Archive for the ‘Skeptic’ Category

Students shun search for information offline

Monday, December 13th, 2004

What a surprise: a well-written article about collaborative technology. This article actually presents all sides of the issue in an intelligent way:

Another potential minefield is the growing phenomenon of collaborative information assembly. The credentials of the people writing grass-roots Web journals and a committee-written encyclopedia called Wikipedia are often unclear. Nevertheless, some Internet users believe that such resources can collectively portray events more accurately than any single gatekeeper.

In many ways, the greater diversity of information is healthy.

Paul Duguid, co-author of The Social Life of Information, points out that no longer, in most of the United States, can school textbooks get away with one-sided views.

Link (CNN)

Santa makes children good?

Wednesday, December 1st, 2004

Link: Santa makes children good

This article raises some interesting points, but as usual the field of psychiatry is completely unscientific and makes a ton of unfounded conclusions.

For example:

[Doctor Mark Salter] said the significance of myths and magic, such as the legend of Father Christmas, were being eroded by a society obsessed with rationality.

“The imagination which created Father Christmas is being destroyed by a society which holds rationality above anything else,” Dr Salter said.

Perhaps Dr. Salter should read Unweaving the Rainbow by Richard Dawkins:

My title is from Keats, who believed that Newton had destroyed all the poetry of the rainbow by reducing it to the prismatic colors. Keats could hardly have been more wrong, and my aim is to guide all who are tempted by a similar view, towards the opposite conclusion. Science is, or ought to be, the inspiration for great poetry.

Then Dr. Salter continues ranting:

“Whenever anything goes wrong we hold an inquiry into it. We no longer seem to accept that bad things may happen in our lives.

“If Santa died, we would hold a serious incident inquiry and if we had any sense we should ask the Tooth Fairy to chair it.”

I have no idea how he came to these conclusions from a study of children and Santa Clause but I’m sure he was very scientific about it.

Lesson Learned

Buried within the article is the following statement, which I think is the important part:

“I suspect my nephews know [Santa] doesn’t exist but they are pretending he does because of all the associated benefits, such as presents, which go with it,” [psychiatrist Lynda Breen] added.

In other words, they have learned to be intellectually dishonest in order to fit in and to benefit themselves. This is certainly a useful social skill, but is it a good thing?

Unintended Consequences

I remember when I found out “for sure” that there was no Santa – I found the packaging from my Santa-delivered present in the trash. It was then that I recognized the web of lies surrounding my beloved holiday experience: like the time when we children rushed outside and saw Santa’s sleigh streaking through the sky like a star (conveniently pointed out by grinning adults); or when a gaggle of children ran out of the bathtub, just missing an appearence by St. Nick.

If these, my most cherished childhood memories, were nothing but fantasy, what else were the adults lying about? If that fat bearded man in a red suit was just a story, what about that all-powerful white-robed bearded guy who lived up in the sky? The seeds of doubt were planted by unsuspecting parents.

By lying to children about Santa Clause, do we teach them not to trust authority and to think for themselves? If so I will definitely lie to my daughter about Santa when the time comes.

Further Reading

Ghostly photograph?

Friday, October 8th, 2004

There was a ghoulish shock in store for Gazette cameraman John Myers when he downloaded photographs taken during a ghost hunt at the famously haunted Red Lion pub in Avebury.

One of his photographs taken of a mirror in the pub restaurant shows a gruesome reflection of a bald, pale faced man streaked with blood.

Link (with pic) (Wiltshire Gazette & Herald, via Fark)

The Onion on Alternative Medicine

Tuesday, September 21st, 2004

Antidepressant Use In Children

Last week, the FDA announced that children who take antidepressants face an increased risk of suicide, but some doctors dispute the claim. What do you think?

“That’s why I give my kid St. John’s Wort. At least it’s not gonna make my kid kill himself, even if it doesn’t work for shit.”

Sheila Wooster, Paralegal

Link: The Onion

Paul Crouched…

Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

The Los Angeles Times reported Sunday that the founder of the Trinity Broadcasting Network paid off a former male employee to hush allegations the two shared a homosexual encounter eight years ago.

The Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN), which is based in Orange County, Calif., calls itself the largest Christian television network and airs shows like “The 700 Club” that condemn homosexuality.

According to the paper, Enoch Lonnie Ford, 41, threatened to publicize details of his alleged affair with Paul Crouch, 70, but legal agreements kept the accusations from being made public.

If you don’t know Paul Crouch, you have probably caught a glance of his scary wife Jan (Google image search) while flipping TV channels.

Link (PlanetOut)

The Spiritualist Fox sisters

Wednesday, August 11th, 2004

[Quote deleted due to request from author]

From CSICOP:

As many skeptics well know, [Spiritualism's] very founding in 1848 was a fraud. Spiritualism sprang to life in upstate New York with the rappings and alleged spirit contacts of two teenage girls known as the Fox sisters. Soon the young girls’ performances captured international attention, prompting similar claims by mediums across the world. Only forty years later, with her sister Katie looking on, did Margaret Fox publicly demonstrate the tricks the schoolgirls had used in pretending to communicate with a ghost.

CSICOP: Talking To Heaven – Who’s Answering

Pareidolia: Mars Gone Wild

Thursday, August 5th, 2004

pareidolia: misperceiving a vague but suggestive shape as something definitive. “It’s very clear that human brains are designed to pick out patterns,” says Plait. “If you can’t pick out the tiger hiding in the grass, you are lunch; you don’t reproduce.” On the other hand, if you think the burn mark on your tortilla is actually the mother of God, you are probably suffering from pareidolia.

Link (wired.com)

Pokemon Seizures Linked to Epilepsy, Not TV

Thursday, July 22nd, 2004

Children Who Had Seizures After Watching Cartoon Had Underlying Disease

Link (WebMD)

The study follows up with 91 children who suffered seizures, but it doesn’t mention the mass hysteria that accompanied the incident:

The Pokémon Panic of 1997
In 1997, an episode of the cartoon Pokémon allegedly induced seizures and other ailments in thousands of Japanese children. Though popularly attributed to photosensitive epilepsy, the episode has many of the hallmarks of mass hysteria.