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Skeptic Summary #207

By The Staff
Posted on: 10/5/2008

Design, Africans, debate, geocentrism, the crisis, Coulter, archival quality, the West Memphis Three and more!

Week ending October 04, 2008 (Vol 5, #35)

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

Forum Highlights:
Design of Life (Dembski/Wells) - The book gets a review of 1 out of 5 noodly appendages.

Obama’s “Kenyan Citizenship” - Those Kenyans sure can run… for office.

VP debate - Complete with Sarah Palin debate flow-chart!

What the? Earth is special again - Well, the universe could be centered on Mars.

Editor’s Choice: Bailout rejected by the House - Watch Bill try to blame it all on Barney Frank, then flip-flop.

From the Archives: Ann Coulter’s book: Godless - Remember when people cared about what Ann Coulter had to say? Oh, wait…

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Devil’s Knot: The True Story of the West Memphis Three, by Mara Leveritt. From Publishers Weekly:
Arkansas investigative journalist Leveritt (The Boys on the Tracks) presents an affecting account of a controversial trial in the wake of three child murders in Arkansas. In May 1993, three eight-year-old boys were found mutilated and murdered in West Memphis, a small and tattered Arkansas town. The crime scene and forensic evidence were mishandled, but a probation officer directed the police toward Damien Echols, a youth with a troubled home life, antiauthoritarian attitudes and admiration for the “Goth” and Wiccan subcultures. Amid rumors of satanic cult activity, investigators browbeat Jesse Misskelley, a mentally challenged 16-year-old acquaintance of Echols, into providing a wildly inconsistent confession that he’d helped Echols and a third teen, Jason Baldwin, assault the boys. Leveritt meticulously reconstructs the clamorous investigation and two jury trials that followed. All three boys were convicted on the basis of Misskelley’s dubious statements and such “evidence” as Echols’ fondness for William Blake and Stephen King. Leveritt, who makes a strong argument that the convictions were a miscarriage of justice, also suggests an alternative suspect: one victim’s stepfather, who had a history of domestic violence, yet was seemingly shielded by authorities because he was a drug informant for local investigators. Sure to be locally controversial, Leveritt’s carefully researched book offers a riveting portrait of a down-at-the-heels, socially conservative rural town with more than its share of corruption and violence.
I can’t remember if I have chosen this book for recommended reading. [Editor’s note: yup.] But on September 10th, Judge Burnett, the original presiding judge, ruled that there is not enough new evidence to support a retrial for Damien Echols. (I still haven’t figured out how the Judge, who showed extreme bias in the first trial, could be allowed to rule on the merits of a new trial, based on new forensic evidence and on grounds that the defense of the three in the first trial was less than adequate, 15 years later. An ethical judge would have recused himself.) And so I am offering this book as my Evil Pick.

I am very angry. This hearing should have taken place in a court of appeals and not by the judge who originally presided over the case. There is now a real possibility that an innocent man will executed because of a town’s bigotry and a rush to judgment. If that happens, the blood will be on Burnett’s hands, but clearly, he won’t care.

For more information please see: JUDGE BURNETT: MOTIONS DENIED and Legal Chronology/ Damien Echols.

There is something feeble and a little contemptible about a man who cannot face the perils of life without the help of comfortable myths. Almost inevitably some part of him is aware that they are myths and that he believes them only because they are comforting. But he dare not face this thought! Moreover, since he is aware, however dimly, that his opinions are not real, he becomes furious when they are disputed.
— Bertrand Russell

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

Wednesday: This week was quite possibly one of the longest chats the SFN has ever seen. The night started with Dave and Ricky continuing to debate the mathematics found in the Dark flow thread. Luckily they took it private so as to not disrupt other chatters. Chatters continued to discuss proof, but this time in the form of alcohol. Then talk changed over to exhibits and activities at the UPenn Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, where Cune will be working in a few weeks. Things became a bit more heated when Kil and marf started arguing over the difference between skepticism and humanism. marf also announced that she has a blog, Humanist Mom. Discussion moved on to Skeptic evangelicals, songs about science, and atheistic poetry. It was at this point that many left, but several die-hard skeptics stuck around. Topics were mostly centered around gender issues, involving differences with respect to genetics, wages, ambition and competitiveness, and values. Also on the table was prostitution and objectifying the opposite sex.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
How to Fix the U.S. Financial Crisis

Making space for the wild and wonderful

Skepticality #85 - “Why Magic is Important” featuring James Randi & D.J. Grothe

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:
A Treasury of Deception: Liars, Misleaders, Hoodwinkers, and the Extraordinary True Stories of History’s Greatest Hoaxes, Fakes and Frauds, by Michael Farquhar.

