The Skeptical Teacher

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

Archive for April, 2009

Some Humor: Snoutbreak ’09 – The Last 100 Days

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 29, 2009

As a quick follow-up to yesterday’s post – Swine Flu Conspiracy Hogwash – I just had to pass along this little gem.

I just saw a couple of really funny clips over at the Daily Show website regarding the swine flu. One clip does some gentle lampooning of various media outlets for the manner in which they’re reporting on the subject, while the other clip does a great job poking fun at the conspiracy theorists running rampant on the topic.  Enjoy!  :)

Lampooning the Media

last-100-days-part-11

And the next – and in my opinion much more funny – clip poking fun at those whacky CT-woosters…

Conspiracy Theorists vs. Evidence-Based Journalism… Who Shall Win?

last-100-days-part-2

Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Swine Flu Conspiracy Hogwash

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 28, 2009

Well, it’s all over the news, folks.  I’m speaking about the outbreak of swine flu around the world which has so many people concerned.  Now, for reasons outlined clearly with various medical authorities, there is legitimate cause for concern, but at the same time people need to think as rationally as possible to deal with the situation.  Here are some tips from the Centers for Disease Control to help you do just that.

Unfortunately, in situations such as these there are a considerable number of kooks & crazies that come crawling out of the woodwork to muddy the issue and spout (sometimes dangerous) nonsense.  I’m specifically referring to conspiracy theorists who are convinced that the swine flu is part of grand, nefarious plot by someone or something… out there  **cue spooky music**

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Posted in conspiracy theories, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Huffington Post Medical Woo: Political Ideology vs. Science Redux

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 26, 2009

In my last post, Global Warming Denial: Full of Hot Air, I took pseudoscientists who allow their conservative ideology to cloud climate change science to task.  In that same entry, I also warned that the political left is just as guilty of woo-mongering & anti-science.  Sadly, I didn’t have to wait long to get a good example of this very thing.

I was listening to this week’s podcast (dated April 22nd) of the Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe, and in the news items section they spoke about three articles on the politically-liberal blog Huffington Post. They are as follows…

Antibiotics Cause Cancer?

Intuitive Scanning for Health: An Interview with Medical Intuitives

The Judgment on Vaccines Is In???

**Aside: Dr. Steven Novella of the SGU has a great response to the claims made in these articles over at the Science-Based Medicine blog. Check it out.

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Posted in medical woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments »

Global Warming Denial: Full of Hot Air

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 25, 2009

As I’m going through my day at school earlier this week, I did the usual thing – after lunch I went by my mailbox.  Inside I find an article from a colleague of mine with the following message on a sticky note: “It’s nice to see a newspaper giving time to the conservative viewpoint on global warming.”  Argh.

instrumental_temperature_record

Full disclosure: I tend to be more liberal than conservative in my personal politics, but to imply that there is such a thing as “conservative” science and “liberal” science does a grave disservice to science in general.  I might add this goes the other way as well – when Al Gore’s movie “An Inconvenient Truth” (AIT) came out a few years ago, I refused to watch it even though many of those on my side of the political isle were encouraging me to do so.

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Posted in global warming denial, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Reasoning & Thinking in Science and Beyond

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 22, 2009

I wanted to just take a few minutes to give a quick shout-out to a couple of good blogs, each of which have a recent post about reasoning & thinking.  The first is a post at  Skepticblog about inductive reasoning in science by Dr. Steven Novella, where he takes on an interesting series of questions which are sometimes posed by those completely ignorant of science and/or who want to tear down science…

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Posted in philosophy, scientific method | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments »

More Creationist Shenanigans in Texas

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 21, 2009

Well, there seems to be an interesting mix of sanity & lunacy coming to Texas.  I am referring to the recent effort by creationists with the Institute for Creationist Research (ICR) to demand the state recognize their “Master’s degree in science education.” Needless to say, had the ICR been successful, this would have been an absolute disaster.  Fortunately, the ICR lost their bid with the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board (THECB).

