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Skeptic Summary #234

By The Staff
Posted on: 5/2/2009

Detox redux, oink-oink, switcheroo, O Canada, the HuffPo disaster and more!

Week ending May 02, 2009 (Vol 6, #16)

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:
Detoxification diet - We get a supporter… for a moment.

Swine flu: time to panic… - Republican vultures starts gathering.

Spector D-PA - A politician who joins the winning side. Who would have thought…?

Editor’s Choice: I’m almost embarrassed to be Canadian - We’ll be embarrassed on your behalf.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Woo-meister Supreme Kim Evans takes on rationality and the swine flu at The Huffington Post,” by Orac — I am appalled that the The Huffington Post has become a leading advocate for medical woo. I really don’t know what to make of it. The political columns on the HuffPo often impress me. But on medical issues in their Living section, they seem to have embraced pseudo-science and a gaggle of writers who should be an embarrassment to any editorial staff that cares about journalistic quality and integrity.

For example, on April 22nd, Jim Carrey sounded off on the dangers of vaccines, a crusade he and his wife see as a duty, to save us from an evil medical establishment.

There is really no point in my going into the problems with the Kim Evans column in the Huffington Post, because it has been done, and, in a continuing series of essays, done beautifully on the Respectful Insolence blog.

What struck me when I read this particular article on The Huffington Post and Kim Evans was the level of critical thinking the writer brought to his evisceration of Evans and her claims, making his essay a must read for skeptics and anyone else interested in learning how to strip away the baloney often found in popular articles and essays that promote dubious medical claims.

In short, the article is a masterpiece of critical thinking applied. Go read it!

When ignorance lurks, so too do the frontiers of discovery and imagination.
— Neil deGrasse Tyson

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Chat started with news that SfN made it into the Drug Monkey blog. It may be the Society for Neuroscience, but hey, any publicity is good publicity, right? A change in Texas science teaching started a small discussion on public vs. proper usage of the words “theories” and “estimates,” as well as other teaching issues. Then talk of the Zodiac killer allowed Kil to show off his rather disturbing amount of knowledge of serial killers. It’s probably because Michelle has a Masters in psychology, but still, one wonders… The topic switched over to the outbreak swine flu, of which Ig showed that the worst effect is Michelle Bachmann being allowed to speak. Then a long discussion on politics, a small debate on our electoral college and oddly enough baseball ended out the night.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
AIG Creation AntiScience Fair


Come the pandemic, the drugs do work

Daughters need letters

Do Androids Pray to Electric Gods?

The evolution of God — Andy Thomson

High school teacher guilty of telling the truth… oh, and Chad Farnan is an idiot

HuffPo’s dangerous assault on medicine

Michelle Bachmann says “I find it interesting” that flu outbreaks happen when Democrats are President

Olbermann Has a Hoot Over Bachmann’s “Hoot Smalley” Gaffe

Penn defends naming daughter “Moxie Crimefighter”

Police: Urban cowboy too drunk to ride

Sadly, Another Honest Creationist

Weight loss supplements under Hydroxycut banner withdrawn: death, liver failure — where will this end?

What’s New by Bob Park

Why is the chicken across the road? Winona police want an answer

Zombie Spiders Return from the Dead to Haunt Your Dreams

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.
We would be lousy Summarists if we neglected one of the largest blogwars among pro-science authors to occur in recent memory. On April 22, 2009, Jerry Coyne took the National Center for Science Education to task for being too accomodating to religions. Below, you will find many of the high-profile players in the resultant discussion, in roughly chronological order:
Science and Religion, by Peter M. J. Hess of the NCSE (Undated)

Truckling to the Faithful: A Spoonful of Jesus Helps Darwin Go Down, by Jerry Coyne (April 22, 2009)

The Trouble with NCSE, by Larry Moran (April 22, 2009)

Comment #368197, by Richard Dawkins (April 22, 2009)

AAAS also engages in accommodationism, by Jerry Coyne (April 23, 2009)

Heavyweights of science worry over religious appeasement by pro-evolution group, by Paul Fidalgo (April 23, 2009)

ID sympathizer is an officer of the AAAS, by Jerry Coyne (April 24, 2009)

Jerry Coyne on science organisations and accommodationism, by Russell Blackford (April 25, 2009)

Russell Blackford on science organizations and the compatibility issue, by Jerry Coyne (April 25, 2009)

Generals who don’t know the nature of war, by Richard B. Hoppe (April 25, 2009)

Endorsing the compatibility of science and religion, by Taner Edis (April 25, 2009)

Russell Blackford and Telling Science Advocacy Organizations to Shut Up Already, by Wesley Elsberry (April 25, 2009)

Science and religion for individuals and organisations, by John Wilkins (April 25, 2009)

Foot soldiers who lack vision, by PZ Myers (April 26, 2009)

Big dustup at Panda’s Thumb, by Jerry Coyne (April 26, 2009)

Giving up … something?, by Russell Blackford (April 26, 2009)

