Archive for the ‘Pseudoscience’ Category

Some crazy for your Sunday

June 13, 2010 5 comments

Those of you who can remember high-school physics will know that kinetic energy is the energy a body has due to its motion, or the work needed to accelerate a body of a given mass from rest to its current velocity. Not according to “psychic” and convicted fraud, Sylvia Browne, who defines it thusly in her latest book :

Kinetic energy is the unintentional, spontaneous manipulation of inanimate objects through no obvious physical means, causing its possessor to become kind of a hapless walking force field. There are several theories about what creates kinetic energy. And, of course, there are just as many skeptics who will swear it doesn’t exist at all, which I’d be happy to consider if I hadn’t witnessed it with my own eyes a few thousand times.

What? You see, Browne believes that your “kinetic energy” can can cause inanimate objects to be spontaneously manipulated without your volition.

(Hat tip to J-Walk Blog)

The Ladybird Book of Chiropractic Treatment and English Libel Law

December 19, 2009 Comments off

Just in time for the holidays: The Ladybird Book of Chiropractic Treatment and English Libel Law. This is a hoot if you remember Ladybird books – if not, you’ll still get much wisdom about the stupidity of English libel laws and the treatment of Simon Singh whom you will remember wrote:

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments

and got in trouble for speaking the truth. See Sense About Science and the Libel Reform Campaign for more. The latter has a petition that you can sign even if you are not a UK resident.

A Field Guide to AGW Skeptics

December 17, 2009 Comments off

Jim Lippard has a nice post on the nature of the various groups who are skeptical about anthropogenic global warming. In it he follows a tack I (and others) have taken in the past regarding the “Deniers of Darwinism” that the Discovery Institute touts as evidence for a “controversy”. Jim concludes that his post

doesn’t demonstrate that climate skepticism is without merit, but it does demonstrate that there are reasons to be skeptical–and in many cases extremely skeptical–about some of the organizations and individuals promoting climate skepticism, independently of their arguments. In my view, the arguments for climate skepticism in most cases just increase the grounds for skepticism.

Wait a minute … I know that guy!

October 25, 2009 1 comment

It’s Jim Lippard and the Arizona Coalition of Reason.

Is this libelous?

July 29, 2009 3 comments

Simon Singh said:

The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments.

The British Chiropractic Association took exception and a judge agreed. The full text of Singh’s article is being posted online in a few places (see here, here and here, for example). You decide.

SkeptiCamp Phoenix 2009

March 29, 2009 2 comments


SkeptiCamp Phoenix 2009 went off wonderfully yesterday. Big thanks to Jim Lippard for doing such a wonderful organizational job.

The picture above is me beginning my 20 minute gallop through the issue of academic freedom and the intelligent design movement. Shorter – and undoubtedly more coherent -  version is:

  • Evolution is not an unchallengeable orthodoxy within science and major areas (of evolution as fact, the pathway of evolution, and its mechanisms) have been challenged in the past by researchers working within the field. These researchers used the institutions of science (peer reviewed journals etc) to bring about change.
  • Despite the claims of the DI, there is no evidence that there is active suppression of ID proponents in any way that would prevent them challenging the status quo using the institutions of science. There is no evidence of the academic freedom of ID supporters being infringed.
  • There is currently no theory of ID and it is likely that any theory of ID would eventually have to fallback on supernatural action and thus violate the bedrock principle of methodological naturalism. Given the success of MN and its centrality to modern science, this would most likely mean that any ID theory would fail to convince the scientific community.
  • The appeals to “academic freedom” to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of evolution are spurious and indicate the lack of a positive argument for intelligent design and its ultimate reliance on supernaturalism.

Slides are here.

SkeptiCamp Phoenix

March 28, 2009 Comments off

SkeptiCamp Phoenix beings in a few minutes. Jim Lippard has all the details and Magic Tony, one of the presenters, will be live-blogging the event, and there may also be twittering at #skepticamp. I’ll be adding bits and pieces as the spirit moves me.

SkeptiCamp Phoenix 2009

January 7, 2009 Comments off

Jim Lippard is organizing SkeptiCamp Phoenix 2009. A SkeptiCamp is “a conference whose content is provided by attendees. Where BarCamp is focused on technology, SkeptiCamp instead focuses on topics of interest to skeptics, including science, critical thinking and skeptical inquiry.” The event is planned for February 21st and I’ve already agreed to talk on “Academic Freedom” and the Intelligent Design movement. If you are an Arizona skeptic, or even from further afield, wander on over to the Camp Wiki and sign-up either to attend or present.

There’s a FaceBook group as well, by the way.

More fizzle than sizzle

July 15, 2008 3 comments

Like many on the blogosphere, I’ve had the opportunity to view Randy Olson’s latest production Sizzle: A Global Warming Comedy. Billed as “an effort to understand the confusion around the global warming,” the movie claims to be a “novel blend of three genres – mockumentary, documentary, and reality” and that alone illustrates the problem with the movie – it doesn’t know what it’s trying to be and after spending 85 minutes with it, I had no real clue what point Olson was trying to make and to whom he is making it. Indeed, it is only out of a sense of duty that I continued watching beyond the first fifteen minutes.

Read more…

The Earth Is Flat … and nobody understands how the eye works

March 27, 2008 6 comments

"Researcher in Astronomy:" … "When you stand on the beach and look into the distance, everything you see is in the visible distance. In the blurred distance, you cannot see a thing. Later on as the ship gets closer to the shore or the harbor, you see the upper part. How do you see it? The eye, as I have said, no doctor has succeeded in understanding how the eye works." *sound of Lynch’s head exploding*

[ht to Boing Boing]

Laugh along with Louis Savain

January 13, 2008 21 comments


In the comments to a previous post, "rebel scientist" Louis Savain made the following statements:

I have made a falsifiable prediction about the human cerebellum based on my interpretation of certain Biblical metaphors. If you can falsify it, do so. Otherwise, your lame attempt at ridiculing my person is just that, lame. You wanted falsifiability, you’re gonna get it. Lots of it.

