Recent Entries in Skeptic

Astrology would be considered a scientific theory if judged by the same criteria used by a well-known advocate of Intelligent Design to justify his claim that ID is science, a landmark US trial heard on Tuesday.

Under cross examination, ID proponent Michael Behe, a biochemist at Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, admitted his definition of 'theory' was so broad it would also include astrology.

The trial is pitting 11 parents from the small town of Dover, Pennsylvania, against their local school board. The board voted to read a statement during a biology class that casts doubt on Darwinian evolution and suggests ID as an alternative.

New Scientist Breaking News - Astrology is scientific theory, courtroom told

Dr. Michael Behe, leading intellectual light of the intelligent design movement, faced a dilemma.

In order to call intelligent design a "scientific theory," he had to change the definition of the term. It seemed the definition offered by the National Academy of Science, the largest and most prestigious organization of scientists in the Western world, was inadequate to contain the scope and splendor and just plain gee-willigerness of intelligent design.

So he devised his own definition of theory, expanding upon the definition of those stuck-in-the-21st-century scientists, those scientists who ridicule him and call his "theory" creationism in a cheap suit.

He'd show them. He'd come up with his own definition.

Details aside, his definition was broader and more inclusive of ideas that are "outside the box."

So, as we learned Tuesday, during Day 11 of the Dover Panda Trial, under his definition of a scientific theory, astrology would be a scientific theory.


Behe's 15th-century science - York Daily Record

Status: True.

In 1986, Silo (a chain of home electronics stores) ran a television commercial in 23 markets nationwide, offering stereos for "299 bananas." They never thought anyone would take them at their word; after all, "banana" is a widely accepted, if playful, term for greenbacks. Who could possibly mistake one for the other? Thirty-two customers held the retailer to its unwitting word — they showed up bearing loads of the yellow fruit and demanding the store keep its end of the bargain.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Business (Banana Skinned)

Status: Probably not.

The winner for "Most bizarre rumor to come out of Hurricane Katrina" so far is the above-cited Observer report that a group of killer dolphins armed with "toxic dart" guns, and trained by the U.S. Navy to track down and immobilize spies and terrorists, was washed out to sea in the Gulf of Mexico by the storm. The cetaceans are now missing and presumed to be armed and dangerous, at least according to rumor.

The Observer article is located here:,6903,1577753,00.html

The sole source for this story seems to be the above-mentioned Mr. Sheridan, whose validity as an information source is dubious at best.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Hurricane Katrina (Killer Dolphins)

Wouldn't it be neat, they ask, if we could nab bin Laden via teleportation? In "Star Trek," the characters traveled between spaceship and planet by having their bodies dematerialized, then "beamed" to another locale -- hence, the characters' familiar request to the ship's engineer: "Beam me up, Scotty."

That's teleportation.

Although many physicists think such ideas are claptrap, it would be ideal if the United States could teleport U.S. soldiers into "a cave, tap bin Laden on the shoulder, and say: 'Hey, let's go,' " said Ranney Adams, spokesperson for the Air Force Research Laboratory at Edwards Air Force Base in the Southern California desert. "But we're not there (yet)."

Not for want of trying, though. Last year, the Air Force spent $25,000 on a report, titled "Teleportation Physics Study," to examine possible ways to teleport humans and objects through space.

Military examines 'beaming up' data, people / Critics say its extreme computing, energy needs keep teleportation unlikely for now

Since there is no content, there is no "controversy'' to teach about in biology class. But here is a good topic for a high school course on current events and politics: Is intelligent design a hoax? And if so, how was it perpetrated?

"The proponents of intelligent design use an ingenious ploy that works something like this," writes Tufts philosopher Daniel C. Dennett, and author of Darwin's Dangerous Idea. "First you misuse or misdescribe some scientist's work. Then you get an angry rebuttal. Then, instead of dealing forthrightly with the charges leveled, you cite the rebuttal as evidence that there is a "controversy" to teach."

To date, scientists have held back with regard to engaging the proponents of "intelligent design" on the battlefield of scientific discourse, reasoning being that by simply having a discussion, the ID crowd gains a respectable platform for their views.

Edge 166

[Gene Weingarten] just finished reading the No. 1 national best-selling advice book in America: Natural Cures "They" Don't Want You to Know About, by Kevin Trudeau. I think I can safely say it is not a "good book," though I admit my standards may be a little high. I am defining a "good book" as one that is not actively trying to kill you.

