Category: Pseudoscience

“Extraordinary people, ordinary evidence”

Here’s just something for the archives. I rarely write book reviews nowadays (although I often get invited to do so), partly because they can become extremely time-consuming. After all, to be fair to the book’s authors or editors, you do need to actually read the book in question before reviewing it (a principle that, as far as I can tell, does not command universal adherence). Of course if the book is terrific, then that’s no problem; you’d be glad to read it anyway whether or not you were invited to write a review. But if the book is poor, then things become uncomfortable; reading it to completion and then writing the review can be extremely tedious indeed. Continue reading ““Extraordinary people, ordinary evidence””

Six odd Irish UFO sightings

Well, how about this then? Apparently, as well as undergoing simultaneous financial and banking crises on a scale almost never heretofore experienced by anyone, Ireland is experiencing a “UFO epidemic” in its skies. That’s according to the Irish-based franchise of the UK tabloid The Sun. Please note, The Sun are not merely offering whimsical commentary here; they have checked their sources on this one. In fact, they have consulted “one of the world’s most respected forums for star-gazers” and they agree: there have been a number of “legitimate” sightings of extra-terrestrial space-craft from Ireland this year alone. And who, I hear you ask, are this internationally renowned star-gazers forum? NASA, perhaps? The European Space Agency, maybe? Could it be the International Astronomical Union? Nope, it’s none of those elitist stuffed-shirts with their out-dated affection for scientific empiricism, objectivity, evidence, and the like. Instead, The Sun are citing, as a serious source, the obviously bonkers website UFOInfo.com.

To date, there has been no objectively confirmed sighting of a UFO anywhere in the world. However, there have been absolutely squillions (and I mean squillions) of unconfirmed sightings, right throughout human history. Some academics suggest that such sightings reflect a psychological cry-for-help, accentuated at the societal level during times of (say, economic) turmoil. Therefore, to celebrate Ireland’s new-found obsession with alien visitations, here is a countdown of the six oddest UFO sightings from the Emerald Isle… Continue reading “Six odd Irish UFO sightings”

Big fat liars

UK newspaper, The Sun, is no stranger to controversy. Indeed, as part of News Corporation, it is currently mired in the phone-hacking scandal that engulfed its now killed-off sister paper, The News of the World. (The sheer speed of developments prevents me from summarizing that scandal here, but regular updates are being posted to the relevant Wikipedia page.) The Sun has also been the subject of a decades-long boycott by the people of Liverpool following a series of fabricated stories regarding the 1989 Hillsborough stadium disaster. And one of its most famous front-page headlines, from way back in 1986, relates to another specious story, which claimed that the British comedian Freddie Starr ate his girlfriend’s pet hamster after she refused to make him a sandwich. Yes. It’s one of those types of newspapers.

As such, rarely does The Sun dabble in science news. However, this week it carried a story relating to a scientific paper recently accepted for publication in the prestigious academic journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences. Now, as an academic journal, PRSB is not to be sneezed at (its impact factor places it in the top 10 biology journals in the world). Moreover, as the paper is as yet only in press, we surely must give credit to The Sun’s journalists for keeping abreast (sorry) of the relevant scholarly abstract databases. Then again, maybe a press release was involved.

The Sun was only too glad to cover the findings of this particular research. After all, the study appears to corroborate some of the claims of physiognomy (namely, that you can judge a person’s moral character simply by looking at them), which is fairly consistent with The Sun’s general approach when reporting diversity issues. In this particular case, the research findings suggest that liars have different shaped heads compared to other people, about as Sun-friendly a research outcome as is possible to imagine. However, the way The Sun explained the findings was not without irony… Continue reading “Big fat liars”

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