An Alien Confusion

I would love to meet an alien. Who wouldn’t?

To start, I think it would be nice to finally know that we’re not alone in the universe; It’d make existence seem less lonely. We’d be exposed to a brand new culture, one we couldn’t have even fathomed before, and we’d gain new ideas about biology and evolution. We’d have new motivation to explore the stars ourselves, and they could answer the mysteries of the universe we still haven’t solved. Like how to travel faster than light, what dark matter is, and why American Idol is still on the air.

I don’t know anyone who wouldn’t be excited to meet an alien. Well, racists probably wouldn’t be too happy. They have a problem with members of the same species who just happen to have higher melanin content. Imagine how they would react to a six-armed tentacle beast, even if it just wanted to be your friend and help you cure cancer.

But for the most part, I think we’d be happy to meet alien life. Even if we never met; Even if we just knew they existed because they sent us a radio message. I think that alone would change everything, and maybe make us appreciate our own existence even more.

So all that being said, you’ll understand where I’m coming from when I say, if you think you’ve been abducted by aliens, you’re wrong.

Believe me, I wish you weren’t! Because that would prove aliens existed. But if you have no evidence, your claim has no weight. So here’s what I suggest: Next time you get taken to the flying saucer, when the aliens are looking the other way, reach over and grab something off the desk. Anything! Because no matter what it is, it’ll be a miracle of technology to us on Earth.

The same goes with sightings of flying saucers, and the various alien conspiracies that have cropped up over the years. Show me the proof, and I’ll believe you. Primarily because I want to believe you. But if you can’t prove it, I won’t.

I’m not saying you’re lying. But it’s pretty easy to confuse one thing for another. To see something in the sky you don’t immediately recognize, and assume it’s something unusual. But that doesn’t mean it is.

And that’s an important thing to remember: Just because something seems paranormal, doesn’t mean it is. And that message was sent quite clearly during a recent episode of Littlest Pet Shop… which I totally saw coming. Continue reading

Too Good To Be True

“‘Herbal medicine’s been around for thousands of years!’ Indeed it has, and then we tested it all, and the stuff that worked became ‘medicine.'” – Dara Ó Briain, Dara Ó Briain Talks Funny – Live in London

The thing about skepticism is that it can sometimes be misinterpreted.

The goal of skepticism is to look at the world through a scientific lens, because science is the best method we have of finding the truth. And through this lens, it becomes quite obvious that things like ghosts, astrology, alternative medicine, and homeopathy, are all bunk.

It’s not simply because none of them fit in the standard scientific model of the universe that has been developed and fine-tuned over the past several thousand years. It’s because there is no evidence to support any of it! There have been trials on various alternative treatments, and none of them have been proven to be better than nothing.

So why do some people buy into it? Well, part of it could be due to something called ‘confirmation bias.’ If you believe in a treatment that does nothing, but get better on your own shortly after taking it, you credit the treatment rather than your own immune system. And when it doesn’t work, you never really notice, or remember.

Basically, we ignore the misses, and we count and exaggerate the hits. Astrology tends to work the same way.

And add to that, a bizarre phenomenon known as the placebo effect. Basically, if you think you’re taking something that’s supposed to treat some ailment, the very act of treatment can make you feel better, and make you think you’re getting better, even if the treatment is nothing more than a sugar pill. Combine this with confirmation bias, you end up crediting a glass of water for something that didn’t really happen.

Now what causes the placebo effect? I don’t know. I honestly wish I did. For the most part, it can be explained as a simple psychological trick. But this thing is way more powerful than that. But I don’t really want to get into the details.

The point I’m trying to get at is this: Just because you think it works, doesn’t mean it works. You have to test it. You have to run a proper analysis, and count not only when it does work, but when it doesn’t work. And you have to check to see if it really is nothing more than a trick of the mind.

‘But what’s the harm?’ you may ask. ‘What’s the harm in letting people believe that a bay leaf can cure the common cold?’ Well, do you mean aside from the money spent on it? They don’t give this stuff away for free! And for people to take money from desperate and sick people, and give them literally nothing? As Randall Munroe once said, “Telling someone who trusts you that you’re giving them medicine, when you know you’re not, because you want their money, isn’t just lying–it’s like an example you’d make up if you had to illustrate for a child why lying is wrong.”

