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Skeptic Summary #346

By The Staff
Posted on: 10/23/2011

Free energy, evolution, Homeopops, nerds, Dawkins, Perry, Pascal's Wager, gluten, Quackwatch and more!

Week ending October 23, 2011 (Vol 8, #34)

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:
E-CAT free energy to be tested on 28/10 - Cold fusion again? A new name, but still not very likely.

Evolution questions - Where did humans come from? Or apes for that matter. What does our DNA say?

Homeopops/Homeopsicles! - The new homeopathic hoax, this time a parody from one of our own.

Math’s nerdy reputation and stereotypes hurt kids - You can count on it.

Richard Dawkins victim of discrimination - There’s a petition.

Rick Perry’s people censor climate science report - Scientists disavow the report in protest.

Editor’s Choice: Global Warming boiled down to a simple view - Pascal’s Wager applied to climate change.

New Article This Week:
Free the Glutens, or When a Cookie isn’t Just a Cookie - Michelle Shires shows us that free isn’t always free, even in nutrition and health.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Quackwatch — My interest in skepticism goes back to well before the World Wide Web was around. The web has given us a wonderful way to access information, and even though the web is fairly young, it seems like ages ago that it came into being. For as long as SFN has been in existence, starting from somewhere in 1997, there has been the Quackwatch site. It was my first go-to site when I heard a dubious medical claim. And it has been that way for many years now. So why haven’t I picked the site until now? For no good reason is why! I have become so accustomed to perusing Quackwatch when I hear of a dubious medical claim, that it simply hadn’t occurred to me that not everyone has heard of Quackwatch. After all, there are a lot of new skeptics out there, and there are a whole lot of sites competing for your attention. Great sites too, that I have recommended. But I have to tell you, for sheer volume of information, after years of collecting and evaluating all kinds of less-than-trustworthy health claims, Quackwatch still stands as not only the granddaddy of them all, but also the most complete.

That’s not to say that I don’t use the other health-related skeptical sites. I do. Some of the articles on those sites are extremely well researched and well written which makes them just too good to pass up. But my first stop is still Quackwatch if I’m in doubt about a health claim.

The information on Quackwatch has become so vast that the site itself has been broken down into several sub- or satellite sites that focus on particular issues of concern to skeptics, and those who need information about some claim or other. That list can be found on the homepage and also on the Quackwatch Mission Statement page:
Quackwatch is now an international network of people who are concerned about health-related frauds, myths, fads, fallacies, and misconduct. Its primary focus is on quackery-related information that is difficult or impossible to get elsewhere. Founded by Dr. Stephen Barrett in 1969 as the Lehigh Valley Committee Against Health Fraud (Allentown, Pennsylvania), it was incorporated in 1970. In 1997, it assumed its current name and began developing a worldwide network of volunteers and expert advisors. Our activities include:

Investigating questionable claims
Answering inquiries about products and services
Advising quackery victims
Distributing reliable publications
Debunking pseudoscientific claims
Reporting illegal marketing
Assisting or generating consumer-protection lawsuits
Improving the quality of health information on the Internet
Attacking misleading advertising on the Internet
Consumer Health Digest, a free weekly e-mail newsletter
The healthfraud discussion list, which has about 600 members

In 2008, after Dr. Barrett moved to North Carolina, the corporation was dissolved, but the network's activities will continue as usual.

This photo is not from the Quackwatch site. Quack quack.

Next comes a list of Quackwatch websites, too numerous to name all but a small sampling of them here, complete with launch dates:
Acupuncture Watch (started 2/05): The skeptical guide to acupuncture history, theories, and practices

Autism Watch (7/04): Your scientific guide to autism

Chirobase (10/98): Your skeptical guide to chiropractic history, theories, and practices

Device Watch (7/04): Your guide to questionable medical devices

Infomercial Watch (7/04): A critical view of the health infomercial marketplace

Also not from Quackwatch site.

You get the idea. And really, there are way too many pages for me to describe the whole site. Plus it isn’t necessary that I do. All that has to happen is for you to click on the link and go check it out for yourself. Or go and become reacquainted with Quackwatch if it’s been a while since you navigated there.

