About Skeptical Humanities

Someone new to the skeptical movement will immediately discover the large number of websites and discussions that are devoted to skepticism in science, and this is wonderful. It is important to realize, however, that the humanities also have scholarly standards that employ critical thinking and judgments based on the examination of evidence.

Skeptical Humanities explores areas of human experience such as art, philosophy, history, literature, rhetoric, aesthetics, literary criticism, pop culture studies, folklore, and cultural studies. By focusing on the fringes of these disciplines, we hope to introduce mainstream research in the humanities to the public. In doing so, we hope to build a community of scholars that is willing to document the process of researching in the humanities.

ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTORS
Bob Blaskiewicz received his Ph.D in English from Saint Louis University. He specializes in twentieth-century American literature and culture, and wrote his dissertation on the fiction and memoirs of American combat veterans of the Second World War. He is a Brittain Postdoctoral Fellow in the Writing and Communication Program at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta, where he teaches writing and communication classes that take extraordinary claims as their subject. His most recent classes include Science and Pseudoscience, American Conspiracy Theories, and Writing about World War II in Film and Literature (Spring 2011). He is currently the Chair of the Steering Committee for the Atlanta chapter of the Independent Investigations Group (IIG-Atlanta), a research group and public resource for information about the paranormal and extraordinary. IIG-Atlanta also has a standing $50,000 challenge for anyone who can provide evidence demonstrating the existence of the paranormal, occult, or supernatural under properly controlled conditions. But he really wants to direct.

Eve Siebert has a Ph.D. in English literature from Saint Louis University. Her primary concentration is in Old and Middle English literature, with secondary concentrations in Old Norse and Shakespeare. Her dissertation focuses on a group of didactic poems in Old and Middle English in which a damned soul berates its body for its bad behavior in life and gloats over its putrefaction in death. She painstakingly inscribes all of her posts on vellum with a quill; she has no idea how they get into the “electric devil box.”

Mark Newbrook was born and brought up in Wirral near Liverpool in North-West England, where he now lives again.  He completed a BA (Honours) in Classics at Corpus Christi College, Oxford and went on to take an MA and a PhD in linguistics at the University of Reading, specialising in variationist historical dialectology and associated attitudinal matters. Subsequently he spent many years as a lecturer (professor) and researcher in linguistics in Singapore, Hong Kong and Australia.  While in Australia, Mark combined his professional activities with his broad based interest in skepticism to become one of the few ‘skeptical linguists’ around; he was linguistics consultant to Australian Skeptics and now occupies similar roles in the equivalent British organisations. He has authored several books and many articles and reviews on various aspects of linguistics; and he has recently completed the first-ever general skeptical survey work on fringe linguistics (forthcoming).

Jenna Marie Griffith is a graduate student in the Department of Visual Studies at the University at Buffalo (SUNY). Her research explores the intersection of fin-de-siècle visual culture and gender studies with scientific and psychological theories. She has a strong interest in nude and erotic painting, photography and film and evolutionary biology and psychology. Yes, together. Jenna teaches courses in Western art history and theory, has been published in gallery catalogs and graduate journals, appeared at Dragon*Con’s Skeptrack and hunted El Chupacabra in Puerto Rico. Jenna enjoys visiting art galleries by herself to contemplate the myriad disparate lives inside and outside the frames when not pursuing the perfect cupcake.

The “Shakespearean Facepalm” logo was designed by our friend Akhenaten, who you could say is awesome.

32 Responses to About Skeptical Humanities

  1. Ron Britton says:

    Bob, welcome to your new home! I hope the new blog is as successful as the old.

  2. J. Scarper says:

    HeLLO Bob! Hope you’ll be as snarky as ever. Keep the wit we’ve all learnt to love, coming.

    (Did I screw up a comma there? >.>)

  3. Bob says:

    Yeah, I think that the comma, uh, makes that, uh, spicy… :)

    B

  4. Adam says:

    I gotta say I never imagined you as a “Bob.” On the old website, I always imagined something like “Martin” or maybe “Agostino.”

  5. Bob says:

    If it makes you feel better, you can call me Augustino. :)

  6. Liz says:

    Yay, I now know I’m not alone :p

    It’s hard being a humanities grad amongst scientists some times.