“We may say that honesty is the best policy, but history — to say nothing of business, politics, and the media — suggests otherwise. In this infinitely citable book, the author of two bestselling treasuries of scandal recounts some of the greatest deceptions of all time. With what forged document did the Vatican lay claim to much of Europe? Who wrote Hitler’s diaries? Why do millions still believe the vague doggerel that Nostradamus passed off as prophecy? Organizing his material by theme (con artists, the press, military trickery, scientific fraud, imposters, great escapes, and more), Michael Farquhar takes in everything from the hoodwinking of Hitler to Vincent ‘the Chin’ Gigante’s thirty-year crazy act. A Treasury of Deception is a zestful, gossipy exposé — and celebration — of mendacity.”

— Book Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in! (3,835 views)
  2. Debate! (1,094 views)
  3. Bailout rejected by the House (704 views)
  4. What is photorealism? (624 views)
  5. VP debate (601 views)
  6. Obama’s “Kenyan Citizenship” (414 views)
  7. Dark Flow &mdash out there beyond the horizon (375 views)
  8. Possum on the half shell (343 views)
  9. The speed of light and mass (330 views)
  10. What the? Earth is special again (258 views)
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark (1,373 views)
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two (1,270 views)
  3. Skeptic Summary #152 (137 views)
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle (80 views)
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits (53 views)
  6. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony! (44 views)
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray (37 views)
  8. Scientific Truth (34 views)
  9. Cold Reading (29 views)
  10. The Fred Flintstone Hoax (27 views)
There were 9,253 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in! (4,360 views)
  2. Possum on the half shell (1,585 views)
  3. What is photorealism? (1,283 views)
  4. A look at modern magnetic therapy (1,209 views)
  5. Debate! (1,038 views)
  6. Ready to rumble! (904 views)
  7. Oh ye gods! (817 views)
  8. Beelzebufo ampinga (814 views)
  9. Favorite example of transitional fossils (721 views)
  10. Al tells it like it is (669 views)
  11. The speed of light and mass (619 views)
  12. BlackLight Power Inc.: too good to be true? (607 views)
  13. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit! (584 views)
  14. Christian singer Ray Bolz admits he is gay (562 views)
  15. No surprise in St. Paul (533 views)
  16. Spore is out today! (510 views)
  17. If this works out… (499 views)
  18. Unknown ancient geometry (493 views)
  19. LiLo (Behe) is back! (458 views)
  20. A Half of a Wing & A piece of A Prayer (438 views)
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark (6,008 views)
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two (5,023 views)
  3. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda (748 views)
  4. Skeptic Summary #152 (698 views)
  5. The Biblical support for a Flat Earth and Geocentricism (541 views)
  6. Evolution is a Lie, and you Skeptics KNOW it! Part 4 (495 views)
  7. Questioning the Validity of False Memory Syndrome (479 views)
  8. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle (421 views)
  9. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down? (401 views)
  10. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy (386 views)
  11. Evidence Cited as Hard Proof of the Existence of Satanic Cults (340 views)
  12. The Bible’s Bad Fruits (339 views)
  13. 2nd Law of Thermodynamics Argument Weak on Both Sides (272 views)
  14. Astrology (270 views)
  15. Evolution, Scientology Style (211 views)
  16. Evolution is a Lie, and you Skeptics KNOW it! (202 views)
  17. Miracle Thaw Tray (179 views)
  18. Cold Reading (173 views)
  19. Scientific Truth (168 views)
  20. Darwinism: Sorcery in the Classroom (160 views)
There were 75,254 daily visitors in September, 2008.

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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