Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Public schools become focus of gay marriage ban

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

A girl in pigtails bounds into the kitchen after school and asks her mother to guess what she learned that day. “I learned how a prince married a prince, and I can marry a princess,” she exclaims to her mortified mom.

This television advertisement for a ballot initiative that would ban same-sex marriage in California urges voters to “protect children” by approving the measure.

There’s not a word about education in Proposition 8, but what public schools will be required to teach about same-sex marriage has emerged as the central issue in the campaign.

The measure’s supporters warn that teachers will be forced to tell young children about gay marriage if the measure fails on Nov. 4.

Opponents of the measure say that’s deceptive because schools already are required to teach tolerance of gays and lesbians, and the ballot measure won’t change that.


Britain widens scope for stem cell research

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

British plans to allow scientists to use hybrid animal-human embryos for stem cell research won final approval from lawmakers Wednesday in a sweeping overhaul of sensitive science laws. The House of Commons also clarified laws that allow the screening of embryos to produce babies with suitable bone marrow or other material for transplant to sick siblings.

It was the first review of embryo science in Britain in almost 20 years.

The legislators voted 355 to 129 to authorize the proposals after months of sometimes bitter debate that has pitted Prime Minister Gordon Brown’s government and scientists against religious leaders, anti-abortion campaigners and others anxious about medical advances.

Brown says he believes scientists seeking to use mixed animal-human embryos for stem cell research into diseases such as Parkinson’s will help improve – and save – millions of lives.


Science on the ‘Fringe’

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Earlier today I wrote an entry on the new Fox show, “Fringe”. I find it entertaining but not very much correct either in its science or portrayal of skeptics. LiveScience has this article about the “science guys” in charge of coming up with the ideas about the “fringe science” being portrayed in the show. Here’s some of what it says:

Sometimes science fact is actually stranger than science fiction.  As the “science guys” behind Fox television’s new scientific thriller, FRINGE, Rob Chiappetta and Glen Whitman, know that better than anyone else.

“For example, in episode three one of the characters was receiving messages in his brain telepathically and the Monday before the show aired, we saw an article on the CNN website that explained how the U.S. Army was developing a helmet that uses brain waves to help soldiers talk to each other

Which is not quite science, which it would need to be in order to be qualified as fringe science. Just because a CNN headline says that the army is trying to develop a helmet that uses brain waves to help soldiers talk to each other, that does not make it science. How many hypotheses don’t pan out? How many R&D projects die out with not an ounce of success?

Whitman and Chiappetta are “media consultants,” not scientists, and while they’ve been advisors on several TV shows, they note their expertise comes from curiosity and researching science journals and the popular press, not formal training. Chiappetta has a law degree from the University of Texas, and Whitman has his PhD in economics from New York University.

Well that explains a lot.

“A lot of times we have a scene where something will happen and we have to figure out how this can be justified scientifically, Whitman said. “So we will come up with three ideas and the writers choose.”

I wonder how do a lawyer and economist come up with plausible scientific explanations of how these fringe ideas can be explained? And then not one, but three scientifically justified hypotheses? Something’s smells fishy!

One of the writers came to the team to tell them about a scientist who was using rat brain cells to control a rat robot via remote control.  While Whitman’s background may have been in economics, mathematics, and statistics, he discovered a strong affinity for neuroscience. “Glen can tell you what part of the brain regulates what function,” said Chiappetta.

This is ridiculous. Are we supposed to be impressed by that? Any old chap can do a little bit of Googling and find the name of the part of the brain that controls some general functions, such as speech, vision etc. That does not make them experts in Neurology, capable of coming up with THREE scientifically plausible explanations. That’s total BS and I must cry fault.

While the ideas on the show may go beyond current science research, these ideas still have to be plausible.  “If it hasn’t happened, it still has to be reasonable,” Chiappetta said. “As long as we give a bit of explanation about the science and show the possibility.”

And the plausibility of such ideas these guys are not qualified to judge.  They don’t give a plausible explanation of how such things are supposed to work, they can’t they’re not experts in all the different fields that the show delves in week in and week out.

