Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week

Happy New Year, skeptifans! Let’s hope 2011 sees more critical thinking than 2010. Here are the Fails and Wins you sent me this week.

Looking at what the stars have in store for 2011
Anthony found this Fail to ring in the New Year. There are a lot of things we have learned by looking at the stars. By staring at the sky, we have learned that the Sun is a star and our planet rotates around it. We’ve learned that the Universe is expanding, and it started from a Big Bang. We’ve learned that the chemicals we are made from were generated in stars. These are amazing discoveries, and there is so much more to learn. But looking at the stars to see which astrological sign will become wealthy this year, which will fall in love, and which will encounter difficulties? Fail.

Foodie’s guide to 2010
Art found this tiny fail in an article about 2010 food stories. On slide five they mention the story of the Ontario farmer who got into trouble for selling raw milk. They described the story as “a food fight that pits the freedom of consumers against the protection of regulators”. That’s an interesting way to frame it. How about mentioning the real issue? Unpasteurized milk poses a risk to public health. Some say this risk is minor enough that people should be given the choice. That may be a debate worth having. But framing this as a fight between greedy regulators and public freedom is a Fail.

2011 Predictions
Will you be keeping an eye on apocalyptic signs of 2011? Luckily makes it easy for you.

That’s the Fails and Wins this week! Your small donation of one link keeps me from getting fired. Send ‘em to

8 Responses to “Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week”

  1. That Foodies’ guide article doesn’t use the word “greedy” in its description of regulators and to me suggests that the regulators are over-protective and too strict. And while people need to be aware of the risks inherent in the food they eat, it can’t be denied that there is tons of food out there which is dangerous (e.g. undercooked meat) and yet still available to eat. I won’t deny that pasteurization saves lives but the farmer in Ontario came up with a fairly novel and complicated scheme to work within the law while allowing people to drink what they want. It’s pretty asinine that drinking gasoline isn’t illegal but drinking raw milk is (as good as).

    And if you want to talk about fails, how about the big fail where everyone goes nuts over the KFC Double-Down, which is (gasp!) as unhealthy as a Big Mac. The food media went crazy over this when in fact it was a tempest in a teapot. Nobody seems to care that the milkshakes at McDonalds or Cold Stone have more calories than a human should consume in a day, but a “sandwich” with two pieces of chicken? THE SKY IS FALLING!

  2. Eric Haas says:

    I don’t consider Foodie’s framing of the issue to be a fail. While there are certainly other ways to look at it, viewing it as a fight over how much risk people should be allowed to take on themselves versus how much the government should protect people from their own risky behavior is perfectly valid. If the raw milk was being sold to people without their knowledge, or if it put at risk people other than those who chose to drink it, you’d have a point, but neither seems to be the case here.

    • JAM says:

      Eric, You position is one that I find easy to agree with. There is some benefit to people taking responsibility for their actions and decisions. That’s how Darwin’s Theory works. The elimination of the stupid and unlucky.

    • Art Tricque says:

      It is not only a question of people only taking risk upon themselves by choosing to consume unpasteurized milk: there is is also the risk of passing on infection and so affecting the health of others (Melany deliberately uses the term “public health” in her posting). As Melany says, that still might be a discussion worth having, but the correct framing would be public risk — and not individual risk — versus individual freedom.

    • Blondin says:

      I don’t know enough about unpasteurized milk to assess the actual risk but presumably there is an increased risk. As an adult I may be prepared to take that risk but what about my children? Is it okay for me to decide that my kids can take their chances with unpasteurized milk? What about my neighbour who drops in for coffee? Nothing is ever simple…

      • Adults make risk decisions for their children all the time. Playing hockey is risky. Letting your kid run in the house is risky. Feeding your kid french fries is risky. Smoking in the house is risky. Etc. So I don’t think unpasteurized milk is black and white.

  3. Very good point on the Double Down. I think the hype has only worked in it’s favor. But you are right, on the list of fast food “crimes”, the double down is not a dangerous offender.

  4. Christoph says:

    I posted the following comment to the “Looking at what the stars have in store for 2011″:

    “Cool! I’m an Aries. Wow. So how does that Astrology stuff work? Is it that when I was born, the planets were aligned such that their gravitational pull influenced my genetic makeup? Did their combined gravities determine my future mental state, my IQ, my life choices, my body shape, how my family would treat me etc., leading up to me making more money this year? Wow, just wow. Or is this just for entertainment purposes only? Darn!”

    No further comments after that. I’m trying to follow my fellow skeptics lead by calling out the bull$h*t.



  • 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.