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Skeptic Summary #365

By The Staff
Posted on: 6/10/2012

Christians and Christians, a special Venus, a GOP meltdown, purpose, sexism, hoaxes and more!

Week ending June 10, 2012 (Vol 9, #14)

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:
Christian/Humanist meeting to share perspectives - “Christians and Humanists meet on neutral ground” video recording.

Christians Against Nike - Object lesson of taking fealty to Christ too far.

Latest FYI in astromony - Won’t happen again for 105 years.

Louisiana GOP spirals into chaos, violence - Political implosion in progress.

Purpose in Nature - Does skepticism allow for any teleology?

Editor’s Choice: Rebecca Watson not appearing at TAM - Another important storm rising around sexual harassment.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Hoax-Slayer: Debunking email hoaxes and exposing Internet scams since 2003! — As with any good skeptic, I’m interested in what is real and what isn’t. I’m interested in hoaxes and scams, mostly because I don’t want to fall for one and I don’t want you to fall for one either. That’s why in a recent Summary I linked to, a valuable site run by the Federal Trade Commission for information purposes and to offer consumer advice as a way to avoid being scammed.

Hoax-Slayer is different. For one thing, it includes a whole lot more Internet hoaxes and scams than the FTC site does, its updated several times a month and it even includes hoaxes that are more irritating (though sometimes humorous) than they are dangerous. And then there are those things that sound fishy but are nonetheless, true.

Once again I’m not going to list the menu items. But this time I have a better reason than mere laziness. I counted 47 of them (though I must admit that with each count I arrived at a different number), and with the knowledge that you can see them and explore them just by navigating to the Hoax-Slayer site yourself, I’d be crazy to go to all of that work! But as a teaser, I will tell you that there is a page that covers Virus Hoaxes, a page that reports on Bogus Warnings — False Alert Hoaxes, stuff about Internet Dating Scams and even a page for Spam Control — Anti-Spam Tips — Spam Management Links. All told, this is one comprehensive site.

So let’s take a look what hoax-slayer extraordinaire, Brett Christensen, has to say about his site, and the work he does to make Hoax-Slayer happen, shall we? From the mission statement:
Email hoaxes spread misinformation, waste bandwidth, and lessen the effectiveness of email as a communication medium. Hoaxes also circulate via social networking websites, blogs and online forums. Hoax-Slayer helps stop the continued circulation of these hoaxes by publishing information about them. Hoax-Slayer allows Internet users to check the veracity of a large number of common hoaxes. Information about new hoaxes is added on a regular basis.

Around the world, Internet scammers steal millions of dollars per year from unsuspecting Internet users. These criminal activities are successful largely because many Internet users are not aware of the ways in which scammers operate and may not recognize scam attempts if they are targeted. Hoax-Slayer aims to counteract these criminal activities by publishing information about common types of Internet scams and providing examples of scam messages.

Spam is the scourge of the Internet. Hoax-Slayer combats the problem by providing information that can help Internet users reduce spam.

Many users inadvertently compromise their online privacy and the security of their computer equipment because of poor computer security practices. Hoax-Slayer publishes information that makes users aware of email, Internet and computer security issues and what to do about them.
And a bit about Brett from his own keyboard:

Brett Christensen
I have now been researching and writing about hoaxes and scams for more than six years. All articles published on Hoax-Slayer are thoroughly researched prior to publication. My findings are based on information available via a variety of credible sources including other reputable websites, news articles, press releases, government or company publications and consumer alerts. If required, I also contact companies, government departments or other relevant entities directly to enquire about the veracity of a particular message. Most articles include in-text hyperlinks and/or a separate reference list that allow readers to check the information for themselves.

Computing is an important part of my life and I spend a lot of time using computers and the Internet. Through my study, personal and business interests, I have gained a high level of general computing knowledge. Computing is a dynamic and challenging field, and I continue to update my skills and learn more virtually every day.

The Hoax-Slayer website is very important to me and I have put a great deal of time and effort into making it a worthwhile Internet resource.
And a worthwhile Internet resource it is!

But wait! There’s more!

You can opt in for the newsletter where you can peruse the latest hoaxes and scams without leaving the comfort of your email inbox:
Hoax-Slayer keeps you informed about the latest email hoaxes, true email forwards, current Internet scams and important spam and computer security issues. New information is first published as individual articles. New articles are added every week. These new articles are later collected and republished together in newsletter format. The Hoax-Slayer Newsletter is published once per fortnight.

