Thursday, August 31, 2006

Skeptics' Circle(s) and Open Thread

The 42nd Skeptics' Circle is up.

Forgot to link to the 41st.

Talk about whatever, but remember that all discussion of Krypto and the Legion of Superpets is FORBIDDEN under pain of me coming to your house and slapping your wrists.

The Big Sylvia Browne Thread

Well, Ryan's first post is still getting comments after over a year, thanks to a fair number of search engines. I'm not all particularly fond of the post itself, but I think it's forgivable, being pretty much Ryan's first trip into the blogosphere.

I typically try to play good cop to Ryan's bad cop. Or something like that.

Anyhoo: This is intended to be the big place where everyone can post their thoughts on the matter. Specifically, the matter is "Does Sylvia have psychic powers?"

General suggestions:

For the Sylvia supporters:
  • Please don't resort to doggerel. Most of those involve changing the subject, which is not a nice thing to do.
  • If you make a statement involving the Randi Challenge and Sylvia's reluctance to take it, make sure you've looked at the FAQ first, and, if necessary for the objection, that you have evidence.
  • Please, no personal anecdotes. Human perception is quite fallible, as are memories. If you recorded the anecdote, though, that would be more than acceptable.

For my fellow skeptics:
  • Please don't dismiss ideas on simple silliness. Point out logical fallacies and internal contradictions.
  • Watch your language. Ryan may be a potty-mouth, but this is intended to be a family thread. I don't want that real sicko anonymous skeptic to show up again. (You probably didn't see him. Deleted him rather quickly. Trust me, it was ugly. Maybe even illegal.)
  • Please, no guilt by association. If one of the Sylvia supporters mentions a belief in a different type of nonsense, please don't dwell on it. We need to keep the thread on topic.
8/31/2006: In other news, I've got a Sylvia episode of Montel on my DVR. I'll detail it this weekend. If anyone knows offhand an easy way to stick it onto YouTube or something, that'd be nice.

You Know, That's a Good Idea!

I've never been a fan of reality shows. At least not of the "Survivor," "American Idol," or "Temptation Island" kind. I'm more of the reality-based show fan, like "Mythbusters" and such where science is the method for success.

Anyway, over at the JREF forums, AmateurScientist came up with a good idea, and Garrette expanded on it: Survivor for woos.

In case you're wondering what the thread is really about, apparently a legendary troll by the name of Paul Bethke has resurfaced: As the story goes, back in the olden days of 8-tracks, Vaudeville, and monochrome Gameboys, he claimed that he would magically/miraculously blind a number of skeptics during a broadcast of Randi's. I think you can guess the result.

Anyway, back to Survivor, Woo Edition: We put a bunch of woos out in some wilderness location. The starting line-up:

A water dowser, especially if this takes place in a dry area.
A chiropractor who's opposed to vaccination, for treating all that ails the group.
An astrologer/clairvoyant/tarot card player, for predicting upcoming hazards.
A cold fusion or free energy scientist for making tools.
A pop psychologist for resolving conflicts.
An organic farmer for finding/raising food.
A medium for channelling all the contestants who die during the show.

Every two weeks or so, they vote off the most useless member of the group, and we get to see the voted-off member whine. Said member is replaced with a counterpart with similar alleged abilities. The chiropractor is replaced with, say, a reiki specialist. The dowser gets replaced with a clairvoyant. The medium gets replaced with an EVP specialist. You get the idea.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Classic

While Orac's on vacation, he's been reposting some of his old entries, and I just found one I originally missed: a commentary of his about The Wedgie Document.

One reference from the Wedgie Document to keep in mind:
Answers in Genesis (AiG) - This Creationist debunks a number of Creationist arguments. That’s right, it has a section, “Arguments Creationists should NOT use.” I was surprised at the laziness of Creationists. Most of them are not fraudulent, evil geniuses who have thought this all through. Far more likely, the internet Cretionist is just some bozo tossing out scraps that he remembers reading somewhere. Many of them use arguments already discredited by Answers in Genesis (AiG), a leading Creationist website. Bookmark this AiG link. When any Creationist trots out an argument dismissed by AiG, lower the boom.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Woo2

JREF Forums mostly-lurker Ze Kraggish tells us about his groundbreaking discovery of homeopastrology.