But that aside. Often times, these salesmen advise their customers to forgo real medical treatments that could actually help them, because they claim it would interfere with their sugar-water. And when it comes to serious, treatable illnesses, people have actually died because of this. They died, because they were told not to take a life-saving treatment, and instead took ginkgo biloba or something.

I could elaborate quite a bit more on this, but I think I made my point. Is it any wonder why people such as myself try to convince others to give up these pointless endeavours? We’re not trying to be mean or ‘ruin your mojo’ or something, we’re trying to help! I just wish more people understood this.

Well, perhaps they finally will, as a recent episode of My Little Pony covered this very same topic. And if any show can spread an idea to the masses, it’s My Little Pony! Continue reading

The Little Outdoors

I’ll admit, I kinda like camping. It can be quite relaxing. The day-to-day bustle of modern life can get excruciating over time, so the chance to get away from it, and just relax in the great outdoors, can be nice. Assuming you can still get an internet connection.

Then there’s light pollution. Next time you go camping, try looking up. You may notice something quite spectacular: Stars! I know! Amazing, isn’t it? You don’t get those in the city. I can spend hours just looking in awe at the night sky. With the Milky Way arching across. On occasion I might see the moon in all it’s brilliance, like a second sun. You can even pick out planets, nebulae, even galaxies if you try hard enough.

I might be genetically hardwired to appreciate the inherent beauty of the universe. Just the fact that I can spot the Andromeda Galaxy with the naked eye just leaves me euphoric, and awestruck. In that moment, I’m witnessing of trillions of stars, and perhaps even millions of alien civilizations, all at once.

And that’s why I love camping, because of astronomy.

But there are certainly other reasons. Dozens of reasons, in fact, to go camping. Which must have been why everyone was so excited to camping on last week’s episode of Littlest Pet Shop. Continue reading

Superstition Ain’t The Way

People get scared too easily, and by the stupidest things, things that don’t even exist!

I don’t think I should have to tell you that ghosts aren’t real. And even if they were, what the fuck could they do to harm you!? They’re ghosts! They can’t touch you!

I guess they could levitate a knife and throw it at you. But why would they? Are they just dicks?

But for some people, every time something unusual happens, they blame it on ghosts!

A camera malfunctioned. GHOSTS! I hear a creaking noise. GHOSTS! Do you feel a draft? GHOSTS!

I got a better explanation: You live in a shitty house, and you bought a shitty camera!

There is always a better explanation. I’ve been over this before, it’s more likely that a supposed ‘psychic’ is a con artist, rather than some type of superhuman. Just like it’s more likely someone wrapped a sheet around them and decided to fuck with you, rather than there are ghosts around.

I’m not saying it’s impossible, I’m saying it’s highly unlikely, and there’s no evidence.

So why do people get sucked in? Why are they so afraid of something that doesn’t exist?

Well, part of the blame goes to a little thing called ‘confirmation bias’. You hear some strange noise, or some rustling in the bushes, or something you don’t recognise. It’s evolutionarily beneficial to assume it’s a threat, so you can run away and not die.

That’s right, evolution fucked us!

But it seems that even magical multicoloured horses are also susceptible to this phenomenon. As we see on this week’s episode of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic. Continue reading

Psychic Vs. Psychic

There’s no such thing as psychics. If I really needed to tell you that, you’re an idiot.

I’m sorry, there’s no other way to put it. No one has psychic powers. No one! If they did, we’d have evidence of it.

If psychics did exist, and weren’t just liars and con artists, it would be extremely easy for them to prove it.

Take Harry Houdini for example, a magician and escape artist who spent his later years debunking psychics. Before he died, he gave his wife a secret password. And after he died, she went to dozens of psychics who supposedly contacted the late Mr. Houdini. None of them provided the password.

Then we have James Randi, who will give a million dollars to anyone that can prove something paranormal. So any kind of psychic abilities, or just being able to tell the difference between a glass of homeopathic remedy, and a glass of water.

No one has been able to get past the first round of testing.

