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Archive for the ‘Skepticism’ Category

Skeptical Battlegrounds, a review

Posted by Skeptigator on December 15, 2008

Steven Novella, of Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe fame, is currently writing a series detailing many of the Skeptical battlegrounds that must be fought now and in the future. The series is hosted at the SkepticBlog, a group blog dedicated to the hosts of a skepticism-themed TV series called the Skeptologists.

Here are the first 3 posts:

I’m looking forward to additional parts to this series, they are concise and well-written. Once it’s completed we may very well have a working plan of action.

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RationalMoms.com

Posted by Skeptigator on December 10, 2008

I wanted to drop a quick note regarding a fairly new blog (started October 2008) dedicated to and run by Rational Moms. It’s called RationalMoms.com, a very appropriately named if a bit unimaginative name. I tease, of course.

As their About page states,

Thinking rationally and critically is not easy when there is so much information—and misinformation—all around us.  Not only is it tough to question certain issues without a medical degree, it’s tough to even know what to question.

Our goal is to help sort through all the information out there and point people, including ourselves, in the right direction so that we can spend less time worrying and more time with our families.

And in case you needed more of an incentive to add their feed to your favorite feed reader, here’s a sampling of topics, with little tidbits to make you want more.

The Myth of the “Sugar High”

A couple of my friends [informed] me that there is no such thing as a “sugar high”.

This seemed crazy to me, I thought it was common knowledge that eating a lot of sugar gives you a buzzed feeling and makes you hyper. Kids go crazy and run around like Tasmanian devils at birthday parties and holidays because of all the sugar, right? Wrong.

You do not walk up to a complete stranger and criticize their parenting

[Quote]
The entire exchange lasted only a few moments, but I distinctly remember that I led Jillie away from the Crazy as quickly as possible. I wanted to smack that lady across the mouth.

The funny thing is that I do, to a certain degree, believe in evolution. I also believe in God. and I also believe that YOU DO NOT WALK UP TO A COMPLETE STRANGER AND CRITICIZE THEIR PARENTING.

In defense of formula

I understand that breast feeding is natural, but we shouldn’t forget that high infant mortality rates are probably also natural. I’m sure formula has saved many babies from malnutrition. I am glad breast feeding has become accepted in my generation, because it’s enjoyable, good for my son, and well, cheap. I don’t think I’d want to pony up for formula every week. But formula feeding sisters, I’ve got your back. You’ll never get the stink eye from me.


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Ten Most Wanted Promoters of Pseudoscience

Posted by dystressed on November 16, 2008

I am a skeptoid fanboy. I will admit it. The podcast is a great resource for the beginner skeptics out there.

The recent October 28th podcast covered his list of the 10 most wanted celebrities who endorse harmful pseudoscience. Now I must specify that he does not want these people to be hurt or harmed, he simply wants people to be aware of how dangerous following these people can be.

There are figures on both the right and the left politically, but all are taken to task for the harmful ideas they promote. Guess who is number 1: Oprah Winfrey. A magazine I read about a year ago called Oprah the closest thing America has to a living Deity. All the more reason to take whatever she says with a truckload of salt.

The rest of the list:

  1. Oprah Winfrey – Jumping on every Alternative Bandwagon that comes along
  2. Jenny McCarthy – Anti-Vaccination
  3. Prince Charles – Alternative Medicine
  4. Bill Maher – Alternative Medicine
  5. Larry King – Bad Journalism
  6. Pamela Anderson – PETA
  7. Ben Stein – Comparing Science to Nazism, Creationism
  8. Joe Rogan – 9/11 Truther, et al.
  9. Chuck Norris – Christianity
  10. Montel Williams – psychics

I urge you to check this podcast out. It’s only about 10 minutes long to listen to and even faster to read.

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A site everyone should visit right now

Posted by neuralgourmet on November 1, 2008

I don’t usually do drive-by linking, but in this case I’m making an exception. Everybody reading this should visit Sylvia Browne‘s new site right now. Sylvia Browne is the world’s most pre-eminent psychic. Seriously, you will be amazed at Sylvia Browne‘s powers*.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in Skepticism | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Cool video with TAM6 recap.

Posted by Andy D. on October 10, 2008

This is a fun short skeptical video.  I saw it on Phil Plait’s blog and it was on skep chick so I knew it had to be good.  It is.  Someday I hope I could duplicate half of those visual effects.

