Homeopathy? Let me count the zeros…

Homeopathy is ridiculous in concept and in practice. It not only goes against what we know about chemistry and physics regarding water and molecules but also of the medicinal value of certain substances. Ironically, the substances are not even IN the product.

Here is a great example. Did you know that the product “Oscillococcinum” is homeopathic but its basis is duck organs? Continue reading

Mexican demon? Divination by pencil? Or just a slight breeze?

This weekend we saw the explosion of the Charlie Charlie Challenge game on social media that seemed to freak kids out. Well, it’s not new, it’s not impressive, and it’s not even as good as an old fashioned Ouija board. It’s more than a bit silly. Learn the simple physics behind the trick. Continue reading

Bad thinking traps

Our brains are designed to find us food, safety and mates. We have adapted our brain processes to deal with all the claims and questions of our modern world. We often mess up. Learning and applying critical thinking takes practice and understanding.

Martin Bridgstock does a fine job of explaining skeptical concepts and applications in his book “Beyond Belief”. In it, he describes three typical traps that we humans fall into that gum up our thinking [Bridgstock, p 48-49]:

  • Make incorrect conclusion or explanation when data is insufficient to support it,
  • Seek and find patterns and meaning where there actually are none,
  • Feel that there must be “something more” than what we see or to our purpose.

Continue reading

Financial market in need of some practical skepticism

Did people with dollar signs in their eyes jump on an obviously fake bid for Avon? Or is the story that what was thought to be a secure way of gaining information has been manipulated?

The world of finance is greatly in need of some Practical Skepticism. Experts say this bid to take over Avon was so obviously bogus that it was designed to fool computers, not people. That is, if the people looked at it just a bit carefully.

Source: SEC database hoax sent Avon stock soring | Doubtful News


Advice to kids interested in Bigfoot

Mixed feeling have I about this story of an 11-year old cryptozoologist. I was a Bigfoot fan at that age too. Still am.

Have you seen Bigfoot? Call this boy!

Meet Cal Marks, of Wellsburg, Bigfoot researcher and aspiring cryptozoologist. His mom calls this amiable 11-year-old “Calisquatch,” a play off his name and interests.

“Some kids think I am crazy because I believe in Bigfoot. They are trying to tell me that Bigfoot is not real,” said the Broadway Elementary School fifth-grader. “I tell them, well, with all the sightings, photographs and videos for evidence, how can they all be hoaxes?”

He’s going to attend the Ohio Bigfoot Conference and Ohio Bigfoot Festival which likely has no skeptical speakers in sight. So, I sent him an email with some advice:

Continue reading

We waste effort in outrage over GMOs

Practical skepticism means applying critical thinking, not just adopting political stances or expressing outrage without merit. Opposition to GMO (genetically modified organisms) is an excellent example of massive inefficiency caused by scientific illiteracy and misinformation. Here is a piece by Dr. Steven Novella:

I sometimes think of scientific skepticism as a method of waste reduction and improved efficiency. As an individual, a family, a society, a government, and indeed a civilization, we are best served if our time and energy were spent in an efficient manner pursuing appropriate goals. It pains me, for example, to think of researchers who spend an entire career pursuing a fiction. When you think about how much time and money is wasted because of ideology, stubbornness, or simple ignorance it can be depressing.

Part of the problem is that the choices we face are increasingly complex, and we really don’t have the infrastructure necessary to collectively make good decisions. Politics is overwhelmed with ideology and perverse incentives, people are overwhelmed with misinformation and advertising, the public is largely scientific illiterate, the media generally does not do a good job of informing the public, and the default mode is to make decisions for emotional and ideological rather than rational reasons.

There are many examples just from the pages of this blog – billions wasted on useless supplements, disease outbreaks caused by antivaxxers, companies dedicated to producing free-energy devices, and ideological opposition to anything “unnatural,” to name just a few. The latter is interesting because it demonstrates how passionate people who mean well can be easily diverted by sloppy thinking.

Read more: NeuroLogica Blog » Missing the Point and Wasting Resources

Testing the Vortex Dome

Applying practical skepticism to “ghost” detecting devices. They are not meant to be used to declare something “paranormal”.

Anomalies Research Society

By Kenny Biddle

I’ve seen this device, among many others, mentioned on several ghost hunting sites over the last year. In 2014, I had the opportunity to observe the Vortex Dome in person during a paranormal-themed event at a historic New Jersey library. After experiencing a demonstration by a ghost hunting team – which included the LEDs flashing at random times (many times in response to the movements of people sitting at the table), I began to question the device’s functions and claimed ability to detect paranormal activity, which was promoted by the team. The discussion did not go well, with the team offering guesses instead of solid answers and even making up information on the spot to save face. It was evident that this team had no idea what the device really did, or how it did it (which is a common issue throughout the paranormal community).

VD1After departing…

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