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Skeptic Summary #343

By The Staff
Posted on: 9/18/2011

Jobs, the Disco-Tute, the Big Bang, the faithful atheist, the Doubtful Newsblog and more!

Week ending September 18, 2011 (Vol 8, #31)

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:
Are jobs becoming obsolete? Is that good? - Who would like to apply for a not-job?

The Discovery Institute’s list of scientists - Oldie-but-goodie replay on YouTube.

Skepticism about the Big Bang - What does Dark Matter have to do with it?

Editor’s Choice: Cowardly agnostics - At least we’re not fascists.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Doubtful NewsblogLaunched just a few weeks ago, and knowing a good thing when I see one, I immediately bookmarked the site, knowing I would make it a Pick when there was a bit more content than there was on day one. (I did link to it as an Elsewhere.) What I didn’t know at the time was how fast it would grow, and that it’s already being updated several times a day.

So what is the Doubtful Newsblog? This from co-administrator Sharon Hill:
Updated daily with stories hot off the internet, the Doubtful News blog is an essential news site for those interested in paranormal, pseudoscience and news from the skeptical community. The site features links to the original sources, gives credit to the source of the story and may contain some skeptical remarks from the admins, Sharon Hill and Torkel Ødegård. Comments about the news stories are encouraged. MANY of the stories are featured DAYS ahead of hitting major news outlets. News can be accessed via the webpage, RSS feed, Twitter (@doubtfulnews) and Facebook page (Doubtful News)
It’s looking pretty darned good for a new skeptical resource.

The articles cover the whole range of topics of interest to skeptics. They are arranged in order, newest to oldest. There is also a menu on the right of the page if you want to focus on one subject, or a particular kind of claim. There’s also a search engine for an even more refined search. I tested it by entering “Anti Vax” and it came up with one article called Vaccine Deniers and the Fear Behind ‘Contagion’. (Remember that the site is only three weeks old.)

A small sampling of the kind of news items that you will find links to at the site includes:

This time machine is not depicted on the site.
But it is what
I would like a time machine to look like.

So there it is. The Doubtful Newsblog will keep us current on those things that just won’t go away, new things that should go away, and will also keep us informed on what’s news in the skeptical world. Enjoy!

The most terrifying fact about the universe is not that it is hostile but that it is indifferent, but, if we can come to terms with the indifference, then our existence as a species can have genuine meaning. However vast the darkness, we must supply our own light.
— Stanley Kubrick

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: The world seems upside-down. HP wants to do software, Google wants to do hardware. We started reminiscing about the old days. PCs and Internet are fairly new stuff, most of us used typewriters in school. And ran around yanking girls’ pigtails and dipping them into inkwells. Except alienist. It was probably her pigtail… Also, maybe God is punishing Texas with drought for electing Rick Perry. Or maybe it’s just the weather these days. Chatters then started discussing local weather vs. climate, but it evolved into general political anti-science stances like gay bashing, anti-vax, and climate of course. And then a feeling of nostalgia hit us, and we remembered friends lost to us, like Dr. Shari and WinAce. Marfknox joined us and the discussion shifted to female and male perspective and gender roles in the family, babies and borrowing them if you don’t want any of your own. Barfing cats. Chat ended with more kids and daycare.

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
50 new worlds join the exoplanet list

9/11 and the Science of Controlled Demolitions

9/11 demands intellectual honesty

After death row, life's simple pleasures for the West Memphis Three

Climate change: How do we know?

Convictions affirmed against vegans in child death

CRESST team finds new ‘evidence’ of dark matter

Denialist Demagogues and McCarthyist Tactics

Dwarf galaxies suggest dark matter theory may be wrong

The evolution of a “hot” children’s book

Fake bomb detectors in the Mexican war on drugs: a plea to skeptics everywhere

The Memory of Expertise

Peace of Mind: Near-Death Experiences Now Found to Have Scientific Explanations

‘Psychic’ Backs Out of Randi Challenge

Skepticality #165 — Skeptrack — Dragon*Con 2011

The special trick that helps identify dodgy stats

What Happens When Flood Geologists Practice Geology?

What Happens When Two Chat-Bots Talk?

What’s New by Bob Park

You Can’t Handle the Truthiness: A Night Out with the 9/11 Truth Community

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

Book of the Week:
The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe Is Not Designed for Us, by Victor J. Stenger.

“A number of authors have noted that if some physical parameters were slightly changed, the universe could no longer support life, as we know it. This implies that life depends sensitively on the physics of our universe. Does this ‘fine-tuning’ of the universe also suggest that a creator god intentionally calibrated the initial conditions of the universe such that life on earth and the evolution of humanity would eventually emerge? Some influential scientists, such as National Institutes of Health Director Francis Collins, think so. Others go even further, asserting that science ‘has found God.’

In this in-depth, lucid discussion of this fascinating and controversial topic, physicist Victor J. Stenger looks at the same evidence and comes to the opposite conclusion. He states at the outset that as a physicist he will go wherever the data takes him, even if it leads him to God. But after many years of research in particle physics and thinking about its implications, he finds that the observations of science and our naked senses not only show no evidence for God, they provide evidence beyond a reasonable doubt that God does not exist.

Stenger argues that many of the claims by theists are based on their misunderstanding of the science. He looks at the specific parameters and shows that plausible reasons can be found for the values they have within the existing standard models of physics and cosmology. These models are introduced in detail so that the reader has the background needed to understand the role of the parameters claimed to be fine-tuned and judge the veracity of the arguments.

He also discusses related issues such as whether or not the universe had a beginning, what quantum mechanics implies about the involvement of human consciousness in affecting reality, and whether evidence can be found in nature for a divine plan.

Although Stenger has touched on the subject of fine-tuning in other books, this is his most thorough exploration of a topic that continues to intrigue scientists and the lay public alike.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Cowardly agnostics
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. Cruise ships become dangerously top-heavy
  4. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  5. Drummer wanted
  6. Day care should be free
  7. Skepticism about the Big Bang
  8. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  9. Is this the best you got
  10. Wrong images of Saturn
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Scientific Truth
  4. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  5. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  6. Miracle Thaw Tray
  7. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  8. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  9. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  10. Skeptic Summary #342
There were 6,487 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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