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Tag Archives: Debunking

An orchestra of car horns blew as my brother slid across the bonnet of a Mercedes. He landed, cat like, on the other side and sprinted onto the side walk towards the Asia centre. I stumbled behind him followed closely by his good friend Kat, cars screeching to a halt as we failed to get out of the way of them. I saw my bro in the distance standing at the door of the Asia centre casually leaning against the wall. I felt obligated to get to the auditorium on time so I sucked in a large breath of air and bolted up to the building.

Took your time didn’t ya? We are going to miss the start of the talk.

Chuckled Josh.

We barrelled down the stairs and found a seat in the auditorium, luckily there were some fantastic seats right in front of the stage. We sunk into our seats gasping for breath.
Normally I don’t think we would have been this eager to get somewhere, but this was something special. It is National Science Week and we were off to see Michael Shermer and Lynne Kelly.

We were not disappointed. First was the Shermernator with his talk, Why Darwin Matters. Needless to say Shermer was fantastic. He lashed the key note with humourous asides and the core focus of the talk was highly persuasive. Well, persuasive to someone with an open mind. There was one old chap who stood up and disagreed with everything Shermer said. This on its own is fine, but when every argument he put forth was the same old creationist/religious apologist pre-debunked crap it kind of felt like he was trying to have a pissing contest. He brought out Shannon’s law (obviously completely misunderstanding how we measure information) and also reused the old Letters in a box analogy. It was a veritable shotgun blast of challenges that he most likely knew Shermer wouldn’t be able to address in full.

All in all it was a great talk and was very funny.

Next up was Lynne Kelly of the Victorian Skeptics. Her talk on Taromancy didn’t disappoint. She focused on cold reading and her personally made “Ancient Chinese” Tarot cardesque form of cold reading which used “masks”. She showed us how she works with a client and how even the most skeptical mind can be fooled if the cold reader is clever enough. The talk took a sombre note when she explained how psychics and pseudo-science can harm people with a truly sad story about a Melbourne couple who chose to forgo science based medicine at the advice of a psychic, ending in the death of a child.

This was definitely one of those talks that you wish you could take a non-skeptical friend or family member to. I hope in the future that we can have many more events like this and keep spreading scepticism and the scientific method. To continue the Science Week trend, later this week I’m going to the Melbourne museum to try and get into the fossil archives to take some photos for YAS.

Oh, I almost forgot, make sure you get your Young Australian Skeptic submissions in soon! The first articles are coming in now from people such as:- The Skepbitch, Podblack and Naotiotami! Your article can be about anything you want (as long as its science based or attempts critical thought) it can even be a video if you wish, or a sound bite. So hurry up!

Computers are cool

It’s Friday afternoon 6:30pm, and on a piss stained seat on a bustling locamotive sits a young boy. His feet swing slowly back and forth as he peruses a newspaper. His innocent and youthful eyes flit over the articles of the paper until he finds something that catches his interest. His vibrant blue saucers widen with horror as he locks onto a frightening article. It reads –

“Gaming’s autism link.”

Shocked, the boy reads on.

“Obsessive computer game playing has been linked to a rare form of autism.”

The young boy snaps out of his shock and puts on his skeptical hat and examines the article more closely.

Ok, so as you have guessed the young boy is me. I wasn’t really shocked and awed when I saw the article but I was angry. As I read on it was apparent that the news paper had obviously either blown a study out of proportion or reported on a scientific study that is flawed. The article goes on –

“Doctors say hours spent on your console could give you the same negative character traits associated with Asperger’s syndrome.”

Right, so first the article says that gaming is linked to a rare form of autism now its referencing “doctors” who say that it can cause character traits similar to Asperger’s syndrome. Firstly, just because something is like something doesn’t mean it is that same thing. A cold is caused by a virus, but when you get a cold you don’t say, “Hory shit mang! I got a minor case of the AIDs!”. No, you don’t. That would be silly.

The kicker of the article was that it stated that –

“according to Dr John Charlton…In total, 3 per cent of those questioned (out of 400 gamers) during the study had signs of being addicted to game playing.”

3 per cent. Wow. So basically this study detected noise and if it did detect anything it detected that video game playing is very very mildly addictive to some people…like pretty much everything else. (Smoking, alcohol, drugs, sex etc.).

It is obvious that it was a slow news day in the MX news room on Friday so they had to fabricate a story that would seem scary in order to shock the mindless masses coming home from work at the end of the week.

This is exactly what we need (SARCASM DETECTOR ACTIVATED!). Not only do vaccinations seem to cause autism, now our beloved video games cause it to! RUN FOR THE HILLS! Heres hoping that this little gem flies under the radar and isn’t picked up by the autism/vaccination proponents who seem to latch onto any little thing that comes their way.

So basically what I want to say is, Go die in a fire MX news paper. They know their target market and they continue to push brain dead anti-science at them.

Cpt Dis

A lot of the time when people think about the personalities assosiated with skepticism and the skeptical community they think of cynical bearded old men stewing away grumpy at the world. While this is obviously a stereotype some of the most notable skeptics are in fact, bearded old men. For example, the venerable James Randi fits the description well (how ever I don’t think he is cynical).

Many skeptical minds are young and fresh and looking for a younger image to follow so I think it’s about time we broke that old sterotype and kicked it out on its arse. A new image is what we need and someone who is helping to change the mold is Cpt Disillusion.

Basically, Cpt Disillusion makes debunk videos and posts them on youtube. But in a modern twist, he uses this chance, of a large young audience, to debunk other youtube videos that are in the spotlight. So far he has debunked things such as the penguin slap, the Haiti UFO and the “man on Mars”. He dedicates each episode to one topic and then, through the use of video manipulation and CGI know how, debunks each video!

What is great about this guy is how he uses special effects and technology to make the skeptic world more attractive to younger viewers. Not only does the show look great, it’s actually very funny too!

Please check out his videos on youtube and see for yourself.

(Thanks to the Swift newsletter and James Randi for bringing this guy to my attention.)

Skelliot.