Should Scientific Organizations Advocate Accommodationism?, by Larry Moran (April 26, 2009)

Foot Soldiers and Generals, by Larry Moran (April 26, 2009)

Jerry Coyne and NCSE, by Wesley Elsberry (April 27, 2009)

Dialogue over appeasement of religion in science advocacy heats up, and a grand debate begins, by Paul Fidalgo (April 27, 2009)

PZ on accommodationism, by Russell Blackford (April 27, 2009)

Atheists for Common Cause With the Religious On Evolution, by Chris Mooney (April 27, 2009)

Let me try again…, by Richard B. Hoppe (April 27, 2009)

The dust settles (a little) at Panda’s Thumb, by Jerry Coyne (April 28, 2009)

Something of a rethink from Richard Hoppe, by Russell Blackford (April 28, 2009)

Weekend update, by PZ Myers (April 28, 2009)

Is Richard Dawkins really that naive?, by Massimo Pigliucci (April 28, 2009)

Agreements reached in religious appeasement debate, but rifts still evident, by Paul Fildago (April 28, 2009)

Some scientists are astrologers, therefore science and astrology are compatible, by Larry Moran (April 29, 2009)

Rockin’ the Science-Religion Relationship, by Chris Mooney (April 30, 2009)

NCSE v National Association of Biology Teachers, by Larry Moran (April 30, 2009)

Science, religion, weasel words, and the meaning of life, by Russell Blackford (May 1, 2009)

Book of the Week:
Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution, by David F. Prindle.

“Harvard paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould was, until his death in 2002, America’s best-known natural scientist. His monthly essays in Natural History magazine were widely read by both scientists and ordinary citizens with an interest in science. One of his books won the National Book Award, and another was a bestseller in three countries. Philosopher Daniel Dennett proclaimed him ‘America’s evolutionist laureate.’

While many people have written about Gould’s science, pro and con, and a few have written about his politics, this is the first book to explore his science and politics as a consistent whole. Political scientist David F. Prindle argues that Gould’s mind worked along two tracks simultaneously — the scientific and the political. All of his concepts and arguments were bona fide contributions to science, but all of them also contained specifically political implications.

As one example among many, Prindle cites Gould’s controversial argument that if the ‘tape of evolution’ could be rewound and then allowed to unspool again, nothing resembling human beings would likely evolve. This was part of his larger thesis that people are not the result of a natural tendency toward perfection in evolution, but the result of chance, or as Gould put it, contingency. As Prindle notes, Gould’s scientific ideas often sought to attack human hubris, and thus prepare the ground for the political argument that people should treat nature with more restraint.

Prindle evaluates Gould’s concepts of punctuated equilibrium (developed with Niles Eldredge), ‘spandrels’, and ‘exaptation’; his stance on sociobiology, on human inequality and intelligence testing; his pivotal role in the culture wars between science and fundamentalist Christianity; and claims that he was a closet Marxist, which Prindle disputes. He continually emphasizes that in all these debates Gould’s science cannot be understood without an understanding of his politics. He concludes by considering whether Gould offered a new theory of evolution.

Anyone with an interest in one of America’s great scientists, or in paleontology, evolutionary theory, or intellectual history will find Stephen Jay Gould and the Politics of Evolution to be a fascinating exploration of the man and his ideas.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  3. We’d invite Hitler to speak, says Columbia dean
  4. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  5. Possum on the half shell
  6. Refuses illegal war
  7. Art or oxygen theft?
  8. Why are virgin conception & resurrection so key?
  9. Beelzebufo ampinga
  10. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  3. Skeptic Summary #152
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. Scientific Truth
  7. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  8. Miracle Thaw Tray
  9. Cold Reading
  10. Skeptic Summary #233
There were 11,447 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  2. The Supper
  3. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  4. Possum on the half shell
  5. We’d invite Hitler to speak, says Columbia dean
  6. Beelzebufo ampinga
  7. A half of a wing & a piece of a prayer
  8. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  9. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  10. Reminds me of Bush 41
  11. Art or oxygen theft?
  12. Spider bite cures paralyzed man?
  13. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  14. Stephen Hawking ill, hospitalized
  15. April 15 teabag parties — HOORAY!
  16. Funny FAILS
  17. From Javier, the xian concept of ‘morality’
  18. Refuses illegal war
  19. Know your television marketers
  20. Are skepticism and Buddhism compatible?
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Skeptic Summary #152
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. The PQ Test
  6. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray
  8. Cold Reading
  9. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  10. Evolution is a Lie
  11. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  12. Scientific Truth
  13. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  14. Mesmer, Casino Monkey, and Video Sex
  15. Calorad
  16. Quantum Age Water
  17. Evidence Cited as Hard Proof of the Existence of Satanic Cults
  18. The Bible Answer Man
  19. Questioning the Validity of False Memory Syndrome
  20. N. 6, January 2001: Split brains, paradigm shifts, and why it is so difficult to be a skeptic
There were 46,889 daily visitors in April, 2009.

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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