Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.

Friday, July 29, 2011

A Wild Ghost Chase

Following an exchange with occult author Donald Michael Kraig on his blog, I briefly corresponded with him via e-mail about some of the points I raised in my last post, particularly the point that his approach to evaluating magical claims was an example of confirmation bias and incapable of properly evaluating the claims. In his response, he continued to assert that his method was “true skepticism.”
This post will reproduce part of my answer to him – which gives a more thorough example of the way that confirmation bias works – and will follow this with an example of confirmation bias and a lack of critical thinking that I chanced across the other day: namely, a gullible Thelemite claiming in public that he has “objective proof” of the supernatural thanks to his brother’s handy “Ghost Radar” (a toy that can be bought for $0.99 on an i-Phone).
Read on for more.

Monday, July 18, 2011


I stumbled across an article written by Donald Michael Kraig on entitled "Cold Fusion, Pseudo-Skepticism, and Magick."
Kraig, for those who don’t know, is probably best known as the author of Modern Magick, which was the first book I read on ceremonial magick when I was a teenager. I recall the book being a good introduction to the subject, and I also recall a handful of incredibly silly and laughable claims made in the book, including the claim that the author saw “astral junk” in the form of a snake leap out of his floor one day while he was watching TV and the claim that the ritual of the rose cross caused the author to avoid getting pulled over by the police for speeding.

Read on for an anlysis of Kraig's approach to evaluating claims and an illustration of where his logic goes wrong, rendering his approach nothing more than a mechanism to assist with self-delusion.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Profiles in Ignorance: The Argument from Ignorance Revisited

As an amusing follow-up to last week’s post on the argument from ignorance, I’d like to post one example of the argument in action.
This example comes from an interview given in 2007 by Richard Dawkins, one of the world’s most prominent scientists and outspoken atheists, to Bill O’Reilly, one of the world’s most annoying blowhards. O'Reilly is, for those who are blissfully ignorant of his existence, the host of a talk "news" show -- and I use the term "news" sparingly -- that consists mostly of his opinion on things and interviews in which he dominates the conversation by talking louder and faster than anyone else.
The interview can be found here, and the remainder of this post will analyze O’Reilly’s appeal to ignorance as an argument for the existence of a god.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Believers Say the Darndest Things 4: The Argument from Ignorance

To be ignorant of something is simply to lack knowledge of it, and every human being is ignorant about a great number of subjects. Obviously, since it’s impossible for one individual to study and become expert in every field, each person is going to be incredibly ignorant when it comes to most subjects (of course, human knowledge – taken as a whole and built up through bodies of experts using peer-reviewed methodology – is not nearly so ignorant. It should not be assumed that humans thus know “nothing” about the universe: see this post for more).

In short, there is no shame in being ignorant.
There is shame, however, in using ignorance as the basis of a logical argument, which is a fallacy called – appropriately enough – the argument from ignorance.
Read on for examples of this believer script at work. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011


Jim Eshelman’s “Temple of Thelema” forums (found here) is, in my humble estimation, a regular fruitcake factory. While there are sometimes interesting nuggets to be had in these forums, many of the “discussions” there are filled with ridiculous supernatural claims and all sorts of distractionary nonsense that are little more than impediments to serious students of Thelema. It’s unfortunate that a number of participants in the threads seem to be sincere seekers who are looking for truth and are, instead, being peddled supernatural claptrap.
[For relevant background information, see here, here, and here for Erwin Hessle’s insightful posts about dumb comments Eshelman has made in public and about how serious Eshelman's organization appears to be]
On one recent thread over there, one poster was explaining to the others that none of the supernatural tripe they believe in is actually real. As would be expected, these religious believers didn’t take very kindly to someone pointing this out, and Eshelman posted a short rant misdescribing such a basic observation as a “fundamentalist religion.”
This post will refute Eshelman’s rant.