Thursday, April 27, 2006

The 33rd Skeptics' Circle

Effects of uncritical thinking on neuronal death in users and non-users of the baloney detection kit: a review of recent literature

by the Skeptic's Circle Institute.


Complaints like "hurts my brain" and "blows my mind" as a result of exposure to incredible stories have recently been definitevely tied to the neuronal cell death (apoptosis). Furthermore, the notion of the usefullness of the Baloney Detection Kit (BDK) in protection of brain cells against the negative effects of incredulity has recently garnered significant support. In this review, the authors gather the most notable examples in recent scientific and medical literature on the subject, evaluate the currently available data on the effectivness of BDK and propose new avenues for further research.

INTRODUCTION - Historical perspective

There is growing literature in the latter part of 20th and early 21st century on the negative effects of historical revisionism on the cortical cells of politically-motivated brains, most notably in the area of World War II and the Holocaust. In a recent paper, A note on UKAR. 'Barry the Terrible of Wherever', Sergey Romanov solves the mistery of a dog with curiously high concentrations in concentration camps (Holocaust Controversies, 2006).

Politicallly motivated incredulity also appears to be the underlying cause of the most recent case study, that of the Pyramid of Sun in Bosnia. Apart from the scholarly studies, this case has also garnered much media interest and coverage over the past two weeks, as the actual digging at the site has commenced. Alun (Archaeoastronomy 2006a,b,c) performed some online measurements which put to question the claims about the Bosnian pyramid. The same researcher also recently published the sad follow-up: The Price of a Pyramid and a final touch-down: Final thoughts on Bosnian pyramid.

AJMilne's take on this (The Accidental Weblog et al., 2006) can be gleaned even from the title of the study - Trampling history. And then, there is a follow-up.

Emperor (Cabinet of Wonders, 2006) is a geologist and archeologist and he says: Pyramid? I see no pyramid here.

Nature is quite capable of producing surprisingly regular shapes, which people may or may not modify further, and this may be the case in Bosnia as well (Hot, Cup and Joe, 2006).

Some shadowy characters provide further evidence for the political and religious motivations for this story (Science, Politics, et al. 2006d)

Elements of the BDK: Critical thinking

Although the Baloney Detection Kit has been available for a number of years, its use and application has been relatively rare and non-standardized. To address this problem, Zeno (Halfway and There, 2006a,b) published two studies recently. The first, The Church of the Null Hypothesis is about critical thinking and how the assumption that nothing is going on is often a better explanation than the notion that weird and mysterious forces are at play.

The second Zeno's paper is Miracles on Interstate 80, is an account of two incidents where Zeno witnessed inexplicable miracles. Of course, the true skeptic prefers a rational explanation to a miraculous one, and both "miracles" turned out to have perfectly reasonable explanations. In the final analysis, they're weren't inexplicable after all.

GreenSmile (The, Executioners, and Thong, 2006) published an important study earlier this year: Wired for priests. It uses religion as a teaching example for refining one's BDK technique.

A Review of Case-Studies in Medical Quackery

Joseph (Corpus and Callosum, 2006) has published two papers on the way one can figure out if a "new disease" is as real, or as prevalent, or as dangerous, as the pharmaceutical companies want you to think: Disease Mongering and the Calibration of Skepticism and Does Restless Legs Syndrome Exist?

Robert Todd Carroll (Skepdic et al., 2006) explains everything about Consegrity®, a species of 'faith healing' and yet another instance of the word "consilience" being misused since its invention, by Whewell, back in Darwin's day.

EoR (The, Second and Sight, 2006) gloomily reports on The Only Diagnostic Machine You'll Ever Need. From what we could understand, it is a broken radio.

Orac and collaborators (Respectful and Insolence, 2006a,b) continues his series of studies on medicine and evolution, with a two-part shot at Creationist Physicians, both of which elicitied some excellent discussions in the scientific and medical community: Medicine and Evolution, Part 4: Physicians seduced by "intelligent design" creationism and Medicine and Evolution, part 4a: Physicians seduced by "intelligent design" creationism (revisited briefly).

From the Amibidextrous Brain laboratory for mercury research (Left, Brain, Right and Brain, 2006) comes an interesting study of Rashid Buttar, Stephen Hawking And JB Handley.

Dr.Tara Smith (the General Editor of the journal Aetiology) has recently reported on an interesting case of credulity: *sigh* Influenza pandemic not guaranteed? Gee, no kidding... (Smith, 2006)

Clark Bartram (Unintelligent and Design, 2006) wrote a paper exposing, once again, the ridiculous claims of chiropractors who venture very far outside of the scope of practice that their "training" should allow: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart:More Chiropractic Nonsense.....

A Review of Case-Studies in the area of Paranormal Phenomena

Theo and collaborators (of Humbug and Online, 2006) recently took a look at the Wishful Thinking Fallacy in The Biggest Douche in the Universe which is about John Edward (sans 's', so he's not to be confused with my former Senator and favourite Vice-Presidential candidate who has an 's' in his last name).

The often-intimate connection between claims of paranormal and the financial interests of the claimants is further studied in Lennon Speaks – Maybe – If You’re Willing to Pay (Lord and Runolfr, 2006).

A Review of Case-Studies in the area of Pseudoscience

It's always Thursday on Polite Company (Polite, Company et al, 2006) as it is today. And while Thursday is not always posting on a Thursday, a cigar is sometimes just a cigar, while a banana is also not always a banana, and one does not even need Fredu to explain this: Religion: The Evolutionists Greatest Nightmare Is...

In a related paper (Lord and Runolfr, 2006), a very interesting and novel case-study - that of Babylon 5 Geekery - is analyzed in great detail.


Esbee (Life, In, and Forsyth, 2006) was playing broken telephones and thus misunderstood her Horror-scopes.


The next review of the literature on this subject is scheduled to appear in the journal The Second Sight on May 11, 2006 (my birthday!). Check the submission guidelines and send your submissions to the Editor at:

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