Busy, busy, busy (1/6/2015)
This weekend was taken up with Skepticamp in Sydney. I spoke about skeptical activism and you can read a version of the talk here.
I am challenged (13/6/2015)
I had a prescription filled at the local chemist's today. When I got home I found a flier in the bag. I think I'm going to have to explain the nature of me to the pharmacist. At least there was no homeoquackery on the shelves. The good news is that there seems to be only one each of chiropractor, naturopath and homeopath in my town of Oberon and they are all quarantined in the Wellness Centre so people don't accidentally come across them.
Unfortunately I won't be able to have my spinal health checked because I will be at the Winter Magic Festival in Katoomba that day.
I write about fallacies. (13/6/2015)
The next edition of Australasian Science magazine will be winging its way mailboxwards in the next few days. You could wait until your subscription copy arrives (you do subscribe, don't you?) or seek it out in the newsagent's shop to get the full collection of excellent science written for the literate layperson, but while you are waiting you can get a sneak preview of my column about those logical fallacies that plague the life of anyone brave enough to enter into conversation with those who deny or misrepresent reality.
Haw! Haw! Haw! Keep laughing (13/6/2015)
It's Homeopathy Awareness Week again, and as I do every year I encourage everyone to become aware of what a ridiculous fraud homeopathy is. If only more people were aware of the uselessness of this pretend medicine the world would be a better place and honest people might have more money in their pockets. Homeopaths would have less, of course, but this would be a good thing.
It's not a pyramid. No, it really isn't. (27/6/2015)
You don't often see advertisements for pyramid schemes, sorry, network marketing opportunities on television, but my TV has been polluted with this dross for the last few weeks.
Oh, look, it's an opportunity. But you can only find out the details by telling them lots of things about yourself.
Oh, look. There is a product, although you have to register to find out the details. It is almost redundant to say that the television advertisement shows people sailing on a luxury yacht, driving an (implied) expensive car on a perpetual vacation, and playing on the beaches of the world. (I have heard the expression "walking the beaches of the world" in presentations for at least three different pyramid scams.)
So let's play Pyramid Scheme Bingo:
There's a dreadful sameness to all these pyramid schemes. I would almost bet money that this crowd have get-togethers named "Super Saturday" and have levels of participation named after jewellry.
Now we'll get on to the fine print.
I'll analyse that for those who might be unfamiliar with the language of pyramid scheming. My comments are in italics.
All information is provided free.
For certain values of "free". Something will have to be paid before the full story is revealed.
Income represented is not guaranteed in any amount for any participant and will vary with each individual.
Get-out clause Number 1 – you might not succeed like the winners in the testimonials.
No person earns income by solely enrolling others into the program.
Obligatory statement included at the insistence of lawyers to bypass the black-letter legal definition of a pyramid scheme. What's that old saying about duck-shaped things that waddle and quack?
Results of participants and experiences shared may be unique to the individuals sharing and should not be taken as assurances of success.
Get-out clause Number 2 – you might not succeed like the winners in the testimonials.
Results of participants may vary.
Get-out clause Number 3 – you might not succeed like the winners in the testimonials. It can't be said often enough – just ask the company's lawyers.
Pyramid schemes are a form of barely legal theft. Not only do the operators steal money from participants but they steal self respect, family life and dreams. It's just a pity that legislators can't seem to write effective legislation to drive these parasites out of society.
I get mail (27/6/2015)
I'm not sure how to answer this:
Date: Sun, 28 Jun 2015 00:22:37 -0700
From: Mike Allen
In your opinion, why is this one on your shit list?
I don't think that just saying "It's a 9/11 Truther site so it is garbage" would be satisfactory, even though it summarises the problems succinctly.
What do we want? Your money. When do we want it? Forever. (27/6/2015)
On Sunday, June 21, tens of protesters gathered in public spaces around Australia to lie about the new taxation and social security rules that prevent parents who choose to endanger their children by refusing vaccination from receiving benefits exclusively available to parents of vaccinated children. Or, put another way, people were whining that they couldn't get what they were not entitled to. It was claimed that the protests were not about vaccination per se but about the infringement of human rights, but the speakers were all drawn from the anti-vaccination liar community and screeched about hideous dangers to their precious little petals. To make things clear, nobody is being forced to vaccinate anyone. Parents have a choice. They just have to accept the consequences of that choice. But liars tell lies, so this fundamental principle was lost in the noise.
Reports from the organisers claimed thousands of protestors, but reports from sane people who attended put the crowds at a few dozen. The photo below shows the Sydney crowd outside the Town Hall.
Photo from an anti-vaccination Facebook page, proudly reporting the success.
The lady at front centre is a friend of mine who has no sympathy whatsoever with anti-vaccination liars, and neither does the other friend under the blue umbrella. Subtract at least two from the massive crowd.
To put the crowd into perspective, here is a real protest crowd at the same location. We were trying to stop a war, and the speakers on that occasion were far less extreme and certainly much less unhinged.
Vietnam War demonstration outside Sydney Town Hall, 1971
Photograph by Roger Scott
Book review (27/6/2015)
I found this book titled The Six Ways Of Atheism at my local library so I thought I would compare it to by A C Grayling, which is possibly the best set of arguments for atheism I've seen. The title is an obvious nod to "The Five Ways" name often given to St Thomas Aquinas's arguments for the existence of God.
The introduction was not encouraging. The author has a whine about not being a professional philosopher and asks that his arguments be treated on their merits without considering the writer's academic qualifications. (An academic philosopher friend of mine translated this to "It took me ages to find a publisher for this and the professional philosophers I keep emailing don't reply so I can only assume everyone's biased against me for reasons of professional jealousy." The book is self-published.) While this is perfectly reasonable (we have a name for not doing it – "ad hominem") it usually doesn't need mentioning. He then goes on to describe his "six ways". Two of them are totally original, two are massive reworkings of the works of such dunderheads as St Anselm, St Thomas Aquinas, David Hume, Emmanuel Kant, René Descartes and others who completely missed the point, and two seem to be logical clarifications of the mistakes most people make when talking about religion.
The first chapter is titled "The Aggregate Of Qualities Argument" and is one the two which contain original and never before thought about arguments developed by the author. In summary, it goes like this:
Wow! Nobody has ever thought of that before. I didn't bother to read any further as I think the whole lot could be distilled down to "The Argument From Hubris".
Back to the library it goes.