling about anxiously to await the unveiling of the newest Skeptics’ Circle. Your host, Ebonmuse, steps up to a podium beside the doors and addresses the crowd thusly:

“Step right up, folks, to the Daylight Atheism Museum of Superstition and Pseudoscience! Dare to plumb the most bizarre depths of the human imagination! Marvel at the fascinating beliefs cultures throughout history have dreamed up to explain the world around them! We have a stupendous and spine-tingling assortment of strange and wild ideas for your edification and amusement. You’ll laugh at their gullibility, you’ll learn from their mistakes, and just maybe, you’ll learn something about how your own brain works. Admission two for a penny – who’ll be first to dare the weirdness within?”

He sweeps a hand dramatically toward the doors, which open onto a wild scene. The great telescope has been stowed away, and the vast domed room instead contains a madcap menagerie of trophies and exhibits that showcase the follies of humanity throughout history. Beneath the high ceiling, an elaborate orrery contains detailed models of the planets of the solar system encased in a set of interlocking crystalline Platonic solids. Animals crowd the decks of a scale model of Noah’s Ark at the far end of the room, and putative Philosophers’ Stones are scattered on pedestals, misshapen lumps some of which glow with their own inner light. Ancient statues of minotaurs, centaurs, mermaids and other fantastic beasts glare down on the exhibits in frozen stone.

Your host leads the tour group into the museum. “First, we have the Alternative Medicine wing – a durable field that’s spawned all sorts of strange ideas. Just look at this authentic ancient Chinese acupuncture needle. Taking a cue from a classic pseudoscience, modern practitioners believe that sticking needles into people, and even into animals, can cure diseases by diverting the flow of an imaginary energy called qi! Skeptico sets them straight, in an essay titled No point to acupuncture on animals.”

The next exhibit is a collection of hypodermic needles. “So like the acupuncture needle and yet so dissimilar, this one differs from the last exhibit in that it has actually cured people of suffering and disease. Sadly, some people reject the benefits of modern medicine in favor of ineffective quackery. Autism Street, in An Old New Twist on Undead Bad Science?, debunks a study claiming to detect correlation between autism and heavy metal levels in children’s hair.”

The tour’s next stop is before an apparently empty glass case. “This case may seem empty, folks, but in fact, it contains the scientific integrity of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. They weren’t using it, you see, so they’ve generously agreed to donate it as a permanent bequest to our museum. P.Z. Myers of Pharyngula gives us the full story in Damn the NCCAM.”

Before a flourishing tray of deadly nightshade, poison ivy and hemlock, Ebonmuse continues, “And let’s not forget, folks, that ‘natural’ medicine has been held out for ages as the cure to all ailments, as if the products of nature were somehow intrinsically better for you than the products of science. The Saga of Runolfr casts a critical eye on claims that consuming raw honey will cure pollen allergies, in The Cure for Allergies? And for a classic example of how ‘natural’ products can still be harmful, what could be more natural than HIV? A Moment of Science, in Skepticism Run Amok, an Appropriate Level of Skepticism in Evaluating HIV/AIDS Causation, asks why, if HIV does not cause AIDS, anti-retroviral drugs developed specifically to combat HIV are effective in extending AIDS patients’ lifespans.

Our next exhibit, as you can see, is a single glass of ultra-pure distilled water. If the claims of homeopaths were correct, this would be the most powerful medicine known to man! The Two Percent Company informs us of the remarkable range of ailments that homeopaths claim to be able to treat with a single herb, in You Might Need Arnica Montana.

And finally, we have this table of assorted old-fashioned medical instruments – best not to ask what most of them do. The skeptical grandmaster Orac of Respectful Insolence is never one to shrink from the details, however, and gives us not one but two Friday Doses of Woo: Mere regularity is not enough and the appetizingly titled Would you like a liver flush with that colon cleanse?

Our next stop is the Psychics and ESP wing, another reliable source of uncritical thinking. The Island of Doubt, in The sense of being stared at …not, registers disappointment that his alma mater, the University of British Columbia, is giving a platform to the notorious credulophile Rupert Sheldrake and his claims that people can psychically detect when they’re being stared at.

Next, Skeptico again favors us in Medium guesses about serial killer, pouring rightful scorn on the vagueness and after-the-fact rationalizations of Allison Dubois.

And lastly, See You at Enceladus spins a tale of The Beirut Syndrome or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Credulity, about psychics who claim to have predicted the current warfare in Lebanon.”

Beneath a gallery of faded and tattered documents, Ebonmuse continues, “History is the noble art of unearthing the past. Yet this genuine science, too, attracts the hoary speculations of the gullible. What we need is some skepticism to root them out, and thanks to several generous donations to this museum, we have it! The Second Sight, in Giant UFO Built Yowie Pyramids of Bullshit, offers sharp criticism of the true believers who are convinced of the existence of ancient contacts between pharaonic Egypt and aboriginal Australia; while Be Lambic or Green throws down the gauntlet against claims that Christopher Columbus or Amerigo Vespucci were the first Europeans to catch sight of the New World, in Rediscovering America.”

As the tour takes another turn, the parchments and scrolls on display grow more ancient and venerable, and the sound of distant chanting echoes in the air. “That’s right, ladies and gentlemen,” your host announces, “we’ve come to that most sacred of all cows: religion. In Render unto Caesar [nothing], Infophilia analyzes the meaning of the biblical verse ‘Render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s, and unto God what is God’s,’ concluding that it does not necessarily mean what it has always been construed to mean.

We also have an exhibit courtesy of Debunking Christianity that is titled Which Part Fits in Which Slot, Again?, remarking on the difference between natural events and miracles and the inconsistency with which Christian apologists invoke both categories. In a related vein, The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly asks whether ‘ineffable’ is a meaningful and useful term to use in arguments over the existence of God.

Atheist author Sam Harris has been making waves with his book The End of Faith, reviewed by Fearless Philosophy for Free Minds.”

