Monday, October 31, 2005

SkepticWiki - the Encyclopedia of Science and Critical Thinking

The Skepticwiki is available!

Subject Index:
Aliens and UFOs
Alternative and Complementary Medicine
Book Reviews
Frauds and Scams
History and Pseudohistory
Illusions and Delusions
Logic and Logical Fallacies
New Age
Psychic Phenomena and the Paranormal
Racism Myths
Religion and Philosophy
Science and Pseudoscience
Jargon and Slang

I often turn to Wikipedia if I want to start learn something new or get an overview of a matter. But this article got me wondering how good it is to use as a reference source. Any non-expert can make a contribution, so I wouldn't rely on it as the only resource for important work. Wikipedia could still be my first, but not the last.

Sunday, October 30, 2005

The Cajun Cowboy has spent $200,000.00 on alternative therapies

I went to his webpage some while ago and read his story.

Mr. Buttar is treating him with Chelation Therapy, Ozone Therapy and other alternative therapies trying to boost his immune system.

Fact is that his cancer has not been affected by the treatment.

However, he had very little to show for his money (with his own words) he is continuing the treatment.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Alien abductees prone to false memories

It is a widespread story that alien beings have traveled to Earth from some other planet and are doing reproductive experiments on a chosen few. If you believe in this nonsense, then you probably have been hit by "false memories".

The term confabulation is often used to describe the "memories" of people claiming to have been abducted by aliens. Proposed explanations of the abduction phenomenon can be found here.

Here's a great article that appeared in Yahoo. The article explain that we're dealing with false memories rather than evidence of life in other planets:

LONDON (Reuters) - Do you have memories of being abducted by aliens and whisked away in a spaceship?You wouldn't be alone. Several thousand people worldwide claim to have had such close encounters, researchers say. But in a new study, a psychology expert at London's Goldsmiths College says these experiences are proof of the frailty of the human memory, rather than evidence of life in other galaxies.

"Maybe what we're dealing with here is false memories, and not that people are actually being abducted and taken aboard spaceships," says Professor Chris French, who surveyed 19 self-proclaimed alien abductees.

Several of the abductees reported being snatched from their beds or cars by alien creatures around four feet high, with spindly arms and legs and oversized heads, French said.

Some men said they were subjected to painful medical examinations by the aliens, during which their sperm was extracted.

Many of the alien experiences could be explained by sleep paralysis, a condition in which a person is awake and aware of the surroundings but is unable to move.

Sleep paralysis often leads to hallucinations and 40 percent of people experience the state at least once in their lives, French said.

A rich imagination was also at play. Several of the alien abductees were already prone to fantasising and also claimed to have seen ghosts and have psychic or healing abilities.

"People have very rich fantasy lives," said French, who is due to present his findings at a public seminar at London's Science Museum on Wednesday.

"So much so that they often mix up what's happening in their heads with what is going on in the real world."
I'd like to hear what fellow skeptics are thinking about recovered memory these days.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Cool stuff, go check it out

Check out our Frappr! I found this cool stuff via Pharyngula. It's a place where you can create a map, share photos and get others to add themselves and make comments. It's easy and fun and if you want to join, click over to the AntiQuackery Map and feel free to add yourself to the members list and say hello.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Behe's testimony in The Dover Trial

Mike Argento offers some further information about Behe's testimony in his excellent article Behe's 15th-century science on Wednesday, October 19, 2005.

< blockquote >

HARRISBURG — Dr. Michael Behe, leading intellectual light of the intelligent design movement, faced a dilemma.

In order to call intelligent design a "scientific theory," he had to change the definition of the term. It seemed the definition offered by the National Academy of Science, the largest and most prestigious organization of scientists in the Western world, was inadequate to contain the scope and splendor and just plain gee-willigerness of intelligent design.

So he devised his own definition of theory, expanding upon the definition of those stuck-in-the-21st-century scientists, those scientists who ridicule him and call his "theory" creationism in a cheap suit.

He'd show them. He'd come up with his own definition.

Details aside, his definition was broader and more inclusive of ideas that are "outside the box".

So, as we learned Tuesday, during Day 11 of the Dover Panda Trial, under his definition of a scientific theory, astrology would be a scientific theory.


Who knew that Jacqueline Bigar, syndicated astrology columnist, was on par with Lehigh University biochemist Michael Behe?

Eric Rothschild, attorney for the plaintiffs, asked Behe about whether astrology was science. And Behe, after hemming and hawing and launching into an abbreviated history of astrology and science, said, under his definition, it is. He said he wasn't a science historian, but the definition of astrology in the dictionary referred to its 15th-century roots, when it was equated with astronomy, which, according to the National Academy of Science, is a science.

So, taking a short logical leap, something Behe would certainly endorse since he does it a lot himself, you could say that intelligent design is on par with 15th century science.

