Special issue on Pseudoarchaeology and Religion in Numen

June 10, 2012

It’s not very often at all that you see an academic paper on pseudoarchaeology, so its some sort of red-letter event when one entire issue of an academic journal devotes itself to the subject.  Perhaps its not a coincidence that the transit of Venus is taking place; both are equally rare events and maybe planets and celestial bodies have to be in the right alignment for this to happen.

Numen is an academic journal that is, as its subtitle says  an ‘International review for the history of religions’.  Guest editors James R Lewis and Pia Andersson of the University of Tromso, Norway, and Stockholm University respectively, corralled a number of scholars to contribute papers on the aspects of pseudoarchaeology that deal with a broad range of issues relating to belief and faith.

The contents of the special issue, and abstracts from the publisher’s website follow.

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Society for American Archaeology Conference 2012

April 21, 2012

The 77th annual Society for American Archaeology Conference for 2012 has just been held in Memphis.  This is one of the largest annual archaeology conferences in the world.  The SAA’s membership is more than 7000 professional archaeologists working throughout North and South America, as well as many Americans with research interests elsewhere.  What made it noteworthy here was that it included a session on pseudoarchaeology, organised by David S. Anderson of Tulane University and Jeb Card of Miami University.

Even more notewworthy is that I presented a paper.  Well, I put in a paper and David Anderson did the always thankless job of having to read it out.  I would have loved to attend but as Sydney University is currently laying waste to its academic teaching staff in the Arts Faculty it would seem gratuitous to have sought travel money [and also here, here and here].

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The Logical Detection Kit

January 14, 2012

I have kept a sort of electronic scrap-book over the years, now full of dead hyperlinks, unsourced screengrabs and ‘big’ files of 720 kb that used to tax my computers something horrible.  One of the things I filed away there was a very useful list of principles for testing the soundness of arguments.  Its called the Logical Detection Kit, and looking at it now with a few PhD years on secret visitors under my belt, it seems more useful than ever.

I can’t remember where I got it from, but there is a slightly more wordy version on an Archaeology group based at Yahoo.  I can’t remember whether I got it from there or it was reposted onto another site.  It was posted by ‘Phil’ in August 2000, and according to the preamble was based on an earlier Baloney Detection Kit proposed by Carl Sagan.  It looks pretty much the same, and has been repeated on a lot of places.  Michael Shermer, the well-known popular skeptic writer has even produced a YouTube video which provides a pretty simple language introduction to scepticism and why it is different to denialism.

Both are worth looking at.  If nothing else it begins to give you a vocabulary to help describe what may be a gut feeling that something is not right, that a claim that has no substance is being made.

Baloney Detection Kit

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