The last stop in this section, incongruously, showcases a Bible next to a vacuum cleaner. “But the comparison is more apt than you might think, as Mike’s Weekly Skeptic Rant explains in Jesus’ Lubricant, which compares religious proselytizers to salesmen who steer every conversation into a pitch for their product.

After all this credulity, you must be hungry for some real science, my fellow skeptics. Luckily for you, we have exhibits on that too.” He points upward, to where several smaller, less regular bodies orbit among the planetary models hanging below the ceiling. “What constitutes a planet? Interesting Thing of the Day gives a skeptical viewpoint in Xena: Troublemaker on the edge of the solar system.

In that vein, Humbug Online reenacts the Moon landing in the conspiracy theorists’ preferred style, in Spooked911 Moon landing faked!

While we’re on the topic, I’m particularly honored by the presence of our next benefactor: the illustrious Phil Plait of Bad Astronomy Blog. In Bad TV on the Science Channel: The Apollo 11 “UFO”, the foe of bad astronomy everywhere mercilessly debunks a credulous and dishonest documentary which asserts that the Apollo 11 astronauts witnessed a UFO.

And isn’t our Earth one planet among many? Deltoid and Thoughts from Kansas keep us up-to-date with the goings-on of this blue and green orb – with a refutation of the myth that environmentalists caused needless deaths by unconditionally opposing the use of DDT, in Zombie DDT Myth Will Not Die, and some good news for science from a recent slate of elections, in Final tallies: Science wins in Kansas.

A major part of science is critical thinking. In Doggerel #30: “You Need to Think Outside the Box!”, Rockstar’s Ramblings rants about claims that skeptics don’t “think outside the box”, pointing out that true believers are actually the ones whose thoughts are limited by their jumping to magic as the first explanation for everything.

And when it comes to understanding science,” your host continues, “nothing is more important than educating the younger generation. Agnostic Mom has an account of one mother’s plan to do just that, in An Accurate Guess Is Still Just A Guess.”

As the tour nears its end, the tour group passes through a set of doors into a back room. “We have a special treat for you all today, one not open to ordinary visitors – a tour of our archived collections, the interesting material that just didn’t fit anywhere else. For example, Salto Sobrius has donated an exhibit on the skeptical leanings of a classic sword-and-sorcery fantasy author, in Fritz Leiber, Skeptic.

And then there’s Millard Fillmore’s Bathtub, who debunks the religious mythology that has grown up around flag-folding ceremonies, in Flag ceremony update.

And last but not least, Unintelligent Design laments the credulous leanings of Alton Brown, host of the Food Network TV show “Good Eats”, in Alton Say It Ain’t So!

Following a sign reading “This Way to the Egress”, the tour lets out before the museum’s front doors. Ebonmuse addresses the group one final time. “Thank you for attending, fellow skeptics and critical thinkers! It’s been my honor to play host to you all, and I’d like to extend my special gratitude to the many excellent bloggers who generously contributed to this exhibit. Don’t forget, the next Skeptics’ Circle will appear at Interverbal in two weeks, so get those submissions in!”

About Adam Lee

Adam Lee is an atheist writer and speaker living in New York City. His new novel, Broken Ring, is available in paperback and e-book. Read his full bio, or follow him on Twitter.

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  • http://www.fantasyenchantment.com Bill Perron

    I notice skeptics all seem so angry, well here is something else for you to gripe about. Soon a major international magicians magazine will be publishing my account of how Randi lied to keep me from winning his million. That is correct, your spiritual guru has proved himself to be a liar, and his million to be nothing more than a cheesy publicity stunt. Folks, the truth is the truth, even if you find it unpleasent. Randi can deny it, but I can prove he lied and he knows it. Randi owes his readers and me an apology for lying to them about me. Ethically I should be entitled to the million because of his underhanded treatment of my challenge. He has made a career of humiliating others, I plan to do the same to him every chance I get….. Bill Perron

  • http://occamsedge.blogspot.com Occams Edge

    Um, Bill – let’s see your proof that James Randi lied

    waiting…

  • Philip Thomas

    Could someone remind me what Randi’s challenge was?

  • http://occamsedge.blogspot.com Occams Edge
  • bookjunky

    Here’s Bill Perron’s application to randi. Gee, wonder why it wasn’t acceptable.

    USING MY DELL LAPTOP COMPUTER AND LEXMARK PRINTER I WILL PRODUCE HOROSCOPES CONTAINING THE PLANETS, THEIR RELATIVE POSITIONING AND INTERPRETATIONS OF THESE POSITIONS AND WHAT THEY INDICATE ABOUT A PERSON THEIR PERSONALITY, CHARACTERISTICS, AND NATURE. I WILL DO THIS WITH A DEGREE OF ACCURACY THAT WILL BE OBSERABLY BEYOND MATHEMATICAL PROBABILITY.

    THEN I WILL OBSERVE HOW MR. RANDI FRAUDENTLY GETS OUT OF PAYING ME THE MILLION DOLLARS THAT I WIN.

    MY PREFERED WAY TEST MY HOROSCOPES IS TO GO TO A PUBLIC PLACE PERHAPS A SHOPPING MALL AND ASK TOTAL STRANGERS WHO ARE MARRIED TO ALLOW ME TO DO A HOROSCOPE ON THE HUSBAND AND THEN TO HAVE THE WIFE READ THE 8 PAGES OF THE ANALYSIS OF THE HOROSCOPE AND TELL US HOW ACCURATE IT IS. I HAVE FOUND WIVES TO KNOW THEIR HUSBANDS VERY WELL AND THEY ARE NOT SHY ABOUT BEING VERY CRITICAL OF THEIR SPOUSES IF I GET AT LEAST A 60% OR BETTER ON THE HOROSCOPES THAT IS ABOVE CHANCE SO I WIN. I BELIEVE 5 HOROSCOPES ARE ENOUGH TO TEST THE ACCURACY BUT IF JREF WANT ME TO DO MORE I WILL BE GLAD TO BUT THERE HAS TO BE AN EVENTUAL LIMIT. SINCE JREF BELIEVES ASTROLOGY IS BUNK THEN ONLY ONE ACCURATE HOROSCOPE SHOULD BE SUFFICENT BUT REPEATABILITY IS REQUIRED SO I SUGGESTED 5 ACCURATE HOROSCOPES I WILL BE USING 12 ZODIAC SIGNS ALL THE PLANETS ALL 12 HOUSES PLUS ALL THE ASPECTS TRINES, SQUARES, ETC. THIS JUST FURTHER DOCUMENTS & SUPPORTS THAT MY ACCURACY IS WAY BEYOND CHANCE.

