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Skeptic Summary #238

By The Staff
Posted on: 5/30/2009

Deconversion, failure to confirm, banning Scientology, a wedding, the economy, why it matters and more!

Week ending May 30, 2009 (Vol 6, #20)

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:
I’ve successfully deconverted him — now what? - A damn good question.

Texas Senate fails to confirm McLeroy - Next up: more of the same.

Wikipedia bans Scientology self-edits - Pretty soon, Wikipedia will be said to have “integrity.”

Editor’s Choice: Boron10 gets married! - Nothing skeptical here, it’s just cool.

This Week’s Poll:
How’s the economy? - “It sucks” isn’t an answer.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Science and Antiscience in America: Why It Matters,” by Elizabeth Sherman (published by The Committee for Skeptical Inquiry)
If science doesn’t inform the decisions we make, the consequence is that people suffer.
The essay opens:
Every time I fly, I do something that ensures the plane won’t crash. Just as I am stepping aboard the aircraft, I touch the outside fuselage next to the door. And then the plane doesn’t crash! It’s a causal gesture. Every time I’ve flown I’ve touched the outside of the plane, and it hasn’t crashed. One event reliably preceding another proves that the first causes the second, right? Well, of course, intellectually, I know that my touching the plane doesn’t ensure that it won’t crash. After all, I am a scientist and I have been studying how the material world works all my professional life. Having said that, do you think I can ever bring myself to abandon my touching-the-fuselage practice? Well, what’s the harm? So what if science doesn’t inform my behavior?

Yet as a biology professor, I am concerned that science does not inform our behavior, not just as individuals but as a society. I can recall how this concern captured my attention with the urgency it now has for me: I was listening to the then-president of the United States on the news (George Bush), and he suggested that the jury was still out on evolution. And I began to push myself to articulate why I was so distressed. Each time I answered myself, I pushed again: so what? I answered, again with “well, so what?” and again, “so what?” So what if science doesn’t inform the decisions we make as a country, a people, a world?

The answer is that people suffer.
This is a wonderful essay. Sure it’s a topic we talk a lot about (preaching to the choir, as it were), but it’s so well articulated here in Sherman’s essay that I feel the need to share it with you.

Reason has seldom failed us because it has seldom been tried.
— Edward Abbey

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Ricky was fired right off the bat for showing up to chat on time even though he said he would be late. Chat started with Affirmation of New Skepticism (text, video), the main criticism being that Krutz fell victim to the smear campaign lead by fundamentalists that tries to equate skepticism with nihilism. Others liked being thought of as debunkers. Then chat switched over to bad drivers, bad passengers and whether or not there is a correlation between religious belief and driving ability. Unfortunately the Bible doesn’t say anything about how you should drive. Things really started going downhill when a member (not to be named) linked to Love Ewe, and all of a sudden the puns became a bit more sheepish. In all fairness, the site is rather hilarious with lines such as “If it is not made by Muttonbone Productions, Inc., it’s just inflatable tofu.” At the end of the night, most of the talk was about Boron10’s wedding, and Kil got called a mob boss once again. Chat ended with a debate on who kicks more ass: Marines or Navy.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Another edition of stupid creationist questions

Behe is still not impressed

Bill Donohue defends child abuse (part 1)

Bill Donohue defends child abuse (part 2)

A Broken Trust: Lessons from the Vaccine–Autism Wars

But it’s not about religion…

The “Million-Dollar Pig’s-Tooth Mystery”

Quacks, hacks and pressing problems with press releases

Tunguska: 101 Years and 1 Idiot Later

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

Book of the Week:
Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage: Valuing All Families under the Law, by Nancy D. Polikoff.

“The debate over marriage equality for same-sex couples rages across the country. Beyond (Straight and Gay) Marriage boldly moves the discussion forward by focusing on the larger, more fundamental issue of marriage and the law. The root problem, asserts law professor and LGBT rights activist Nancy Polikoff, is that marriage is a bright dividing line between those relationships that legally matter and those that don’t. A woman married to a man for nine months is entitled to Social Security survivor’s benefits when he dies; a woman living for nineteen years with a man or woman to whom she is not married receives nothing.

Polikoff reframes the debate by arguing that all family relationships and households need the economic stability and emotional peace of mind that now extend only to married couples. Unmarried couples of any sexual orientation, single-parent households, extended family units, and myriad other familial configurations need recognition and protection to meet the concerns they all share: building and sustaining economic and emotional interdependence, and nurturing the next generation.

Couples should have the choice to marry based on the spiritual, cultural, or religious meaning of marriage in their lives, asserts Polikoff. While marriage equality for same-sex couples is a civil rights victory, she contends that no one should have to marry in order to reap specific and unique legal results.

A persuasive argument that married couples should not receive special rights denied to other families, Polikoff shows how the law can value all families, and why it must.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  3. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  4. Possum on the half shell
  5. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  6. We’d invite Hitler to speak, says Columbia dean
  7. New World Order happening right now!
  8. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  9. Beelzebufo ampinga
  10. Funny FAILS
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  3. Skeptic Summary #152
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. Ms Christel
  6. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. Astrology
  9. Miracle Thaw Tray
  10. Skeptic Summary #237
There were 14,317 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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