Sounds about right.

Actually, that's not quite fair. It shortchanges astrology. For example, my personal horoscope for Tuesday, formulated by the aforementioned famous scientist Bigar, said, "Confusion could be your middle name, but many other people feel confused too".

Nailed it.

Most of the confusion — and it just wasn't me — was brought on by Behe's second day on the witness stand. He talked about blood clotting — it's pretty complicated — and some guy named Dr. Doolittle and some other stuff dealing with Cytochrome c and gene duplication and exon transfer.

I don't think he was referring to the Dr. Doolittle who spoke to the animals. Or maybe he was. It's not exactly clear. As he referred to one of Dr. Doolittle's claims — and I'm pretty positive it had nothing to do with the Push-Me-Pull-You — he said, "If you think about it for a minute, it's easy to see what's going on here".

And then, in case you had no idea what he was talking about, he explained in terms that made it even more impenetrable.

After a while, he set into a pattern.

He'd say critics of his idea always misunderstand him, take things out of context and misrepresent what he means.

And then, to respond to them, he misunderstood what they said, took their words out of context and misrepresented what they said.

He would point to studies that seemed to support the evolutionary view of how things developed — articles written by scientists who accept the theory of evolution and who, consequently, don't think much of Behe — and say they support his views.

He'd expound at great length and then, as he would wind down, he'd say, "Now, here's the point ...".

And whatever his point was would be wrapped in so much verbiage you needed a backhoe to get to it.

By the time you kind of grasped what he was saying — I think, essentially, that Dr. Doolittle didn't know anything about talking to animals — he was off talking about what a wingnut Francis Crick turned out to be. Crick was one of two scientists who discovered the double-helix structure of DNA, winning a Nobel Prize. Later, Crick came up with a notion about how life started on this planet called "Directed Panspermia." His idea was that aliens reduced life to its smallest components, or something like that, and shot them to Earth via rocket ship.

I guess the point is being a scientist and a wingnut are not mutually exclusive.

As the cross-examination continued, another pattern developed. Rothschild would show Behe, on a big screen in the courtroom, a quote from "Of Pandas and People" and ask him a simple question about it.

The quote said, "Intelligent design means that various forms of life began abruptly through an intelligent agency, with their distinctive features already intact — fish with fins and scales, birds with feather, beaks and wings, etc.".

Rothschild asked him whether he believed that statement said intelligent design meant life began abruptly on this planet.

It apparently was a trick question because Behe had a hard time answering it.

"I disagree," the scientist said.

And then, he explained what he thought the quotation meant, which wasn't what it said.

This went on for a while. Every time Rothschild would ask Behe about a statement, some he wrote himself, he'd say he'd have to disagree that it said what it said.

I expected Rothschild to ask Behe whether he was able to read and understand the English language.

At one point during Rothschild's cross-examination, the lawyer asked the scientist whether he was co-authoring a book, a follow-up to "Of Pandas and People," with several other intelligent esign moolahs. He said he wasn't.

The lawyer showed him depositions and reports to the court, quoting two of the other authors as saying he was a co-author.

Behe said that he wasn't a co-author of the book but that the statements by those guys weren't false. He said one of the authors was "seeing into the future."

Rothschild asked, "Is seeing into the future one of the powers of the intelligent-design movement"?

Behe didn't answer.

He didn't have to.

Seeing into the future is the province of that other science — you know, astrology. < /blockquote >

Friday, October 21, 2005

Astrology is scientific theory, courtroom told

Astrology is scientific theory, courtroom told

13:30 19 October 2005 news service

Astrology would be considered a scientific theory if judged by the same criteria used by a well-known advocate of Intelligent Design to justify his claim that ID is science, a landmark US trial heard on Tuesday.

Under cross examination, ID proponent Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, admitted his definition of "theory" was so broad it would also include astrology.

The trial is pitting 11 parents from the small town of Dover, Pennsylvania, against their local school board. The board voted to read a statement during a biology class that casts doubt on Darwinian evolution and suggests ID as an alternative.

The parents claim this was an attempt to introduce creationism into the curriculum and that the school board members were motivated by their evangelical Christian beliefs. It is illegal to teach anything with a primarily religious purpose or effect on pupils in government-funded US schools.

Supporters of ID believe that some things in nature are simply too complex to have evolved by natural selection, and therefore must be the work of an intelligent designer.

Peer review
Behe was called to the stand on Monday by the defence, and testified that ID was a scientific theory, and was not "committed" to religion. His cross examination by the plaintiffs’ attorney, Eric Rothschild of the Philadelphia law firm Pepper Hamilton, began on Tuesday afternoon.

Rothschild told the court that the US National Academy of Sciences supplies a definition for what constitutes a scientific theory: “Theory: In science, a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world that can incorporate facts, laws, inferences, and tested hypotheses.”

