Why Skepticism Is the Right Approach to the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia: Michael Shermer via Big Think

Why Skepticism Is the Right Approach to the Afterlife, Immortality & Utopia

Michael Shermer via Big Think

HEAVENS ON EARTH: THE SCIENTIFIC SEARCH FOR THE AFTERLIFE, IMMORTALITY, AND UTOPIA is a scientific exploration into humanity’s obsession with the afterlife and quest for immortality from the bestselling author and skeptic Michael Shermer.

Pre-orders are now available.

In his most ambitious work yet, Shermer sets out to discover what drives humans’ belief in life after death, focusing on recent scientific attempts to achieve immortality by radical life extentionists, extropians, transhumanists, cryonicists, and mind-uploaders, along with utopians who have attempted to create heaven on earth. For millennia, religions have concocted numerous manifestations of heaven and the afterlife, the place where souls go after the death of the physical body. Religious leaders have toiled to make sense of this place that a surprising 74% of Americans believe exists, but from which no one has ever returned to report what it is really like.

Heavens on Earth concludes with an uplifting paean to purpose and progress and what we can do in the here-and-now, whether or not there is a hereafter.



Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster: A Must Visit Website

“Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment or satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not science, just a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken — The Church of FSM is legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental.”


About the Church:

The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, after having existed in secrecy for hundreds of years, came into the mainstream just a few years ago.

With millions, if not thousands, of devout worshipers, the Church of the FSM is widely considered a legitimate religion, even by its opponents – mostly fundamentalist Christians, who have accepted that our God has larger balls than theirs.

Some claim that the church is purely a thought experiment or satire, illustrating that Intelligent Design is not science, just a pseudoscience manufactured by Christians to push Creationism into public schools. These people are mistaken — The Church of FSM is legit, and backed by hard science. Anything that comes across as humor or satire is purely coincidental.

Sounds great but where do I start?

For a taste of what we’re about, watch this video made by our friend Matt Tillman, an Introduction to Pastafarianism: Spaghetti, Wenches & Metaphysics.

What is this business about pirates, and the Beer Volcano, and Stripper Factory?

Religious texts tell us that humans evolved from Pirates. Consider that so-called “science experts” would have us believe humans evolved from primates, pointing towards the shared 99% shared DNA between humans and primates. But humans and Pirates share upwards of 99.9% of DNA.

We believe that Pirates were the original Pastafarians and that they were peaceful explorers. It was only due to Christian misinformation that they have an image of outcast criminals today.

No one knows what the afterlife really holds, but we are told FSM Heaven has a Beer Volcano and Stripper Factory.

How Do I Join?

There is no formal membership process and we do not collect money from our members. The site is supported purely by our Certificates of Ordination.

Must see: Follow link here for printables/flyers/brochures:

Propaganda Materials

Courtesy Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.
Courtesy Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster


Courtesy Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster

The Website offers an faq section (Well worth reading), a blog, church-related news, fan photos and art, hate mail, and much more. it is both intelligently written and lots of fun.



Fake News: How​ ​Can​ ​We​ ​Know​ ​What’s​ ​True?

Skeptic Magazine Marks​ ​25th​ ​Anniversary​ ​with​ ​Live​ ​Science​ ​Variety​ ​Show

When: September 27, 2017, 5:00 PM – 7:00 PM

Where: Broadcast on The Young​ ​Turks​ ​Network​; Limited tickets available for live show: 75 Ninth Ave., New York, NY. 

Dr. Michael Shermer, founder of the Skeptics Society and Skeptic magazine, will mark 25 years of combating ‘fake news’ with ‘HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT’S TRUE?’, a live variety science show, in partnership with YouTube Space NY.

Celebrity creators and public intellectuals are slated to debate Dr. Shermer on a range of issues such as climate change, vaccinations, reemergence of the ‘Alt-Right’ movement, religion and life beyond earth. Live debate segments will include ASAPScience hosts Mitchell​ ​Moffit and​ ​Greg​ ​Brown​, world renowned philosopher Deepak​ ​Chopra​, and award-winning author Aspen​ ​Matis​.

The event will also feature Grammy-nominated recording artist Mike​ ​Posner​, host of his newly released philosophy podcast What Does It All Mean? Broadcast on The Young​ ​Turks​ ​Network​, the event will focus on the role of skepticism in today’s political climate –where evidence and facts are increasingly dismissed.

Climate change, government engagement in science legislation, the relationship between science and faith, the dangers behind radical social ideologies — the Skeptics Society has for more than two decades, explored these issues that affect us all. Pairing some of the most influential minds in science, philosophy, journalism and popular culture, the commemorative science variety show addresses these ongoing issues as they relate to the digital age, fact-checking fake journalism, and as a result, coming to know the truth.