Here's a sample of his amazing work:
The reason all of the various versions of astrology don’t work is that they ignore the homeopathic principle. Some business models propose to, “Do more with less.” Homeopathy takes this to the logical extreme -- do everything with nothing. Applying homeopathic principles to astrology we find that the weaker an object’s gravitational force on the Earth, the stronger its astrological field strength. Traditional astrology focuses on the planets, which are too big and too close to have much of an effect.

A single electron in a distant galaxy would have the strongest astrological field. However, the angular movement relative to the Earth is very slow for such a distant object. As a result, the change in its effect over the course of a human lifetime is negligible. This would be true for anything outside our solar system.
Amazing!

Okay. I'll stop that now, that's silly.

Doggerel #37: "Organic"

Welcome to a guest edition of "Doggerel," where this time, Le Canard Noir will be rambling about a word that's been misused, abused, and probably rendered meaningless. Here it is, listed as "Quack word #12: Organic":





I believe that organic food is a con, is not necessarily more healthy for you, tastes no different, and is damaging to the environment.

There, I have got that off my chest, but unfortunately I now feel like I have just admitted to being a child murderer, a racist or even a supporter of George Bush's foreign policy.

Let me explain...

The word organic is now synonymous with everything good, healthy and caring. To be against organic is to be seen to be almost evil. Organic food has huge sections devoted to it in our supermarkets, and its not just food - our shampoos, clothing and beer can all be marketed as 'organic'.

What does the word mean? Its original meaning was a scientific one. The chemistry of carbon-based molecules is described as organic chemistry. As such organic chemistry is the chemistry of life. In this definition, everything alive, and everything we eat, drink or wear (as long as it is natural fibres) is organic. In science, all apples are organic. Indeed all crops are organic. But that is not what the supermarkets mean when the flog us expensive 'organic' veg.

In this context, organic is used to denote crops that have been grown according to certain standards. Those standards are certified by the Soil Association. This body was set up in the forties by a group of people who wanted to turn away from the growing industrialisation of agriculture which they saw as damaging in various ways, environmentally, bodily and spiritually. Their philosophy had been heavily influenced by Rudolph Steiner who had a lot of mystical beliefs about the nature of soil. The basis of the philosophy was that farming should make use of local materials and maximise the use of manures and local grown animal feeds. Other beliefs involved planting at certain phases of the moon and encouraging 'elemental forces' into animals and seeking the help of 'non-physical beings'.

Now it does not really matter if some of the more unhinged ideas were clearly batshit. The Soil Association has continued with the ideas about using manure rather than fertiliser, limited pesticides and limited drugs. The reason for this is so that we have healthier food, more sustainable farming and other benefits like better tasting food and less impact on wildlife.

Great. But the big question is to ask if this is actually true. What evidence is there that organic farming is healthier, tastier, more environmentally friendly and more sustainable?

Now the Quackometer Project is about exposing exaggerated health claims and so I would like to focus on the health claims for organic farming methods. Dick Tavern in his excellent book, The March of Unreason – science, democracy and the new fundamentalism, devotes a chapter to exposing the myths of organic methods and points out things like:
  • Tests conducted by independent consumer organisations show that people cannot taste the difference between organic and non-organic foods.
  • The rules for pesticides and fungicides use have no 'rhyme or reason'. Older, more damaging chemicals like copper sulphate are allowed, but more modern and specific ones are not.
  • If most farming became organic then we would have returned to a time when crops were vulnerable to large scale blights, high labour costs were required and low yields the norm. The poorest in the world would suffer enormously.
  • Low yield crops need more land and that is damaging to the environment with more forest clearing and less land set aside.

