Old Wine, New Bottles – August 2011

Five of our skeptical best from Augusts past…

Ontario’s Wi-Fi-Phobia

Steve weighs in on wifi safety as the “debate” kicks off in Barrie. At the time, I don’t think any of us expected this issue to prove as contentious as it has been, but in the event, this article would be only the first of a dozen published in these pages over the last year. Many of those found their way into the counter-offence against Green Party of Canada leader Elizabeth May’s dubious pronouncements on the topic a few weeks ago.

Looking under the hood of intelligent design

In what would prove to be one of our most popular articles, Jeff carefully picks apart the faulty logic of Intelligent Design dogma with a computer scientist’s rigour.

Evidence Check: Bryce Wylde’s 21 Favourite Papers

CP24 homeopath Bryce Wylde didn’t take kindly to Kim’s earlier criticisms, and produced 24 of his favourite papers proving the effectiveness of homeopathy. This is a tactic known as a Gish Gallop, where the sheer quantity of references substitutes for persuasive evidence because it’s too much work to read them all and assess their quality. Only Kim did just that, producing a canonical work that should be referenced by skeptics for years to come.

The Spooky Pull of Sympathetic Magic

Erik weighs into the Don’t Be a Dick debate, arguing that because our minds are hard wired for magical thinking, we have an obligation to be even-handed with non-skeptics:  ”After all, if someone’s only crime is to operate their cognitive machinery according to the manufacturer’s instructions, it’s hardly fair to vilify them for it.”

We Don’t Govern on the Basis of Statistics

Marion takes the Harper government to task over its aversion to evidence-based policymaking — from the long form census to law and order policies reliant on faulty data. If only things had ended there — in the ensuing year, we’ve seen a similar approach in their fight against the Insite safe-injection clinic, the muzzling of federal scientists, and the refocusing of the NRC mandate away from pure science to ROI-driven technology.

Image courtesy of Sebastian.YEPES via Flickr under Creative Commons

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  • Erik Davis

    Erik is a technology professional based in Toronto, focused on the intersection of the internet and the traditional media and telecommunications sectors. A reluctant blogger, he was inspired by the great work Skeptic North has done to combat misinformation and shoddy science reporting in the Canadian media, and in the public at large. Erik has a particular interest in critical reasoning, and in understanding why there’s so little of it in the public discourse. You can follow Erik's occasional 140 character musings @erikjdavis