8.3.2015

Critical Thinking: My Friend, My Enemy, Myself

Conversations between “skeptics” and “believers” tend to devolve into an argument over who is truly thinking critically and who is not — to nobody’s ultimate benefit. There is a very good reason why trading accusations of a lack of critical thinking is rarely a winning debate strategy: whether it’s true is purely a matter of perspective, and two parties with fundamentally different world views will never be able to agree on what constitutes critical thought. / read more…

7.28.2015

Is Big Pharma Killing Holistic Doctors?

The rumors started going around in June, 2015. Holistic doctors, natural healers who relied on the power of herbs and energy to cure the diseases that science couldn’t, were starting to die mysteriously. They were murdered in their homes, “suicided” or just dropping dead out of nowhere. Others were vanishing without a trace. And the alternative medicine community believed Big Pharma was behind it, knocking off the resistors to their plan to force drugs and vaccinations on all of us.

Actually, yes.

Actually, yes.

Or at least that’s what a bunch of Facebook posts and fringe articles, one of them written by the girlfriend of alt-med pioneer Joseph Mercola, would have you believe. The crux of the conspiracy is that the government, their shills in the pharmaceutical industry, and the vaccine pushers at Merck are killing anyone who’s dared to speak out against the racket they’ve got going in making the American people sick, then selling them expensive cures for their diseases. / read more…

7.20.2015

Lazy Reporting of UFO Phenomena

11265266_10152842947270957_2720874280904093587_nJust before the 4th of July holiday, there were reports of UFO sightings in Hemlock, Michigan.  The UFO story itself is neither noteworthy nor unusual for this sort of random lights-in-the-sky sighting; but I found the news report generated from the sightings interesting as an example of how shoddy, uncritical journalism can lead to the advancement of fringe beliefs.

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7.15.2015

About That “Silver or Chocolate?” Video

There’s a video making the social media rounds. Originally posted July 8th, 2015 to the YouTube channel of Mark Dice, the video, which has been viewed nearly 500,000 times on YouTube and become widely shared on Facebook (as well as being shared on sites like InfoWars), shows average Americans turning down a $150-value bar of silver for a Hershey’s chocolate bar. Here’s the video:

Are Americans really that stupid? That’s the point the creator is trying to make, and from the comments I’ve read on YouTube and Facebook, he’s done a good job of getting his message across. But how representative is this video, really, of the incompetence of the average American?

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7.14.2015

The Next Great Currency Scam

Over the past year, I’ve written quite a bit about the Iraqi dinar, the foreign currency that many self-appointed “gurus” try to convince buyers will suddenly “revalue” from being one of the most worthless currencies in the world to one of the most valuable. Dinar brokers sells bundles of the dinar that you can only buy in cash directly from Iraq, then you sit on it and wait for the Iraqi government (or President Obama, or the IMF, or whatever) to pull the trigger on boosting it hundreds of thousands of percent in value.

It doesn’t take a degree in finance to tell you that this is false. Many actual financial experts have debunked the myth of the Iraqi dinar “RV,” and while gurus have been promising for years that the magical day where millions of dinars turn into millions of dollars was right around the corner, it’s not, it never has been and it never will be. Iraq’s economy is nowhere near being able to support an electronically traded currency with serious value, and it might be a decade or more before that happens. / read more…

7.10.2015

Oh, The Organic Sweet Corn Irony

Human forced evolution of corn via Wikimedia

Models from the history of the human-forced evolution of corn. via Wikimedia.

I must have laughed for a good five minutes the other day when I heard the news story I am reporting on today. I immediately thought about writing about it here, but then I paused for a moment as I challenged myself as to the purpose of my writing and how it fits with my goal of scientific education. In the end, reporting on the irony and using the same logical fallacies as those who are anti-science can serve a purpose in showing how ridiculous those fallacies are.

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Does the Sitting-Rising Test Predict Your Risk for Dying?

According to a 2012 study published in the European Journal of Cardiology, the ability to stand up from the floor is a good predictor of five-year mortality. I see this research commonly used as a medical foundation for the reported life-prolonging benefits of many strength and flexibility programs—yoga, pilates, and balance exercises like Zumba. The buzz surrounding this test was based on the study, conducted on 2,002 adults in Brazil. The adults were ages 51 to 80 and were part of an exercise program at Clinimex Exercise Medicine Clinic in Rio de Janeiro. People who scored low on the test were twice as likely to die within the next six years compared with those who scored higher. Those with the lowest scores were more than five times as likely to die within the same period. Those numbers sound pretty compelling. However, although it has been tested repeatedly since its development in the 1990s, the strength and standing test isn’t used much used to predict a patient’s mortality risk. Why? As you well know, Skeptoid likes to take a close look pop culture claims, so let’s take a closer look at this one.

A diagram showing the steps of the sitting-rising test. Via the Daily Mail.

A diagram showing the steps of the sitting-rising test. Via the Daily Mail.

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7.7.2015

The Amazing Stubbornness of a Vaccine Anecdote

Yes, yes: my usual story. I spent way too much time on social media fighting with the anti-science crowd. It’s always a difficult balance, since I have a few projects with looming deadlines, yet I feel obligated to see a thread to its conclusion in the hope that someone on the fence will see my reasonable approach and be persuaded into the science camp. This is exactly what happened to me on the anti-vaccine rant Jim Carrey posted on Facebook in response to California’s new, tighter vaccine-exemption law.

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6.23.2015

A Skeptical Look at Neil Young’s New Album “The Monsanto Years”

Going back to the late 60’s, rocker Neil Young embodied the social consciousness of rock music, in some ways picking up the torch of protest singing that Bob Dylan dropped after he went electric. During a diverse and willfully eclectic career of nearly 40 solo albums, Young has continued making music in this vein. In recent years, he’s used music to attack the Bush administration of the conduct of the Iraq War, criticize “factory farming”, stump for the electric car and lament the death of American traditions.

Neil Young, angry about something. (AP)

Neil Young, angry about something. (AP)

But his newest album takes aim at the most sacred of all hippie sacred cows: Monsanto. On his new album “The Monsanto Years”, Young pulls out all the stops and pulls no punches. He attacks corporate giants like Wal-Mart and Chevron, blasts genetically modified organisms, slams campaign finance law for crushing democracy and laments that people only want love songs, not to be told what’s really going on with their food and politics. But it’s Monsanto that Young saves his sharpest barbs for, explicitly slamming the agribusiness monolith over and over for its perceived vice-like grip on the food supply. / read more…

6.22.2015

The United Kingdom Is Poised Turn Medical Care Back To Medieval Care

As of June 16, 2015 ,the United Kingdom is poised to elect a demonstrably anti-science politician to the most influential medical position in government. In my opinion it would be a disastrous outcome for the people of the Untied Kingdom and give cause for quacks everywhere to rejoice. Tory Member of Parliament (MP) David Tredinnick is attempting to become the chair of the influential Commons Health Select Committee, of which he is currently a voting member. Although I am a resident of the United States, I’m still appalled that a person who openly advocates for magical nonsense could be in such an influential position in a socialized health system, and even worse that he intends to head that same committee. Let’s review some of his publicly available positions on healthcare and take a really hard look at how bad politicizing your healthcare can get. / read more…