Skeptical Fails and Wins This Week

Hello Skeptifans.  Here’s the latest batch of Fails and Wins

John Edwards on Strombo
Pyschic medium John Edwards made an appearance on the Strombo show. I didn’t catch the full interview, but they’ve posted this video clip where Edwards claims his psychic energy is causing his mic to malfunction. Strombo seems to be eating it up. Did anyone catch the interview? Were there any skeptical questions? I really hope so. You know, for skeptical reasons. Not because I have a giant crush on Strombo that may be in jeopardy if I find out he believes in psychics.

Does BP’s corexit kill?
Paul sent in a collection of links that are making their way around the internet, claiming that BP cleanup workers are getting sick from the Corexit chemical used. The evidence is totally anecdotal at this point. The story seems to have a lot in common with Gulf War Syndrome and the silicone breast implant complications. Those also started off with anecdotal symptoms, and then people came out of the woodwork associating their health problems with that shared experience. Gulf War Syndrome was theorized to be caused by all sorts of things, including exposure to depleted uranium and the course of vaccines and medications soldiers were ordered to take. But in the end, Gulf War Syndrome was never proven to exist, because it never had a clear definition in the first place. In the latter case, the FDA eventually banned silicone implants even though there was never any good evidence they caused health problems, and there has been plenty of evidence since that they are relatively safe. While in both cases there were people that were sick, the correlation to their shared experience was murky. While anecdotal evidence should not be totally ignored (it is often where scientific investigation starts), there are some warning signs that about this BP story that should get your spidey senses tingling. Firstly, the symptoms are very broad, and subjective. If there were a health issue caused by a chemical, you would expect a group of specific symptoms, where as “BP Disease” seems to be causing everything under the sun. The more symptoms that are added to the pile, the more skeptical we should be that they have the same cause. Also, many of the symptoms are not measurable. Symptoms like fatigue, headaches, etc can be caused by the placebo effect alone, so it is difficult to use them as evidence there is an issue. Lastly, the media hype can feed into these symptoms, creating a circular effect. However, it’s still possible that under all of that, there could be something to the story. We just don’t know yet. Here are the related links Paul sent in. Link 1. Link 2. Link 3.

Canadians surprisingly divided over education, religion, in-depth poll reveals
Lorne sent in this story. It’s a political article that discusses some of the issues dividing Canadian voters based on poll results. Check out the link to the poll results provided in the article. You’ll see that Canadians want evidence to back up policies, that scientists are trusted, and that experts should inform policies. It’s definitely heartening to see that no matter what your political bent, most Canadians do care about facts.


Radioactive Milk Only A Danger After 58,000 Glasses

Anna sent in this story. Last week, I gave up on posting any fails or wins related to Japan’s nuclear reactor crisis. It was just too upsetting, and there was just too much misinformation out there to deal with. But this story, based on a recent WHO report, had to be linked. It gets right down to the facts. It’s so sane, you can hardly believe it’s a news article.

That’s the Fails and Wins this week, folks. 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.