So what about health? The main issue tends to focus on the 'evils' of pesticide residues. The problem here is that although pesticides can harm in large doses, there is no evidence that they harm at the minute quantities left on foods. As Dick Tavern points out in his book,

In fact every mouthful of food contains some poison, as does every sip of water. Carcinogenic' substances are routinely consumed by all of us in the form of natural chemicals made by plants to repel predators, but at amounts so low they do not harm us. ... There are some dioxons in every breath of air we take

It's all in the dose. Only homeopathists believe that insignificant doses have huge effects. Sir John Krebbs in Nature noted that a cup of [even organic] coffee contains natural carcinogens equal to a year's ingestion of synthetic carcinogenic substances found in the diet. Part of the problem is that our analytical measurement techniques can spot the tiniest traces of substances. But just because we can detect something does not mean that we need worry about it. Plants produce their own natural pesticides and we consume far more of that than the trace residues of the artificial stuff sprayed on. Concern about pesticide residue is just a modern phobia with no basis in evidence.

If there is little basis in fact for the claims made by the organic movement then it looks like the word organic is just one more advertising word used to push expensive, unnecessary products on us. Furthermore, and more damning, by focusing on organic production, our society pays less attention to farming methods and technology advances that really could improve health, protect wildlife and ensure a consistent quality and quantity of food supply. Rather than securing our health, the illogical worship of the word 'organic' could be damaging us all.

As such, I have no reservation in including the word 'organic' in the Quackometer Project. Promoting food that is grown according to 'organic' principles because it is supposed to be healthier for us is just one more form of quackery.




Aside from the well-known agricultural aspect to the term, I imagine there are plenty of other ways woos have used the term "organic" in dubious manners. Most of the time, they've altered the definition to suit their purposes, since, as the little black duck pointed out, it's a "virtue word" nowadays.

The only time I want to hear the word "organic" is when it involves a lot of chemical equations with lots of carbon atoms, or when some artsy guy is describing the nature of a curve.

---

Doggerel Index

Doggerel #36: "What Did [Woo] Ever Do to You?"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This particular doggerel is infuriating for me, since there are some rather nasty aspects to it.

First, like many Doggerel entries, it's a subject change. Whether or not the woo in question did anything to me is irrelevant to the matter. Claims are either true or they aren't. The fact that I've never fallen for a Nigerian chain-email doesn't change the fact that they're scams.

Second, I often sense a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" formulation behind the question. If I did see, for example, a psychic, and failed to be convinced, they'd continue the subject change by calling me bitter, and/or engage in the "No True Scotsman" fallacy in regards to the psychic. If I didn't, they'd shift to another worthy Doggerel entry: "Don't knock it until you've tried it" (Warning: Ryan's not as polite as I am). I'm not about to evaluate something based on one subjective, unblinded, uncontrolled trial involving my senses and memory.

Third, and worst of all, it implies lax morals on the part of the person bringing it up (moreso than usual for doggerel-users). To use an extreme example, the Geiers have never done anything to me, my family, or my friends. That doesn't matter. What the woos are doing is wrong, and I'm not about to switch to an ethical system based on personal consequences. Falsehood often hurts people. Because of that, claims should be evaluated and debated, regardless of whether or not they affect me, personally.

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Doggerel Index

Monday, August 28, 2006

I Feel Faint...

Neurodiversity continues exposing the horrors of the Geiers.
The substantial blood draws prescribed by Dr. and Mr. Geier upon entry into their Lupron-chelation study and for ongoing monitoring seem to reflect little consideration of the risk of harm posed to the autistic children who are their research subjects. The test battery also seems to reflect little concern for cost containment or appropriate test sequencing. As noted in the above chart, the total price tag for LabCorp tests included in the Geiers’ eligibility assessment exceeds $10,000; their diagnostic shopping list includes newly developed assays that are not covered by most standard health insurance policies.
Significant Misrepresentations: Mark Geier, David Geier & the Evolution of the Lupron Protocol (Contents)

Mistakes

Many of you have probably been hearing about the airplane crash in Lexington, Kentucky. For those of you who haven't, here's the gist of it: The pilot took off on the wrong runway. It was half the length needed for the plane he was flying.

Of course, there were warning signs: There were signs pointing to his correct runway. The runway he was taking off on wasn't lit. It was cracked, and the one he was supposed to go to was resurfaced a week ago.

Additionally, there are protocols to be observed: The pilot has to ask the control tower for permission to take off, which gives them a chance to point out any pilot errors before giving permission.

It also seems likely to me that even more problems will be unearthed before this is over.

