Lie in the sky

Over the millenniums, humans have made various guesses to try and account for unexplained aerial phenomena. Ancient Roman historian Livy speculated they were phantom ships. Some First Century Jews interpreted them as armed angels riding chariots. In Shakespeare’s day, they were assumed to be fairies, incubus, or witches taking flight on brooms.

Consistent with an evolving hypotheses, the prevailing suspicion over the last three-quarters of a century is that unidentified flying objects are of alien origin. More terrestrial conjectures have included top-secret projects, adversarial aircraft, or developmental civilian products. Objects mistaken for alien transport vehicles have included weather balloons, flares, sky lanterns, sun reflection, artificial light distortion, planets, meteors, satellites, swamp gas, and ball lightning.

While the great majority of strange sightings are explicable as being one of the previously-listed phenomenon, a tiny percentage remain a mystery. The problem arises when UFO enthusiasts plug their default ET explanation into any gap that does not fit these categories. These are unidentified objects, which means we don’t know what they are. Penciling in the alien answer is to commit a secular version of the god of the gaps fallacy. For while there have been countless reports of alien visitors and the crafts which transport them, none of these accounts have included a verified living creature, nor have we been able to examine their means of conveyance. No known extraterrestrials live among us, nor are any flying saucers housed in the Smithsonian. Believers have yet to produce a confirmed alien artifact, souvenir, implant, or DNA sample.

That is among the reasons that defaulting to extraterrestrials is a mistake. Metabunk founder Mick West serves as the skeptic community’s foremost UFO expert, each week scouring photos and videos of putative alien craft and offering conjecture based on math and science. His level-headed, in-depth analysis makes West a pariah among UFO enthusiasts. These detractors bypass reason and observation in order to launch ad hominem attacks, such as, “This threatens your world view,” “Your mind is so closed you can’t see what is obvious,” and, “You are going to look like such an idiot when aliens choose to make contact with us.”

If such contact is ever is made, it is unlikely to be done by an amateur enthusiast or serendipitous video-camera operator. Conspicuously absent among UFO sightings are any made by those whose job it is to keep track of the goings-on in the sky: Astronomers and military radar operators. Almost all of putative encounters with UFOS are reported by those without training in astronomy, atmospherics, aeronautics, physics, or optometry.

On a related note, if alien life is ever confirmed, it is unlikely to be in the form of a flying saucer landing and requesting an audience with our leader. Astrophysicist Katie Mack explained that the discovery would more likely be made by those in her field watching exoplanets orbit their stars. She wrote, “If we can directly image an exoplanet, or see it pass in front of its star, we can search the spectrum of its light for signatures of chemical balances that only biological organisms can produce.” Another possibility is detecting an electromagnetic signal from life elsewhere or encountering an alien civilization’s equivalent of Voyager. So if we reach each other, it will probably be this type of first contact.

And that may be the only type ever made. A species leaving from the nearest exoplanet and averaging 250,000 miles per hour – fast enough to reach the moon in an hour – would take 11,400 years go get here. This hypothetical journey also assumes managing the logistics of repair, refueling, medicine, and food, all while avoiding the perils of deep space. So aliens would need to travel at amazing speeds while keeping a sustainable population housed, fed, clothed, medicated, entertained, cooperative, and sustained, probably for millenniums.

Sure, they could have managed near-warp travel, may have found a way to utilize wormholes, or have perhaps achieved immortality. But those are all baseless conjectures supported by zero evidence and it requires the most desperate desire to believe to take one of those unproven notions, tie it to flashes in Earth’s sky, and deduce they are coming from interplanetary travelers.

“TikdOff” (School shooting rumor)

Last month, TikTok was awash in rumors of an imminent school shooting set for Dec. 17. Skeptical Inquirer Deputy Editor Benjamin Radford investigated the phenomenon and learned that no law enforcement agencies found any of the threats credible. Rather, they were ambiguous and not tied to a specific person, place, or intent to act. And indeed, the day came and went without a school shooting.

