Saturday, March 31, 2007

Funny Searches: March 2007

the old and new paradigm by deepak chopra: Wishful thinking. If it was good enough for the Dark Ages, it's good enough for Chopra.

autism in astrology: Great, first alties mixing up metallic mercury, ionic mercury, and mercury-containing compounds. So, does this mean they're throwing a planet into that mix?

big fat black old fat buts: I don't think I want to know. At least this guy didn't emphasize "old" twice.

quantum psychics for dummies: Got you covered.

how if your life under microscope: Is there a sentence in there somewhere?

i hate montel: So do I! We've got so much in common.

Bronze and its effects on health: Reading my blog may adversely affect your health when you get outraged at the stupidity and immorality I point out in the world. Serenity now!

"vox day" science:: "Oil" : Water

be more open-minded + skeptic blog: Wide open, but not enough for our brains to fall out.

a FANTASTIC maths game that have voice with it:
Give Mark a mic.

Deepak Chopra + Masturbation: No! I don't want that image in my mind! Get out! Get out!

kibble and bits cookie: Nummy!

curling anecdotes: I don't really do much with my fur... wait, you mean that's an actual sport?

funny searches: Recursion: See: Recursion.

infant Jesus cure cancer: Yeah, but there are some people "offended" by the notion of grinding him up and distributing him in pill format. (This has got to be a personal record for sacreligiousness)

sexy bronze blogs: Not too long ago, it was "fetish of divine bronze". Have I accidentally given my blog a name that correlates with some weird kink I'm not aware of? Please, please don't answer that in my comments. I'd like to retain some innocence.

verses then the declaration of houses then the greater inclination then the touchstone: Didn't you read the Evil Overlord List?: EOL #85: I will not use any plan in which the final step is horribly complicated, e.g. "Align the 12 Stones of Power on the sacred altar then activate the medallion at the moment of total eclipse." Instead it will be more along the lines of "Push the button."

freeware autism games: Ooo... Kay... Anyone want to shed some light on what this might mean? Autism Diva? NotMercury?

i was skeptical about reiki until: ...I gave up skepticism by accepting an unblinded, uncontrolled anecdote because it involved me? That how you finish the sentence?

bronze boy holding dog treat: Think you misplaced an adjective.

what has sylvia brown predicted correctly: I dunno. Anyone?

Montel Kombat games online number 3: Suddenly I have a desire to see James Randi win a fight against Sylvia Browne by pulling her spine out of a hat.

funniest things to do when your baked: Uh, writhe in agony as the oven approaches 350 degrees... Wait... What would Batman do? Dangit, can't remember that episode. They stopped showing it on the same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

why the sylvia browne bashing: Why not? She's evil and a leech on society.

Call For Expansion

I'm adding a bit to my blog lists, and I'd like some recommendations.

So far, I've only added Dubito Ergo Sum, since Tom Foss has posted some really good comments just about everywhere, and the Quackometer Blog, since I forgot it in the redesign, and need to catch up.

I Complain Because I Care...

Collection of things that could be done to improve what I love:

The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess

Absolutely love the game, but there's some stuff they could do.

Would have liked to see more done with Link's wolf form: Once you get the Master Sword, the wolf's only really good for a handful of things: Talking with animals (not all that useful), getting the sword techniques (occasionally handy, but short-lived), tracking scents (required, but short-lived), and attacking ghosts (good, but not quite common enough).

More use out of some items: I thought the Spinner was nifty-keen, but once you left the dungeon where you picked it up, it was pretty much useless. The same is true of the Dominion Rod.

Two words: Higher difficulty.

Armored Core 4 (Still working my way through the 1-player missions, so some might be me not used to it, yet.)

Loving it so far. I spend unhealthy amounts of time tweaking every tiny aspect of my ACs, er, Nexts, which is why I'm so slow with the missions. Game's not without its share of problems, though.

Whatever happened to the head stat of "Night Vision: Provided"? Night missions are annoying, especially since, for some reason, my targeting sights are dimmed. Hope they show up better after I get my HDMI cable from the mail and get to play in higher resolution.

Radar annoyances: Got one mission where I have to defend a ship from submarines that launch missiles that I can shoot down. Whenever I'm near the ship, it changes my radar to the zoomed-in view, preventing me from seeing the incoming missile swarms.

