This Skeptics’ Circle is a little different this time from the ones you’ve seen before. Readers of this blog on Monday will know that a creationist called Kennesaw Williams has started a new blog with the handle “Skeptico” and the url of http://skeptico.blogspot.com/ He’s even leaving creationist comments on other blogs as Skeptico. Since I posted that link on Monday his blog has received several comments from fellow skeptics (none favorable to him – thanks for the support by the way), and he doesn’t seem to have posted anything on his blog since.
Well, Orac suggested that since this guy so clearly wants to be Skeptico, I should give him the opportunity to be post on the real Skeptico site – so I asked him to guest blog the Skeptics’ Circle this time. The result is below.
Now, I did explain to Mr. Kennesaw that to avoid confusion, he couldn’t call himself “Skeptico” on this blog. He reluctantly agreed, although he didn’t like my original suggestion of Jackass (too rude). He agreed to the more polite Donkey, which is close enough. Remember, Donkey is a creationist, and so his views may seem a little strange to anyone who is used to the regular Skeptics’ Circle. But give him a chance - the actual featured skeptics’ posts are better than ever, I promise you.
Anyway, enough from me. Without further ado I give you Kennesaw Williams, aka Donkey, with the 35th Skeptics’ Circle.
Well thanks Skeptico. I’ll try to live up to the trust you have placed in me. It was a lot of work reading over 40 posts from skeptical bloggers, but well worth the effort. I’ll just start at the top and work through to the end.
For the first post, I thought I would feature Stew of A Night on the Tiles, who has invented a new form of “woo” (I believe that’s the word) in Palmistry, Numerology, Astrology: Bullshit. It’s the ancient art of Bracchiumism or wrist-reading. You multiply the number of wrist lines by 15 (since the number 15 is sacred), and add that to the number of lines created by the curve of the thumb, to divine the person’s fortune. At first I was outraged by this as Bracchiumism is clearly the work of the Devil, but then Skeptico pointed out that the article is a spoof. I now realize it’s pretty funny – you got me Stew!
Perhaps Stew should consider registering Bracchiumism.com (it’s available) or even wrist-reading.com (ditto). As Skeptico (the real one) wrote in Astrology.Con (not a typo), the owner of Astrology.Com sold her business for $40 million! Astrology may be useless but it’s clearly not entirely worthless. Skeptico wonders if his www.skeptico.net could be worth millions – I doubt it since my new donkey site is clearly far superior. Dream on Skeptico.
Did I say astrology was useless? Einzige at Die Eigenheit compares Astrology with the investment advice given by a real estate investment “guru” in John Burley's Advice vs. Astrology and finds it’s hard to tell the difference: ie they’re both useless. What a shocker! I knew astrology was nonsense – if astrology was real God would have written about it in The Bible, wouldn’t he? But you’re telling me I can’t trust online investment advice now?
Mark at Good Math, Bad Math (well which is it Mark – good math or bad math? It can’t be both can it?), debunks some Gematria (the ancient Hebrew system of numerology), in Magic 23. (You thought Bracchiumism made no sense – this is worse because it is not a joke! – truly the work of the Devil.) Then in RePEARing Bad Math he explains in words even a simple creationist can understand, what is wrong mathematically-speaking, with the data produced by the Global Consciousness Project coming out of PEAR. Mark, I could have told you that without all the pointed-headed “math” stuff – God doesn’t bother himself with random number generators, now does he?
At least Unsolicited Opinions knows if he’s writing about good math or bad math. Bad math, he says. In Illegal Immigration, the Economy, and Statistics he addresses the claim that economists are "useless" on immigration – specifically, can they correctly calculate the effect of illegal immigration on jobs? A bit over my head, to be honest, but I’m sure a math genius like William Dembski would understand it. Perhaps I’ll email him the link.
The Science Creative Quarterly (silly title because it’s a daily), has an article skeptical of the possibility of space travel: Hollywood Vs. Science: How Far Are We From Interstellar Travel? Hollywood’s version of space travel isn’t real? Say it ain’t so Scotty!
Ben Goldacre at Bad Science has found newspaper stories claiming electromagnetic fields cause illnesses. In Factors that risk being left out of the equation, Ben highlights two things the newspapers left out of their stories, namely the evidence (and by that he means there isn’t any), plus a very crucial nuance that he explains. Then in I have nothing to declare but my cheekiness he explains why living close to a cell phone mast would actually make you safer from EMF. Now that is cheeky! God doesn’t like a smartass, Ben.