Of course, as we all know, human beings are quite fallible. People can and do make mistakes, but by keeping aware of that, we can design systems to minimize the effects of human error. Many of those systems are quite successful. Despite bad examples like this crash, flying is still safe enough for countless flights to take place: Right now, there are probably several planes landing safely after an uneventful trip, save for a kid running up and down an aisle annoying people.

Now, imagine this: Someone proposes that we ditch the entire system, claiming that this crash, along with others, was evidence that the conventional theory of flight is wrong, and that we need to switch to a system where planes are constructed from junkyard parts, never tested, and pilots are free to go willy-nilly on the runways and in the air.

Now you know what I think when an altie whines about malpractice during a discussion about the efficacy of a treatment.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Robert Lancaster Moves Onto Bigger Game

The creator of Stop Kaz is opening a new website: StopSylviaBrowne.com. Right now, it's just an intro page, but knowing the treatment he gave Kaz, we can expect that Sylvia Browne won't be able to breathe in a dishonest manner without being heavily analyzed for it.

And that is exactly as it should be.

I think I may start a weekly analysis of her appearances on Montel, since I've been told she shows up every Wednesday. May even catch a rather nasty mistake like this one sometime... Though I think I should probably figure out a way to put some of the better clips online for perusal. My DVR has a USB port, so there might something I can do with that.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Doggerel #35: "You Must Lead a Miserable Life!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

This particular bit of doggerel is, in my experience, a surprisingly common subject change. Whether or not I'm happy has no bearing on the validity of my arguments. As I've said before, the emotional state of the arguer is irrelevant to the arguments he presents. Whether or not I'm happy with it, the Earth is still round and still revolves around the sun. Reality has a habit of being very unaccomodating towards human desires. Fortunately, learning about reality can help us work towards our desires. After all, it was science that provided me with kick [hiney] fighting games with action missiles.

Of course, I can't speak for every skeptic out there, but I find life quite satisfying: I enjoy trying to untangle mysteries and solve puzzles. Thankfully, the universe is full of them. I could look at what people claim to be cheat-sheets, but that isn't particularly satisfying, since they don't really tell me how they reached those conclusions. That's why I enjoy magic acts. They all involve some perceptual trickery or unexpected gimmicks that are often quite simple once you figure them out. I once experienced a very satisfying slap to my forehead when, after years of not being able to solve it, I figured out a cup and balls (or vegetables, rather) trick that involved an assumption so basic, I missed it.

Strangely, that doesn't seem to be enough for most people. They need some deity or other unimaginably powerful (yet, not intercessory during controlled trials) forces to inject them with happy-juice for eternity, and possibly savage the people they don't like for the same duration. I don't think I'd want to be mentally stagnant in either place.

Of course, my confidence in what science has taught us doesn't mean that I can't hope we got something wrong. For instance, I'd like it if some (non-icky) part of me would stick around after death, but I'm not about to pretend that that hope is a substitute for evidence.

That reminds me: Need to see about archiving this place in some durable form. Hope for the best. Prepare for the worst.

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Doggerel Index

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Work Time Fun?!

I just got a weird, incoherent comment in Doggerel #34.
I am japenese.
...So?
When I read your comments on the Ionic Breeze it was outrageous.
But likely informative. Most people don't know that they've been tested. They failed those tests. A score of 850 is considered good for particle removal. Gravity rates at 10. Ionic Breeze rates at 20. Think I've got some Consumer Reports links in my bookmarks on my laptop.
You obiously dont like western medicines and hate your haratage.
Strange, I thought medicine was divided according to the criterion of "does it work?" instead of "Western" and "Eastern." That reminds me: I once thought about doing an entry on "Western." Oh, and I suspect this guy knows nothing of my heritage.
I bet you dont believe that tea can help cancer(now evidence).
Got a reference?
If the U.S states goverment said that a house living under major powerlines was under or on the limit you would suggest it to your kids.
What limit? Powerlines aren't harmful... well, as long as you don't touch them and the ground at the same time... but I don't think he was referring to that. Anyway, some bad statistics had a correlation between areas zoned for powerlines (many not actually containing powerlines) and cancer. Unfortunately, they didn't consider a different contributing factor: Poverty. Areas zoned for powerlines tend to include a lot of low-income housing. Bad healthcare probably contributes more to cancer than tiny, tiny electromagnetic fields.
You arnt a chemisist because 03 changes its proporties from 02.
Uh, yeah. 03 had a head more like Eva 01, the Test Type, rather than 02, the four-eyed production model. Plus getting possessed by the 13th Angel and developing super-stretcho arms changed it a bit more. ...Ed, I'm such a geek.

