Archive for category Crackpotology

Interview about Scientology (audio)

I was interviewed last weekend on the topic of Scientology by the Strange Quarks podcast, hosted by Martin Robbins (the Guardian’s “Lay Scientist” columnist) and Michael Marshall (of the ten23 campaign and too many skeptic podcasts/groups to mention). The resulting episode is now available on the Guardian web site.

One commenter writes, “It’s very thorough and gives things from a UK perspective.” I can’t argue with that.

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First, fool yourself: the sincerity of the psychic

Derren Brown gave us some interesting skeptical TV viewing this week, investigating the Liverpool based “psychic medium” Joe Power in a Channel 4 documentary. Brown has previously covered the topic of contacting the dead in a special called “Messiah”, which I highly recommend.

Power seemed convinced of his ability to contact the dead, although he obviously sees what he does as a “career”, hoping to be as big a star as Derek Acorah or Colin Fry.

It seemed pretty clear to me that Power was using a combination of “cold reading” (drawing out information from the sitter and feeding it back) and “hot reading” (using information obtained in advance): techniques that Brown and Richard Wiseman explained during the programme. In the heated final exchange, Brown tried to get Power to admit to being a “fake” and asked him “How do you sleep at night?” Power responded with righteous indignation.

If a so-called medium is using non-paranormal means to create effects or paranormal powers, does that mean they are consciously faking? Maybe not. I’m going to argue that a lot of psychics fall into the space between “genuine” and “knowing fake”. Read the rest of this entry »

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British Chiropractic Association promote bogus treatments

Along with a lot of other bloggers, I want to repost this quote from an article by Simon Singh:

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.

Singh, along with Prof. Edzard Ernst, is the author of “Trick or Treatment? : The undeniable facts about alternative medicine”, an excellent and definitive guide to the topic. I trust him on the issue of the status of chiropractic far more than I’d trust a lot of other people, including the British Chiropractic Association, who are suing Singh for libel. This weekend the court made a misguided preliminary ruling that favoured the BCA, causing a chilling effect for those who want to call them out for promoting quack remedies.

Let’s get the word out, help Singh out (he’s a entertaining, informative and bold writer and his books explain fascinating science in an accessible way) and make this a foot-bullet for the BCA.

* by “bogus” I here mean “inauthentic; not genuine; lacking in credible evidence”, your honour.

Update: David Allen Green, AKA Jack of Kent, writes about the chilling effect of the case in the current New Scientist.

Update: A great round-up of reaction to the case from the God Knows What blog. Singh will announce his next steps at a meeting tomorrow (Monday 18th).

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Daily Mail campaigning both for and against vaccination

Via The Lay Scientist: Nauseating tabloid The Daily Mail publishes editions in both the UK and the Republic of Ireland. Like a lot of the UK press, it’s taking part in an irresponsible and anti-scientific campaign to deny people life-saving vaccines (the cervical cancer vaccine in this case), but the Irish edition is campaigning for the vaccine to be reintroduced. Unbelievable!

Humour site News Arse asks which women the Daily Mail wants to die, British or Irish?

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New Scientist: Religious books masquerading as science

Hooray for the mighty Wikileaks, preserving for us the New Scientist article “How to spot a hidden religious agenda” that the magazine itself has taken off its web site for legal reasons.

The piece is important and deserves a wider discussion. The “science” shelves of a high street bookshop put outright pseudo-science right alongside popularisations of genuine science. Read the rest of this entry »

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Calling out Clueless Celebrities

Madonna says she’s “working with scientists” to “neutralise radiation.” Juliette Stevenson says a baby’s immune system can’t handle three pathogens at once. David Baddiel raises alarm about “chemicals” in his blood. None of these people seem to have a clue what they’re on about, but what they say is accepted by a lot of the media and the public. Hence the Science for Celebrities campaign by the charity Sense About Science, including a PDF leaflet to print out and give to that celebrity you bump into in the bar. Guardian coverage here (warning, may contain traces of Gillian McKeith)

This post originally appeared on the Kewl Doodz’n’Chyx community blog

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9/11 Conspiracy Theories

In Skeptic magazine, Phil Molé gives a well-argued demolition of the arguments of the “911 Truth Movement”. Basically these are conspiracy theorists who blend defensible concerns about the War on Terror with daffy or contradictory speculations about the 9/11 attacks, inadvertently doing the Bush Administration and right-wing media a huge service in the process.

This post was originally made on the Kewl Doodz’n’Chyx community blog

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Christian Fundamentalists on Hurricane Katrina

Depressing, but worth noting. Just as there were evangelicals who thought the 9/11 attacks were sent by God, so there are now pastors thanking God for destroying the Gay Pride marches, the abortion clinics and the bare-breasted revellers in New Orleans.

“New Orleans was a city that had its doors wide open to the public celebration of sin”

“God may have used the hurricane to purge wickedness from the city”


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Deunant Books: Father Neil Horan

Sports fans will be familiar with the name of Neil Horan, who disrupted a Grand Prix race at Silverstone by running onto the track and dancing in front of the cars, apparently only realising afterward that he could have caused a massively fatal pile-up. This weekend he disrupted the final event of the Athens Olympics by grabbing the lead marathon runner and pushing him into the crowd. These stunts are meant to draw attention to Horan’s interpretations of Biblical prophecy, as revealed in his e-books. The publisher’s page for the books admits that the end-times events that Horan has predicted to happen by now have not come about. That’s not a flaw of the books, though. Oh no.

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