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Skeptic Summary #395

By The Staff
Posted on: 1/5/2014

Happy new year, Nye debate, disruptive preacher, Hitchens, same-sex marriage, in the press, Fukushima and more!

Skeptic Summary #395
Happy new year, Nye debate, disruptive preacher, Hitchens, same-sex marriage, in the press, Fukushima and more!
happy, new, year, bill, nye, ken, ham, hitchens, preacher, campus, student, same, sex, marriage, in, the, news, fukushima
Issue #395 is happy in the new year!
Week ending January 05, 2014 (Vol 11, #1)

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

The staff of the Skeptic Friends Network hopes you all had happy and safe holidays!

Forum Highlights:
Bill Nye to debate Ken Ham - Most seem to think this is a bad idea, but for different reasons.

Disruptive campus preacher protected, student isn’t - Lesson to be learned: be careful how you protest.

Hitchens - Some thoughts sparked by the second anniversary of Christopher Hitchens’ death.

I told you so… - Theists believe same-sex marriage will lead to bowling-teams in legal polygamy.

I’m in the ‘News’ - One of SFN’s moderators appear in press release.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Firstly, Happy New Year to both of my readers!

Once again I had an actual “Pick” chosen for this week, but I’m going to allow myself to be sidetracked again. Actually, there is an article on the site I was going to use for this week’s pick that is relevant to this post and I will link to it. I’ll get to a full “Pick” in our next Summary, perhaps. We’ll see.

It should come as no surprise to anyone paying any attention while on the Web that people post things on forums, blogs and in social media that originate from dubious sources, aren’t backed up by any real evidence, and appear to be nothing more than wild speculation on the part of a writer for some Internet “news” outlet that purports to be reporting on the news that the “others” won’t touch. Some media outlets don’t make that claim, and just pass the bad information along as if it’s news. There is an Internet media echo chamber out there, which is unfortunate, but no surprise. Many very poorly investigated stories, which might be of interest to many of us if they were real, go viral.

One topic of dubious news that comes up often is the impending west-coast radiation disaster that will be, or has already occurred, by way of the ongoing Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant disaster. We are all pretty much doomed, according to some breathless assessments of the danger that we are incomprehensibly ignoring. Or we aren’t being told the truth by the powers-that-be, which is even worse. And of course, the list of the powers-that-be is a long one, and varies from story to story.

There is, of course, plenty of good information out there that debunks these stories, if not one at a time, at least in general. A couple of very good ones can be found here and here.

So what brings me to this subject? Well… This story turned up in my Facebook news feed:
TEPCO Quietly Admits Reactor 3 Could Be Melting Down NOW

Susanne Posel (OC) — The Turner Radio Network (TRN) has issued a report regarding the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant stating that it is expected to affect the entire Northern Hemisphere.

According to the report: “Persons residing on the west coast of North America should IMMEDIATELY begin preparing for another possible onslaught of dangerous atmospheric radiation from the Fukushima nuclear disaster site in Japan.”

(Bolding theirs.)


So I looked around for other news outlets reporting on this expected to affect the entire Northern Hemisphere problem, and came up empty. I also checked the sources themselves, and let’s just say that they seem to be on their own on this one. Not a very good sign. But that’s not what got to me. I was already aware of the fear mongering that goes on in some Internet media, as explained above. No. What got me were the first replies to the OP post. Here they are. I have blurred the names of the responders, and their profile photos:

Did you get that? Until I chimed in, no one even considered the possibility that the story might be flawed. They took the story at face value, and worse, they made up a conspiracy theory out of whole cloth to explain why other media weren’t carrying the story. A matter of minutes is how long it took them to deduce that the story was accurate and a conspiracy of silence was afoot. And that disturbs me more than a bogus story.

On the upside, I did manage to bring some doubt to the thread, which spread, and it was ultimately decided by the fellow who posted the OP, that some days should pass before the validity of the story could be accurately accessed. That all took place on the first, and the story seems to have died, at least for now.

And so it goes.