Oh, wait. He was talking about O3 (ozone) versus O2 (healthy oxygen). It's bad to breathe the former. Ionic Breeze generates it. Even when it has that ozone guard thing. What do you expect when you ionize the air?
Just like Hydroginated fats do closely the same thing but do diffrent things. I bet you eat the limit of 2 mgs of Trans Fat a day because you think its safe for now.
Uh, I eat food.
Ill laugh when it creates wear many years from now and it is unhealthy for everyday use.
That's called an appeal to the future. Might as well argue that someday they'll come up with a fairy detector. Of course, one of my shortcomings is that I don't pay all that much attention to nutritional information, so it's fairly likely that you can actually find some good evidence somewhere. Of course, my diet doesn't change the validity of my arguments.
You dont have the brains to see everyday issues build up.
Everyday issues, such as? And the evidence for them?
What was your rationale to study and do your homework? I know you wernt honors like I am. You shouldnt be known as a smart man.
Advanced Placement Chemistry, Honors English, Algebra 2 Honors, Pre-Calculus (though I freely confess I had a lot of trouble with the actual stuff in college), Bachelor's Degree in Art, CLEPed out of 8 hours of chemistry (after several years since my last class) to get it (was shooting for 4). Continuing an education in science, alongside staying on top of all the developments out there.

Doggerel #34: "They Do It For Free!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One completely off-topic thing woos like to bring up is whether or not a "psychic," "healer," or whatever gets paid for what they claim they do. If I were to build a car for someone for free, I don't see how that would change whether or not the car works. Either the car runs or it doesn't. Either the "psychic" can perform or he can't. Either the "healer's" treatments work, or they don't. Reality is not dictated by money.

I suspect this doggerel has a lot to do with one of the straw men woos like to beat on: Despite what they may think, skeptics don't believe all psychics, quacks, etcetera are conscious frauds. I suspect most woos sincerely believe what they say. People can believe all sorts of silly things. But, like money, belief doesn't play much of a role in determining reality.

We form conclusions based on evidence. That's what the James Randi Paranormal Challenge is all about: Proving that it works under tight experimental conditions designed to filter out all the stuff that allows us to fool ourselves. So far, all the best evidence suggests that this sort of stuff doesn't work. The woos are free to prove otherwise. And that's all that matters.

Getting a worthless item for free isn't exactly a wonderful deal.

---

Doggerel Index

So, Any Nuttery You'd Like to See Eviscerated?

Well, Ryan made a comeback post, so I held off for a while, not wanting to push it off the front page, but life at the Ramblings must go on. I've become somewhat reluctant to visit woo pages and such, since I just know I'm either going to feel compelled to gut each one, spending far too much time on it, or I'm going to be overwhelmed by the mass insanity.

So, one exercise I'd like to leave for the readers: Pick out a woo website (preferably non-ID/Cretinist, since I do those often enough in the comments of other blogs) for me to tear apart.

Preferences:
  • Please try to make sure it's not just a slop of pseudoscientific gibberish. I prefer the stupidity to be intelligible... er, I think you know what I mean.
  • Doggerel Challenge: See if you can find a website that uses all 33 (thus far) Doggerel entries to avoid proving anything. Or at least see how high it goes. (Probably going to increase to 34 by the end of the day)
  • Try to get it off-brand: There's no shortage of skeptical stuff on Sylvia Browne, John Edward, etcetera. I'd like to shred someone I've never heard of before.
  • Oh, and if there are any woos reading this: Try to find the best proof of whatever. I'd like a challenge, but sadly, I'm often disappointed.
In other news, an anonymous poster informed me that Sylvia will be getting back on Montel today or tomorrow. If it's tomorrow, I'll DVR it and do the standard-issue pointing out of cold reading.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Doggerel #33: "Invisible"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the strangest things I hear woos complaining about is that skeptics "don't believe in the invisable," or "can't accept what they can't see." Such things make me wonder if they're living in a stone age society, and if so, how their isp works. Our society is built on countless invisible things that work:

When I'm in my room, I'm typing on a laptop that shuffles around invisible electric and magnetic charges, sending photons that are exactly the same as visible light, except for the shape of the wave they travel in, through my seemingly opague wall into a router that sends more invisible electric signals to some distant server I've never seen, where those signals eventually find their way into your computer and assemble themselves into a link to an article about scientists finding confirming evidence of invisible matter in a galaxy so far away that it can't be seen by the naked eye by calculating the amount of invisible force the invisible matter exerts on the visible.

Science is very good at detecting invisible things. That's because nothing is really, really invisible: Everything in the natural world has an effect. Science observes these effects under tightly controlled conditions to determine their causes. The only way for something to be truly invisible is for it to have no effects whatsoever. In such a case, it might as well not exist at all.

Meanwhile, woos like Sylvia "You can't prove air!" Browne aren't letting anyone sort out the noise to see if their claimed powers have a genuine effect. And they're going nowhere, fast. They need a little negativity in their lives.

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Doggerel Index

Doggerel #32: "Both Sides"


Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One of the common woo complaints is that they say skeptics don't present or don't look at "both sides" of an issue, and that they should strive for a "balanced" approach. Unfortunately for them, reality doesn't see things that way: Claims are either true or not. It's entirely possible, and even commonplace, for one side to be completely right and the other side to be completely wrong. The classic example of this is evolution versus Creationism: All the evidence thus far points to evolution.

Often, when I hear this doggerel, I wonder if the woo wants us to perform better research (in which case, they should be helpful by providing some evidence) or if they want us to patronize them. Often, when I watch television shows dealing with a woo topic, they present one of the woo arguments, and then fail to present the fallacies in that argument. They also tend to present a token skeptic, often quote-mined, to create the illusion of fairness.

The real problem that leads to people using this doggerel is a misunderstanding of the concept of fairness. Both sides should be allowed to present their arguments. Both sides should be held to the same standards. This, however, does not mean that both sides are inherently equal. Just like in any competition, one player may be vastly superior to the other. In the arena of truth, that's exactly what's supposed to happen as we gather evidence. Unfortunately, the lack of real controversy doesn't make for good ratings.

*Sorry about the political part in the last panel of the above comic, but the principle still applies, regardless of your affiliations.

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Doggerel Index

Monday, August 21, 2006

Gehiiiiirne!*

The undead, archetypal evil dictator goes into a feeding frenzy.

*A better translation into German, according to a human being I know.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Quote of the Time Being #4

The idea that a being with immense power exists, but never tampers with the universe in a noticable way is an absurdly childish hypothetical scenario. It's "I'm not touching you!" on a cosmic scale.
(Via this thing, presented at the JREF forums.)

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Okay, Let's Settle This Once and For All!

If trolls like Annie want to convince me that their deity (or deities) exists, here's a very simple way to do it:

1. First, answer this question: Is your deity willing and able to influence the roll of a die in order to convince me of his existence? If so, proceed to step 2.

2. Contact the James Randi Educational Foundation and apply for the James Randi Paranormal Challenge. The idea for your challenge will be this: Get a d10: A 10-sided die. Make a simple machine or something to roll the die. Roll it three times in the preliminary and have it come up "10" (or 0, depending on the die) three times. Then do it again in the formal test. You have a 1 in a million chance of winning by dumb luck, but if your deity exists, you shouldn't need luck.

3. Just to drill the point home, apply for at least one other skeptical challenge and pass it.

If you can do that, I will immediately pick up a copy of a holy book of your choice.

Edited because I made a truly horrid math mistake. But even the original 1 in 1040 probability shouldn't be a problem for the almighty.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Welcome to Miscellania! #1

Since I don't want to push Ryan's first post in a long time off the front page yet, I'm cramming a bunch of stuff into one post.

Valatiel takes on Jack Chick. (Via JREF Forums)

Learn how to defend yourself from giant ants, as well as why they have the ability to sometimes ignore critical hits. (Via Phil)

PZ shows me an image that would go so well on a T-shirt for Ryan.