Well, true to form, the ICR is not going away quietly.  Instead, they are now threatening to sue the THECB…

The complaint, filed on April 16, 2009, in the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas, named Raymund Paredes, the Texas Commissioner of Higher Education, and the Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board and its members as defendants, in both their official and individual capacities, accusing them of imposing “an unconstitutional and prejudicial burden against ICRGS’s academic freedom and religious liberties” (p. 63) and asking the court for declarative and injunctive relief.

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Posted in creationism, education | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Psychics on CBS News: Epic Fail

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 19, 2009

**Note: For more background on this topic, see previous posts Psychic Failure in Investment Scams and Psychic Parasites.

I just watched a fluff-piece on CBS News, and I think you’ll just have to watch it for yourself before reading my comments on it…

Notice, in the reporting there was not one hint of skepticism about these self-proclaimed psychics and their woo. Even worse, there was a hint of argument from popularity in that report where the reporter stated that in these tough economic times even more and more people are going to psychics for advice – with the implication that if more people are doing it, then there must be something to it.

Save your money, folks. Whether or not they truly believe in their powers, psychics are just pseudoscientific woo-mongers… this phenomenon is nothing more than a mixture of cold reading by the psychic & wishful thinking on the part of the person seeking advice (and sometimes by the psychic themselves).

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Posted in economics, media woo, psychics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Damn Lies & Statistics: Who’s Counting?

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 18, 2009

In the United States, tax day (April 15th) has just passed, and this year we had a rather interesting series of anti-tax events organized by Fox News called “Tea Parties”. The organizers of these events were, at one point, estimating perhaps millions of people in attendance.

fox news tea party

To me, the interesting thing about events like this is the numbers of people that are reported to have attended. In an attempt to apply a version of the argument from popularity, organizers of such events will tend to over-estimate attendance while those in opposition to such events usually try to downplay those same numbers.

Sometimes, when we see polls or statistics being reported in the media or by some interest group, the numbers are presented to us as what Dr. Joel Best (author of “Damned Lies & Statistics”) refers to as “little nuggets of truth”. However, a deeper analysis of such reports often presents a very different picture.

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Posted in mathematics, media woo, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Implications from Texas

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 17, 2009

Well, now that the dust seems to have settled in the latest round of what I’m calling the Texas Science Wars, it is worth examining in more detail how things shook out.

At the time of the adoption of the current standards, I was guardedly optimistic about the outcome. Upon further analysis, however, I think that the creationists on the Texas BoEd have yet again muddied the water of science education in an attempt to give their ideological & religious allies cover for pushing nonsense in science classrooms (and, by extension through their textbook adoption, to other states as well).

Here is a quick synopsis from the National Center for Science Education on the topic…

Consequences of the flawed standards in Texas?

Since the March 2009 decision of the Texas state board of education to adopt a set of flawed state science standards, media coverage has increasingly emphasized the possible consequences. As NCSE previously reported, although creationists on the board were unsuccessful in inserting the controversial “strengths and weaknesses” language from the old set of standards, they proposed a flurry of synonyms — such as “sufficiency or insufficiency” and “supportive and not supportive” — and eventually prevailed with a requirement that students examine “all sides of scientific evidence.” Additionally, the board voted to add or amend various standards in a way that encourages the presentation of creationist claims about the complexity of the cell, the completeness of the fossil record, and the age of the universe. The result, NCSE’s executive director Eugenie C. Scott commented, was “a triumph of ideology and politics over science.”

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Posted in creationism, education, politics | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

What is it?

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 14, 2009

I frequent the JREF Forum quite a bit, and if you’re at all into skepticism and whatnot, I suggest you go over to check it out sometime. Anyway, recently someone posted an interesting photo there and essentially asked: “What is it?”

jref-orb1

No doubt you can see what I see – a strange light which seems to be among or beyond the branches of the tree. It appears to be a ghostly entity sometimes referred to as a “spirit orb” by some woo-proponents; others will insist that it is some kind of UFO or alien craft. I’ve seen some posters on the JREF Forum (not all are skeptics) seriously make these arguments – no kidding.

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Posted in aliens & UFOs, ghosts & paranormal | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

 
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