Radford found that nearly every mention of the potential shootings had come in the form of warnings, shares, or with the user expressing their fear and worry. In other words, persons were communicating about the threats, not making them. Like earlier social media scares and their ancestors, the urban legend, the focus was on persons reacting to it, not on persons perpetrating it. We have seen this act before, in Internet warnings about T-shirts and zip ties being part of a human trafficking ploy, and in decades past with chilling tales of kidney thieves and drunk-driving victims embedded in car grills.

Radford wrote that the common folkloric themes between many urban legends and today’s social media hoaxes are that they mirror social anxieties, highlight threats to vulnerable populations, and reflect concern about technology gone bad.

Verge journalist Mia Sato interviewed University of Ontario Institute of Technology associate professor James Walsh, who told her, “Adult society has always been concerned about how new media content or new media technologies are going to corrupt young, impressionable minds.” Walsh points out that panic around a particular medium predates TikTok, previously occurring with comic books, board games, and music.

The difference now is that the misinformation gets out much faster and can me much harder to corral. Access to correct information is likewise readily available, but persons all too often to go with an untruth that fits their preconceived notions instead of accepting what to them is a less-familiar reality.

“Misplaced trust” (OOPArts)

Out of place artifacts (OOPArts) are seeming anachronisms that can seem intriguing to some, a validation of alternative history to others, and hoaxes or misinterpreted evidence to skeptics. In a delightful recap of some of these, skeptic leader Brian Dunning examined the evidence or lack thereof for what claimants make of them.

We’ll start with the Acámbaro Figures, a collection of tens of thousands of small ceramic figurines that are a mix of dinosaurs, humanoids, sleestaks, and the like. Some of them vaguely resemble the dinosaur set I had as a kid. That set, incidentally, included cavemen, which would have made any Young Earth Creationist proud. As such, the Acámbaro Figures are beloved among YECs, who think the critters lend credence to the notion of humans and terrible lizards co-existing. Attempts to carbon-date the items has proven inconclusive.

However, Dunning wrote that the figures suggest “large-scale production by small artisan communities for the tourist trade,” and are thus not worthy of serious archeological study. Indeed, archaeologist Charles DiPeso saw some of the figures being retrieved from their shallow Earthly grave and deduced they had been recently planted just below the surface in a failed attempt to trick him. Dunning notes that the figurines’ surfaces were conspicuously free of scratches, blemishes, or other aging signs. Any last chance of these being genuine evaporated when thermoluminescence dating showed the figures to have been made around 1940 as opposed to 1940 BCE.

We now move to the Dorchester Port, a discovery made in Massachusetts in the mid-19th Century. The tale has it that workers dynamiting rock came across the remnants of an ornate silver pot embedded within that rock. Since the rock was 500 million years old, the Dorchester Pot is a favorite of the ancient advanced civilization enthusiasts. These folks are at the opposite end of the universe-age spectrum from YECs but are their brethren when it comes to selectively interpreting evidence to bolster their passions.

However, looking at photos of the object, it becomes clear that none of them are the same. They are from different hookah bases common in 19th Century India, are in good shape, and none look like they have been blown in two. The idea of an extremely ancient pot is merely a hoax and not a very thorough or thought-out one, either.

Next we consider the Upshur Bell, found in 1944 by youngster Newton Anderson while shoveling coal in his family’s basement. The bell seemingly appeared from a lump of this coal. Newton kept the object for 63 years and learned it was a Hindu ceremonial featuring the deity Garuda. Anderson sold the bell to a creationist website, where it is touted as the work of a blacksmith named in Genesis, Tubal-cain. Why he would have been making a Hindu god in a time that, per Genesis, was a religion not yet in existence, is unexplained. Moreover, Dunning noted that the bell resembles countless others in the world. To state the obvious, zero evidence supports the Tubal-cain narrative.

We have highlighted two objects fawned over by YECs, so for balance, we will close with a supposedly ancient tale, that of the Dashka Stone. This refers to an enormous slab discovered in Russia in 1999 that is said to be a 120 million-year-old writing tablet. Physicist Alexander Chuvyrov asserts the stone depicts a topographical map of the Ural Mountains, and he believes the pattern of inscriptions covering it are early Chinese characters.

