Thursday, February 22, 2007

Check this out.

I think this speaks for itself.


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Which Muppet are you?

You Are Scooter

Brainy and knowledgable, you are the perfect sidekick.
You're always willing to lend a helping hand.
In any big event or party, you're the one who keeps things going.
"15 seconds to showtime!"

Friday, February 09, 2007

The stupidest thing I've heard in... Well, the stupidest thing I've heard so far today, anyway.

I got this from today's news post at Penny Arcade.

It's a report on, and it is truly disturbing.

It's disturbing because the report is a steaming load of fear-mongering crap.

Watch it. (The title is the link) At least, watch as much as you can stomach.

There is never any indication that this has ever actually happened. Only that it's possible. Tycho explains why this is crap far more eloquently than I could ever manage.

This is a new low, even for a FoxNews affiliate.

Maybe a competitor contracted a character assassination on the Nintendo DS.


Tuesday, February 06, 2007

What philosophy do you follow?

You scored as Apathy. Your life is marked by quite a bit of apathy: You don’t seem to care much about the direction of your own life, much less society in general.
I would find a quote or two to better describe the virtues and thoughts behind apathy, but ironically those who would espouse the concept of apathy are too apathetic to write about it.

“Eh, who cares?”
--Myself, just now...

More info at Arocoun's Wikipedia User Page...



Justice (Fairness)








Strong Egoism






Divine Command


What philosophy do you follow? (v1.03)
created with

I am Apathetic, with fair but hedonistic tendencies. Sounds about right.
Please note the 0% Divine Command score. Damn straight!


Saturday, February 03, 2007

on the existence of qi and what is woo and what isn't

Over at Sporadic Maunderings, Qalmlea has a post about qi, or life energy.

People who know me would probably expect me to rip into this idea, me being a skeptic and all.

I won't. Qalmlea's explanation of qi isn't what I consider to be woo.

Just as I might say that my computer is "thinking" when I mean that the CPU is busy processing, Qalmlea uses qi as shorthand for internal sensations. She isn't claiming to be able to ring the monastery bell from ten paces away by thrusting out her hand. (That would be woo)

Both those situations are open to misinterpretation, of course.

This brings me to the actual point of my post: what is skepticism?

There seems to be a common misconception that skepticism is just kneejerk denial of anything that makes the 'skeptic' uncomfortable.

Unfortunately, there probably are people like that who consider themselves skeptics. They really aren't. They are laboring under the above misconception, too.

A skeptic is a person who won't believe extraordinary claims without sufficient evidence to back them up.

Let me discuss 'extraordinary claims' and 'sufficient evidence' for a moment.
An extraordinary claim is one that contradicts a person's understanding of the way the world works.

If someone says, "I have an aunt who lives in Alaska." No one is likely to demand evidence. It isn't an extraordinary claim. People have aunts. People live in Alaska. There's no contradiction there.

On the other hand, "I am clairvoyant" is an extraordinary claim. People have five senses. Any kind of 'extrasensory perception' is immediately suspect. The self-proclaimed psychic will probably offer a slew of anecdotal 'evidence' to support their claim. Anecdotes, however, are not really evidence. More on this later. The results of carefully designed tests, particularly if they are 'double-blind,' with statistically significant results are evidence. I would consider winning the JREF million dollar challenge to be very strong evidence.

The Theory of Evolution contradicts some people's understanding of the way the world works. So did the theories of Gallileo, Newton, Einstein and many other scientists throughout history. However, these theories all have tons of real evidence to back them up. Yes, that includes the Theory of Evolution (check out the TalkOrigins archive for a start). Denying the evidence won't make it any less true.

Here's why anecdotal evidence doesn't count: Stories can be made up, and there's really no way to test them. Photographic and video 'evidence' are kinds of anecdotes, unless it can be shown that no fakery is involved (this can be pretty hard these days) "Pictures don't lie" is not (and really never has been) true.

Skeptics won't (shouldn't anyway) just accept any 'evidence' presented. Evidence can be (and often is) faked. That's why scientific experiments have to be replicable. If you claim your experiment produced a certain result, any other scientist performing the experiment you describe had better get the same, or at least comparable, results. Your experiment will be examined for design flaws that could compromise the results. Also, your basic hypothesis will be subjected to experiments designed by other scientists.

I remember this engineering joke:
"How do you know how much weight a bridge will support?"
"Drive successively bigger trucks over it until it collapses, weigh the truck and rebuild the bridge."

This is kind of how science works. Scientists do everything they can think of to make a new hypothesis fail. Depending on how serious the failure, the hypothesis may be modified or abandoned completely. That's why a claim has to be testable to be scientific.

Okay, double blind testing. This just means that neither the subjects nor the researchers know who belongs to the control group and the experimental group. This is important because it eliminates (or at leact severely reduces) confirmation, or observation, bias (this type of bias means that negative results are de-emphasized (or ignored completely) and positive results are inflated).

Anyway, Qalmlea's definition of qi is not an extraordinary claim. She isn't claiming that it has any magical effects.

This guy, on the other hand, is off the deep end of qi woo.

My apologies to Qalmlea if I read your post totally wrong.
My apologies to everyone for the rambling nature of this post. I'm sure you all think that I just start typing and let the stream-of-consciousness flow. One of these days I'll do that for real. That'll show you. Show you all.