It was a wild week for weird news. Here is a rundown courtesy of Doubtful News.
Let's start with two photos that made people hit the "share" button and pass along though I don't know why. This one apparently shows a female figure behind the man. While the church thinks it's an angel, skeptics figure a ghost phone app or photoshop is at play.
Here is a recap of the stories that appeared last week at Science-Based Medicine, a multi-author skeptical blog that separates the science from the woo-woo in medicine.
Animal rights activism: Petitions aren’t science (David Gorski) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/animal-rights-activism-petitions-arent-science/ British Parliamentary EDM 263 calls for properly moderated public scientific debates about the human cost of misleading results from animal experiments. Dr. Gorski was puzzled to find his name included on the list of targeted UK scientists. The organization responsible, For Life on Earth, claims that animal research provides no knowledge or benefit. Their arguments are easily refuted, but a public debate is not the place to do that.
Food for Thought (Harriet Hall) http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/food-for-thought/ An outstanding free online course is being offered by 3 professors from McGill University’s Office for Science and Society. It covers facts and myths about food and nutrition and educates students about the scientific method and how to evaluate the published research with a critical eye. Over 20,000 people in 150 countries have already registered. Highly recommended.
JREF Senior Fellow, magician and scientific skeptic Jamy Ian Swiss, "The Honest Liar," presents JREF’s newest video series, aptly titled The Honest Liar. Follow Jamy as he uses critical thinking, skepticism, and a healthy dose of humor, along with his expertise in legerdemain, to explore the facts behind false claims.
In this installment of The Honest Liar, Jamy Ian Swiss recounts a tale of years gone by when he and his friend and skeptical colleague, psychologist Ray Hyman, appeared on radio along with a channeler, and the talking spirit of a 6th-century Irishman who spoke English and offered career advice to callers. HONEST!
Last week, on January 23rd, one Thom Nickels, identified as a “Philadelphia-based author/journalist,” contributed a piece on Huffington Post entitled “The Most Talented Psychic in Philadelphia.” Perhaps it should have been attributed to the most credulous “author/journalist” in Philadelphia.
Mr. Nickels is obviously a big fan of his proclaimed friend and the subject of his story, Arlene Ostapowicz. In the course of his breathless narrative, Mr. Nickels recounts that:
Ms. Ostapowicz “… has been a guest on many television and radio shows,” although the only specific show mentioned is one in which she was allegedly invited to appear on but declined.
“In the 1980s, [Ostapowicz] was in high demand with [Philadelphia] City Hall politicians and judges.”
I’m feeling self-absorbed today. I want to talk about how skepticism helps me, me, ME.
Don’t get ME wrong. I concede that not just I, but the whole of humankind stands to benefit from a skeptical approach. But sometimes my Inner Activist needs a rest. It is then that I pause to revel in the ways skepticism benefits my paltry life, mine alone, the rest of the world be damned. Here are four examples. I’m sure many of you have your own examples, which I hope you will share in Comments.
Example First: Skepticism saves me money.
I had a favorite brand of barbecue sauce. Whenever it chanced to set foot in my mouth, my taste buds greeted it by standing up and singing hymns. One day I picked up a considerably cheaper brand, just to compare. Sure enough, it proved not as good. But thanks to skepticism, I knew a thing or two about how easily we fool ourselves. I wondered, “How would James Randi test this?” I took out two spoons and poured a dollop in each. Good so far, except skepticism had also taught me the value of a blind test. How was I going to manage that on my own? Here serendipity intervened. I received a phone call. By the time the call ended, I couldn’t remember which spoon held which sauce. I sampled them both … and could taste no difference. My taste buds now stand and sing for Brand X, and my wallet joins in.