The Skeptical Teacher

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

Archive for February, 2010

Amazing Skeptical Smackdown of Homeopathy!

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 8, 2010

(Hat tip to Phil over at Skeptic Money for passing this little gem along 🙂 )

Below is some footage from a BBC show called Dragon’s Den, where would-be entrepreneurs make a sales pitch to the assembled judges about why their idea is worth funding.  In this case, a homeopathic doofus pitches his “miracle water” to them using the standard alt-med, “natural is good” woo-woo, with disastrous results.  What follows is, to me, an excellent example of in-your-face skepticism in action – with the perfect combination of hard questioning, demands for evidence & research, and moral outrage.  Take a look…

Posted in economics, medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Scientologists Run Their Scam Again… In Haiti

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 7, 2010

So it seems that the folks living in Haiti have had quite a bad streak of luck lately.  First, they get hammered with a devastating earthquake which kills thousands and leaves millions homeless, and in the process their government – for all practical purposes – collapses & is virtually non-existent to deal with the crisis that follows.  After that, Uber-Asshole Pat Robertson heaps scorn upon them for their cultural heritage, and now this… the Church of Scientology has arrived to “save” the Haitians.

As this article from states…

Our Scientology sources tell us there’s an interesting reason that some members of the church are swarming into Haiti. And it’s even more appalling than you might have thought — tragedy profiteering.

John Travolta arranged for one plane of supplies to get to Port-au-Prince, and personally flew another Boeing 707 there himself. Those planes contained much needed food and equipment and genuine doctors. But they also contained volunteer ministers, ready to spread the word of Scientology.

Many Scientologists, says one of our sources, a longtime veteran of the church, “genuinely think that only they can help in an emergency.” They are misguided, but well-intentioned. But there are others who “are just total buzzards.” Those, he says, are engaging in a vain attempt to profit from the tragedy — a tale corroborated by another former church member. This email is doing the rounds:

By ‘help’, they mean money. And if those seminars result in confused and vulnerable Haitians signing up for any further courses in Scientology — unlikely as that seems, given the poverty in that country — these Global Pioneers get a 12 per cent cut of their future course fees. Our source says that over 100 plan to go to Port-au-Prince, and that he gets email and Facebook spam all day from ‘Pioneers’ seeking donations.

UPDATE: It seems, according to a tipster, that this email had done the rounds before the earthquake as well, apparently, as after. As such it’s not the smoking gun we first thought. But this may be. It’s a press release from the Global Pioneers, sent by the same man who sent the above missive — a Cary Goulston — outlining their achievements in Haiti since the earthquake:

I’m all for people helping out the Haitians in their hour of need, but from these documents I get the eerie sense that the Scientologists are looking to use this tragedy as a way of 1) raising money for non-relief efforts, and 2) spreading their twisted ideology. One reason I say this is the constant reference in the above documents to VMs – also known as “volunteer ministers”.  The VMs are the folks who will be spreading the Scientology doctrine among the vulnerable population in Haiti.

My advice: people of Haiti, beware.  Fortunately, there is a silver lining, because it seems that Anonymous is on the case.

Posted in cults | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Skepchicamp – The First Chicago SkeptiCamp – on March 6th at the Brehon Pub!

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 3, 2010

I just wanted to share the news with you about the first Chicago area SkeptiCampSkepchicamp – being hosted at the Brehon Pub on Saturday, March 6th – Yeehaw!!!

For those who don’t know, the basic idea behind SkeptiCamps is that they are informal, community-organized conferences borne from the desire for people in the skeptical movement to share and learn in an open environment. Everyone from casual skeptics to the experienced participate, give talks and get to know each other.  Over the last couple of years, successful SkeptiCamps have been hosted in New York City and Denver and there are new ones planned in Atlanta, Ohio, and Vancouver, British Columbia… but our very own Skepchicamp is the first one to be hosted in the Midwest!  Woot!!! 🙂

Please note that if you wish to attend, in keeping with the spirit of SkeptiCamp, you must contribute to the cause in some tangible manner – this doesn’t necessarily mean a monetary donation (though we like loot 😉 ), as some people donate their skills & labor to help the camp go off without a hitch.  If you’re interested in volunteering to help out somehow, please contact the organizers of Skepchicamp. Here are the event details…


Saturday, March 6th @ 1pm-10pm

Brehon Pub

731 N. Wells Street

Chicago, IL

The Brehon Pub is an awesome venue for Skepchicamp!  This River North bar is easily accessible by public transit, has a strong wifi signal, and great food and drinks. For one day, the Brehon Pub will be half-Irish, half-Chicago, and all Skepchicamp.  We hope to see you there!  Contact the organizers for more info!

