Monday Linklistings

Well, it’s finally cold here in Mississippi, and we’ve even had snow, so huddle around the faint heat of your computer monitor and prepare for some linkins.

First off, the idea that vaccines are causing autism – an oldie but goodie – is once again worked over on Science Based Medicine. Here you can also find an experiment, where a researcher who tried to reproduce Andrew Wakefields results – using the same techniques – failed to do so.

And of course, should you be one of those people who are terrified of all the generic “toxins” in the world, then this Skeptoid is not for you. Perhaps you should go and get an dangerous treatment applied for all the wrong reasons.

Wrong reasons? Surely there’s some sort of study proving the efficacy of Chelation Therapy for something other than it’s intended uses?

Well, there are, but they suck. The author has a great quote on this study:

n fact, if I were to try to design a study that couldn’t show any results, I would be hard-pressed to do better than this one. The fact that the authors are so convinced that the DMSA did work is a testament to their pre-conceived notions.

One of my favorite services that Photon in the Darkness has provided is the indictment of low-quality lab testing that finds the all-purpose “toxins” when you want them to. Great for worried mothers who think their children are strange because of lead or mercury, and not because their kids are just weird, these labs are the basis of many a person asking for the ole high-dollar health-store detox.

But maybe you’re tired of all the medical woo. Maybe you want to try a relaxing trip to Iraq, where you can be safe in the knowledge that no bombs are getting through military checkpoints, since the police have the best possible detection technology – no, not bomb-sniffing dogs – those are unclean!

I’m talking about dowsing rods. Sure, they’re fancy, dressed up dowsing rods, but they’re dowsing rods nonetheless.

For those of you unfamiliar with dowsing I present first a wikipedia article and then my own account.

Dowsing is holding a stick, forked or otherwise – or just standing around (most people use a stick) and then claiming that the stick points towards water – or electrical conduits, precious metals, treasure, buried bodies, whatever you’re looking for, really.

The reason it works when you’re not under controlled conditions is the ideomotor effect (if you ask me, which you didn’t explicitly do, I know, but still) combined, probably, with some ideas about where water (or buried whatever) might be. I imagine that many of the old-time water witches were actually people who knew where to dig a well. You can charge a lot more, however, if you run around with a stick and claim magic.

So while this bomb-dowser does find bombs, I imagine that’s got a lot more to do with the operator seeing the bomber panic at the sight of a “magic wand” ready to catch him than any sort of “Ion like-charged fluctuation.”

You may have heard recently that goddamn Deepak Chopra is ticked at us skeptics (quick, change your mind before he actualizes our potential to suffer!) for pissing on his ideas.

My favorite just all-out wrong part is this:

It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists. Especially for scientists. Einstein insisted, in fact, that no great discovery can be made without a sense of awe before the mysteries of the universe.

Apparently not a big fan of Phil Plait. Or Carl Sagan. Or – ah, hell, we all know what’s quantum-entangled with Chopra. Cash money.

But if you want to see a much better dissection of this wrongness, Novella does a good turn at it. A commenter includes this wonderful quote I think I may start using:

“Skeptic does not mean him who doubts, but him who investigates or researches as opposed to him who asserts and thinks that he has found.” [Miguel de Unamuno, “Essays and Soliloquies,” 1924]


So Mr. Plait is leaving the presidency of the JREF to the equally wonderful (but not as bizarre, and I say bizarre is what the kids want!) D.J. Grothe. If you were to remix Point of Inquiry podcasts, would you be DJ DJ Grothe?

Still, getting kids involved in science is a good thing, and it’s easy when you’ve got a series like The 300 Million Year War.

Of course, if you’re feeling like you need more evil in your life than antivaccination creationists you can always get on eBay and find this ring.

And if you’re going travelling on the holidays (like maybe to our last meeting of the year?) be careful. Keep your eyes on the road and don’t just blindly stare at your GPS.


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