It’s our Tube too

Go to YouTube right now and type into the search bar:  vaccines. Congratulations! You just found an endless stream of the most hyperbolic doom-saying vaccine denialist propaganda that makes Glenn Beck look reasonable by comparison.

In fact, I didn’t see a single skeptical video challenging this anti-vaccine propaganda until near the bottom of the second page of search results. That first skeptical video was this one by Rebecca Watson. The next video down was a paranoid video of David Icke warning us of the evils of vaccines. It isn’t until well down the third page before finding a second skeptical debunking of anti-vaccine claims. And other videos challenging anti-vaccine claims are few and far between. This YouTube dominance shouldn’t be very surprising as the anti-vaccine movement have dominated the web since even the early days of the internet. … continue reading this entry.

The business of denial

Despite the tobacco industry's "defense strategy" campaign against prevailing scientific evidence, smoking has declined in the last few decades (National Center for Health Statistics, NIMH).

I am usually horrid at coming up with titles but I think “The Business of Denial” is a better lead for this interesting story in The New Scientist that caught my eye this week: How Corporations Manufacture Doubt is one article of several in The New Scientist’s Special Report: Living in Denial. In this article, author Richard Littlemore provides commentary on the PR campaigns that have changed corporate strategy on dealing with scientific evidence that affects their bottom line.

Whether we are talking the “defense strategy,” “teaching the controversy,” or debating the difference of theory vs. fact, the game of promoting public doubt in scientific evidence has grown and is profitable.

The doubt industry has ballooned in the past two decades. There are now scores of think tanks pushing dubious and confusing policy positions, and dozens of phoney grass-roots organisations created to make those positions appear to have legitimate following. … continue reading this entry.

Infinity + 1

Remember when you were a kid and you’d get into arguments with your friends that would go something like this:

“Are not!”

“Am too!”

“Are not!”

“Am too!”

And remember how, much like Godwin’s Law, sooner or later one of you would eventually pull out the old, “Are not times infinity!”

Mathematically represented as: X = AN x I

This would then quickly be followed by “Are so times infinity plus one!”

Mathematically represented as: X = AS x I + 1

…which would then lead to a lengthy cycle of each party incrementally increasing the value added to infinity by one on each pass.

Most adults outgrow this level of argumentation. But there’s a whole subsection of the populace who never do. We call them denialists. … continue reading this entry.

The Other “Skeptics”

Im not saying hes not necessarily a dick, but that doesnt mean hes wrong.

I'm not saying he's not necessarily a jerk, but that doesn't mean he's wrong.

Our self-professed title has been popping up in the news, have you seen it?  There are skeptics going against Brits and skeptics going against the USA.  There are skeptics all over the place!  And they’re going around… denying science.  Hmmm… Maybe these guys aren’t us?  You know, there was a time when the word “skeptic” was full of negative connotations.  Skeptics were doubters, people who just wouldn’t try things because they didn’t believe in them.  And then something happened.  Do you happen to know what that thing was?  Oh yeah, it was us.  We happened.  We’d tinkered with words like “rationalist” and “bright” and figured out that painting ourselves in a way that painted everyone who wasn’t us in a negative context was probably a bad idea.  So we claimed the word “skeptic.”  We doubt.  We admit that.  Without evidence, we don’t accept claims about the world that we can test.  And it’s probably to our credit that a group of folks who want to ignore the reality of anthropogenic global warming want to claim the moniker of “skeptic” as well, now that we’ve gussied the term up.  It’s flattering!  But it’s also incredibly annoying.  So called “climate skeptics” are not using the term in the same way that we do.  They are holding onto their claims against a theory no scientifically recognized organization on the planet is going against anymore.  They’re making our name look bad all over again. … continue reading this entry.

Global Warming, Denialism, and Solipsism

In his 1637 paper, “Discourse on Method”, Réne Descartes wrote “Je pense donc je suis.”  In 1644, he would translate that phrase into Latin for his famous Principles of Philosophy, writing it as “Cogito ergo sum.” “I am thinking, therefore I exist.”  When I was in high school, I became a big fan of Descartes.  I still hold that the cogito is one of the most brilliant things to come out of philosophy.  Descartes comes to the conclusion that because your senses themselves can be fooled, your memory is fallible, anything that you experience could simply be happening inside your head.  However, Descartes also comes to the realization that if you are thinking, there must be something which you are a part of that is existing. … continue reading this entry.

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