Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Five Biggest LIES About Christianity

Posted in Atheism, Edward Current, Fun, Humorous by Skepdude on September 25, 2009

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Evidence? What evidence?

Posted in Red Rabitt's Life by Skepdude on September 24, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT RED RABITT’S LIFE

There are two types of chiropractor:

1. The good “mechanic.” This chiropractor knows a lot about back anatomy and back pain, and is able to use chiropractic techniques to bring relief to people who have things like degenerative disc disease, bad posture, old injuries, etc.

This type of chiropractor does not see children.

2. The “woo-meister.” This type pretends he can cure diseases by fiddling with your neck. He “treats” children, and tells them to stop their asthma puffers. He says, if your back is aligned, you don’t need to get vaccinated. He clearly has no understanding of disease processes.

Guess which type posted this:

I don’t believe flu shots work. Here’s why:

* If they work…why do some people who get the shot still get the flu?
* If they’re only 50% effective, why get the dang shot, anyway?
* I don’t know what’s in that vile
* Where’s the proof that they REALLY work?
* EVEN if the flu shot worked, the little flu virus adapts quicker than the appropriate vaccine can be developed.
* Did you know that many MDs that recommend the flu shot DON’T get them.
* Anecdotally, the last flu shot I got was forced on me by Uncle Sam before I left the Air Force 33 years ago. I’ve had the flu ONCE.
* Isn’t it funny how flu season ALWAYS comes AFTER the flu shots are given out?

Let’s start with the beginning:

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT RED RABITT’S LIFE

Dear Penn and Teller: Bullshit!

Posted in Rationally Speaking by Skepdude on September 24, 2009

I haven’t seen the episode in question so I can’t comment, but if Massimo is right about his observations the Penn & Teller would have made a booh-booh! Too bad ’cause I really like these guys, but it would just show that no one is perfect.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT RATIONALLY SPEAKING

I like Penn & Teller, the magicians and debunkers of pseudoscience and general inanity. I regularly use clips from their show in my critical reasoning class, despite cringing every time Penn indulges in his “fuck this” and “motherfucker that” exercise in free speech (it distracts the students from the real point, not to mention the always lurking possibility of an administrator asking me about the appropriateness of foul language in a philosophy class). Heck, I even recently went to Vegas to see them in person, had a photo taken with Teller, and managed to tell him (to his surprise) about how my students enjoy stimulating discussions triggered by the duo’s antics.

But as we have learned recently from the Atheist Alliance / Dawkins Foundation / Bill Maher fiasco, “skepticism” is sometimes too broad a label, as someone can be properly skeptical in politics but not about pseudoscience (Maher), while someone else may be great at debunking astrology and magnetic therapy, and yet also unable to shed some huge blinders when it comes to politically charged issues. The latter is, unfortunately, P&T’s case, as made excruciatingly clear by the 2008 (season 6) episode “Being Green” of Bullshit! I just watched it last night, and I found myself wanting to call up Penn to let go a few expletives of my own. Fortunately, I don’t have his phone number.

P&T have been very good at showing that just because one is concerned about the environment it doesn’t mean that one can think critically or act rationally. Their demonstration of well meaning environmentalists signing up to ban the “dangerous and ubiquitous” chemical known as dihydrogen monoxide (i.e., water) is priceless. In “Being Green” they pull off some of the same useful cautionary tales by showing how easily people can be duped by “green guilt” into all sorts of nonsense, like walking around with gravel (for which they paid real money) in their pockets in order to feel “connected with the earth.” Even more disturbingly, the episode raises some serious questions about large scale exploitation of pro-environment sentiment by web-based companies selling “carbon offsets” that are calculated in ways which the companies themselves have a hard time explaining.

But you know even our smart debunkers are running out of arguments when they choose to introduce former Vice President and Nobel winner Al Gore as an “asshole.” Again, there may be some legitimate criticism of Gore’s arguments and even tactics, but to give him the same treatment Penn & Teller usually reserve for real assholes, like con artists who sell snake oil to gullible people, just seems the kind of ad hominem attack that reflects badly on the attacker.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT RATIONALLY SPEAKING

Bridging the Chasm between Two Cultures

Posted in Committee for Skeptical Inquiry by Skepdude on September 24, 2009

Great, great article. I’m ashamed to say the critique applies to me as well. It makes perfect sense, and I’m gonna try to change a bit, even though I’m still not sure what this means practically, but I’m gonna try to figure it out! Tip of the skepticap to Daniel Loxton for pointing this out on Twitter. You can follow him at @Daniel_Loxton!

