Anthony Magnabosco is the most well-known practitioner of the craft of "Street Epistemology", which he defines as: "a dialog where you use questions to explore somebody's claim to see how they concluded that it's true." While commonly associated with atheism (the term comes from the book "A Manual for Creating Atheists" by Peter Boghossian) Street Epistemology can be used to explore any kind of belief. There's actually quite a bit of crossover with how to talk to conspiracy theorists.
Anthony and I discuss our mutual experiences with talking to people, how our approaches are similar, and how they differ. It's a fascinating conversation, and while we go for the full hour, we were actually cut short by a minor emergency, and I hope to continue in the future.
At 43:24 in the above live stream of the SpaceX CRS-19 Launch, something slides around the engine. Someone remarked that this looked a bit like a mouse, and some of the more imaginative conspiracy theorists took this to be evidence that the footage was faked.
The video is shot from two sides, alternating between viewpoints, which makes it difficult to follow exactly what is going on. But it's much clearer if we take just the shots from the "mouse" side, zoom in, and speed them up 10x.
I think there's a degree of mass hysteria going on here. Yes, there's probably some drones been spotted, but the video evidence is rather sketchy. The image above looks like nothing more than some building lights in the distance. There are a few other shots in the NBC video:
This one (above) shows what looks like the moon and six lights. But several of them are on a low...
Elizabeth Loftus is an expert on memory. A Distinguished Professor in several fields*, her work focusses on false memories, how they can be accidentally created and how they can be deliberately manipulated. We discuss many aspects of memory and how it sometimes relates to the world of conspiracy theories. We touch on UFOs, Chemtrails, 9/11, Jeffery Epstein, and the moral panics of the 1980s.
*In my introduction, I mangled together the various departments where Professor Loftus is a professor. The correct list is:
Tom has dabbled in a few conspiracy theories over the years, and still thinks there are some significant questions that have never been answered about why the World Trade Center buildings fell down the way they did on 9/11. We talk about how he came to believe what he does, how it has changed over the years, and what evidence it make take for him to feel the question is resolved.
Brian Dunning is a prolific skeptical podcaster with his award-winning show “Skeptoid” coming up on its 700th episode. He’s also a writer, with his most recent book Conspiracies Declassified: The Skeptoid Guide to the Truth Behind the Theories, explaining the facts behind 50 different conspiracy theories. He’s also a documentary producer, currently working on Science Friction, a documentary about scientists who get misrepresented by the media. We discuss all these topics and more.
Dr Michael Shermer is founder of The Skeptics Society, and editor-in-chief of its magazine Skeptic. He's written several books on science and skepticism and his latest work is an audio-only 12-part course, for Audible and The Great Courses, called Conspiracies & Conspiracy Theories: What We Should and Shouldn't Believe—and Why. We cover the full spectrum of conspiracies, their history and context, their social and psychological causes and their very real effects. We discuss real and false conspiracies, and how to tell the difference. We then finish up with UFOs, the Intellectual Dark Web, and the Skeptical Movement.
UFO Jesus is a popular advocate of UFO “disclosure”, the belief that the US Government is close to revealing that it knows that some UFOs actually are the result of alien visitors. We talk about this and our different interpretation of the evidence used to support this case. In particular, we focus on the 2004 case of the USS Nimitz, where, over several days, unexplained sightings and radar returns culminated in two fighter planes observing what one pilot, Commander David Fravor, described as a “white Tic-Tac shaped craft” performing impossible maneuvers. A later video was also taken, which I think shows a distant plane, and UFO fans think is this Tic-Tac. There are rumors of a higher-resolution longer video that shows more.
UFO Jesus closes with six prophecies, and I’m a bit skeptical. But he gives a nice short timeframe of six years, so...
The column in the center of the photo (by Sam Hollenshead) has been cut at an angle, presumably during the cleanup process. Yet Architects and Engineers for 9/11 Truth (AE911) still insist it was cut before the building fell, and looks nothing like a normal cut, and hence is evidence of thermite. Here's an AE911 slide they used just a few weeks ago:
In Escaping the Rabbit Hole, author Mick West shares over a decade’s worth of knowledge and experience investigating and debunking false conspiracy theories through his forum, MetaBunk.org, and sets forth a practical guide to helping friends and loved ones recognize these theories for what they really are.
