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Skeptic Summary

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Skeptic Summary #354

By The Staff
Posted on: 1/22/2012

Ben Stein, SOPA, Jessica Ahlquist, Reason Rally, the Snake Oil Skeptic and more!

Week ending January 22, 2012 (Vol 9, #3)

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:
Ben Stein gaffs again - Playing the victim card when he didn’t get a job.

How big a deal is SOPA anyway? - Big enough for Wikipedia to protest, or a TED talk.

How fundies react when they don’t get their way - High school girl dares to go to court.

Editor’s Choice: Reason Rally - Attend if you can.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
The Snake Oil Skeptic: One Lady Tackles Her New Age Rage by Becoming a Human Guinea Pig — Jenny wrote to me a couple of months ago asking if I would add a link to her blog on our resources pages. After a look at her blog, I was only too happy to oblige. We have also kept up with a bit of correspondence.

(Now I must tell you, that is not the norm. I get many inquiries about linking and most of them are junk. For some reason, some people think we would be happy to help them sell or promote something completely unrelated to skepticism if they offer us a link to SFN in trade. Nope. For a very good reason, it doesn’t work that way. SFN is a skeptic site, and that’s that. The idea of exchanging links is a good one. It’s too bad most of those who offer to exchange links haven’t bothered to look at our site, or they wouldn’t ask. Digression over.)

Anyhow, Jenny asked, and what I found on her site is original, fun and importantly from our point of view, mostly skeptical. I say mostly because she hasn’t tried everything yet. But here, I’m getting ahead of myself.

What Jenny is doing is trying on as many things “New Age” as she can to see how they work and more importantly, if they work. And she approaches each one with a fairly open mind. (Most of us have to constantly remind ourselves that an open mind is very important to skeptical inquiry, although results may vary, and are sometimes based on your actual mileage.)

From her About Page:
The journo as human guinea pig…

I once wrote a blog called, Hey Man, Now You’re Really Living in which I tried something new every day for a year.

While this included non-spiritual things like Wielding a Chainsaw, Shooting Glocks, Magnums and Rugers, and Blowing Shit Up, I was moved to include a fair few New Age activities, like Getting My Aura Read, Hugging Cows and Healing My Embittered Soul With Song.

I began to get suspicious as to just how many New Age activities were creeping on to my list. Was it solely for me to expose practitioners as frauds, flakes and charlatans, to feel the rage bubble up from my guts and then, as so often happened, torrent out of my traitorous tear glands? Or did my unconscious have deeper plans afoot — plans to sign me up and insist on being addressed as Bindi?

I reckon I’d better check.

As someone who treats the “New Age” like it’s a great big aquarium and as someone who just can’t resist tapping on the glass by going to “New Age” expos and asking lots of questions, Jenny is going me a step further by actually swimming with the fishes behind the glass and then reporting back, sometimes after a bit of resuscitation, I suppose.

Jenny’s adventures are told with humor, wit and style, along with a critical eye that just seems to come naturally to her. Please visit Jenny’s The Snake Oil Skeptic blog. You will be glad that you did.

Supposing is good, but finding out is better.
— Mark Twain

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: We started out talking a bit about Skepticality’s forum and how it fell from its former glorious days. Then we turned to SOPA/PIPA, and everything from what SOPA means in other languages, to which celebrities oppose the bills (like Adam Savage). Wikipedia closed down their page, as did Peter Gabriel, and Google posted a sign. Close to this subject is how politicians seems to be guided by self-interest more than any responsibility to a higher moral/ethics or the people they represent. HalfMooner dropped by to say “Hi!” The chat ended with discussion on people in the medical professions believing in woo.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
15 greatest hats of the world

Ancient Bronze Artifact from East Asia Unearthed at Alaska Archaeology Site

Anonymous tricked people into joining Web site attacks

Baguio urban legends that baffle even locals

Big Question for 2012: The Great Pyramid's Secret Doors

Can Wave Disk Generator Revolutionize Engines?

Doubtful Newsblog

Evangelical Churches and the Epidemic of Witchcraft Accusations (Part 1)

Evangelical Churches and the Epidemic of Witchcraft Accusations (Part 2)

First Dogs Came from East Asia, Genetic Study Confirms

Fishy find shows humans skilled anglers 42,000 years ago

Horse Fly Named in Honor of Beyoncé

How to kill chemtrails with vinegar

Leonardo Da Vinci: Bag Designer

Meghalaya, India: Where women rule, and men are suffragettes

More trouble for Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski

Most Recent European Great Ape Discovered

The Problem with Superstitions.

Quantum Mechanical Con Game: Winning Every Time

Quantum Uncertainty: Are You Certain, Mr. Heisenberg?

Salman Rushdie cancels trip to India after death threat

Scale of the Universe

“Scientific”: It’s just a catchphrase!

Simpler Times: Did an Earlier Genetic Molecule Predate DNA and RNA?

Skepticality #174 — Attack of the Theocrats!

So, Discovery Institute, do I win an award or what?

Thank You, Mr. Darwin. Again.

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

Book of the Week:
Debating Science: Deliberation, Values, and the Common Good, by Dane Scott and Blake Francis (editors).

“As science becomes ever more powerful in the twenty-first century, it is likely that controversies over the ethics of its applications will increase. Already there is lively debate concerning such hot-button issues as the ethical deployment of agricultural biotechnology, nanotechnology, and the science of climate change. The capacity to participate intelligently in these high-stakes public debates — beyond the low level of contentious rhetoric now so common among TV talking heads — is more crucial than ever.

In Debating Science accomplished scholars and noted experts focus on ethical deliberation and the larger moral context surrounding the controversies over scientific research and technological innovations. The insightful and accessible original works emphasize deliberation rather than adversarial debate — that is, they encourage the development of mental habits that enable stakeholders to work comprehensively and systematically through challenging issues with others.

This compelling volume addresses such foundational issues as the need for ethics education, applying ethics to science debates, determining moral objectives, freedom versus public regulation, outlining economic considerations, and effectively communicating science to the public — all of which must be considered before examining the current debates surrounding biotechnology, nanotechnology, and climate change. Topics considered include food security, the apparent urgency of the global warming problem versus public indifference, designing nanotechnology that is mindful of ethical considerations, and much more.

The views expressed here will help students and citizens alike become better informed about science and will go far toward promoting constructive discussion about the values at stake in contemporary debates over scientific research and emerging technologies.”

— Book Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. How fundies react when they don’t get their way
  4. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  5. More Fun in the Philippines
  6. The Battle of Tehran
  7. Cruise ships become dangerously top-heavy
  8. Hojo Motor
  9. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  10. Stan Lee’s superhumans
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two
  2. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  3. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  4. The Truth About The Bible And Evolution
  5. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  6. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  7. Skeptic Summary #353
  8. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  9. Scientific Truth
  10. Cold Reading
There were 6,987 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 2012, all rights reserved.

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