Default controller setups: Make sure you switch to a custom setup so that you can take lock-on out from under the left analog. Holding down the lock-on button turns off your locks and switches to manual aiming. Since in most setups, the left analog is the thing I twiddle desperately in order to not die, I sometimes accidentally hold down the L3 button during struggles. It's not fun to lose your ability to effectively retaliate when you're staring down the barrel of a bazooka. But I think I've gotten everything cleaned up.

Why did they have to trim down all the non-humanoid legs to two each? I'd like some choice for my reverse joints (thankfully, the good pair is appropriately lightweight). I imagine the Quad Squad at Armored Core Online is also annoyed.

Hopefully, downloadable content and regulation files can counteract some of those problems.


And now, just to make it clear, since I've done that complaining: I love those games and recommend them. Might want to make one note about Armored Core, though: It's got a steeper learning curve than most games, but thankfully the removal of the lock box has made combat easier... Don't expect to be able to jump right into online play, though: I suspect I'll get my tail-like rear stabilizer handed to me a few times.

Friday, March 30, 2007

I'm Feeling Like a Scientist, Today

The above comic brought to you by xkcd, one of my more recent regular webcomics. If I weren't so obsessed with replication, I probably wouldn't bother whacking trolls with their logical fallacies. I know I'll get the same doggerel every time, but I'm always hoping that the next woo will be an exception, and that tomorrow I can start using replicated studies to boost my midochlorian count and begin practicing lifting some rocks while a little green guy rides piggyback.

Some of my favorite xkcd comics:

A commentary on The Secret (sort of)
On blogging
The mathematical description of what happens when Molly meets me after I return from work.
Something that's probably the more realistic view of a skeptic's life.
Why I'm not a doctor... aside from being squeamish.
James Bond has a bad physics experience.
You probably know this one.
I'm the stick figure in the beret.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

57th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at Aardvarchaeology.

A zebra may lose its stripes, but discussion of a leopard changing its spots is FORBIDDEN!

Doggerel #69: You Can't Disprove [Woo]!

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

No doubt many of you are currently having flashbacks to a painfully stupid attempt at shifting the burden of proof. For the rest of you, this should be recognizable as such. Granted, there have been some highlights in Randi's history where he stopped some woos dead with his controlled tests that ended in failure for the psychic, but we don't need to actively go around disproving woos: The woos have to prove that their thing works under proper testing conditions. As skeptics, we assume the null hypothesis until it's been falsified, so the woos had better hurry up and falsify it.

What's more annoying is when the woos actively render their hypothesis unfalsifiable. No result can disprove an unfalsifiable hypothesis. If it's a success, it's a success. If it's a failure, it's due to any number of circumstances (which, oddly, don't get mentioned around successes), but never due to the fact that the woo doesn't work.

Kind of reminds me of people who say they can never lose at some game, and when they do, they claim it's because of cheating on their adversary's part.


Doggerel Index

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Doggerel #68: But You Don't Know How [Woo] Works!

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

I'll cut to the point on this one: Most woos seem completely oblivious to the fact that we're interested in whether or not something works. That's supposed to be easy to demonstrate. I don't know how this computer works (beyond knowing that it involves a lot of really tiny on/off switches), and yet its operation can be clearly demonstrated. Woo, however, tends to fail under proper viewing conditions.

One of the annoying fronts on this issue is medical woo. So many alties ramble about the body's ability to heal itself, but they're quick to dismiss that as a possible alternative explanation for improvement. That's why we have double-blind control studies: There's a big pile of explanations for possible improvement that don't include the treatment in question, and we can't exactly prevent them from happening. So what do we do? We compare the treatment (experimental group) to pretending to give the treatment (placebo group). If the treatment has no noticeable effect, those two groups will have similar outcomes. I fail to see how our lack of knowledge affects the suitability of that test.

It's easy to demonstrate a lot of things working, even if we don't know how. What makes the Quadro tracker, the techno-dowsing rod, any different than real technological sensors? They work even if you don't know how they work. And heck, going on dowsing a little bit more, even being the inventor of your techno-dowsing rod is no guarantee it'll pass the test.

So, to summarize, "Does it work?" is a much more fundamental question than "How does it work?"


Doggerel Index


I've got a collection of half-remembered things, and I'm curious if you, dear readers, could help me remember more details.