  7. Rick Vosper says:

    Just reorganized my RSS stream for the New Year and followed you here. Looking forward to regular doses of mirth and mayhem forthcoming. Maybe even fifthcoming.

  8. Bob says:

    Glad to see you here, Rick! A whole new type of mirthhem over at SH!

  9. Dear Sir, I work for BBC World Service radio in London for an international discussion programme called World Have Your Say. Today, Tuesday 3rd May, from 1300 to 1400 East Coast time we will be discussing the announcement of the death of Osama Bin Laden and were looking to hear from a blogger who is NOT skeptical of the announcement, alongside someone who believes that he was killed. We were wondering if you might be willing and available to take part. Please let me know what number we can call you on.
    Many thanks
    Martin Vennard +442075570635

  10. [...] been saying about Steve and Dr Oz, and literally the first post I found was by two people whose full names and résumés are on their [...]

    • Gary says:

      Welcome to the modern mass media, whose credo now seems to be, “All factual information should be accompanied by its opposite”. “We report, you decide”

  11. Daniel Noel says:

    “Humanities also have scholarly standards that employ critical thinking and judgments based on the examination of evidence.” Great! How about using them on the 9/11 baby step? http://www.911babystep.com

    Love,

  12. I had never heard of Bob Blaskiewicz before I found a link to the post where he tries to debate the 9-11 Truth community by posting pictures of cats and dodging the arguments and science behind the case for controlled demolition on 9-11. What a vapid unintellectual approach to debate. I can’t help but wonder what his students think of him. Obviously either a completely clueless moron who can’t wrap his little brain around the fact that steel doesn’t melt in kerosene fueled office fires OR he is a paid liar and troll. Either way, in my book, he will forever be remembered as the dumbass that avoids rational debate by posting pictures of cats. Note to Self: Steer the kids away from the Georgia Institute of Technology. (BTW, the rest of the faculty must be really, really, proud to have the “cat man” on staff.

    • Bob says:

      What part of, “You don’t need to melt steel to weaken it, only heat it” can’t you get your head around?

      I’ve debated rather a lot, actually. And when people come circling back as if I had not already explained it, I’m done. I’d rather look at cats. Like the accusation of being paid, but have you considered I might be right? I’ve considered I might be wrong. Turns out I wasn’t, but I was at least open to the idea. You should look at the dozens of replies that I put up before the kittehs.

      Heehee.

    • Ghost says:

      The “professors” who operate this website probably couldn’t get a job in the real world, and seem close-minded and petty, kinda like the cats that “Bob” so loves.

      Pity their students who are most likely taught to tow the lies fed by our self-serving media and conglomerate controllers, less if the students opened their minds their brains might fall out.

      Better to follow Sir Francis Bacon’s adage:

      “Read not to contradict and confute, not to believe and take for granted, not to find talk and discourse, but to weigh and consider.”

      (instead of shooting down ideas at first sight!)

  13. “Her dissertation focuses on a group of didactic poems in Old and Middle English in which a damned soul berates its body for its bad behavior in life and gloats over its putrefaction in death.”

    I find myself fascinated by this and desperately hope that this is a real poem cycle and not simply a marvelous joke.

    • Eve says:

      The poems are definitely real, although they don’t really form a “cycle.” It was a popular theme in the Middle Ages.

    • Pacal says:

      A lot of poems in the Middle Ages and in the Reformation involved the Soul after death and sometimes people who were alieve in the poem gloating over the decay and putrfaction of corpses. Enjoying and reciting every detail of rot and decay; rejoicing is how utterly disgusting it all was in all its equisite horror. Some of it reads like necrophiliac porn. One just can’t help but detect a note of pleasure sometimes in the recitation of decay.

      The same is true of their Soul or a living person recalling to mind their sins in excrutiating detail. Recalling their sins all too often seems to give the recitor the delicious pleasure of relieving all the wicked, carnal sins they indulged in and by recalling them in detail they enjoyed them all over over again.

      And of course the absolutely delicious maschocistic pleasure of wallowing in what a horrible sinner one once was, is, enjoying the delights of thinking oneself utterly depraved and sinful.