My conclusion is that when these guys think of fringe science, what they’re really thinking about is what in the scientific circles is referred to as pseudoscience, you know things like telekinesis and, as portrayed in the first episode, syncing brain waves so a healthy person can talk to a person in a coma, just as they would do over coffee? You decide is that fringe or pseudo science?


False Memories Can Influence Behaviour

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Even when human memory is working normally, it is still frequently unfaithful. Instead of the total recall of, say, a video camera we get something more like a symbolist, or even abstract painting. Sights, sounds and smells are refracted by our minds into memories that often tell more about us than the original events they apparently record.

Psychologists have found many processes that act like lenses, creating distorted memories of original events. These processes include things like cognitive dissonance, the consistency bias and misattribution. But what power do these distorted or false memories hold over the mind? How far are they able to weave themselves into the tapestry of our lives? In short: can false memories affect our everyday thought and behaviour?

According to the results of a new experiment reported in Psychological Science, false memories could have many and varied behavioural consequences: just like ‘real’ memories, they may well be able to reach forward to the present and dramatically change how we think and behave.


Ben Stein Gives “Expelled” Four Stars!

Posted in Skepchick by Skepdude on October 22, 2008


In case you were wondering whether or not to buy the DVD of the movie Expelled, the anti-evolution lie-fest hosted by Ben Stein, the producers would really like you to know that a bigtime Hollywood star who was once in three minutes of Ferris Bueler’s Day Off gives this movie his absolute highest recommendation! Yes, that person is also the host of the documentary in question, but still! Here is the actual DVD cover advertised for sale at Barnes and Noble:

In other news, Stephen Baldwin gives Biodome 700 stars.

Thanks to Guy for sending us this classic.


RSS Update

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Loyal readers. Please note the new RSS icon at the top on the left sidebar. I just set up Skepfeeds to go through Feedburner. If you subscribe to Skepfeeds via an RSS reader, such as Google Reader, please unsubscribe your currents subscription and re-subscribe using the icon on the left. That will help me get a better handle as to my readership levels and help me make changes to the blog to increase circulation.

Furthermore, if you have your own blog, do give Skepfeeds a little plug, and if your blogs are of a skeptical nature, bring it to my attention at the comment section of the About Page or any other entry.

Thank you,


Climbers find footprints of abominable snowman?

Posted in News by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

KATHMANDU (Reuters) – Japanese climbers returning from a mountain in western Nepal said Tuesday they had found footprints they think belonged to the abominable snowman or Yeti.

“We saw three footprints which looked like that of human beings,” Kuniaki Yagihara, a member of the Yeti Project Japan, said in Kathmandu, after returning from the mountain with photographs of the footprints.

The climbers, equipped with long-lens cameras, video cameras and telescopes, said, however that they did not see or take any photographs of the creature.

The Yeti is said to live in the Himalayan regions of Nepal and is largely regarded by the scientific community as a mythical creature.


IDiocy: Can it get more pathetic than this?

Posted in Evolved and Rational by Skepdude on October 22, 2008


Every once in a while you come across something so theistarded and sad that you almost think that it is all a big parody, except for the fact that it is 100% real. Next, you think that humanity is more fucked-up than you ever imagined, and you are even more horrified when you realize that a large segment of the population actually buys into that particular brand of bullshit.

Case in point: The Expelled DVD.

Okay, the fact that Expelled is a theistarded pile of dishonest dung is old news. The BAWWWWing and drama by the IDiots after getting epically pwned over 9000 times is also old news. Nothing could make the Expelled FAILshow even more of a failure, right?

Wrong, of course. When it comes to the cretinous, IDiotic, lying, theistarded morons, nothing is too stupid or too unbelievable. Are you ready for the latest cringe-worthy truckload of FAIL from the IDiots? Get ready for it now….

The person who wrote the promotional blurb for the cover of the Expelled DVD is Ben Stein himself.

“I love this film!” –Ben Stein

Let that sink in for a bit, folks.

Ben Stein wrote the cover blurb for his own movie. Ben Stein wrote the cover blurb for his own movie. Ben Stein wrote the cover blurb for his own movie. Ben Stein wrote the cover blurb for his own movie. Ben Stein wrote the cover blurb for his own movie.

Can it get any more pathetic than that?

