The 111th Skeptics’ circle, featuring that creepy Sham-Wow guy

I have no idea what possessed Action Skeptics to use the Sham Wow guy to present this week’s entries, but it’s amusing. Check it!

In particular I like ICBS everywhere on this thermography nonsense, and Living better skeptically on yet another cancer quack. It’s very upsetting when quack modalities defraud people of hard-earned money. It’s even more upsetting when people encourage quackery to replace an legitimate and important screening procedure such as mammography or effective treatments for cancer. These people are the most dangerous kind of quack, if they continue unchallenged they will be responsible for the death of their victims.

I was also interested to see Tech Skeptics’ discussion of lazy journalism exposed. Apparently, journalism these days begins and ends at Wikipedia.

So stop by and say high to ShamWow Vince over at Action Skeptics.

Skeptics’ Circle 102 at Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes

Please check out this week’s skeptics’ circle at Happy Jihad’s House of Pancakes.

Of note, I liked Dr Austs’ post on the human toll of HIV/AIDS denialism, it is stirring. I also found the Skeptic’s field guide particularly interesting. I would have two suggestions. One would be to prioritize by frequency of use or rhetorical appeal rather than alphabetical, and second would be to include a section on conspiracy (like the ones the Lay Scientist and Dubito Ergo Sum describe in this issue ), which I believe is the hallmark of all denialist arguments. If you need a non-parsimonious conspiracy theory to explain your beliefs, well, you should re-think your beliefs.

And speaking of conspiracies, I forgot to blog the hysterical interchange between Rolling Stone contributor Matt Taibbi – author of The Great Derangement, and David Ray Griffin, 9/11 truther crank. The whole thing is instructive in the lesson of not arguing with cranks, but it doesn’t get interesting until part II when Taibbi starts to figure this out for himself.

As you’ve noticed, I struggled for quite some time with the question of how to answer your responses. Mainly this was because I was unsure of whether to treat this exercise like a comedy (because it’s certainly hard to take seriously any “debate” with a person who believes that Rudy Giuliani would conspire to blow up the densest slice of taxpaying real estate in the world, the New York City financial district, in order to save his city the cost of an asbestos cleanup) or whether to aim higher and treat it like a serious political argument. I tried it both ways and neither way seemed to fit. Treating this like an absurdist comedy, I realized, I’m making it hard for readers to see how monstrous and offensive your arguments are — but then again, when I take you seriously, spending paragraph after crazed paragraph grandstanding against you and your book, suddenly I’m the one who looks ridiculous.

Then it hit me, and probably far too late: the correct play here is to ignore you and your arguments entirely. There are many things about your work that are outrageous and offensive, but the very worst thing about you and other 9/11 conspiracists — and, I guess, lately anyway, me — is that you’re/we’re a distraction from the real problem.

It gets better. Taibbi really nails the fundamental problem with all of the false-flag arguments the truthers always lay out against reality:

This same public — the same public that stood meekly by when its manufacturing economy was exported overseas, that cheered when our government pledged to “get tough” with China by demanding that it allow us to weaken our currency vis a vis the Yuan, that twiddled its thumbs when Wall Street played Keno with the nation’s homeowner savings, that has consistently voted overwhelmingly to deprive itself of its right to litigate against powerful companies — this is the public you think George Bush and Dick Cheney needed to blow up downtown Manhattan for, in order to get them on board with a war against Iraq, the Patriot Act, and whatever else.

All of this 9/11 Truther stuff, it’s a silly distraction. A country whose economy is about to go down the shitter, to the brink of depression, thanks to three-plus decades of routinely-ignored Wall Street deregulation just can’t afford to be wasting its time arguing about thermite reactions and “morphing technology.” Captivated by the comic possibilities of Truther literature, I realized this too late. As you’ll see below, I even spent a lot of time pulling what’s left of my hair out over your answers to questions that even I admit now go beyond inane. I admit in advance to looking silly for doing so, and hereby make a promise to God that I won’t do it again, at least not as long as we have other things to worry about. All the same, some of the stuff you came up with, Professor sheesh! And I thought I was loony!

