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Skeptic Summary #383

By The Staff
Posted on: 4/7/2013

Ebert, conspiracies, bibliophilia, Nelson, Facebook and more!

Week ending April 07, 2013 (Vol 10, #5)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick, bi-weekly review of the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Please, if you can, help Send Kil to TAM 2013!

Forum Highlights:
Film critic and skeptic Roger Ebert has died - Another ally down.

Conspiracy and strange belief poll - Do you think what I think?

Stop bibliophilia now! - And don’t offer him a libation!

Editor’s Choice: Paul Nelson Day - Have some fun with this.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
In our last Skeptic Summary, I said I might change direction for a while in this spot. And just to prove that I wasn’t kidding, I’m going to put off my usual pick, once again, and talk a bit about some other things. Well, maybe not some other things so much as one other thing that encompasses many things, some of which I will ignore for now. I’m going to talk a bit about Facebook, or more specifically, Facebook “friends” threads and comments posted there, and other silly things that are not always so silly, but often they are.

Whoa! That’s a lot to bite off! Perhaps “silly” was the wrong word to use. How about disappointing? I think that’s more to the point.

Okay. Here’s the deal. Or maybe it’s two deals, and here is one of them: When first I joined Facebook, I thought being “friended” by atheists was a good bet. I figured they would mostly be fellow skeptics, critical thinkers and rational. I wanted to be part of a happy community of rational people that I could network with. A larger community that exists beyond the confines of SFN (not that there is anything wrong with SFN, it’s my home and I’m very proud of what we do here). There are many other groups out there, and the place of convergence seems to be Facebook. At least it is at the moment.

A couple of things happened to burst my little fuzzy idealistic bubble. Several things really, but I’m only going to talk about two of those things. First of all, no. Atheists might be skeptics and critical thinkers, but simply being an atheist is no more of an indicator of clear thinking than what I have seen from people who do not identify as either skeptical or atheist. Well, I don’t know. Maybe a little more. And there is no place on the Web that has brought that realization home to me more than Facebook has. (And no, I don’t have numbers, I freely admit that my observations come from personal experience and are completely anecdotal.)

The other complaint I have comes from those skeptics and/or atheists who are so invested in whatever brand of skepticism and/or atheism they have chosen to identify with and promote, that they can’t contain their hostility toward anyone who breeches what they consider the only correct course. I’m not really talking about what they actually promote, whether it be some position with regard to the scope of skepticism or what atheists should be promoting or whatever. A lot of that stuff I agree with and some of it I don’t. But that doesn’t matter here. What I’m talking about is what I consider to be unnecessary criticism based on what they promote. And because this is about my experience, I think I need to be more specific in my complaint. I’ll get to that.

Every time I look at my news feed, on Facebook, I find myself dismayed by a lot of what I see. How can so much woo be coming from my “friends?” But there it is, every day. Here’s an example of a reply written to me by one of my atheist “friends” in response to my position on GMOs in a thread that I replied in:
Oh my, I'’e read about the paid trolls, who sometimes work in teams, but this is the first time I’ve actually recognized them. I wonder if it pays well. No wonder you guys weren’t more insulting. Regular trolls who just like to stir shit, any shit, are a lot more insulting in a pseudo-intellectual way. Regular people who care a lot about the subject, are usually more insulting too. But not too many regular/real people get all caught up in defending the ‘science of Monsanto’ — they’re more into defending the politicians who are helping Monsanto.

My reply:
Cyndy: As I said, sometimes people I debate with try to make me part of the conspiracy that they oppose. So thanks. I have copied what you wrote to amuse my more skeptical friends with. I will be pasting it on my timeline.

This might shock you Cyndy, but I find that rudeness doesn’t really help me all that much in debates. But I think it’s great that you took a good quality and turned it against me because you just made my point about your bias toward the article, or anyone who says anything nice about GMOs. You are so out there that you just can’t fathom anyone seeing things differently than you do without being on the payroll of the other side. And that is very typical of a conspiracy theorist. The “Truthers” do it. The anti-vax people do it. And you do it. Twice now in this thread.

What’s really funny is if I had come to this thread and said that there is absolute proof that eating GMO foods is linked to (name your disease) and you would have believed me without even checking my source to see if that info is correct.

Now I realize I have no hope of convincing you of anything. You are what skeptics often call a “true believer.” On the other hand, you never know. Since so much BS is being spewed about the rider, maybe I’ve helped to bring some perspective to some people. I dunno. I try.

