Skeptic Fails and Wins this Week

Family Guy Blasts Jim Carrey and Jenny McCarthy
Ian spotted this Family Guy “win” discussed on ContentMagnet. Is it a cheap-shot, or something that might actually make people think twice about Jenny McCarthy’s claims..or maybe both?

Canada AM Autism Week
Linsday gave me the heads-up that Canada AM has devoted a week to stories on Autism. Click the link to see the line-up of topics. You can watch all the clips on the right. Overall, the episodes were pretty woo-free. They balanced personal stories with medical research. The episode on “alternative treatments” certainly had us worried, but when you watch the episode it is discussing alternative treatments like music and art therapy in the context of managing behavior NOT as a miracle cure-all or as a replacement for other forms of medical therapy. Overall the series seemed to be very focussed on the evidence while also showing the human element. You can watch all of the videos at the link above. I didn’t have time to watch them all, so if you find a fail please post it in the comments. From what I saw, this was a win.

Marion sent in this epic fail. It’s a “Public Service Announcement” from the fear mongering anti-powerline group the RETA (Responsible Electricity Transmission for Albertans). These folks have been protesting and spreading bad information for a while now. The video below has a laundry list of unproven and proven-to-be-false claims about high voltage power lines. You can find more woo on their website. They link to a lot of studies, and I can see how many people could look through their information and feel like they have science to back up their claims. But what they actually are doing is taking snippets from the original sources, without providing conflicting studies or any information on methodology.

Indian “holy man” perplexes doctors
By now I’m sure you’ve all seen this story, about a man who claims to have lived for decades without consuming food or water. I’ll pick on AlJazeera because they posted this embeddable video on Youtube, but there was credulous reporting on this story from just about every news source. If you heard this story, wouldn’t you immediately question if it was a trick? You’d think that’s what every journalist would do too. There is also a deeper ethical issue here. Right now this man is being observed without being given food or water. If it’s not a trick, then this man is now dying. What doctor would be complicit in this experiment? What if this man is simply delusional?

Have you seen a news story that failed in the critical thinking department? Or maybe you read one that was a breath of logical air. Keep me in business and send the link to

5 Responses to “Skeptic Fails and Wins this Week”

  1. tl-dr says:

    Here's a fail. A legitimate school like Ryerson University's Chang School of Continuing Education offers a program on Traditional Chinese Medicine. Maybe Ryerson isn't so legitimate after all.

    From their website:

    Traditional Chinese Medicine

    Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) addresses the promotion, maintenance, and restoration of health, and the assessment, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders, and dysfunctions. Diagnosis and treatment measures include acupuncture, herbal medicine, dietary therapy, exercise therapy, and tuina massage. Interest in TCM is rapidly expanding in Canada and around the globe. The World Health Organization has encouraged the spread of TCM to meet the health care needs of the 21st century, and the trend to integrate TCM and allopathic medicine in many Western countries is growing.

    Chinese Medicine

    CVCM 100 — Foundations of Chinese Medicine
    CVCM 101 — Integrative Health Care: Challenges and Issues
    CVCM 202 — Diagnosis in Chinese Medicine: Basics
    CVCM 204 — Herbal Treatment in Traditional Chinese Medicine: Basics
    CVCM 206 — Acupuncture Treatment in Chinese Medicine: Basics
    CVCM 210 — Risk Management in Traditional Chinese Medicine
    CVCM 214 — Herbal Treatment in Chinese Medicine: Clinical
    CVCM 216 — Acupuncture Treatment in Chinese Medicine: Clinical
    CVCM 302 — TCM Clinical Diagnosis and Treatment

  2. kogger says:

    I don't see the Indian holy man story as a fail. Sure, the claims are extraordinary but they are in the process of being verified, in a scientific way seemingly. I am sure that the medical staff is closely monitoring his health to make sure that his life is not endangered needlessly. If this is indeed a trick it will be revealed. There may be some legitimate scientific explanation for this extreme case, despite the holy man's preferred mystical explanation.

  3. boyinfidel says:

    I didn't see the fail in the power transmission PSA until the very end when they start spouting all the health risks. while I'm completely against the massive transmission lines that will soon be built between Edmonton and Calgary, my reasoning is not based on the health risks, which have never been proven. My beef is with the concept of spending tens of billions of our dollars building power lines, when we could be using that money to fund localized renewable power stations. A great example is Enmax's new initiatives to build gas and heat transfer power stations within Calgary's city limits. These plants are only a fraction of the cost of distribution grid, and ensure that the power needs of Calgarians are met. The added benefits are an enriching of the local economy through job creation, and the environmental benefits of heating adjacent building with the heat from the plant.

  4. kogger says:

    Update to my earlier post. It seems that the Doctor in charge of verifying the claims of Indian holy man may be biased:

    "Dr Shah has been in charge of three similar investigations over the past ten years, and he has never allowed independent verification."

    Without independent verification I don't see how we can take these claims seriously.


  5. Melany Fulgham says:

    Thanks for the additional info, kogger.


  • Melany Hamill

    Melany proudly uses the titles of both geek and nerd. As a science-enthusiast and fan of debate, Melany likes to get her facts straight. She graduated from the University of British Columbia with a degree in Chemical Engineering. Since then her career path has meandered to its current spot as a project manager at a video game studio. Melany lives near beautiful Vancouver, British Columbia. She is not seeking treatment for her caffeine addiction.