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Skeptic Summary

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Skeptic Summary #300

By The Staff
Posted on: 9/18/2010

Identifying gays, rejecting experts, dueling rallies, a big collection and more!


Week ending September 18, 2010 (Vol 7, #35)

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:
DADT Survey - Survey says: biased!

New study on why people reject experts - Most reject the study’s findings.

Editor’s Choice: Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rallies - Get to one, if you can.



Kil’s Evil Pick:
Carl Sagan Collection — Wouldn’t it be nice if all of my picks were as easy to decide on as this one is? The Carl Sagan Collection was put together by the CSI, and I can’t do better than to quote their introduction to it:
Since its creation in 1976, the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (formerly known as CSICOP — the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) has been honored by its association with founding member Carl Sagan, David Duncan Professor of Astronomy and Space Sciences and the Director of the Laboratory for Planetary Studies at Cornell University, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, Peabody-winning television producer, and recipient of the National Academy of Science’s highest honor, the Public Welfare Medal.

Many of us first came to science and skepticism by way of Sagan’s PBS series, COSMOS, but his dedication to skeptical inquiry began long before we saw him on television. Early efforts to inform the public about science, pseudoscience, and the difference between them began in the late 1960s, and from them Sagan created one of the key principles of the skeptical movement: extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. From his later work came the other pillar of skeptical inquiry: The Baloney Detection Kit. With these principles, his TV appearances, and his popular and prolific science writing, it’s no exaggeration to say that Sagan inspired an entire generation of scientists and skeptics, the very people who now carry the movement in his absence.

As this collection of articles, both by Sagan and about him, shows, Sagan was that rarest of individuals. He was a true scientist and researcher who was also adept at communicating scientific ideas to the general public, a person equally comfortable with solving strings of equations and creating strings of words, a skeptic who routinely disproved the unfounded and often dangerous beliefs of his fellow humans without ever losing his belief in humankind. We hope you enjoy this look back at Sagan’s work and are as inspired as we are to continue bringing his unique blend of skepticism and wonder into the future.
My fave rave from this collection of articles is Sagan’s 1987 essay, “The Burden of Skepticism,” which I have referred to and quoted from often on our forum. It might be another one of his articles that resonates for you as “Burden” does for me. Does it matter? The beauty of Sagan’s prose and the ideas he conveys are so breathtakingly consistent and always on the mark that it’s almost silly to choose a favorite.

Other articles, including two by Ann Druyan, complete the collection. Read them all!
How I miss that voice with its mesmerizing blend of passion, brilliance, warmth, humor, and honesty. Carl spoke and wrote with equal measures of skepticism and wonder; never one at the expense of the other. He managed to maintain an exquisite balance between these two competing values. His life’s work to awaken us to the wonders of the universe revealed by rigorous, skeptical science was a joyful labor of love. — Ann Druyan

SkeptiQuote:
Humanity has the stars in its future, and that future is too important to be lost under the burden of juvenile folly and ignorant superstition.
— Isaac Asimov


Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: The vagarities of English; long-lost chatters; who to fire; inheritances; 1960s politics; tear gas; Obama’s performance; if Dave were King of the World; Phil Plait’s Bad Universe and more.

Come chat with us.


New Members This Week:
There were no new members this week.

(Not a member? Become one today!)




Elsewhere in the World:
As the arctic melts, archaeologists discover a lost civilization

But it moves! How we know the Earth rotates.

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Lots of Speculation

[Evolutionary biologist] George Williams has died: Reflections and an interview

From the Archives: brew masters

Geocentrism: Was Galileo Wrong?

Hello darlings: you’re all Nazis

High Fructose Corn Syrup Wants A New Name

I’ve got your missing links right here (12th September 2010)

Kentucky Fried Creation

The man who encourages the sick and dying to drink industrial bleach

Medical Ghostwriting or Subversive Marketing?

A Midsummer Night’s Scheme

Missing a Thousand Galaxies or so? Here’s how to find them!

Of mind and matter: David Attenborough meets Richard Dawkins

The Origin of Superstition, Magical Thinking, and Paranormal Beliefs (an integrative model)

Origins of Mind 101

Right Wing Forces Assault Embryonic Stem Cell Research

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter #119

Stupid California Police Warn Parents of Pedobear, the ‘Pedophile Mascot’ (Update)

Thinking Critically About Emotions

What’s New by Bob Park

When does ‘Skepticism’ become dogma?

Why I no longer believe religion is a virus of the mind

Why “Scientific Consensus” Fails to Persuade

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



Book of the Week:
Deadly Decisions: How False Knowledge Sank the Titanic, Blew Up the Shuttle, and Led America into War, by Christopher Burns.



“A month before its catastrophic failure, Wall Street analysts rated Enron a ‘buy’. In 2001, at the CIA, FBI, and Department of Defense, a squabbling bureaucracy buried warnings of a looming terrorist attack. And Congress and the country were talked into war against a collapsing dictatorship on the basis of detailed and compelling intelligence, which turned out to be false. How could all of the experts be so wrong? In Deadly Decisions, Christopher Burns, one of Americarsquo;s leading experts on modern information management, searches the biology of the brain, the behaviour of groups, and the structure of organisations for practical answers to the problem of ‘virtual truth’ — elaborate constructs of internally consistent evidence and assumptions that purport to describe reality, but can often be dead wrong! How can we avoid wishful thinking, information overload, uncertainty absorption, and an unintentional twisting of the facts? Why are start-up groups agile and innovative while large organisations lumber along, bogged down in false knowledge? How can societies rediscover the power of truthful communication? Burns suggests that, as individuals, we must learn to be sceptical of our own sly and beguiling minds. As members of a group, we need to be more wary of the omissions, inventions, and distortions that come all too naturally to all of us. And as consumers of information we have to hold professionals, politicians, and the media more accountable. As the book makes clear, only through a deeper understanding of how individuals, groups, and society process information can we succeed in those extraordinary endeavours that are the promise of the Information Age.”

— Product Description




This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Funny FAILS
  2. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  3. Burning the Koran: how stupid is this?
  4. The Supper
  5. The Battle of Tehran
  6. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  7. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  8. DADT Survey
  9. DMV Senior Motorcyclist Handbook
  10. Miracle Mineral Solution
Articles:
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Evolution, Scientology Style
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. Scientific Truth
  6. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  7. Skeptic Summary #299
  8. TAM5
  9. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  10. Cold Reading
There were 6,696 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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