Pride and/or Prejudice

The big news lately is the raging debate over the Confederate (Battle) Flag. It is almost strange how it became an issue. Some presumably mentally unstable person, Dylann Roof, walked into a “historically black” church and shot nine people dead. His own reported reasons for the shooting were deeply connected to racism and white supremacy. Some might say that the debate that is happening is not the one that should be happening–perhaps something about gun control or access to mental health help? Be that as it may, this is the debate that is being had, and this is The Question–Should the Confederate (Battle) Flag fly above the South Carolina (or any other) statehouse?

Is the war still going?

Is the war still going?

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No True Muslim?

Yes, yet another “does ISIS represent Islam” article! So…does it? The members of ISIS would happily kill you if you said they didn’t, but of course, just because a person or group claims to be X doesn’t necessarily mean they are X. Read More…

Think Critically

What he said...

What he said…

The Crack-Baby Myth…Apparently

In an occurrence of “link drift”, I stumbled upon an interesting article at ThinkProgress. Yes, sites like that are usually heavily biased, but looking past that I found some very interesting research.

Tennessee Arrests First Mother Under Its New Pregnancy Criminalization Law“. Well, obviously, nobody makes it a crime to be pregnant, except maybe the Chinese because of their One Child policy. But this isn’t China, this is Tennessee, and a Conservative state like that is usually making laws against ending pregnancy, not being pregnant, so my curiosity was piqued. Read More…

Foundational Beliefs

I saw a news article today that got my skeptical juices flowing once more. It was a story about a clerk in Indiana who was refusing marriage licenses to homosexual couples because “the US was founded on the biblical principle of one man and one woman in marriage”.

There are two things wrong with that statement, and those two things get down to some foundational beliefs many have. This is a perfect example of how ignorance (not stupidity, simply “a lack of knowledge or information”) perpetuates prejudice and gives it “authority”. Read More…

Dr. Oz and the Senate Hearing

Wow, someone making loads of money selling bogus weight-loss products. How unsurprising. What IS surprising (to me, anyway) is that so many seem so very surprised by it. “Why would you do this?” asks Sen. McCaskill from Missouri. Ye$, I wonder why.

But why does it make so many people rich to sell bogus weight loss? Because, as Simon and Garfunkel said, “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest“. That’s why it is important to be skeptical and not engage in wish-thinking. How do you lose weight? Consume fewer calories than you take in. You don’t have to eat dramatically less, but you have to start doing more. Are there foods or products that will help with this? Undoubtedly. But when you’re hoping that a “magic bullet” will do all the work for you, that is wish-thinking.

While I’m happy that he is getting a chewing for knowingly selling bogus goods, yet he is not the only one to blame–not by a long-shot.

Facebook Fallacy #3 – Hungry Soldiers

This issue was actually in the comments on a previous post before I saw it on my fb.

Our soldiers are going hungry while Congress gets a pay raise!

It apparently ain’t so. The DOD (Department of Defense) and Snopes both clarify the exaggeration/misunderstanding.

Seriously–it is over a $600BILLION a year budget. I’m sure they can afford breakfast.

See how to debunk viral photos in seconds using image search

“And remember, the time you need to do this most is when the content in front of you feeds into your own confirmation bias about your personal passions, whatever those are.”

Skeptical Software Tools

Google Image Search Back in August I wrote about how Google Image Search and other reverse image search engines are a valuable tool to debunk viral hoaxes. Last week yet another example popped up that shows just how easy these types of debunks can be.

The new example involves social media posts about animal rights and animal testing. Photos of suffering animals are always compelling, and often go viral. While most people sympathize with the animals pictured, there is a secondary lesson here – don’t forget to apply skepticism to viral content even when the message confirms your own beliefs and pet causes.

I’m an animal fan myself – we have both a dog and a cat in our household. The purpose of this post is not to criticize animal rights activists, but show how to verify photos. So lets see how it’s done.

Warning: If you are particularly sensitive to pictures of…

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The Dangers of Magical Thinking in the Martial Arts

Again, while I am busy at my other blog, here is a Reblog.
Keep your defenses up…be a Perpetual Skeptic

Violent metaphors

This post comes courtesy of Jeff Westfall, someone I’ve known and respected as a leader in the martial arts community since I moved to Indiana in 1992. I’m absolutely delighted that he agreed to share his insights into pseudoscience in the martial arts with us. You can read details of his background on his school’s website here. –Jenny

I’m Jeff Westfall for the Martial Brain

Recently on Facebook I saw a video of a Finnish martial artist named Jukka Lampila who called what he did Empty Force or EFO, and claimed that with it he could control an attacker without touching him. His Facebook page proclaims him the founder of EFO. The video begins with clips of Lampila fending off ‘attacks’ from his students. He waves his arms; sometimes he twitches, and in each case the ‘attacker’ seems to be magically thrown to the mat without ever being touched by…

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The Very Hungry Skeptic

I just recently listened to an episode of the For Good Reason podcast from back in 2010. The guest that D.J. Grothe interviewed was Jennifer Michael Hecht. Here is a synopsis:

Jennifer Michael Hecht discusses art, poetry and literature as an entree into skepticism and critical thinking. As an historian of science, she contrasts the poetic stance with the scientific worldview. She talks about temporal biases within science, and urges scientific humility, as opposed to scientism. She criticizes some forms of skepticism within the humanities that consider science to be just one mythic narrative among many others. And she explores how poetry and ritual may enrich the skeptical life. Read More…