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Skeptic Summary #329

By The Staff
Posted on: 5/7/2011

Osama, Obama, atheists, investigations and more!

Week ending May 07, 2011 (Vol 8, #17)

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:
Osama bin Laden has been killed - Wagging the dog of the birth certificate.

Presidential Facebook statement - A notification prompts speculation about atheism.

Editor’s Choice: Are atheists more moral? - Maybe.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Skeptical Investigations — This might come as a shock to the readers of my weekly pick, but there are people out there who aren’t really very fond of skeptics. For example, the creators of this week’s pick are not very fond of skeptics, even though they fancy themselves as skeptics. Once you get past the official name of the site and to their welcome, things clearly begin to sour pretty quickly.
Welcome to the Skeptical Investigations Website: Skeptical about Skeptics!
Dang! But then, we should be open to criticism ourselves, right? Nothing like a bit of criticism, especially if it’s valid, to keep us from becoming a lot like that which we are critical of. But alas, this wouldn’t be one of those times. After the title, and subtitle, there are a few sentences that describe the mission of Skeptical Investigations:
This website is dedicated to countering the dogmatic and frequently ill-informed attacks levelled [sic] by self-styled skeptics on parapsychology and pioneering researchers in general. We take the view that ‘my mind is made up — don’t confuse me with facts’ is not a useful premise from which to conduct a reasoned debate…
Yup. Their first two sentences construct a straw-man version of skeptics. You would think that they could have waited a bit to drop a straw-bomb and sort of eased their readers into the fallacies that follow.
…As well as investigating skeptics, we look at ways in which scientific objectivity is compromised by vested interests, fraud, experimenter effects and merchants of doubt, who use skepticism as a weapon to further corporate interests…
Well, at least we aren’t the only ones who have fallen under their high-powered scrutiny. Corporate interests have made conspirators of us all.
…We also explore current controversies and look at open-minded investigations, which use the scientific method to investigate the unknown.
Hey. I’m for that anyhow!

The site is broken down into five menu categories and the usual subcategories under them. The main categories include:
  • Investigating Skeptics
  • Controversies
  • Open-minded Research
  • Scientific objectivity, and
  • Resources
There is a taste of balance here and there, like links to actual CSICOP articles and links to interviews with some of the real players. But all in all, it’s a bit chilly over at Skeptical Investigations, if you happen to be a fan of people like Bob Park or Richard Wiseman or maybe Susan Blackmore or James Randi.

So why did I chose such a site as my pick this week? Well, why not? It seems to me that one of the things a site like this one means is that skeptics are making an impact. Otherwise, why go after skeptics? Plus, a bit of insight into what our detractors are thinking and saying can’t be a bad thing. I even found some of the criticism to be of value, although I do think that making a big issue out of some miss-steps purposely misses the point.

Anyhow, I can’t exactly rave about the Skeptical Investigations site, but I do think it’s worth looking at.

Throughout history
Every mystery
Ever solved has turned out to be
Not Magic.
— Tim Minchin

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: Chat started out with discussions about chicken pot pie, then breast feeding or bottle. Then a healthy dose of venting about bin Laden, the state of affairs in Afghanistan and Obama’s decision on what to do once they found bin Laden. Now it’s time for the conspiracy-machinery to start pumping out implausibles and ad hocs… Many members declared their love for Rachel Maddow, one of the most informed reporters on US TV. Keith Olbermann will be back shortly (June 20th) in Countdown with Keith Olbermann on Current TV.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:
Taylor Ray-Jones

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Ahmadinejad allies charged with sorcery

All-female lizard species created in the lab

bin Laden Conspiracies Rely on Complex Scenarios

Daily Show Disappointment

Evolving robots spontaneously emerge altruistic behavior

The First Zombie-Proof House

How flimsy research gets inferior drugs to market

I control therefore I am: chimps self-aware, says study

‘Pop’ Culture: Patent Medicines Become Soda Drinks

Skepticality #154 — Packing For Endeavour

What’s New by Bob Park

Why do Americans still dislike atheists?

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

Book of the Week:
Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked into an Intellectual Black Hole, by Stephen Law.

“A philosophy professor at the University of London, Law describes eight ‘intellectual black holes,’ traps that seem to lend credence to scientifically or rationally incorrect propositions. Recognizing such black holes as ‘playing the mystery card’ (e.g., arguing that science can tell us whether ghosts exist) will help readers identify and critique illogical arguments. One particularly interesting concept is the ‘blunderbuss,’ which cites real but irrelevant illogical elements of, say, certain New Age beliefs. Another concept is what philosopher Daniel Dennett once called a ‘deepity,’ which Law defines as ‘saying something with two meanings’ — one true but trivial, the other false but seemingly profound. Law shows how these and other verbal sleights of hand are used in a wide variety of belief systems, including the paranormal, homeopathy, Christian Science, and belief in UFOs. Law includes an entertaining appendix of fictional letters called, pace C.S. Lewis, the ‘Tapescrew Letters,’ which recapitulate his eight logical black holes. Though he writes clearly and persuasively, this is not a particularly easy read, but his subject is important and deserving of readers’ attention.”

— Publishers Weekly

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. Osama bin Laden has been killed
  4. Women skeptics
  5. The Supper
  6. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  7. Webcam, bald eagle nest
  8. Presidential Facebook statement
  9. Obama released the long form
  10. Fracking Hell!
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  5. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  6. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  7. Scientific Truth
  8. Skeptic Summary #328
  9. Cold Reading
  10. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
There were 6,697 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. The Supper
  4. Critical thinking
  5. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  6. Bills planned to legalize abortion murders??
  7. Webcam, bald eagle nest
  8. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  9. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  10. Obama released the long form
  11. Water covering the Earth
  12. Beelzebufo ampinga
  13. DMV Senior Motorcyclist Handbook
  14. Alan Grayson to Chris Matthews on the swine Cheney
  15. IDiot exposes once again, ID’s religious nature
  16. ETs are here, despite guesses to the contrary
  17. What is the physical evidence for the Holocaust?
  18. Women skeptics
  19. Ozone
  20. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Scientific Truth
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  7. Cold Reading
  8. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  9. Miracle Thaw Tray
  10. Evolution is a Lie
  11. TAM5
  12. More on the Polonium 218 Controversy
  13. Alternative Medicine and the Death of Candace Newmaker
  14. Skeptic Summary #326
  15. Questioning the Validity of False Memory Syndrome
  16. Skeptic Summary #325
  17. Calorad
  18. Quantum Age Water
  19. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
  20. N. 25, June 2002: Ecology vs. ecophily — being reasonable about saving the environment
There were 29,937 daily visitors in April, 2011.

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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