By the way. I didn’t defend “the science of Monsanto.” I defended GMO research and its potential for doing good. But as I said before, you, Cyndy, can’t read “beneficial” and “GMO” in the same sentence without invoking “argumentum ad monsantium,” which is a whole bunch of logical fallacies rolled into one.

Cyndy. I don’t need to be paid for my promotion of science and critical thinking. It’s a labor of love.
I included a link to a SkepticBlog article written by Brian Dunning about invoking the argumentum ad monsantium fallacy. It was pretty much on target.

Cyndy is an atheist who asked to be my friend. Her outrage over GMOs is just presented here as an example of the stuff I see, and sometimes respond to. In the atheist mix, there are anti-vaxers, people who believe the Moon landings were a hoax, 9/11 Truthers, promoters of alternative medical treatments of all kinds, militant Vegans, anti-Semites, Islamaphobes, people who can’t distinguish between people of faith who promote secular values and fundamentalist Christians, and so on.

Here’s one of the replies from the above thread that I quoted from:
I knew without clicking the link that was an “in the tank” article by Dunning. Sorry, but between him and Shermer (libertarianism confused with skepticism; known racialists on the masthead of his magazine) I refuse to read Skepticblog. And, Loxton, Prothero et al … “accommodationists.” They could start another group blog if they so chose.
He knows that Dunning is “in the tank” for Monsanto, I guess, without even reading the article. This goes to my second complaint. I happen to like the person who wrote that reply, but hey, I was just trying to point out a particular fallacy to someone who had just used it. And that article looked the best to me at explaining it. Plus I like some of the people he named. But lest you think I’m just picking on one side of this unnecessary criticism, I have also been criticized for linking to the FTBlogs when there was something good over there. If the information is good in my view, must I really care about where it comes from?

Well excuuuuuse me!

So it comes down to this. I must pare down my friends list on Facebook, or continue seeing all sorts of crap in my feed. I don’t accept friend requests anymore unless it comes from someone I know, or if the person who wants to friend me displays their list (some keep them private) and I can make sure that there are a reasonable number of skeptics on it. That’s my new rule and I’m sticking to it.

Sit down before a fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every preconceived notion, follow humbly wherever and to whatever abysses nature leads, or you shall learn nothing.
— Thomas Henry Huxley

Please come join us for chat every Wednesday at 10 PM Eastern time (7PM Pacific). More information can be found in this forum post.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Another Failure of Chelation Therapy

Don’t Take Medical Advice From the New York Times Magazine

Doubtful News

Fact Check: Five Reasons to Buy Organic

North Carolina May Declare Official State Religion Under New Bill

‘It’s All Woo’ cookbook

JREF’s Pigasus Awards “Honors” Dubious Peddlers of “Woo”

Mega-Eruption: Scientists Connect a Mass Extinction to a Major Lava Flow

“Just a Theory”: 7 Misused Science Words

Maury Island UFO incident returns to the limelight

New Kansas anti-abortion law orders doctors to lie to their patients

New study finds no link between ‘too many vaccines’ and autism

North Carolina May Declare Official State Religion Under New Bill

The Periodic Table of Irrational Nonsense Ver 3.0

Skepticality #204 — Spot the Bull

The Snake Bite That Turns You Into A Jello Mold

Woman burned alive for ‘sorcery’ in Papua New Guinea

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

Book of the Week:
Pterosaur Trouble (Tales of Prehistoric Life), by Daniel Loxton and Jim WW Smith.

“Follow the pterosaur, a majestic flying reptile, as he encounters a pack of tiny but vicious dinosaurs. A unique blend of digital illustrations and landscape photography brings the ensuing battle to life. Pterosaur Trouble is book two in the Tales of Prehistoric Life series. Dramatic stories + eye-popping visuals = a surefire hit with young dinosaur lovers.”

— Book Description

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There were 8,452 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
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  3. Poaching making China elephants evolve tuskless
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  5. No photo-no post!
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  9. Stan Lee’s superhumans
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  12. Newton, Connecticut
  13. Medical acronyms
  14. Rebecca Watson not appearing at TAM
  15. The Skeptic Summary
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  17. The water cooler, part 3
  18. Scientist: No knuckle-walkers in human ancestry
  19. ‘Debate’ between me and Stan
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  1. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
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  3. Evolving a Venom or Two
  4. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  5. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
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  7. The Legend of the Shrinking Sun
  8. Skeptic Summary #381
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  16. Quantum Age Water
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There were 33,228 daily visitors in March, 2013.

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 2013, all rights reserved.

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