I commented:

Excellent. I expect to enjoy reading your research papers in neurobiological journals.

and he retorted with:

Forget it. I believe in going directly to the customer, i.e., the public whom you despise, but who ultimately pays for all science research. They are my peers. I’ll stay away from politically-correct publications, thank you very much. Like I said, see you around. And stay tuned. ahahaha…

More or less typical crank tactics – avoid peer review because, well, it’s inconvenient to actually have to argue with scientists. The good news is that there is a new journal that might be sympathetic to Savain’s research. What makes Savain unique is the laughter. Lots of laughter. As he says later in the thread, "ahahaha… ahahaha… AHAHAHA… ahahaha… ahahaha…"

It turns out that Savain is also frequenting Uncommon Descent (as Mapou) where he states:

Indeed, the whole peer-review system was designed as a control mechanism intended to exclude a large part of humanity from taking part in the scientific enterprise. This is incompatible with the ideals of a democratic society, in my opinion. We did not get rid of one dictatorship to succomb [sic] under the tiranny [sic] of another.

That’s like arguing the NFL draft is a tyranny because it prevents Joe Sixpack from playing on Sunday. What makes this even more amusing is that Savain then congratulates DaveScot for censoring a comment because UD is “not a public forum”!

Now Afarensis has stumbled across Savain’s latest prediction of the fall of Darwinism:

Assuming that the ID hypothesis is correct, one can argue that, since humans are the dominant species on earth, the designers must have had a special interest in us when they began their project. My hypothesis is that they are conducting an experiment, the purpose of which is to distinguish between believers and deniers. Given their vast intellect, it is certain that they anticipated the current conflict. If so, it is highly likely that they would have left us a secret message, a message so powerful that its mere publication would cause the collapse of the materialist fortress.

Anyone who has browsed Savain’s website will not be surprised to see that the secret message is left in no other scientific source than the Book of Revelation. Yes, that Book of Revelation. The one with the Seven-headed Beast and the Whore of Babylon. And horsemen.

This secret message will have a practical use – it will bring the demise of Darwinism. Savain continues:

My goal is to use my understanding of the metaphorical texts to design and build a true artificial intelligence. The Christian AI! It is only a matter of time. When that happens, the Darwinian walls will come crumbling down like the old walls of Jericho. Sweet revenge.

At this point you should be hearing the laughter in your head. Savain probably is.

[image source] [HT to Afarensis]

Epic Takedown of Pivar

August 24, 2007 54 comments

Many readers will by now have encountered the (frankly) frivolous law suit filed – for $15 million for Jeez sake- by Stuart Pivar against PZ Myers for negatively reviewing Pivar’s book Lifecode. Peter Irons – retired law professor at UCSD – has shared the following letter he has sent to Pivar:

Dear Mr. Pivar:

I don’t know if this is a current email address for you; I obtained it from the Internet by accessing some of your 2004 correspondence regarding the NYAA affair.

First, let me introduce myself. I am a lawyer (a graduate of Harvard Law School) and am admitted to practice before several state and federal courts, including the United States Supreme Court. I also was on the faculty of Boston College Law School and the University of California, San Diego, where I taught constitutional law from 1982 until my retirement in 2004. My legal specialty is First Amendment law, including the law of defamation, about which I have written in several books and law review articles. I mention this background, quite frankly, to impress you with my credentials in this field, which are substantially greater than those of Michael J. Little.

I might also add that I was a close friend of Stephen Jay Gould, from our college days in the 1950s until his death in 2002. Steve and I were neighbors in Cambridge for many years, and talked extensively about his work in evolutionary biology and paleontology. As an aside, if Steve were still alive, I think he would have a viable defamation action against you for your false statements about his views, but that’s a moot point.

Read more…

Frank Miele, Uncommon Descent and Eugenics

August 13, 2007 3 comments

One of the reasons that I canceled my subscription to Skeptic was that it was giving a mouthpiece to Frank Miele and his odious defences of Arthur Jensen and putative links between race, intelligence and IQ. Miele as an undergraduate contributed to the racist journal Mankind Quarterly, has collaborated with eugenicist Richard Lynn, and has received funding from the eugenicist Pioneer Fund. Which makes the following all the more ludicrous.

Read more…

The Dumbeth apparently sticks together

July 6, 2007 15 comments

In the past, ID supporters have not only attacked evolution, but also the link between AIDS and HIV (witness Phil Johnson, Tom Bethell, and Jonathan Wells) and anthropogenic global warming (witness the expectorations of Dave Springer – a.k.a. DaveScott – over at Uncommon Descent). Now, it appears that perpetual motion (and the apparently DOA Steorn Orbo project) "is perhaps the best physical evidence I have ever seen against the absurd assumptions of materialism." Perhaps we now need to teach the controversy within physics?

The money quote:

These clever Irish researchers have demonstrated that the principles of thermodynamics function in a manner far closer to the predictions of William Dembski and William Brookfield than the clearly flawed thermodynamic claims of Hawkings and Maxwell.

You remember Brookfield, don’t you? Orac has more.

Cockburn’s Crankdom

June 1, 2007 Comments off

Over at Denialism, Mark neatly outlines Alexander Cockburn’s descent into crankdom regarding global warming, a descent that neatly illustrates the clarity of Mark’s crank HOWTO (which predates his exposure to Cockburn’s droolings – I know as it was I who tipped him onto them).

Update (6/2): Tim @ Deltoid catches Cockburn in the quote mine.


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