Thursday, August 31, 2006

Zombies and Skeptics

The 42nd Skeptic’s Circle is up over at Immunoblogging. I understand that zombies will be present, so just remember to use head shots, people…. Head…..shots….

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Not Forgotten

Enough Said....

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Awards Night! The 41st Skeptic’s Circle

[Interverbal strolls out onstage in his best bowtie and softly clears his throat]

Good evening ladies and gentlemen, I would like to welcome you to the
41st Skeptic’s Circle which is of course, Awards Night! We certainly
have had many fine nominees in the last few weeks and I know that the
excitement is mounting! But before we begin I would like to take a minute and thank everyone who took the time to nominate someone for an award. Please take a moment to gather some refreshments if you so choose, I know I will certainly be getting some popcorn. Well, enough talk, on with the awards!

Taking an award for contributing to society by obscuring a legitimate
psychological phenomena in woo, we have ……Those who attempt to misrepresent deja vu
nominated by Dr. Serani

For particular excellence in biased selection of subjects we have…..
Dr. Hornig
nominated by Autism Diva

For service to medicine by offering a remarkable confidence as to the etiology of autism which is not evidenced by research we have….Dr. Ayoub
nominated by Kev Leitch

For showing us all the meaning of social significance in statistics we have…Religious persons who argue that turning aethist is a bad idea as it leads to charities drying up
nominated by Daniel Morgan

For offering a prediction which can only be described as the stuff of legand we have…
The psychics who predicted whether a panda was pregnant
nominated by Amy Alkon

For finally admitting he goofed up concerning his discovery of “polywater” we have .... Dr. Deryagin
nominated by Joe Kissell

For inadvertantly aiding in the parody of Holocaust Deniers we have…
Dr. Butz
nominated by Sergey Romanov

For the most excellent use of a map to try to deny a Holocaust massacre we have… John Ball
nominated by Sergey Romanov

For creative editing we have….
Religious who try to offer a natural explanation for Biblical events nominated by Martin Rundkvist

For taking a legitimate medical technique and absurdly twisting it, we have….
The quacks who advocate the use of chelation for general health promotion
nominated by Orac

For bringing new and exciting (very expensive) woo to the world, we have… The doctors who now use stem cell injections to promote beauty and energy level
nominated by Orac

For their long efforts at misinformation, we have…
The alties who claim that science is always biased against them
nominated by Be Lambic or Green

For his notable work discerning apples and oranges in autism we have…
Dr. Adams
nominated by Dad of Cameron

For goofing up the math royally we have….
Creationist who argue against evolution using the argument from large numbers
nominated by Mark Chu-Carroll

For making text book errors in their correlation research design we have… The authors of a Pediatrics article who claim that listening to raunchy music results in earlier teen sex
nominated by Tara Smith

For making us grateful that most right wingers are generally more reasonable than this, we have….
World Net Daily
nominated by Phil Plait

For possibly mistaking their mother for an alien, we have….
Alien abductees
nominated by Phil Plait

For fibbing about their religious beliefs, we have…..
Americans in general
nominated by Keith

For outdoing those smarty-pants meteorologists by using the moon to predict the weather…..
Ken Ring
nominated by EoR

For helping us all see the advantages (if you are a psychic) of being vague, we have...Psychics who make use of multiple endpoints phenomenon
nominated by Bryan Gillis

For notable service to epistemology we have…..
People who just know something
nominated by Bryan Gillis

For assaulting a straw man we have….
Joel Borofsky nominated by Matt

For having such stellar qualifications to sit upon a rationale 9/11 investigative group, we have....
The people from scholars for 9/11 Truth
nominated by Jim Lippard

For proudly helping humanity march into the future….
Those persons who in the 21st century still promote divination
nominated by Daylight Atheism

For shifting the effort onto someone else….
Persons who avoid the burden of proof
nominated by See You At Enceladus

For being in the bottom of the barrel in terms of accepting and understanding evolution...
The citizens of the United States
nominated by Joshua Rosenau

For helping woo slip into our daily lives we have….
Those who argue that common sense can establish a scientific proof
nominated by Interverbal

[Scattered applause]

I wish to thank everyone for joining us here tonight and all the award winners especially. If anyone is wondering what is the number of the next Skeptic’s Circle the answer here, as in other questions, is 42 and it will be located at Immunoblogging
Thank you and Goodnight

[Interverbal exits stage left]

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

What is a Good Enough Scientific Proof: A Brief Discussion of Four Examples?


