Archive for the ‘Skepticism’ Category

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oprah drinks the antivax kool aid, from Bad Astronomy

May 4, 2009

Dr. Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer, posted this earlier today on his blog, Bad Astronomy.

I knew that Oprah Winfrey was prone to antiscience; she has all sorts of New Age nonsense on her show, and the one time Randi was on in recent years he found the experience frustrating; Oprah unabashedly promotes all kinds of superstitious garbage.

But now she’s gone way, way too far: she’s signed Jenny McCarthy — notorious for her misleading statements about vaccines and autism — on for a multi-platform deal.

McCarthy has advocated a link between autism and vaccinations for years. She has written and spoken about it at length in very large venues like Oprah’s and Larry King’s shows, but her claims are wrong. Worse, they’re dangerous: by claiming vaccines are dangerous, she is scaring parents into delaying or even preventing their children from being vaccinated.

I don’t think this threat to the health of our children can be overstated: we have already seen a dramatic rise in outbreaks in preventable diseases due to the rise in media presence of antivax claptrap, and there have been deaths of children, deaths of babies, because of it.

And now Oprah is giving the premier mouthpiece for this movement a huge loudspeaker.

The timing of this couldn’t be more ironic, with Australian TV slamming the antivax movement due to the death of a four-week-old infant girl from whooping cough — a death directly related to the antivaxxers in Australia — with a growing response online to the distortions and outright lies of the antivaxxers here in the U.S, and with antiscience knee-jerking exacerbating the global reaction to swine flu.

Oprah: you have screwed up on this one, and in a huge, huge way. Jenny McCarthy has loudly and publicly increased fears over vaccinations based on nonsense and bad science. By giving her a platform, you are virtually guaranteeing that vaccination rates will decline further, there will be more outbreaks of easily preventable diseases, and therefore we’ll see an increase in deaths of children all around the world. You have claimed to want to make the world a better place — and you have actually done so in many ways — but this one act will completely negate any good you’ve done in the past.

Antivaccination rhetoric kills. It is that simple.

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evidence: creationists are doing it wrong

April 9, 2009

(from Suburband Panic)

We’re going to illustrate a common misuse of evidence by resorting to one of my favorite rhetorical tropes: the television police procedural, or the Law & Order example.

The tough but secretly sensitive detectives of Law & Order: Zoo Patrol are on the case. A rare primate, a librarian orangutan, has been found murdered in his book-filled enclosure at the Manhattan Animal Sanctuary. The orangutan was recently acquired by the zoo, after he was confiscated in a raid of an illegal animal smuggling ring.

Read the rest…

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state board of edu-ignorance

March 27, 2009

From Skepchick.org

Science Takes a Hit in Texas
March 27th, 2009 by Sam Ogden

Well, it finally came to an end today. This afternoon, the Texas State Board of Education adopted new science standards for the public schools in Texas. The new guidelines include language that leaves the door open for creationists to wedge religious myths into the science curriculum. The vote on the overall standard was 13-2 to adopt.

The debate was heated at times, and confusing at other times, but there was a lot at stake for students all over the U.S. And ultimately, they are the ones who will suffer the sins of the board.

I’ve personally followed and blogged about this story for two years now, and was disappointed that, despite the hard work and spot on recommendations by the teachers, review committees, and outside parties, like the Texas Freedom Network and the National Center for Science Education, board members let politics and, worse, religious beliefs guide their decisions.

It remains to be seen just how deeply today’s vote will impact students, but you can bet we’ll be talking about this unfavorable outcome for a long time to come.

See the press release from the Texas Freedom Network after the fold.

The Texas Freedom Network has released the following statement on the final adoption of science curriculum standards by the Texas State Board of Education today:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

March 27, 2009

TFN President Kathy Miller: Texas State Board of Education Adopts Flawed Science Standards

The word “weaknesses” no longer appears in the science standards. But the document still has plenty of potential footholds for creationist attacks on evolution to make their way into Texas classrooms.

Through a series of contradictory and convoluted amendments, the board crafted a road map that creationists will use to pressure publishers into putting phony arguments attacking established science into textbooks.

