It was fall of 2003. I had just moved to Vermont, and didn't quite feel at home yet. Not that I've ever really felt at home anywhere. Did you ever have the feeling that you were just a little bit different? That you saw things that others didn't see (and perhaps missed things they did see)? Well, that's how I've felt much of the time.
It was my good fortune to come across Skeptic magazine in the bookstore at Georgetown University, and a new issue arrived in my shiny new mailbox about a month after I moved to Vermont. I read it eagerly, and saw an ad therein for a convention in Las Vegas featuring James Randi and Penn & Teller.
It was called The Amaz!ng Meeting 2, and I decided to go. And nothing's been the same since.
If you read Swift, chances are you're skeptical about something. Maybe you think all psychics are frauds, or Jenny McCarthy is a massive health threat, or homeopathy is killing people who should be taking real medicine, or the 911 Truthers are full of it. I'm sure there's some form of bad thinking out there that sticks in your craw. And maybe, like me and many, many other folks, you've had enough.
Knowing that stuff, reading about it, is a whole lot different than getting off your keister and doing something about it. If you've got the itch, the need, the desire, the passion to get up and do something about all the nonsense facing the world, what can you do? What's the next step?
Everyone seems to think that their particular community is the world headquarters of woo, since we all seem to be bombarded by it all day every day. Well, I'll put my own community, Orange County, California, up against any other to vie for such honors.
One of these little faux magazines - really just advertising rags - that we get is called the OC Gazette. Nearly every article is a self-promotion from some purveyor of woo. One that caught my eye was unique in that virtually every sentence is an untrue, yet popularly believed, claim. It's the "Healthy Cooking" column, written by a self-described "Master Health Chef", whose name I will omit. Just the slug alone was worth the price of admission:
Did you know? Most cooking methods rob food of more than half its nutrients, add unhealthy fats, and taint it with harmful metals and chemicals.
Oh no! My favorite mischievous monkey, Curious George, has been co-opted to brainwash children with pseudoscience. Is nothing sacred? See
http://everydayskeptics.com/pseudoscience-in-childrens-cartoons/ On the DVD, an innocent CG cartoon segment is followed by a “real life” segment where children visit a naturopath. He tells them oregano seems to be helpful for fighting germs, he shows them acupressure points and indicates the meridians where the “energy” flows, and offers the kids bandages with embedded magnets. He then talks about maintaining health with exercise and good diet – as if it were something naturopaths recommend that regular doctors don’t.
Naturopathy sounds so good – it’s “natural.” It claims to address the cause of illness rather than just treating the symptoms. But in reality it’s a mixture of real medicine and quackery.
Every year on April 1st, the JREF gives out the Pigasus awards; a dubious honor to people or organizations that have done their best in the past year to snuff out science and promote irrationality. Randi talks about the 2008 winners, who receive no plaques, trophies, or banners: just the knowledge that they're getting publicity... but probably not the kind they want.
[Note: We became aware after making this video that Pigasus winner Dr. Colin Ross has recently reactivated his Million Dollar Challenge claim. While the video is still technically correct, we thought it fair to add this.]