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Skeptic Summary #245

By The Staff
Posted on: 7/20/2009

Penn & Teller, quote-piling, Cronkite, TAM7, Monster Talk and more!

Week ending July 18, 2009 (Vol 6, #27)

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:
Penn & Teller wrong about SHS - Changing your mind, when new evidece comes in, is good.

The ‘quote’ thread - To quote astropin, I’m assuming we all have some favorite quotes.

Walter Cronkite dies - Lamentations about the loss of a TV icon.

Editor’s Choice: TAM7 - Maybe if I feature this thread, Kil will give us more details and photos.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Monster Talk: Episode #001 — Bigfoot DNA

Monster Talk: Science turns on the lights and looks under the bed and in the closet, is the podcast of Monster Science: Science turns on the lights and looks under the bed and in the closet. Both the site and the podcast are new to the Web and a welcome addition to our skeptical quiver, even if you’re not a fan of cryptozoology. But since everyone is, no problem there.

Here is an excerpt from their What is page:
What is

An educational Web site about the science of monsters, of course!

Not monsters like Godzilla or The Blob or the Boogeyman, but (allegedly) real creatures such as Bigfoot and the Loch Ness monster. While some people dismiss these creatures as myth, the contributors to this site believe that the search for these animals is legitimate and worthwhile, because if they exist, they can tell us a lot about the world. (In fact if Bigfoot are related to humans, the discovery would rewrite our evolutionary history!)

If animals such as Bigfoot are out there, their existence will only be proven through good science — not by eyewitness reports, nor by fuzzy photos or video clips. Sightings and photos may be useful in leading to hard evidence, but they are not real evidence in and of themselves. (For more on this, see the article Cryptozoology and Eyewitness Testimony.) This is why we focus on the science behind the search. was founded by a group of scientists and researchers. There are no real Bigfoot experts — anyone can call himself a Bigfoot expert or researcher, and one is about as good as the next. Instead, you can judge how good a researcher is by his or her credibility. Has he published articles or books on the topic? Are his arguments clear and logical? Does he do his research, and consider all points of view? Does he follow good scientific methods? Has he done any original investigation or research, or is he just another self-proclaimed expert?

Some of the contributors to MonsterScience are working scientists. Others have a strong scientific background but are basically interested laymen who have done research on the topics. You will find little or no ridicule here; at MonsterScience, ideas may be attacked, but people are not. As in science, theories and arguments stand or fall on their own merits.

The articles and information on are not the last word on the subject. There are no articles on this site that claim to prove or disprove the existence of Bigfoot. Science is always open to new information and new data, and the possibility (however remote) always exists that tomorrow or next month or next year, there will be new evidence. Scientific methods can prove that Bigfoot do exist, but they can never prove that they do not. Just as in our legal system, the burden of proof is on the claimant, those who say that these animals exist; it is not on skeptics or scientists to prove that they do not…
It goes on.

The podcast!

Monster Talk: Episode #001 — Bigfoot DNA

This is the first of what I suspect will be a whole lot of very cool podcasts. Here is the info on this one:
Our panel (Ben Radford, Dr. Karen Stollznow and Blake Smith) interview Professor Todd Disotell, PhD. Todd has been a guest on multiple television shows to examine potential Bigfoot and Yeti DNA. We ask him about the science of DNA analysis, his thoughts on cryptid-TV, and what he’s found in his studies.

Questions include:
  • How did Todd get involved in cryptid DNA analysis?
  • How does DNA get culled from contaminants?
  • What have Todd’s findings been so far?
  • What was his take on the DNA from the Monster Quest “Sasquatch Attack” episode?
  • What would Bigfoot DNA actually look like?
  • How big was Giganto and what does a primatologist think of the “Giganto Hypothesis” to explain Bigfoot?
  • What does “unknown” mean in DNA analysis?
  • What about grant money for Bigfoot research?
Do read the biographies. I’m sure you will recognize most of the panel right off, and, you know, click on to everything you can.

Entia non sunt multiplicanda praeter necessitatem. [Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily.]
— William of Ockham

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Nobody knows what happened. The staff who showed up late didn’t find anyone to chat with.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Daniel Dennett at the Cambridge Darwin-and-faith bash

The folly of pretence

Home Office research so feeble someone ought to be locked up

How to cross a river

Huge blob of Arctic goo floats past Slope communities

Jack Kerouac Reads

Mortar Fire

NASA: LRO Sees Apollo Landing Sites

A Normal Day 2

Open a Banana Like A Monkey

Sprinkler Rainbow Conspiracy

A true ghost story. Part I: A City of Death and Misery

Twin Musical Tesla Coils playing Mario Bros

What Questions Can Science Answer?

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:
Why Evolution Is True, by Jerry A. Coyne.

“Why evolution is more than just a theory: it is a fact.

In all the current highly publicized debates about creationism and its descendant ‘intelligent design,’ there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned — the evidence, the empirical truth of evolution by natural selection. Even Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, while extolling the beauty of evolution and examining case studies, have not focused on the evidence itself. Yet the proof is vast, varied, and magnificent, drawn from many different fields of science. Scientists are observing species splitting into two and are finding more and more fossils capturing change in the past — dinosaurs that have sprouted feathers, fish that have grown limbs.

Why Evolution Is True weaves together the many threads of modern work in genetics, paleontology, geology, molecular biology, and anatomy that demonstrate the ‘indelible stamp’ of the processes first proposed by Darwin. In crisp, lucid prose accessible to a wide audience, Why Evolution Is True dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms that this amazing process of change has been firmly established as a scientific truth.”

— 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. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  5. Possum on the half shell
  6. Atheists, our skeptical friends
  7. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  8. Beelzebufo ampinga
  9. Art or oxygen theft?
  10. The ‘quote’ thread
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Skeptic Summary #152
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. TAM5
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray
  8. SkeptiCamp Atlanta: A Personal Overview
  9. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  10. Mesmer, Casino Monkey, and Video Sex
There were 12,248 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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