We appreciate that the politicians on the board seek compromise, but don’t agree that compromises can be made on established mainstream science or on honest education policy.

What’s truly unfortunate is that we now have to revisit this entire debate in two years when new science textbooks are adopted. Perhaps the Texas legislature can do something to prevent that.

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new george hrab album

March 23, 2009

Geologic Podcast. Check it out. It’s a great time. Also, the guy who runs the place is sorta funny. I guess. And he sorta does this music thing, I don’t know. He sounds pretty good to me. I mean, it’s not bad. Anyway, new album coming up. It’s called Trebuchet. Be ready folks. It’s probably going to be an okay bit of…something.

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texans and creationism

March 15, 2009

The down side of living in a state the values its, uh, values with such ferocious certainty is that people here often do so without regard to relevancy. I would take a thousand meek souls with a thoughtful brain each than any number of dim-witted with stalwart minds with nary a critical thought around.

From Bad Astronomy comes a story regarding the ongoing debate in the Texas State Board of Education chambers regarding the “strengths and weaknesses” idea. A bill has been passed that will insert this phrase into the educational requirements for science teachers in regards to scientific theories. The essence here is to allow a back door for intelligent design, creationism, and other nonsense into public schools.

While the “academic freedom” purported by IDers is nonsense, there is something to be said for validation of the field and the content therein. However, this is where the ID crowd misses the boat, because such validation comes from evidence and predictions that can be discovered through this evidence. Intelligent Design proponents offer nothing of substance, but they cannot be ignored.

Oh, Texas, would you quit kissing your own ass and realize how your silly, backward religio-social ideas of how the world ought to work are not as great as you imagine?

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the faith cake

January 12, 2009

Because realizing why religion and science don’t belong in the same argument is the first step.

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picking on Lonnie

January 10, 2009

On a previous post, commenter Lonnie detailed some things regarding his view of paganism. I wanted to dissect his argument for sake of illuminating a couple of my own views and some facts that are misrepresented. No discourtesy to you, Lonnie, but you made some points that need addressing on the whole. I thank you for commenting.

Lonnie began by defending the idea that paganism and magic should not be defined, which is a cornerstone of pagan philosophy to this day. If we don’t revert to a solid definition of what magic is, or what paganism is, then we are possibly giving up the opportunity for any kind of unified ideals. While I’m all for the freedom of paganism, I think there are certain ideals that can be laid out and specified, and doing so will only help the greater populace.

Lonnie also included this:

There is strong evidence that magic was not seen as particularly supernatural until relatively modern times. Isaac Newton, the founder of physics, was also equally known for his explorations into alchemy. The fact is that at one point in time, there was effectively no difference between those practicing “magic” and those practicing “Science”. It wasn’t until much more modern times that Science sought to differentiate itself as a separate discipline, both as a means of weeding out unfounded superstitions, and to separate itself from religious practices.

To be honest, regarding the idea that magic and science were once on the same footing, we should not constantly hold to the ideals of our forefathers. That’s called “getting stuck in a rut.” If we did this, we would not have electronics, particle physics, relativity theory, or general health practices that we do today. To stick with the idea that magic and science are the same is a property of High Magick and Qabbalah. Magic, in a Wiccan and general Pagan sphere, is more akin to art, where rules are meant to be broken and convention lasts only as long as people like it to.

Now, regarding Houdini as a promoter that magic is not understandable, he was actually a great skeptic, promoting the idea that stage magic was merely for show, and that practitioners of “magic” in the private sector were charlatans at best. The secrets of magic are only held as a sort of real power by the most arrogant of stage performers, such as Uri Geller, who has been shown to be a fake from one end of the spectrum to the other.

The idea that magic is part of the supernatural and thus not part of the natural word violates a pretty important part of human existence. Our brains are really only able of pinning down explanations for things that are rooted in the natural. All the things that man claims are “supernatural” and “beyond true comprehension” are just that, and thus beyond the realm of true explanation and real discovery. So, at best, if it is real, it is a series of guesses and suppositions. If magic is real and is explainable, then it does exist in the natural, and will violate many of its own premises. A huge paradox.

Again, thanks for commenting, Lonnie. I want this dialogue to continue on many fronts, so keep posting, folks!