According to Dunning, Chuvyrov considers two thin layers of different type of rock on the surface as proof the ancients manufactured it as a writing tablet. But Dunning consulted with a geologist, who informed him that the face of the Dashka Stone “was probably a bedding plane between two layers of sedimentary rock, along which some movement may have occurred during a period of deformation in which the other cracks perpendicular to the face also formed. These cracks are textbook compression shear fractures, and their three directions indicate at least three deformation events.”

When it comes to OOPArts, the only thing out of place is the trust their adherents have in them.

“Paper-thin claim” (FDA FOIA request)

Alarmist claims to the contrary, the FDA’s response to a massively-broad FOIA request is not evidence of a conspiracy or cover-up. Rather, it is a statement on how much information was asked for, how those claims are handled, and how many personnel are dedicated to the task.

The requested documents center on the Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine trial, information about which runs a whopping 329,000 pages. FDA officials said they could start releasing documents at a rate of 500 pages a month, in decreasing order of plaintiff priorities. These pages must be perused to determine which names need to be redacted and to identify trade secrets that need protected. Additionally, there are what the FDA calls “records that cannot be meaningfully paginated, such as data captured in spreadsheets that contain thousands of rows of data.”

A rate of 500 pages per month is consistent with processing schedules in previous FOIA requests. While all of these documents, at this rate, would take decades to provide, the plaintiffs would start getting the most documents immediately. Also of note, agencies have limited resources, and there are other requests to satisfy.

The FDA has been transparent on this topic and large amounts of vaccine data are available online. Regarding safety and effectiveness, there is likewise much published data publicly available. But expecting the agency drop everything to immediately release 329,000 redacted pages is unreasonable and, when considering the names and trade secrets that need to be removed, impossible to do in the time demanded.

“Scary Blossom” (Collapsing athletes/Neuriva)

Continuing their run of delivering a fresh piece of misinformation at least weekly, anti-vax activists are pushing a trope that athletes are collapsing on the field after getting a COVID-19 vaccine. They share context-less videos of players, usually of the European soccer persuasion, fainting during a match. A non sequitur insinuation that this is the result of vaccination follows. But there is no reason to think that the collapsing took place since the advent of the vaccine, or that the collapsing players were vaccinated, or that the vaccine was responsible.

Reuters and Snopes contacted FIFA, whose officials told them they had seen no increase in cardiac events among their players, and certainly none related to vaccinations.

While myocarditis and pericarditis may occur after an infinitesimal percentage of shots, none of the athletes in these videos were diagnosed with these conditions. Snopes reviewed a video that included several images of soccer athletes passing out and then looked into the cause. It turned out that most suffered from heat exhaustion or dehydration and none were the result of vaccine-linked cardiovascular misfortunes.

In short, this is all another anti-vax lie and nothing suggests a connection between the coronavirus vaccine and collapsing soccer players. Indeed, it would seem very strange that this only impacted one sport on one continent. For all the NFL that I watch, I have yet to see these types of collapses, vaccination-related or otherwise. Additionally, Snopes noted some of the soccer players were revealed to have NOT been vaccinated.

Meanwhile, not precisely making it up but not doing a whole lot better is what actress Mayim Bialik does when she touts brain supplements along with her supposed standing as a neuroscientist. The products in question are Neuriva and Neuriva Plus, the latter which combines the original ingredients with vitamins B6, B12, and folate.

However, Dr. Harriet Hall notes there is no evidence these additional ingredients increase the product’s efficiency. Since the product has yet to be subject to double blind testing, we are unsure if it works. There are studies which show the added ingredients may have impact by themselves, though that’s far from certain since they were tested on aging mice. And even if true, it would not necessarily follow that Neuriva Plus is effective for human brain power or memory.

As to the person making such claims, while Bialik did earn a doctorate in neuroscience, she doesn’t seem to have ever worked in the field. University of Chicago professor emeritus Jerry Coyne searched for her name in the Web of Science and found zero publications to her credit. Nor is she employed as a professor, doing laboratory work, or submitting findings for peer review.

While she can’t be compared to anti-vax misinformation agents in terms of damage done or lies being told, she is not doing any more science than they are.

“Grate Scott” (AstroWorld tragedy)

Ten persons, including a grade-schooler, being crushed to death, is horrific enough that it should stand on its own as a tragic event. But for those insistent on finding an even darker meaning, we venture to the online conspiracy theorist.