Happy 25th Anniversary messages will be broadcast from Skeptic fans around the world, including ‘Crazy Ex-Girlfriend’ co-creator and star Rachel​ ​Bloom​, bestselling author and biologist Richard​ ​Dawkins​, and celebrity illusionist​ ​Derren​ ​Brown​. A pre-show magic act by the longest running magician in the history of New York City, Prakash​ ​Puru​, will demonstrate how easily we are fooled, and science rapper Baba​ ​Brinkman​ will debut a skeptic-themed track.

Happy Birthday video:


Dr. Shermer says there is no better time than now to learn how to be a better skeptic. “Skepticism is the most important right we have, because talking and listening to others is the only way to find out if we’re wrong, if we’ve gone off the rails. I think we need to continue to move towards this method of examination in the next quarter century, particularly in crucial areas like climate change and terrorism, which pose potential threats to our existence.”

“Over the next 25 years, who knows what crazy ideas people will hold, so we have to equip society with a cognitive toolkit that is general enough to be applied to any and all claims, including those we can’t think of now. We don’t know what we don’t know. Science and skepticism are the best methods ever devised to understand the true nature of the world,” said Shermer.

With celebrity guests from all areas of science and entertainment, ‘HOW CAN WE KNOW WHAT’S TRUE?’ offers a unique perspective on how each of us can be our very own best skeptic.

About​ ​the​ ​Skeptics​ ​Society:

Once a fringe movement, today’s skeptical community now deals with the biggest and most important issues of our time: terrorism, religion, gun violence, climate change, alternative medicine, and science education. The Skeptics Society was the first to investigate the Holocaust deniers, the first to debunk the 9/11 Truthers, and pioneered the method of letting the proponents of a belief speak for themselves. Fighting for scientific fact in the face of fallacy has become a worldwide movement; the Skeptic Society now hosts chapters all over the globe including England, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada.

The Strange Case of Harry Price: Paranormal Investigator, Debunker, and Con Man?

Harry Price fancied himself to be one of the first scientific paranormal investigators in modern history. Although he had no formal scientific training, he aspired to create a reputation for himself as a debunker of paranormal fraud and hoped to become a legitimate investigator of scientific truth.

Price gained fame by exposing William Hope, spirit photographer extraordinaire, and an account of his investigation titled A CASE OF FRAUD WITH THE CREWE CIRCLE was published in 1922 in the Journal of Society for Psychical Research. 

Read Spirit photography: William Hope Cashed in on Grief


But Harry Price walked a fine line between skepticism and belief. He seemed to debunk some, while letting others slide, especially if he could use them to further his own fame. (The case of the “mediumship” of Willi and Rudi Schneider will be discussed in another article).

To this end, Price created a laboratory where paranormal investigation could take place. Originally named the National Laboratory of Psychical Research, it was moved to the University of London and renamed the Council for Psychical Investigation, but was never an official project of the university itself.

The National Laboratory of Psychical Research, London, 1926.

In this 10-minute film, Harry Price reveals tricks of fraudulent mediums, clairvoyants and more. Price gives us a fascinating tour of his laboratory in 1936:


No, a man was not convicted in Sweden for ‘eating bacon’

Today Infowars linked to the following story, now widely shared on various social media sites. Before you start sharing away, The Local Se, a website dedicated to providing Sweden’s news in English, gives a more accurate accounting of the case.

Sweden: Man sentenced for eating bacon in front of Muslims


A story making headlines in some media outlets claims that a man was convicted in Sweden for ‘eating bacon’ in front of women wearing veils. But the reality is that the man was charged after insulting them on the grounds of their ethnicity and religion.

The incident, which happened on a commuter train to Stockholm suburb Märsta in 2015, saw a 52-year-old man walk up to a group of three women who were wearing veils, then hold bacon in front of their face and demand that they should eat it.

When the three women changed to different seats, the man followed them. He also said he “hates muslims”. Attunda District Court judged that the man’s intention was to insult the three passengers on the grounds of their ethnic origin and creed.

According to the court’s judgement, which The Local has seen, the man “held bacon up to their faces, demanded that they eat it, then ate it in front of them. From CCTV evidence from the train it is clear that there was ample seating space in other parts of the train. Despite that, he followed the plaintiffs when they changed place in order to avoid him, and facing them, which is made clear by the CCTV film, continued to eat bacon in front of them”.

“At this stage, he stated to the plaintiffs that he ‘hates Muslims’. The district court considers his actions make it clear that the purpose was to insult the plaintiffs because of their ethnic origin and creed,” the document continues.

