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Skeptic Summary #201

By The Staff
Posted on: 8/17/2008

Anthrax nick, religious debates, stupidity, snow-beasts, becoming them again, checking facts and more!

Week ending August 16, 2008 (Vol 5, #29)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Don’t forget to check out our fourth Summer Spectacular, published last week.

Forum Highlights:
The anthrax guy - Worst nickname ever.

Debating religious types, good and bad arguments - Ugly arguments, too.

Pathetic dumbass of the month… - Are we sure it isn’t verlch?

Yeti myth alive and well - Not so sure about the yetis themselves, though.

Editor’s Choice: We lose, because we have become ‘them’ - Who needs to disprove what, now?

Kil’s Evil Pick: - Do you want to know if the political commercial you just watched was on the level? Was it complete baloney? is the place to find out. In their own words:
We are a nonpartisan, nonprofit, “consumer advocate” for voters that aims to reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics. We monitor the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates, speeches, interviews, and news releases. Our goal is to apply the best practices of both journalism and scholarship, and to increase public knowledge and understanding.

The Annenberg Political Fact Check is a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania. The APPC was established by publisher and philanthropist Walter Annenberg in 1994 to create a community of scholars within the University of Pennsylvania that would address public policy issues at the local, state, and federal levels.

The APPC accepts NO funding from business corporations, labor unions, political parties, lobbying organizations or individuals. It is funded primarily by the Annenberg Foundation.
If ever we needed a site like, now would be the time…

[Creationists’] theology is such that if one thing is wrong with the Bible, you have to throw it all out. So that’s why Genesis has to be interpreted literally. They look at science the same way. If one little piece of the evolution puzzle doesn’t fit, well the whole thing has to go. And of course that’s not the way science is done.
— Eugenie Scott

Chat Highlights:
Sunday: Our Sunday chat host is on vacation.

Wednesday: A rather intense debate on what time it was got sparked as Ricky showed up late to chat. Forum talk quickly took its place, mostly based off of this post by Dave. Amongst the topics were skeptical Achilles’ heels (“You’re too unreasonable to accept my position”) and skeptical blind spots. Mab shared this awesome video of slow motion lightning. We talked about forum members who didn’t show up behind their backs, as promised. Chefcrsh got in trouble over on JREF forums. Some members got offended at an innocent statement about 9/11, and he said “If you continue to parse down the same sentence I am sure you could find the letters f and u in it somewhere, and be really offended, if you want. But that that would be your own problem.” Chefcrsh made a rather nice rebuttal about the whole thing. To end things off, a discussion over how much “raising awareness” actually does for a cause. The idea was prompted by a Colbert Report interview, and as a result, several videos were shared.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Darwin-Hitler connection exposed

Evolution Survey

From the mouths of morons in the media

I wish I was a Paleontologist

Low level tropospheric rainbows

What’s New by Bob Park

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
unSpun: Finding Facts in a World of Disinformation, by Brooks Jackson and Kathleen Hall Jamieson.

“According to Jamieson and Jackson, both of the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg Public Policy Center, “spin is a polite word for deception,” and deception is everywhere. As a remedy, they offer this media literacy crash course. The authors explore spin’s warning signs (“If it’s scary, be wary”) and the tricks used to bring people around to a certain point of view (“The implied falsehood,” “Frame it and claim it”), as well as the lessons to call on when confronted with conflicting or suspect stories (“Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence”). Although they tackle the checkered history of product pitches (from snake oil to Cold-Eeze), what stands out is their keen insight into Washington politics, where “deception is a bipartisan enterprise,” as illustrated by Bush and Kerry in the 2004 presidential election (in which both fudged the facts of unemployment and taxation). September 11 and the run-up to Gulf War II give the authors their most convincing talking points, debunking myths and chronicling Washington’s use of “fear, uncertainty, and doubt” — cited so often it gets the acronym “FUD” — to generate public support for the 2003 invasion. However, the rules to avoid these and other carefully enumerated tricks range from commonsensical (“You can’t be completely certain”) to labor intensive (“Check primary sources”), leaving one to wonder whether the spin doctors have already won out over energy- and time-deficient Americans.”

— Publishers Weekly

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in! (1,986 views)
  2. Ready to rumble! (1,520 views)
  3. Debating religious types, good and bad arguments (680 views)
  4. Possum on the half shell (601 views)
  5. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit! (388 views)
  6. Why Do Creationists Fear Evolution? (317 views)
  7. Crop circles again… (249 views)
  8. Regarding Georgia and Russia’s ‘Peace Keepers’ (243 views)
  9. Conscious Life Expo (205 views)
  10. The anthrax guy (201 views)
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two (1,343 views)
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark (912 views)
  3. Skeptic Summary #152 (123 views)
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle (91 views)
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits (58 views)
  6. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony! (44 views)
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray (43 views)
  8. Skeptic Summary #200 (41 views)
  9. Cold Reading (38 views)
  10. TAM4 (32 views)
There were 13,240 daily visitors this week.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

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