In a related story, The Second Sight explains that the current Mobile Phone Towers Cause Cancer scare in Australia couldn’t possibly be down to coincidence, since in the woo world coincidences don’t exist. Quite right – everything happens because God wills it – what’s the matter with you people?
Remember the guy who thinks a comet is going to hit the Earth on May 25th? That’s today! Put on your tin hats, or alternatively read Phil Plait The Bad Astronomer in Comet what may (groan – make that the Bad Punner – although not as bad as Skeptico!), who explains that it won’t and why there would not be a tsunami even if it did. Then in NASA denies comet will destroy the Earth!, he reports that, well, NASA denies a comet will destroy the Earth. Hey, isn’t that proof of a conspiracy? Of course, I know why you heathens want to debunk end of times predictions – you know that you won’t be one of the selected ones to be taken to Heaven when Jesus returns. Well, if today is the end of times as predicted by Revelations, I’ll be in heaven with Jesus and you won’t, so send your complaints to Mr. Phil-smarty-pants-bad astronomer, not me. (Skeptico just informed me that should be Dr. Phil-smarty-pants-bad astronomer, but I don’t care – he’s still going to hell.)
You’ll also need to talk to The Saga of Runolfr, (“Runolfr”? – what the hell kind of name is that? Were you short of vowels that day or something?), because in The End of the World As We Know It he says pretty much the same as Phil. So you really didn’t add much did you Runolfr? Wouldn’t your time have been better spent reading your Bible instead?
Talking about conspiracies, Daylight Atheism writes Loose Marbles I: Debunking 9/11 Conspiracy Theories - the first of a three-part series debunking "Loose Change", a conspiracy documentary claiming the September 11 terror attacks were planned and carried out by the U.S. government. (Loose change / Loose marbles – now that’s a good pun.) As he says, the film “was characterized by corruptions of logic, appeals to missing or dubious evidence, wild speculation blended with selectively presented fact, and other hallmarks of the irrationality that pervades most conspiratorial thinking”. Standard woo, in other words. Well of course George W. Bush couldn’t have been involved in 9/11 – he’s a Christian.
Halfway There describes the rather strange bowel movement advice he caught watching an infomercial late at night, in the aptly named Garbage in, garbage out! Apparently if your bowel movements are fewer in number than the number of meals you eat, the difference just stacks up inside you every day of your life. Unlikely in my view – we’ve all been perfectly designed by God in His image, and God wouldn’t have made a mistake like that, now would he? Read your Bible next time instead of watching the late night TV.
Respectful Insolence reports that proponents of taking daily vitamins criticized their opponents for ignoring less scientifically rigorous studies, in Too much sciency-ness for the vitamin industry? Of course we all know that alternative medical practitioners want us to consider less scientifically rigorous studies, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard one of them say it out loud. Orac goes on to warn against comparing holocaust denial with evolution denial in Intelligent design activists make hay out of the Larry Darby case. Well for once I agree with one of these pointed-headed science types – Intelligent Design is perfectly good and valid science, while holocaust denial is just wrong. Also, Hitler was an atheist and a Darwinist, so the comparison with Intelligent Design makes no sense at all.
But then Sergey at Holocaust Controversies has to spoil it by taking the opposing view in Evolution denial, Holocaust denial. Same stuff, if you ask me. Sergey argues that, er, evolution denial and holocaust denial are the same stuff if you ask him. Actually no one asked you, did they Sergey? But at least he does goes on to debunk the bogus “challenge” of The National Association of Forensic Criminologists, Archeologists, Skeptics and Historians ™ (aptly shortened to NAF CASH - seriously), in Ah, these CODOH "gentlemen"... And NAFCASH. Despite what the self-proclaimed “Skeptics” of NAFCASH claim, Treblinka really was a death camp.
Jim at If it is it doesn't matter casts a skeptical eye on studies that claim to show sexual preference is genetic, in Born gay or misbegotten studies: 1 Ill-fitting Genes. Jim says that the same methodology could just as easily be used to show that there are genetic causes for the differences between Yankee fans and Mets fans. Jim doesn’t tell us if he is a Mets or a Yankee fan, but he does tell us he’s bisexual, so he’ll be going to hell unless he repents. Take Jesus as your personal savior Jim while there’s still time. (Preferably before that comet hits today.)