Evidence from CCTV footage, witness statements and accounts provided by the three women was used in the case. The man was ordered to pay damages of 5,000 kronor to each of the women, as well as 60 “day-fines” – a type of fine based on the offender’s income.

The 52-year-old also stood accused of racial agitation over an incident a year later at a subway station in Stockholm where it was claimed that he said “I hate muslims” and “bloody Arab” (“jävla arab”). The man was acquitted in that case however as it was judged that there was not sufficient proof for a conviction.

Antifa is not training to throw glitter

By Gretchen Mullen, Skeptic Review

Shane Bauer, Investigative Reporter for Mother Jones, published “What the Media Got Wrong About Last Weekend’s Protests in Berkeley” on August 29, 2017.

What the Media Got Wrong About Last Weekend’s Protests in Berkeley

As a first-hand account of what he witnessed, Bauer says, “The violence I saw was only part of the story.”

While this may be true, his characterization of Antifa borders on suggesting they are merely masked superheroes spreading glitter and handing out cupcakes.

Bauer explains away Antifa’s use of masks and ninja costumes with the following assertions:

“Antifa activists are press-shy in part because they’ve been identified and targeted online by white supremacists.

What’s more, in a country with strong press freedoms, journalists often feel entitled to photograph whomever they wish. Rather than acknowledging that some people don’t want a camera in their face—especially when, like antifa activists, they’ve been identified and targeted online by white supremacists—some reporters grow testy.”

But a closer look at training sites for Antifa organizers belies this message. Antifa can “dox” with the best of them, meeting white supremacists head to head. (Definition of dox courtesy Merriam-Webster: slang :  to publicly identify or publish private information about (someone) especially as a form of punishment or revenge)

Excerpt: Forming An Antifa Group: A Manual


Now that you have a group, what do you do?

1) Establish an online presence

If you are a public group, establish an online presence. Again, we recommend limiting this to a webpage and/or twitter. If you make a facebook group for an event, make sure you set the invite list to private: many people have been doxxed based on information from invites. For some more ideas on basic online security, see: https://itsgoingdown.org/time-beef-defense-against-far-right-doxxing.

2) Start monitoring

Find out about your local Far Right groups and collect information about them, including organizations, names, pictures, addresses, and work places. These can include AltRight activists, KKK, Nazi skinheads, neo-Nazi parties, suit-and-tie white nationalists, anti-Semites, Islamophobes, anti-immigration activists, Patriot and militia groups, and others. The SPLC’s Hate Map lists groups by state, although itwill be incomplete. You can also look at established national groups such as Identity Evropa and the Traditionalist Worker Partyand see if they have local chapters in your area. Also, reading reports by other anti-fascist groups may give insight into who is recruiting in your area.

3) Stickering and wheatpasting

If racist groups are stickering or flyering in neighborhoods, organize patrols to tear them down. Use a scraping tool, as there have been occasional instances of razors being placed behind the stickers. Create anti-fascist stickering, flyering, wheatpasting, and graffiti campaigns of your own.

4) Doxxing

After doing your research, present information about racist organizing in your community. The information you release should present enough information to convince an average reader that the target is clearly a racist. Information should include, if possible: a picture, home address, phone number, social media profiles, and employment information. Be sure to include organizational affiliations and screenshots showing concrete evidence of racist and fascist views. Follow up the doxx with a pressure campaign: call their work and try to get them fired, and inform their neighbors through flyering or door-to-door campaigns.

When you present your intel, you’ll have showed your hand, however, and generally it’s difficult to collect more after that. Also be aware that you will enrage your target by naming them: you might have been ignored as a public group for a year doing antifa stuff, but once you refer to a local racist by name, they will fixate on you.

Make sure your intel is correct. You will lose credibility and create unnecessary enemies if you list a home address or work place that the fascist is no longer associated with. The majority of research can be done online, but some things can only be verified in the real world.

5) Event shutdowns

Pressure venues to cancel racist or fascist events. Make sure you have your dossier on the subject prepared beforehand to present, as the first question will always be “How do you know they are a racist?” Approach venues with a friendly phone call, as often they are not informed about the politics of events at their space. However, if they don’t cancel immediately, they will almost always need to be pressured. Collect phone numbers, emails, and social media contacts and call for a shutdown. (We have found that it is helpful to make easily sharable graphics and short videos.) Threaten a boycott of the venue if they event goes on, and follow through on this. In Montreal, one racist concert was cancelled after antifa physically blocked the entrance.

So far, I have yet to find any Antifa source material on rational debate or reasonable discourse. I will keep looking.

For more on Antifa training regarding self-defense and guns, http://skepticreview.com/2017/08/29/antifa-forming-antifa-group-manual-excerpt/

Spirit photography: William Hope Cashed in on Grief

By Gretchen Mullen, Skeptic Review

Spirit photography, or photos claiming to document ghosts of loved ones, became popular during the late 19th and early 20th centuries as hope rose that photography could finally provide scientific proof of the afterlife.

