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Heavens on Earth

In Michael Shermer’s February 2014 ‘Skeptic’ column for Scientific American, he asks “Can a scientific utopia succeed?”



Is Debating Pseudoscience a Good Idea?
Carl Sagan Weighs In

Daniel shares some thoughts from a pioneering skeptic about the value of scientific confrontation of pseudoscientific ideas.



Grand Canyon, Zion & Bryce

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JOIN US AS WE TRAVEL through an iconic landscape that reveals one of the most studied sequences of layered rock on earth! We will spend a day and and two nights at the less-visited North Rim of the Grand Canyon, a day to explore majestic Zion Canyon, a day visit to Bryce Canyon, plus additional stops at the Coral Pink Sand Dunes, Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area and Museum, Calico Ghost Town, Virgin River Gorge, the Dinosaur Museum in St. George, Utah, and two nights in Las Vegas. Through the entire trip, we will learn about the geology and natural history of the majestic scenery, making this a tour you could get nowhere else! Seats are limited — so make your reservations soon!

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Bryce Canyon (photo by Gingi Yee)
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Zion Canyon (photo by Gingi Yee)

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Tour package includes: natural science lectures en route, charter bus, hotels, all breakfasts and lunches during the trip, one dinner at the Grand Canyon (the traditional Grand Canyon Cookout Experience with a live country-western show), museum and park fees, and a tour guide booklet. The fee also includes a $200 tax-deductible donation to the Skeptics Society.


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In this episode of Skepticality, Derek chats with Robert Blaskiewicz, who has been highly involved in bringing attention to the dodgy cancer research that Stanislaw Burzynski has been conducting. Then, Guy Harrison visits Skepticality, once again, to talk about his new skepticism-focused book, Think: Why You Should Question Everything, which aims to give rational thinkers a set of tools to help talk to, and work alongside, those who hold dubious beliefs.

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Robert Trivers, On Demand
The Folly of Fools: The Logic of Deceit
and Self-Deception in Human Life

Robert Trivers (photo by Nick Romanenko)

Whether it’s in a cockpit at takeoff or the planning of an offensive war, a romantic relationship or a dispute at the office, there are many opportunities to lie and self-deceive—but deceit and self-deception carry the costs of being alienated from reality and can lead to disaster. So why does deception play such a prominent role in our everyday lives? In his bold new work, Rutgers University evolutionary theorist Robert Trivers unflinchingly argues that self-deception evolved in the service of deceit—the better to fool others. We do it for biological reasons—in order to help us survive and procreate. From viruses mimicking host behavior to humans misremembering (sometimes intentionally) the details of a quarrel, science has proven that the deceptive one can always outwit the masses. But we undertake this deception at our own peril.

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Our Next Science Lecture

Dr. Charles Adler (photo by Alexandra Adler)
Wizards, Aliens, and Starships: Physics and Math in Fantasy and Science Fiction

with Dr. Charles Adler
Sun., Feb. 16, 2014 at 2 pm
Baxter Lecture Hall

From teleportation and space elevators to alien contact and interstellar travel, science fiction and fantasy writers have come up with some brilliant and innovative ideas. Yet how plausible are these ideas? Which concepts might actually happen, and which ones wouldn’t work at all? A professor of physics at St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Adler delves into the most extraordinary details in science fiction and fantasy—time warps, shape changing, rocket launches, and illumination by floating candle—and shows readers the physics and math behind the phenomena…
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  1. Roy Niles says:

    “Robert Trivers unflinchingly argues that self-deception evolved in the service of deceit—the better to fool others.” I make a different argument in my book, The Strategic Intelligence of Trust (at Amazon), where evidence from a number of biologists and other scientists is used to show deception as having evolved as an intelligent strategy of predators from the start of microbial life on earth. Evidence is also presented as to the intelligent construction of the biological functions that have allowed deceptive strategies to evolve in concert with life’s counter strategies for assessing what can and cannot be trusted, when, why, when and how. The need to trust would then appear to have evolved to detect and assess deceptive strategies, which ironically were necessary for virtually all of life’s competitive purposes,
    The main objection to this central hypothesis has been to protest that early life did not have the intelligence to strategize, and if you’re one that’s determined to believe that, my book is not for you.

    • Bob Pease says:

      It looks like you are saying
      “don’t read my book if you are determined to be close (sic) -minded about things”
      or something close to that.

      I see two troubling issues with what the author claims the book is about

      1. is “intelligence” a necessary condition for “strategy” ?
      2. is “intelligence” a sufficient condition for a designer?
      ( yawn !!)

      I think #1 is a lot more interesting ..
      a less pedantic version of this might be

      ” Could Strategy be a consequence of Natural Selection? ”


      • Roy Niles says:

        “Could Strategy be a consequence of Natural Selection?”
        Only if natural selection can purposefully confer strategies intelligently. The organism has to make the selection in response to the accident, not let the accident make the changes blindly while the organism then tries as blindly not to die from them.