Rolling Stone cited TikTok users who opined that Travis Scott’s Astroworld stage was shaped like an inverted cross, thus interpreting it as a portal to Hell. They also suggest that the shirt Scott wore that night – depicting persons walking through a door and emerging with horns – as evidence that Scott was luring fans to a sacrificial rite.

It’s hard to miss the irony of the Internet – a capability those in the Dark Ages would have been unable to comprehend – being used to offer an explication consistent with those times.

And of course, no corroborating evidence for any of these extreme claims exist, which means precisely zero in conspiracy land. Consider this affirming of the consequent /appeal to incredulity from a zealous Internet sleuth: “If you don’t believe that there was nothing demonic about that whole concert, you are spiritually blind and I pray that God opens your eyes.” Hmm, looks like he got in an unintentional double negative to go with his double logical fallacy.

Other TikTok users crowed about the set featuring eight pyrotechnic flames lining the stage, with the fires said to represent the victims who died that night. That the death toll later expanded to 10 did little to disabuse believers of this notion. Rather than admitting to having arrived at an erroneous conclusion, they moved the morbid goalposts and said the extra victims were offed so as to detract from the numerical connection.

Another dude wondered if the COVID vaccine combined with Scott’s music to send off 5G vibrations that made for a lethal combination. It would seem strange that only 10 persons were impacted if this were a fatal concoction. Then again, those who are “just asking questions” are seeking agreement, not answers.

Insider cited a clip in which an anonymous TikTok poster lambasted Scott for performing some unspecified “demonic shit” and accusing him of keeping the concert going while knowing that asphyxiation deaths were occurring. Another accused the rapper of being a demonic lackey.

Yet another concluded the deaths were sacrifices to Kris Jenner since the tragedy took place on her birthday. The Law of Truly Large Numbers would apply here, as would a Law of Truly Large Stretches.

Another user Tweeted that Scott’s recent music cover art, which depicted him as somewhat akin to a goblin, proves that the concert was a “sacrifice ritual and no one will change my mind about that.”

Today’s Critical Thinking 101 lesson: First, the certainty of one’s conviction is unrelated to its soundness. Second, the burden of proof lies on the one making this diabolical claim; it is not on the skeptic do disprove it, though that it an imprecise term since it implies something has already been proven.

The Guardian noted that all this viral misinformation shows how young social media users are increasingly susceptible to conspiracy theories, despite seeing themselves as savvy navigators of the online world. But spending copious amounts on the Internet increases the risk of being misled by it, and exacerbating this are algorithms which track usage and beliers and lure users to those sites which affirm the consumer’s bias.

“A dispiriting time” (Rock Island Arsenal ghost hunt)

When practical, I prefer to offer first-hand accounts in my posts. Explaining the history, methods, claims, and counterclaims of reflexology is fine, but it’s better if I can visit a practitioner myself and report the results. Poring over arguments and retorts from the anti-GMO crowd is OK, but not as good as attending a seminar where these ideas are highlighted. One of my favorite aspects of this blog has been my annual trip to the Quad Cities Psychic and Paranormal Fair. Alas, all aforementioned treks have been on hold the last 18 months as the pandemic took hold and has continued even with vaccines, masks, and distancing, since only about 60 percent of the country is on board with such mitigation measures. The pandemic has shown Americans to be incapable of handling a national emergency requiring mild inconvenience. But things have improved enough that I was able to get back in person and attend a putative ghost hunt at Rock Island Arsenal’s Quarters One. The mammoth structure is the second largest federal residence behind the White House and contains 51 rooms of potential poltergeists.

The cost was $25, which is the best bang for your disembodied spirits buck. Similar evenings run $150 or more in other locales. It was set for a three-hour block, beginning at dusk. These hunts are always held in the dark even though there is no reason to think spirits of the deceased are more active at night. The times are chosen to create more mood and drama, which is fine if it’s being presented as entertainment, such as with campfire stories. It’s another matter when promotors are suggesting that sinister spirits are real.