So there it is. Hoax-Slayer has been around a while, but it just recently came to my attention by way of a friend who posted an article from the site about a Completely Pointless and Misleading ‘Facebook Privacy Notice’. A hoax that I have seen acted upon by a few of my less skeptical friends. Keep that from happening to you!

Men become civilized, not in proportion to their willingness to believe, but in their readiness to doubt.
— H. L. Mencken

Chat Highlights:
Wendesday the 30th: That started out discussing ups-and-downs in stock market, then ups-and-downs in dating (having/not having dates, what do you think we were talking about?). Ups-but-mostly-downs in the economy. The private SpaceX mission to the International Space Station was celebrated as a success. We also started the countdown to the budget Armageddon when we expect Republicans to every thing they can to fuck over Obama, even more fiercely than usual. The housing bubble came up, and along with it, the discussion over how much blame can be put on the victims, and how innocent the house-loan takers were. Then there was taxes. And hot coffee from McDonald’s. Religion in the Old World. Finally some book recommendations: Lucy, the Beginnings of Humankind, and The Greatest Show on Earth.

Wednesday the 6th: Chat was a bit thin in the beginning, became fatter in the middle and then went back to being thin on the other end, a lot like one of the larger sauropod dinosaurs happened to be. We had a surprise visit from Steve Packard, who happens to be running for congress, hoping to be Connecticut’s third district representative. He’s running as a Republican, but we cut him some slack because he is a skeptic, after all. Then talk turned to TAM and other things. It always turns to TAM when TAM is getting close. But this time it worked out great for me because a few of those who were in chat donated to my TAM fund! Woo-hoo!

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Airborne paper lanterns to blame for UFO talk in Colorado

Ancient walking mystery deepens

An Asian Origin for Human Ancestors?

Birds Ended Reign of Giant Insects

Breaking: One Million Moms Disappears From Facebook

Cardiff uni claims evidence of Stone Age ‘inequality’

Crosses, Threats and an Adjunct

Creationist University Stifles Academic Freedom

The Descent of Edward Wilson

Disagreeable People Prefer Aggressive Dogs, Study Suggests

Doubtful Newsblog

Dr Oz and the never-ending infomercial

Earliest music instruments found

Empty Thrones

Equality Doesn’t Undermine Marriage a Bit

Expanding the Genetic Alphabet May Be Easier Than Previously Thought

Extra heatwaves could kill 150,000 Americans by 2099

Fever in pregnancy linked to autism

‘Flame’ spyware infiltrating Iranian computers

Fossil Ink Sacs Yield Jurassic Pigment—A First

Goblins saga, girl dies under ‘mysterious’ circumstances

God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Stephen C. Meyer

Google warns users of state-sponsored hacking

How Neuroscientists and Magicians Are Conjuring Brain Insights

How Religion Promotes Confidence About Paternity

Human Evolution Isn’t What It Used to Be

Is a classical electrodynamics law incompatible with special relativity?

It Took Earth Ten Million Years to Recover from Greatest Mass Extinction

Jury gives “faith healing’ mother prison time in son’s death

Klinghoffer Says Eugenie Scott is a Liar

Leaks and power plays in Vatican City

Louisiana to have vouchers to pay for Bible-based schools where no evolution is allowed

Lucid dreaming: Rise of a nocturnal hobby

Mars ‘has life’s building blocks’

Men Can Rest Easy: Sex Chromosomes Are Here to Stay

Mermaids Embodies the Rotting Carcass of Science TV

Military Proselytizing by the Gideons — and how we stopped it.

Military’s Plan to Buy Biofuels Hits Roadblock in U.S. House

Modern dog breeds genetically disconnected from ancient ancestors

More Atomic Hydrogen Gas Lurks in Universe: There’s More Star-Stuff out There, but It’s Not Dark Matter

NASA Gets Two New Hubble Telescopes — for Free

Neuroscientists Reach Major Milestone in Whole-Brain Circuit Mapping Project

New poll on Creationist belief shows nothing has changed

No new nose neurons?

‘No signal’ from targeted ET hunt

North Carolina tries to outlaw sea-level rise

People are AWFUL at identification even in daylight in your backyard (Update: Maine Coon cat)

Predicting a state shift in the biosphere, and communicating it

Saudi ghost-hunters raid “haunted” hospital

Science in the Service of Absurdity

Searching for dark matter in the Homestake Gold Mine

Serpent-handling pastor dies hours after he’s bitten by a RATTLESNAKE — nearly 30 years after his father died the same way

Shape-shifting wings make stealthy Batbot more agile

Should you convert your dead cat into a helicopter?