  • http://www.randi.org James Randi

    Bill Perron is still carrying on about how he was “swindled”? Just so you’ll know the full facts about this brouhaha, I refer you to http://tinyurl.com/fdn28 and http://tinyurl.com/gj5g5 and http://tinyurl.com/fdsne for the details. The man just has no idea of a proper way of testing astrology. If readers here care to comment, I’ll be happy to receive input. Thanks!

    James Randi — randi@randi.org

  • http://politecompany.blogspot.com/ Thursday

    Hello again, Bill!

    It’s unfortunate that you never got back to me about this new claim of yours: http://politecompany.blogspot.com/2006/07/science-fish-barrel-gun.html
    from last Skeptics’ Circle. Well, any idea which “major international magicians [sic] magazine” will be publishing this gripping story of yours? If it doesn’t pan out, you may actually have better luck with the World Weekly News.

    I do love claims that A) skeptics are all angry (as if reading selections from this very circle were not proof otherwise) and B) that James Randi is a “spiritual guru”! It’s so cute!

  • Philip Thomas

    Thanks for the link…

  • http://www.fantasyenchantment.com Bill Perron

    My goodness how forgetful the Annoying Randi is. He forgot to mention that I insisted that the whole proceedure be video taped because I suspected I would need that tape to present to a jury to collect my million. But Randi lies and tells his readers that I didn’t want any photos taken. Randi you are a LIAR and you know it. I should have the million by default alone since Randi acted so underhandedly. I told you that I was going to expose you for the liar we both know you are, you can lie to your little Randibot groupies at these pseudo skeptic sites they are not interested in the truth, but I can prove you lied and you know it. You have tried to portray me as some sort of bufoon at your site but the real fool is you for thinking you could lie so blatantly and not be called on it. Randi used a couple of other weasel reasons to get out of testing me and you will be able to read all about them when the article is published. I’m sure you will all hear about it. Randi has had a habit of lying since at least the Gauquelin cover up he participated in. He has been quoted when asked if he was concerned about ever having to give up the money saying “I always has a way out” until now that was true, but it ain’t no more I ain’t about to let you off the hook LIAR! Bill Perron

  • Alex Weaver

    Bill: why on earth would Randi want to publicly humiliate you? You’ve proven more than capable of doing it yourself; any efforts at humiliation on his part would be completely superfluous. If you do stupidly try to take this to court you’ll almost certainly wind up paying his legal fees and probably punitive damages for harassment as well. I know that’s how I’d respond to this sort of tinfoil hat belligerence.

    As for your horoscope predictions, I refer you to this post.

  • Alex Weaver

    PS: Adam,

    I love the little narrative bits that go with these. ^.^

    (Even if the summer-focused narrative for the previous carnival made me think far too much of bees x.x )

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Welcome, Mr. Randi! I’m honored by your posting on my humble site. And please allow me to thank you, on behalf of myself and my readers, for all the great work that you do. I hope your recovery from your recent illness is proceeding apace.

    Mr. Perron, on the other hand, shows every sign of being a blithering, credulous loudmouth. His proposal to “test” astrology through a completely unblinded test shows that either he thinks he can trick Mr. Randi out of the million dollars or, more likely, that he doesn’t understand anything about the scientific method. (I’ve written about astrology myself in the past, I point out.) And, Mr. Perron, be advised that I will not tolerate your unfounded assaults on others’ character and integrity. If you cannot keep a civil tongue in your head and participate in discussion like an adult, I will remove you from my site posthaste.

  • http://www.fantasyenchantment.com Bill Perron

    Mr.Weaver please ask yourself; why did Randi feel it necessary to lie? You TOTALLY IGNORE THAT, why? I’m sure most other pseudo skeptics will never be skeptical of Randi, and that is really too bad because a true skeptic is skeptical of everyone and every thing. To ignore what you will not accept makes you just as blind as those you condemn, please consider that as well. Randi lied and he knows it, he owes you and me an apology, but he has already proven himself not man enough to do that. Two summers ago he attacked Karen Boesen at his site week after week until he said something libelous about her, she threatened to sue so he quickly retracted his statement, but did he apologize, not hardly. Now what kind of man treats a lady that way, no man, only a cowardly male. And thank you so much for the legal advice, how long have you been a lawyer? …Bill Perron

  • http://www.belviderenebraska.blogspot.com Spooner Jenkins

    Bill,

    I completely agree with you. Randi also refuses to acknowledge my repeated requests to take his million dollar challenge which I have been psychically transmitting to him since the early 80′s. That is of course the 1880′s as my past lives have also been doing so. When will Randi accept that my psychic powers are undeniable. We are kindred spirits. Perhaps if we combine our powers we can overwhelm Randi’s lies.

  • Alex Weaver

    Perhaps I shouldn’t dignify this with a response, but I’m generally loath to shrink from conflict.

    Mr. Perron, the reason I totally ignore your claims that he lied is because I don’t believe you’ve established the truth of them. Your proposal as written fails most of the major tests of the scientific method (notably the lack of a control group) and you fail to address observations which cast serious doubt on the legitimacy of your alleged 60% success rate.

