Monday, December 27, 2010

Christmas/End of Year wrap-up

Christmas has come and gone unless you subscribe to the twelve days of Christmas, but I do not.

Rather than try and recap a lot of podcasts that have been uploaded over the last few weeks, I thought I would discuss the year that was 2010, or at least the parts that I remember without having to do vast amounts of research.  However, I would be remiss if I did not recommend those with iTunes to download a brief Christmas Special from the Conspiracy Skeptic's Karl Mamer.  It is less than ten minutes long and it is not on his website.  It is a delightful humorous spoof on Joseph and his biblical prophecy, which Karl did while a lad at his college radio station.  Also, the Righteous Indignation folks did a live (non-skype) podcast which was recorded in Dr*T's dwelling after a lovely meal and imbibing in generous amounts of alcohol.  It is Trystan, Hayley, Dr*T, and not the Irishman.   The episode features a hunt for an alleged ghost monk, the skeptical news of day, and Trystan sharing how Christmas is a hum-bug.  If there are ghosts and spirits, then Mr. Swale is currently working on a ponderous chain-link by link and yard by yard; while Hayley and Dr*T's thoughts and feelings on Christmas match more of my own.  I do not buy into the little baby Jesus portion of the whole holiday, but it is a pleasant time to spend with friends, family, and sometimes the animal hospital.* I might suggest that a beer or two in the system before listening might help the listener get into the same mindset as the hosts.

The 10:23 Campaign year started the year off right with the Manchester Skeptics in part lead by one Michael Marsh overdosing one January English day on homeopathic pills in front a chain of British drug stores at their various locations.  The idea was to draw attention to the fact that homeopathic remedies do not contain any active ingredients and they do nothing.  Overdosing occurred in other locations including a spot or two in the United States, Canada, and Australia.  Also, in Britain the government at least toyed with the idea of ending funding for homeopathic hospitals that are under the National Health Service as their treatments do not have any scientific support for their efficacy.

In other excellent news, Simon Singh more or less won his libel battle with the British Chiropractic Society when an appellate court found that Singh's now infamous use of the word "bogus" did not mean that Chiropractors knowingly were rendering ineffective treatments.  As far as I know, Parliament has not altered the libel laws of Great Britain.  However, it appears that a movement is moving forward to stop the apparent forum-shopping by groups and people to bring suit in London in order to stifle free speech.  To me, Simon Singh is the skeptic of the year for sticking with the litigation, which is horrendously expensive and time consuming, and not folding his tent and running the other way.


The Australian Skeptics have had some luck bringing the light of scientific medicine against the anti-vaccination folks at the Australian Vaccination Network.  Dr. Dunlop especially of the Skeptic Zone has been tireless in tracking and countering the questionable information spewed forth by the AVN.  The Australian Skeptics have also been tireless in their efforts to expose the fraud that is the Power Balance bracelet and its equally dubious knock-offs sold in stores around Australia and the world.  Richard Saunders and the Skeptic Bros. placebo band efforts to expose this useless and overpriced genre of products has had some real success.  The Australian government is forcing the company that sells the Power Balance band to fess up to selling the bands without any evidence that it does anything.  Those Australian Skeptics get things done.

This year saw three Amazing Meetings with T.A.M. 8 in Las Vegas, T.A.M. London, and T.A.M. Australia and from my vantage point in darkest Pennsylvania each had its own "vibe."  T.A.M. Las Vegas was attended by SR contributor and awesome chap Karl Mamer.  Las Vegas is big and flashy, although compared to London or Australia, for a person in no particularly connected part of North America, a fairly inexpensive proposition.  Las Vegas was a bit of a lightening rod for the limited internal disagreements within Skepidom when Dr. Phil Plait gave his now infamous "Don't be a Dick" speech.  Dr. Plait advocated that skeptics should be more pleasant, understanding and friendly in dealing with believers and those on the fence.  This started a bit of a row with some defending Plait's view while others such as Dr. P.Z. Myers calling it (paraphrasing) nonsense and naive.

T.A.M. London featured a bit of disagreement before it began on the price of admission, and there may have been some politics between London Skeptics and non-London Skeptics.  Most of what I know in this regard is from Twitter, which is not the most reliable source.  Sadly, SR's man on the spot Trystan Swale came down with the intestinal plague and had to return home a day early.  Next SR contributor to attend a skeptical conference is going to be required to bring a first aid kit complete with broad spectrum antibiotic.

Then there was T.A.M. Australia which has been building up for well over a year, especially for listeners of the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe.  It started out as a skeptical conference run by the Australian Skeptics and then it became part of T.A.M.  Finally, T.A.M. Australia came and it seems to have gone off without a hitch or major disagreement.  It was the first time the entire cast of The Skeptic Zone was under one roof, and all of the members of the SGU did indeed make it down under.

In other realms of skepticism, there was some infighting.  Dr. Pamela Gay was sucked up into the continuing religion and skepticism debate on whether people of some religious faith can be full-fledged skeptics.  This included a side scuffle on whether Dr. Novella on SGU dissed Dr. Gay with a comment about bacteria and souls which some in the blogosphere found offensive for Dr. Gay.  It was a bit ridiculous, but I am sure the skeptical/god discussion will continue.

Then there was a brief skeptical/feminism dust-up over The Ladies Who Do Skepticism being a group catering to women, and not a group called Skeptics Who Do Skepticism.  A follower of Righteous Indignation made a spoof advert sign called "Gentlemen Who Do Skepticism" which was followed by threads going after Hayley Stevens for being a supporter of the group.  This was followed by an unnecessary but understandable explanation by Ms. Stevens on RI and then further explanation by Dr. Janis Binnion on why the group is not terrible.  The whole modestly sordid episode was unnecessary.  A group that is designed to encourage and make it easier for women to engage in face to face skepticism needs little to no defense.

On balance it was a pretty good year for skeptics.  Granted all the really good stuff was happening in Australia or Great Britain, but I'll take it.

**Edit**

I am a schnook.  I failed to mention Kylie Sturgess.  She is the wunderkind of skepticism in Australia who after a solid eight hours of sleep per week publishes a podcast (The Token Skeptic), blogs (Podblack Cat), reports for another podcast (The Skeptic Zone), holds down a day job (teacher), studies for her advanced degree(something advanced), helps organize a skeptical conference(TAM), promotes skeptical/atheist literature and at times even reads this blog among other things.  Let's just say she is busy do all sorts of crazy stuff I am and I am sure many other skeptics are grateful.   She will be at the QED conference this February.  QED: if you're not there then you are a skeptical square.**


*Skeptic Dog, Ike, became rather ill on Christmas Eve with a bit of an upset Yuletide stomach.  Lady and I were a bit freaked out at the state of our beloved dog.  Therefore,  we rushed him to the nearest 24/7 animal hospital 35 miles away at 10:30 at night.  Fortunately, Ike ended up being fine.  We did return home at 2 a.m. and it made a for a weary Christmas day cooking Christmas lunch for our parents.


**Sadly, I am a square.  Marsh, Trystan, Hayley, Janis, Gavin, George Hrab, Dr. Novella, Rebecca Watson are all not squares.  

4 comments:

  1. I'm sorry to hear about your dog, and glad that they're okay! :/

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  2. Thanks. We indulged him a bit too much. He's fine now.

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  3. Thank you for all of your contributions during the past year. Each and everyone is greatly appreciated here at HQ.

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