Pseudoscience of the Month

You may have noticed that lately I’ve lacked inspiration for posts – I’ve been feeling a bit like all I ever talk about is atheism. I have so many ideas for upcoming posts about atheism, but I didn’t want this blog to only be about my skepticism of religion, I want it to be about my skepticism in general. I suppose the reason that I’ve resorted to posting mainly about atheism is that I spent most of my life immersed in religion, so I have a lot to say on the subject.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with writing what you know, but I feel like if I’m going to continue to identify myself with the skeptical community I ought to give these things that I dismiss as pseudoscience a fair shake. I think my reasons for dismissing things such as astrology or ghosties as pseudoscience are sound, and I don’t feel that I need to spend years researching the subjects to realize that they’re just not plausible. But I recently started reading Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer, and it has helped me to realize that there’s a lot to learn about science and nature and humanity from critically examining these weird things that people believe.

So here’s the plan. Each month I’m going to choose a pseudoscience or a topic that’s popular for skeptics to look at, and immerse myself in it. I’ll read blogs about ghosts, listen to podcasts about cryptozoology, I’ll subscribe to relevant Google Alerts, and I’ll look at the best evidence in favour of those things I don’t believe in. I’ll also read what the skeptics have to say on the subjects, and I’ll form my own opinion by blogging about what I learn. Sound like fun?

“Pseudoscience of the Month” is a poor name – any better ideas?

Here are some ideas for months I have so far (I’m taking suggestions):

  • Astrology
  • Creationism
  • Ghosts
  • Psychics
  • Near Death Experiences
  • 9/11 Truth
  • Acupuncture
  • Herbal Medicine
  • Climate Change Denial
  • The Anti-Vaccine Movement

Oh btw: I’m not doing homeopathy ever! It’s been beaten to death by other people and there’s no way I can spend a whole month reading about dilutions and sugar pills.

I also want to tackle some common sense ideas, things that I go along with but that skeptics are…uh…skeptical of. I can only think of two for now:

  • Organic Food (is it really healthier/better for the environment)
  • Positive Thinking

December will be the first month, what do you think would be a good topic for that holiest of months? The historicity of Jesus? Creationism? The “America is a Christian nation” myth? Although all of those things may go against my initial push for starting this “of the month” thing – which is to not limit myself to talking about religion all the time.

I also want to invite any of you that have blogs to join me – the more the merrier! I’ll link to your posts and we can all learn from each other.

Sound like a plan?

13 Responses to “Pseudoscience of the Month”

  1. 1 Soothsaber November 10, 2010 at 10:29 pm

    I’m one of “those” atheists that believes in natural healing, organic foods and some herbs and would rather buy organic. I also believe in the power of positivity. It has helped me to overcome.

    Here is a link to a letter I wrote. Most people say they have learned something from it. I hope we can learn from each other too. 🙂 I’ll keep reading even if I don’t agree.

  2. 2 kevinbbg November 11, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    One area I’ve been curious about but haven’t had time to look into is Frankenfoods – foods genetically altered in the lab.

    I’ve heard the health food nuts get hysterical over them and I’ve heard skeptics easily accept them without any kind of skepticism at all.

    It almost seems like the skeptics immediately are for it because the non-skeptics are against it. I’d like to see if there is any real research on what will happen when these foods are introduced into the farming community.

  3. 3 kevinbbg November 11, 2010 at 1:38 pm

    Also, something important to look into is how human minds perceive things and how we process information and how we recall memories. the very act of recalling a memory causes us to re-write ever so slightly different, so any memory frequently recalled can be radically changed over the years. And we usually change the memories to fit the particular narrative we have in our head.

    A great example of this is a psychic doing a cold reading. It’s really fun to watch, the psychic starts asking questions, usually very generic, until he gets a response then starts tailoring the questions to fit the person being read. I saw a TV talk show where a guy came out as a psychic and he had read several people in the crowd privately. These people stood up and were amazed at how much he knew about them, convinced he was legit. He then told them he was a fake, he had no psychic abilities at all that he had done a thing called cold reading and they all told him all the things he supposedly “knew.”

    The looks on the people’s faces were classic, stunned and embarrassed at being fooled, one woman was angry and refused to admit the man wasn’t psychic because he knew things she had never told anyone.

    People remember the hits and forget the misses. They think a psychic gets right to what is true, not realizing they need to ask about 7 questions to get one true answer. Everyone forgets the 6 failures.

  4. 4 EnlightningLinZ November 12, 2010 at 10:37 am

    Soothsaber – Then perhaps you can help me find places to read when I’m doing the months for those topics!

    Kevin – Good suggestions – I’d like to do a month on Frankenfoods/GM foods, and a month on memory would be good as well as there’s plenty of pseudoscience around that (recovered memories, alien abduction stories, etc.)

  5. 5 Chelsea November 12, 2010 at 2:01 pm

    Do The Secret! That kind of ties in with “positive thinking”, but it’s SOOOOO much more wacky than just thinking positively.

  6. 6 EnlightningLinZ November 12, 2010 at 2:24 pm

    Yeah I’ll definitely have to include The Secret in my positive thinking month! I’m thinking of doing that in December since I just finished reading “Bright-Sided” and that’s a critique of a the positive thinking culture in America. I might as well do it while that book is fresh in my mind!

    By the way, congratulations! You just posted the 1,000th comment on my blog 🙂

  7. 7 Ani Sharmin November 12, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    This sounds really fascinating. I look forward to reading about the results of your search.

  8. 8 EnlightningLinZ November 12, 2010 at 8:17 pm

    Glad you like the idea! I’m thinking maybe I’ll post a poll soon so that you guys can vote on what the first pseudoscience of the month topic will be…

    Anyone have thoughts about a better name? Maybe “Skeptical Topic of the Month”?

  9. 9 Chelsea November 12, 2010 at 11:06 pm

    *throws confetti*
    YAY! I’m special!
    Congrats on getting 1,000 comments!

  10. 10 Soothsaber November 19, 2010 at 8:29 am

    I would be glad to help as much as my schedule allows. I’m certainly not a resource but I do enjoy learning. Looking forward to it! 🙂

  11. 11 Felicia November 21, 2010 at 6:31 pm

    I haven’t figured out yet what I believe on many of the pseudosciences, I just know that I absolutely love them. Give me a creepy story, or a haunted area and I’m in heaven so to speak. So obviously my love of the subjects has led to my discovery of many very interesting podcasts and such. One of my favorites to listen to is Coast to Coast AM with George Noory. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this one, but you can check it out at They cover everything from cryptozoology to ufo abductions to bottomless pits and everything in between. You can subscribe to the podcast, catch some of the best of on youtube, or you can find out which station near you hosts the program and listen there. It’s totally worth it… he’s had guests on the show that claim alien abduction, some claim they have human and animal DNA, one guy claims he has a bottomless pit that can resurrect animals, and of course he has guests on the show that work in different pseudoscience related fields. It might be a good avenue to find interesting topics.

  12. 12 EnlightningLinZ November 21, 2010 at 6:50 pm

    Thanks for the suggestion Felicia! I’ve never listened to George Noory but my husband used to catch it on his way to work some days and he said I would get a kick out of it.

  1. 1 The First Skeptical Subject of the Month « Struck by Enlightning Trackback on November 16, 2010 at 8:18 pm

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