1. Cartoon with a painter as a protagonist. He was tied up in a pit, surrounded by little mushroom people, and he repeatedly insisted that he was not a mushroom. Think they had one character featured who had a pun of a name, pronouncing "fungi" as "fun guy." All the mushrooms end up with fangs at one point, probably in an attempt to make the little guys creepy to children. Implied that he was going to end up as a mushroom if he didn't escape. I think it was around the mid-80s when I watched it, and I think the scene was just one small piece, rather than anything really central to the cartoon.

2. An odd, possibly false memory of a bit of dialog from an episode of The Jetsons: Judy had just been dropped off by her boyfriend, "Booster," and was busy pretty much swooning over him in her happy place, apparently interfering with traffic, and getting a lot of angry shouts, which inattentively replied to with "Yes, Booster." Eventually, she gets home, still in her happy place, and George comments at one point, "Booster? Is that some new kind of happy pill?" I recall him asking that rather nonchalantly, as if "happy pills" were commonplace in the 21st century. Creepy, huh?

3. Had another one, but I can't remember what else I half-remembered. I'll post it if it comes back.

So, any of that ring a bell, or am I on mushrooms?

Monday, March 26, 2007

A Really Great Post

Bumped into this defense of the Blasphemy Challenge via PZ. Covers many of the things the Blasphemy Challenge really does for the world.

One section I like:
Four: Motivation. Shared anger can be a powerful motivating force, especially in the early days of a social/political movement. When you're facing injustice, the opposite of anger isn't serenity -- it's apathy.
I don't always know what to do in the face of injustice, but I know what the first step always is, and I can be quite proficient at it. I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take this anymore.

Feel free to post links to your favorite entries in the Blasphemy Challenge in the comments.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Doggerel #67: "Western"

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

One of the really big annoyances in my life is when woos try to change the subject into an alleged conflict between "East" and "West." The point of origin for an idea is completely and utterly irrelevant to the validity of that idea. It's called the genetic fallacy.

I've recently had an experience with a rather subtly nasty troll (apparently turning less subtle at one point). He arbitrarily defined double-blind control studies as "Western" as if looking for the difference between the results of pretending to do something (placebo control) and actually doing something (treatment) was strictly a "Western" concept, and thus was useless for evaluating acupuncture. What made the whole thing worse: He suggested I try it myself. He was asking me to lower my standards for traditional Chinese "medicine" because it started a considerable distance from the prime meridian.

I suspect, like many alties, this person would also express shock and horror if the FDA or some other regulatory body approved of a drug without testing, and let people buy it willy-nilly without a need for a prescription. It'd be much worse than the Vioxx scandal, since the pharmaceutical companies wouldn't have to spin their way past some negative results.

I'm rarely the sort to bring this up, but I think there's plenty of reason: By claiming the scientific method is "Western" and thus "Eastern" stuff is immune to it, and suggesting that I lower my standards for the "Eastern" woo, they are being racist. There. I said it. And in a main post, rather than in some comments somewhere. By asking me to lower my standards for something of a particular nationality, they are asking me to give one group of people special treatment because they are of that particular group. If that's not racist, I don't know what is.

The universe operates under one set of rules. Being on one side or another of a particular rock orbiting an unremarkable star doesn't change that.


Doggerel Index

Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I came across this game from I've played it a total of 4 times, using different strategies each time, and what does it get me? Scores: 1280, 1290, 1280, 1289.

Here's how the game works: You build towers to fight off monsters, gaining money as you do so, which you use to build more towers or upgrade existing ones to fend off tougher and tougher waves of monsters. You lose when there are a total of 101 or more monsters on the screen.

First game: Build lots of "fast" towers, which rapidly fire generic arrows, some "slow" towers that slightly damage the enemy and slow them down.
Second game: General variety of towers.
Third game: Focus on slowing enemies down for "splash" towers that deal some area damage to ground critters. Slowing tends to group enemies together. (Including some anti-air to cover the less common flying enemies)
Fourth game: Same again, except I spend money upgrading the splash towers. (Didn't upgrade anything in the previous games)

I'm obviously missing out on some building premise for lasting longer, since I would have expected my third and fourth strategies to be more effective.


