Sunday, March 13, 2022

Shadow of a Doubt - March 2022

March 2022

NCAS Public Lecture Series

Save the Children:
QAnon, the Blood Libel, and Witch-hunts

  YouTube Live Event with Q and A 

Presented by Eve Siebert, PhD
Adjunct Professor, Stockton University

Saturday, March 12, 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00)
NCASVideo YouTube Channel:

For more information, call the NCAS Skeptic Line at 240-670-NCAS (6227).

Many QAnon proponents believe in a vast conspiracy by Democrats, celebrities, the Deep State, pizza parlors, and butterfly sanctuaries to kidnap, molest, traffic, mutilate, and murder children and to drain them of their sweet, sweet blood. Such accusations are not new, however. They have, for instance, affinities with the Satanic Panic accusations that roiled many countries in the 1980s and 90s.

But the story is much older than the late twentieth century. It ultimately derives from two parallel and mutually reinforcing strands of defamatory claims aimed at religious minorities. One is the Blood Libel, the belief that Jews annually choose a Christian child to be murdered for any number of contradictory reasons. The first Blood Libel accusation was made in the middle of the twelfth century, and it has never really gone away.

The other strand of accusations is older. It was initially used against Christians during the Roman Empire, but it was later recycled by the Church and deployed against the wrong kind of Christians, particularly heretical sects. Later the same accusations became central to the great witch-hunts of the late medieval and early modern periods. As with the Blood Libel, these accusations have remained with us in various forms, constantly resuscitated like a B-movie Dracula whenever some group needs to be dehumanized as an existential threat to Christianity, nationalism, or Christian nationalism.

Eve Siebert
has a Ph.D. in medieval English literature from Saint Louis University. She has contributed to the Skeptical Humanities blog, Skeptic magazine’s Insight blog, the Skepticality podcast, and the Virtual Skeptics webcast. She is an adjunct professor at Stockton University.

There will be an online question-and-answer segment after the presentation.

How to Watch and Participate in this Online Event:

1) Use a supported browser...
2) Use the link .  If typing the link, use capital "O".
3) The live stream begins shortly before 1:30pm US/Eastern (UTC-05:00) on Saturday, March 12, 2022.
4) To post questions, you must be signed in to a Google account.
5) Post your questions in the chat window to the right of the video player when the live stream is active.
6) Click into where it says "Say something..." and begin typing (up to 200 characters). Then click the send icon .

Along with your question, please post what city or town you're in.

Exclusive Opportunity for NCAS Members!

Following the talk and the question-and-answer segment, the YouTube presentation will end, and an online "reception" with our speaker and NCAS members will begin on Zoom.  Check your email inbox during the last few minutes of the Q and A. All NCAS members will receive information for joining the Zoom meeting with our speaker.  The "Zoom Client for Meetings" can be downloaded for free at  To join, just enter the Zoom Meeting ID number and Passcode provided in the Zoom account is needed.

Save the Date -- Klass Award Dinner on April 27
NCAS is pleased to present its 2022 Philip J. Klass Award for outstanding contributions in critical thinking and scientific understanding to skeptical activist Susan Gerbic on Wednesday, April 27 at Busboys and Poets Takoma in Washington.  Then on Saturday, April 30, she'll present "Grief Vampires: Wikipedia and More" at Arlington Central Library.  Additional details to follow in the April Shadow of a Doubt.

March PhACT Lecture
Our skeptical neighbors to the north, the Philadelphia Association for Critical Thinking (PhACT), will host their next online event on Saturday, March 19 at 2 PM ET.  Medical sociologist Robert Bartholomew will discuss his book, Havana Syndrome: Mass Psychogenic Illness and the Real Story Behind the Embassy Mystery and Hysteria, with Rob Palmer ("The Well-Known Skeptic").  Event details at

April NCAS Lectures
In addition to Susan Gerbic's talk on Saturday, April 30 at 1:30 PM at Arlington Central Library, there will be another event, live on the NCASVideo YouTube channel; details TBD.

Belgian Skeptics Win Court Case: Follow-up
You may recall that over the past year, the Belgium skeptics group SKEPP sought crowdfunding for two SKEPP authors who "criticized the content of the pseudo-scientific master classes as well as the marketing tricks [Carl] Van de Velde [similar to Tony Robbins] uses to attract participants."  The authors won the defamation lawsuit brought by Van de Velde, who then took the case to the Court of Appeals.
(See, "Belgian Skeptics Seek Crowdfunding after Multimillionaire Takes Lawsuit to Appeals Court.")

One of the defendants recently wrote about the original case and appeal here:

Confessions of Coincidence
By Scott Snell
Is this one worth even mentioning?  YOU be the judge!

On the morning of February 19, I set out on a day trip to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, near Chincoteague, on Virginia's Atlantic coast.  The occasion was to witness the launch of a cargo vessel to the International Space Station (ISS).   My friends and I were rewarded with spectacular clear skies and a suitably spectacular launch of the Antares rocket.  Its cargo vessel was named after Piers Sellers (1955-2016), a British-American meteorologist, Director of the Earth Science Division at NASA/GSFC, and NASA astronaut who completed three space shuttle flights for construction of the ISS.

On the way home, my friends suggested we stop in Edgewater to show me their sailboat.  It was nighttime when I pulled into a parking lot near a restaurant.  I glanced at it briefly while my friends were looking it up online, deciding whether to get dinner there.  After a minute or so, we braved the windy chill to visit the boat, then returned.  I looked again at the restaurant sign:



I said something like, "Hey, we saw the launch of the S.S. Piers Sellers today, and now we're outside a restaurant named The Pier."

None of us, least of all myself, were impressed by this, a "sort of" coincidence.  After all, the restaurant wasn't named "Piers."  The name match was only "sorta close."  And how remarkable is encountering something with "Pier" or "Piers" in the name when driving on a route from a space launch site that is, as is often the case, on a coast?  The given name "Piers" is not very common in the US, but it is in the UK.  The fact that the center of our attention for the day was a spacecraft named "Piers" narrowed the coincidence into an almost-respectable category.

I'll rate this as a Coincidence of the First Kind (in honor of J. Allen Hynek's categorization of UFO encounters).  Just sort of a passable coincidence, worth a smile, not a grin.

However, Piers Sellers is worth remembering.  Here's the Wikipedia article about him:

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