The Skeptic’s Dictionary Newsletter, June, 2012

Skepticality #183 — Drop a Penny on the Gate

South Korea surrenders to creationist demands

Speaking of not getting the memo: Philosopher Bradley Monton on the LA Science Education Act

Spider invasion causes panic and deaths in India (Updated: Is it a hoax?)

Supervolcanoes ‘can grow in just hundreds of years’

Swiss government homeopathy report gutted by biomedical ethicist

Take the religious Turing Test!

This post is written in a font made of DNA

A touchscreen with keys that rise and disappear

Violent anti-science anarchists vow to strike again

Vast cosmic event leaves record in ancient trees

‘What Is’ Meets ‘What if’: The Role of Speculation in Science

What’s New by Bob Park

Will we ever… clone a mammoth?

Zombie apocalypse begins

‘Zombie apocalypse’ trending as bad news spreads quickly

Zoo doctors in India make hollow claims about using alt med on their animals

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

Book of the Week:
Tribal Science: Brains, Beliefs, and Bad Ideas, by Mike Mcrae.

“In praise of scientific thinking as a way to view the world despite our tribally oriented brains.

Human beings evolved in a tribal environment. Over the millennia, our brains have become adept at fostering social networks that are the basis of group cohesion, from the primary family unit to the extended associations of clans, villages, cities, and nations. This essential social component of our behavior gave the human species distinct survival advantages in coping with the challenges of an often-hostile environment.

In Tribal Science, popular science writer Mike McRae examines the many ways in which our tribally oriented brains perceive and sometimes distort reality. He describes how our social nature led to the development of cognitive tricks that have served us so well as a social species. Some examples are our habit of imposing patterns on random phenomena, of weaving entertaining narratives to explain the mysteries of the universe, and of favoring the biases of group think. Luckily, we also stumbled upon science, which McRae views as a fortuitous accident. With this new technique, humans had discovered a method of objectively evaluating the accuracy of our traditional tribal notions. Even more important, the scientific method proved to be self-correcting, allowing us to weed out the bad ideas from those that really work.

McRae argues that science is our most successful social enterprise to date. Through the sharing of scientific ideas, our species has expanded the reach of the tribal community to a global scale. Our problems may be bigger than ever, but science gives us a sure basis in reality and the best method of facing the daunting challenges of the future.”

— Book Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Little-a versus big-A atheism
  2. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  3. Bedini motor
  4. Rebecca Watson not appearing at TAM
  5. Funny FAILS
  6. Latest on the "Antikythera Mechanism"
  7. Someone loves me!!!
  8. The Battle of Tehran
  9. Do You Know This Face? (94)
  10. Send Kil to TAM 2012!
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. Evolution, Scientology Style
  5. Cold Reading
  6. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  7. The Legend of the Shrinking Sun
  8. Miracle Thaw Tray
  9. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  10. N. 25, June 2002: Ecology vs. ecophily — being reasonable about saving the environment
There were 7,949 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  2. Funny FAILS
  3. Little-a versus big-A atheism
  4. Calling out a slimeball
  5. The Battle of Tehran
  6. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  7. Fif50ty FreAkieSt AnIMaLS
  8. Who would win, grizzly or gorilla?
  9. Of Serpents and Men
  10. DMV Senior Motorcyclist Handbook
  11. Latest on the "Antikythera Mechanism"
  12. George Lucas FTW!
  13. Stan Lee’s superhumans
  14. Bedini motor
  15. The Zeitgeist evidence
  16. Supporting a delusional Bible-based marriage
  17. Crabby Appleton
  18. Scattershots: Cleaning out the pipes
  19. What is the physical evidence for the Holocaust?
  20. Proof of cover-up of time-travel technology
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  3. Evolution, Scientology Style
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. Cold Reading
  6. Natural Childbirth: Under the Skeptical Movement's Radar?
  7. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  8. What is a Skeptic and Why Bother Being One?
  9. Quantum Age Water
  10. Scientific Truth
  11. Calorad
  12. How Do Vaccines Work?
  13. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  14. Miracle Thaw Tray
  15. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  16. The Legend of the Shrinking Sun
  17. Skeptic Summary #362
  18. N. 25, June 2002: Ecology vs. ecophily — being reasonable about saving the environment
  19. Free the Glutens, or When a Cookie isn’t Just a Cookie
  20. The Biblical support for a Flat Earth and Geocentricism
There were 30,533 daily visitors in May, 2012.

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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