Recently read the Agony Booth reviews for Moonraker and Moonwalker. In Moonwalker, for those who don't know about it, Michael Jackson, using his star power, turns into a car, a robot, and a spaceship, as well as exhibiting other powers. Now, for some crazy reason (which may require medication), I can see it being hypothetically cool to have a movie world where simply being a celebrity brings great power (and heat vision), but the insurmountable fatal flaw in the idea is that it'll attract primarily stuck-up, pretentious stars, rather than talented ones.


And, for no reason: Lightsaber fights for no reason. (Via Matt) But remember, folks: Don't drink and use The Force. (Via my bro.)

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

We've Reached the Target Area... Deploying Bombs...

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YouTube go boom! ...Oops. That's my brother's thing.

(Suggested by PZ.)

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Just a Thought...

Who's got better combat ability? God and his army, or four humans in a tank?

Judges 1:19: Yahweh was with the men of Judah as they took possession of the highlands but they could not conquer the people from the plains because they had iron chariots.

Think this would be any good against iron chariots?

Yeah, I think so, too.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Doggerel #66: "I'll Pray For You!"

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

It's very much a cliché to point it out, but pretty much every atheist and skeptic knows it's essentially a declaration of forfeiture used by various fundies. I might as well list some of the situations where I've seen it come up:
  • Whenever someone points out the immorality in their 'holy' books, and they don't have a handy apologetic.
  • Whenever someone catches them condoning or endorsing an obvious and/or heinous crime.
  • Whenever someone points out glaring instances of hypocrisy.
  • Whenever someone points out irreconcilable contradictions in a literal interpretation of two verses.
  • Whenever someone points out the pointlessness of a "moral" law.
  • Whenever someone points out how excessive the penalties for trivial infractions are.
The first instance where I encountered this doggerel was back during my "Sort-of-Christian" days when I believed in universal salvation and that torture was wrong, hence I didn't believe in Hell, or at least not in an eternal sentence. The fundie I was up against failed to convince me that everlasting torture was okay when God was responsible for it (or if he just didn't feel like snapping his fingers to end it), so he declared he would "pray for me."

A similar instance involved a request for me to "pray for an answer," which, of course, netted no change: "God" verified that the fundie I was arguing against was wrong, and an evil, depraved person, just like I knew all along.

Here's a tip: If you want to prove a scientific claim to a skeptic, make a prediction and then test it by performing a proper experiment. If you want to make a moral claim, well, chances are you'll have to do a lot of creative reinterpretation to claim the high ground.


Doggerel Index

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

56th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at Scientia Natura.

Open thread as usual, except giving yourself new superpowers on the fly is FORBIDDEN!

I'd Like Some Input

Since I'm liking the labels function, and don't have the classic sidebar right now, I'm interested in your opinions for what posts should be labeled as "classic" for a sidebar entry and appropriate label.

Some of the obvious ones (at least for me):

The Doggerel Index
Image Dogtoring #1: Christians & Crusades
What is a Woo?
My Office Has Been Touched
Dogfight #1: Michael Behe
Less Boring Bigfoot Journalism
The Psychic Challenge
Where Do You Draw The Line?
Sylvia Browne is a Big Fat Idiot

So, any of your favorites?

When Come Back, Bring Pi!

Sorry I'm late pointing this out, but it's Pi Day, a celebration of most everyone's favorite transcendental number. Somehow, I don't think they celebrate with cake, though. Wonder what they'll do years from now on 3.14.15.

Doggerel #65: "You Have to Believe in [Woo] for it to Work!"

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

This is one of the more annoying doggerels out there, and, of course, for multiple reasons.

I've seen it employed after a skeptic has revealed that he's already tried it when #46 comes up. So, we're supposed to be convinced by a personal anecdote, but for there to be an anecdote, we already have to be convinced? Someone needs to get their prerequisites sorted out, and it's not the skeptic.

This doggerel also often involves ignoring objective tests: If, for example, we're talking about Reiki, then my belief doesn't matter: All that matters is that we conduct a double-blind study on Reiki believers. I believe the protocols for Sylvia Browne's JREF test requires that all the people who will receive a reading sign a statement that they believe in psychics in general, and Sylvia specifically.

Additionally, nearly all the science we have thus far doesn't require belief to operate. To use an archetypal unfortunate event: A loaded gun will fire, even if you think it isn't loaded. If reality itself altered according to my beliefs, I'd probably be much better at space shooters (There's no way that could have hit me!).