Trudeau argues that most doctors are idiots, puppets of the evil pharmaceuticals industry. Together they are engaged in a shocking conspiracy with the FDA and FTC to keep you ignorant about simple, inexpensive natural cures that exist for virtually all diseases and that could keep you alive well past 100. It's all a fraud, says Trudeau, whose expertise appears to be that he, himself, has been convicted of fraud. (Don't look to the book for details about this last item. It involved a credit-card scam.)It's Enough to Make You Sick

False. Sorting out who should have done what, and when, to head off the disaster in New Orleans produced by Hurricane Katrina will undoubtedly take a very long time (and the issue may never ultimately be resolved). A preliminary timeline doesn't seem to support the sequence of events claimed in the article quoted.

In fact, Governo Blanco had already declared a state of emergency for the state of Louisiana on the 26th of August.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Hurricane Katrina (Blame Blanco)

True. (hee hee)

Captions accompanying television news broadcasts have to convey information about often complex topics in relatively few words, a situation which can sometimes produce inadvertently humorous ambiguity.


The screen shot displayed above, presumably captured from a Sky News (Ireland) broadcast, uses a text caption in conjunction with a video clip of President Bush to convey that the President had declared Hurricane Katrina to be "one of the worst disasters to hit the U.S." Without the video context however, the caption could be read as labeling President Bush "one of the worst disasters ever to hit the U.S.," especially given the lack of quotation marks to offset the phrase and indicate it was a paraphrase of his words rather than the news agency's descriptor.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Photo Gallery (Worst Disaster)

Nearly everyone who has ever watched television is the western world is at least passingly familiar with Gilligan's Island. The series about seven castaways on an uncharted island ran on CBS for three years in the mid-1960s and has since become one of the most popular syndicated shows of all time and a mainstay of American popular culture. We revel in dissecting the show's minutiae, pondering such questions as "Why did the Howells bring suitcases full of money on a three-hour tour?" and "How come
Gilligan wears the same clothes every day, but they never get dirty or torn?" The subject of one of the more enduring trivia questions over the years has been "What was Gilligan's full name?" Was 'Gilligan' his first name or his last name? And what was his full name?

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Radio & TV (Willy Gilligan?)


Whenever disaster strikes a large, long-established city, inevitably one will find earlier references to that city in popular culture that seem arch, funny, or inappropriate in retrospect. Once example of such occurred by coincidence the week after Hurricane Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005.

On 8 September 2005, while New Orleans was still struggling to evacuate all of its residents in the wake of flooding produced by Hurricane Katrina the previous week, the CBS daytime game show The Price Is Right offered contestants a now-unthinkable showcase prize....

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Politics (The Price Is Right)



It's difficult to draw any substantiated conclusions from these photographs' captions. Although they were both carried by many news outlets, they were taken by two different photographers and came from two different services, Associated Press (AP) and Getty Images via Agence France-Presse (AFP). These services may have different stylistic standards for how they caption photographs, or the dissimilar wordings may have been due to nothing more than the preferences of different photographers and editors, or the difference might be the coincidental result of a desire to avoid repetitive wording (similar photographs from the same news services variously describe the depicted actions as "looting," "raiding," "taking," "finding," and "making off"). The viewer also isn't privy to the contexts in which the photographs were taken â.. it's possible that in one case the photographer actually saw his subject exiting an unattended grocery store with an armful of goods, while in the other case the photographer came upon his subjects with supplies in hand and could only make assumptions about how they obtained them.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Photo Gallery (Loot Loops)


The notion of keeping some windows slightly cracked open during hurricanes crossed over from what was at one time touted as an effective defense against tornadoes but which has since been discredited. In the wake of devastating twisters, it would sometimes appear that a few houses had exploded; from this evidence, scientists theorized air pressure outside had to have been far lower than it was inside, with this disparity causing the blowout. It was therefore suggested people leave their windows open just a bit to equalize pressure.

However, further research showed those blasted apart houses were the result of wind blowing into open or broken windows, so the advice, rather than preventing this particular form of destruction, would actually work to cause it. Those gusts that entered homes pushed up on the roofs at the same time wind was blowing over them, which made the roofs act like airplane wings and generate lifting force. Once roofs lift off, the walls of homes can fall outward, making it look like the buildings exploded.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Science (Hurricane Mutiny)


Status: True.

Origins: Everyone's heard "friend-of-a-friend" stories about vengeful pizza guys masturbating onto your medium combination, sworn enemies pissing in each other's beer and irate butchers whacking off into the ground round. We've long been fascinated by the idea of using bodily fluids in something ingestible as a means of revenge.

United States Postal Service workers in Akron, Ohio, suspected Thomas Shaheen, a 49-year-old USPS vehicle mechanic, of having poured urine into a break room coffee pot on at least two occasions in July 2005. Employees set up a video camera to catch him in the act, and on 5 August 2005 Shaheen was charged with two misdemeanor counts of adulteration of food or placing harmful objects in food and ordered to appear in Akron Municipal Court.