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE COMMITTEE FOR SKEPTICAL INQUIRY

A former leader in the New Age culture—author of nine titles on auras, chakras, “energy,” and so on—chronicles her difficult and painful transition to skepticism. She thanks the skeptical community and agonizes over how the messages of scientific and critical thinking could be made more effective in communicating with her former New Age colleagues.

I’ve been studying the conflict between the skeptical community and the metaphysical/new age community for a few decades now, and I think I’ve finally discovered the central issue that makes communication so difficult. It is not merely, as many surmise, a conflict between fact-based viewpoints and faith-based viewpoints. Nor is it simply a conflict between rationality and credulity. No, it’s a full-on clash of cultures that makes real communication improbable at best.

I know this firsthand, because as a former member of the New Age culture, I struggled for years to decipher the language, the rules, the attitudes, and the expectations of the skeptical culture. Yet for a great while, all I could hear from the skeptical culture was noise-and confusing noise at that.

I’m not really sure how to introduce myself, except perhaps with this paraphrase: “I have seen the enemy, and she is me.” I’m an author and healer (or I was, actually) in the metaphysical culture. I wrote about energy and chakras, auras, healing, the different kinds of psychic skills . . . the whole shebang. I’ve traveled throughout the states doing book tours, seminars, and workshops. I’ve appeared at all the top New Age venues, such as the Omega Institute, Naropa University, and the Whole Life Expo (which I call the Hell Life Expo, but that’s another story). My books have been translated into five languages, and I’ve even had a title in the One Spirit Book Club. Understanding the metaphysical/New Age community and culture has been a central focus of my life and my career.

I’m not just a member of the New Age community—I’ve also been a purveyor of the very things the skeptical community is so concerned about. I’ve been involved in metaphysics and the New Age for over thirty years, I’ve written four books and recorded five audio learning sets in the genre, and I was considered one of the leaders in the field.

I’m not in the field any longer, but it’s hard to truly disappear when so many of my books and tapes are already out there. It’s also hard to disappear when I don’t really know what to say to the people in my culture. The cultural rift is so extreme that anything I say will prove that I have gone to the other side, the wrong side—the side of the enemy. In actual fact, however, I have just seen enough to know that the skeptics and the critical thinkers have some extremely pertinent and meaningful things to say. I’ve now studied enough skeptical and scientific information about paranormal abilities and events to question many of the precepts upon which my work was based. More important, I’ve seen enough to understand firsthand the real costs of the New Age.

I’ve also learned to understand the differences and similarities in the New Age and skeptical cultures, so that I no longer react in a stereotypically offended fashion when I or the people I know and love are referred to as frauds, shams, or dupes. I understand now that these terms are not meant disparagingly, for the most part. I understand now that these terms often mask a great deal of care and concern for people in the New Age culture. It’s sometimes hard to unearth that concern—it often requires an almost anthropological capacity to understand the cultural differences between us—but the concern is there.

Until I understood that concern, I couldn’t find myself in the skeptical lexicon. I couldn’t identify myself with the uncaring hucksters, the wildly miseducated snake-oil peddlers, the self-righteous psychics, the big-haired evangelists, or the megalomaniacal eastern fakirs. I couldn’t identify my work or myself with the scam-based work or the unstable personalities so roundly trashed by the skeptical culture, because I was never in the field to scam anyone—and neither were any of my friends or colleagues. I worked in the field because I have a deep and abiding concern for people, and an honest wish to be helpful in my own culture. Access to clearheaded and carefully presented skeptical material would have helped me (and others like me) at every step of the way—but I couldn’t access any of that information because I simply couldn’t identify with it. Until now.

