Category Archives: skepticism

Studies in Mediumship

philosophy, skepticism Leave a reply

As someone who spends a fair amount of time reading philosophy, I find that I have pretty strong commitments to physicalism/materialism (i.e. the physical world is all that there is, and all non-physical things can be reduced to physical objects). I’m also extremely confident that any forces that can affect objects over long distances have already been discovered (i.e. gravity, and electromagnetism), and as such whether psychic powers (of any kind) exist is an answered question: psychic powers are not a thing. Neither is speaking with the dead. Given my stance on physicalism, the concept of a consciousness surviving the death of the brain is just not at all viable.

That said, I’m open to being proven wrong. Not hugely open: anyone attempting to demonstrate the existence of psychic powers, or mediumship, are effectively claiming that all studies to date that have found only four physical forces are in error, and that there is an additional force/energy/whatever that the lump of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen known as the human brain can access (but only some of them), but other lumps of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen cannot. In terms of proportioning the evidence to the claim, this particular claim is going to require quite the mountain of evidence.

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Langara College and the Bullshit it Peddles

culture, Education, ethics, philosophy, science, skepticism 2 Replies

When I first came to Vancouver from Ireland, I found out about the student loan program that was available in Canada and discovered that I could actually afford to go to University. I’d just missed the enrollment deadline for the University of British Columbia, but a helpful advisor there suggested a number of avenues I could take. One of which was Langara College.

My two-ish years there were well-spent, studying a variety of topics, learning how much I sucked at mathematics, how much I hated chemistry, and how interesting I found philosophy. Twas a good period, and I believe that the academic faculty there, in most all disciplines, are great teachers.

But then there’s the “Health and Human Services” bullshit that it peddles…

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Anti-Fluoridation is Science Illiteracy

culture, health, politics, Science Denialism, skepticism 10 Replies

A few days ago, as part of a twitter conversation I was having with the basically anonymous @SafeWaterHfx, I was sent an article in support of their claims that fluoride shouldn’t be added to municipal tap water. The anti-fluoridation crowd make a lot of noise online (they’re not unlike the anti-wifi folk in that regard), but there doesn’t seem to be any evidence in support of their position. Moreover, all the evidence seems to say that adding fluoride to municipal drinking water is a win in every possible way: it has a large positive effect on the population, it’s cheap, and it’s effective.

The argument that SafeWaterHalifax is putting forward (and you have to read between the lines as they’re either unwilling or unable to make an explicit direct statement) is that the levels of fluoridation in the municipal water in the US and Canada is harmful. Sure, they might prefer to couch that as “could be harmful”, but that’s just hedging. Given that they are arguing for it to be removed, you can’t make that argument on the basis that something “could be” harmful, without some sort of belief that it actually is.

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Anti-GMO == Climate Change Denialism

culture, health, science, skepticism Leave a reply

I generally don’t like to reblog things, but this piece should be spread far and wide.

It should be a deep embarrassment to progressives, but the truth is that anti-GM activists are as guilty of anti-scientific thinking with regard to their pet subject as the Koch Brothers or the American Enterprise Institute are on global warming.

While there are a tiny number of scientists that question anthropogenic global warming, the overwhelming consensus is that human activity is responsible for the sharp increase in atmospheric CO2 over the past two centuries. Equally, while Gilles-Eric Seralini may be a professor of molecular biology at the University of Caen, the overwhelming scientific consensus is that there is no risk to human health or the environment from GM as a suite of techniques. Pointing at Seralini’s work and shouting “Look! Science-y!” ain’t enough.

This 2013 statement from the AAAS on the subject really does give a sense of how anti-GM is as fringe as climate denialism:

“The science is quite clear: crop improvement by the modern molecular techniques of biotechnology is safe. The World Health Organization, the American Medical Association, the U.S. National Academy of Sciences, the British Royal Society, and every other respected organization that has examined the evidence has come to the same conclusion: consuming foods containing ingredients derived from GM crops is no riskier than consuming the same foods containing ingredients from crop plants modified by conventional plant improvement techniques.”

Astrology Now!

Astrology, Education, ethics, science, skepticism 6 Replies

I’m a big fan of science education, and those institutions whose reason for being is the furthering of knowledge, and the encouraging of the young to follow math-based ambitions. That stuff is hard, and requires a whole heap of enthusiasm and motivation in order to slog through.

Conversely, it’s somewhat shocking when I find a space center, a place that claims its goals are “to educate, inspire and evoke a sense of wonder about the Universe, our planet and space exploration” working to do exactly the opposite. Continue reading

A Secret Confession

Atheism, philosophy, religion, skepticism 2 Replies

I have a secret to confess. This isn’t the kind of thing that’s likely to be popular with atheists (or skeptics in general), but I have to get it off my chest: I think Ken Ham is amazing. I think that he’s the best thing to happen to religious-secular dialog ever. Before you shut the browser tab/window, please hear me out…

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Astrology, Bullshit Raised to an Art-Form

philosophy, skepticism 14 Replies

Generally speaking, I stay away from the main Skeptic topics. Mostly because they are so obviously wrong, and also because the topic is well-addressed by people who don’t have an additional interest in economics and social reform (the main topics I address on this blog).

But scammer-extraordinaire Matthew Currie has decided to loudly object to the James Randi Foundation (of which I am not a huge fan, for unrelated reasons) calling Astrology nonsense. And his open letter is just chock full of bullshit, it’s painful to read.

In this port, I will be responding to two of his articles: Eight Things Skeptics of Astrology Don’t Get and http://www.beliefnet.com/columnists/ohmystars/2013/12/dear-skeptic-part-two-please-curb-your-dogma.html. This post has more expletives than usual.

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Your Food Is Killing You!!!

health, science, skepticism Leave a reply

Sometimes terrible things (for a certain value of ‘terrible’) make their way onto your Facebook feed, and sometimes it’s important to dissect them, to display their entirely non-functional innards to the world. To proclaim “Really? I mean, really? You believed this?”

In a transparent attempt to latch on to the general list-mania that Buzzfeed and others use to drive traffic, the Oracletalk website has posted 10 Foods Sold in the U.S. That Are Banned Elsewhere. I really don’t have enough info to judge the rest of their website, but this is quite the indictment.

Oh, and interesting point of fact: the links are *really* hard to see on the page (really? You have black-ink links on a black-ink page? You seriously have to be *trying* to hide your links…), and this whole thing has been stolen from MSN. So yes, MSN also sucks giant donkey turds for publishing this crap.

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Evidence For ‘Religion Causes People to do Evil’

Atheism, culture, philosophy, religion, skepticism 4 Replies

I’ve been thinking about religion being the cause of people doing evil a little more recently, and I’ve been trying to think of what would make a more compelling argument. Don’t get me wrong, I’m extremely anti-religion, but I’m also anti-crappy-argument. (Although some people I’ve discussed this with online have taken my latter stance to mean that I’m actually a religious moderate. Words fail me. Them too, I guess)

Data would make “religion causes people to do evil things” a lot stronger, rather than the typical post-hoc religious arguments that people make. So here’s a sociological observation that would bear that out.

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What Zombie Movies Can Tell Us About Racism

culture, freethought community, skepticism Leave a reply

A good buddy of mine, Ian Cromwell, has uploaded he did a talk a while back on racism in society, and how Zombie-ism (and zombie movies) can help us understand how we should deal with the problem as it occurs in the wild.

It’s broken down over a couple of youtubes, and can be found here, at Ian’s blog. It’s well-worth taking a look at, Ian has some smart things to say.