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"The Ouija Board Explained:  Explaining the Ouija Board requires insights from history and psychology" by Scott G. Eberle Ph.D. ("Play in Mind" +Psychology Today).

[Caption with featured image:  "Ouija Board, William Fuld, 1960; Source: Gift of Neil R. Scheir, M.D., Courtesy of The Strong, Rochester, NY [USA]."]

From the attached article...

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At the twilight of the Victorian Age, hypnotists entertained audiences with their mysterious arts, seemingly severing the connection between will and mind in hapless volunteers. Groups gathered for séances, too, where, more ominously, charlatans purported to communicate with the dead. Hélène Smith, a famous Hungarian medium, made a fortune on the strength of her claim that she could communicate with Martians. (In the light of day, alas, the Martian language turned out to look suspiciously like French.) Mme. Smith made her start in 1891, the same year the Ouija Board was first patented. Ouija successfully rode the wave of spiritualism that was sweeping through Europe. When Ouija debuted in the United States, advertisers promised that the game would deliver an “intelligent answer to any question,” and, right in step with the spirit of the times, they guaranteed surpassing effects in “mind-reading,” “second sight,” and “clairvoyance.”

Moving a heart-shaped “planchette”—a sort of pencil on rollers—across the Ouija Board printed with an alphabet, the numbers 0-9, and YES and NO options allowed players to spell out and compile apparently un-sourced answers. Mysterious at the time, the game still exerts an uncanny effect (link is external). But today, most people are unable to naively play the game because, after its debut, Sigmund Freud’s “discovery of the unconscious” fundamentally changed our orientation to our deepest thoughts and emotions. His therapeutic method sometimes included free association (not so unlike playing with an Ouija Board). But Freud claimed our hidden thoughts for science in the interest of therapy; the irrational, he insisted, would yield to rational explanation. “Where id was, there ego shall be,” he famously asserted. But the Ouija Board, by contrast, stands as a relic of that era when popular uneasiness grew proportionately just as modern empirical science gained in confidence and explanatory power.

Revolutions always leave some people behind—the scientific revolution especially so—and catching up to leading thoughts often takes a long time because some cling to belief, in this case an old belief. Today’s marketing of a glow-in-the-dark Ouija Board claims that it has been “a mystery for over 30 years!” However, the first versions of the Ouija Board—in the form of “exploring pendulums” or “diviners”—appeared in Europe more than 1600 years ago and possibly 1500 years earlier in China. But oracles of old likely possessed little clue about how their magical equipment really worked.

[See attached article for the remaining paragraphs...]

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James Randi (+James Randi Educational Foundation) and Steven "Banachek" Shaw (+Banachek Shaw) work together to expose the fraudulent nature of self-proclaimed psychics while introducing James Randi's world-famous $1-million challenge.

Video duration:  7 minutes 35 seconds.

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"Atheism Disproved" by James F. McGrath (+James McGrath).

The argument presented in this article doesn't make sense.  How does one disprove a classification?  If the author was targeting anti-theism, then that would make sense since anti-theism is a position, but atheism is nothing other than the classification of "absence of belief in deities" (http://www.define-atheism.com/).

Because atheism proffers no claims nor assumptions, it is therefore logically exempt from any burden of proof and cannot be disproven (or proven).

[Transcription of text from featured image:  "1. Cats exist.  2. Cats were gods for the Egyptians.  3. Therefore, gods exist.  4. Therefore, atheism is false."]

From the attached article...

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Atheism is easy to disprove. Watch:

1. Cats exist
2. Ancient Egyptians (as well as some current cat owners) worship cats as gods
3. Therefore, gods exist
4. Therefore, atheism is false

[See attached article for the remaining paragraphs...]

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Something to keep in mind about skepticism...

This video provides an important point about the media -- it's not uncommon for different media organizations to provide varying perspectives in their productions, which is important to keep in mind because this helps to justify applying skepticism to media reports in the context of understanding that news reports can be (and probably usually are) incomplete (and for many different reasons).

In this video example, the President of China was protected by a large contingent of bodyguards, and some media choose to focus on this aspect of the Chinese President's visit to Hong Kong (perhaps to instill a bias that makes the President appear more militant?) instead of the visit itself.  One thing I did like was that the presenter at the beginning of this video specifically emphasized the presentation of different perspectives (and I'd very much like for all the media to do this more often).

Although it was interesting to see the few glimpses of the bodyguards carrying out their duties (and driving their cars with the doors open so as to help reduce the time required for "jumping into action" should the need arise, etc), near the end of the video an additional perspective that seems out of place and somewhat demeaning of Chinese women was introduced -- according to the subtitles (which don't provide a grammatically perfect English translation), "These bodyguards are not only young but also handsome, really turn the female journalists on."  (If this was an attempt at humour, as I suspect it might have been, it failed to entertain me.)

