Skeptic Fails and Wins This Week

It was another busy week for skeptical fails and wins! Thanks to everyone who sent in links.

Journalism Warning Labels
Scott found this excellent win. Tom Scott created journalism warning labels to alert people to bad journalism.  If only these could be stuck to webpages. They are fantastic, and a great reminder to be skeptical about what you read.

Confirmation bias in science: how to avoid it
Mitchell found this win at Ars Technica. The article goes through some great examples of confirmation bias in science history. Learning to avoid confirmation bias is an important skeptical tool, and this article does a great job of reminding us that no matter how smart you are you can still be fooled.

Wireless schools blamed for illness
Grant found this epic fail. A group of parents in Simcoe county are blaming wireless internet for making their kids sick. They’ve set up a woo-mongering website called the “Safe Schools Commitee” which describes how kids just “aren’t quite the same” after wi-fi exposure. One of the parents was quoted as saying:

“”…the intensity of the microwave signal in his daughter’s kindergarten class, was measured to be four times stronger than the signals found at the base of a cellphone tower.”

There was no explanation as to how they measured this.  The article continues with more fear mongering and unfounded claims about the dangers of wi-fi. It could not be more credulous.  The author seems to have just rehashed the information given to them by the parents group, and offered no critical analysis at all.

Chasing MS ‘liberation’ dream irresponsible use of Alberta funds
Frank sent in this win in the Edmonton Journal. Finally someone gets this story right.

“We mustn’t politicize or sentimentalize the independent grant process, allowing elected officials to decide which pet project to fund. Money needs to be channelled to the most promising research, research that meets every rigorous, peer-reviewed scientific standard.”

MDs want rules for private oxygen clinics
Lorne found this win calling for regulations around private hyperbaric oxygen clinics.  These clinics offer “treatment” for things like AIDS and autism, yet do not require any sort of medical licensing. It’s great to see an article on this topic that isn’t credulous woovertising.  And I laughed out loud at this comment on the story:

“At least with the naturopath close by if the chamber caught on fire they could use the liquid homeopathic medicines to put out the fire. It’s about time Health Canada started cracking down on these woo peddlers.”

Probiotics offer healthy benefits
Yvonne sent me this credulous woovertising about the benefits of “probiotics”.  In classic woovertising fashion, this story was written by someone with a diet website.  There is no good evidence that probiotics do anything, but that doesn’t seem to stop these products  from popping up all over the supermarket. There isn’t even a good definition of what probiotics are.

Unorthodox Cures
I’ll leave you with this photo gallery at the CBC featuring pictures of woo health treatments.

And that’s all the fails and wins this week!  Keep ‘em coming to links [AT] skepticnorth [DOT] com.

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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.