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The Dangers of Magical Thinking in the Martial Arts

Again, while I am busy at my other blog, here is a Reblog.
Keep your defenses up…be a Perpetual Skeptic

Violent metaphors

This post comes courtesy of Jeff Westfall, someone I’ve known and respected as a leader in the martial arts community since I moved to Indiana in 1992. I’m absolutely delighted that he agreed to share his insights into pseudoscience in the martial arts with us. You can read details of his background on his school’s website here. –Jenny

I’m Jeff Westfall for the Martial Brain

Recently on Facebook I saw a video of a Finnish martial artist named Jukka Lampila who called what he did Empty Force or EFO, and claimed that with it he could control an attacker without touching him. His Facebook page proclaims him the founder of EFO. The video begins with clips of Lampila fending off ‘attacks’ from his students. He waves his arms; sometimes he twitches, and in each case the ‘attacker’ seems to be magically thrown to the mat without ever being touched by…

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Facebook Falacy #1–Walnuts

Hi there everybody! (Hi Dr. Nick!)

I have been busy on another blog and haven’t had the time/energy to do this one as much as I would like, but here is a quick post that is, I think, perfect. I hope to make it a regular feature.

There are always posts on facebook that have nothing to do with how someone is feeling–some of these are music videos, or web comics, or whatever else.

And sometimes they are news stories.

Some of these news stories are more, shall we say, accurate, than others. As the title suggests, this new series will cover some of those iffy, though popular, posts. Read More…

Science confirms: Politics wrecks your ability to do math

Dogma and unquestioning belief, whether in religious, philosophical, political, or economic principles is what holds humanity back. Stay Perpetually Skeptical, my friends.


Everybody knows that our political views can sometimes get in the way of thinking clearly. But perhaps we don’t realize how bad the problem actually is. According to a new psychology paper, our political passions can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills. More specifically, the study finds that people who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.

The study, by Yale law professor Dan Kahan and his colleagues, has an ingenious design. At the outset, 1,111 study participants were asked about their political views and also asked a series of questions designed to gauge their “numeracy,” that is, their mathematical reasoning ability. Participants were then asked to solve a fairly difficult problem that involved interpreting the results of a (fake) scientific…

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“Better Angels” and Thoughts upon Violence

I recently watched a video lecture by Stephen Pinker on his book Better Angels of our Nature, explaining that violence has actually declined over time, and especially since World War II. This was a surprising claim. Not only did I grow up in a conservative christian sect that was big on eschatology, but every day in the news you hear about murders here, suicide bombers there, and civil wars somewhere else. Thus I have long been under the impression that the world is getting worse and more violent. It appears I was wrong. Read More…

Upon Morality…

Oooo, I know, deep subject…

I was inspired to write this on account of a videoed debate between Christopher Hitchens and Frank Turek. Turek kept asking (without Hitchens giving a satisfactory answer—I love the guy and I still feel he didn’t give a good answer) “if there is no God, how can anyone know what is Right and what is Wrong? Who decides? If we’re all just “molecules in motion” how do we not fall into moral relativism and anarchy? How is it we seem to know, innately, what is good and what is wrong? Read More…


I recently wrote a post called The Cosmos and the Holy Book, which was largely about the conflict between religion and science and was inspired by my reading of Carl Sagan’s book Cosmos. However, religion is not the only thing that can hinder scientific advancement. Society has a great deal to do with it, as well–both its structure and its attitudes. Well, I say “structure and attitudes”, though I think it would take someone more well-read on society and probably smarter to me to talk much about those as separate topics; I rather see them as interconnected and influencing each other.  Read More…