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, December 31, 2014

2014 retrospective

2014 was a thrilling year, here at Skeptophilia headquarters (a.k.a. my office).  In fact, my able assistants, my dogs Lena ("Her Royal Derpitude") and Grendel ("Frankendog"), found it so thrilling that they're all pooped out and have decided to take a nap.

I thought it might be fun, on New Year's Eve, to take a look at the top stories from Skeptophilia, month-by-month.  Just in case anyone needed reminding about what a weird world we live in.

In January, we were visited repeatedly by the dreaded "Polar Vortex," dropping not only temperatures but a crapload of snow on the eastern half of the United States.  And of course, what is a weather phenomenon without a crazy conspiracy theory as an explanation?  The Polar Vortex, it was claimed, (1) was not a natural occurrence, and (2) therefore didn't produce real snow.  Who was responsible, you might ask?  Well, the Large Hadron Collider, of course.  And what was the white stuff, if not snow?  Well, non-melting chemtrail residue, of course.  Which made it a bit awkward when temperatures warmed up, and the non-melting chemtrail-residue snow melted, forming water, exactly as regular snow does, leaving the aforementioned conspiracy theorists to go back to their previous occupation, which was picking at their straitjacket straps with their teeth.

In February, we revisited conspiracies with a claim that the game app "Flappy Bird," which features a deformed-looking bird that the player has to maneuver around a series of pipes, contained a coded message from the Illuminati.  And was trying to steal your personal information, your mind, and your soul, not necessarily in that order.  And that its creator, Dong Nguyen, was murdered by the Illuminati for revealing the secret.  Which made it a bit awkward when Nguyen proved himself to be unmurdered by releasing a revised version of "Flappy Bird" called "Flappy Bird's Family" in August, or right around the time the snow from the Polar Vortex finished melting here in Upstate New York.

In March, we said goodbye to a long-time target of disgust for the secular humanist community, the Extremely Reverend Fred Phelps of the Westboro Baptist Church.  Who, unlike Dong Nguyen, actually did die.  There were calls for picketing his funeral, but most of us atheists chose the wiser course, which was to let Phelps pass silently into obscurity.  Unfortunately, his followers have been reluctant to do the same thing, and they are still plaguing us, lo unto this very day.

April saw a wacko claim making the rounds of social media, namely, that Easter has its origins in the worship of the Babylonian goddess Ishtar, and that by hoppin' down the bunny trail and participating in Easter egg hunts and so on, you are actually worshiping Satan and promising to sacrifice your children to Moloch.  This roused my linguistics-geek ire, and resulted in a rant wherein I concluded that if you are going to make insane claims, at least get the details right.

And speaking of Satan, in May we found out that not only can your child fall under His Evil Influence by receiving an Easter basket, (s)he can be damned eternally by watching My Little Pony.  Which, contrary to popular opinion, does not feature animated characters who speak in nasal, grating whines, and for whom any resemblance to an actual horse is purely accidental.  The Ponies are actually stand-ins for evil spirits, and are rife with demonic symbolism, which explains the phenomenon of "Bronies," wherein otherwise normal adult males become obsessed with characters like "Pinkie Pie," even to the extent of dressing up in bizarre costumes and attending conventions.

In June we turned to a new development in "alternative medicine," because apparently practices like homeopathy aren't ridiculous enough.  In China, it is becoming all the rage for guys to boost their sex drive and their performance in the sack by setting their junk on fire.  This post was accompanied by an actual photograph of a guy lying there on his back, a blissful expression on his face, while flames erupt from his reproductive area.  A photograph, I might add, that even now makes me go into a protective crouch every time I look at it.

July took us to Florida, and a cryptozoological report from near the city of Tampa.  A man walking his dog at night, the story went, saw a floating naked ghoul that smelled really bad.  Confronted with such an apparition, the man came to the conclusion that most of us would, provided we had recently been squirting controlled substances down our throats using a turkey baster: it must be a teenage mime.  Which apparently are common in that area of Florida.

August brought us back to conspiracy theories, specifically, to a claim that many prominent people have cloned doubles.  Or are cloned doubles themselves.  You can see how it would be hard to tell which.  Some of the individuals who are actually not individuals include Brad Pitt, Jimmy Carter, Beyoncé, and David Icke.  Including the last-mentioned is a little on the ironic side, since Icke has made a career out of convincing people that the powers-that-be are Evil Reptilian Illuminati, so I suppose it's strangely fitting now that he's being included in the fun.

By September, the election was fast approaching, meaning that the politicians were warming up their dodge-and-weave to avoid answering hard questions.  This year, it took the form of damn near all of them prefacing comments about climate change and/or evolution with the phrase, "Well, I'm not a scientist."  Which made the people who actually know something about science shout at them, "Yes, we know you're not.  You're a politician.  And this is why you should listen to the fucking scientists, instead of discounting everything they say on the basis of political expediency, you moron."  But given the fact that political expediency is how you get elected, the not-a-scientist cadre experienced resounding success in the polls two months later, which means we're in for another long period of people saying "la-la-la-la-la, not listening" to the facts.

In October we found out that all sorts of world events were revealed, in coded form, well ahead of time in movies featuring none other than Adam "Nostradamus" Sandler.  These events include the Waco Siege, Princess Diana's death, the BP Gulf oil spill, and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370. This at least gives some reason that Adam Sandler keeps making movies, given that any justification for his output based on claims of quality entertainment has long ago gone by the wayside.

November brought us a claim from Pastor James David Manning, of the Atlah World Missionary Church of Harlem, New York, to wit:  Starbucks is adding semen from gay guys to their lattés.  This prompted me to try to figure out how many guys Starbucks would have to pay simply to sit around in the back room masturbating, given the current demand for lattés, which might be the most mentally disturbing thing I've ever done for a Skeptophilia post.

Speaking of LGBT issues, in December, a group promoting such completely discredited ideas as "ex-gay therapy" put up a billboard in Virginia claiming that there were cases of identical twins, one of whom was straight and the other gay, demonstrating that homosexuality couldn't be genetic.  And they showed a photograph of two guys, who were such a pair of identical twins, as advertised.  The billboard turned out to be 100% correct except for two small details: the guys pictured were actually not identical twins, but two different shots of the same guy; and that particular guy is, in fact, gay.  Oh, and he had no idea that his photograph(s) were being used on an anti-gay billboard.  Proving, once again, that being a righteous über-Christian doesn't mean you necessarily have to follow the Ninth Commandment.

Which brings us to today, the last day of December, 2014.  New Year's Eve, the threshold of a whole new year.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

And I will end with a deep and heartfelt "Thank you" to my Loyal Readers, and my hope that you will be guided in the coming year by rationality and logic, but will also have ample opportunity for such completely illogical activities as love, fun, play, and general unbridled happiness.

May 2015 be a good year for us all.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks Gordon, you're a great influence.
    Happy new year and all the best,