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The Fourth Edition of the Skeptics' Circle
2005.03.17 (Thu) 08:44
Welcome to the fourth edition of the Skeptics' Circle — a blog carnival aimed at gathering the best skeptical writing from around the blogosphere into a handy bi-weekly digest. In case you're just joining us, it's not too late to catch up by reading the first, second, and third editions — we highly recommend them!
For this edition, we have 24 different topics, from 18 authors, spanning 35 posts. The topics range from medical quackery, to creationism, to the paranormal (and then some), and all of the posts are outstanding examples of skepticism and critical thinking. Before we get to the categories, we wanted to kick things off with a post from a blog which was new to us, but which we will definitely be reading in the future.
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When we read Richard Rockley's "Five Apples" on Skeptico, we knew right away we'd be using it to start off the Fourth Skeptics' Circle. It's a lovely little parable pointing out the tremendous difference between those who think critically, and those who rely on blind faith.
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Entries on Quackery and Medical Misinformation
We were pretty outraged when Bill Maher started spouting off nonsense about health care and vaccination on a recent episode of Real Time, and were extremely grateful to Orac of Respectful Insolence for blogging about it. He asks the very valid question: is Bill Maher really that ignorant? Be sure to read parts two and three too!
Whatever your opinion on euthanasia, we can all agree that it is at least important to have the correct information when making such important decisions. Over on Majikthise, Lindsay talks about the Terri Schiavo case in "Red herrings 17 'medical experts' threw at me." You can get a bit of back story by reading an earlier Majikthise post.
On Confessions of a Quackbuster, Paul Lee declares that there is "No justification for the existence of chiropractic." As Paul says, it's "Another nail in the coffin of chiroquackery." Hey, debunking chiroquackery is always a worthy endeavor.
A bout of flu and a free sample inspired Clay of Cacoethes Cognitum to research the true efficacy of "Oscillococcinum for influenza." A great example of homeopathy in action! Or inaction as the case may be...
Tom steps up when the "Telegraph cover osteoarthritis-acupuncture study," debunking alleged scientific validation of acupuncture on quackblog :: pseudoscience exposed, and doing a great job of it. Why anyone would think a millennia-old tradition of sticking pins in people would be grounded in science is beyond us.
Good Saint Nate presents "White Matter, Red Herrings" over on his blog. In it, he introduces us to some more people deserving of our undying hatred — those who hawk bogus cures for multiple sclerosis. Really, how low can you get?
Saint Nate also awards the king-of-all-quack-sites prize to a very deserving site. Wow. No really, wow.
Richard on Skeptico has a bit of fun with "Bottled sea water." Yes, it's (apparently) quite a miracle elixir — how fortunate that it covers the majority of our planet!
On Deltoid, Tim Lambert laments pundits "Spreading the DDT hoax." Tim's covered this subject before, and seems to be getting justifiably fed up with such nonsense.
And on her Anti-Quackery and Science Blog, Anne nicely trounces a variety of medical misinformation in "Debunking some of the most common myths about disease."
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Entries on Critical Thinking
Not limited to just medical blogging, Orac of Respectful Insolence offers what we're calling the Kentucky Zombie Saga. The story itself aside, it's a beautiful example of how even a skeptic can sometimes be fooled — but an even better example of what a critical thinker does upon discovering his mistake, in contrast to those who are too set in their ways to ever admit to one. Go ahead and read parts one, two, and three.
Bill Adams has a puzzler for you in "The Da Vinci Head Code" on Idler Yet. Despite the Catholic Church's denial of the truth of The Da Vinci Code, the rumors persist. Bill demonstrates that it's just another silly conspiracy theory.
In "Biodefense: a (very) bad idea whose time has come?" Revere of Effect Measure discusses and refutes the idea that "biodefense" is good for public health, science, and the world, and shows how the Bush administration's distortion of facts and science can lead to serious risks.
Mudfud wonders "What's the Deal with Neuromarketing?" over on Tales of a MD/PhD Student. He discusses whether the phenomenon of neuromarketing is effective and ethical.
In "Still Two Cultures," Paul of North Gare fisks Philip Pullman's Guardian piece, which displays Pullman's remarkable lack of understanding of both science and science fiction, along with anything and everything related to human endeavors in both knowledge and art. If you meet Paul, thank him very much.
Paul also turns a skeptical eye on the barking mad statements of Antonin Scalia in his post "Begging the biggest question of all." Politics aside, we'd all be wise to treat Scalia's views with a healthy dose of skepticism.
Bora Ziv Kovic, on Science And Politics, talks about "Teaching Scientific Method." Teaching critical thinking is part of what makes us good skeptics and smart observers; Bora gives a wonderful example of how to teach inquisitive students to use their minds.
And in "On the origins of Brownian motion," Josh Rosenau of Thoughts from Kansas gives us a great moment in science, and proves that the "god of the gaps" solution is never the right one.
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Entries on Religionists
Lambic of Be Lambic or Green has some advice on a sensitive subject: "Don't label your baby" which examines the line between influence and indoctrination.
No Skeptics' Circle would be complete without that curious mix of religion and pseudoscience: creationism! On Pharyngula, PZ Myers dealt with the lunatic ravings of creationist David Berlinski, starting with "Berlinski: I can't believe I'm wasting time on this guy." The epic battle continues in "Repeating myself because I can hardly believe it" and "Berlinski says he is NOT an astrologer," and at the time of this writing winds up with "Berlinski babbles some more." This is why PZ is one of our heroes.
And another from Josh Rosenau of Thoughts from Kansas: "Religion and Reconstructionism," which smartly implies that religious belief itself isn't the direct scourge of civilization, but rather the practice of religion (including its imposition on others) is to blame.
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Entries on the Paranormal
Skeptico's Richard Rockley weighs in with the highly intelligent "Astrology Challenge," which dares proponents of astrology to explain just how those ancient astrologers figured out the "rules" (such as they are) of astrology. Richard is sending the link to some leading astrologers...we'll be waiting to see if any of them are up to the challenge. (We won't hold our breath, though.)
This brings us to our own submission. In honor of our turn at hosting the Skeptics' Circle, the Two Percent Company has declared March 14-18 to be Allison DuBois Week. If you don't know who Allison is, then consider yourself lucky. She is the self-proclaimed medium whose "real life adventures" the NBC show Medium is modelled after. If you'd like to see the results of our investigation into Allison's claims, check out our week long Rant:
The Two Percent Company's Allison DuBois Week:
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% Monday: An Introduction to Allison DuBois
% Tuesday: Dr. Gary Schwartz's Research
% Wednesday: Allison's Track Record Assisting Law Enforcement
% Thursday: The Success Rate of Allison's Powers
% Friday: Allison's Answers to Skeptics
This brings to a close the fourth edition of the Skeptics' Circle. We hope you had as much fun reading it as we had compiling it. The fifth edition will be hosted over at Science and Politics on March 31, which is a mere two weeks away. We'll post a link to the call for submissions as soon as we can.
Thanks to Saint Nate for getting this whole thing started, and thanks to the hosts who have come before us for helping to create a wonderful tradition of skepticism and critical thought. And now we're off to the pub to raise a pint (or more) for skepticism, St. Patrick's Day and the NCAA Tournament. Cheers!
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[ Filed under: % Bullshit ]
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