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…

Facebook Fallacy #2 — Cancer

Nobody likes cancer. Everybody wants to make sure they don’t get it. Fair enough.

Some people have ideas about what they think will prevent cancer, but as they are not a “known” or “respected” source, they feel the need to “legitimize” their claim by attaching the name of some well-known Expert or Institution. 

Thus, FF #2: How to Avoid Cancer!

I don’t know anything about the blog it was posted on (and I’m not trying to say “this blog posts crap”…just providing the link I was given), it is simply that a friend of mine posted a link to it on FB as part of a cancer awareness thing. I noticed that even though it was claiming the name of Johns Hopkins, there was no link to the research. 

That made me Skeptical (imagine that…).

So, I Googled. Johns Hopkins is aware of the claims being made and largely disagrees with them. 

The gist of it all is that cancer is caused by bad diet–eat the right foods (no sugar, no meat, no coffee, etc) and you won’t get cancer. Yay vegan diet to the rescue! But Johns Hopkins says that, while a balanced diet high in fruit and veg, low in meat, plenty of exercise, etc, are important and can reduce the risk of cancer (esp. by avoiding Obesity), the claims being touted under the name Johns Hopkins are not their claims.

Furthermore, there are several Falsehoods. The blog post (it was originally an email, apparently, as the JH site says “this email hoax”) says “surgery will spread the cancer and chemo will kill your immune system”, but JH says those things are not true. 

Generation RX

If anyone has read this blog much, you’ll know I’m fairly anti- anything that has to do with a conspiracy. I’m also fairly pro- modern medicine and science.

This video, however, has certainly made me think. Obviously, the world is run by people, and people can be (usually are) Corrupt and Evil. IF THIS VIDEO IS ACCURATE then this is certainly a prime example.

Of course, even if true, this does not mean I’m planning to eschew all science and medicine and start using Homeopathy and Tea for all my illnesses; but if true it is a good example of the need to be skeptical–why are ADD rates hundreds of times higher in the US than other developed Western nations?

I’m hoping for a fair bit of discussion on this one…

Facebook Falacy #1–Walnuts

Hi there everybody! (Hi Dr. Nick!)

I have been busy on another blog and haven’t had the time/energy to do this one as much as I would like, but here is a quick post that is, I think, perfect. I hope to make it a regular feature.

There are always posts on facebook that have nothing to do with how someone is feeling–some of these are music videos, or web comics, or whatever else.

And sometimes they are news stories.

Some of these news stories are more, shall we say, accurate, than others. As the title suggests, this new series will cover some of those iffy, though popular, posts. Read More…

Science confirms: Politics wrecks your ability to do math

Dogma and unquestioning belief, whether in religious, philosophical, political, or economic principles is what holds humanity back. Stay Perpetually Skeptical, my friends.

Grist

Everybody knows that our political views can sometimes get in the way of thinking clearly. But perhaps we don’t realize how bad the problem actually is. According to a new psychology paper, our political passions can even undermine our very basic reasoning skills. More specifically, the study finds that people who are otherwise very good at math may totally flunk a problem that they would otherwise probably be able to solve, simply because giving the right answer goes against their political beliefs.

The study, by Yale law professor Dan Kahan and his colleagues, has an ingenious design. At the outset, 1,111 study participants were asked about their political views and also asked a series of questions designed to gauge their “numeracy,” that is, their mathematical reasoning ability. Participants were then asked to solve a fairly difficult problem that involved interpreting the results of a (fake) scientific…

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