    Your proposal does not establish anything resembling conclusive proof of anything supernatural. If such an “experiment” (I use the term loosely) actually demonstrated supernatural powers, I could (and would; I have three college educations to think about here) collect a million of my own by developing astrological horoscopes that predict the subject to be a carbon-based life-form (I conservatively estimate a 100% success rate for such predictions). Granted, your predictions are presumably less vague and generalized than that, and consequently your success rate is lower, but astrology works in a very similar fashion, as detailed in the post I linked to.

    You tell me I should be skeptical of Mr. Randi. Skeptical of what, exactly? Your proposal fails his criteria, that’s all there is to it. So, in short, I do indeed “TOTALLY IGNORE THAT.” Why? Because as far as I can tell, Mr. Randi didn’t lie and your claims to the contrary are merely a verbose temper tantrum, utterly lacking in substance and presented with a style that would raise eyebrows coming from a twelve-year-old.

    I am not familiar with what happened with Mr. Randi and Ms. Boesen, but your stated position on Mr. Randi’s evaluation of your proposal suggests a tenuous grasp on reality. Furthermore, I find your comment “what kind of man treats a lady like that” offensive, since you seem to be implying that women should receive special, preferential treatment in social interactions simply for being women. Since this is an attitude that in every case I have observed derives from the belief that women are weak, fragile, and incapable of making intelligent decisions on their own, and since my own experiences with women strongly suggest that premise to be (pardon my French) 100% pure, weapons-grade bullshit, I reject that attitude. (Yes, I consider most manifestations of chivalry demeaning to women, since I know *I* would certainly feel patronized and insulted were I being treated with kid gloves on account of my gender and having to put up with people generally acting like I couldn’t take care of myself).

    Furthermore, by bringing up chivalry and traditional standards of men’s honor and acceptable behavior, you are frankly shooting yourself in the foot, since one of the major elements of that meme complex is sportsmanship, and your attacks on Mr. Randi scream “sore loser.” What kind of man, indeed? Practice what you preach.

    As for the legal advice, I’m not a lawyer; otherwise I’d charge you for that tip. ;) In all seriousness, your lack of a case is so transparent that legal expertise is not required to see that you would have roughly a snowball’s chance in hell (which, as far as we can tell, doesn’t even exist) of convincing a jury of sane, rational human beings that you had been cheated, for the reasons I and others have cited. I strongly advise you to salvage what’s left of your dignity and back down. I’ll be sending a bill for that advice. :P

  • http://www.fantasyenchantment.com Bill Perron

    O.K. Enough of the silly mindless denials you fellows are so quick to jump to in defence of your guru. So here is where I let Randi prove to you himself that he is a liar. I challenge him to say at this forum he did not lie when he rejected my application by saying Bill Perron WANTED NO PHOTOS TAKEN. If he does post that I will be glad to personally fax to anyone who is interested proof that I actually insisted on videoing the whole proceedure, and Randi will have proved himself a liar to you on this forum. If he refuses to respond then he is afraid, because he knows he will be proving himself a liar. Either way Randi proves himself to be a liar. Now what could be more fair than that? Randi it is time for you to put up or shut up!!! Randi your devotees await your answer, how do you get out of this one he who “always has a way out”? …Bill Perron

  • Alex Weaver

    Scan and link it. I’m not giving out my company’s fax number to a person who seems to be going out of his way to present himself as a few Tarot Card draws short of a wild guess.

    But here’s my challenge to you: respond, specifically and intelligently, to any of the points I cited above. You mentioned putting up or shutting up?

  • http://www.fantasyenchantment.com Bill Perron

    Weaver, you have the self righteous attitude of the typical girlie man. I have no interest in your stupid latent homosexual challenge. I have tried my best to expose you and others to the truth, but like good little brainwashed devotees you choose to go into self imposed denial, not even considering that I might be the good guy here. Many others see Randi for what he is, but pseudo intellectuals have difficulty thinking with an open independant mind, and with such an unmanly attitude too. Next time someone falsely accuses your wife, mother, sister, or daughter, please recite to her just what you wrote about women at this forum….Bill Perron

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Since Bill has shown that he is unable to conduct himself civilly, he is now banned from this site. His blatant and ugly homophobia only makes my decision that much easier. Mr. Randi, I strongly encourage you not to waste a moment more of your time with this charlatan; anyone can see for themselves that he does not deserve it.

  • http://politecompany.blogspot.com/ Thursday

    Bill -

    Your original suggested test is, as Alex has already pointed out, tremendously flawed in almost every respect! There’s no control group, it’s subject to individual interpritation, there’s no double blind, there’s no repeatability, and having a target of 60% is utterly ridiculous given the standard of horoscopic homilies (ie. “You’d like to be better with money than you are, but you don’t beel that money is the most important thing in life…”). Is there ANY reason to suspect that your claim could even have gotten to a testing stage? Any at all?

    As for your response to my own proposal, I wasn’t talking about rectification (http://www.astrologyweekly.com/dictionary/rectification.php)
    as that uses clues provided by historical events to try determining someone’s time of birth. I’m much more interested in testing what astrology claims: to determine what someone’s character traits are given their “[...]SIGNS ALL THE PLANETS ALL 12 HOUSES PLUS ALL THE ASPECTS TRINES, SQUARES, ETC.” (Your words, those, not mine.)

    What I proposed was devising a fill-in-the-blanks test that anyone could do that would then show what sign (et cetera) the testee is. The only necessity would be avoiding any questions that ask about when the person was born (obviously). That should, at the very least, enable a professional astrologer to determine someone’s sign (if not the exact date, location of planets, aspects, and so on) at the 60% rate you’ve mentioned. Again, a shockingly low number for something that proponents repeatedly claim is accurate. The testees should be folks who haven’t read a lot of astrology books, to avoid the “I’m supposed to answer like this” syndrome, but nowadays that could be tough to avoid…

    Again, is there any reason why this wouldn’t work? If you can write the test, I’m sure I can find the testees for it.

    I apologise for the hijack, Ebonmuse. Delete as much of this post as you see fit: I’m going to get down to some good reading.

  • http://politecompany.blogspot.com/ Thursday

    Whoops!

