Of interest: An online exhibition on Occult Philosophy and Science in the Renaissance, curated by LSU Special Collections, Hill Memorial Libraries. All the material is fascinating, but take a look at the pages on Alhemy, Science or Sorcery, and The Sixth Sense.
Ofcom, the UK regulatory broadcasting agency, has ruled that the Derren Brown program "Something Wicked This Way Comes," which aired on Sunday morning, December 6, 2015, breached two provisions of the Broadcasting Code. The program, based on Mr. Brown's 2006 stage show of the same name, breached Rule 1.13: “Dangerous behaviour, or the portrayal of dangerous behaviour, that is likely to be easily imitable by children in a manner that is harmful…must not be broadcast before the watershed…unless there is editorial justification” and Rule 1.14: “The most offensive language must not be broadcast before the Watershed." The agency received five complaints about the program.
Mr. Brown, a well-known illusionist and mentalist, used the "F" word several times during the program, at a time when children were likely to be watching. He also demonstrated several tricks which Ofcom deemed were likely to be dangerous if children imitated them. For example, he used a plastic bag to cover his head, and he walked on glass. He did show that these tricks did not harm him, but the Ofcom regulators found that because the program aired during the period when children were watching, and the network (UKTV) did not attempt to justify the airing of the program during that time period, the airing of the content with its explanatory material did not outweigh the danger to children. It did acknowledge that the network aired the program by error in the time period and that the network is putting safeguards in place to prevent such a mistake from happening again.
Between Magic and Rationality: On the Limits of Reason in the Modern World (Vibeke Steffen, Steffen Joehncke, and Kirsten Marie Raahauge, eds.; Museum Tusculanum Press, 2015) (Critical Anthropology).
Here is a description of the contents from the publisher's website.
In Between Magic and Rationality, Vibeke Steffen, Steffen Jöhncke, and Kirsten Marie Raahauge bring together a diverse range of ethnographies that examine and explore the forms of reflection, action, and interaction that govern the ways different contemporary societies create and challenge the limits of reason. The essays here visit an impressive array of settings, including international scientific laboratories, British spiritualist meetings, Chinese villages, Danish rehabilitation centers, and Uzbeki homes, where we encounter a diverse assortment of people whose beliefs and concerns exhibit an unusual but central contemporary dichotomy: scientific reason vis-à-vis spiritual/paranormal belief. Exploring the paradoxical way these modes of thought push against reason’s boundaries, they offer a deep look at the complex ways they coexist, contest each other, and are ultimately intertwined.
A decade ago a controversial article in Science Magazine predicted a coming “paradigm shift” that would push forensic sciences toward fundamental change as the result of “[l]egal and scientific forces . . . converging to drive an emerging skepticism about the claims of the traditional forensic individualization sciences.” This article argues that the predicted paradigm shift has occurred. We support our thesis through a deconstruction of the jurisprudence of two of the forensic disciplines implicated in numerous wrongful convictions – forensic odontology (bite mark analysis) and forensic hair microscopy – and an examination of a confluence of unprecedented events currently altering the landscape of forensic sciences. The empirical evidence and data gathered here demonstrates that traditional forensic identification techniques, as well as the doctrines supporting them, are ultimately no more than a house of cards built on unvalidated hypotheses and unsubstantiated or non-existent data. Several very serious consequences result, among them that state, and to some extent federal, jurisprudence that stands for the proposition that this type of evidence is admissible is objectively erroneous and must be reevaluated and effectively rejected as valid precedent; and that the long-overdue paradigm shift presents a unique ethical challenge to criminal justice professionals, one that current professional ethics regimes fail to adequately capture, even though fundamental due process norms compel the conclusion that prosecutors, defense attorneys, forensic experts and their respective governing bodies have an ethical, moral and legal duty to revisit affected cases and provide remedies. Put differently, the “path forward” for forensic sciences that the National Academy of Sciences identified in its seminal 2009 report must have a rear-view mirror.
From the Guardian: UK Conservative MP David Tredinnick says astrology could help National Health Service physicians out by assisting in diagnosis but says he knows that there would be enormous pushback from using it. He accuses those who refuse to see the value in astrology of being "racially prejudiced." I'm not sure exactly how being skeptical of astrological claims makes one "racially prejudiced." Is there a correlation between acceptance of astrological claims and membership in certain ethnic groups that I have somehow overlooked? I would be really interested in that data.
Tom Bartlett blogs for the Chronicle of Higher Education on criticisms lobbed at a popular psychology book, Barbara Fredrickson's Positivity, which asserts that a "magic ratio" of positive to negative statements made to you is likely to explain how you feel about yourself. It has received a lot of positive reinforcement itself, through good reviews; its basis is a paper that appeared in a peer-reviewed journal. The criticisms started after a graduate student at the University of East London read the original paper and thought the mathematical ratio that Dr. Fredrickson relied on looked wonky. Bolstered by assistance from Alan Sokol (he of the "Social Research" hoax), Mr. Brown pursued the matter. The result: a paper published in the journal American Psychologist, with a response from Dr. Fredrickson. More here from the Chronicle.
So, does all this mean other people's verbal pats on the back can't make you happy? Bummer.
Sgt. Lisa McConnell, a Riverside County sheriff's spokeswoman, confirmed that Ragland called in the tip that led them to the body, but she would not comment further. An investigation to rule out Ragland's possible involvement in the crime was ongoing, McConnell said.
The Oklahoma atheist who politely informed CNN's Wolf Blitzer that she didn't thank the Lord for that split second decision to seek shelter with her young son as the tornado bore down on her family has gotten a lot of moral and financial support from other secularists as a result of her straight talk on national TV. A good many "nones" have come out to show that they appreciate Rebecca Vitsmun's honesty, and probably her good humor and courtesy as well. Given the dislike that some Americans continue to show for nonbelievers, Ms. Vitsmun showed a lot of courage in declaring her beliefs on camera.
The web campaign Atheists Unite has raised more than $101,000 of its $55,000 goal. I'm not awfully good at math, but I think that's twice as much as the amount organizer Doug Stanhope aimed at originally to help out the family.
I know intellectually that the Internet is tubes. But emotionally, I think it's magic.
Punxsutawney Phil can go back to unencumbered sleep for another eleven months. That's assuming he actually woke up to read that indictment against him which emenated from neighboring Ohio. Butler County, Ohio, DA Mike Gmoser has dismissed the indictment against Phil for deliberately mis-forecasting spring, saying Phil has a defense--someone else is taking the rap. That someone would be Phil's buddy, Bill Deeley, who says he misread Phil's weather predictions. I maintain Phil made no predictions, and if he did, he didn't mean them, and if he did mean them, no one should have taken them seriously, and if someone did take them seriously, that is that person's choice. Move along, move along, nothing to see here.