Now, some may argue that the psychics don’t have to prove anything. And that is true. But why wouldn’t they? They don’t want the attention? Well considering several of them have million dollar book deals or national television contracts, I highly doubt that.

Besides, I have a very good reason why they should. Actually, I have several. Pick any major disaster in the past decade. How many lives could we have saved if we were warned in advance?

Now some would argue that they would have warned us, but we wouldn’t have believed them. All the more reason to prove you have powers to begin with, isn’t it? You prove you have powers, then, when you warn us a tsunami’s about to hit Japan, we actually take you seriously!

So either they’re lying, or they are willing to let people die. Neither of which is good!

This is why I think those who claim to be psychics are the worst people in the world. Either because they have powers and won’t use them to save lives, or don’t and are pulling shit like this:

That’s terrible. And it should anger everyone. Especially real psychics!

Oh, right, that was a joke, but I kind of like that idea. Because if a real psychic did exist, they could probably use their powers to debunk the fakes. Even if they never proved that they had powers, and kept them secret, they could use their powers to prove others didn’t have powers.

Take for instance, a fake pet psychic going up against fashion-designer and female Doctor Dolittle, Blythe Baxter.

That’s right, it’s another Littlest Pet Shop! Are you surprised!? Continue reading

The Stanford Prison Disaster

It’s hard to believe that good people can do bad things. But it does happen.

We all know about the horrors of Nazi Germany. How millions of people were rounded up and slaughtered en masse, merely for being foreign, or gay, or disabled, or not white.

It’s horrific, to put it lightly. But in the aftermath of World War II, after the fall of Adolf Hitler’s regime, many of those who participated in the brutal activities feigned ignorance. Some even declared that they were just following orders.

Were they good people, who were just led astray? Or were they brutal sadists, who revelled in the suffering of others?

Well, no one can know for certain, it’s impossible. But it does raise some interesting questions regarding the minds of all humanity. Can we be that easily manipulated. Can a good person be convinced to do some extremely horrible things?

Perhaps, if they’re not alone. Because the collection of those millions were not done by any single individual, but by virtual armies, working together.

Could it be that if you’re surrounded by dozens of people doing the exact same thing you are, you feel less inclined to object?

In a way, this is exactly what psychology professor Philip Zimbardo attempted to examine when he conducted the infamous Stanford Prison Experiment, back in 1971.

I say ‘infamous’ for several reasons, which I will get to. But first, I think it’s important to explain what the experiment actually was. Continue reading

C.S.I.: Train to Canterlot

This week on My Little Pony, we witness an interesting phenomenon: The application of critical thinking.

Remember back in season one? The episode Feeling Pinkie Keen was all about Pinkie’s precognitive abilities, and Twilight being extremely skeptical, and continually searching for a more logical explanation, but in the end just accepts it without another thought.

This pissed off a lot of skeptics. She should not have just accepted that Pinkie had superpowers, she should have vehemently denied their existence. Well, I disagree, primarily because the events of the entire episode verified Pinkie’s abilities. The thing about the supernatural is this: Skeptics don’t simply not believe it exists because it doesn’t fit any models of known science. We don’t believe because there’s no evidence that it’s anything more than deception.

If you can prove that you can predict the future, beyond any doubt, and can do it over and over again, I will believe you. It’s easy: just tell me what this week’s Lotto numbers are…and do it more than once to prove it’s not just a fluke. After that, we can work on modifying, adding to, or replacing the various physics models we use, so they fit this new evidence.

Prove there are ghosts, and I’ll willingly throw out the Theory of Relativity!

But still, it pissed off a lot of skeptics, and I guess I can understand. It might send the wrong message to children who wouldn’t see the big picture. But this week, it appears they’re making up for it. When we see Pinkie call up her inner Greg House and learn how to be a bit more skeptical…kinda. Continue reading

The Man Without a Faith

There is no god.

There, I said it. I pull no punches when it comes to this shit because I think it’s an extremely important point to make. Though I think I should include a few qualifiers: There is no evidence of any god’s existence and it’s irrational to assume there is a god. Therefore, there is no god.

I believe only what has been proven through science, or more broadly, through experimentation and study. Though ‘believe’ is probably the wrong word. Belief is associated with faith, and I find faith to be, honestly, a bad thing. Continue reading