Carol Tavris describes dissonance theory and how self-justification and self-deception often keep people from changing their minds even in the light of compelling contrary evidence, because the evidence is often dissonant with one’s self-image. She details the implications of dissonance theory for the persistence of psychic charlatans and other peddlers of the paranormal, and how it may explain how someone like Sylvia Brown can live with herself, and also how it may explain how believers remain so gullible about such unsupportable claims. She describes confirmation bias as a component of dissonance theory. She talks about how dissonance theory applies to the skeptic movement, both in terms of suggesting the best strategies for engaging the credulous, and in terms of fostering skepticism about one’s own skeptical views. And she argues that skepticism should be affirmative rather than destructive in its approach, and focused on both critical thinking and creative thinking alike.
Also in this episode, The Honest Liar, Jamy Ian Swiss, talks about who psychics really see when they look in the mirror.
As some of you may know, I'm moving from the idyllic hillsides of Vermont to the fantasy-land of Las Vegas, NV. I'm writing this from a Motel 6 in St. George, Utah: my last way point.
Along the nearly 3,000 mile trek, I've observed a number of interesting and disparate things, and I thought I'd share them with you. Here they are, in no particular order:
While GPS are wonderful tools, and I literally never leave home without one, they do not always make the best choices. A mere 20 minutes into my journey, I found myself lost. Yes, I was still in Vermont, and yes, I was only about 10 miles from where I'd lived for the last 7 years, but at one point I had to stop the truck and trailer to laugh. I was on a single track dirt road, near an abandoned covered bridge, and had no idea if I should somehow turn around or keep going the way the GPS said. A lone dairy cow observed this and seemed non-plussed. In the end, I did keep going as the GPS said, but by the time I was done my newly-washed rig was covered with mud, a road-kill skunk was dangling from one of my trailer chains, and I'd spent over an hour going about 7 miles.
As you may know, I am currently being sued for libel. My own case is largely irrelevant, because the bigger issue is libel reform so that scientists can discuss ideas openly, fairly and robustly, without fear that they might end up in court. There are currently three ongoing cases involving libel and science/medicine.
This is a very English problem, but it has a chilling effect on debate around the world because English law can have a global jurisdiction. Hence, I am asking for support from around the world.
One way to help achieve libel reform is for 100,000 people to sign the petition for libel reform before the political parties write their manifestos for the upcoming General Election. We already have 29,000 signatures, but we really need 100,000, and we need your help to get there.
If you have not yet signed, then please click here.
To find out why we need to reform English libel law, then please read on.
Check it out: Sometime between 1 - 2 p.m. EST, our local National Public Radio affiliate, WLRN, is going to run an interview I conducted last week with Captain Disillusion for South Florida Artsbeat. (Ordinarily I review theater for the program, but the Captain deserves a segment of his own.) If you’re in South Florida, you can listen in at 91.3 FM. If you’re south of Key West, west of the Everglades, north of Palm Beach, or east of the Atlantic, you can listen to the streaming audio here.