PZ provides an irony meter test. (DANGER! Do not click until you have checked all the safeties and have a fire extinguisher and first aid kit nearby.) Corkscrew does my commenting for me.

Darth Vader isn't just evil, he's rude!

Rev. BigDumbChimp provides a story that makes me feel queasy.

Infophile gives us a mouthful to say.

I don't take the original series very seriously, either. (Via Phil, again.)

Quote of the moment:
"The correct response [to "Prove me wrong!"] is, "I have. Prove that I haven't proved you wrong." It quickly becomes something akin to two young boys shouting "I got you!", "No you didn't!, "Yes I did!", etc., and is funny to everyone except the claimaint. " -SkepticScott
Zeno runs into a new peak on the stupidimeter. PZ comments. MarkCC does, too.

Zeno also discovers that there actually is something good about religion.

This just in!: Matt flings poo at Cretinists! Shocking. Cretinists like the first commenter, Annie, who I hope is a parody. Join the Bar-B-Q.

The photos I mentioned earlier: One of the funny ones isn't going to happen. I have only my sloth to blame for my inability to take the opportunity.

Here's the best FSM miracle shot I've got:

Tricky to photograph small objects up close. Going to send all of them to Venganza.org for them to pick out and crop as they see fit.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Doggerel #31: "Looks Like I've Touched a Nerve!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

More trollish woos enjoy the fact that they can arouse the anger, or at least annoyance, of a skeptic. Others often perceive our annoyance as evidence that our worldview is tumbling down as a result of their (non-)arguments, and we're trying to deal with cognitive dissonance, or other psychobabble.

Of course, they always neglect to think of other reasons for our ire. We could be annoyed by their mannerisms. We could be annoyed by the fact that they're defending known charlatans. We could be annoyed by the fact that they don't understand, or even don't read our arguments. We could be annoyed by having words put into our mouths. There is no shortage of alternate reasons for anger.

Of course, the anger may not even exist. I could be arguing with less emotion than Spock, and still have woos misinterpret every short sentence as shouting. People often see what they want to see, especially when it deals with the behavior of others. Forgive my own bit of psychobabble, but as silly as "Hollywood skeptics" are, they're the comforting contrarian stereotype woos have of us. It allows them to live by prejudice and reject our arguments out of hand by pretending they're similar to those depicted in Hollywood.

Of course, the reasons for our apparent mental discomfort are moot, because the "nerve" observation and its ilk are red herrings: The emotional state of an arguer has no relevance to the validity of his arguments. Such things serve to distract from failures in logic and reframe the argument in terms of emotions and feelings, rather than verifiable facts. Because of this, I often interpret such fallacies as declarations of forfeiture: They've given up on discussing the issue and are trying to change the subject.

Wonder if I could rephrase that as a "Bronze Dog's Law" to accompany Godwin's.

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Doggerel Index

Friday, August 04, 2006

Another Pointless Quiz Thingy

Quiz Via Phil:






Your results:
You are Geordi LaForge
You work well with others and often
fix problems quickly. Your romantic
relationships are often bungled.


























Geordi LaForge
70%
Data
62%
Beverly Crusher
60%
Worf
55%
Jean-Luc Picard
55%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt)
50%
James T. Kirk (Captain)
50%
Spock
45%
Mr. Scott
45%
Leonard McCoy (Bones)
45%
Deanna Troi
45%
Will Riker
35%


Sorry if there's a big honking hole above. Don't know much about how to edit raw html, and this was a copy-paste job.

Anyway, I suppose one thing that's appropriate is that you can't see my eyes either.

Imagine I would come out as Data if the test makers would just admit that it takes all of Data's efforts to avoid just breaking down and crying at the beauty of the universe.

So, anyone know how I can tinker with that visor so that I'll be able to see through the clothes of Skepchicks?

Skeptics' Circle and a Welcome Back

The 40th Skeptics' Circle is up. Ryan's back. Discuss. Just make sure you don't mention my attempts to usurp the place, turning it into the Bronze Blog.







Uh-oh.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Jesus + Nintendo = Suck

BWAHAHAHAHA! Miss me? Kisses all. 'Bout time I got around to this.

