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.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Which of these things is not like the other?

So, today we're going to play a version of "Bluff the Listener" (from one of my favorite NPR shows, "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me").  I've got three stories to tell you.  Two of them are convincing spoofs; the third is real (well, at least in the sense that the person making the claim is serious about it).  Your task: identify which are spoofs and which is the legitimate story.

Story 1: The Grave's a Fine and Private Place, But None, I Think, Do There Embrace...

In previous posts, we've considered cases where people have believed that they were vampires, werewolves, and human/alien hybrids; here, we have a site for people who believe they're ghosts.  And apparently, even if you're a ghost, it doesn't mean that you don't need romance in your... um... life.

The site "Ghost Singles" bills itself as "The Best Dating Site for Dead Singles," and has a database of profiles you can peruse.  You enter a bit about yourself ("I am a MALE GHOST seeking a FEMALE GHOST"), an age range you're looking for (between 18 and 180 years old), and can specify what sort of death you want your prospective lover to have had (the choices are "sudden," "mysterious," "tragic," and "horrible").  Then, you are shown the profiles that fit your specifications.

For example, I looked at the profile for "DeadGrrrrl," age 94, wherein we find out the following:
Hi guys! My real name is Dorothy, and I'm from West Virginia. Do I say where I'm from as where I was born or where I died LOL?

ANYWAY, I used to like to sew, and miss it so bad! I also miss honey butter like nothing else.

I used to miss my cat until she died. That was like seventy years ago, and then she was fun to have back around. Now she disappears for like a decade at a time, then comes back for a few years. Don't ask me what a dead cat's doing. Hey, I thought they had 9 lives! lol!!

Anyway, shoot me a message! XXOO
I don't know about you, but if I wasn't married, I would be tempted.  I'm a sucker for a woman who likes cats and honey butter and says "LOL" a lot.

 Story 2: Sun, Stand Thou Still Over Gibeon

There's been a lot of hoopla over how the biblical account of creation (and subsequent history) of the Earth contradicts the scientific account.  And, as we've seen so many times, the whole thing turns on giving more credence to the words of an allegedly infallible book than to mountains of hard, factual evidence.  So if you're going to discount anything that runs counter to the bible, why not go all the way?

That's the main point of the webpage "Heliocentrism is an Atheist Doctrine."  We start out with the relevant bible verses:
"He has fixed the earth firm, immovable." (1 Chronicles 16:30)
"Thou hast fixed the earth immovable and firm …" (Psalm 93:1)
"Thou didst fix the earth on its foundation so that it never can be shaken." (Psalm 104:5)
"…who made the earth and fashioned it, and himself fixed it fast…" (Isaiah 45:18)
"The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose." (Ecclesiastes 1:5)
"Then spake Joshua to the LORD in the day when the LORD delivered up the Amorites before the children of Israel, and he said in the sight of Israel, Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon; and thou, Moon, in the valley of Ajalon. And the sun stood still, and the moon stayed, until the people had avenged themselves upon their enemies. Is not this written in the book of Jasher? So the sun stood still in the midst of heaven, and hasted not to go down about a whole day." (Joshua 10, 12-13)
Once those foundations are laid down, we only have to consider the following to see where all of this is going:
Indeed, it was this Copernican heliocentricity concept that gradually broke the back of Bible credibility as the source of Absolute Truth in Christendom. Once the Copernican Revolution had conquered the physical sciences of Astronomy and Physics and put down deep roots in Universities and lower schools everywhere, it was only a matter of time until the Biological sciences launched the Darwinian Revolution.
And the final nail in the coffin of heliocentrism comes from Ken Ham, from Answers in Genesis:
…[S]omething well known to high-school physics students, but apparently not to bibliosceptics—that it’s valid to describe motion from any reference frame.
The only possible conclusion: if you're not a Satan-led, foaming-at-the-mouth piece of liberal atheist scum, you'll immediately return to believing that the Earth lies at the center of the entire universe, and everything, even the distant stars and galaxies, revolve around it, as is revealed in the scriptures.

Story 3:  Fetch, Fido!  Fetch!

Many of us feel a strong connection to our furry friends, and sometimes have the sense that they know what we're thinking.  My dogs, for example, have an uncanny knack for knowing when I'm about to feed them, and immediately go into a whirling, hyperdestructive vortex of zero-IQ canine energy as soon as the food bag rustles.

So it was only a matter of time before some psychic decided that canine telepathy was real, and began to make use of it...

... even going so far as to make her dogs her official business partners.

Linda Lancashire, a professional psychic from Heanor (Derbyshire, England), now employs her two poodles, Hilda and Tallulah, in her clairvoyant readings.  The dogs, whom Lancashire refers to as "The Lulas," sit on the couch while she's talking to a client, and they pick up on the thoughts that the client is having, and relay them to Lancashire by woofing and pawing at her.

Each dog has her specialty.  Tallulah, in particular, picks up on relationship issues, and has been known to communicate to Lancashire, "Listen, Mummy, this lady is not happy."  Hilda, on the other paw, is more of a specialist in money and health matters.

Lancashire and her psychic poodles have quite a following, and although she states she has "incredible integrity (about) working confidentially," she mentioned that she has clients that include celebrities, politicians, and professional athletes.

Her fee runs to £40 per hour-long session, which seems pretty reasonable, given that she has to split it three ways.

Are you ready for the answers?

Story 1:  Almost certainly a spoof.  This story was dug up by a pair of very alert students who have been some of my best investigative reporters (they were the ones, for example, who informed me about the Flying Men of Colorado).  While I couldn't find anywhere on the Ghost Singles site that explicitly stated that it was a spoof, there are enough bits that are obviously played for laughs that there's no way it can be serious, such as the fact that one of the female ghosts on the database calls herself "GreatBeyondBabe."  (The vampires, werewolves, and human/alien hybrids, however, are dead serious.)

Story 2:  Spoof.  This one was identified as a spoof by the wonderful site RationalWiki on its page "List of Examples of Poe's Law."  However, one of the websites that is cited on the Anti-Heliocentrism page -- -- is, as far as I can tell, real.  And scary as hell.

Story 3:  Real.  "Linda Lancashire" is a real person, and her dogs, Hilda and Tallulah, are real as well.  And apparently Ms. Lancashire really, truly believes that her dogs act as psychic relays, and has made them full business partners.  And the quote about Tallulah telling her about the "unhappy lady" was not made up.

How did you do?  I'm glad if you won, because it means that you show fine perspicacity and critical thinking skills.  I am not, however, going to record your voicemail message.  Carl Kasell, I'm not.

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