Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Pope ‘distorting condom science’

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 26, 2009

One of the world’s most prestigious medical journals, the Lancet, has accused Pope Benedict XVI of distorting science in his remarks on condom use.

It said the Pope’s recent comments that condoms exacerbated the problem of HIV/Aids were wildly inaccurate and could have devastating consequences.

The Pope had said the “cruel epidemic” should be tackled through abstinence and fidelity rather than condom use.

Correspondents say the attack from the Lancet was unprecedentedly virulent.

“Whether the Pope’s error was due to ignorance or a deliberate attempt to manipulate science to support Catholic ideology is unclear,” said the journal.

But is said the comment still stood and urged the Vatican to issue a retraction.

“When any influential person, be it a religious or political figure, makes a false scientific statement that could be devastating to the health of millions of people, they should retract or correct the public record,” it said.


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Breaking news: SCIENCE WINS IN TEXAS!! Barely.

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on March 26, 2009

Incredible news out of Texas: creationists have lost a big battle to destroy science education in the Lone Star State!

The State Board of Education voted on the science standards — the list of basic scientific knowledge students should have at various grade levels, like knowing that atoms are the basic building blocks of matter, the Earth goes around the Sun, and — say — evolution is the basic and most fundamental aspect upon which all of modern biology is based.

Creationists on the board (and there are many) tried to water down the standards by creating a phony baloney “strengths and weaknesses” amendment, a totally bogus and arbitrary rule that says that teachers have to point out where a theory has faults. They did this specifically to weaken the teaching of evolution in biology classes. They don’t actually care if the students get a solid education on the fact of evolution, they only care to tear down real science and replace it with Biblical literalism.

And they failed. According to the fantastic science-based Texas Freedom Network, which has been live-blogging the vote, the creationist amendment lost in a 7-7 vote. They could not add the amendment without an actual victory, so the tie means the garbage amendment goes down.

But before you dance in the streets, have a mind that the vote was tied 7-7. In other words, half the people on the Texas State School Board of Education thought it was fine and dandy that evolution, a foundation of modern science and shown to be fact beyond reasonable doubt, be taught as being weak and flawed.


Feng Shui Hooey

Posted in Skeptico by Skepdude on March 26, 2009

From this thread at JREF I learned of a recent post at a blog called Fengshui Forward (“We aim to gather fellow Chinese Metaphysics enthusiatics to discuss and promote Chinese 5 arts”), entitled United we stand, Divided we fall!.  The author, ken, is bothered by the Penn & Teller Bullshit episode on Feng Shui – the one where each of the three Feng Shui experts comes up with completely different recommended colors and arrangements of furniture at the exact same house.  Unfortunately ken has completely missed the point of the P&T program, and criticisms of Feng Shui in general:

It is very easy to discredit a practice like Feng Shui because Metaphysics is defined by Wikipedia as “investigates principles of reality transcending those of any particular science”.

No, that’s not how to discredit Feng Shui, although I agree it is  easy to discredit.  P&T discredit Feng Shui not by reference to a definition in Wikipedia (which would be an absurd way to do it anyway), but by simply showing that three so called “experts”, all using the exact same “science”, come up with completely different recommendations for the same problem.  Let’s face it – they can’t all be right.  The fact that they’re all different just demonstrates to any rational person that it’s nonsense.  How would you tell which of the recommendations was right and which wrong?  If Feng Shui had any actual real effect then it ought to be possible to tell by testing.  But according to ken, you can’t test Feng Shui:

Feng Shui is not superstitious.  It merely looks superstitious because it is beyond science and hence science cannot explain it and neither can humans.  How do you expect a kid to explain the action of his parents?  Since Feng Shui transcends science, one cannot get a satisfactory explanation of Feng Shui using scientific principles.

“Beyond science”?  Science is just an organized way of testing hypotheses against reality.  The phrase “beyond science” just means “can’t be tested to see if it works”.  But why not?  If it has any real effect surely that effect must be measurable (ie it is testable).  If it’s effects really aren’t measurable, then what is the difference between Feng Shui and something that doesn’t exist?  (Clearly, nothing.)


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