If you ever needed an example of applying Occam's Razor, then that final statement about the bodyguards being handsome and turning on female journalists is a very easy place to start because, in addition to revealing the irrelevant point about the peculiar mindset of the media producers, how handsome the bodyguards are is also irrelevant, hence these points may be trivially discarded.

And to raise further doubt, the media report did not seem to include any interviews with any female journalists who were allegedly "turned on at the sight of handsome male bodyguards" nor any other supporting information, and so the assertion about female journalists therefore lacks credibility.

In the context of the Presidential visit, the whole focus on the bodyguards is also generally irrelevant to the event (although not as irrelevant as how handsome the bodyguards are and how that turns on female journalists), and merely mentioning that the Chinese President was accompanied by bodyguards would have been sufficient since the highlight was obviously the fact that the President was visiting Hong Kong.

Of course this leaves me wondering about the quality of journalism amidst my appreciation for the diversity of perspective (and to be fair, "different perspectives" were stated as a focal point at the beginning of the media report), and so I chalk it up to freedom of expression being helpful yet again in facilitating the revealing of where any given media organization's priorities seem to be.

For more information about Occam's Razor, please see this RationalWiki (+RationalWiki) article:  http://www.rationalwiki.org/wiki/Occam's_razor

See also (how to "step up your intellectual game"):  http://www.fidemturbare.com/philosophy/intellectual-game.pl

See also (information about China's President and Vice President):  http://english1.english.gov.cn/2013-03/14/content_2353971.htm

Video duration:  1 minute 35 seconds.

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"Does China's Cat-Eyed Boy Really Have Night Vision?" by Natalie Wolchover (+Natalie Wolchover).

[Caption with featured image:  "Nong You-hui's teachers and parents claim he can see in the dark.  Credit: YouTube | ADG (UK)."]

This article provides a fairly thorough example of using scientific knowledge in the application of skepticism.  But before you read this article, think about whether you would like to have the ability to see in the dark, and attempt to analyze your emotions -- if any human could see in the dark as well as nearly all cats without negative side effects during daylight hours, etc., they would clearly have a very useful advantage...

With such an advantage, how might you feel in the context of other members of the species progressing on what appears to be the evolutionary stage?  Or if you don't feel any negativity or hostility or jealousy, what about others who might have such feelings?  Now with that in mind, consider how intelligent inventors of the distant past might have been mistreated by society "just because they were different."

"Science was never a part of religion.  Religion sought to control science, not foster it.  Science is a methodology of experimentation and testing founded on skepticism.  That is the opposite of a religious worldview.  Science and religion are not 'overlapping magisteria.'"
   -- Bruce Lindman (August 13, 2013) +Bruce Lindman

Understanding how emotions can play into biasing belief may be therapeutic if you have a desire to become both a better skeptic and better at explaining the application of skepticism to others.

"The truth isn't always an easy pill to swallow, but that doesn't mean you don't tell the truth."
   -- Armoured Skeptic (2014-Apr-04) +Armoured Skeptic +Skeptalot Skeptic

I would very much like for such evolutionary progress to be real because, to me, it would be an exciting advancement to observe in this lifetime.  By the same token, I'm delighted that skeptics are also debunking such claims because false hope, in my strong opinion, causes more problems in society than it solves.

While reading this article, I suggest not losing sight of an important frame of mind by repeatedly asking yourself a question:  "How can I continue to be better at not getting skepticism wrong?  Are there some parallels insights that can be gained from this process of examining the problems with this claim that I might apply to the areas of expertise and unique knowledge of facts that are in my possession?"

"The people who are constantly striving to apply skepticism to everything in their lives, the ones who actually care enough about truth and [care to try to] avoid being wrong, and biased, and prejudiced, and clueless; those are the people we need, and need to be."
   -- Matt Dillahunty (AACON 2013) +Matt Dillahunty +Matt Dillahunty

"Skeptics and people who promote disbelief or lack of belief in general can't get followers to commit atrocities in their cause, which we wouldn't want anyway (unlike communists) because the first principle of skepticism is to question everything, including the person who's telling you to question everything."
   -- Solomon Eraut (2015-Nov-27) +Solomon Eraut

From the attached article...

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According to a news reel from China, a young boy there possesses the ability to see in the dark. Like a Siamese cat's, his sky-blue eyes flash neon green when illuminated by a flashlight, and his night vision is good enough to enable him to fill out questionnaires while sitting in a pitch black room — or so say the reporters who visited Nong Yousui in his hometown of Dahua three years ago.

The footage of Nong and his strange-looking eyes originally surfaced in 2009; it got little attention at the time, but is now making a splash all over the Web. If the boy really does have a genetic mutation that confers night vision, then he would be an interesting subject for analysis by vision scientists, evolutionary biologists, and genetic engineers alike — but does he? 

The experts we shared the video with say Nong does have unusually colored irises considering his ethnicity, but he's not the next step in human evolution.