Put simply, this doggerel's only real utility is a method of ad hocking away failure or adding a step to devising a proper test.


Doggerel Index

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Dogfight #4: Dr. Michael Egnor

Since PZ's big round number B recently occurred and I couldn't conjure up a poem, guess I'll do another Dogfight for him. Today's target: Dr. Michael Egnor, who, aside from being a Cretinist recently touted by the "Discovery Institute," is the cause of much embarrassment for Orac.

So, without further ado:

Learning about biochemistry and learning about molecular biology, I found some aspects of it quite unsatisfying in a sense that there was so much astonishing complexity, so much beauty in the way life worked at the molecular level that I couldn't understand how it came to be.

I would suggest you hook up with a biologist, then, and study biology. Chances are, it'd get more beautiful once you did get an understanding of our current level of knowledge.

At the time, although I didn't question Darwinism explicitly because I didn't realize how much evidence there was to support questioning Darwinism, I felt that there was something really missing in my understanding of biological complexity. But I didn't think a whole lot about it and went on to practice neurosurgery and do my own research.

Evidence such as...?

As time went on, I came to seriously question whether just randomness, just random meaningless events, could really generate the kind of beauty and elegance and complexity that's at the core of living things.

And already you demonstrate what level of understanding of evolution you have: None whatsoever. Evolution isn't random. It's stochastic: It's a process with random elements, but the end result is still non-random. To use an extreme example, a fast-running deer is much more likely to survive than a paraplegic one. If evolution was random, they'd have about the same chance. Natural selection is non-random. When I was in seventh-grade biology, I understood that simple concept.

Also, what's with 'meaning'? A person might call a hammer meaningless, but it's still quite a useful tool for driving a nail. Should I expect this to be a repeat from an old troll who claimed that he was somehow able to change the dripping of a faucet by 'applying meaning' to it?

What troubled me about my attempt to understand where the complexity and the elegance of life came from was a difficulty in seeing how, for example, the genetic code could arise by chance. It seemed to me preposterous to assume that a representation of an informational code, which is really a language, with letters and words and syntax and punctuation, could arise by random events, no matter how many random events, or no matter what kind of selection pressure you offered. We have no experience in nature whatsoever with representational codes or languages except in biology, and the only experience we have in our lives is with such languages that are intelligently designed by people.

1. Thought experiments don't prove anything. Just grab a genetic algorithm and run it!

2. Stop drinking from the reification Kool-Aid: We call it a language because that's an easy to grasp analogy.

3. Languages aren't always intelligently designed: They evolve. Someone comes up with new words, expressions, etcetera, often on whims, and if the community finds the innovation useful enough, it survives. If I'm lucky, 'flarschnikit' might survive as a meme.

The difficulty was that I didn't realize that a very powerful scientific case can be made that these aspects of living things are not random, and it wasn't until I read the work of Michael Behe or Bill Dembski and Phillip Johnson that I came to see that the qualms that I had, the suspicions that I had, about the adequecy of Darwinism to explain biological complexity had a very sound scientific basis. In fact, in my view, th science that Behe and Dembski and Johnson were talking about was much better science than the Darwinism that I had been taught.

Yeah. Behe, the guy who does science so astounding, and so much better than real science, he has to argue that the definition of science must be downgraded to include Astrology.

And Dembski, who argues that the universe is designed because everything is flarschnikity.

What struck me as astonishing in looking at the work of Bill Dembski and Phil Johnson and Michael that if you look objectively at the genetic code, at much of modern molecular biology, you see a specified complexity that is really in some way the semantics of meaning in, for example, the genetic code, that the gene that codes for an enzyme doesn't itself do what the enzyme does. It doesn't catalyze a reaction. It simply has a meaning that is translated into the enzyme that catalyzes the reaction. How can one generate by random processes, regardless of what kind of selection pressure you have, because all selection pressure has been historically nonintelligent. It gets colder, it gets warmer, a boulder falls on an animal, something happens, but it's not intelligently caused. But such selection pressure, how can that generate meaning? How can that generate a code, a language? And those questions are very good scientific questions. They're the kinds of questions that Darwinists should have asked in the 1950's immediately after the genetic code was revealed. It's the kind of thing that should have stopped Darwinism in its tracks.

