Tag Archives | Skepticism

Committee for Scientific Inquiry on Chinese Ape-Men

The Committee for Scientific Inquiry has a great article about the hunt for the Yeren, the Chinese ape-man, including a humorous anecdote in which a hirsute westerner is mistaken for the legendary beast:

Some have suggested that the wild man is some human throwback—neither Giganto­pithecus nor Peking Man surely but possibly some oddity like those sometimes exhibited in carnival sideshows (Nickell 2005, 150–58, 202–208). A “monkey baby,” for instance, that lived in Xhin Xhan County of Hubei Province, was simply an unfortunate individual with genetic deficiencies who “walked with a shuffling gait, had a slouched back, had a low misshapen forehead, could only make sounds with no articulate speech, and grinned constantly” (Poirier et al. 1983, 30). Yeren researcher Frank E. Poirier—only a normally hairy westerner who is about five feet eleven inches tall—frightened some local children who “ran away horrified at their encounter with what they screamed to others was the Wildman in their midst” (Poirier et al.

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No Evidence To Support Chen Guangcheng’s “Beating” Claims

At the outset, Chen seemed to be just another Chinese dissident brutally treated by the authorities; however, there is more to it.

In the opening statement at the Council on Foreign Relations (31 May, 2012), Professor Cohen of New York University made it clear that Chen “had never studied law” when “the State Department” asked him to meet Chen nine years ago (that is, in 2003).

Despite such an open piece of information linking Chen to the “State Department” in a forum that was packed with journalists, I only managed to find the full content of Cohen’s opening statement via YouTube, the Council on Foreign Relations and NYU websites.

Amazingly, as far as my research is concerned, none of the news media during and after the forum appear to show any interest in persuading or reporting the relationship between the State Department and Chen. Just a few examples (none of these media report a thing on the content of Cohen’s opening statement):

The NY Daily News, The Daily Beast, USA Today, Time, VOA, WNYC, NBC New York and Radio Free Asia.… Read the rest

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Intellectual Incest

Via Skeptical Analysis:

Natural selection tends to avoid incest. Incest — more properly, inbreeding — allows recessive genetic traits to accumulate, often to the detriment of affected individuals. If a child gets a bad gene (doesn’t make a needed protein) from one parent, it’s best if the other parent doesn’t also contribute the bad gene.

Popular literature suggests wild populations, such as wolves, seek mates from outside their own packs. Also, primitive peoples may raid neighboring clans for wives, and friendly exchanges of eligible women between ruling European families provided genetic diversity while maintaining royal status.

Cultural and intellectual incest is a problem of a slightly different nature. Lack of cultural diversity can deprive a nation of the benefits of innovation and can also result in the development and retention of perverse cultural traits. Open societies are the fix. Honor killings within some European societies have lost fashion as a result of the cultural dilution that resulted from advances in communications and exchange of populations in the twentieth century.

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Nonbelievers Who Aren’t Atheists?

Writes David Niose on Psychology Today:

If you don’t believe in any gods, you are an atheist, right? This definition seems pretty basic, not the kind of material that requires an advanced degree in theology to understand.

But apparently it isn’t accurate. In fact, as I circulate in the secular movement on a daily basis, I frequently meet nonbelievers who are unwilling to identify as atheists.

Of course, there are other words that might describe those who don’t believe in deities — agnostic, humanist, skeptic, etc. — and quite a few nonbelievers prefer one of those terms as their primary means of religious identification, but many reject outright the atheist identity even as a secondary or incidental label. “Don’t call me an atheist!” one such nonbeliever recently told me. “I refuse to identify according to what I reject. I don’t believe in astrology or unicorns, but I don’t label myself according to that — so why should I identify according to my rejection of god-belief?”…

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Doubt and Denial in Pursuit of Reality

“Does God exist?” Of the near-limitless variety of questions that can be posed by human beings, few are as profound, as important (or to certain fanatical Nietzsche lovers, as inane and tiresome) as this one. Few other questions have such a powerful effect over daily life, politics, and human interactions as this one simple query, and any given individual’s reply to it speaks volumes about his or her worldview.

For billions of people on planet Earth, its answer is a resounding “Yes!” – a declaration of faith so central to their lives that even a moment’s hesitation or doubt can induce feelings of severe guilt and internal conflict.  For a large and growing multitude however, the answer to this question is instead a confident but qualified “No.” And yet, for many others still, the only sensible reply is “Maybe,” “I don’t know,” or even “It’s impossible to say.”

Although plenty of people simply don’t care one way or the other, rolling their eyes and far preferring not to talk about it or even think about it, that’s just dodging its repercussions.… Read the rest

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Reclaiming Skepticism | Corbett Report: Episode 221

Via The Corbett Report :

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Skeptics are those who advocate taking a provisional approach to all claims and carefully evaluating all the evidence before coming to a conclusion. In other words, the very process that The Corbett Report is engaged in every week, right? Well, not according to the self-professed “skeptics,” many of whom are content to skewer others for their logical fallacies yet frequently deploy logical fallacies of their own when “debunking” the “conspiracy theorists” that seem to be popping up everywhere. Join us today on The Corbett Report as we note the hypocrisies of the supposed “skeptics” and embrace the term as our own.

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Maybe We’re All Conspiracy Theorists

Michael Shermer. Photo: David Patton (CC)

Michael Shermer. Photo: David Patton (CC)

Matt Ridley for the Wall Street Journal:

Michael Shermer, the founder and editor of Skeptic magazine, has never received so many angry letters as when he wrote a column for Scientific American debunking 9/11 conspiracy theories. Mr. Shermer found himself vilified, often in CAPITAL LETTERS, as a patsy of the sinister Zionist cabal that deliberately destroyed the twin towers and blew a hole in the Pentagon while secretly killing off the passengers of the flights that disappeared, just to make the thing look more plausible.

He tells this story in his fascinating new book, The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies—How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths. In Mr. Shermer’s view, the brain is a belief engine, predisposed to see patterns where none exist and to attribute them to knowing agents rather than to chance — the better to make sense of the world.

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Ben Goldacre: Berating Bad Science

For those who love a good bit of debunking, Ben Goldacre‘s Bad Science: Quacks, Hacks, and Big Pharma Flacks is going to be compelling reading. As Katherine Bouton notes in the New York Times,

Ben Goldacre is exasperated. He’s not exactly angry — that would be much less fun to read — except in certain circumstances. He is irked, vexed, bugged, ticked off at the sometimes inadvertent (because of stupidity) but more often deliberate deceptions perpetrated in the name of science. And he wants you, the reader, to share his feelings.

He explains to New Scientist some of his favorite peeves:

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