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23 April 2010

James Randi, Psychics and Homeopoathy

After some rights issues (as mentioned on the James Randi Education Foundation web site), TED have finally released a video, filmed last year, of James Randi's take down of phychic fraud and homeopathy.

For those of you who know Randi... it's all been said before - but he does it so well - with so much passion, and such fun:

Thanks Randi!

19 April 2010

Homeopathy wins!

I had to share this one...

I love the fact that one of the oldest Double-Blind Randomised Controlled Tests ever recorded was performed on homeopathy... but I won't take the credit for the research... let Joseph Albietz tell you all about it.

Oh, it failed the test by the way... but it won in another way. Homeopathy is possibly the first theory to ever be disproved by the implementation of the Double-Blind Randomised Controlled Test.

15 April 2010

Irreducible Complexity

For those of my friends (a couple at least) who believe that the Intelligent Design proponents might "have a point" - I would like to take a moment to post this piece... it's from The SGU 5x5 (The Skeptics Guide To The Universe, 5 by 5).

I found it one of the best, succinct, refutations of the "Irreducible Complexity" argument that is often put forward by people who support the idea of Intelligent Design.

On the same subject, essentially - I also found this, shorter, piece on Teleology (the generic argument behind Intelligent Design), its history and the reasons for being skeptical of its implementation.

Basically, it efficiently outlines the argument against the idea behind Intelligent Design.

Nice work from the SGU team.

So, "what's the harm?" you might ask

I really quite like this...

I found an interesting web site, today - dedicated to answering the question: "What's The Harm?"

It's a soft argument, often used by people of, what I would call, a non-skeptical nature... to refute the general argument that any false claim (by proponents of drugs that don't work or procedures that do little good) should be tracked down and advertised as non-scientific and unproven.

"What's the harm?" they say. By this, presumably, they mean "if it doesn't do any harm, then there's no problem with allowing people to keep believing it works, whether it does or not".

Now, besides the fact that I would disagree with this basic argument, on principal (more about that some other time, maybe)... even accepting the argument as a valid moral position - the truth of the matter is that many ineffective drugs, non-scientific procedures and false claims do do harm. I have heard many such examples over the years, usually while watching interesting talks from well known skeptics such as James Randi and Simon Singh (who won his libel case today - yay!).

The problem is, I always forget the details, and can't draw them up from my memory banks in a convincing enough way, when presented with the need to do so in argument...

And here's the answer: a web site devoted to recording, documenting and measuring the harm done by fallacious claims and bad (or non-existent) science.

What's The Harm

So bookmark it... and the next time someone says to you "but what's the harm" pull out your smartphone (no product bias here, thanks), load up this page - follow the link to the topic of the hour, and read out a few examples...

If the person you're talking with doesn't become violent with rage over what a smartypants you are, you might just have managed to make a well deserved point...

Have a quick browse through some of the topics covered. I found it quite interesting to see how much detail, and how many examples they've managed to collect.

Simon Singh wins libel case

The British Chiropractic Association, today, dropped its libel case against Simon Singh, the science writer.

In what must be a great relief to many active and outspoken skeptics, across the UK, and around the world - the court of appeal in the UK overturned the previous judgment, that Singh's piece was "not comment"... that he would need to prove the objective truth of what he wrote.

Interestingly, the previous judgment basically said "you need to prove that Chiropractic doesn't work, or we can sue you for saying it"... which of course would lead to all sorts of possible libel cases regarding people speaking our against unproven claims.

Imagine if pharmaceutical companies could say "'this product cures cancer' - and we can claim it does, on the bottle AND you can't print a word saying it doesn't, until you can prove that it doesn't". The onus of proof would then be on the consumer, or the skeptic, to prove the non-efficacy of a product before anyone would be allowed to say it didn't work.

Anyway, the point is, the decision was overturned - and the BCA have dropped their case.

As Rebecca Watson from Skepchick points out, though, Simon Singh may have a hell of time recouping his costs - and he may still have made some significant financial sacrifices in order to see this case through, and not simply settle "out of court".

More links on the story:
Telegraph UK
Times Online

[Ed: Latest update. This from "The Millenium Project" - Simon Singh again]

Sarah Mahew - grab on to what is true

I was quite excited (and, kind of touched) by this video:

But, I am confused as to what "Nokia Responsiveness" is.

I'm happy to see the inclusion of this story here - but what exactly is the point of Nokia Responsiveness and its attempt at civic "conversation starting"? Can anyone enlighten me?

But - actually, just replay the video... and listen to that inspiring question at the end... "do we have the courage to let go of our beliefs in order to grab on to what is true?"