Gather round kids - today we're going to talk about another awesome creation from the Army of Jeebus. Mario got you down? Sonic too much of a heretic? Moms - have you ever just thought that Ness and his cronies were too damn violent? Never fear; Jeeeeesus is here!

I thought I had played the shittiest games of all time - Dirk of the 99 Dragons and Grabbed by the Ghoulies set new precedent for the words "shitty games". As a matter of fact, it's an offense to all the good tax-paying American Shits out there.






Enter Wisdom Tree's "King of Kings".

If "sucks royal ass" were a video game, this would be it. Oh Jesus...

Let's start with the E3 hit "The Wise Men". I don't know why they say "men" when there's only one man in the game, but whatever.

So Balthazar (or Gaspar, or Melchior, or Ramrod... whoever) has to ride around on his camel and collect bottles of frankincense. That's it. But since this game is made by and for Jesus, there's no enemies. Fun...





Ready for your reward? YOU GET TO FIND OUT HOW MANY BOTTLES YOU COLLECTED TO GIVE TO BABY JESUS! If that don't sound like fun, call me "Heathen Bob". But I prefer "Grimlock".






How 'bout some "Jesus and the Temple"? I hope this game gets better...


Yeah, better find him. I hope this is my quest because kicking Sephiroth's ass wouldn't compare to searching for Jesus...



Remember that part in the bible where Joseph has to evade the evil fish monsters to find the missing boy Jesus? Me either. But it would sure make that boring ass book a little cooler. Does anyone else think the bible should have ninjas?

Since this is a Jesus game, you have infinite lives just like you will in Heaven with our Sky Daddy. So I just thought of cool ways to make Joseph die. Here he is falling into one of the many waterfalls common to the Middle East.


Here's a little trick to edumacate you on Bible Trivia. I'd have to admit I'm not an expert, but do they have to put the right answer on top? Seriously, in this pathetic excuse for a mini-game the right answer was on top 100% of the time. Praise his name!

I can get through Level 4-2 on Super Mario 2 faster than any other human alive. I know the way to the Laughing Kettle in Wizardry VI with my eyes closed. But for some reason, I can't jump over any of these fucking waterfalls...
God hates me.


Ok, on the next game, the imaginativly titled "Flight to Egypt" Joseph takes Mary to Bethlehem on a pissed off donkey. It's as fun as it sounds.







The point of all this? Someone slapped a big "JEEEEBUS" sticker across this piece of garbage and his army bought it. Wake up folks. Just because it has Jeebus don't make it good.

And does anyone else think we should re-write the bible to make it less boring? Get rid of all that "Bashladirka begat Bashlaskaa begat Dirkaboring" crap and replace it with Pirate vs. Ninja fights?

Next time maybe...

Spoken Like a True Homeopath

"All MD's rely on anecdotal evidence all the time. They know the patient is better when the patient says so." -Fore Sam
Oh. Wait. He's not a homeopath: He's a chelation curebie.

It just goes to show you that all quackery, and with some slight modifications to the quote, all wooism is the same. Anecdotes are pretty much the antithesis of evidence. If I believed every anecdote, I'd have to be a believer in every kind of woo, from astrology to Xenu. I've pointed this little problem out to Fore Sam, but he hasn't given me a good reason to take his anecdotes as good evidence while not taking other, contradictory anecdotes. Welcome to Moonside!

Just felt like getting that bit of medievalism out there for the world to mock. Anyone else have some juicy gems of Fore Sam's anti-wisdom to share? Figure I might as well have a catalog of his self-embarrasments to smack him down faster. Be sure to include a link, if you can.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

What is a Woo?

I've gotten a couple comments where people asked me what "Woo" means. Normally, I just give them a link to Skepticwiki's take on the term. Orac has recently written a good post on the topic.

Sometimes, skeptics are understandably criticized for using the term to dismiss something. Personally, I tend to use it in the reverse manner: If you can dismiss something because of its illogic, then that makes it woo.

I usually give a person a chance to prove that he's not a woo: If he can answer a few simple questions, he's worthy of further consideration. If he can pass The Randi Challenge, then he will have my undivided attention.