Skeptic Fails and Wins This Week

Be skeptical of former ‘skeptics’
Despite what the ads claim, trying a product yourself is actually a lousy way to find out if it’s any good

Jonathan spotted this win in the Ottawa Citizen, by skeptic Brian Dunning. Brian, of the excellent Skeptoid podcast, discusses the value of anecdotal evidence, and cautions us to beware of advertising that says “I was skeptical until I tried it”.

Mobile phones must display radiation levels, says San Francisco
Erik spotted this article in the UK Telegraph. Apparently San Francisco plans to require that stores selling mobile phones will have to display levels of radiation that the phones emit. I see the article as a fail, since it seems to play up the scientific debate that mobile phones may be harmful. But it does finish off with a very skeptical statement:

“There is no accepted theory to explain how, or if, these weak radio waves can affect the body beyond heating it to a very small degree.”

So what do you think? Is it a fail or a win?

Naturopath Jonn Matsen says eating lots of fruits and vegetables can sometimes make you sick
If you read my column every week, you know there’s one thing I REALLY hate and that’s free advertising for woo in the form of journalism. I’m gonna coin a phrase and call it “woovertising”. The Georgia Straight printed this crap about your nine “liver dwarves” and how too many vegetables can make you sick. Yup, I said “liver dwarves”. You just have to read this one to believe it.

Thanks for sending your fails and wins this week.  Keep those links coming to our new email address:

5 Responses to “Skeptic Fails and Wins This Week”

  1. daijiyobu says:

    Regarding the “liver dwarves,” I can’t help myself:

    “Hi-ho, hi-ho.
    It’s off to woo we go.”


  2. Alex says:

    As far as the phones go … huge fail for San Francisco, but the article isn’t too horrible. They’re obviously trying to take the “fair and balanced” approach, which tends to be a fail when talking about science, but at least they’re not intentionally pushing the usual “radiation” fear-mongering. I’d say it’s a skeptic draw.

  3. Thought Dunning’s post was a good one

  4. Parrot says:

    Woovertising – I like it!

    I’m going to use that when the opportunity presents itself!

  5. Richard says:

    While I see the San Francisco decision as fail from the skeptical point of view, I’m ok with it, because correct information is always valuable. So I consider both the decision and the article a skeptical draw.


  • 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.