Urban Legends Reference Pages: Horrors (Piss-Poor Coffee)

Homeopathic remedies may help people feel better, but the impact appears to be no greater than a placebo effect, a comparison of more than 200 studies of alternative medicine and conventional treatments concludes.

Homeopathy, which aims to stimulate a patient's own healing processes with minute dilutions of specific remedies, is based on the theory of treating

The Globe and Mail: Homeopathic remedies no better than placebo, study finds

Please post this information all over the internet on websites, blogs, discussion groups, mailing lists, etc.:

Three films worth seeing:

The first film will come as a real shock to anyone who thinks chiropractic is safe. The chiropractic industry does all it can to hush this down, but dead patients do tell tales.

Do you want to see a chiropractic leader squirm while he attempts to distort and downplay the evidence against lethal chiropractic neck manipulations? His face just reeks of delusional (dare I say deceptive?) denial as he desperately attempts to avoid admitting the truth. Well, Hagan McQuaid, International Vice-President of the Chiropractic Association of Ireland does just that in this excellent expos�.

There are extensive interviews with key players, including injured patients, surviving family members, doctors, researchers, etc. It is well worth taking the time to see it in its entirety.

Confessions of a Quackbuster: MUST SEE!: Dangers of chiropractic therapy

This sounds fishy. One wonders how the "crooks" are detecting electronics equipment that's turned off and stored in the trunk.

CEN News : Region-wide : Phone pirates in seek and steal mission

Mobile phone technology is being used by thieves to seek out and steal laptops locked in cars in Cambridgeshire.

Up-to-date mobiles often have Bluetooth technology, which allows other compatible devices, including laptops, to link up and exchange information, and log on to the internet.

But thieves in Cambridge have cottoned on to an alternative use for the function, using it as a scanner which will let them know if another Bluetooth device is locked in a car boot.

Det Sgt Al Funge, from Cambridge's crime investigation unit, said: "There have been a number of instances of this new technology being used to identify cars which have valuable electronics, including laptops, inside.

Appearing shortly after President Bush's August 1, 2005, remarks that seemed to endorse the teaching of "intelligent design" in the public schools, a pair of important recent articles -- Chris Mooney's "Inferior design" in the September 2005 issue of The American Prospect and Jerry Coyne's extensive "The faith that dare not speak its name" in the August 22, 2005, issue of The New Republic -- offer different but complementary examinations of "intelligent design" creationism. Both articles emphasize important, but comparatively obscure and underreported, facets of the history of the "intelligent design" movement, with Mooney revealing a perhaps surprising ideological transformation in the careers of the founders of the Discovery Institute and with Coyne providing a biologist's informed evaluation of Davis and Kenyon's Of Pandas and People, the canonical textbook of the "intelligent design" movement.

NCSE Resource

  The Way To More Questions

If a high-ranking LAPD official can be believed, perhaps the Scientology-affiliated The Way To Happiness should take a page from its own teachings.

Two of the Glendale-based nonprofit organization's 21 guides to achieving happiness are "Be Worthy of Trust" and "Seek to Live the Truth," neither of which were followed apparently in the group's dealings with the LAPD and a city in Texas.

Officials with the group, which over the past two decades has distributed booklets of the same name to millions of school children across the country, all with the help of a variety of public officials and corporate sponsors, say they have worked with hundreds of organizations throughout Southern California and around the country in efforts to promote clean living as a virtue worthy of emulating.

But according to LAPD Cmdr. Mike Downing, the Church of Scientology forged his endorsement on The Way To Happiness Web site, prompting the LAPD to disavow any endorsement of Scientology and The Way To Happiness.

PASADENA WEEKLY: Greater Pasadena's Alternative News and Entertainment Weekly

Mr. Klass wrote about extraterrestrial issues in his own Skeptics UFO Newsletter and appeared on talk shows and lectured widely. His investigative findings were routinely criticized by people and organizations who took seriously UFOs and alien abductions.

He once told an interviewer: "I've found that roughly 97, 98 percent of the people who report seeing UFOs are fundamentally intelligent, honest people who have seen something -- usually at night, in darkness -- that is unfamiliar, that they cannot explain."

He said the sightings were often of objects such as reentering satellites, meteor fireballs and hot-air balloons.

His books included "UFO Abductions: a Dangerous Game" (1988) and "The Real Roswell Crashed-Saucer Coverup" (1997). In the first, he promised $10,000 to any victim whose abduction by aliens could be confirmed by the FBI. No one ever collected.

Philip Klass, 85, Dies; Aviation Journalist, UFO Debunker

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