Also playing on stereotypes was the locale, a four-story, 19th Century mansion. Along with castles and asylums, huge antique homes are favored ghost-hunting spots. Ghosts always seem to bypass split-level ranch homes, subdivisions, and Dillard’s. On a related note, battlefields and mass terror scenes are conspicuously apparition-free. For all the photos and audio taken at the World Trade Center, Pearl Harbor, Hiroshima, Waco, and Oklahoma City, none have shown images or captured audio of a spirit detached from its deceased body. Were ghosts real and as tethered to their place of demise as advertised, such locations should be literal ghost towns.

The hostess began the evening with a loquacious recounting of the home’s history. There were a few factual croutons tossed onto the word salad but it was primarily a string of conditioning, expectation-building, and plying us with spooky, unverifiable anecdotes. This included the requisite reference to “energy,” so during the Q and A session, I inquired as to which type of it the spirits emit. The hostess looked as if she had finally succeeded in capturing a ghost. She was used to softball questions, not late-breaking curves. After some awkward silence, she spit out, “It depends on the ghost,” a kind of catch-all response that covers all the bases while still saying nothing.

Speaking of nothing, that’s what happened during this supposedly spooky sojourn. I don’t consider this a spoiler because that would entail giving away what happened and nothing did.

The tour started in the basement, where I whispered notes to myself into a handheld tape recorder. This caused one of my fellow attendees to shudder and exclaim, “I heard a man’s voice!” A couple of others were certain they had felt an apparition touch their hair or skin. This was probably a physiological manifestation of the mood and expectation that had been built at the presentation’s opening. In any event, this is something there is no way to test, prove, or disprove. There was one claim that a breeze of some sort was felt, which coming in the basement of a 19th Century home, falls well within the natural explanation purview.

The 30 minutes were mostly spent staring in the direction of three flashlights. They were the types that turn on and off by twisting the circular portion near the front. The hostess put the flashlight in the ‘off’ position, but as close to ‘on’ as she could. Addressing this jury-rigged ghost locator, she asked if any deceased persons were present, then subsequently asserted that any illumination was the result of such a presence. Her first eight queries were answered with silence, other than some teeth-chattering among the credulous and a sigh of boredom from myself. After the ninth summoning, the light came on. This is a normal and explicable occurrence for this type of flashlight positioned in such a way. Whenever it turned off, this was touted as the ghost saying it no longer wished to chat. For a control, the hostess could have tried this experiment while making no requests of the flashlight and seeing if it still came on and off at random intervals. Further, if this were really the work of the ghost, it could have turned the flashlight on from the fully-off position and it could have communicated in Morse code. Of course, control experiments and a skeptical questioning of the results were not what the evening was about.

There were two more rooms to visit, but I was working all weekend, it was getting late, and I had seen nothing, which ironically was more than enough. I scooted out, thanking my guides (I cannot bring myself to call them their preferred title, researchers) for putting on the event and told them I was leaving. They had requested this courtesy since previous attendees had absconded without telling them. In a spin that would make any marketer proud, this was explained as the guests being so panicked they had to split. But my early departure was due to an hour-long snoozer masquerading as a history lesson and the follow-up 30 minutes of ghost-hunting that netted three seconds of flashlight flickering.

While nothing interesting happened, the hostess was ready with an ad hoc explanation for this bust. She played back a portion of her recording and claimed to hear a voice, and told us that even when nothing seemed to happen, further ‘investigation’ may reveal that something very much did.

Along those lines, the hosts highlighted a variety of gadgets, gizmos, and doohickeys they employ in their searches, but none of the items were used for their intended purpose. None of them were manufactured for the purpose of capturing Casper and less-friendly apparitions. Promotional pamphlets at previous Quarters One hunts referenced “Weird EMF spikes” that “can be found in certain areas on the second floor.” Such spikes likely occur but there are reasons beyond ghosts that can explain them. As one example, the mansion rests on the banks of the Mississippi River, where ships and their electronic devices incessantly pass. Moreover, EMF sounds that resemble speech are often the result of misuse by the operator or flaws in the equipment.

Another claim is that, “Visitors experience hot and cold spots.” Again, likely true, but nothing mysterious. This is very common for huge homes that have seen their sesquicentennial.

The pamphlet further noted that, “Mists have been photographed.” Sure, but those can be explained with basic photography terminology. Shots taken in dark by amateurs will likely increase these flaws.

