You may have heard a few bad studies recently.

Girls like pink and red more than boys because girls had to pick berries. Err? Except like pink is a cultural trait that is not universal. More at Bad Science.

Jessica has the sexiest walk. Fraud study.

Will Saletan debunks a “rigged study” where the authors contaminated a trivial test with many assumptions and extrapolations that are unsupported by any evidence.

The scientific method works so well because other people double-check your experiments and test your theories. Our cognitive biases limit our ability to willingly disprove our own ideas. No method accounts for our strange attempt to defend our hypotheses rather than falsify them.

Specialists have the most knowldege within their field. This gives them the toolset to critically evaluate someone else’s ideas within their specialty. But take them out of that narrow field and insert them into a different field or politics where they lack information, and they will adopt a simplistic explain-all fantasy belief. They turn into “slogan-chanting zombies.”

No one is a consistent skeptic.

Okay, this is hilarious. A critical review of Dawkins’s latest book The Fascism Delusion. Why can’t he just accept that Fascism fills a deep-seated need in people?

I confess, I’m a bigger fan of Zawahiri’s ideological ramblings. Osama sounds like a crazy homeless guy.

He’s a conspiracy theorist who bungles the most basic historical facts.

In the Vietnam War, the leaders of the white House claimed at the time that it was a necessary and crucial war, and during it, Rumsfeld and his aides murdered two million villagers. And when Kennedy took over the Presidency and deviated from the general line of policy drawn up from the White House and wanted to stop this unjust war, that angered the owners of the major corporations who were benefitting from the continuation.

And so Kennedy was killled and al-Qaeda wasn’t present at that time, but rather, those corporations were the primary beneficiary from his killing.

How special.

I want to briefly hit the topic of Pseudohistory.

I imagine this is an offshoot of identity politics. Historical narratives are twisted, regardless of evidence, to emphasize the tribe’s importance. Once you believe that history is just a narrative, then you crossed the line between empiricism and art.

Did you know that there was a divine division between imperfect Earthly matter and perfect Heavenly matter of the gods? While geometry is all well and good for building a shed in your backyard, the heavenly planets were mystical and beyond the knowledge of science.

So began the scientism slur a few thousand years ago. Certain things in the world cannot be explained through empirical evidence and reason. According to this, science is just another “belief” that is no better than anything else.

Shankar Vedantam has another good column on cognitive bias at the Washington Post. Why are disproven myths still believed? The first impression is the most important for our memory.

Denials of myths actually reinforce myths just by repeating them. People forget the negative tags and it just reinforces the first impression. Don’t forget that confirmation bias also reinforces the mythical belief. As Vedantam said, “Myth-busters, in other words, have the odds against them.”

Sometimes we notice a statistical disparity between two groups. Shouldn’t these two groups be equal? Why aren’t they?

Since we are enterprising do-gooders, we make up plausible explanations to describe why there is a difference between the two groups. That way we can address the problem with a solution and make everything equal.

That is a misuse of statistics and a logical fallacy. Replace your plausible explanation with the more honest expression: Because of magic.

What is a Hate Crime and why should it be punished differently than a normal Crime? I’ve previously discussed why we should not speculate about motives here, here, and here. What happens when we codify our specualtions into law?

Traditional legal trials never judged motivation. Trials judge the state of mind and the consequences of action. To judge the state of mind, mens rea, we evaluate evidence that shows a person’s intent and knowledge. Proof can be shown if a person is sane or not whether they were drunk at the time or not, whether the action was negligent, reckless or deliberate. You cannot speculate about motives because you lack evidence.

Robin Hanson debunks the doomsday argument.

And another mystical belief bites the dust. OBEs can be recreated in a lab without using drugs. OBEs are usually associated with near-death experiences and drug use. Now we know how stress and illusions trick the mind.

Fantasies truly are dangerous. There are a couple of places in the world where locals stop polio vaccination. One is Nigeria and the other is the Pashtun regions of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Polio vaccines are a Western or Zionist Plot to kill children or render women infertile. So polio continues to thrive and modern medicine cannot elimate the disease because of irrational fears and bigotry.

Back at home, many Britons stopped taking the MMR Vaccine after it was incorrectly linked to autism. The vaccine has since been proven safe but there are plenty out there believing in fantasies that the government and Big Pharma are lying to the public.

Some Western Feminists come out in favor of female genital mutilation. It’s about cultural sensitivity and respecting Muslim fundamentalists’ clitoris-phobia.

If you start off with the wrong axioms, your logical reasoning will lead you to the strangest places.

So for many post-modern feminists it’s ok to hack off female organs. It’s culture.

Richard Dawkins blasts mysticists, astronomers and alternative medicine in Enemies of Reason. It starts off nice by showing the nonsense of astrology.

One bit, I disagree with Dawkins that mysticism has gotten worse. I think it’s always been this awful.

PBS showed a documentary claiming that Einstein’s first wife, Mileva Marić, helped him with Special Relativity Theory.

This astounding historical claim is based on… nothing apparently. It did have a feel-good message by placing a woman behind one of the significant scientific discoveries of the century.

This is an obligatory post: 9/11 Conspiracy theories are Bullshit.

Unfortunately, they are far more widespread than I thought. How do conspiracy theories affect political discourse and policies in this country? Political fantasies are actually dangerous, so its worth a thought.

Some people like to stare at the sun. It’s mystical, you see.

They are disciples of Hira Ratan Manek, a retired spice trader from India who says staring at the sun improves mental and physical health.

Right. It gets funnier.

Richard Dawkins is hosting a series in the UK: The Enemies of Reason. He targets alternative medicine, mysticism, and psuedosciences. Here’s a review of the new show.

Alternative Medicine is modern snake oil. There is no critical review, no double blind experiments, and no evidence for their effectiveness. The entire concept of alternative medicine takes advantage of people’s ignorance of biology, wishful thinking, and irrational distrust of a mythological beast called “Big Pharma.”

Worse, this general ignorance lowers the public’s trust and understanding of science and engineering.

Alan Sokal pulled a prank on the humanities by publishing a fake postmodernist article called “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” in the humanities journal Social Text.

The fake journal article was supposed to be peer-reviewed and vetted for accuracy. Since this was a humanities article, that means they spell-checked it. Sokal makes wild speculations that twists theories like General Relativity into lunatic ideas. Humanities has no empirical foundation, so it turned into art and pseudoscience.

A few years back, France encountered its first problems with Creationism in the Muslim immigrant population.

Catholicism didn’t cause any problems since it essentially endorses proven science, including evolution. The French were left unprepared for a fundamentalist attack on Darwinism.

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