I’m writing this piece as a thank you letter to the skeptical community. I want to thank you for helping me to fully understand just how much bad training I’ve been exposed to in my metaphysical/New Age culture (actually, it’s not my culture any longer, but for simplicity’s sake, let me continue to claim it for the duration of this piece). But I’m also writing as an attempt to open a dialogue, and perhaps to begin bridging the precipitous chasm that exists between our two warring cultures, because at this point, the lion’s share of people from my culture can’t really hear much (if anything) from the skeptical culture. And that’s a real shame.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE COMMITTEE FOR SKEPTICAL INQUIRY

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Church bans reiki for being superstition and not scientific

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 23, 2009

Come again?!?!?! Don’t get me wrong, reiki is both non-scientific and superstitious, but isn’t this a bit hypocritical coming from the folks preaching virgin births and transubstantiation? I just find this too amusing. Listen to some quotes:

But the Catholic Church doesn’t agree with any of this. At its U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops this past spring, the Bishops agreed that Reiki is not grounded in science or Christianity, and therefore is not appropriate for Catholic institutions.

Yeah, our own nonsense is more than enough thank you. Take your reiki out of my church. I don’t need it; I pray!

“Without justification either from Christian faith or natural science, a Catholic who puts his or her trust in Reiki would be operating in the realm of superstition, the no-man’s-land that is neither faith nor science. Superstition corrupts one’s worship of God by turning one’s religious feeling and practice in a false direction.’’

Right, because belief in god is not superstition. Talk about special pleading. My superstition is ok ’cause I call it faith, but every other superstition shouldn’t be allowed.

But personally I must say that when it comes to nonsense, the reiki meisters hold their own well against the religious meisters.

“Because Reiki is guided by the God-consciousness, it can never do harm. It always knows what a person needs and will adjust itself to create the effect that is appropriate for them. One never need worry about whether to give Reiki or not. It is always helpful.”

Wow! Reiki “knows” what a person needs and adjusts itself. But then why would you need a “trained practitioner” at all? Shouldn’t we all be able to just wave our hands over our bodies and get all the benefits of reiki? You see this goes in parallel with the “why do you need a priest to act as an intermediary if you can pray directly to God” line of thinking! But I guess the former is superstition and the latter is faith, so somehow it is immune to the rules of logic.

thestupiditburns1

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Homeopathy and First Aid

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on September 23, 2009

So the British Homeopathic Association is advertising a talk by some homeopath called Sue de Lacy, who will be giving a seminar about homeopathy and first aid in 09/22/09. If you happen to be in the Liverpool area, I recommend you skip it. Nonsense is sure to abound for the only sensible advice one can give about homeopathy and first aid is to never commingle the two. However, I doubt Sue will be dispensing that sort of reasonable advice. So if it’s a weekend and Liverpool is playing, I suggest you go enjoy the game!

Autism rates back MMR jab safety

Posted in News by Skepdude on September 22, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT BBC NEWS

Latest autism figures should dispel any fears about the MMR jab being linked to the condition, say experts.

The NHS Information Centre found one in every hundred adults living in England has autism, which is identical to the rate in children.

If the vaccine was to blame, autism rates among children should be higher because the MMR has only been available since the early 1990s, the centre says.

This is the first time the rate in adults has been evaluated.

Tim Straughan, chief executive of The NHS Information Centre, said: “This landmark report is the first major study into the prevalence of autism spectrum disorders among adults to be carried out anywhere in the world.

“While the sample size was small and any conclusions need to be tempered with caution, the report suggests that, despite popular perceptions, rates of autism are not increasing, with prevalence among adults in line with that among children.

“It also suggests that, among adults, rates of autism remain broadly constant across age groups.

“The findings do not support suggestions of a link between the MMR vaccine and the development of this condition.”

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT BBC NEWS

The Pro-Homeopaths Strike Back! (or, Charlie Bit Me!)

Posted in Oot and Aboot with some Canadian Skeptic by Skepdude on September 22, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT OOT AND ABOOT WITH SOME CANADIAN SKEPTIC

Remember the other day when I posted about the Straight.com advocating homeopathic preparations to contain the H1N1 virus? Remember how I pointed out that the article was written by a practicing homeopath? I didn’t want to point it out at the time of writing because I was a little unsure of the veracity of the claim, but it turns out that the author of the article, homeopath Sonya McLeod is indeed the daughter of the the paper’s owner, Dan McLeod.

