Archive for category Skeptic 101

Don’t Label Me: The Atheist Billboard Campaign (or Atheism 101: What is Atheism?)

The final phase of the astonishingly-popular Atheist Bus Campaign launched recently.

First, a little background.  The Atheist Bus Campaign was launched by the lovely Ariane Sherine, the comedy writer and blogger who recently spoke for us at Liverpool Skeptics in the Pub.  After spotting an advert on the side of a London bus proclaiming something along the lines of  “Join the Jesus Fan Club or Burn Forever™” (I may be paraphrasing slightly) Ariane devised a campaign to fund similar ads promoting the slogan “There’s Probably No God”.

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Our Man In Ottawa: Creationism 101

MSS-member and recent émigré to Canada Chris Hassall gives us an introduction to Creationism in all it’s flavours and glory.

While there are many forms of woo that involve a warping of science, that which is closest to my heart is Creationism. While homeopathic practitioners, psychics, claim scientific support (or at least use scientific terms) when arguing their respective cases, no other variety of woo has produced so much spilled ink (as well as money for the authors) as that promulgated by “creation scientists”. I will briefly outline the two most prevalent forms of creation woo with some brief critiques and a quick guide to the leading figures in each of the movements. I’ll finish with a discussion of how we should be dealing with this particular form of woo. Read the rest of this entry »

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Divination 101: The A-Z of ‘-mancies’

Rooster - courtesy of Jürgen from Sandesneben, Germany http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rooster_Profile.jpgPreviously I’ve written here on the ideomotor effect, specifically with regards to a Ouija board. Feel free to read it again, if you like. In researching that, I found I was coming across a wide variety of methods for getting answers about the future, and not all can be explained by the ideomotor effect. So, with that in mind, I wondered: could I fill a full A-Z with bizarre methods people have used to tell the future? Is there a form of divination for every letter of the alphabet? Well, sit tight kids, and you might just find out…

The word Divination itself derives from the Latin ‘Divinare‘ – “to foresee, to be inspired by god or gods”, the dictionary defines Divination as:

The practice of attempting to foretell future events or discover hidden knowledge by occult or supernatural means.

It’s the supposedly occult or supernatural means that will make up the main scope of this article. Some of these methods you may have heard off, some you won’t, some may seem non-too-outlandish and some are just downright odd. I’ve only picked 26 ways to supposedly foretell the future but whilst researching this blog series I discovered at least 157 methods. I hope I’ve included one or more of your favourites but if not please feel free to add it in the comments. Also this is meant to be both irreverent and sarcastic and in one or two special cases accurate, unlike divination itself. This week: A-E! Read the rest of this entry »

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Homeopathy 101: Overdoses and Avogadro

Last week, in a forum post on mumsnet.com – a parent’s advice forum – a worried parent left the following concerned question (spelling and grammar as per the original post):

“Just found my labour preparation bottle of caulophyllum 200c Homeopathic remedy open on the floor with several of the little tablets lying next to it. Saw him chewing/sucking a few mins earlier but assumed it was the remains of our sushi. Am not panicking but wondering if anyone can advise if we should expect a level of disturbance/ill effects esp as 200c is such a high dose” – Source: Mumsnet.com

Clearly, the forum user is worried her dear child may be at risk of an overdose on her super-strength, 200c tablets. Of course, an overdose is clearly not possible. Even a homeopath will tell you that! In fact, homeopaths deny the possibility of an overdose because of the fact that homeopathy is ‘non-toxic’ and that ‘if you take fifteen tablets or five tablets (or 100 tablets for that matter) AT ONE TIME it is one dose. You will stimulate your curative response one time‘.

Cool, well that’s put my fears to rest. Except of course, that that’s clearly utter nonsense. Curative response? Non-toxic? One tablet has the same effect as one hundred tablets? Do they really think anyone is going to buy that?!

The real reason why an overdose is impossible is that there’s absolutely, completely and utterly nothing in a homeopathic tablet. It’s just water. The only way to overdose on homeopathy is if you drown.

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Ideomotor 101: The Ouija Board

So, as part of our on-going look at basic skeptical topics, lets take a look at the Ouija board.

First things first: does it work? Actually, yes it does!

“OK, great, that’s settled then”, I hear you say, “Lets all go and commune with the devil and some demons or spirits, and find out what the future has in store.”  Well hold on, wait a moment there – it’s not that simple I’m afraid.  After all, this is a sceptical website. You didn’t think it was going to be that easy did you?

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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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