Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Jennifer Lopez adds vocal support

Posted in Left Brain Right Brain by Skepdude on April 27, 2009

In an interview with ‘Good Morning America’ Jennifer Lopez stood up for vaccinations by talking about a new campaign and website. The website is very accomplished and features Ms Lopez talking about how to protect your baby from Whooping Cough.

The interview itself contained the following on vaccines:

She’s also raising awareness about pertussis, the potentially fatal disease better known as whooping cough.Visit to find out more about the vaccine.

Pertussis cases were virtually nonexistent in the United States after a vaccine was developed. Reported cases of whooping cough hit a low of about 1,000 in 1976. That number has been on the rise over the past 30 years, and in 2005, 25,000 cases were reported, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. According to a CDC study of the disease, Hispanic infants were particularly hard hit by the disease, though there is no clear reason why.

Read more: “Autism Blog – Jennifer Lopez adds vocal support « Left Brain/Right Brain” –



Anomaly Hunting

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on April 27, 2009

There are numerous ways in which thought processes go astray, leading us to false conclusions, even persistent delusions. Skepticism, as an intellectual endeavor, is the study of these mental pitfalls, for a thorough understanding of them is the best way to avoid them.

Science itself is a set of methods for avoiding or minimizing errors in observation, memory, and analysis. Our instincts cannot be trusted, so we need to keep them in check with objective outcome measures, systematic observation, and rigid control of variables. In fact bias has a way of creeping into any observation and exerting powerful if subtle effects, leading to the need to completely blind scientific experiments. Good scientists have learned not to trust even themselves.

One of the most common and insidious bits of cognitive self-deception is the process of anomaly hunting. A true anomaly is something that cannot be explained by our current model of nature – it doesn’t fit into existing theories. Anomalies are therefore very useful to scientific inquiry because they point to new knowledge, the potential to deepen or extend existing theories.

For example, the orbit of Mercury could not be explained by Newtownian mechanics – it was a true anomaly. It and other anomalies hinted at the fact that Newton’s laws of motion were incomplete in a fundamental way. This recognition eventually lead to Einstein’s revolution of relativity theory.

Pseudoscientists – those pretending to do science (maybe even sincerely believing they are doing science) but who get the process profoundly wrong, use anomalies in a different way. They often engage it what we call anomaly hunting – looking for apparent anomalies. They are not, however, looking for clues to a deeper understanding of reality. They are often hunting for anomalies in service to the overarching pseudoscientific process of reverse engineering scientific conclusions.

What this means is that pseudoscience almost always works backwards – that is its primary malfunction, starting with a desired conclusion and then looking for evidence and twisting logic to support that conclusion.

With regard to anomalies the logic often works like this: “If my pet theory is true then when I look at the data I will find anomalies.” The unstated major premise of this logic is that if their pet theory were not true then they would not find anomalies. This is naive, however. Another component of this line of argument is the broad definition of anomaly.