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Evolution & Creationism Clash on Facebook

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 1, 2010

In another example of the science vs. pseudoscience battles that rage across the Internet, there is currently an interesting clash between evolution and creationism taking place on Facebook.

In mid-January, a group of fundamentalist creationists started a page on Facebook titled “We can find 1,000,000 people who don’t believe in Evolution before June” and it started to gather hundreds, then thousands, of fans within days.  Needless to say, this caused a bit of a stir among those of us who actually like science.

In response, a group of pro-science types started another Facebook page titled “We can find 1,000,000 people who DO believe in Evolution before June”.

Now what’s interesting about all of this is that the creationist page started off ahead because it got a jump start.  If my records are correct (they start at January 14th, 2010), the creationist site was at about 3000 when the evolution page got started.  But the creationists didn’t stay ahead for long – by about January 18th the evolution page passed the creationist one in fan number, and since then has left the creationists in the proverbial dust.  In fact, a good skeptical friend of mine put together a nice graph of the population of each page as a function of time…

The vertical axis is the number of fans, and the blue series denotes the population of the evolution page whereas the red series denotes the population of the creationism page.  To date (February 1st), the creationist page is at 26,300 whereas the evolution page is at 115,400!  I wonder if this is the result of natural selection on the Interwebs? 😉

Long story short: the evolution Facebook page is kicking the crap out of the creationists, but we shouldn’t get complacent because we know how sneaky they can be.  Remember, the goal is to make it to 1,000,000 members by June, and we’re well on our way having already gotten over 10% of the way there.  But we won’t make it by resting on our laurels.

So, to keep this explosive population growth going, I suggest we all spread the word and take a page from noted evolutionary biologist P.Z. Myers when he blogged about this over at Pharyngula. And, one last thing, let’s take a bit of advice from P.Z. on something about the word “believe”…

Don’t get all pedantic and academic over the word “believe,” either. We know that the nature of our belief in evolution is very different than the creationists belief in their god: we have a provisional, non-dogmatic acceptance of the overwhelming evidence for a powerful theory. It’s just that that phrase is ponderous and pretentious when “belief” is a simple English shortcut to the meaning.

Amen, brother! 🙂

Posted in creationism, internet | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments »

Telepathy Tricks for Your I-Phone/Touch

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 1, 2010

I recently got an I-Touch, and I’m discovering a whole bunch of neat little apps for it.  Among one of the most interesting I’ve downloaded recently is an app called “Telepath” made by skeptic Dr. Richard Wiseman, which allows you to give the illusion that the I-Touch/Phone itself (or the operator) is telepathic! Dr. Wiseman knows quite a lot about psychology and how easy it is to fool people – or in this case how easy it is for people to fool themselves.  So he put together this little app in order to teach people a little lesson in critical thinking…

Of course, there’s no actual telepathy to it, but it is a really neat trick (it fooled me the first time I saw it).  To learn more about it, check out this Youtube video that Dr. Wiseman put together…

In order to learn the secret behind the trick, you’ll have to purchase the app from the I-Tunes store – considering what it does, it’s a real deal for only 99 cents!  So if you have an I-Phone/Touch, I suggest that you go pick up “Telepath” and start having some skeptical fun with it 🙂

Posted in ghosts & paranormal, humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

10:23 “Overdose by Homeopathy” Event a Miserable Failure

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 1, 2010

This is a follow up to my recent “Suicide by Homeopathy?” post – and by calling the event a “miserable failure” I mean that it was the homeopathy that was an epic fail.  Hundreds and hundreds of skeptics attempted to overdose on a variety of homeopathic remedies, and not one person was adversely affected. Which begs a question: why do homeopaths bother mentioning anything at all about dosage on their remedies when it is apparent that dosage doesn’t matter?

Apparently, the press caught wind of this public experiment and thought it was interesting – check out the BBC article on it. In addition, here’s an update on the event from the 10:23 Campaign, along with some neat footage as well…

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

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