By the way. While working on this pick, I was also having a vaccination debate with someone over on Facebook. I threw up a link to Autism Watch. How convenient for me!

In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
— Stephen Jay Gould

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday, the 12th: Our regular chat host Dr. Mabuse is on different hours for a few weeks, so this summary falls to me, Kil. Having no ability to log chat, and being too lazy to take notes, confident that I will remember the most important parts of chat, and never do, here is my chat summary: We had for at least a while, more women then men in chat. That’s unusual and also a nice change. Marf convinced me that vegans aren’t stupid, though the further from chat we get the more I wonder. But then, what do I know? Maybe they will live much longer than me, but I bet they will still be insufferable at Trader Joes, with all of that attitude they have. I’m sure there are some who are wicked nice when they aren’t being pushy in the cereal isle or stealing your parking place. And speaking of cereal, how are they going to live now that they have gone gluten free? Okay, I’m done. Sue me. I’m going to go have a taco for dinner.

Wednesday, the 19th: Chat was slow this week. Mostly Terry and I argued about the banks’ responsibility and their ethics with regard to the crash and the current OWS demonstrations. A few people dropped in and then left. Some chat nights are like that.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
10 red flags to identify crappy on-line health content

Ask Surly Amy: Cancer and Alt-Med

Climate Change and the End of Australia

‘Coke and fries’ supplement deal proves a bitter pill for pharmacists to swallow

C0nc0rdance on Ben Goldacre’s “Don’t Dumb Me Down”

Critical Thinker Explains Skepticism vs. Cynicism

Doubtful Newsblog

Global warming ‘confirmed’ by independent study

Harvard Cancer Expert: Steve Jobs Probably Doomed Himself With Alternative Medicine

Hate, Bias, and Skeptical Inquiry

Mason Crumpacker and the Hitchens reading list

An Open Letter to James Van Praagh: What Are You Hiding From?

Paved With Good Intentions

Placebo-ball: the science of baseball’s magical necklaces

Real-Life ‘Paranormal Activity:’ Are Ghosts Real?

Reiki Doesn’t Work Either

Serious claims belong in a serious scientific paper

Skepticality #167 — The Happy Humanist

Small-town Tennessee mayor seeks legal help to fight atheist “terrorists”

Speedy neutrino mystery likely solved, relativity safe after all

TAM9 Panel — Our Future in Space

What’s New by Bob Park

World To End — Again

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

Book of the Week:
The Psychopath Test, by Jon Ronson.

“In this madcap journey, a bestselling journalist investigates psychopaths and the industry of doctors, scientists, and everyone else who studies them.

The Psychopath Test is a fascinating journey through the minds of madness. Jon Ronson’s exploration of a potential hoax being played on the world’s top neurologists takes him, unexpectedly, into the heart of the madness industry. An influential psychologist who is convinced that many important CEOs and politicians are, in fact, psychopaths teaches Ronson how to spot these high-flying individuals by looking out for little telltale verbal and nonverbal clues. And so Ronson, armed with his new psychopath-spotting abilities, enters the corridors of power. He spends time with a death-squad leader institutionalized for mortgage fraud in Coxsackie, New York; a legendary CEO whose psychopathy has been speculated about in the press; and a patient in an asylum for the criminally insane who insists he’s sane and certainly not a psychopath.

Ronson not only solves the mystery of the hoax but also discovers, disturbingly, that sometimes the personalities at the helm of the madness industry are, with their drives and obsessions, as mad in their own way as those they study. And that relatively ordinary people are, more and more, defined by their maddest edges.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Evolution questions
  2. Is a major event going to happen on 28th October?
  3. Richard Dawkins victim of discrimination
  4. Funny FAILS
  5. Proof of cover-up of time-travel technology
  6. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  7. The next black president?
  8. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  9. Why I am an atheist
  10. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Scientific Truth
  4. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  5. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  6. The PQ Test
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. How Do Vaccines Work?
  9. Alternative Medicine and the Death of Candace Newmaker
  10. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
There were 6,332 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 2011, all rights reserved.

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