Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Return of the Skeptics: Doubtful News & Exposing PseudoAstronomy plus Clowns

Hey Ladies . . . (wiki)
It has been sometime since I have covered The Skeptic Zone podcast hosted by Richard Saunders.  Pennsylvania's own Sharon Hill was interviewed on the latest episode, and I thought it time for me to check in.
  The episode clocked in around an hour and had three main segments.  The first was an interview with Sharon Hill, the second was a discussion of Reasonable Hank's efforts to catalog nurses and nurse-midwives who are anti-vaccination, and finally, an interview with Ben Radford.

Hill's segment was mainly announcing the revival of Doubtful News after she had put the site on hiatus during the Spring of 2016.  Hill shared that at the time she thought she had shuttered the site for good, or at least had no plans to update it.  However, Hill shared how a skeptic has to skep, and she found herself drawn to starting writing again.  Hill also discussed plans for the National Capital Area Skeptics to host a skeptical ghost tour this October. I suspect will not exactly be in the mold of ghost tours I have taken in Gettysburg, PA. Hill also touched upon the recent Evil Clown epidemic making the mass media rounds recently. She discussed how she began to feel burned out maintaining Doubtful News as the amount of woo woo is unrelenting. She further hinted at a new Doubtful News project.  Overall, it was a good segment although it felt a bit rushed.  I am not sure if that was just in the editing or if the time difference between the East Coast of the U.S. and Australia compels one of the party to get through the discussion so someone can get to bed.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Cocktail Party Pitch

The latest edition of Skeptical Inquirer commemorates the fortieth anniversary of its founding way back in the bicentennial year of 1976.  The issue includes a number of essays by some well known and respected skeptics looking back over the history of skepticism.  Some such as Richard Wiseman are optimistic about skepticism's past and bright future, and others such as Sharon Hill and Scott O. Lilienfeld are more cautionary. 

I must admit I land in the cautionary camp at least in reference to the United States.  Matters over in Australia and Britain appear to be ground for a more optimistic appraisal of their futures.  I do wonder if part of the problem at least in the states is just getting some of the fundamentals down.

Monday, July 18, 2016

Pushing the Pop Band Analogy: Thoughts in a post TAM world.

Two years have passed since the first and only The Amazing Meeting I attended.  The conference was thoroughly enjoyable, and at the time recommended to skeptics who were pondering investing the time and money to attend.  Unfortunately, that conference was the last of its breed.   No other TAMs were held at the South Point Hotel, Casino & Spa outside of Las Vegas.  The following TAM was the final one, moved back to the Las Vegas strip.  A more or less self-aware swan song of a conference given the retirement of James Randi.  The originator of TAM, and a popular and influential skeptic's skeptic.  The James Randi Education Foundation itself more or less drifted out of existence or at least any public presence at this time too.

Since TAM has come to an end there has been some chatter online as to what is the next TAM or the successor to TAM.  For me, such as question is similar to asking who are the new Beatles? Sure, the Rolling Stones, Squeeze, Beatle Paul’s own Wings, even Oasis have all had some fine moments and been called the new Beatles.  Heck, the remaining living Beatles in the 1990s along with the recorded voice of John Lennon produced the songs Free As a Bird and Real Love both of which while Beatle-y was still not The Beatles.  I suspect if the JREF revamped and organized a new TAM within the next few years it might very well be a nice skeptical conference but still would still not be The Amazing Meeting.   

Skepticism and life go on.  The Merseyside skeptics, who just happened to live in Beatle-ground zero, continue to organize the well received Q.E.D. con and have some nice wins against homeopathy in Britain.  The New England Skeptical Society and The New York City Skeptics NECSS this past Spring held another successful conference along with its own modest drama with Professor Richard Dawkins and John Horgan hatchet job.  Both in the same tenor of certain TAM dramas.  CSI is having their conference in Las Vegas this Fall.  The location is very TAM.  While I feel confident that each conference will all succeed in their own way, I also suspect none of them will ever have their near universal appeal of placing Skepticism first within the realm of rationalism, outreach, or camaraderie.  

Just as music soldiered on through the 1970s without the Fab Four to impressive effect such as the rise of Elton John or Led Zeppelin.  It also sometimes was terrible like Jimmy Buffet.*  The skeptical movement appears to be doing the same with many good efforts and a few disappointments. I would not be surprised at some point in the future a new focal point will emerge and for a time generally pull skepticism together.  The new conference or organization won’t be the Beatles, but it might be Michael Jackson or Van Halen.  They had their moments too.  


As followers of this blog may note, I have been posting about once per month.  I plan to post at this reduced rate until probably the start of next year when some other personal diversions run their course.  I hope to post on a more weekly basis.  In the meantime be sure to follow Sharon Hill at her Doubtful blog. 

Friend of the blog and Astronomer Royale, Dr. Stuart Robbins, own blog and podcast have been on hiatus because he's just too damn busy with real science.  We cannot wait until he starts podcasting again. 

Stuart is cool. 

Finally fellow friend of this blog and skepticism in general, Conspiracy Skeptic Karl Mamer, has recently become engaged to be married.  We here at The Skeptical Review could not be tickled pinker for the happy couple and their family at large.  Congratulations.  
* Perhaps the ceasing of TAM avoided a JREF/TAM “Fat Elvis” period.  We’ll never know. 

Monday, June 20, 2016

Thoughts on Liverpool Skeptical Win

The practice of medicine is complicated.  One does not have to be an accredited medical provider to make such a determination. How to best practice medicine by extension ought to be left to the experts.

Placing this thought into relief was the latest episode of Skeptics with a K where Mike Hall shared that a NHS review decided, after a period of review which included public comment, that homeopathy within Liverpool, England be defunded.  My overall opinion on this matter is first, happy that a major Western metro area is not wasting money on such nonsense.  I am also in a bit of awe that skeptics were able to mobilize and actually do something concrete.  I cannot fathom American skeptics mobilizing to accomplish something similar in the somewhat similarly sized Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.