Archive for July, 2009

10 reasons the Telegraph needs a science writer

This week being the 40th anniversary of the Apollo 11 mission, it isn’t really surprising that the Moon Landing Deniers are getting some coverage in the press. Not in The Telegraph, however. To mark this historic occasion, a newspaper with less self discipline might have printed a puff piece for an MLD group; or perhaps ran an uncritical interview with some conspiracy nut.  But not The Telegraph, no. They cut out the middle man and print the Moon Hoax story as if it were fact.

Cheers, guys.

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Question of the Week: What would you do with the moon?

In honour of the anniversary of the moon landings, we ask you:

What would you do with the moon?  Terraform it?  Theme Park?  Holiday Zone?

It’s been 40 years!!!  Where’s the pool?  The sauna?  If you were in charge, I’m sure you would have done something by now… Lay out your plans below…

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Freudian CiF: Errors of an Old Guardian Bloggist

Freud!

What do you know about Freud?

Good. That’s more than me. Probably. I know very little about Freud. What I do know is a mixture of his beliefs, and the caricatures of his beliefs that others have presented me. In essence, it is this: young boys lust after their mothers and want to kill their fathers, a perversion that leads to a large part of the malaise and despair intrinsic to being a grown-up. Young girls are broken and weird, a perversion that leads to a large part of the malaise and despair intrinsic to being a grown up.

There. That’s it.

Andrew Brown!

What do you know about Andrew Brown? All I know is a mixture of his beliefs, and the caricatures of his beliefs that he so bizarrely and inanely presents to Guardian readers on the occasions when another fantastical grudge against atheists springs into his mind. In essence, it is this: Andrew Brown is part of the malaise and despair intrinsic to being a grown up. Plus he thinks that new atheists are broken, weird and perverted. Or something like that.

I’m therefore approaching Andrew Brown’s recent blog post without a great deal of expertise of the subject I’m dealing with.

Luckily, if he doesn’t need expertise, nor do I. Read the rest of this entry »

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Astrology 101: Debunking The Dirty Dozen

As we were sat around MSS HQ (which, being skeptics and all, you’re no doubt 100% aware of the fact it doesn’t actually exist), it occurred to us that there is an awful lot of woo out there, and not everyone can be expected to be fully versed in every bit of it.  I’d never heard of Pascal’s Wager (as Mike charmingly announced to the world).  People we’ve spoken to had no idea why homeopathy and acupuncture were pseudomedicine.  Some forms of woo are so obscure people may not have even heard of them (please please please spend 5 minutes looking up Breatharianism, for your next ‘what’s the harm?’ conversation).  We’ll be giving a basic intro to the pseudoscience and fuzzy thinking behind some of those in the near future, as part of our ‘Skeptic 101‘ series.

Then there are the other topics – the ones where everyone knows it’s nonsense, but you might not have the facts to hand next time you’re accosted by a woo-peddler on the subject.  Bigfoot.  Crop Circles.  Dowsing.  For me, Astrology falls firmly into this second category.

Twelve signs, twelve months, twelve types of people.  In the whole world. From looking at the positions of the stars and planets at precisely the moment of birth, it’s possible to predict character, future events, love life and a whole manner of cold, hard facts about a person.  Except it isn’t.  Because that’s ridiculous.  We all know that.  So here’s your at-a-glance guide to the woo that is astrology. Read the rest of this entry »

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Question of the Week: What Have You Changed Your Mind About?

Skeptics are dogmatic.  Skepticism and science are just alternative belief systems, no different to pseudoscience.  Skeptics need to be more open-minded, but instead they steadfastly doubt and debunk and generally sit on their big skeptical pedestals, dispensing their faulty wisdom blindly and without question.  Skeptics never change their minds.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’ve heard those arguments, and I’m pretty sure they’ll sound familiar to you too.  But of course, it’s sheer nonsense – skepticism and science are, by their very nature, ways of questioning.  No true skeptic ever holds to a position in face of convincing evidence – instead once the weight of genuine evidence builds up, the skeptic adjusts their own personal stance.

So, with this in mind, I give you the question of the week:

What have you changed your mind on?  Where has evidence and logic caused you to re-assess your position on a topic, and join the other team?

Personally, I could think of a few – off the top of my head I’d say Climate Change and Christianity, and only the C’s…

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Express yourself: MMR, autism and mitochondrial dysfunction

Yesterday, the Daily Express ran another scaremongering story on the manufactroversy that won’t quit – MMR and autism.

The basis of this story appears to be the upcoming publication of a new edition of Richard Halvorsen’s 2007 book, “The Truth About Vaccines”. Halvorsen, a London-based GP, uses this new edition to reject unscientific claims about the purported link between vaccines and autism.  He takes the time to explain to worried parents that claims of a link are unfounded and that the scientific evidence does not support the vaccine-autism hypothesis.

Nah, I’m only fooling.  He probably just wheels out the same old canards.

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