We Christians, bolstered by the fuss over the Mohammed cartoons, just love telling the rest of you heathens that you must respect our sacred beliefs (Edit by Skeptico – he means “delusions”). The latest hero in the war for values is a Roman Catholic cardinal whose human rights have clearly been violated by The Da Vinci Code! Ophelia at Butterflies and Wheels has the temerity to disagree with him in Threat Threat Threat Bless You. Skeptico tells me Ophelia’s piece pokes some serious fun at the Cardinal’s “ludicrous” attitude. OK, whatever – she’s going to hell with Phil, Sergey and the rest of them so why do I care?
It seems woos get away easily with passing off their delusions on the public. Be Lambic or Green writes in Justice was not done how “psychic surgeon” Alex Orbito had his fraud and possession charges dropped because “there was not a reasonable prospect of conviction”. Psychic surgery is the work of the Devil, for sure. Sadly, knowing that woos sit on juries too, I could easily believe he would get away with it, but his day for judgment will come in the next life, don’t worry. (It could even be today – that comet, remember?)
Polite Dissent looks at the extraordinary claims of Masuru Emoto in Seven Soldiers: Frankenstein #3 and Pseudoscience. Emoto’s claims that water can recognize words taped to water jars have never been tested in blind conditions and have never been replicated. And yet Emoto’s work was featured in that wonderful masterpiece of scientific reporting, “What the Bleep Do We Know!? Surely that film wasn’t nonsense too? (Oh wait, Skeptico says yes it was.)
A key skill of skepticism and critical thinking is to know logical fallacies – don’t employ them yourself, and recognize them in your opponent’s arguments. Bronze Dog at Rockstars' Ramblings is a regular commenter on Skeptico’s blog, tirelessly pointing out the numerous fallacies employed by certain commenters. Here he punctures three more fallacies. First, the accusation that he only argues because he’s bitter and/or jealous: Doggerel #2: "You're Just Jealous!", followed by Doggerel #3: "You're Just a [Insert Evil Organization] Shill!". As Bronze Dog points out, the motives of the arguer have no bearing on whether the argument presented is correct or not. (Technically these are both ad hominem.) Also he writes Doggerel #4: "Closed-minded" and points out it’s not closed minded to reject claims that are not supported by evidence. This Bronze Dog sounds like a real know-all, if you ask me.
Talking of fallacies, Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant points out the numerous Straw Man, Appeal To Consequences and other flawed arguments used in Rabbi Avi Shafran’s rant against atheists, in Reply to a Rabbi's Ignorance. Of course, atheists are evil, but then the Jews killed our Lord Jesus (according to Mel Gibson, and he wouldn’t lie), so I’m 50/50 on this one.
Moderately Insane provides tips in debating woos in How to Argue with Snipers. By snipers I think he means the sort of people who argue with great scientists such as Michael Behe. Thanks for the tips – I might email Michael with the link.
At last I can report on some people who have a good grip on reality and scientific facts. Clark at Unintelligent Design (an oxymoron if there ever was one), in At Least it Wasn't During Rounds..... tells a heart lifting story of two nurses discussing the facts of Noah’s Ark. Of course, Clark spoils it by questioning the whole Ark story. Ridiculous – if there was no Ark, how did the animals survive? Got you there. Anyway, since the actual Ark was discovered in Turkey recently, the flood story has been proven beyond any doubt. I guess Clark will be joining Sergey, Phil and Ophelia.
The mercury-causes-autism crowd rarely lets fact get in the way of their opinions. Not Mercury writes in Low Dose Nonsense about a conference exploring numerous evidence-challenged autism “theories”. (Well, if they’re just “theories” not facts, why should we take any notice of them? I could have saved you a lot of time there.) One by one the papers to be presented at this conference are professionally debunked. Strangely, the autistic child of (one of the presenters) Grandmother/Sex therapist/autism expert/author, Jaquelyn McCandless, is a “non responder” – ie none of the DAN therapies work on her child. Note: the child is to blame, not the DAN therapies. Oh no.
Interverbal writes Doing the Job for Ourselves: Logical Fallacies in Autism – fallacies employed by the mercury-causes-autism crowd numbers 59 to 68! What is it with you skeptics and logical fallacies? 68?
