Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week

Hello skeptifans.  The snow has finally come to my fair city, so I will be hibernating for the next few months.  But, I managed to crawl out of bed to bring you your Fails and Wins this week.

ok, ok. I know it's not THAT much snow, but I don't have to like it!

Science still can’t explain the colour red
Art sent in this article from the Globe and Mail. I’m not really sure what to make of it. It starts by discussing scientism, a word that for me personally has never been the mark of a good discussion, but goes on to discuss the science (or lack thereof) of consciousness. In the end, the article manages to get into some really interesting stuff. Would you call it a fail or a win?

MS patients lack followup after vein therapy
Marion and Lorne both spotted this story at the CBC. We are now starting to hear about the fallout from MS patient who have sought out the unproven vein widening treatment. After travelling around the world and spending large amounts of money, these patients and their doctors, are left dealing with the side effects. While I can’t bring myself to call this story a Win, I hope that other MS sufferers will see the stories and be wary of seeking out this treatment until there is evidence behind it.

Jaap spotted this on the Horoscope page of The Province newspaper. Featured in the “If your birthday is today” section is Carl Sagan. Apparently skeptics weren’t the only ones celebrating Carl Sagan Day. Newspaper horoscopes tend to be harmless fun. I have no idea if Georgia Nicols even believes the stuff she writes. She doesn’t seem to sell any expensive services on her website, although I’m sure she gets paid reasonably well for her horoscopes to appear in various newspapers. To feature Carl Sagan on a horoscope page is just too funny. Jaap also linked to this snippet from Cosmos, that sums up Sagan’s opinion on astrology pretty well.

Baby, don’t fear the WIFI
Reader Michael5MacKay spotted this win in the Kapuskasing Nothern Times. Despite having grown up in Ontario, I had to look up where Kapuskasing is. The answer? It’s North. It’s in that giant round part of Ontario that I thought no one lived in. But, it looks like it is indeed inhabited, and there are skeptics up there to. This column is an opinion piece on MP Carol Hughes’ recent call for Health Canada to change it’s stance on the safety of wi-fi. And the opinion is dead on. Health Canada says wi-fi is safe, because that’s what the overwhelming amount of evidence says.

Well, that’s the Fails and Wins this week! Stay warm, and keep those links coming to links [at] skepticnorth [dot] com.

6 Responses to “Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week”

  1. Blondin says:

    Great roundup, as usual, Melany.

    Not to be picky but Kap’ isn’t north, it’s just that Toronto is south.

    I know that people from Southern Ontario seem to think that places like North Bay must be just a stone’s throw from the arctic circle but, just to give some perspective, Kapuskasing is at about 49.5 degrees N. That’s just barely farther north than most of the Canada/US border and just slightly south of Winnipeg. The vast majority of Canada is further north than Kapuskasing.

    I hope that didn’t sound like a rant…

    • Erik Davis says:

      But…but…the newspaper is called “The Northern Times”…

      Also – while most of Canada is north of the 49th parallel, most Canadians are, I’d be willing to bet, south of it.

      Also — Winnipeg is definitely north.

  2. Thanks Blondin. If it was a rant, I deserved it ;)

  3. Blondin says:

    Just pullin’ yer chain. ;)

    I found the Globe & Mail item on “Scientism” very annoying. I would definitely call it a fail. The opening statement pretty much sets the tone for the whole article. He presents some interesting opinions but never makes any attempt to distinguish between “a misguided belief in the infallibility of science” and the reality that people who use the scientific method are quite well aware of the traps and pitfalls of human pursuit of truth. Any one who considers science infallible is not a scientist and Posner reveals a poor understanding of science and scientists.

  4. Thomas Doubts says:

    I agree with Blondin that the Globe story was annoying, mostly, I think, because the assertions in the lede weren’t borne out in the body, and the darn conclusion went nowhere. Still though, the biological/philosophical debate over the nature of consciousness is an interesting one…humans experience the world both objectively and subjectively, so it is certainly worth the argument. Anyone read Peter Watts’ “Blindsight”? He writes about consciousness being an unnecessary side effect of a complex brain. Good weird book.

    Thanks for the plug about my WIFI column, Melany. Nice to know someone’s reading my drivelling screed.

  5. Composer99 says:

    I’d say the Globe column tips over to fail, on account of the whole ‘red’ thing. We bloody well can explain red, thank you very much.

    And yes, I’m being a humourless pedant. ;)


  • 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.