    Sorry about the late addition: I was tracking some things while writing my post and didn’t see the last two until afterwards.

    From his website:

    “A free spirit whose personality will instantly warm and lighten all souls he encounters. His enthusiasm is jubilantly contagious. With a twinkle in his eye and a trick up his sleeve, this rather dashing fellow will bring a real touch of class to any gathering.”

    Gosh, the description sounds as accurate as his predictions are…

  • http://enceladus.wordpress.com/ Babbler

    Weaver, you have the self righteous attitude of the typical girlie man. I have no interest in your stupid latent homosexual challenge.

    I would have never suspected challenges to secretly gay.

  • Alex Weaver

    Since Bill has shown that he is unable to conduct himself civilly, he is now banned from this site. His blatant and ugly homophobia only makes my decision that much easier.

    I think you’ve made a terrible mistake here.

    …you left out “sexism.” :P

    What an ass. Just out of curiousity, is he unable to read as well, or just to post? Heh. The next time my mother, wife, or daughter is falsely accused, I’ll deal with it the same way I would a false accusation against my father, husband, or son (granted, the last two are purely hypothetical). The gender of the target should have nothing to do with it, and if any of them expect to be treated preferentially based on their genital configuration, I’ll set them straight.

    What I want to know is how the label “manly” became applied to an attitude towards gender relations which is more suited to a wildebeest…

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    The way I did it, he’ll probably be unable both to read and to post, and good riddance, I say. I admire James Randi’s being as patient as he is, considering he must deal with dozens of people like this per month.

  • Alex Weaver

    Creative little toad, isn’t he…

    I would be surprised if evading a ban to continue harassment was illegal. At the very least, his ISP would almost surely be interested…

  • http://skeptico.blogs.com/ Skeptico

    For someone who observes “skeptics all seem so angry”, this Bill Perron guy seems to have plenty of unresolved anger himself.

    Is it me or are proponents of astrology more angry that proponents of other forms of woo?

  • Philip Thomas

    I don’t know if evading a ban by posting under a new username is illegal, but I know its stupid, bad-mannered, and likely to annoy the hell out of the admin. I had that happen on my own forum board. The guy was a close friend, and he nearly ended our friendship by his behaviour. The only difference was maybe my ban was an overreaction, which I don’t for the moment think ebonmuses’ is .

  • Alex Weaver

    The way Adam described it it sounded like an IP ban.

  • Alex Weaver

    Why does this guy make me think of Kent Hovind?

    At any rate, Adam, if he does pop up again I strongly encourage you to contact his ISP(s)…though I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that.

  • Marina Tod

    I have always thought that the Amazing Randi’s claims were simply a
    publicity stunt, so I was somewhat cheered to read of Bill Peron’s experience. Apparantly the A. Randi lied when he said Perron didn’t want the venue photographed, when Peron states that he actually insisted the event be videotaped, and I wonder why you guys have not addressed that single, but important issue, but instead have banned him from the website, as if to banish all further dicussion on the issue. You also accused Peron of harrasement, when it is not clear that any was intended, except in the pursuit of uncovering the truth about the A. Randi’s dubious claims.
    Does the A. Randi actually have the $1m sitting in a bank awaiting someone to
    claim it, and if so what bank and what account number, and how can this be verified?
    Guys, I’m not so sure if Peron would loose in court against this guy if push came
    to shove.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Your claims in order, Marina:

    1. Yes, I would categorize Mr. Randi’s million-dollar offer as a publicity stunt. It is, however, a publicity stunt with an important purpose – to demonstrate that no human being possesses supernatural powers. If someone truly did possess such powers, it would be very easy for them to claim the money, but so far every applicant has offered nothing except failures and elaborate excuses for those failures. The million-dollar offer is an excellent way to call attention to these repeated failures. Given the lack of attention paid to skeptics by the credulous and ignorant media, we need all the publicity we can get.

    2. Bill Perron was banned because he could not carry on a civil discussion and instead chose to resort to personal attacks. As you can see from my comment policy, I do not permit this on my site. As far as his claims about the event being videotaped, I simply do not believe him, since he has presented no evidence whatsoever in support of his version of events.

    3. The $1 million is real and its existence can be verified. See http://www.randi.org/research/faq.html#3.1. It is held in an account overseen by an independent third party, the investment firm Goldman Sachs, and the account balance can be seen by perusing the JREF’s public tax return forms.

    4. James Randi and Bill Perron never entered into a contract, because Perron insisted on a test protocol that was completely unscientific, completely unblinded, and slanted heavily in his favor, and because he refused to renegotiate to a version more acceptable to both parties. Therefore, Perron has no grounds whatsoever to sue, so there is no possibility of Randi’s “losing in court”.

  • Shawn Smith

    Marina Tod,

    Someone who says, “True skeptics disbelieve everyone and everything,” then seems to indicate that he is the only “true skeptic,” and then accepts astrology provided by a (probably purchased) computer program, doesn’t appear to have a very good grasp of reality. Bill Perron has never provided evidence that James Randi actually told him that no videotaping will be allowed, and it doesn’t make any sense, as the JREF itself has videotaped initial tests. Additionally, there is quite a large difference between not wanting to accept simple double blind controls on the proposed experiment and the arguing over this secondary point.

    As to your question about the prize, a simple click from the Home page of the JREF site will send you to the portion of the JREF site that describes the prize and its availability (go to question 3.1).

    Personally, I don’t think Ebonmuse should have banned him, simply because I thought Bill was starting to get pretty funny, in a sad, pathetic way. Then again, my sense of humor can be off sometimes. But hey, this is Ebonmuse’s site, and he is perfectly free to decide who gets to post here and who doesn’t.

  • Shawn Smith

    Ebonmuse,

    Sorry, I was still working on my response when you posted yours.

    One technical issue: when I tried to enter the named anchor URI (with a ‘#’) as the parameter for my anchor tag, the comment preview section insisted on putting a fancy quotation mark as part of the URI. I didn’t want to take the chance that the URI would be incorrect, so I ended up not using the named anchor in my link. If this isn’t easy to fix, I understand.

