Good eveni…Is this on? Can you hear me in the back? Good, ok. Good evening ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the 129th meeting of the Skeptics’ Circle. I’m SkeptVet, and I’ll be your MC this evening. Sorry, it’s my first time as MC, so I’m a bit nervous. Anyway, my Toastmaster’s class said I should open with a joke, so here goes..
I ran into Shirley McClain the other day, and I asked her, “Why did the chicken cross the road?”
She told me, “A chicken doesn’t cross the road when it crosses the road, and we know this because Stephen Hawking says we understand energy.”
Thank you, thank you, yes I’m here all week. For more skeptical chicken and road mockery, check out the ultimate collection at Skeptico.
Ok, we have a great lineup tonight, so let’s get right to it.
The august Dr. Aust considers the needs of those suffering from the recent earthquake in Haiti and suggests that while maybe sending money to aid organizations is a quiet, anonymous, not terribly dramatic way to help, it is better than arrogantly and flamboyantly rushing there to show off your woo, as some homeopaths have done. And now for something completely different (how many of you are old enough to remember that show?!) he takes an informative and surprisingly lighthearted look at Hitler and homeopathy.
Speaking of Haiti, I think we all know Pat Robertson had a few words to say on the subject. Well, The Skeptical Teacher has a few words to say back. Amen, brother! And on the subject of homeopathy, ST brings us a not-so-tragic story of one of our own, skeptic and atheist blogger Ziztur, who overcome by the meaninglessness of life (or by realization of the eternal gullibility of human beings) attempts to commit suicide with a homeopathic sleep aid. An entertaining and instructive, if futile gesture! Finally, The Teach also brings us a clip of Captain James T. Kirk interviewing someone even farther out in space than himself, psychotic–er, I mean–psychic John Edward. Set phasers for debunk!
And because woo is a global phenomenon, we have Stuff and Nonsense across The Pond pointing out the potential for confusion when discussing homeopathy and herbal remedies. Most homeopathic remedies are so dilute that they contain nothing but water and the hopes of their befuddled proponents. However, herbal remedies actually contain active compounds, for good or ill. Unfortunately, the two types of nostrums share many marketing points, including buzzwords like “natural,” which make it easy for consumers to confuse the two, with potential dangerous results.
Next, Akusai at Action Skeptics takes on a subject I’ve also been known to rant about from time to time; the depressing decline in the quality of the Discovery Channel, from decent nature documentaries to “reality-TV” dreck and woo promotion. There are a few decent shows left, and Akusai reviews these and the rest in Discovery Channel- The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. Oddly enough, The Onion had a related story today entitled Science Channel Refuses to Dumb Down Science Any Further.
It’s been a tough winter already, but when not shoveling snow, Don Reifler of The Lafayette Skeptics has put together a comprehensive video presentation on the history of anti-vaccine activists called The March of the Mercury Militia which should be required background for anyone dealing with this particular anti-science bunch.
In the much warmer clime of South Africa, a nice local test of electromagnetic hypersensitivity syndrome I described by Paul Hutchinson, along with the disappointing lack of interest shown by sufferers in the results.
PodBlack Cat has for us an entertaining look at Superstition and the Olympics.
And continuing our look at medical nonsense, Bing over at Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes has some thoughts to share with Grand Woomeister Mike Adams regarding his recent incoherent rant against skepticism, a temper tantrum precipitated by his losing to Dr. Rachel Dunlop (aka Dr. Rachie) for the Shorty Award in Health. These thoughts are incisive and cogent, and at least PG-13. Bing also has a proposal for an International Dr. Rachie Appreciation Day that merits serious consideration. I’ve taken the liberty of including a post from Dr. Rachie herself, showing a rare example of regulatory oversight actually calling BS on claims. And finally, Bing shares a few snapshots from his tour of the Creation Museum.
Also fighting the good fight against the imposition of the dangerous irrationality of religious fundamentalism on the rest of us, Ron Britton at the Bay of Fundie continues his extensive analysis of the Darwin Was Wrong “Conference”, which he infiltrated in November. Part 9: Fossil Fraud deconstructs the laughable attempts of one of the conference speakers to demonstrate why the fossil record is just God’s little joke, so we must abandon the notion of evolution all together. Good luck with that!
We get to enjoy three posts from Andrew Bernardin at Evolving Mind this time! First, he dissects the fuzzy “science” behind a study of the effects of stress after the Katrina disaster on children. Next, he shows us the connection between the anthropic principle and drunken billiards. Finally, he uses a bit of consumer research to help explain why good solid science is harder to market than vague nonsense.
Cubik’s Rube tells a wrenching horror story about Facilitated Communication and then follows it with a detailed and intelligent analysis of this practice and its implications. An excellent resource to point the credulous towards, and an excellent example of how to connect with people’s emotions to make them care about an issue without sacrificing reason and fact.
But wait! Perhaps the future isn’t so opaque after all. Hear Ye, Hear Ye! Red Stick Skeptic has had a vision! He has cast aside self-doubt and bravely proclaimed his ability to see the future, and woe to those who ignore his prognostications! I know all you closed minded skeptics out there are going to be keeping score, but I’ll bet he at least beats Sylvia Brown!
Well, I’m afraid that’s all we have time for tonight. I’m so glad we’ve had this time together. Just to have a laugh and sing a…What? Oh, sorry I thought I was supposed to sing.
OK, good night everybody! Thanks for coming! Don’t forget to tip your waiters!