Now that stupidity's just painful. I imagine it's even moreso for those of you with a better understanding of how those molecules shuffle about. I think we've gone into one of those meaningless marijuana-inspired rants about an undefined 'meaning'.

Somehow, I suspect this quote had a lot of d00000d!s and Maaaaan!s removed before I read it. And this guy's a doctor? No wonder Orac's got that bag on his head. Wonder if this guy's brain surgery comes with a free Q-Ray bracelet or something.

Okay, that's about my limit. Think I'm approaching the event horizon of Egnor's brain. Happy B, PZ!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Ow. Ow. Ow.

I'm really out of shape, and upper body's never really been my strength. Really wore myself out playing Wii Sports Boxing, especially since I haven't figured out the nuances of the motion sensor responses, and I was frantically fighting against my first genuinely responsive computer opponent.

Flowchart Fun! (Rough Draft)

Since the Reverend has recently reminded me of the fun Science vs. Faith flowchart, I decided to make my own:

Hopefully, clicking will bring up the thing in better resolution. Feel free to copy and distribute.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

Cue "Imperial March" Again

Got an update in my email from The Brick Testament. Seems they've been doing some translating. They mentioned The Naked Archaeologist episode dealing with Joshua, "one of the greatest generals of the Bible." Doesn't quite seem appropriate to label someone like that "great," at least not without mentioning all the blood on his hands (assuming, for the sake of argument only, that the Bible is accurate).

Jericho: Every living thing slaughtered, including women, children, the elderly, and livestock. They make sure to specifically mention those groups.
Ai: All 12,000 slaughtered: targeted the civilians first, then attacked the soldiers as they despaired.
Gibeon: Tricked the Israelites into signing a peace treaty, since they were afraid of being similarly slaughtered. Not happy with the arrangement, Joshua enslaves them all.
Amorites: Allied to take down the threat. God casts mass confusion, summons a hailstorm, and stops the sun that surely revolves around the Earth to make sure Joshua's army wins.
Makkedah, Libnah, Lachish, Eglon, Hebron, Debir: Killed everyone. King Horam's army was included as a target of opportunity.
Hazor: Attacked in an effort to stop Joshua. After they destroyed the army, they burned the capitol to the ground and plundered all the other cities while killing everyone there.
Anakim: Slaughtered.

So, he may be a great general, but I most certainly wouldn't call him a great person.

Stupidity That's Painful in the Heart as Well as the Head

Orac posts about anti-vaxxer stupidity claiming that Shaken Baby Syndrome is caused by vaccines. The evil Alan Yurko is brought up, of course. Here's where the pain rises:
However, the physical injuries associated with SBS are harder to pin on vaccines. After all, rib fractures, spine injuries, and broken bones are frequently associated with SBS. How do the antivaxers explain that?

Easy, they blame it on scurvy. They actually claim that vaccines cause vitamin C deficiency...

Tuesday, March 06, 2007


Mario stands up for The Party. (Via Brian Clevinger)

Mario also needs to brush up on his plumbing after spending all that time saving the world.

My brother has some cool stuff up. Think we can expect a link over at PZ's place pretty soon.

Here's some guy busy mapping out TV land. Everybody Panic! (Via Nodwick)

Pointless Quiz Jutsu!

a Ninja
You scored 11 Honor, 3 Justice, 4 Adventure, and 6 Individuality!

You are a soldier of the night. You rely on no more than your cunning and your repuation to strike fear in the hearts of lord and peasant alike. You've a sense of honor, but one that comes from within, not imposed from outside.

Black clothes and shuriken for you. You're gonna do just fine.
Was there any doubt?
(Via PZ)

Monday, March 05, 2007

We Need More of This on TV

There's a commercial I've seen on TV for the Royal Bank of Scotland Group, lately that pretty well summarizes the difference between skepticism and woo like "The Secret."

For those with video difficulties: A group of people are riding in a cable car when it suddenly stops and shakes. One "helpful" individual starts preaching the gospel of positive thinking, gets the woman to groom herself and smile, citing the power of a positive image, etcetera. Meanwhile, a guy sitting in the back notices an "Emergency Start" button and presses it. The cable car starts back up just in time for Mr. Positive Thinking to take credit.

Now imagine if all the other occupants spouted invectives to the skeptic for claiming that pushing the button was what solved the problem.

Kudos to Bourgeois_Rage for providing the link in a comment, and RBS for making the commercial. I don't know much about money shuffling, but the financially inclined may want to give them an extra point in favor of dealing with them.

