The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Three Must-See Skeptical Youtube Vids

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 23, 2009

I decided in this post to share with you three special Youtube videos that have come to my attention, all related to skepticism & the ongoing battle vs. woo. I encourage you to view and share every one of them.

The first is an awesome video by Dr. Richard Wiseman, whom I had a wonderful dinner conversation with at the latest TAM in Las Vegas. Dr. Wiseman illustrates just how easy it is for us to be fooled with his video, the “Colour Changing Card Trick”

Were you fooled the first time you watched this? I certainly was, and as an amateur magician & skeptic, I was looking for deception. It just goes to show how easily any of us can be fooled, plus it’s a really cool video. To learn more about the psychology behind this trick, take a look at Dr. Wiseman’s website – Quirkology.

Unfortunately, the next two videos aren’t as uplifting. However, the response by the skeptical & free-thinking community to these videos has been very encouraging.

The first video deals with a radio-show rant by anti-vaccine nut Jeni Barnett (who seems to be the UK equivalent of Jenny McCarthy in the United States) in the United Kingdom earlier this month. Here is the Youtube of Ms. Barnett’s broadcast (this is roughly 40 minutes long, if you can stomach it for that much time)…

When this radio broadcast came out, UK skeptical activist Dr. Ben Goldacre posted the video on his site – Badscience.net – and took Ms. Barnett to task for promoting her pseudoscientific garbage. It seems that Ms. Barnett, and the company for which she works, decided to threaten Dr. Goldacre with a lawsuit if he didn’t remove the video from his site, which he eventually did. The irony here is that if you listen to Barnett’s radio broadcast, she repeatedly states that she thinks there should be “open debate” about these questions, yet here she (and her company) was stifling any debate & criticism about her woo. The hypocrisy is so thick you can cut it with a knife!

The good news is that, like the now-infamous Tom Cruise Scientology video that was (for awhile) removed from Youtube, the Barnett broadcast has been splashed all over the Internet. And the skeptical community has certainly rallied around Dr. Goldacre – I actually think this entire affair could end up being a tipping point in the campaign to take down the anti-vax movement. Much more about this subject has been blogged about over at PodBlack Cat, so I encourage you to take a trip over that way for more details. And tell them I sent you🙂

Last, but not least, is a video that deals with Youtube itself, and some unsavory practices that have been going on over there. There is a famous user at Youtube, who goes by the moniker “Thunderf00t”, who is well-known for his “Why do people laugh at creationists?” videos.

Well, it seems that the creationists have been engaging in a dirty trick called “voteboting”, in which they attempt to take down the rating of pro-science videos like those by Thunderf00t through an organized campaign. Essentially, voteboting is a form of censorship, as lower rated videos get less visibility. Fortunately, there is now a growing number of people in the Youtube community who are getting wise to this nasty trick and fighting against it – here’s a video showing how. Unfortunately, Thunderf00t recently made a video critical of Youtube for not addressing the problem of votebots, and he got suspended for it & his video was yanked.

However, the video is back because many people saved it and have posted it in multiple places, including other spots on Youtube. Here it is – Youtube vs. Users…

I guess the lesson from both Dr. Goldacre’s and Thunderf00t’s experiences is that it is pretty damn hard to censor information on the Internet, and that’s a good thing. It also displays the hypocrisy & dishonesty of many woosters – such as the anti-vaxxers and creationists referenced in this post – in that they constantly whine about how they “just want open debate”, and at the same time they’ll do everything to silence & censor their critics. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Anyway, I hope you found these Youtube videos educational and useful. Please pass them along!

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