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Rescuing People from Aliens

by Daniel Loxton, Jan 24 2012

Working on refinements to my upcoming cryptozoology book with Skepticblog’s own Don Prothero (due out later in 2012) gave me a chance yesterday to dip back into Harvard psychologist Susan Clancy’s fascinating 2005 book about her studies of alien abductees, Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens. I thought I might share a couple of passages from the book here, partly because they dovetail so nicely with my own “Reasonableness of Weird Things” arguments.

Clancy’s area of primary interest is not skeptical investigation of paranormal claims, but false memory. To perform an “honest broker” service as thorough and reliable guides to the evidence on paranormal topics, skeptical investigators are ethically obliged to seriously consider the (unlikely) possibility of paranormal phenomena. In her own work with abductees, Clancy’s obligations were different. She felt justified in taking it pretty much for granted that her subjects had not been kidnapped by space aliens. Abductees were, for Clancy, a proxy group to allow her to examine questions related to a separate population’s “recovered” memories of childhood sexual abuse.

Research into abuse is of course very complicated—and ethically fraught. It is surrounded by tension and the potential for harm for the simple reason that abuse really happens. By contrast, Clancy wrote,

…alien abductees were people who had developed memories of a traumatic event that I could be fairly certain had never occurred. A major problem with my research on false-memory creation by victims of alleged sexual abuse was the fact that it was almost impossible to determine whether they had, in fact, been abused. I needed to repeat the study with a population that I could be sure had ‘recovered’ false memories. Alien abductions seemed to fit the bill.1

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A Life of Service

by Daniel Loxton, Nov 22 2011
Twenty years ago this past October, I discovered the skeptical literature at a panel discussion featuring BC Skeptics spokesperson Barry Beyerstein (a CSICOP Fellow, and psychopharmacologist at Simon Fraser University). In 2008, a year after Barry’s death, I took the opportunity to write about his influence upon me at the fledgling BC Skeptics blog site. Today, the BC Skeptics have largely faded from the stage, and I recently discovered that my tribute to Barry is no longer live. Happily, I am able to re-post it here now (with some minor revisions). For your interest, I have also talked about Beyerstein’s influence on my work on other, more recent occasions, including this eSkeptic article and my 2011 LogiCon keynote address (available on YouTube.)

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Announcing Desiree Schell as Curator for “Skeptics Mix Tape 2011″

by Daniel Loxton, May 10 2011

UPDATE June 8, 2012: Desiree Schell was ultimately unable to complete her curation of the Skeptics Mix Tape project. At this time, the project should be considered suspended, though it’s something I’d love to revisit again in the future. The first Skeptics Mix Tape remains live here. —Daniel

Rock Alien Banner by Daniel Loxton and Jim W. W. Smith

I’m excited to announce that is going forward with a Fall 2011 sequel to our popular “Skeptics Mix Tape 2009″ — and to reveal the curator for the sequel, Desiree Schell (of Skeptically Speaking fame).

The Skeptics Mix Tape is a light-hearted outreach project that gives away selected songs of science and skepticism — what Phil Plait’s Bad Astronomy hailed as “Music to appreciate reality to!”  — completely free. This use of the songs is donated by the artists, and the Skeptics Society charges nothing.

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Thoughts About LogiCON

by Daniel Loxton, Apr 12 2011
Daniel Loxton Keynote Address at LogiCON 2011. Photo by Mark Iocchelli

Daniel Loxton Keynote Address at LogiCON 2011. Photo by Mark Iocchelli

Last weekend I was honored to deliver the keynote address at LogiCON, a skeptical event held at Edmonton’s Telus World of Science. It’s an amazing facility, and it was an inspiring event.


Organized by the Greater Edmonton Skeptics Society, LogiCON 2011 was a curated sequel to (and departure from) a successful 2010 event built on the open SkeptiCamp model.

Billed as “Critical Thinking for Everyone,” LogiCON was explicitly conceived and promoted as a science outreach event rather than as a rally for self-identified skeptics. Though it incidentally did bring together Edmonton’s skeptical community, it was designed first and foremost to introduce the public to science-based approaches to evidence in general — and to many paranormal claims in particular. Continue reading…

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LogiCON 2011

by Daniel Loxton, Mar 29 2011

LogiCON logoOn April 9th, 2011, I’ll be honored to speak at Edmonton’s Telus World of Science as a featured part of the lineup for LogiCON 2011. Billed as “Critical Thinking for Everyone,”  LogiCON is a new conference with a novel approach. It attempts to combine the accessibility achieved by the wildly successful SkeptiCamp model with the strengths of a curated event. To help with accessibility, all LogiCON sessions are open at no extra cost to anyone who pays the general admission price for the Telus World of Science on April 9th.

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The War Over “Nice”

by Daniel Loxton, Aug 27 2010

Candle banner imageSkeptics and parallel rationalist communities spend a lot of time on “inside baseball” — jargon-filled debates about technical matters that seem incomprehensible, dull, or ridiculous to outsiders. These shouldn’t be the main skeptical topics (shouldn’t we be busy solving mysteries and educating the public?) but some discussion on these matters is unavoidable and worthwhile. Many movement-oriented skeptics and organizations have things they hope to accomplish; with goals, there comes discussion of best practices.

Among these insider debates, none is more persistent than that of “tone.” Hardly a week goes by that some tone-related tempest doesn’t spill out of its teacup and across the blogosphere. And yet, these issues matter to many (including me). When people devote enormous energy to skepticism, dedicate careers to skeptical outreach, or generously commit volunteer hours or donations to skeptical projects and organizations, it’s natural that abstract internal debates about the soul of skepticism are perceived to have powerful importance.

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