  • Marina Tod

    Ebonmuse

    Thank you for your well thought out response. However, I must take issue with
    paragraph 2. In his posting of 4 August 2006, Perron states that he will personally fax to anyone who is interested PROOF that he himself insisted on videotaping the entire procedure.

    If Perron has such proof, then surely he should be allowed to submit it to this forum in order to actually back up his claims? After all, if it can be asserted that the A. Randi has been untruthful in this one aspect, why should we believe him to be truthful in other aspects?

    The fact that Perron’s comments suggest that he might be “blatantly homophobic” are not enough to convince me that he is not telling the truth in this matter.

    Marina

  • Archi Medez

    Perron said: “…a true skeptic is skeptical of everyone and every thing.”

    I suggest that Perron’s extreme version* of a true skeptic could have significant frontal lobe damage. *(At least in regards to the quote above). A good skeptic picks his/her battles, and does not waste time being skeptical about propositions that are either trivial or well-supported by evidence and logic, or for which there is no influential group of adherents. The skeptic is not best characterized as randomly or uniformly “disbelieving”–which implies a high level of certainty–but rather is characterized by suspending belief in a manner that is appropriate to the stage of an investigation, the nature of the evidence, and the extent to which the evidence does/does not match some beliefs that are being tested.

    Next, I’d like to post something slightly OT, from an interview in April of this year, with Sam Harris, click here, in which he talks about plans to set up an atheist organization.

    Are you interested in joining or leading organizations that push for this kind of revolution of belief?
    Harris:I’m actually in the process of creating a foundation for this purpose. It is going to produce media events, documentaries, conferences, and other means of waging this war of ideas. It’s not something I’ve formally announced yet, but I’m going to look to bring in the most motivated and articulate scientists, journalists, entertainers, and business people around the issue of eroding the prestige of religious dogma in our world. We will be taking on specific projects: for example, empowering secularists in the Muslim world, or empowering the women of the Muslim world. To some degree the organization will take on projects of its own, but it will also find projects that other people are doing that are worth supporting. I think the time is right for it.
    What stage are you at with that?
    Harris:At the moment I’m just drawing up a prospectus, creating a 501c3, meeting with people, and putting out feelers for who will be on the advisory board. So it’s in the earliest stages. But I hope that by the end of the year, I will be in a position to announce the birth of the organization.
    What other projects are you working on?
    Harris: I’ve got a book coming out around Thanksgiving, by Knopf, entitled “Letter to a Christian Nation.” It’s going to be a short broadside against fundamentalist Christianity. It’s a book that a person could simply hand to a member of the religious Right and say, “What’s your answer to this?” It will be my best effort to arm progressives and secularists against the religious certainties of Christian fundamentalists—in about a hundred pages.

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  • Alex Weaver

    Thank you for your well thought out response. However, I must take issue with
    paragraph 2. In his posting of 4 August 2006, Perron states that he will personally fax to anyone who is interested PROOF that he himself insisted on videotaping the entire procedure.

    Perron was invited by Yours Truly to scan it and post it online, an invitation which he did not even decline but ignored. This would be more convenient and less intrusive than faxing it, since giving out one’s fax number runs the risk of having enormous quantities of junk faxes added to what one already receives. In my case, the available fax machine belongs to my employer, and I’m certainly not about to distribute that number without his permission. If Perron were serious about conveying this proof he would *already* have it up online; the fact that he is fishing for fax numbers instead, while it doesn’t prove anything, is certainly suspicious.

    If Perron has such proof, then surely he should be allowed to submit it to this forum in order to actually back up his claims? After all, if it can be asserted that the A. Randi has been untruthful in this one aspect, why should we believe him to be truthful in other aspects?

    The fact that Perron’s comments suggest that he might be “blatantly homophobic” are not enough to convince me that he is not telling the truth in this matter.

    If Perron has that proof he should indeed be allowed to submit it, though one could (and I will) argue that this thread (dedicated to an online community event only peripherally related to the matter at hand), on this board (completely unaffiliated with James Randi or his company, aside from unpaid personal endorsements, as I understand it) is hardly the appropriate place. However, you seem to be unable or unwilling to accept that the reason Perron was banned is not because he claimed that Mr. Randi had been untruthful, but because he expressed it in a petulant, hateful, hostile, and generally rude manner, then proceeded to make completely unfounded personal attacks when his claim was not received with adulation. He was banned because his behavior oozed the additive inverse of decorum and courtesy, not because anyone was unwilling to hear the core of his claim. His homophobic (and sexist) comments are irrelevant to the truth of his statements, but extremely relevant to whether his general input is welcome or appropriate in polite company.

    In the simplest terms, he wasn’t banned for taking issue with Mr. Randi, he was banned for (pardon my French again) being a prick about it. Is this really so difficult to understand?

  • http://www.patheos.com/blog/daylightatheism/ Ebonmuse

    Thank you, Alex – you summed up the issue perfectly well. If Bill Perron is that determined to show the world these documents, then he has every right to scan them and post them on a website under his control. That is not a hard thing to do. However, due to his persistently rude and abusive manner, he is no longer welcome to contribute here. Commenting on this site is not a right but a privilege, and regardless of whether a person is right or wrong, I insist that they maintain at least a minimal standard of civility in order to retain that privilege.

  • Marina Tod

    I afraid I cannot find any postings in which Perron is asked to
    submit proof to this blog site of his allegations that the A. Randi is
    lying.

    I certainly feel that in terms of petulant and rude manners, well Perron
    has had his share of that too on this site, and he certainly didn’t call anyone “a prick”, did he?

    Sorry guys, but I think you have found loopehole in this forum in order to specifically support the A. Randi, and have not sought the truth in this instance with due diligence, or even with a fair amount skepticism.