The impetus behind the proliferation of these highly sought after photos was three-fold:

  1. The photographer mastering this technique could get rich quick, often hanging out with some of the upper echelon of society.
  2. Subjects were anxious to believe their dearly departed loved ones were now heavenly spirits. Too often, subjects photographed were in the throes of a recent loss and were easily exploited. Post-war eras were particularly fruitful.
  3. Cameras were viewed as documenting truth; public knowledge about photographic manipulation was limited.

As early as 1869, American William Mumler, spirit photographer to the stars–not the least of whom was Mary Todd Lincoln–was tried for fraud, but was ultimately acquitted because the prosecutor simply couldn’t quite figure out how the photographs were fraudulently made.

    • Mary Todd Lincoln and the ghost of Abraham Lincoln as photographed by William Mumler, ca.1869.

Enter English spirit photographer William Hope (1863-1933) who garnered a prestigious clientele including an enthusiastic endorsement from Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Below is a mere sampling of spirit photos produced by William Hope courtesy National Science and Media Museum:


Despite being labeled a “common cheat” by Scientific American, support for Hope persisted. William Hope was also the subject of a sting operation conducted by “paranormal investigator” Harry Price (Harry Price merits his own story, to be discussed in a separate article coming soon).

Price’s investigation prompted Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to publish The Case for Spirit Photography in 1922 “to show the overpowering weight of evidence which exists as to the reality of Mr. Hope’s most remarkable gift.”


Allegory of the Cave: A Visual Primer

By Gretchen Mullen, Skeptic Review

My recent review of Reasons to Believe, a new film by Ben Fama Jr., prompted me to refresh my understanding of “The Allegory of the Cave,” also known as “Plato’s Cave.” Fama opens Reasons to Believe with his own depiction of this famous parable, endowing the allegory with tremendous significance as a precursor to a most serious discussion on the nature of belief and its real world consequences, carried out by modern scholars Michael Shermer, Peter Boghossian, Caleb Lack, Jennifer Whitson and Chad Woodruff. (To read my full summary and review of “Reasons to Believe,” click here. http://skepticreview.com/2017/08/20/skeptic-review-f…m-by-ben-fama-jr/)

Neither Socrates nor Plato would want me to give you my interpretation of the allegory. That is for you decide on your own. I must say, however, that a few key concepts stood out to me:

Enlightened vs. Unenlightened                         Light vs. Shadows

Upper World vs. Underground Cave                 Reality vs. Illusion            

Do yourself a favor and please spend a few moments of your day on these three delightful renditions of “The Allegory of the Cave.” Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments in the section below, or just thank me for making your day.

DEPICTION ONE: The Cave: A Parable Told by Orson Welles (1975)

Full citation:  Welles, Orson, 1915-1985, Wismer, C. B, Wolff, Larry, Oden, Dick, Bosustow, Nick et al. The Cave : a parable told by Orson Welles. CRM/McGraw Hill Films, [Del Mar, Calif.], 1975.

DEPICTION TWO: The Cave: An Adaptation of Plato’s Allegory in Clay (2008)

Bullhead Entertainment presents the award-winning animation film featured in over 100 film festivals worldwide. This 3-minute film took first place in animation at the USA Film Festival Short Film and Video Competition.

DEPICTION THREE: Allegory of the Cave (2014)

The product of an Advance Placement Language Class,  high school students move the allegory into today’s modern world. This short film would be an ideal and relatable teaching tool targeted to young adults.


FACTITIOUS: Game helps users learn to spot fake news

Real or fake? At a time when the reading public daily grapples with the question of fake news, the American University Game Lab/JOLT has created an accessible, easy-to-play game that helps you sort fake news from real.

The brainchild of former AU JOLT Fellow Maggie Farley, she pitched the concept more than a year ago, before the 2016 presidential campaign brought the challenges of fake news to the spotlight. For purposes of the game, “fake news” is defined as stories fabricated for fun, influence or profit, as well as satire, opinion and spin.

“Fake news is impossible to stop, so we wanted to playfully teach people how to recognize it,” said Farley. “But the game is fun to play in itself.”

The game engine in the next phase should also be available to newsrooms, schools, or groups that want to adapt a version for their own use.

PS: My first crack at the game yielded 93%. Second crack, not so much. I highly recommend you try this game! It’s fun, enlightening and horrifying. I am especially excited to hear it will be available as a teaching tool. My nephew asked me this week if I had read the warning that “people are injecting the AIDS virus into bananas.”–Gretchen Mullen, Editor, Skeptic Review

Edvard Munch