Freaking awesome. I’m sorry I didn’t write about it when it came out. His final diagnosis of Griffin’s writing was beautiful:

In the end it all comes down to what you believe. If you believe that events in life tend to have simple explanations, then you’re not going to be very impressed by Griffin’s arguments. If on the other hand you think that the people running this country spend their days plotting to create phantom civilian jet-liner flights, disappearing whole fuselages full of passengers, and then shooting missiles into the Pentagon in broad daylight in order to cover up embezzlement schemes if you think, in other words, that our government is run by the same people who cook up second-rate French spy movies or your mind instantly produces the word “crossbow” when asked to produce A MURDER WEAPON by a Mad Libs script well, then, you’re probably going to enjoy Griffin’s books.


Tangled Bank #111

Welcome to Tangled Bank #111! Today’s entries are presented without comment, but with poetry, a truly remarkable natural, albeit human, phenomenon, or to quote Love and Rockets:

    You can’t go against nature
    Because when you do
    Go against nature
    It’s part of nature too.
    In the umbra, the tunnel,
    when the mind went wombtomb,
    then it was real thought and real living, living thought.
    Everything is spoilt by use:
    Where’s the cheek that doth not fade,
    Too much gazed at? Where’s the maid
    Whose lip mature is ever new?
    Where’s the eye, however, blue,
    Doth not weary? Where’s the face
    One would meet in every place?
    The island dreams under the dawn
    And great boughs drop tranquillity;
    A parrot sways upon a tree,
    Raging at his own image in the enamelled sea.
    He loves us not,
    He wants the natural touch. For the poor wren,
    The most diminutive of birds, will fight,
    Her young ones in the nest, against the owl.
    I count those feathered balls of soot
    The moor-hen guides upon the stream,
    To silence the envy in my thought;
    And turn towards my chamber, caught
    In the cold snows of a dream.
    His spear, to equal which the tallest pine
    Hewn on Norwegian hills to be the mast
    Of some great ammiral were but a wand,
    He walk’d with to support uneasy steps
    Over the burning marle.
    Oh! what a tangled web we weave
    When first we practice to deceive!
    No, the heart that has truly lov’d never forgets,
    But as truly loves on to the close;
    As the sunflower turns on her god when he sets
    The same look which she turn’d when he rose.
    As man, as beast, as an ephemeral fly begets, Godhead
    begets Godhead,
    For things below are copies, the Great Smaragdine Tablet said.
    Yet all must copy copies, all increase their kind….
    Galway is a blackguard place,
    To Cork I give my curse,
    Tralee is bad enough,
    But Limerick is worse.
    Which is worst I cannot tell,
    They’re everyone so filthy,
    But of the towns which I have seen
    Worst luck to Clonakilty.
    All space, all time,
    (The stars, the terrible perturbations of the suns,
    Swelling, collapsing, ending, serving their longer, shorter use,)
    Fill’d with eidolons only.
    The noiseless myriads
    The infinite oceans where the rivers empty,
    The separate countless free identities, like eyesight
    The true realities, eidolons.
    Not this the world,
    Nor these the universes, they the universes,
    Purport and end, ever the permanent life of life,
    Eidolons, eidolons.
    And God said, Let the waters generate,
    Reptile with spawn abundant, living soul:
    And let fowl fly above the earth, with wings
    Displayed on the open firmament of heaven
    And God created the great whales, and each
    Soul living, each that crept, which plenteously
    The waters generated by their kinds,
    And every bird of wing after his kind;
    And saw that it was good, and blessed them, saying
    Be fruitful, multiply, and in the seas
    And lakes and running streams the waters fill;
    And let the fowl be multiplied on the earth.
    Punishment is a fruit that unsuspected ripens within the flower of the pleasure which concealed it. Cause and effect, means and ends, seed and fruit, cannot be severed; for the effect already blooms in the cause, the end preexists in the means, the fruit in the seed.
    It is a curious sensation: the sort of pain that goes mercifully beyond our powers of feeling. When your heart is broken, your boats are burned: nothing matters any more. It is the end of happiness and the beginning of peace.

For information on editions past and future, and for information on hosting, please visit The Tangled Bank.

Tangled Bank is on the way…


The Tangled Bank, the carnival for folks who love their science blogging, is coming here to denialism blog August 6th. We are the emergency fill-in hosts but promise to do a bang-up job. Send in those entries (to PZ, click the badge above).