Yesterday, I “shared” an article about The Garbage Patch from someone that I consider a source I can trust. Several friends of mine who also identify as skeptics jumped all over it because the photo accompanying the article seems to have been placed there for effect, and doesn’t accurately portray The Garbage Patch. My own confirmation bias bit me in the ass and I was pretty much set straight. I’d like to think that I am impervious being taken in by a hyperbolic presentation even if it’s on an issue that I often side with, like my concerns about environmental pollution and the need to do something about it. Of course, I didn’t invent a conspiracy theory when presented with some part of the information that was bogus, but I did allow myself to not question what I was looking at until it was pointed out to me.

Just saying…

It has been said that man is a rational animal. All my life I have been searching for evidence which could support this.
— Bertrand Russell

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:
The Best of Doubtful News 2013: This is not a hoax

Confronting the World’s Great Unrecognized Crisis

Deepak Chopra Gets Upset, Tries The Harvard Gambit

The Detox Scam: How to spot it, and how to avoid it

Doubtful News

Evolution lessons will stay in Texas biology textbook, board says

Growing Up Unvaccinated

Harmless fun? Horoscopes may be bad for you, study suggests

I think Bill Nye is great, but I think he’s making a mistake.

Ideological fixations can lead people to believe what they want to believe

In hyped claim organic milk is healthier, activist science meets bungled reporting

Jessica Ahlquist looks back — and ahead — 2 years after Ahlquist v. Cranston

Ken Ham: 20 Years of Imaginary Glory

A Lonely Quest for Facts on Genetically Modified Crops

New Study Exposes Acupuncture As Pseudoscience

Noah’s Extremely Bad Animal Husbandry Advice

Pseudoscience and psychopathy

Secularist of the Year 2013 — Leo Igwe

Skepticality #220 — You Know You Want This, Neuromarketing

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

Book of the Week:
An Illustrated Book of Bad Arguments, by Ali Almossawi and Alejandro Giraldo.

“This book is aimed at newcomers to the field of logical reasoning, particularly those who, to borrow a phrase from Pascal, are so made that they understand best through visuals. I have selected a small set of common errors in reasoning and visualized them using memorable illustrations that are supplemented with lots of examples. The hope is that the reader will learn from these pages some of the most common pitfalls in arguments and be able to identify and avoid them in practice.”

— Amazon Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Combat Ki?
  2. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  3. The Mask of Nostradamus
  4. Prototype wearable ‘sixth sense’ device demoed
  5. Real-life Atlantis
  6. Not sure about anti-vax parents…
  7. Stan Lee’s superhumans
  8. Strangest freeman on the land movement yet?
  9. ‘Debate’ between me and Stan
  10. The Illuminati are actually a force for good
  1. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  2. Skeptic Summary #371
  3. Evolving a Venom or Two
  4. The Legend of the Shrinking Sun
  5. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  6. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. Skeptic Summary #372
  9. Cold Reading
  10. Skeptic Summary #394
There were 9,741 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. Dr. Jeffery Life and Cenegenics
  2. Scattershots: gargoyles & grotesques
  3. Herpetologists of the world, UNITE!
  4. Stan Lee’s superhumans
  5. I told you so…
  6. ‘Debate’ between me and Stan
  7. Strangest freeman on the land movement yet?
  8. James Randi: a shit idol?
  9. Squid-size bus washes up on beach
  10. The Illuminati are actually a force for good
  11. Unbelievable
  12. The Skeptic Summary
  13. Did Jesus really exist? (old forum)
  14. Laser therapy (photo-bio-modulation)
  15. The heavy thinker
  16. The Mask of Nostradamus
  17. Hitchens
  18. Dan Brown’s “Inferno”
  19. Dissolve the UN
  20. HOWTO: make hyperlinked text, insert a URL-link
  1. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  3. Evolving a Venom or Two
  4. Evil Skeptic II: A visit to the Conscious Living Expo
  5. The Legend of the Shrinking Sun
  6. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  7. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  8. Skeptic Summary #365
  9. Skeptic Summary #394
  10. Cold Reading
  11. Skeptic Summary #372
  12. Skeptic Summary #389
  13. Evolution is a Lie, and you Skeptics KNOW it! Part 4
  14. Skeptic Summary #371
  15. Skeptic Summary #196
  16. TAM4
  17. Skeptic Summary #142
  18. Free the Glutens, or When a Cookie isn’t Just a Cookie
  19. Skeptic Summary #357
  20. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
There were 50,461 daily visitors in December, 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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