Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Plait’s Death From The Skies – Want A Copy?

Posted in Podblack Cat by Skepdude on October 6, 2008



Yes, it’s been released. Here’s a photo I got of Michael Stackpole enjoying his copy – but mine has been edited, ha ha ha!

And I’m thinking I might just donate my copy that I got (ah,, you are so nice to send on zippy post!) mine to whoever wants to send in what we judge to be the best idea for a new shirt logo and slogan to the Skeptic Zone Podcast…

First, check out the range of shirts and things we already have featured on Zazzle!

Then, go have a listen to the second episode of the Skeptic Zone, that was just released – at the Official Skeptic Zone Site and here’s the iTunes Link For Subscription.

It’s kind of a mini-episode, featuring on the Skeptics in the Pub over in Sydney, with Rachael, Richard and a lot of the skeptic gang enjoying a good time. There may or may not be references to ghosts wearing ‘Choose Life!’ 80s shirts and perhaps the Goodies. I cannot give too much away.

As for giving away what I think about Plait’s book? Well, from my first read that has taken me from writing much over the past day or so – bugger space. Save me from prions: progressive neurodegenerative disorders suck far, far worse than black holes and at least in your last few minutes you can actually think ‘cool!’ if it really was the highly unlikely cannibal galaxies. ‘Death From the Skies’ is probably better for Arthur Dent than a big guide with ‘Don’t Panic’ written in large, friendly letters on the cover. Because it actually does show why ‘don’t panic’.

I first gave a copy of Plait’s first book, Bad Astronomy, to a student who completed an investigation into moon hoaxes as a part of her submission to a skeptic report writing contest. The amount of detail she went into led to her asking on Dr Plait’s BAUT board about the Van Allen belts.

His response: “…they were in the belts for just a few minutes. Inner, outer, it doesn’t matter. Since they weren’t in them for long, they didn’t get a lethal dose of radiation. Elevated levels, yes,; lethal, no.If you sat in the belts long enough, you’d die from radiation, but that would take hours or days, so it wasn’t a concern for Apollo. As I like to tell people: of course the van Allen belts are deadly– there’s no air in them!”

That same sort of matter-of-fact breakdown is evident in Death From The Skies: These Are The Ways The World Will End and in fact I think it’s a little better this time around. It reminds me more ofTrick Or Treatment: Alternative Medicine On Trial in the breakdown of chapters.

Since Bad Astronomy was published, I’ve been quietly moving the few rare copies that I can find left, into the ‘horoscope’ section of the bookstores I go into (there’s all sorts of things you can do with multiple copies on the shelves – I’ve had Lynne Kelly’sSkeptics Guide to the Paranormal fit quite nicely next to the latest Sylvia Browne and the like – another book that deserves your support and a republish!). I would therefore suggest that ‘Death From the Skies’ would go quite nicely next to anything by a certain William E Burrows regarding “Teh deadly space!!” and does fit neatly on a shelf in any of the young teen reference sections in the bookstore. I’ve done enough poking around the bumper editions by DK Publishing, Usborn, Wiley and the like to see that, like Bad Astronomy, it can certainly get a good audience.

Anyway – I’m donating mine, start sending in some suggestions for t-shirt logos and slogans (you can get an idea of our style already, from the picture I have here of Plait holding one) – to richard (at) and we’ll see about the winner on a future ep!

And you can catch Plait talking about his book on the THIRD episode of Skeptic Zone, next week! Head to to prepare for your downloading pleasure.

By the way – last call for the Linneaus Legacy Blog carnival at podblack at gmail – it’ll be out on Monday!


How To Improve Science Education

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on September 5, 2008

The stated “mission” of the loosely defined “skeptical movement” is to promote science and reason. At the core of this mission is the promotion of life-long quality science education. The many blogs, podcasts, magazines, lectures, and books primarily serve this purpose – to popularize science and help teach scientific philosophy, methodology, and facts to the public.

But what about formal public science education? There appears to be general agreement among skeptics that the quality of science education is generally poor, and yet is critical to our goals. But what have we done about it? Too little, I think.


Skepnews – 8/7/08

Posted in Uncategorized by Skepdude on August 7, 2008

  • Richard Dawkins, Islam and the UK school system – “Teachers are bending over backwards to respect home prejudices that children have been brought up with. The Government could do more, but it doesn’t want to because it is fanatical about multiculturalism and the need to respect the different traditions from which these children come.” – Amen, Richard, amen!

Too skeptical yet not skeptical enough

Posted in Skepbitch, Skepticism by Skepdude on July 22, 2008


Last week I chatted with a stranger and the topic turned to skepticism, “I don’t like that skeptic guy on TV. He’s a snob. All he says is ‘No. I disagree. You’re wrong. It isn’t true. I don’t believe in that’.”

Sound bites, editing with an agenda, and yes/no questions can portray a skeptic as a naysayer.

However, we don’t want to be gratuitous skeptics either.

That doesn’t help our objectives, or our profile.

It seems that skeptics can be too skeptical, or not skeptical enough.

How can we find a happy (non-paranormal) medium of skepticism?

Not that I claim to be the perfect skeptic. I don’t think there is such a thing. I can’t cast the first stone of skepticism, I’m still learning all the time, but I know when a skeptic has descended into leniency, or dickheadism…

And there will always be someone who’ll label you as a dogmatist or a cynic. Meanwhile, someone else will accuse you of being irresolute and wishy-washy – for saying the same bloody thing…

Since we’re talking cliches and catchphrases, here’s a skeptical motto or mantra to remind us that we’re aiming for logic, rationale and reason, rather than high-functioning autism.

Effective skepticism is about educating others, and educating ourselves.

When we educate others we teach critical thinking, dispel myths and explain how the world works.

This is NOT Proselytizing. This is NOT preaching. This is NOT converting. This is NOT dogma.

It’s simplistic to frame skepticism as a kind of religion; or atheism as another form of theism.

A gathering of atheists is not a church congregation. James Randi and Richard Dawkins aren’t messiahs. The similarities might make it easier for us to understand one thing in terms of another, but the differences make the meaning.

Educating ourselves is about research, knowledge, reassessment, re-evaluation and keeping an open mind. This is our skeptical maintenance, to be skeptical of ourselves. But this also requires an understanding of the beliefs and practices that exist. This is not a rote, aggressive, obnoxious dismissal and premature ejaculation rejection of, say, the opinions of Christians or psychics.

Now you know why no one will have sex with you but yourself…

It’s kinda obvious to me that a skeptic should be an amateur anthropologist, and an amateur psychologist.

Unless they just want to be a fucking snob.

Sometimes, skeptics make the very worst skeptics…