Perhaps counter-intuitively, the most successful approaches to helping individuals escape a rabbit hole aren’t comprised of simply explaining why they are wrong; rather, West’s tried-and-tested approach emphasizes clear communication based on mutual respect, honesty, openness, and patience.
West puts his debunking techniques and best practices to the test with four of the most popular false conspiracy theories today (Chemtrails, 9/11 Controlled...
A classic experiment to demonstrate the curvature of a body of water is to place markers (like flags) a fixed distance above the water in a straight line, and then view them along that line in a telescope. If the water surface is flat then the markers will appear also in a straight line. If the surface of the water is curved (as it is here on Earth) then the markers in the middle will appear higher than the markers at the ends. Here's a highly exaggerated diagram of the effect by Alfred Russel Wallace in 1870:
This is a difficult experiment to do as you need a few miles...
The above image appears to show three different metal rods. The left rod is short and straight. The middle rod seems longer and angles sharply to the right. The right rod appears slightly curved, and has a longer segment going off the edge of the photo.
Actually the rods look like this:
Despite the left rod looking like it's just a few inches, it's actually five feet long. And even though the right rod looks like it's bent very close to the end it's actually bent in the middle, as is the center rod.
I set this up to illustrate some of the problems in visualizing both contrails and the paths of planes that don't leave contrails, especially those that are far away, and so at a shallow angle to the viewer.
A variety of images reported as "UFO"zm show what looks like a glowing disk with some dots on it. These basically look like lens flares, but the dot patterns are unusual, as they vary from irregular, regular, or or semiregular patterns. However they still look very two dimensional - they don't seem to curve around the "orb". Here's a collection of similar images all claimed as "UFOs"
What we are seeing here is a reflected image of the sun with the highlighted reflections of focus pixel. ...
In a paper publish in Environmental Research letters, August 2016, 77 scientists with expertise in atmospheric science and geochemistry were asked to give their expert opinions regarding the most common claims of evidence put forward by proponents of the "chemtrail" or "covert geoengineering" theory (referred to in the paper as a "secret large-scale atmospheric program (SLAP)". The evidence being photos of trails left by planes, and chemical analyses of air, soil, and water. The scientists overwhelming rejected the idea that the photos and tests were evidence of a secret spraying program. All of the atmospheric scientists and all but one of the geochemists saw nothing suspicious about the proffered evidence. The photos were all identified as contrails, and the...
A video is being widely shared on social media (and the "weird news" sections of more traditional media) claiming to show the image of an impossibly large city rising above the fog in the city of Foshan (佛山), Guangdong province, China
Here's a composite image of the Foshan video
Notice the scale of things here, there are what looks like two construction cranes on the "horizon" to the left, and the buildings seem to loom high into the sky above them.
A recent photo proports to show a UFO over Loch Ness in Scotland, however it's almost certainly just the reflection of a light inside the room, doubled up by dual pane window.
UPDATE July 10, 2015:
I contacted the owner of the cottage, who graciously agreed to take a few photos and a short video from the same location. These prove conclusively that the "UFO" is simply the reflection of a light in the window:
You can see the reflection of the curtain in the window, just like with the "UFO" photo, which demonstrates that the UFO photo was taken...
Ryan became a conspiracy theorist at age 15. He spent five years solidly down the 9/11 conspiracy rabbit hole, believing that the World Trade Center buildings were destroyed with pre-planted explosives. As he grew older...
Brandon Fugal is a prominent business leader based in Utah and is the current owner of the mysterious Skinwalker Ranch, which is the focus of a wide variety of reported strange phenomena, from supernatural visitors...
Steven Hassan is an expert on cults. A former high ranking member of the Unification Church, aka the “Moonies”, he’s been helping people escape the rabbit hole since his own escape in 1976. Now he’s...
Investigating UFOs presents a number of challenges, many of which are not immediately obvious, but swiftly rear up to impede progress. There are straightforward issues, like military secrecy and people being afraid to talk because...