    And, Alex, us ladies know how we like to be treated and we don’t need to be told how that is, and yes, we do rather prefer gentlemen and respect for our femininity, the same way that men rather like to be admired by women for their musculinity. Infact, I suspect that most civilized folk perfer that a man be a gentlemen, regardless of sex!

    Marina Tod

  • Alex Weaver

    I afraid I cannot find any postings in which Perron is asked to
    submit proof to this blog site of his allegations that the A. Randi is
    lying.

    -Marina Tod

    Look harder:

    [trimmed]I will be glad to personally fax to anyone who is interested proof that I actually insisted on videoing the whole proceedure, and Randi will have proved himself a liar to you on this forum.[trimmed]
    Comment by: Bill Perron | August 4, 2006, 9:49 pm

    Scan and link it. I’m not giving out my company’s fax number to a person who seems to be going out of his way to present himself as a few Tarot Card draws short of a wild guess.[trimmed]
    Comment by: Alex Weaver | August 4, 2006, 10:27 pm

    However, if he expects to be taken seriously, and really has that sort of proof, why would he not take the initiative and post a link without being asked?

    I certainly feel that in terms of petulant and rude manners, well Perron
    has had his share of that too on this site, and he certainly didn’t call anyone “a prick”, did he?

    No. He did, however, make completely unwarranted comments about my sexuality, and implicitly insulted half of the planet’s population by implying that being “manly” was somehow linked to sharing his views on gender relations and such.

    When I first read this comment I debated going through and highlighting each of the negative comments made regarding Mr. Perron. Since what I say or what evidence I provide doesn’t seem to phase you much, and since I have to drive to Truckee (2 hrs one way) in about eight hours I’m not going to expend that effort tonight. I suppose you’ll construe this as a refusal to provide evidence.

    Sorry guys, but I think you have found loopehole in this forum in order to specifically support the A. Randi, and have not sought the truth in this instance with due diligence, or even with a fair amount skepticism.

    There most certainly is no “loophole” here. The truth of Mr. Randi’s claims is of only peripheral concern to us or the purpose of this blog, Adam’s comment policy specifically forbids hateful, hostile, and patently rude posts, and Adam specifically warned Bill before banning him. Do you not feel this is justified? Are there any circumstances in which you WOULD consider banning him to be justified?

    And, Alex, us ladies know how we like to be treated and we don’t need to be told how that is, and yes, we do rather prefer gentlemen and respect for our femininity, the same way that men rather like to be admired by women for their musculinity. Infact, I suspect that most civilized folk perfer that a man be a gentlemen, regardless of sex!

    Perhaps I haven’t expressed myself very clearly. Let me rephrase:

    All other things being equal, I would not, and will not, treat a person with greater, or lesser, deference on account of that person being female.

    My main point really is that simple. I know as a man I certainly don’t expect or desire to be respected for my masculinity. I want to be respected based on my character and conduct; I no more desire any kind of special treatment on account of being male than I would on account of being white. The same would hold true if I was female (or black, or Asian, or…); my conscience demands no more and no less. As such, I will not give another person special treatment based on that person being female (or black, or Asian, or…), on “golden rule” grounds.

  • Philip Thomas

    A striking example of the Golden Rule’s superiority to the Platinum Rule!

  • Marina Tod

    Alex, women and men are not created equally, but rather designed
    to compliment each other. What would be the point of each
    sex being exactly the same in character or physical attributes?

    I am a woman.
    I am strong.
    I am invincable.
    I am tired!

    And whilst on this subject, how many men actually do their
    true share of the housework and child rearing, whilst
    claiming equality with women? Are you Alex, one of those wonders,
    or are you just a boring P.C. down to your socks, that some exhausted
    female washes for you?

    I’m positive Alex, that if you are, what is termed, a red bloodied male,
    your “character and conduct” would steer you to treat a desirable
    female with all the deference you could possibly muster, if that would get
    you into the sack with her any faster, simply because you know in your heart
    what us ladies really likes………yes, that’s right Alex, to be treated
    as a woman and not as a man.

    It seems to me Alex, that in your desire to be right, the poetry of
    life has somehow passed you by……

  • EnigmaOfSteel

    Alex, women and men are not created equally, but rather designed to compliment each other.

    You are making a claim regarding men and women, and your rationale is they were created and designed that way. Can you explain your use of the word “created”? How were men and women created? Also the word “designed”? Can you explain how men and women were designed?

    Also can you speak to the central issue – is Bill Perron’s suggested experiment a valid test, or is it flawed? What is your position on this and how do you support it?

  • Alex Weaver

    Alex, women and men are not created equally, but rather designed to compliment each other. What would be the point of each sex being exactly the same in character or physical attributes?

    Men and women were not designed at all, so far as we can tell. The physical traits we associate with being male or female are a straightforward and semi-predictable evolutionary result of the way mammalian reproduction works, and the stereotypical behavioral traits we associate with men and women are for the most part a cultural amplification and distortion of the behavior patterns found in many other mammals. However, the fact that natural tendencies exist does not mean they are desirable or ideal; the opposite position is a classic logical fallacy. Note that I don’t contend that inherent differences in anatomy, physiology, and behavioral *tendencies* do not exist, I simply don’t believe (as you seem to) that biology is (or should be) destiny.

    A person’s identity, personality, and behavior are heavily influenced by their cultural and physical environment, and can be largely reshaped by conscious effort later on; thus, while tendencies in this or that direction do seem to exist, men and women are potentially equal and potentially alike in all areas of character, intelligence, or personality. And since there are certain attitudes and behaviors that serve a person well in relating to society and the world in a successful, ethical, and efficient manner, these attitudes and behaviors should be cultivated in individuals of both sexes. Independence and self-reliance are among them.

    I would also suggest you note that there is an enormous range of variation in personality, identity, worldview, taste, etc. within the total population of each gender, such that the only truly universal aspect of being male or female is having a male or female body. You don’t seem to be taking this into account; what would be the point of every member of a given sex being exactly the same? And more to the point, is this what we actually observe?

    I am a woman.
    I am strong.
    I am invincable.
    I am tired!

