I’ve Done My “Research”

From time to time I’ve had a commenter repeatedly copy and paste at length from online sources. In the most recent instance, the sources were credited, and so it wasn’t a case of plagiarism. But that doesn’t make the comments convincing – and that is for much the same reason that student papers which are a [Read More...]

Conspiracies and Conspiracy Theories

Commenter Bilbo raised an excellent question about what distinguishes a conspiracy from a conspiracy theory. There have been real life conspiracies, and people conspire together for all sorts of reasons on a daily basis. How do we distinguish this mundane phenomenon from the kind of conspiracy theory that is deservedly treated with disdain? Clearly there [Read More...]

Misunderstanding Peer Review

Dudley Chapman has written a really helpful blog post, addressing a popular misunderstanding about peer review – and thus also the way some have misunderstood the significance of retractions and other such things that have been in the news lately. Click through to read it. Of related interest, the New York Times just featured an article [Read More...]

Proving the Illuminati is Real

This video offers a great treatment of how conspiracy theory thinking works, and has a superb punny ending. Enjoy! [Read more...]

Conspiracy Theorists

A conspiracy theorist is someone whose circumstance has conspired to make fantasy preferable to reality. They are unlikely to abandon their alternate reality until we can show them some alternate to the reality they’re fleeing — something better than the powerlessness and the meaninglessness that made the fantasy game seem like a more attractive choice. [Read More...]

Temper Your Criticism With Kindness

The quote is from Sagan’s book The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, and was drawn to my attention in an article from Junior Skeptic magazine shared on the Skeptic website. [Read more...]

Fact-Checking Fables

When the above cartoon appeared on Gavin Rumney’s blog, it struck me that it is a great depiction of the viewpoint of a variety of fundamentalisms. The cartoon captures as well the fact that, while the one who is fact-checking might believe themselves to be wise, they are in fact immature, and failing to appreciate the [Read More...]

Make the Most of Your Skepticism

See also Nicholas Clairmont’s recent article on “The Skeptic’s Credo.” It wrestles with the challenge of being appropriately and fairly skeptical in practice. And while sometimes doubting the reports of those in authority can be an example of misguided conspiracy theory thinking, when footage is captured that provides evidence, we may have good reason to withhold our [Read More...]

Don’t Diss the Blog!

It is an older article, but Jennifer Raff’s piece on differentiating between science and pseudoscience only came to my attention recently (despite the fact that it quotes Doctor Who in the process of making its point!). It suggests the following ranking of sources: I don’t think anyone would disagree about placing YouTube comments at the [Read More...]

How Did Luther Die?

I was asked recently how Luther died, and wanted to fact-check what I thought the answer to that question was. So I did what anyone would do – I typed the question in on Google. Here is the top part of the result: Am I the only one surprised that a question about “Luther” gives top [Read More...]

Americans – Prepare for Nonsense

Did you see the above advertisement in today’s USA Today? This quote from an article by Quassim Cassam on conspiracy theory thinking: It is in the nature of many intellectual character traits that you don’t realise you have them, and so aren’t aware of the true extent to which your thinking is influenced by them. [Read More...]


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