Archive for September, 2011

Some thoughts on Project Barnum

Project Barnum has caused a bit of a stir within the skeptical community in recent days.

Detractors claim that Project Barnum is illiberal and seeks to censor those they disagree with.  Supporters say that it is about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people they can do things that they can’t.

Parallels have been drawn, by both sides, with the 10:23 Campaign.  Critics of 10:23 similarly claimed the campaign was illiberal, and supporters claimed that it was about consumer protection, preventing the unscrupulous (or even merely misguided) from making money by telling people their pills can do things that they can’t.
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Skeptics with a K: Episode #055

Bigfoot, Sasquatch, the Abominable Snowman and Yeti.  Plus Ricky Gervais, Christian bloggers, ouija boards and scat. With sightly sloppier editing than usual, it’s Skeptics with a K.

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Christians are as Big a Threat as Climate Change Deniers

Franz Sørensen has claimed that Christians are as big a threat to humanity as climate change deniers.

In a conversation with the Priest-Chieftain last night, the Pagan comedian said: “Christians we might see as people like those who deny global warming.  You might defend their choice to believe that as freedom of speech – but if they are wrong, and people must die in combat to reach Valhalla, it could be disastrous for millions of people.

“Christianity is a threat to the salvation of millions,” he said.  “With no mighty warriors to help him, Odin won’t have a hope at Ragnarök!”

Sørensen told the Priest-Chieftain the viking people had given too much ground to this new fashionable ‘monotheism’.  He said: “There’s too much apologising – making concessions on things like, Thor throwing lightning bolts or Frigg being Odin’s wife.  Don’t give in to them!

“If you believe in the gods all bets are off.  Odin can throw Gungnir and never miss.  There’s a temptation to give a bit of ground to their ‘messiah’.  But if you believe the gods, why shouldn’t there be valkyries?”

“People call it ‘Thursday’ out of a sense of duty, so maybe goðar don’t have to try hard enough.”

Sørensen said that it was no longer fashionable to be a pagan. “In modern civilisation, it’s incredibly cool to be a monotheist.”

Read more at Chortle.co.uk.

Franz Sørensen is currently appearing in Only One God? You’re Kidding Right? at the Oslo Playhouse.

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Skeptics in the Pub: Michael Marshall

Bad News: How PR Came to Rule Modern Journalism

Michael Marshall: Bad News: How PR Came to Rule Modern Journalism by Michael Marshall

When: Thursday, December 15th, 2011 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Head of Steam, 7 Lime Street, Liverpool

“You can’t believe everything you read in the papers.”

Everyone knows this, but few people realise this truism extends far beyond the celebrity pages and gossip columns, and spills into ‘real’ news. Here, the near-invisible influence of PR companies is often pivotal in deciding what news gets told, and how it gets reported. By taking a brief look at the history of modern journalism, and using real examples taken from recent headlines, Michael Marshall will show why you really, really can’t believe everything you read in the papers.

Michael Marshall is the co-founder and vice-president of the Merseyside Skeptics Society and appears on the “Skeptics with a K” and ‘Be Reasonable’ podcasts. Besides organising the national and international 10:23 Campaign against homeopathy, he writes about the often-unsuspected role of PR in modern media. Michael has written for The Times, The Guardian and The New Statesman, and has lectured as part of the Sheffield Hallam University Journalism degree.

Ben Goldacre once called him ‘a mighty nerd from Liverpool’, and the self-proclaimed psychic Joe Power once called him something very rude and unprintable.

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Bad News: When Is A Hoax Not A Hoax?

This might well be a little bit of old news by now (given that I covered this story on our second anniversary Skeptics With A K show) but I can still confidently say that anyone who s watching the live stream within an internet explorer 6 browser is an idiot.

Now you might think that’s because there was a recent hoax survey which claimed that a psychometric testing company had analysed the IQ of users of different browsers, and had determined that users of internet explorer 6 are most likely to be flat-out dumb, but that’s not actually why I’m calling you idiots. It just a shit browser, massively outdated and an all-round piece of trash, and if you’re using it, you’re objectively an idiot.

That aside, there is something interesting about this hoax survey story. For those that haven’t heard of it, last month the media was all over this story, and not just the usual suspects. The short version is that AptiQuant Psychometric Consulting Company published a press release claiming that after surveying 101,326 people for their IQ and broswer of choice, and mapping this into a good solid graph, they were able to establish that internet explorer users had a ludicrously low IQ, around the 80 mark. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics with a K: Episode #054

Psychometrists, demographers, conspirators and historians. Plus Malawi, painting planes, lepers and cold reading. With an aura hex code of #FFC9F6, it’s Skeptics with a K.

With thanks to Peter Kanold.

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