Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Alien footprints, leprechauns, and truth in advertising

Here at Skeptophilia headquarters, we're closely following three stories, all of which leave us saying "What the hell?" or some stronger variant.

In the first, we have a story from Kentucky, about a man who claims that his family is being terrorized by a bunch of cave-dwelling three-toed aliens.  (Source)

The man, who for obvious reasons didn't want his name released and is going by the pseudonym "David," stated that for the past nine months, his property has been repeatedly visited by alien beings "the size and stature of a small child, devoid of any facial features save for large, oily eyes and lipless mouths."

In an email that he sent to Ghost Hunters, Incorporated last year, he describes his first encounter with the aliens:
Standing in the flower bed just to the bottom left of my window was a small, humanoid figure, with sickly pale skin, completely hairless, standing roughly 4′. It was looking in the direction of the shadows, and had clearly come from around the left side of the house opposite the porch and had not noticed me as far as I could tell. It’s face was devoid of features, save for large round eyes, very reminiscent in shape and color of a bird’s eye. It had no nose to speak of, and only a small slit for a mouth. It didn’t appear to move it’s mouth as it chirped, sounding more as if the noises originated from it’s throat. It was most certainly not a “wild animal” and even more certainly not a child. I was too terrified to move, and watched as the creature hopped to the others, and together they scrambled into the woods on the right side of my property. It was clear that there were at least five in the group.
Ghost Hunters, Incorporated sent some folks out to investigate, and they went and poked around in an abandoned mine on "David's" property where he said the aliens lived, but they didn't find anything.

But "David" says the visitations have continued, and even his kids have seen the aliens, peering in their bedroom windows at night.  And now, "David" says that he now has proof of the visitations: a footprint.  Because obviously that couldn't be faked.  And he says that if nobody will take action, he will:
Though I’m armed, I’m afraid that I’m far too frightened to enter the mine by my lonesome, and cannot convince any sympathetic friends to accompany me, though I cannot blame them. I am convinced that the only answer is to collapse the mine.
So he's planning on blowing up the mine.  And I can't imagine how that could end badly, can you?

Actually, perhaps "David" should count his blessings; at least he didn't get beaten up by a pack of leprechauns.  (Source)

This past weekend, Seattle police got a report of a fight on Bell Street, near the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  Arriving at the scene at 1:55 AM, they found a "bruised and bloodied" man who was "holding his head and screaming in pain."

The police questioned the man, and were astonished when the man told them that his assailants were leprechauns, who were mad at him because he was "dancing with a girl."

Myself, I always thought that leprechauns were pro-dancing, as long as you didn't dance anywhere near their pots of gold.  Maybe the victim and his girlfriend were attempting to do a Riverdance-style Irish step dance, and doing it badly, and the leprechauns felt the need to defend Ireland's honor.  Or maybe his assailants just happened to be short guys dressed in green.

Whichever it was, the police did a brief search of the area, and were unable to find any leprechauns, so the victim was taken to Harborview Medical Center, where he was treated for his injuries and then released.

It's perhaps fortunate for him that the assault didn't take place in England, where the Advertising Standards Authority has ruled that a Christian group's website can include a page that encourages sick people to seek out healing through prayer alone, because "God heals everything." (Source)

Healing on the Streets (HOTS), a British evangelical group which supports faith healing, was told by the ASA last year that it had to take down a page on its website because it was making false medical claims, to wit:
Need Healing?  God can heal today!  Do you suffer from Back Pain, Arthritis, MS, Addiction ... Ulcers, Depression, Allergies, Fibromyalgia, Asthma, Paralysis, Crippling Disease, Phobias, Sleeping disorders or any other sickness?  We'd love to pray for your healing right now!  We're Christian from churches in Bath and we pray in the name of Jesus.  We believe that God loves you and can heal you from any sickness.
You have to wonder, if all of this is true, why Christians get illnesses just as often as the rest of us do.  Shouldn't there at least be some kind of statistically significant difference between the rates of serious disease in the faithful, as compared to the rest of us slobs?  So myself, I think that the ASA was exactly right in stating that HOTS was making "false medical claims," and endangering the lives of the credulous by discouraging them from seeking out conventional care when they are ill.

But the ASA was bombarded by letters from irate Christians, claiming that they were treading on the Toes of the Divine, and the ASA reversed their ruling.  "We acknowledged that HOTS volunteers believed that prayer could treat illness and medical conditions, and that therefore the ads did not promote false hope," they stated, in the revised decision.

No?  What, then, do you call it when some poor deluded person with MS is told that all that's necessary for a cure is prayer in the name of Jesus?  I think the whole thing is despicable, and that the ASA should be ashamed of themselves for not sticking to their guns.

So that's our news from the world of woo-woo for today; cave-dwelling aliens in Kentucky, leprechauns in Seattle, and faith healing in England.  As always, our motto here is: Fighting Gullibility With Sarcasm.

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