Additionally, even if no answer can be found for these or other phenomenon, it only means that the event remains unexplained. It doesn’t mean we can adopt a default explanation that the living dead are responsible.

Ghosts, or at least our image of them, have adapted with the times and technology. In earlier manifestations, they were said to resemble a floating white sheet, an idea born from the burial cloths which were lain on the dead. In the days of Dickens, Poe, and Irving, ghosts were humanoid apparitions that were somehow still wearing clothes. Later, ghosts became less concrete, such as how they were portrayed in The Amityville Horror. Today, a ghost is more likely to take the form of an orb, flash, or flare, which are portrayed as auras which transcend spiritual planes, but which are more likely the result of camera shortcomings, operator error, and lighting and environmental conditions.

Many ghost hunts, including this one, employ a K2 meter that purportedly serves as a conduit between the hunt’s host and the poltergeists they are chasing. However, the K2’s purpose is to locate sources of electromagnetic radiation, be they magnetic, electric, radio, or microwave. The meters also provide a reading of the strength and direction of the field being detected. It was designed to read a small part of the electromagnetic field from household devices and give a general measurement of strength. There is no reason to suspect that ghosts have the desire and ability to communicate via the low end of the electromagnetic spectrum. Nor, for that matter, is there any evidence that the departed continue on in any form. Ghost hunters are looking for evidence of something without having first ascertained that thing exists.

So when ghost hunters employ an infrared thermometer or motion detector to pinpoint a cold spot in a room, they might find such a location. But while there is no reason to think ghosts are responsible for temperature changes, those chasing them might be causing it since more persons in the room will raise the temperature. Changes are also caused by heating, air conditioning, insulation, studs, wiring, pipes, radiant heat, sunlight, and wind.

Usually touted as the spookiest fruit from hunts is ghostspeak on audio, such as the one the hostess claimed she heard while trying to recover from the unintended Comedy Half Hour. These mystic missives might seem unsettling, but that’s only because they are so garbled and distorted. They are drenched in static, vary in pitch, and produce an unpleasant sound that can come across as someone who is pained, scared, or angry. In the many thousands of hours of these recordings, we have yet to have a ghost articulately announce in plain language, “Here I am, the ghost of King John’s tailor.”

When one can make a phrase out of EVP, it is likely the result of apophenia, the mind’s tendency to perceive patterns in random stimulus. It is what causes people to see a Face on Mars or Jesus in their Post Toasties. Other factors in hearing spirit voices on recordings are expectation and desire, but the biggest influence is equipment shortfalls.

EVP are usually recorded by raising the noise floor, which is the electrical noise created by all electrical devices, in order to create white noise. When this noise is filtered, it can be made to produce noises which sound like speech. When you factor in other aspects of physics, such as cross modulation of radio stations or faulty ground loops in equipment, you have a lot of people thinking they are listening to ghosts when in fact it is nothing more than a controlled misuse of electronics. Sample rate conversion, vibration isolation, and noise alteration can all cause recordings to assume qualities separate from what they originally picked up.

Still, EVP remains popular among believers since bodily noise, rustling clothes, wind, creaks, whistles, stray radio signals, whispers, camera sounds, and magnetic interference can all be interpreted as ghostly. A more incredulous observer would be asking, “How does an immaterial being bump into something or make a noise while walking (or even walk, for that matter)?” Or, “How does an entity lacking vocal chords and a tongue manage to shriek and babble?”

Again, the problem is that ghosts are made the default explanation. Noises can never be the house settling, a board creaking, or the wind blowing. No explanations are offered as to how this equipment would reveal the existence of ghost. No criteria are given for what constitutes a capture, the alleged point of these hunts. If what I experienced qualifies as a capture, I retract my earlier statement about $25 being a good value.

“Intentional confounding” (Galileo Gambit)

I watch copious amounts of professional football, regularly soaking in five games a week. The NFL is the only interest that has consistently been near the top of my list of passive hobbies from grade school through the upper reaches of middle age. And in those 46 years, I have never seen anyone who can consistently make an absurdly long, logic-defying, into-a-no-visible-window throw like Aaron Rodgers.

