Skeptic News: Flynn Effect researcher dies

NZ Skeptics Newsletter


Welcome to this week’s NZ Skeptics newsletter. I’m going to be pretty brief as I’ve have a busy weekend, but there were a few stories that caught my eye this week.

Craig Shearer

Flynn Effect researcher dies

Renowned Otago researcher, Jim Flynn has died, aged 86. He discovered a very interesting effect -  now named after him - the Flynn Effect, which states that IQ scores are increasing decade by decade. Basically, people are scoring better on IQ tests than they did in the past. This has had the effect of moving the 100 score - which is, by definition, the average IQ score upwards. There is speculation on the reasons for the Flynn effect, but nothing completely conclusive. But it is interesting to ponder. 

IQ tests are sometimes controversial measures of intelligence. And there have been people who’ve bought into ideas of differences in IQ scores between races. Flynn effectively countered such racist ideas and provided science-based explanations that refuted these racist ideas.

Monoliths - definitely not aliens!

A few weeks back a monolith was discovered, in the desert in the state of Utah in the USA. Since then they’ve been popping up in various places around the world. The famous monolith from Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey (based on Arthur C. Clarke’s novels) would appear to be the inspiration for these. 

It appears that the original in Utah was installed back in 2016, but remained undiscovered. Wikipedia has a list of all the monoliths discovered so far.

In this age of viral videos and publicity stunts, it’s easy to imagine that there’s a company behind this using it for some marketing purpose, though given how long it’s taken for the original to be revealed, that does seem unlikely.

While these monoliths have allusions to that in 2001, if it were aliens, they’d do something much more impressive. Simultaneously making them appear all over the world, for instance. Appearing levitating above the ground? Let your imagination run wild!

There is a serious side to this though, particularly the original Utah one. As has been pointed out, this is essentially littering on public lands. Such “artwork” attracts visitors to locations not prepared for a public onslaught, thereby endangering both the land and people’s lives who might decide to visit, ill-prepared for the journey.

ME/CFS research by Kiwi scientists

There was an interesting item this week on research by Kiwi scientists showing that Myalgic Encephalomyelitis, also known as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, is a real thing and not psychosomatic.

As a skeptic, I know that it’s often easy to dismiss medical symptoms that are hard to define as potentially not real and likely psychological. It’s great to see the successful research done that teases out and defines a biological basis for this.


Seven Sharp promoting psychics

Last week (December 10th) TVNZ’s Seven Sharp programme had an item featuring a Ponsonby-based psychic medium by the name of Kimberly Stewart. The story was based on the premise that because 2020 has been such a stressful year, that people have been seeking the services of psychics more. Business is booming! As is typical of these items, they offered a psychologist’s opinion for balance.

Perusing the psychic’s website is a fun journey if you like that stuff. She claims to be “New Zealand’s most accurate psychic” - though it’s not known how such a title is determined. That would imply though that there are others that are less than accurate! How would one know who to choose?

If you find yourself flush with cash you don’t know what to do with, she’ll happily spend 30 minutes with you for an eye-watering $180! Or you can have a Past Life Regression session for $230. According to her website: “do not get caught up on the idea that its [sic] all in your imagination”! The cynical me suspects she knows this is all it is!

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