    I am human.
    I am confused.
    I am unsure what you’re trying to say here.
    I am not seeing the relevance!

    And whilst on this subject, how many men actually do their true share of the housework and child rearing, whilst claiming equality with women? Are you Alex, one of those wonders, or are you just a boring P.C. down to your socks, that some exhausted female washes for you?

    My wife and I have established a division of labor in terms of the various tasks that our household requires which bears some resemblance to traditional gender roles but is in fact a result of local environmental variables. Specifically, neither of us has a college degree of any sort yet, which forms a significant barrier to either of us getting a reasonably well-paying job, but the skillset I have developed growing up qualifies me in practice for a specific engineering technician position in spite of not having a piece of paper saying I can do the job. This makes enough money to pay our bills and then some, meaning that it is not necessary for my wife to work at this point, and since she’s going to school and would probably only be able to make minimum wage or slightly above, it doesn’t make sense for her to work. Since my job involves working 8-10 hours five days a week and usually weekend hours I am not available to do half of the housework as well (though I do a nontrivial amount of it, and also take time off to keep our daughter out of her hair while she works; I’ll come back to that), and if I were doing half of it on top of doing all of the billpaying work, that would be an unequal division of labor. If it made sense economically to have my wife doing an equal share of the billpaying work, I would be doing an equal amount of the housework.

    Second, we have a two year old daughter with special needs (diagnosis of mild autism), who my wife has breastfed since birth, and who (much to my dismay) greatly prefers her mother’s company to mine, if she has to choose. The fact that she does prefer to be with her mother, and the difficulty I have encountered in breastfeeding her, means it makes sense and is desirable for her mother to be available to her to the extent possible while she’s still nursing. Overall we have a roughly equal division of labor. While it does resemble “traditional” male and female roles in a household, this is largely circumstantial; the only element above to which gender is, in principle, even remotely relevant is the breastfeeding part. The key difference is that if our positions were reversed, if it was my wife who had the opportunity to get a relatively well-paying job while we were both still in college, it would be me who would be taking care of the housework and the child (presumably feeding her expressed milk from a bottle).

    And yes, I have, on many occasions, washed my own socks. So there.

    I’m positive Alex, that if you are, what is termed, a red bloodied male, your “character and conduct” would steer you to treat a desirable female with all the deference you could possibly muster, if that would get you into the sack with her any faster, simply because you know in your heart what us ladies really likes………yes, that’s right Alex, to be treated as a woman and not as a man.

    First, you’re once again presuming to speak for all women. This is foolish and myopic; women vary widely in the way they like to be treated. Some I have known consider the sort of deference you seem to desire non-negotiable; some consider it appropriate “respect”; some appreciate it but don’t expect it on account of their gender; and I know at least one who generally finds it insulting (“I can do it myself, thank you….”).

    Second, I have never in my life interacted with a woman with the sole goal of “getting her in the sack,” nor would I. Sex has never been my primary goal in any relationship and never would be, and I appreciate your presumption in this matter about as much as I appreciate the presumption of the (thankfully, vanishingly few) people of color who have presumed that, because I’m white, I must be a racist. And I’m certainly not going to treat anyone in a way that is unreasonable, whether or not it favorably disposes that person toward me, in sexual respects or otherwise. If that clashes with your idea of a “red-blooded male,” I’m happy to disappoint you. (As a side note, I’m rapidly losing patience with having my masculinity implicitly tied to the degree to which I agree with someone else’s views).

    And as I have said repeatedly, I don’t treat women “like men,” I treat men and women like human beings, with the same respect and courtesy I would reasonably expect from them were our positions reversed, regardless of genital configuration. If that’s not enough for a particular person, he or she probably isn’t worth my time in the first place.

    It seems to me Alex, that in your desire to be right, the poetry of life has somehow passed you by……

    …what the hell are you talking about?!

    Are you actually implying that my opinion on gender roles somehow prevents me from enjoying or appreciating life (or human relationships, etc.)? As Adam would say, nothing could be further from the truth.

  • Trevor McArthur

    Well Bill obviuosly found himself a ringer with this “Marina Tod.” Question is, is she a friend he has put up to defending him or just a psudonymn Bill is using? And did I miss someone else comment on it or did you notice the phrasing “…the A. Randi…” which I assume is a way of calling him a … posterior opening? She also seems to have a very similar view on gender roles to what the Perronster was advocating. If it is a cover for the man himself, it kind of puts in perspective the charges that got him banned.

    I head the guy’s phone number on the Skepticality Podcast, sounds like he lives near me (somewhat), so I’ll have to keep an eye out. Maybe he’ll get my wife to say something unflattering about me! NOOO!!!!!

  • Alex Weaver

    I think it was short for “Amazing” but she may have been getting at that.

    As for it being a cover for Perron himself…that’s certainly a possibility. Their writing style does intuitively strike me as similar, but her language choice was much more “sophisticated.” Perhaps it’s his big sister…

    I should show this thread to my wife and see what she thinks, actually. ^.^

  • Lusidvicel

    Hello, i love http://www.daylightatheism.org! Let me in, please :)

  • Trevor

    OK, I admit to missing the possible abreviation of Randi, maybe I was trying to nitpick.

    But I am still curious at Ms. Tod’s reasons for her strong defence of Mr. Perron–is she a friend of his, a particularly happy client, or just a critic of Randi’s? I would understand a defender of Sylvia Brown or similar celebrity with acknowledged (if undereducated) followings, but Mr. Perron is an entertainer without even much of a local reputation who proposed… well people are still scratching their heads at what exactly he ever wanted to prove. He then got rude and has been wrongly sending out slanderous and libelous messages in every media that Randi lied to him. What is her dog in the fight?

  • Alex Weaver

    I checked back on this for unrelated reasons and admit that I am now ashamed of certain of my comments here.

    Specifically, the comment in which I insulted toads by comparing them to Bill Perron.

    Will all present anurans please accept my apologies, on behalf of your entire order?