Doggerel #64: "New Paradigm"

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

Woos often like to claim that they're offering a "new paradigm" for science, often citing figures like Newton, Einstein, and Galileo. It's certainly possible that some idea that seems ridiculous at first may lead to better science in the near future, but it certainly won't be done by the woos. The key difference between the radical ideas of the great scientists and the radical woo ideas of, say, Gene Ray, is that the scientists actually care about giving good evidence, making predictions, and testing them.

Woos, on the other hand, resist skeptical tests, torture their predictions into unfalsifiability, or even outright deny the need to examine their claims. This is not a new paradigm. It's an old one: It's true because I say it is. Rejecting that old, narrow way is what has lead science and civilization to where it is today. If we don't preserve the scientific method, we're going to fall back into the dark ages.

The foam-invoking part of this doggerel is the implication that skepticism is about rejecting new ideas. Skepticism is about testing all ideas, so naturally we get quite irritated with people who do nothing but make excuses to avoid tests. The implication is just an attempt to distract people from that point, and the sad thing is that it apparently works on some people.


Doggerel Index

Friday, March 02, 2007

You Might Be an Altie If...

2007 edition. Glad to see some of mine made it in there (at least I think they were all mine: It's been about a year, probably more of mine I'm not as sure about):
If you think hydrogen, hydrogen ions, hydroxide ions, oxygen, ozone, water, and hydrogen peroxide are all the same and can be labelled the same because they all contain H's or O's, you might be an altie.

If you think the bald assertion of the possible existence of completely unspecified logical fallacies is devastating to your opponent, you might be an altie.

If you think that ridicule designed to highlight your logical fallacies is inherently immoral and fallacious, you might be an altie.
Some not-me favorites:
If you think it's perfectly acceptable, nay, laudable, for shady Internet entrepreneurs to launch a website that claims to be about "education" but in reality exists to sell a cancer treatment that has only shrunk tumors in animals and has yet to be tested against cancer in humans (and lie by claiming that it's being sold to treat pets), you're not only an altie, but you're an idiot.

If you excuse your healer and other alternative medicine practitioners from conducting evidence-based clinical trials of their treatments on the grounds that there is no money to support well-designed clinical trials testing alternative medicine even though the yearly budget for the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine is over $120 million, you just might be an altie.

If your arguments tend to degenerate to comments about "baby poisoners" while never once considering the concept of "infant mortality rate", the massive reduction in infant mortality in industrialized societies in the last 150 years, or what that means in the grand scheme of human happiness, you're almost certainly an altie.

Doggerel #63: "Don't Be So Focused on the Facts!"

"The first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, be it scientific truth, historical truth, or personal truth. It is the guiding principle upon which Starfleet is based. If you cannot find it within yourself to stand up and tell the truth about what happened, you do not deserve to wear that uniform."
- Captain Jean-Luc Picard
"Hello. I'm Leonard Nimoy. The following tale of alien encounters is
true. And by true, I mean false. It's all lies. But they're
entertaining lies. And in the end, isn't that the real truth? The
answer is: No."
- Leonard Nimoy

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

One of the most appalling sentiments that I come across is, essentially, "the truth doesn't matter." A troll over at The 2% Company tried to disguise it by talking about "metaphorical truth," which apparently is more important than literal truth. If reality was a novel, he might be saying something meaningful, but reality is reality. His bizarre rants seemed to suggest that Leonard Nimoy, above, was wrong: Entertaining and comforting lies are "the real truth."

What's really infuriating, and inspired quite a bit of foam from me, is that this sentiment spits on all of the wonders that science has found, the mysteries it's solved, and all the other great things it's brought into our lives.


Doggerel Index

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Ouch! Sylvia Fails Spectacularly Again

New post at

Sylvia once again gets the dead/alive thing wrong, and something far, far worse:
And notice: Amanda gestures off-camera twice to her husband in the studio audience. This means that the man who murdered Lynda McClelland was in the same room with Sylvia Browne, and yet her "psychic powers" didn't pick up on that fact when supposedly trying to figure out what had happened to the woman.

55th Skeptics' Circle

It's up at the Second Sight.

Open thread as usual, except speculation on the idea that there may be a number lonelier than 1 is FORBIDDEN!