As such, it seems fitting that his biggest failing would come off the field. He declined a CDC-recommended vaccine, publicly lied about having received it, and failed to follow league COVID protocols. He then quadrupled down while appearing on Pat McAfee’s podcast.

There, Rodgers declared himself the victim and offered self-congratulation for his critical thinking skills while committing a logical fallacy trifecta of appealing to incredulity, tradition, and consequences. He also made a series of claims that might charitably be called dubious (utter balderdash lacking any scientific or medical grounding would be a more accurate descriptor).

For all this, he received high praise in right-wing circles. He was touted as brave, an adjective that once applied to those who “courageously face danger,” but when used by the likes of Clay Travis, Jason Whitlock, and Candace Owens, means “agrees with me.”

Rodgers was also lauded by some in the Twitterverse for rebelling against authorities, specifically the CDC. While government agents should be held accountable when they shirk their duties or use them for personal gain, it does not follow that all actions taken by every government worker or agency is nefarious. The CDC has a multi-billion dollar budget, which enables the world’s foremost epidemiologists to research and combat disease. To think that someone with no training in scientific disciplines will spend two hours on Google and YouTube and uncover the REAL truth is the height of folly and ego. It also leads frequently to the Galileo Gambit.

This logical fallacy holds that if most people, especially those in authority, dismiss or mock an idea, this means the idea is correct. The thinking goes, “Galileo was mocked, his ideas threatened established thinking, and he was proven right. Therefore, the mocking of my iconoclastic position means I am also correct.”

But having one thing in common does not mean two persons have everything in common, or even one more thing in common.

Galileo was vindicated when further science confirmed his heliocentric theory. But for Rodgers or any other alternative medicine proponent to be likewise vindicated, their favored treatments would need to be consistently shown to be effective in double blind studies. To be kind, that has yet to happen.

The Food Babe, lacking any science for her claims, frequently employs the Gambit and is fond of saying, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win.” There is nothing here that validates any of her assertions or points, and the same is true for Rodgers and others who endorse natural immunity, invermectin, or hydroxycholoroquine as superior to vaccination.

As a Reddit user retorted, “First they ignore you, then they ridicule yet, then they fight you, then it turns out you were wrong all along.” Being in a class with Galileo requires more than being dismissed. It requires being at the forefront of discovering evidence that proves your hypothesis. There is no automatic connection between being scorned and being right.

On a linguistic note, those employing the Gambit don’t even get the comparison right. It wasn’t the scientific establishment that went after Galileo, it was the anti-scientific establishment Catholic Church.

Writing for Psychology Today, Dr. David Johnson noted there are rare instances of a lone genius being proven correct after challenging the prevailing scientific notion. He cited the example of Einstein upending some Newtonian ideas. “Einstein built a new consensus among the experts by presenting arguments and evidence that was, ultimately, undeniable,” Johnson wrote. “When people resisted his ideas, he never once said, ‘Hey, they laughed at Galileo too.’ He kept trying to convince them with reason and evidence.”

And for every Einstein, Galileo, Wegner, or Wright Brother, there are untold masses who fought against “the system” and lost because they were wrong. As Carl Sagan said, some initially-vilified scientists were laughed at, but so too was Bozo the Clown.

As to Rodgers, his medical regimen is more in line with Bozo than Pasteur, and it forced him to sit out Green Bay’s game with Kansas City. As someone who champions scientific advances and critical thinking, I was sad to see it. As a Chiefs fan, my thoughts were more positive.

“Suicide by crop”’(Organic farming)

Sri Lanka is a teardrop-shaped nation in the Indian Ocean, and tears are what many of the country’s farmers shed once President Gotabaya Rajapaksa mandated organic farming in the country. After five disastrous months, the experiment was mercifully terminated.

The results had upended Sri Lanka’s crop production and had a calamitous effect on agricultural exports like tea, rubber, and spices. All this for food that is no healthier than traditional fare, marketing claims to the contrary.