Night vision is made possible by a layer of cells, called the tapetum lucidum, in the eyes of cats and other nocturnal animals. This thin layer is a "retroreflector" — when a beam of light hits it, it reflects the light directly back along its incoming path. The reflected beam constructively interferes with the incoming light beam, amplifying the overall signal that hits the retina and enabling the animal to see in very low-light conditions. Retroreflection also causes cat eyes to flash when they are lit upon at night, and experts say Nong's eyes, if they are truly catlike, should do the same. [Red-Green & Blue-Yellow: The Stunning Colors You Can't See]

"It would be easy to test the boy’s eyes for retroreflection (eyeshine), which would be indicative of a tapetum lucidum," said Nathaniel Greene, a physicist at Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania who has studied retroreflection.

In fact, such a test is run in the video.

In the footage, Nong's teacher claims the boy's eyes flash when shined with a flashlight in the dark, but the reporters don't seem to be able to catch the effect on camera. When Nong's eyes are illuminated in the dark, they appear normal. James Reynolds, a pediatric ophthalmologist at State University of New York in Buffalo, noted, "A video could capture [eyeshine] easily, just like in nature films of leopards at night."

[See attached article for the remaining paragraphs...]

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"GOPHER WOOD or GO FOR WOOD?"

Have you ever wondered what "Gopher Wood" is?  If you've read the claims about how Noah's Ark was constructed, then you may recognize this mysterious material by its curiously interesting name, "Gopher Wood."

"Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch."
   -- Genesis 6:14, The Holy Bible (King James Bible "Authorized Version," Cambridge Edition); source:  http://www.kingjamesbibleonline.org/Genesis-6-14/

This article examines (and doubts or refutes) many (if not all) of the suggestions and ideas concerning what the King James Bible's authors were alluding to when referring to Gopher Wood as the material that Noah was supposedly commanded to use to build his Ark before the world was allegedly flooded (which resulted in a dauntingly lofty death toll of countless members of plant, animal, and other species throughout the world, of which only an insignificant portion at best might possibly be regarded as "offensive" or "sinful" to the Christian deity who was credited for causing this horrific flood that also seems to be unsupported by real-world scientific evidence).

A while ago someone suggested to me that The Tardis (as featured in the popular science fiction TV series, Dr. Who), which usually resembles a telephone booth on the outside but is at least 20-30 times larger when experienced from the inside, would have been made from Gopher Wood as an explanation of what materials were needed to build it -- this suggestion was meant, as I recall, as a solution for how so many species of animals and their supplies (including food) all could have been onboard Noah's Ark.

Although the author of this article doesn't examine this newer "Dr. Who theory about Gopher Wood," his other considerations should, I hope, still make for an interesting read.

What do you think is the most likely explanation for this reference in The Holy Bible to Gopher Wood?

From the attached article...

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Once upon a time there was an amazing timber called "gopher wood", far stronger than anything we have today...
 
Not likely. 

The strength of seasoned timber is related to density. A dense timber simply has more stuff in it, cellulose, lignin etc, built into heavier-walled cells. There is no reason to expect that there exists some magical timber that outperforms all the others by orders of magnitude. While there are differences in workability, fungal attack & seasoning stability, generally speaking the strength of commercially useful timber is proportional to density. That's it.

And you can't get much more dense than the heavyweight eucalypts, Nigerian ebony or the famous Lignum-vitae. For example, the Australian Grey Ironbark tips the scales at 1120 kg/m3 (dry) and has metal-like strength (MOR = 185MPa), almost double that of European Oak and American White Oak. Old Ironbark must be cut with a tungsten-tipped blade. Could Noah build a huge boat out of something far stronger than modern timber?   Is it even possible for timber to get much heavier and stronger than this? Obviously not by much. 

Density vs Strength. (Based on data from Ref 5) Is gopher wood on this graph somewhere? It seems unlikely it could lie anywhere outside this range from balsa to lignum-vitae. And most of the extremely high strength timbers over 150MPa MOR are troublesome to season and difficult to work. 

=== So what is Gopher wood? ===

There is one verse containing the word gopher . Here it is: (KJV)

Gen 6:14 Make thee an ark of gopher wood; rooms shalt thou make in the ark, and shalt pitch it within and without with pitch.

The word gopher is unclear, "no Hebrew expert knows for sure what gopher wood is in modern terminology". (Ref 2). In fact, gopher is barely a Hebrew word at all, looking very much like a foreign word included in the text. Others say it could be work of a careless scribe who meant to write kopher (covering or pitch), but everyone thought he wrote gopher.

The leading suggestions for the meaning of gopher wood are wood identity, spelling mistake, squared beams and lamination. Others have been suggested, such as a type of seasoning process or even the outlandish claim that the ark was made of reeds.

[See attached article for the remaining paragraphs...]

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