It seems like good old Stein couldn’t even get some theistarded church leader to promote his shitty crocumentary, and he had to resort to the usual Idiotic self-praise, just like that other decrepit fool, William Dembski, who wrote positive reviews of his own book at Amazon under different names.

Those IDiots are like a train wreck that has greatly surpassed the point of providing lulz, but somehow we can’t seem to stop watching and cringing.

The failure! The irony! The Idiocy! The stupidity! IT BURNS!!


My Trip to The Creation Museum.

Posted in Creationism, Evolution, Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

You won’t believe me, but I went with an open mind.

First off, The Creation Museum is located about 30 minutes west of Downtown Cincinatti, in a field off a small country road. Before I drove through the gates, I had to have the right intro music. I could have thrown on some loud heavy metal music, only to further the stereotype of atheists as goth baby eaters; I also could have thrown on some flaming remix of a Cher or Abba song, only to notify the security guards that a homosexual was about to infiltrate. But, instead, I searched within the crypts of my iPod and found CeCe WinansAnybody Wanna Pray With Me?. For a museum in Kentucky, I’m sure I offended somebody.

The parking lot had hundreds of spots, but maybe 40 cars. As my friend and I parked the car, a tractor giving hay rides came chugging by us. A few kids and their grandparents rode, but that was about it. As we found our way to the entrance, no one but a perky security guard was standing out front. By his side was an adorably lazy bloodhound named Mater.

The museum itself was somewhat unsatisfying. At only 70,000 square feet, the structure could hardly be called enormous. In addition, for being The Creation Museum, I expected a big sign yelling its name; instead, there was just a small marquee above the door. It was so forgettable I didn’t even take a photograph.


PseudoSkeptic Alert – Fox’s new show “Fringe”

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on October 22, 2008

Now I am not a big fan of FOX, and I don’t turn to them for level headed journalism or reporting. Nevertheless, they did earn a tiny little bit of respect from me with “House“, one of my favorite shows. Even though I am sure it was not their intention to promote skepticism, and most likely they wanted to create a character which people loved for his medical genius, but hated for everything else, such as his rationality and atheism, I am still glad that at least we’re having some skeptical main characters that are being portrayed not quite completely as cynical, no-good, know-nothing, deny-everything, nay-sayers that most of the public thinks we are. You see at the end of the day House is always (almost) right. Even though he at times acts like a jerk, at the end his logic and rationality seem to prevail. That must have been unintended by the show’s producers. Either that or they were really slick how they presented the show when they first sold the idea to FOX.

Nevertheless, that tiny bit of respect has been, quite expectantly, completely lost with the introduction of the new show “Fringe“, as in fringe science, science too far advanced for most scientists, except a select few of course. In this show, Joshua Jackson plays what has to be the worst caricature of a skeptic I’ve seen in my few years on this planet (you see in my previous life there was no television!). He’s portrayed as everything the public thinks is wrong with skeptics, and in that regard this character will be accepted quite willingly by the public. He’s arrogant, always denying his father’s “science”, always saying this cannot work, that is not science, this is ridiculous etc etc. Which is all fine.

Nevertheless, in the show he’s always portrayed as being shown wrong. Episode after episode he keeps repeating the mantra that this particular idea can’t work, then he’s proven wrong by his genius father, just to come back next episode and start ridiculing his always right father all over again. Now to be fair, he never says that “I’m a skeptic and I don’t believe that”, but I think it’s quite clear who this person is supposed to be, just like his father is meant to represent the geniuses that are suppressed by big companies and the government who don’t want their revolutionary work to be know. Why, he could very well write one of those “Blah blah blah…they don’t want you to know” books.

Bottom line

Show is quite entertaining, I won’t deny that. But it does feed into the peoples imaginations and it reinforces wrong stereotypes about skeptics and science in general. If someone had made a show about catholic priests and showing them taking little boys in their rooms every episode, that show would have never made it in the air, unless HBO picked it up. Fringe is tantamount to that except that instead of the priests they have a skeptic and instead of the little boys, is rapes reality. Go watch “The Mentalist” instead (even though I haven’t seen anything beyond the pilot and I hope that they haven’t bastardized it or don’t plan to do so in the future)