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Skeptic Summary #281

By The Staff
Posted on: 4/17/2010

Help, Constitutionality, theocrats foiled, sad people, denialism and more!

Week ending April 17, 2010 (Vol 7, #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:
I need help! - How to celebrate Christmas and Easter.

Judge rules Day of Prayer unconstitutional - The day we… eh… ‘prayed’ for.

Theocrats foiled by their own game - When you can’t pick and choose.

Editor’s Choice: Are you miserable? - Maybe not.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Denialism Blog — Don’t mistake denialism for debate — This blog was originally linked to by Dave W. in a thread here at SFN. I thought, because it’s so well done, that it should be here in our weekly Summary, and so it is, as my pick for this week. Brothers Mark and Chris Hoofnagle put together the site, dedicated to tackling different aspects of denialists claims. It opens:
What is Denialism

Here we will discuss the problem of denialists, their standard arguing techniques, how to identify denialists and/or cranks, and discuss topics of general interest such as skepticism, medicine, law and science. I’ll be taking on denialists in the sciences, while my brother, Chris, will be geared more towards the legal and policy implications of industry groups using denialist arguments to prevent sound policies.

First of all, we have to get some basic terms defined for all of our new readers.

Denialism is the employment of rhetorical tactics to give the appearance of argument or legitimate debate, when in actuality there is none. These false arguments are used when one has few or no facts to support one’s viewpoint against a scientific consensus or against overwhelming evidence to the contrary. They are effective in distracting from actual useful debate using emotionally appealing, but ultimately empty and illogical assertions.

Examples of common topics in which denialists employ their tactics include: Creationism/Intelligent Design, Global Warming denialism, Holocaust denial, HIV/AIDS denialism, 9/11 conspiracies, Tobacco Carcinogenecity denialism (the first organized corporate campaign), anti-vaccination/mercury autism denialism and anti-animal testing/animal rights extremist denialism. Denialism spans the ideological spectrum, and is about tactics rather than politics or partisanship. Chris will be covering denialism of industry groups, such as astroturfing, and the use of a standard and almost sequential set of denialist arguments that he discusses in his Denialist Deck of Cards.
Denialism seems to be on the upswing these days, or maybe it just feels that way to me, because of some of the people who have come to our forum to debate with us on subjects ranging from climate change, creationism and most recently, holocaust denial. And for all of those brands of denial, the Denialism Blog — Don’t mistake denialism for debate, is a great resource.

You are all stardust. You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements — the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life — weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.
— Lawrence Krauss

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Chat started off with a rather heavy discussion on religion. The central question is whether the recently uncovered abuse and cover-up by church officials is a skeptical issue or not. Rephrased a bit, it becomes whether or not the church’s beliefs are a part of the causes for abuse. No consensus was reached, but instead we went off on a tangent about Shermer and the libertarians, Bill Maher and the medical woos and then dove into politics for much of the night. dglas requested a rational version of conservatism, or at least more rational than the current incarnation. At the end of chat we got into medical problems and mathematics.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
AI: What’s the Harm?

All That and a Skeptic

Amish Hackers

Ancient Pre-Human Skeleton May Contain Shrunken Brain

As long as I’m criticizing my allies…

Can we refute creationism in evolution class?

‘Christian Warriors’: Who Are The Hutaree Militia And Where Did They Come From?

Deepak Chopra discovers… learning

Dr. Oz: America’s doctor and the abdication of professional responsibility

Evangelical scholar expelled!

Experts: Angry rhetoric protected, but can be disturbing

Fear of science will kill us

‘Healer’ bilked Cupertino woman out of $450,000, detectives say

Homeopathy — Failing Randomized Controlled Trials Since 1835

Lead from a Roman ship to be used for hunting neutrinos

The Mesozoic birds with weird, plastic-strip-style tail structures

More on the Surprising Militia Members

Mythbusters tour

The Pope, the Church, and skepticism

Russia scientist fears arrest over Olympic warnings

Scientific Skepticism: A Tutorial

Scientific Skepticism, CSICOP, and the Local Groups

Scientists discover new genetic sub-code

Scientists find world’s deepest known undersea volcanic vent

Skepticality #125 — The Animal Manifesto

Sunday Sacrilege: That other thing we don’t believe in

What’s New by Bob Park

Why Can’t We All Just Get Along?

Why We Can’t Do 3 Things at Once

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

Book of the Week:
Thomas Paine: Collected Writings, by Thomas Paine and Eric Foner (Editor).

“‘I know not whether any man in the world,’ wrote John Adams in 1805, ‘has had more influence on its inhabitants or affairs for the last thirty years than Tom Paine.’ The impassioned democratic voice of the Age of Revolution, Paine wrote for his mass audience with vigor, clarity, and ‘common sense.’ This Library of America volume is the first major new edition of his work in 50 years, and the most comprehensive single-volume collection of his writings available. Emphasizing Paine’s American career, it brings together his best-known works — Common Sense, The American Crisis, Rights of Man, The Age of Reason — along with scores of letters, articles, and pamphlets.

Paine came to America in 1774 at age 37 after a life of obscurity and failure in England. Within fourteen months he published Common Sense, the most influential pamphlet for the American Revolution, and began a career that would see him prosecuted in England, imprisoned and nearly executed in France, and hailed and reviled in the American nation he helped create. In Common Sense, Paine set forth an inspiring vision of an independent America as an asylum for freedom and an example of popular self-government in a world oppressed by despotism and hereditary privilege. The American Crisis, begun during ‘the times that try men’s souls’ in 1776, is a masterpiece of popular pamphleteering in which Paine vividly reports current developments, taunts and ridicules British adversaries, and enjoins his readers to remember the immense stakes of their struggle…

Rights of Man (17911792), written in response to Edmund Burke’s attacks on the French Revolution, is a bold vision of an egalitarian society founded on natural rights and unbound by tradition. Paine’s detailed proposal for government assistance to the poor inspired generations of subsequent radicals and reformers.

The Age of Reason (17941795), Paine’s most controversial work, is an unrestrained assault on the authority of the Bible and a fervent defense of the benevolent God of deism…”

— The Publisher

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  3. Funny FAILS
  4. A literal jewish conspiracy
  5. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  6. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  7. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  8. Collateral murder? Looks like it.
  9. The Pope should resign!
  10. The mystery from Flores
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Skeptic Summary #18
  4. Scientific Truth
  5. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  6. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  7. SkeptiCamp Atlanta: A Personal Overview
  8. Skeptic Summary #280
  9. Evolution is a Lie
  10. TAM5
There were 12,074 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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