Skeptic Fails and Wins This Week

Pay attention to your dreams
Lisa spotted this gem in the 24hours newspaper. In yet another article that seems to be nothing more than free advertising for a pair of woo peddlers, we learn that our dreams can be interpreted to solve the problems in our lives. The article, about a husband and wife pair who have written a new book about dream interpretation, is nothing more than a sloppily strung together series of quotes from these people. I really do wonder how much someone gets paid for an article like this. I’m sure I could churn out a dozen articles like this on my lunch break. I tell you, if you skip the fact checking or the offering opposing opinions parts, journalism is really easy.

OSR#1: Industrial chemical or autism treatment?
This article came from a work friend. It’s several months old, but it’s such a doozy I thought I’d share. The first line sums it up pretty well “An industrial chemical developed to help separate heavy metals from polluted soil and mining drainage is being sold as a dietary supplement by a luminary in the world of alternative autism treatments.”

This article is definitely a win. The author first searches the medical journals and finds no information. Then asks the manufacturer of the supplement to provide their safety studies, they get nothing. Then, they point out that the chemical is supposed to remove mercury from your body which has been studied and never been shown to cause autism. The article mentions Generation Rescue and the Age of Autism blog, but never in a flattering light.

Page 3 of the article explains how the supplement was able to get to market. The manufacteror used the “dietary supplement” loophole which allows them to release their product to the market without the testing that a medical drug would have to go through. That’s right. All you have to do is call your industrial chemical a “dietary supplement” and you’re good to go.

Rarely do you see an article about an alternative medicine that is this thorough. Except maybe on the skeptical blogs, of course. The Chicago Tribune also dedicates a page to dubious autism treatments: chicagotribune.com/autism . Good for them for being a watchdog on this subject.

Cellphones behind worldwide bee loss?
Electropollution better (still wrong) than global warming

John found this article in BC newspaper, The Province. If you think the title sounds bitter, check out the third paragraph:

“…it’s so refreshing these days to find scientists who refuse to blame all such calamitous — or possibly calamitous — events on global warming. Most of them appear to have swallowed the carbon Kool-Aid a long time ago.”

One the surface, the article is about a study by Indian researchers that points to “electrosmog” as a contributing factor in the decline of honey bee populations. But really the author is using the story as a way of complaining that scientists blame everything on global warming. The whole thing is just completely bereft of facts or rational arguments. He dismisses the study’s findings by pointing out that there are honey bee colonies in London. Yep, that’s his proof. Some honeybees seem to do fine around cellphones, so clearly they can’t be having a negative effect. Then, out of nowhere, the author returns to his global warming denial soapbox and accuses the rest of the world of being sheep for believing in anthropogenic climate change.

Was this opinion piece flagged as such? Nope. It was stuck smack dab in the technology section. Is the author an expert of some sort? Nope, he’s a “metro affairs columnist”. I’m not sure why I should care about his opinions on global warming. And wasn’t this article supposed to be about cellphones and honey bees? I still have no idea if the claims of the study were plausible, but I’d sure like to read a news story about that.

Thanks for sending your fails and wins this week. I have to say, western Canada is kicking eastern Canada’s butt at submitting. Next week I hope to see some love from all you Ontarians, Quebecers and Maritimes peeps! Send your links to our new email address: links@skepticnorth.com

2 Responses to “Skeptic Fails and Wins This Week”

  1. crf says:

    “Anthropomorphic”?

    • Melany Fulgham says:

      Woops! That was supposed to read “anthropogenic”. It’s fixed.

      Spell check is awesome.

      Although, if one was going to anthropomorphize climate change, what characteristics would it have?

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  • 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.