      I can remember reading St. Augustine’s Confessions and the self lacerating joy he felt while contemplating his sins was just so obvious.

      Many writers in the Middle Ages wrote page after page of what amounts to confession porn. Recalling over and over again their sins, esspecially carnal ones.

      I esspecially recall a Nun who when recalling her own carnal sins would sometimes fall to ground and writh shricking at the top of her lungs “I desire the body of my Lord Jesus Christ!!”. It was supposed to get her mind off carnal thoughts. I suppose it did get her “off”.

  14. Eve says:

    There is also a Middle English poem called “A Disputacioun betwyx the Body and the Wormes.” A dead, formerly beautiful woman complains to the creepy-crawlies who are devouring her. Did I mention that the manuscript is illustrated? Here is an example.

  15. [...] Eve Siebert has a Ph.D. in English literature from Saint Louis University. Her primary concentration is in Old and Middle English literature, with secondary concentrations in Old Norse and Shakespeare. You can find more of their work at the awesome site Skeptical Humanities! [...]

  16. jdes says:

    Comic relief /skepticism about inhumanity in the Humanities… found here:

    http://departmentofomnishambles.tumblr.com

    enjoy
    JdeS

  17. xdisciple says:

    It’s called Controlled Opposition. Most of those you ridicule are actually actors: Mark Dice, Vigilant Citizen, Ron Paul, Orly Taitz, Alex Jones, Jim Marrs, etc… I find it interesting that you did not mention the work of Ed Chiarini, aka Dallasgoldbug, at least not in the recent posts. What is your position?

  18. Bob says:

    I never heard of Ed Chiarini, and given the number of his followers on twitter, neither has anyone else. :) Actually, these two comments are out of place. I’m going to tidy them up later tonight, but feel free to re-post in a “conspiracy theory of the week.”

    RJB

    • Pacal says:

      I checked out Ed Chiarini on the web and basically found out that he is a major loon, or should I say LOON!! For example the following piece of crud:

      “Only atheism could have the mindset to believe we are the only intelligent life form in the Universe, which is why it is the belief system promoted by the Elite–it requires a devoted effort to keep yourself ignorant of spiritual knowledge, knowledge of Dolphin & Whale consciousness, forbidden archeology, along with the thousands of books and witnesses to the alien presence. Easy to achieve if you only rely on the media for information/knowledge. To get the full story of the alien presence and government’s dealings with them (for 100 years), read Robert Shapiro’s Shining the Light series. An alien race has been living inside the Earth for aeons, you can see one of many access points at Gorebridge. Do you think the Government doesn’t know that? Yeah right! See: Reptilian evidence.”

      And:

      “We helped the ape man theory along, because we don’t want you knowing about aliens because we are more believable then aren’t we , maybe you’ll put two and two together if other aliens are here then perhaps we are the ones fucking you up — Scientists we hush them up – genetic scientists know blonds can’t come from apes, course they do – we ridicule them if we can — All alien encounters we cover up if we can, so you don’t know we are around, otherwise you might put two and two together.”

      From http://www.whale.to/a/alone_h.html

      This guy thinks that much if not most news is theatre put on by actors in the service of the elite. Further he takes seriously the Reptillian crap although he believes that David Ike is part of the conspiracy and in fact is also Richard Branson the founder and CEO of Virgin.

      This guy is a certified LOON, only worth a couple of laughs.

  19. [...] is a growing niche in the skeptic community. I’d personally hand-shave a rabid boar to have Eve Siebert return for a full-length solo talk next year. For [...]

  20. Bob Grumman says:

    A note I hope Mark Newbrook sees: I just stole an entire entry of his and put it in my blog entry for 25 February at poeticks.com. I wanted to quote it but wasn’t sure how to get his permission. I consider my use scholar’s privilege, but will take the time to paraphrase his entry if he objects.

    While here, let me say that I greatly enjoy his entries, and the other ones to this site.

