The Circle: Adam Van Langenberg on his High School Sceptic Society

It’s been six months since Adam Van Langenberg appeared on Australia’s Morning Panel Show “The Circle” talking about how he went about setting up a High School Sceptics Society!

If you missed it, here’s Adam:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e9_5E6YpIpA

Work like this, IMO is the best way towards progress; teaching kids HOW to think, not WHAT to think.

Be sure to check out @ScepticSchool on Twitter for updates, and get in contact with him (@vanAdamme) if you’re a teacher or in the Education System and you’re interested doing something similar!

Kudos!

Andrew Wakefield: Fraud – The Facts

Over on the “Stop the Australian Vaccination Network” (AVN) Facebook page, this got thrown up; a 15-page comic looking at the epic fraud by Andrew Wakefield, the money he gained from it, the money he stood to gain, and the implicit media and politicians who had their heads so far up their arses they literally had shit for brains.

Darryl Cunningham has put together a brilliantly illustrated book with an interesting use of real media in the comic that brings the comic down to earth – perhaps long enough for you to realize the sobering fact that children have died because of the personal greed of Andrew Wakefield and Richard Barr.

Perhaps long enough to realize that it didn’t just affect the children of the parents who were too scared to vaccinate because they believed the misinformation from Andrew Wakefield, Richard Barr, Jim Carrey, and Jenny McCarthey; it affects EVERYONE.

So, check out “The Facts in the Case of Dr. Andrew Wakefield“:

Darryl Cunningham Investigates

The final page really makes the same point as I, and others have been wanting for a long time:

Informed Journalism.

Battleground God: THE GAME

So while looking for resources for my latest project, SeekTheEvidence.org, I came across this little gem located in the depths of the Austhink Library of the “Miscellaneous and Fun section”: http://www.philosophersnet.com/games/god.php

Can your beliefs about religion make it across our intellectual battleground?

In this activity you’ll be asked a series of 17 questions about God and religion. In each case, apart from Question 1, you need to answer True or False. The aim of the activity is not to judge whether these answers are correct or not. Our battleground is that of rational consistency. This means to get across without taking any hits, you’ll need to answer in a way which is rationally consistent. What this means is you need to avoid choosing answers which contradict each other. If you answer in a way which is rationally consistent but which has strange or unpalatable implications, you’ll be forced to bite a bullet.

I found this to be a novel idea; and insightful! —

Congratulations!

You have been awarded the TPM medal of honour! This is our highest award for outstanding service on the intellectual battleground.

The fact that you progressed through this activity neither being hit nor biting a bullet suggests that your beliefs about God are internally consistent and very well thought out.

A direct hit would have occurred had you answered in a way that implied a logical contradiction. You would have bitten bullets had you responded in ways that required that you held views that most people would have found strange, incredible or unpalatable. However, you avoided both these fates – and in doing so qualify for our highest award. A fine achievement!

See how you go, and let me know how to go too!

QualiaSoup: Open-mindedness

A while back I came across QualiaSoup, a UK artist and secular humanist discussing critical thinking, science, philosophy & the natural world. Their YouTube channel has a number of well-produced videos and after having a friend recently share with me a video from QualiaSoup, I thought I would share one each week as a way to promote the videos.

This weeks’ video from QualiaSoup is about Open-mindedness, looking at some of the flawed thinking that prompts people who believe in certain non-scientific concepts to advise others who don’t to be more open-minded.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T69TOuqaqXI

I strongly recommend looking at the rest of the videos on the channel, or you watch the select few that I Post here. Check them out at QUALIASOUP.

Critical Thinking Dictionary for Kids

Noticed a recent, and on-going development of a “Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids“; a collection of words from Abracadabra to Zombies!

From the Website:

Like any dictionary, this skeptic’s dictionary gives the meanings of words. This dictionary not only tells you what words like ‘ghost’ mean, it tells you what scientists and skeptics think about ghosts.

You probably know what a scientist is, but you may not know what a skeptic is. Skeptics are people who ask questions. They inquire. They don’t believe something just because everybody else does. They investigate.

It was last updated within the last few weeks, so expect more to come!

[Update]: Kylie Sturgess interview with Robert Todd Carroll about the Skeptic’s Dictionary for Kids!

How to Win Arguments, As It Were

One of the projects I have been working on over the last couple of months is SeekTheEvidence at seektheevidence.org (strangely enough).

Its primary aim is to promote critical thinking in the public arena;  I want it to end up being a small-to-moderately sized repository for  “fun science” for the public; something that is intriguing, and informative.

For the most part, the information gathering process is a casual one – mostly through my browsing on the internetz. When it coming to interesting videos, articles, etc, however – SeekTheEvidence is supposed to be a COLLABORATIVE project.

With that, I invite anyone who has any material, or would like to make any material to simply contact me here. Posters, Audio, Decal Designs, Links, Suggested Articles, Videos – everything and anything. Even if you sent me a list of all your critical-thinking bookmarks, that would be awesome!

Okay, so where was I going with all this …

I came across an interesting article the other week. I found it really amusing, however I am not quite sure how to incorporate it in to the website – or where; or if it belongs there.

How to Win Arguments, As It Were

Check it out, and let me know where.