Then Tara Smith at Aetiology (“Aetiology”? Come on – you’re just making up words now), remarks how the news didn’t really publicize recent research that suggests mercury fillings are not dangerous, despite the original scares being well publicized. (So scientists were wrong about mercury fillings were they? When will these “scientists” ever make up their minds?) In Mercury and mythology she speculates that there might be the same lack of coverage in the future when it is shown that mercury is not causing autism. That’s if Jesus doesn’t come back first.
Hot Cup of Joe is skeptical of the claims that life-saving fire-retardant materials are being banned unnecessarily due to over-zealous environmentalists. In Health Facts and Fears: pseudoscience from a pseudo-skeptic? he explains that there actually may be dangers with the materials being discussed, and that there are alternatives anyway. Hey, I don’t care how much flame retardant clothing you wear, nothing is going to protect you from the eternal flames of hell!
ChemJerk (what a rude name!) tells us in More on critical thinking that you can get students interested in critical thinking. He set his students the task of reading and writing a review of Carl Sagan’s The Demon Haunted World, and received positive feedback from some students. Hey, wait until you hear back from all your students ChemJerk – the righteous ones will not be amused about being made to read about demons.
Finally, we get to the best bit – Evolution v. Intelligent Design. Since I got interested in this subject about a month ago, I’ve become quite expert on the subject. For example, I just read Michael Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box and dude it’s awesome! Michael Behe is a real scientist and he totally debunks Darwinism in this book. You see, Behe found out that some things are so irreducibly complex they just couldn’t have evolved like Darwin said, and so he’s proved all those other scientists wrong. Anyway, of all the posts in this Circle I couldn’t wait to read the ones on this subject to debunk them. Here goes.
We start with Thoughts From Kansas. In Gandhi, Galileo, and the millions of people you never heard of he punctures those who quote Gandhi’s “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win” line. He points out that many great ideas started out being mocked, but so did many awful ideas. The ones that ultimately won were those that could marshal the necessary evidence and empirical support. I think he means ideas like Intelligent Design. Good point!
Jake at Jaköbische Rants provides insight into what she thinks is the confused thinking of a creationist in I Think I Blew A Fuse. She seems surprised to learn that looking at evidence and then formulating a hypothesis that fits the evidence, is cheating. Well of course it is – real scientists like Michael Behe start with the “facts” (ie The Bible), and then go and find supporting evidence. Duh!
The Uncredible Hallq writes in Why Intelligent Design gets scientists mad that the problem with Intelligent Design is it wants to flush good, quite difficult research down the toilet in favor of hand waving. If you read the post you’ll see I left a comment on his blog, totally destroying everything he wrote. Go read it – it’s great.
The Austringer gives us Another View of Phillip Johnson – a fisking of the ID proponent’s recent interview. Johnson may believe six inconsistent things before breakfast, but we don’t have to follow his example. Of course we don’t – just believe your Bible which is totally consistent.
And Humbug! Online explains some of the logical fallacies employed by the Intelligent Designists in Intelligently Designed Cat Escapes Bag. First, I wanted to congratulate the author for realizing that cats are intelligently designed. After all, whoever saw a dog give birth to a cat? (I love that one.) But I read the post quite carefully and yet I saw no mention of a cat or a bag, so I’m confused.
Rounding up the evolution offerings, Critiques Of Libertarianism presents an Intelligent Design Overview For US Science Teachers – a useful summary. I left a comment on that blog totally destroying his argument too. These Darwinists are getting really worried now, if you ask me.
Finally, a latecomer to the Skeptics’ Circle (very late – this is from October 05), Polite Company (take note ChemJerk – that is a much nicer blog name), is skeptical of the need for three, four or five bladed razors in Science: Science-y Hygine Breakthroughs! Skeptico wanted me to tell you that reminded him of this Onion article, but I found it to be full of profanities so I wouldn’t click that link if I were you. I guess Skeptico is going to hell too.
Anyway, I’m done and this Skeptics’ Circle is now officially closed. It’s been an experience reading your rather disturbing and warped posts, but I am going to pray for you all. Now handing the blog back to Skeptico.
Er, yes thanks Kennesaw, nice review. Different. Quite a marathon too - 34 contributors and 39 posts!
The next Circle will be held in two weeks time, on June 8th, at The Examining Room of Dr. Charles. Make an appointment to see Dr. Charles in two weeks. Don’t be late.