Organic farming proponents fall for the appeal to nature fallacy, which holds that something which occurs naturally is preferable to anything synthetic. For example, Dennis Prager foolishly exposed himself to the coronavirus in the mistaken belief that he would be better off doing that than being vaccinated. Besides putting himself – an older man – at risk of death and long-lasting complications, he will suffer through weeks of misery rather than having two unpleasant hours the next day. Even if he pulls through, he will not enjoy the long-term benefits about which he gloats. For antibodies that the vaccine creates are no different than the ones he will acquire through exposure from another carrier.

Organic farming proponents commit a similar error when they consider their favored crop production to be superior since it eschews the use of synthetic chemicals. They are mistaken, and not just because there are dozens of exceptions to the so-called ban. In a second appeal to nature fallacy, organic farming proponents think the natural herbicides are safer than synthetic ones but the origin of a product is unrelated to its danger level. Moreover, organic farming is unsustainable on a large scale because of the calamitous combination of needing more land to yield fewer crops.

Additionally, it requires greater labor since more weeds are likely to grow since there are fewer herbicide options. Consequently, Sri Lanka farmers experienced nearly a quarter-decrease in productivity. Some crops suffered a 50 to 100 percent drop. These numbers are depressingly similar to other locales that have relied heavily on organic farming.

Besides gutting a farmer’s livelihood, there are resultant food shortages and price increases. Additionally, the drag on exports harms the gross national product.

Organic farming shortcomings are aggravated when trying to massively increase the scale. Organic farming accounts for about 1.5 percent of food production worldwide. Trying to ramp up those numbers (especially to 100 percent) will create obstacles, some predictable, some surprising.

Writing for the New England Skeptical Society, Dr. Steven Novella noted it is possible for about five percent of farming to be organic. Trying to go beyond that will encounter organic fertilizer availability. Novella explained that composting and cattle manure are the primary organic fertilizers and both ways recycle nitrogen, though at a compromised rate.

He wrote, “Some plants can fix nitrogen from the air through soil bacteria, and these can be used as crops to put nitrogen into the soil. All this works if the percentage of crops grown without external inputs of nitrogen is kept relatively small.”

But his system falters as one attempts to scale up, and will be an unmitigated failure if trying to go from five percent to 100.

Fortunately for Sri Lankan farmers, the forced experiment is over. Here’s hoping the rest of the world learns from their misfortune.

“Straighten up” (UpWalker)

The UpWalker is a touted as a revolutionary development in senior mobility, with a supposed ability to facilitate pain-free walking, moseying, and shuttling about.

The product is advertised as being preferable to its lower-sitting predecessors and other alternatives. Commercials show can users humped over and being forced to endure pain in their back, wrists, and shoulders. By contrast, peppy UPWalkers are upright and looking straight ahead.

Visitors to the product’s website are told that traditional walkers cause users to hunch over, which leads to painful pressure in the aforementioned places. This, compared to the UpWalker, whose design will “support you in a secure upright position, giving you better posture so you have more confidence and less pain.”

Boosting self-esteem seems a bit beyond the abilities a mobility device, but let’s focus on the assertions that other walkers cause pain and a stooping posture. In truth, neither canes nor properly-adjusted walkers will force the user to look down, hunch over, become pained. Those with spinal deformities sometimes use walkers or canes but it is of course the deformity which causes stooping and no piece of merchandise will fix this condition.

Similarly, elderly persons do tend to begin stooping but this is not aggravated by walkers or canes and won’t be helped by the UpWalker. And if one’s wrists, shoulders, back hurts, they will continue to do so no matter what mobility device is being employed.

One UpWalker claim is that it products distribute a user’s weight onto forearms instead of the wrists. Even if this is true, walkers and canes are designed to improve balance and stability, not to carry weight, so there would be nothing to be gained by switching to the UpWalker.

Further, properly-adjusted walkers and canes never force the user to hunch or to have pressure applied to wrists, backs, and shoulders. If a person is leant over while grabbing a walker, it either means they either have a physical condition that predisposes them to do so or the walker is set too low. If the former is the cause, the user will be unable to lift themselves high enough to use the UpWalker. If is the latter, the UpWalker will confer no advantage over traditional walkers.

When walkers are properly adjusted for the patient’s height and used as intended, the patients remain upright and do not suffer back and wrist pain unless those are their usual conditions. In short, the company has created an artificial problem that it then sells the solution for.