Audience Call for “The One”

As noted in a previous post “Unemployed? Here’s Training, and a Free Toss to a Job Application!” Australia’s Channel 7 is recreating their psychic-search for “Australia’s most gifted Psychic” in a reality-format show called “The One”.

During the last airing of “The One” Richard Saunders of Australian Skeptics appeared as the shows’ voice of reason.

If you’re on the fence about it and unsure, before you go, I recommend researching “cold-reading“. You may have heard about this from TV series’ such as “The Mentalist”, in which the main character was a former cold-reading mentalist pretending that he was psychic, and TV series “Psych”, in which the main character uses logic and reason to solve cases for the local police whilst also pretending that he was psychic.

There are some excellent references to things such as the Barnum Effect and how it relates to cold-reading on the internet, such as this one from Dennis Dutton.

Cold Reading is the term of art used in the magician’s trade to describe the practical use of the Barnum Effect in the give-and-take of an interview situation. Though interest in the technique by professional psychologists dates from the late 1940’s, it has long been put to profitable use by fortune-tellers, clairvoyants, tarot card readers, astrologers, tea leaf readers, spirit mediums, and others who wish to convey the impression that they possess paranormal insight into the client’s personality, current life situation, and future.

There is this video of about Derren Brown giving an “astrology” reading.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=haP7Ys9ocTk

And I highly recommend the following video of Brian Brushwood
of “Scam School” at his “Scams, Sasquatch, and the Supernatural” lecture.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TDfTLSb01xs

You can become a member of the audience for “The One”, and I would encourage it, as I will be considering putting in an application for some tickets myself. – Just go HERE. Ticket Applications close June 28th, 2011.

Skeptics in (or from) Australia: Contact your MP

Something has got to give.

I’m asking that we each take 15-30 minutes to put together a quick e-mail about Homoeopathy and send it to our local MPs – You can look up your local MP via the ABC’s “Find Your Local MP” webpage.

I recommend outlining the absurdity of the therapy, as some MPs may not be aware of Homoeopathy or may have been misinformed about what it is, what it contains, or the principles underpinning it.

It would be great time to include the fact that the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) has drawn up a draft statement about Homoeopathy stating:

“it is unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy – as a medicine or procedure – has been shown not to be efficacious.”

I recommend outlining these key points:

  1. The proposed mechanism is scientifically implausible and unsubstantiated.
  2. The claimed efficacy is not substantiated by any robust study of homoeopathy.
  3. Systematic Reviews of Systematic Reviews of the evidence for Homoeopathy consistently find it is a product with no effect beyond placebo.

You may wish to bring up issues surrounding homoeopathy such as the harm that can be caused by turning a blind eye to non-efficacious treatments for conditions with potentially serious consequences. For instance, ailments like insomnia and snoring can lead to anxiety and depression disorders, high blood pressure, diabetes, heart disease and stroke. Both of these can be treated with science-based medicine, yet it is common to find Homoeopathic Remedies for them – and now, even in supermarkets where staff are ill-equipped to inform customers as to what Homoeopathy is.

It may be worth pointing out that:

  • “positive” studies for Homoeopathy almost always comes from within the profession and are generally surveys of how people “feel” rather than actual trials of a treatment;
  • it is common for homoeopaths to cite literature in defence of Homoeopathy, however when scrutinized, they are investigations of poor quality or do not support homoeopathic principles at all;
  • these “positive” studies are treated counter to how science-based medicines are scrutinized; instead of being peer-reviewed by professionals who seek to uncover flaws in testing methodology to encourage best-practice, they are generally published in niche pseudo-journals (or books) with little to no professional credibility.

You may also wish to point out the success of the recent world-wide 1023 campaign launched by the Merseyside Skeptics Society to bring attention to Homoeopathy, and the 2010 conclusion by the Science and Technology Committee (From the UK House of Commons) that the evidence provided by homoeopaths did not support their own claims.

If you are open to it, offer your MP the opportunity to contact you for more information. Do not feel you *have* to answer questions you do not know the answer to; if you feel overwhelmed ask your MP to write an e-mail with their concerns so that you may address them appropriately. If needed, get in contact with someone who you think CAN give them the information they are looking for.

You SHOULD include what kind of OUTCOME you would like to see from your MP, this may be by asking your MP to:

  • Raise the issue at a Party Meeting,
  • Raise the issue with the relevant Minister, Shadow Minister or Portfolio Holder,
  • Discuss the issue with their colleagues, or
  • Request a change in party policy.

You may want to urge your MP to Move a Motion in parliament along the lines of:

National Health Care should be a service that provides only science-based treatments; taxpayers should not be required to pay for, or subsidise the costs of unproven or dis-proven therapies.

Who could reasonably argue against that?

You may decide to be specific, perhaps about the Therapeutic Goods Administration, which despite its comprehensive review will continue to accept products for AUST L listing under a flawed self-assessment programme even though – according to the TGA’s own data – 9 out of 10 products  don’t do what they say they can. [this is a lengthy subject]

And lastly, I recommend inviting your local MP to a local Skeptics in the Pub/Cafe/Meet-up/Event where they can engage in discussions regarding critical thinking, education, reason, and science. This can help in strengthening a relationship to work closer in skeptical activism or outreach campaigns in the future.

 

If you have some time after that, check out:
FISHBARREL – The Quick way to report Quacks!