  21. Max says:

    Dear Bob,
    I was researching the reference to Leif Erikson encountering “bigfoot”. I had heard it before and wondered at it’s authenticity. Long story short, after about a month of running in circles I concluded it to be a mistranslation. Then I ran across your article from 2012 and thought if I had only seen it earlier, I wouldn’t have wasted all that effort. But thanks for the corroboration anyway. I scanned your site and read a few blogs and liked it. I certainly appreciate the scientific approach. But, I have some info for you that you may want to explore further.
    I am retired Army and I am currently trying to find a publisher for my book. It’s historical fiction that takes place in 13th century Scotland. It’s basically an extension of my college dissertation on the clans of medieval Scotland and their politics. I have traced my ancestors back to the Inverness area circa 1079. Anyway, that’s my current life (living in Atlanta BTW). It’s my former life in the service where I had an experience you may find interesting.
    In 1993, my old unit (10th mountain division rangers) was tasked to assist the local civilian police force in a missing persons case. Very unusual at that time for several reasons: SOCOM rarely tasked us with anything beyond small unit tactical missions (I was the medical specialist in my 8 man special forces group, a SFC at that time, later became an officer and retired as LTC) and they never used us for anything civilian. That was always the nasty guard. So, the next day, we found ourselves in Rocky mountain national park treading up some rather large snow capped mountains called “mummies range” (if memory serves). I do remember for certain we were on the northern slope of Ypsilon mountain during the incident. Our mission briefing consisted of a missing persons report (a male graduate student hiking solo) in a Lima model Blackhawk on the two hour ride there. One strange thing during that brief: we were to carry our weapons and live ammo. That was also a first. We were briefed that the reason was the high number of dangerous species in the park. Elk, bear, mountain lions, moose, bighorn sheep, etc. Supposedly they were rutting at that time (it was summer, so I didn’t believe that).
    You should have seen the faces on the park personnel, rangers, volunteers and police when we arrived in full gear and weapons and took off into those peaks in two four man teams (without even talking to ANY of the aforementioned). About twenty hours later, we came upon a very strange scene. We found this kid, or what was left, about halfway up a 12,000 foot peak called Ypsilon. (We had just integrated GPS systems) His pants were still in his shoes and socks (like he had been lifted like a snake and slithered out of them) still standing upright. We found no other clothes or gear anywhere. We found his skullcap among a pile of CRUSHED bones and maybe twenty other whole bones (one was the femur as i recall) scattered around this little plateau. ALL of his bones had what was either tool marks of some kind or possibly even tooth marks. Not knife marks, mind you. His skullcap had evidently been used to scoop water from a nearby snowmelt. I have seen quite a lot in my 53 years of life and my 26 years of military service but that took the prize, my friend. Later, after we called the locals to the scene, I personally witnessed the search dogs lay down and whine. They refused to search the scene in any fashion. Those dogs are ALWAYS eager to do their job, they live for it. It looked to us like a massively strong creature had dismembered this poor kid, crushed his bones with bare hands and ate him with it’s teeth.
    I don’t believe in the paranormal. I believe in what I see. I have never seen a UFO so to me, they don’t exist. But that day, long ago, I saw what appeared to be the mutilation and murder of a poor young college student by a hideously strong creature that was a cannibal as well. No animal could have done that. And his clothes? It still haunts me to this day. I rarely EVER talk about it and I signed oath documents long ago that prevent me from ever writing about it. Have you any answers? If so, I would dearly love to hear them.
    P.S. I ran across (on the net) a book by a former cop named David Paulides called “missing 411.” I have been searching for some answers since I retired and this guy seems promising. I want to write to him and pick his brain but I’m always skeptical about such things. What do you think?
    Thanks for reading,
    Max
    P.S.S. I am in and out of the Decatur VA hospital (fighting cancer) so if my response to yours is delayed a few days, I’m sorry in advance. But I am very interested in your opinion and look forward to your correspondence. Thanks again

    • Bob says:

      Wow, Max, thanks for writing. Ypsilon in Colorado, eh? That sounds like a thumpingly curious story. My first thought is, “You’d want to talk to Ben Radford.” He’s done a lot of cold case paranormal-type stuff, and he’s very good. Do you remember the student’s name?

      Sorry to hear about your diagnosis. I hope the treatment is not too rough.

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