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FW:

Posted by dystressed on September 29, 2008

The most dreaded two letters for my e-mail inbox are FW. The dreaded letters in the subject line indicate that what follows is most likely a totally lame joke, a prayer/luck chain e-mail, or a bad rumor about a public figure.

The last item in my list is what irritates me the most. I am a writer and news junkie. I enjoy reading blogs and almost all aspects of new media. The problem is that people are not thinking when they are reading e-mail. There is a certain implicit trust that someone you know or are related to believes this to be true. The text of these forwards sometimes creeps into blogs and gives legitimacy to things that wouldn’t ever make it onto the AP wire, let alone past any editor of a traditional newsroom.

I was happy to see that today the Journal Gazette posted a story about the good people over at Snopes.com. During this election cycle, they have been overrun with ridiculous memes about every single politician. One of the most interesting things I found out was that Snopes is a husband/wife duo that runs the entire site out of their living room.  Amazing.

If I have a point to this post, it’s that we all have to do our parts to be good citizens and reply to the friend or family FWs. Make sure that they know the facts, not some cockamamie version of the truth.

Posted in Humor, Politics, Skepticism | 7 Comments »

The Placebo Effect

Posted by Skeptigator on September 23, 2008

I’ve just finished listening to Dr. Ben Goldacre’s 2 part series on The Placebo Effect that originally aired on BBC Radio 4. (Part I, Part II) You can subscribe to Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science podcast through iTunes as well.

There are 2 things that I enjoyed about these episodes and it was not that many alternative medicines get their curative effects primarily due to the Placebo Effect. This is a well established fact, with reams of evidence to support (see below for additional citations).

It is that many of our “traditional” medicines (particularly painkillers and anti-depressants) also get a significant boost from the Placebo Effect. In fact, many anti-depressants have nearly the same effect as a placebo for those with mild depression.

The other thing is that it is often the context in which the placebo is given that informs how pronounced it’s effect will be. Simply being administered “sham” acupuncture with no interaction between the acupuncturist and the patient produces a greater response than nothing but performing “sham” acupuncture with an optimal “doctor-patient” interaction has a profound effect on the efficacy of the “sham” acupuncture.

If you’ve got the time (each episode is about 30 minutes long) they are well worth the listen. For further reading I would suggest the following articles:

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Big Foot Press Conference

Posted by Andy D. on August 27, 2008

SETI produces a great podcast (Are We Alone) on critical thinking. The latest one (Aug 25th) examines the Big Foot press conference and photos. This is a great way to teach evidence based reasoning and see how easy it is to pull off a media frenzy. They interviewed the costume manufacturer (wasn’t part of the hoax) who did a great job of making and selling the costumes for $495. Who knew there was a market to sell $495 big foot costumes? The show is 50:31. Are we alone is available on I-tunes for free.

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Interesting Interview with Randall Balmer

Posted by dystressed on August 25, 2008

I found this on NPR from religious professor and historian Randall Balmer. He had another interview recently on Fresh Air.

According to Balmer, the religious right movement began in the late 70s. The impetus being a legal battle between Bob Jones University and the IRS. The IRS contended that because BJU did not admit African Americans, it was discriminatory in the eyes of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and thus not a charitable organization. In 1975, the IRS revoked the t.e. status and BJU sued. This was the beginning of the religious right. There was no great push for the pro-life movement, no mention of the gay agenda, just pure racism. Such an interesting fact. I thought I should share it.

There’s more on Balmer on his web site. He’s written several books on religion and teaches at Barnard College at Columbia University.

Posted in Philosophy, Politics, Religion, Skepticism | 1 Comment »

Getting People to Ask Questions

Posted by dystressed on August 17, 2008

I found this video in which everyone’s favorite atheist (at least mine) Richard Dawkins introduces a group of kids to evolution by showing them fossils on a beach. It goes beyond that to demonstrate contemporary evolution with genetics, specifically, how certain prostitutes in Nairobi have natural resistance to HIV.

This video is such a great, uncomplicated way of explaining evolution. There are some times I wish I were in the UK so that I could get these episodes online.

At the beginning of the video, however, students in a class are ardently opposed to learning about evolution on religious grounds. This is something I just don’t understand. I was always eager to learn about something new, even if it theoretically contradicted my faith, when I had it.

I think the reason people don’t want to learn about something not involved with religion is because they really don’t have a strong faith. At the end, they ask the kids again. All the kids say they will still say their prayers. Of course, they may have been lying, but Dawkins strongly hopes that they will continue to ask questions. I hope so too.

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