This paper deals with statements about scientific proof. I assert that the type of scientific proof needed to prove a statement depends upon that statement. I also assert that good enough scientific proof is likely to vary based on the problem. I wish to note again that the following post deals only with statements, not with designing actual research questions/hypotheses/surveys. I will discuss one issue that I consider to be more of a hindrance that a help and will advocate the importance of specificity. I will use four examples to help demonstrate these issues.

Good enough scientific proof will likely have these elements in common: An empirical approach to the question, along with the objective measurement and manipulation of variables. To a lesser extent this is also true for control of extraneous variables, social importance, and method of analyzing data.

The Four Examples

Statement 1. God exists.

There are variables here that can not be objectively measured/assessed (with apologies to Thomas Aquinas). Whether or not this is true, this is not a matter science can deal with in the first place. I give this as an example of a question outside the range of the current topic.

Statement 2. When I throw a ball at the window, the window breaks.

This is not an issue that I would expect most persons to demand a scientific proof for at all. I think that most of us have either done this ourselves, read about it, or have seen it. However, I wish to use this example draw in the problem of argument by common sense in the establishment of a scientific proof. I expect that some of us would pass this problem off as a common sense “no kidding” sort of answer. However I want to show the limit of that approach. I won’t make this banal by demanding that we specify the exact speed of the ball and whether it was pitched under or over hand and at what distance from the window plus elevation.

I will however, ask that the reader entertain the problem of another sort of window. This window is in a school building and is wire mesh reinforced. Will this break too? Quite likely the answer is “yes”. However, now there is a greater deal of uncertainty than in the former problem. The common sense equation that “Chuckin’ a ball at a window results in a broken window” now seems to be fallacious and it is certainly not scientific. This, issue could well be a concern for those who manufacture such windows and the schools who buy them. This could provide a statement that science could assess. It also shows the importance of specificity.

Statement 3. On a plane trip to Europe, many passengers become violently ill. Lab analysis results indicate that staphylococcus bacterial toxin was involved. Only those passengers who ate breakfast on the plane became ill. A cook for flight had a cut on his hands and handled the food without the benefit of gloves. The cut possibly harbored the bacteria which promulgated in the food leaving behind their toxins, thus causing this point epidemic.

This situation provides likelihood, but not certainty. The investigation that led up to it, was probably thorough and likely even scientific, but it does not provide such specificity in the statement given. In this case I would ask for a more thorough assessment that the bacteria did in fact come from the cut on the cook. I would ask this because, it is highly important to know with great certainty where the bacteria came from, so as to prevent illness/harm to future passengers. The details are socially important here and to add that needed proof we should attempt to rule out other sources of bacterial movement into the food as well as doing a swab and culture on the cut of the cook’s hand.

Statement 4. The use of this diet is correlated to the downward trend of hyperactive behavior in children who are on it.

This is probably fine; the authors of the statement have noted that the two variables are correlated as opposed to saying that one caused the other. The authors of a statement would have to be on guard to make sure that others who may not have a research background understand that correlation is not causation. It is also important in this case that the correlative design be well designed and appropriate to the issue. Such specific details matter here too.


Specificity allows us to decide if the statement is appropriate based on the proofs given. Good specificity answers who, what, when, where and why and under what conditions for each.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Skeptics' Circle Submissions

The 41st Skeptic's Circle is on its way to Interverbal.

This could be interesting [runs and gets popcorn]......

Anyway, send your submissions to me at katahajime74(at)hotmail(dot)com