Because ID has been rejected by virtually every scientist and science organisation, and has never once passed the muster of a peer-reviewed journal paper, Behe admitted that the controversial theory would not be included in the NAS definition. "I can’t point to an external community that would agree that this was well substantiated," he said.

Behe said he had come up with his own "broader" definition of a theory, claiming that this more accurately describes the way theories are actually used by scientists. "The word is used a lot more loosely than the NAS defined it," he says.

Hypothesis or theory?
Rothschild suggested that Behe’s definition was so loose that astrology would come under this definition as well. He also pointed out that Behe’s definition of theory was almost identical to the NAS’s definition of a hypothesis. Behe agreed with both assertions.

The exchange prompted laughter from the court, which was packed with local members of the public and the school board.

Behe maintains that ID is science: “Under my definition, scientific theory is a proposed explanation which points to physical data and logical inferences.”

"You've got to admire the guy. It’s Daniel in the lion’s den," says Robert Slade, a local retiree who has been attending the trial because he is interested in science. "But I can’t believe he teaches a college biology class."

The cross examination will continue Wednesday, with the trial expected to finish on 4 November.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Key Facts About Avian Influenza (Bird Flu) and Avian Influenza A (H5N1) Virus

The disease has spread to birds in Europe, where it's been confirmed in Turkey and Romania in recent weeks, as well as in Russia. We could expect human cases of H5N1 flu in Europe, so the threat has to be taken seriously.

Bird flu is an infection caused by avian (bird) influenza (flu) viruses. These flu viruses occur naturally among wild birds and they usually do not get sick from them. However, bird flu is very contagious among birds and can make some domesticated birds, including chickens, ducks, and turkeys, very sick and kill them.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provides background information about avian influenza, including recent outbreaks, the viruses, and the risk to human health here.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Kevin Trudeau's shady past

Take a look at Kevin Trudeau's past by searching The Smoking Gun archive, read the psychiatric report and a letter written by his mother.

Also read:

Kevin Trudeau in

Kevin Trudeau's book is still on Best-Seller lists

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Psychic seeks $32m Saddam reward

I wonder why somebody believes the United States went to a Brazilian psychic for help finding Saddam?

And what if the the plaintiff was suing, say, Iraq or Liberia?

Would the court have taken this claim seriously?, From correspondents in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - October 07, 2005:

A BRAZILIAN court will consider a psychic's claim that the US Government owes him a $US25 million ($32 million) reward for information he says he provided on the hiding place of ousted Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Brazil's second-highest court, the Superior Court of Justice, decided today the Brazilian justice system could rule on the matter and told a court in the psychic's home state of Minas Gerais to judge the case.
The lower court had earlier told Jucelino Nobrega da Luz it could not take up his claim and it would have to be judged in the US, but the higher tribunal ruled otherwise.

"The Minas Gerais court will work with the claim," a spokesman for the Superior Court of Justice said.

"Jucelino da Luz alleges that the US armed forces only found Saddam based on his letters that provided his exact location, the very hole where he was hiding in Iraq. So he filed a court case to claim the reward."

The US Government offered the reward for Saddam in July 2003 after the US-led forces occupied the country. He was captured in December of the same year.

The court said Mr da Luz sent letters to the US Government from September 2001, describing Saddam's future hiding place – a tiny cellar at a farmhouse near Tikrit. He never received a reply.

"His lawyers attest that the author has an uncommon gift of having visions of things that will come to pass. ... Via dreams, he sees situations, facts that will happen in the future," a court statement said.

In case the court upholds the claim, it will be sent via diplomatic channels to the US State Department.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Evolutionary theory is holding up day after day to scientific tests

Evolutionary theory is more complete than any other commonly accepted theory. Nevertheless we spend a lot of time to teach students about gaps and problems in Darwin's Theory, but no time about the problems with atomic or gravitational theory. We keep teaching students about electrons because we don't completely understand the nature of quarks.

Evolution is a way of understanding the world that hold up day after day to scientific tests. Problems exist in Darwinism, and some details are sure to be refined over time - but it's not failings of the theory of evolution, only small and technical gaps.

Proponents of ID use these gaps as an excuse to propose ID as an alternative theory to Darwinism. ID supporters want to avoid the scientific review process by political action in a court case. Why can’t they go through the same processes as scientists do to get their ideas heard? Does ID have an excuse from the process of peer-reviewed study? Proponents of ID must demonstrate how hypotheses can be tested by experiment or observation. Getting a scientific theory of any kind accepted takes time. The problem is that ID isn't a theory - ID isn't falsifiable and therefore only a hypothesis. In addition, it bothers me why nobody discusses gaps and problems in ID.

ID isn't Science.

ID is a masked effort to replace science with theology.

See who links to your web site.