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Skeptic Summary

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Skeptic Summary #262

By The Staff
Posted on: 11/28/2009

Creationistii interuptus, powdery prayers, WTF?, the one-and-only Debunkatron and more!

Week ending November 28, 2009 (Vol 6, #44)

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:
Dennett answers NY Times on Dawkins’ book - An old thread evolves new life. Sorta.

Prayer Powder! - Don’t snort it.

Editor’s Choice: Evolution vs. ID: 6 Bones of Contention - This just turns weird.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Debunkatron — Here’s a nice online skeptical resource page that I found while digging around over at The Skeptic Dictionary website.

Now, as a rule, I’m not a big fan of debunking a claim unless it has already been debunked through proper investigation. Skeptics need to keep an open mind, as Carl Sagan used to remind us of. But hey. Once a claim has been debunked, it’s fair game.

The Debunkatron is well laid out and will serve nicely as a handy resource to those sites that have taken claims of a dubious nature on.
Debunking isn’t about being contrary (no it isn’t! yes it is!); it’s about exposing shams and falseness, and it can be good debate practice or just plain fun. Apart from having fun, I think the primary goal should be the defense of quality science because it’s such an incredibly useful tool for discovery and progress.

Also, imagination and fiction can be useful, inspiring and make you feel good. But when fiction is presented as fact, it is bunk and open to criticism, and your health or wealth can be in jeopardy from bunk.
Have fun going through the subjects that are covered. I bookmarked the site.

Knowing the answer means nothing; testing your knowledge means everything.
— Lawrence Krauss

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Well, it was the night before Thanksgiving after all. Dave was there. Dglas was also there. I (Kil) was there. Dave and I chatted. Dglas didn’t have much to say and soon left, as is his way. Podcat joined us after about an hour-and-a-half or more. And then, chat ended. To paraphrase the old song, Momma said there’ll be nights like this…

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Autism treatment: Science hijacked to support alternative therapies

Darwin and the case for ‘militant atheism’

Dawkins: Evangelist an ‘idiot’ on evolution

Homeopathy and the nocebo effect

Hunter vs. Hunt on Turf-13

Science historian reacts to hacked climate e-mails

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:
The Men Who Stare at Goats, by Jon Ronson.

“This exploration of the U.S. military’s flirtation with the supernatural is at once funny and tragic. It reads like fiction, with plenty of dialogue and descriptive detail, but as Ronson’s investigation into the government’s peculiar past doings creeps into the present — and into Iraq — it will raise goose bumps. As Ronson reveals, a secret wing of the U.S. military called First Earth Battalion was created in 1979 with the purpose of creating ‘Warrior Monks,’ soldiers capable of walking through walls, becoming invisible, reading minds and even killing a goat simply by staring at it. Some of the characters involved seem well-meaning enough, such as the hapless General Stubblebine, who is ‘confounded by his continual failure to walk through his wall.’ But Ronson (Them: Adventures with Extremists) soon learns that the Battalion’s bizarre ideas inspired some alarming torture techniques being used in the present-day War on Terror. One technique involves subjecting prisoners to 24 hours of Barney the Purple Dinosaur’s song, ‘I Love You,’ and another makes use of the Predator, a small, toy-like object designed by military martial arts master Pete Brusso that can inflict a large amount of pain in many different ways (‘You can take eyeballs right out… with this bit,’ Brusso tells Ronson). Ronson approaches the material with an open mind and a delightfully dry sense of humor, which makes this an entertaining, if unsettling, read. Indeed, as the events recounted here grow ever more curious — and the individuals Ronson meets more disturbing — it’s necessary to remind oneself of Ronson’s opening words: ‘This is a true story.’”

— Publishers Weekly

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  3. New World Order happening right now!
  4. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  5. Funny FAILS
  6. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  7. Evolution vs. ID: 6 Bones of Contention
  8. Documentary: 1983 ‘Moonwalk’ was staged
  9. Reality
  10. Beelzebufo ampinga
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. The PQ Test
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. TAM5
  6. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. Miracle Thaw Tray
  9. Scientific Truth
  10. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
There were 19,903 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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