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Poe’s Law

Professional skeptic Michael Shermer has bought Settled Science, Inc.; a now trademarked subsidiary of his own considered opinions

In The Believing Brain: From Ghosts and Gods to Politics and Conspiracies–How We Construct Beliefs and Reinforce Them as Truths, Michael Shermer explains it all for you. And Publishers Weekly’s reviewer offers As the founding publisher of Skeptic magazine, author of Why People Believe Weird Things, and a columnist for Scientific American, Shermer is perhaps the country’s best-known skeptic. His position is as clear as it is simple: “When I call myself a skeptic I simply mean that I take a scientific approach to the evaluation of claims.” But now Shermer is interested not only in why people have irrational beliefs, but “why people believe at all.” Our brains, he says, have evolved to find meaningful patterns around us. But Read More ›

Coffee! The “climategate” reporters only picked out the most damning e-mails? How unethical of them!

Googling “climategate + Dembski” (as a simple way to retrieve a file from our site that I wanted to link to), I came across this” comment at Open Parachute, which makes excuses for the ‘gates:

Predictably only the most apparently damning emails have been quoted in the media.

Sure, it is pretty predictable that the most damning statements would be quoted, rather than the office pizza order.

After all, suppose some fellow – for whatever reason – doesn’t like me much. He wastes his employer’s time recording his opinions – and his computer gets hacked: So we read:

O’Leary’s taste in clothes is terrible … her writing style stinks … she has a most inappropriate sense of humour … I am going to hire a thug to beat her up … her garden is nothing but a tangle of weeds … I bet she is unemployed right now …

Which of these comments do you think would most interest me? I am afraid I cannot offer a prize for guessing.

Open Parachute whiffles on:

While I think some of the language in the emails is disappointing I don’t think it is surprising for informal private communications.

Well, that depends on who you are, I guess. How about this one:

“The two MMs [Canadian skeptics Steve McIntyre and Ross McKitrick] have been after the CRU station data for years. If they ever hear there is a Freedom of Information Act now in the UK, I think I’ll delete the file rather than send to anyone.”

Wow, the open society on display.

Re Freedom of Information Act:

Read More ›

Poe’s law: Students cannot form logical position about television’s impact?

From what I can determine, this is a true story:

A Mindful Hack reader writes,

The state of Maine gave a test to about 15,000 eighth-graders to assess their writing skills, including their ability to form a logical position. When the state refused to release the results, a newspaper filed a Freedom of Information Act request and learned that 78 percent of the kids failed, which was 50 percent more than failed the test the previous year. Maine’s Department of Education explained the results were “inconclusive”, and they discarded them because students reacted emotionally to the test. “Kids got ticked off at the [question],” explained Education Commissioner Susan Gendron, “so it was not an accurate reflection of their writing skills.” The essay-based test asked the students to support or refute the statement, “Television may have a negative impact on learning.” (Portland Press-Herald) …And their inability to form a logical position and refute that is proof that the test is flawed.”

At Bangor Daily News.com, Kent Ward asks:

Just what there is to get so upset about in the debatable proposition that television may have a negative impact on learning, I haven’t a clue. The more so when test instructions clearly gave students the choice of making a case either for or against the premise and provided the pros and cons for making their argument. Which is to say they weren’t exactly starting from scratch, with only a blank sheet of paper and a debilitating writer’s block for inspiration.

In any event, from Kelley Bouchard of the Portland Press Herald (September 7, 2008) we also learn:

Edwards noted that eighth-graders who took the writing test in 2007 were able to draw from their own experience to sustain arguments for or against the following statement: “Rather than maintaining separate teams for boys’ and girls’ sports, a high school is considering combining teams and having a completely coed sports program.”

Now that strikes me as a very emotional question for many students, yet the students could handle it.

Gendron could be right, that the results this year are a fluke. But here’s another possibility: Thinking about television induced in many students a state of mind not suited to critical thinking because that is in fact how they react to television. So they were not “ticked off” by the question, they were disabled by it. That’s hardly good news, even if it is a fluke.

Let’s see what next year brings.

Note: Poe’s law states that some people or situations just cannot be parodied because you couldn’t make up stuff that is further along the continuum.

Also just up at The Mindful Hack: Read More ›

Coffee break, courtesy of Poe’s Law …

When I read this, I am having Sarah Palin nightmares. I dreamt last night that she was a member of a club where they rode snowmobiles and wore the claws of drowned and starved polar bears around their necks. I have a particular thing for Polar Bears. Maybe it’s their snowy whiteness or their bigness or the fact that they live in the arctic or that I have never seen one in person or touched one. Maybe it is the fact that they live so comfortably on ice. Whatever it is, I need the polar bears. I don’t like raging at women. I am a Feminist and have spent my life trying to build community, help empower women and stop Read More ›