Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

The Skeptic’s Calling

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

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Russia bans texts by Scientology founder

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT GOOGLE NEWS

MOSCOW — Russian prosecutors said Wednesday that dozens of texts and recordings by Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard had been ruled “extremist” and would be banned in Russia.

“Materials on Scientology by Ron Hubbard have been found extremist and will be banned from distribution in Russia,” the Russian prosecutor general’s office said in a statement.

The ban relates to 28 books and audio-video discs containing lectures by Hubbard, a US science fiction author who founded Scientology in 1954, the statement said.

The ruling was the latest blow to the Church of Scientology, an organisation that some countries treat as a legitimate faith but that others consider a cult designed to trick members out of large sums of money.

The ban on the Scientology materials was imposed by a court in the city of Surgut in eastern Siberia, which decided they should be added to a list of literature banned in Russia for extremist content, the statement said.

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The illogic of belief

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

Via Unreasonable Faith we get this straight to the point comic:

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Is Brian Dunning being too soft on Bill Nye?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

It appears that Bill Nye, the Science Guy, has thrown his weight in support of some product that supposedly “ionizes” water to endow it with amazing cleaning powers!  In his latest Skepticblog entry, Brian Dunning quickly dispenses with the nonsense claim, but then he goes into a sort of defense of Bill Nye; a defense that made me raise an eyebrow (emphasis mine)!

After some consideration, I think the way to react to this is probably not to criticize Bill personally. There are realities that we all have to live with in this world, and one of those is the need to earn a living. There is, unfortunately, little or no money in science journalism (or in critical thinking outreach), and if you check Bill’s IMDB page, you’ll see that not even he has been nearly as busy in recent years as we’d all hope. My guess is that Activeion made him a much-needed offer, and I think we’d be jumping to conclusions to say that he accepted it lightly or without reflection.

There’s an obvious benefit in being able to live to fight another day. The Activeion product is a bottle of water; it’s not going to hurt anyone except in their wallet. If you have to choose a snake-oil product to promote, this is as harmless as it gets. There is probably a number that Activeion could offer me and I’d have done the same thing Bill did. I’d reason that if I took that job, it could fund Skeptoid and my other projects for some time. It could pay my kids’ tuitions, and there’s value in that — there are certainly snake oil salespeople out there whose money I’d be glad to leverage to my own advantage under the right circumstances. I’m not saying I would, I’m not saying I wouldn’t; I’m saying I’d definitely weigh the pros and cons. Whether or not you agree with the choice Bill made, you at least owe him the benefit of the doubt and recognize that it’s neither a simple nor an easy decision.

I certainly HOPE, wholeheartedly that Brian Dunning would not, in fact, do the same and support something he believes to be woo, solely out of an economic interest. Since when does the need to earn a living justify supporting woo? Are we really assuming that the only way Bill Nye could put food on his table is by lending his scientific credibility to woo? I don’t accept that excuse, not for a single minute.

It seems Brian here is voicing the belief that “everyone has a price“. That may well be true, but then on what basis do we, the skeptics, go after the woo meisters who are milking people out of millions, if we’re saying that we’d probably do the same, for the right amount? Wouldn’t that makes us hypocrites? Shouldn’t we, at least naively, believe that we wouldn’t support woo, regardless of how much money is thrown are way? What kind of supporters of Science and critical thinking would we be, if we thougth that we’d throw them out the window the moment we can make a buck or two? Something tells me that the other Skepticblog authors will differ with Brian on this point.

Brian says he’s considered this issue, but I think he needs to go back to doing some more thinking. If this Activeion product really is nothing but water, and if Bill Nye is supporting a clearly unscientific product, then hell yes we should criticize Bill personally. We should criticize anyone who does that, regardless if it is Nye, Dunning or Randi himself! “I need money” is not a good excuse, nor does it get one off the hook, because guess what:  Trudeau needs money; Browne needs money, the BCA needs money. All are in the game for the money, and if we allow the need for money to be an excuse then just what in the hell are we, The Skeptics, doing?

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Measles claims almost 200 in Africa

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

In less than three months, a measles outbreak in Africa has killed 185 children . the UN is asking for help to increase vaccination efforts in the affected areas. As it stands, only about 80% of the population is vaccinated, quite below the desired level of 95%. These low levels of vaccination means that outbreaks,  such as the one gripping the continent now,  can be expected every 3-4 years. I send Jenny McCarthy a tweet pointing her attention to this issue and asking her to change her stance on vaccines. Do you think this story will change her mind at all? …..we can only hope!

2 sought for allegedly taking $62,000 in ‘cursed money’ in psychic healing scam

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on April 22, 2010

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE

When she saw the “for rent” sign in the Far Northwest Side home, a Park Ridge woman realized the mother-daughter team of self-described psychic healers had not taken her money to cleanse it of evil spirits — they stole it.

Laura Santini, 61, and her daughter, Rosann, 35, were indicted this week in Cook County on felony theft charges for allegedly scamming the woman of $62,000. The two haven’t been seen in more than a year, authorities said.

“They basically were able to convince the victim that some money she had gotten was cursed money and that somehow that curse had transferred to other money that she had,” said Chicago police Detective Milorad Sofrenovic of the Grand Central area. “They told her that in order to be able to remove this curse, they needed to take this money physically to a shrine in Indiana and with prayers drive the curse from the money.”

The alleged scam began in early 2007 when a flurry of fliers began peppering car windshields on the Far Northwest Side and nearby suburbs.

“One does not live without problems such as love, health, marriage and business,” the flier read. “Why endure them when a gifted psychic can help you with whatever your problem may be?”

READ THE FULL STORY AT THE CHICAGO TRIBUNE