I so far see at least 2 conflicts-of-interest: 1) The financial conflict of having a homeopath advocate that everyone should protect their health with homeopathy and 2) The blatant nepotism of allowing the owner’s daughter (who has no medical expertise) to dispense medical advice about a very serious health issue. An anonymous commenter on my previous post offered a great idea: we could issue a complaint to the British Columbia Press Council because of these breaches of journalist ethics. But hold off on that until you have read the rest of this post.

Well, we got their attention, because the Straight.com has responded. The response was written under their “Blog-Politics” heading, and was written by one ‘Charlie Smith’, whose other articles seem to be otherwise regular news/commentary. Charlie, it seems, is rather unhappy with the response received by the skeptic community. Charlie blames medical science for more deaths. Charlie wonders if skeptics would be so outraged if we knew how many people died on a hospital bed.

Charlie, is mad.

Let’s deconstruct. I’ve got my baloney-detection-kit ready for this one.

The study also reported that 9,250 to 23,750 preventable deaths occurred.

You read that correctly: up to 23,750 preventable deaths took place in acute-care hospitals in Canada in a single year, according to the CMAJ study.

Well, not exactly. The numbers 9250 to 23,750 were an extrapolation, not a confirmed body count. So yeah…a little dishonest, Charlie. Not as bad as having a homeopath advocate homeopathy instead of medical science, but still….a little dishonest. More to the point, science-based medicine knows of its flaws. That’s why that report was launched in the first place: to look into the ways to improve healthcare in Canada. Have homeopaths ever done a look into the deaths caused by homeopathic-exclusive care?

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT OOT AND ABOOT WITH SOME CANADIAN SKEPTIC

How Skeptics Confronted 9/11 Denialism

Posted in News by Skepdude on September 22, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE PALESTINE TELEGRAPH

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wtc-southtowerUS, September 11, 2009 (Pal Telegraph)- Skeptics today bemoan the overwhelming proportion of people who claim to believe in all manner of conspiracy theories from the JFK assassination to the origins of HIV-AIDS. For that reason, it may be worthwhile to take a moment to stop and celebrate one area in which skeptical advocacy has been overwhelming successful: the world of 9/11 conspiracies. Through the work of scholars like Michael Shermer and James Meigs, along with everyday skeptics on the grassroots level, critical inquiry has been overwhelmingly successful in calling these conspiracy theorists to task.

A tragedy on a scale at least comparable to Pearl Harbor or the Kennedy assassination was bound to inspire a conspiracy subculture, but the takeoff success of the viral Internet documentary Loose Change and the movement it created was unprecedented. Looking out on the world in 2005 when Change became one of the most-watched Internet videos of all time, with over ten million unique viewers1, it was hard to anticipate a future that was anything but bleak for those who felt it was their duty to defend history from such pseudohistorians.

Yet, in just under four years, the 9/11 “truth movement” has ground to a halt. Apart from the fundamental incoherence of their theories, the downfall of the 9/11 denier juggernaut was good old-fashioned skepticism at its finest, the kind that conjures visions of James Randi challenging psychics and faith healers on their home turfs and winning. Skeptics are better at their jobs than they think, and its important to give credit where credit is due.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT THE PALESTINE TELEGRAPH

To Vaccinate or Not To Vaccinate

Posted in News by Skepdude on September 22, 2009

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT TIME.COM

My wife and I haven’t had many fights about child-rearing yet. This is mostly because all our son does so far is sleep, eat and poop at the precise moment I hand him over to Cassandra.

However, we did have a major disagreement about vaccination. Unlike Cassandra, I feel it’s important to overload our child with toxic levels of chemicals, risking permanent damage to his nervous system. At least that’s how she saw it.

Her concern about the safety of vaccines is not unique, at least not in the liberal, wealthy part of L.A. where we live. Several friends have not vaccinated their children, and we know pediatricians who recommend avoiding some or all shots. And I know almost no one who is willing to get the swine-flu shot, and not because everyone here is Jewish. It’s because while the far right gets a lot of crap about not believing in science, the left isn’t crazy about it either. Only instead of rejecting facts that conflict with the Bible, it ignores anything that conflicts with hippie myths about the perfection of nature. That’s why my neighborhood is full of places you can go to detoxify with colonics, get healed with crystals and magnets and buy non–genetically engineered food. We complain less about the liberal side of antiscience because the women who believe in this stuff are generally hot.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT TIME.COM

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