        “don’t read my book if you are determined to be close (sic) -minded about things”
        Yeah, that’s close.

        • Roy Niles says:

          Admittedly I’m no longer as open minded as I once was when it comes to neoDarwinism, but I’m in the two steps forward phase, and still looking for a reason to step back.

        • bob pease says:

          ” “Could Strategy be a consequence of Natural Selection?”
          Only if natural selection can purposefully confer strategies intelligently. ”

          Are circular logic, tautology and soi-disant definitions a symptom of
          intelligent design?

          Whee-torical question..


          • Roy Niles says:

            You seem to have completely missed the point that since it’s completely illogical to posit that natural selection can purposefully confer strategies intelligently, it’s your own theories which argue that such a process somehow CAN do it that are no more than circular tautological assertions.
            As to intelligent “self design,” you really need to read up on that, especially the works of Evolutionary Biologist, James A Shapiro, a leader in the discovery of how self engineering bacteria manage to perform. But of course you won’t.
            You’ve served as a nice foil here however.

  2. bob pease says:

    This forum is supposed to be about issues, not self-serving comments on
    correspondence between intelligence of posters and people who actually bother to read their posts .

    However, I shall disobey you and check out James Shapiro.
    I predict that his support of ID attitudes expressed here will be marginal,at best

    Dr. Sidethink Hp.D

    • Roy Niles says:

      I predict another of your self serving comments, regardless.

      • bob pease says:

        Your prediction is true

        Thanks for consulting Pee Wee Herman for intellectual quality.

        ” I am rubber and you are glue. it bounces off me and sticks to you”
        Please reply to

        • Roy Niles says:

          It seems never to have occurred to you that even the theoretical stochastic system of evolution has accidents being recognized as serving a purpose. There would have to be an intelligent observation system at play even there, albeit as you’ve demonstrated, not a very smart one.

          • dr.sidethink says:

            one grunch but the snerdplant over there!!

            sic dixie Zorro’s thruster.

            trollsters and pollsters.. a jive a jive o!

            Was it Lenny Bruce that said
            “If you have to ask what this means, you probably wouldn’t understand the answer”


            Snortimer Merde 5

            Roger Babbit 0

  3. Roy Niles says:

    So in a determinate world or universe, is its future logically determined or illogically determined? Are life forms determined to be logical and the rest of the universe determined to be illogical?
    Or is it an indeterminate world, where objects that appear to be intelligently constructed are in actuality that way by accident? And then are life forms, which must also have come about by accident, not only non-intelligently constructed, but have non-intelligently acquired the appearance of being logically operated systems that accidentally communicate and react in a logical and predictable fashion? And accidentally evolve into creatures that exhibit what appear to be highly complex functioning that give the false appearance of requiring a high degree of intelligence that by pure accident appears to be phenomenally true?
    All of this of course being observed by a figure of purely accidental sensory perception that nevertheless makes a logical analysis of what it appears to see with a high degree of mathematical consistency of measurement. Is that’s the answer that I don’t understand?

  4. Bob Pease says:

    I am pleased that there are folks like yourself who care about
    this kind of stuff.

    (I usually have to keep a low profile in public mainly because I think the late resurgence of
    “Magickal” thinking by “Liberals” is speedily bringing down America )

    Regarding e-skeptic , the interest in the topic at hand usually expires in a few days.

    One thing I notice is that you can’t hope to be very convincing if you regard questioning
    or pointing out logical anomolies as a personal attack and respond with flame wars.

    in closing, I would recommend the works of Douglas Hofstadter as a source of fundamentals

    Robert J. Pease

    Pope Bobby II
    69th Clench of the Stark Fist of Removal.
    Reformed Church of the Subgenius

    • Roy Niles says:

      I’ve read that Hofstadter, and I quote, “ponders on the fact that a single ant brain does not “carry any information about nest structure;” and then he asks, “how then does the nest get created…where does the information reside?” The above questions provide Hofstadter the vehicle in which to launch his probe of the human brain; thus, he asks how this brain carries out the processes of thinking, how it spawns intelligence? ”
      Others who specialize in ant research have discovered, however, that ant colonies are cultural entities, and as you apparently don’t know, all cultures in the end must reside in memory banks, and the memory system of each individual ant is an integral part of where the assets of the cultural bank are stored.
      So much for Hofstadter, who might also benefit from reading Shapiro, who deals with the intelligent bacteria that have evolved those apparently less intelligent ants of his.
      As to yourself, pointing out logical anomalies would seem to require knowing one when you see one to point out. But of course if Hofstadter is your guru, that’s all you’d seem to need to know to see and be one.
      Now if you like, I could return to discussing Trivers as we haven’t even begun to deal with his views on self deception.

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