RationalWiki popular articles, November 2015

Here are the most popular things (>10000 hits) that are actually product for public reading:

(last month’s)

RationalWiki popular articles, October 2015

(No, i have no frickin’ idea what is up with the inexplicable popularity of some of those entries. I looked them up in the raw NCSA format logs too, and they’re actual hits. Nowt so queer as folk, eh.)

Here are the most popular things (>10000 hits) that are actually product for public reading:

Please help get our articles on living people up to scratch.

RationalWiki has realised it’s actually a bit of a big and serious wiki these days, so needs to act a bit like it.

We are starting to put into place a Biographies of Living Persons guideline. It hasn’t quite calcified into a policy, but it should in fact be taken seriously, on the assumption that lunatics suing us would be inconvenient even if it’s a ludicrously terrible case.

The rule at present is something like “be understated and have references for everything, don’t be stupid.” This lowers our ability to snark, but is probably a good thing. If you want to call a spade a f-king shovel, you need to be able to cite every part well.

Here’s [[Category:Living people]] — please pick a random point, and start seriously fact-checking those articles. Argue on talk pages, etc.

Here’s the discussion that launched the policy.

It’s tricky dealing with frankly odious woo-pushers, but we’re popular enough these days that we have to do it properly. Please assist, research, fact-check, etc., and help make the world a slightly more informed place.

The Best of the Blogosphere – May Edition

We had 65 submissions in May to What is Going On In The Blogosphere? our shiny little front-page news and views aggregator. Here are the top ten stories from last month.

The Conspiracy Theory Flowchart THEY don’t want you to see!

Comedy flow-charts are always fun because, well, they’re comedy flow charts. So what is not to love about this extensive beauty, which charts exactly what conspiracy you should believe in given a few simple questions. Are the bastards out to get you? Remember, if not, that’s what they want you to think.

Politico decides to give its conservative readers a reality check on the Religious Right.

The origins of the Religious Right may be inconsequential if you’re suffering from their problems – whether you’re a gay teenager sent for “re-education” or a woman who can’t secure an abortion for her rapist’s baby – but here Politico looks at one interesting theory on the origin of the Religious Right as we know it today.

The normal line of the thinking is that prior to the 1960s, Christian groups were all disparate; the Episcopal church was as different to the Baptist church as Sunni Muslims are to Zen Buddhists. But then this all changed when Roe vs Wade made abortion in the United States safe and legal, and Christian groups began to unite as “Christian” and the modern Religious Right grew from there. Not so, argues Randall Balmer, who points out that many of the key dates in how Christians reacted to abortion don’t line up with Roe vs Wade at all. Instead, it seems preserving segregation – through, for example, preserving tax-exempt status for segregated religious schools – was the main cause.

Of course, no movement as pervasive as the Religious Right in the United States can claim one single origin story. The Religious Right as we know it today are shaped as much by 1980s televangelism and neoconservative politics as 60s and 70s racism and women’s liberation. But Balmer’s argument raises one of those core origin stories that is often glossed over.

When Stephen Colbert called the Teabaggers “a bug up the elephant’s ass,” he may have been too kind.

Mother Jones and Chris Mooney report on a recent poll that shows traditional Republicans and their Tea Party offshoots disagree far more than one might think – particularly on the subject of agreeing with and trusting qualified scientists. 28% of those supporting the Tea Party movement actually trust scientists in contrast to 60% of Republicans, and 43% of them actively do not trust them.

Whether those are the same people who struggled at school because they couldn’t remember the three main parts of an atom wasn’t tested.

Denmark. It is a silly place.

Presented without further comment.

Just in case anyone really thinks the poor are secretly living the high life, or that all people are jerks.

In a story that is both sad and uplifting (and not in one of those “…and that boy’s name was Albert Einstein” ways) Mark Evanier tells the tale of a woman who simply couldn’t afford to buy basic essentials at a store after her credit card was declined. It’s worth just quoting the final passages for the poignancy:

He said, “Maybe twice a week. When it happens, it happens most often on the late shift. But usually, they swear the card is good and our system is screwed-up. They get angry at us, like it’s our fault they can’t pay. Sometimes, customers like you pay for them. A couple of times, I’ve felt so bad for the people that I’ve paid for them. That’s if it’s only a few dollars. I couldn’t have paid for this woman. Not on what we get paid here.”

The next person in line said, “If you pay for them, do they come back the next night figuring you’ll pay for them again?”

He said, “No, never. We never see them again. That woman who just left here…you will never see her in this market again. It’s too painful. It just reminds them of how bad off they were that night.”

Iranian women using Facebook to subvert their country’s hijab laws

Iran is a place where women could fail jail or corporal punishment for going outside without the ubiquitous veil. But many women in Iran are using Facebook – and by extension, the government’s less-than-total enforcement of their official ban on the site – to post pictures of themselves without a veil. The movement to start posting the pictures, based on individual private moments where women frequently remove their veils, was started by an Iranian living in exile in the UK.

Hooray! Now cops have to serve even those with different religious beliefs! Wait…why would any sane person think they shouldn’t?

The headline and WIGO entry are self-explanatory here. The ACLU reports on a case where one police captain refused to provide assistance at an outreach event held at a mosque – the kind of event that police frequent – on the grounds that it would pose a moral dilemma for him.  At least, however, this was just one officer, and the Tulsa Police department itself was on side with the ACLU in the resulting court case that tested whether an individual’s beliefs can supersede their duty as an officer of the law. And the court agreed with them in an unanimous fashion.

Psychic Sally shows her true skills by receiving messages from somebody who’s alive and well and in the audience…

Sally Morgan is the self-styled psychic to the stars. She’s had a rough time of it recently. In 2011 people at her show reported hearing voices that seemed to be her associated feeding her information via an ear piece, in 2012 she gave a harrowing account of a soldier dying in Afghanistan (in an incident that was entirely and intentionally fictional) she was given the opportunity to take part in James Randi’s million dollar challenge and refused, and her management has been attempting to sue RationalWiki through a “let’s throw a lot of shit and see what sticks” approach.

Now, Myles Power reports one incident that will possibly come back to haunt her – although you need to special powers to see this ghost, nor any ability to contact this apparition (that’s enough – ed.) because the spirit she contacted at a recent show in Middlesborough was, in fact, alive and well. It turns out that one member of the audience simply got confused as to what they were filling out in advance of the show and listed a living, rather than dead, relative.

It’s not unusual for psychics and mediums to case their attendees in advance of a performance. Often “prayer cards” featuring names, details and stories are written out by audience members and the psychic on stage can repeat them verbatim as a last-ditch attempt to win over the audience. Sounds silly, but it works because no one else knows the contents of your prayer card, and to them it looks as if the psychic really is contacting the spirit world and not just reading the very material suggestions given to them in advance.

Given that mentalists and magicians like Derren Brown, who don’t claim magic powers at all, can perform adequately, or even better than claimed psychics, the most amazing thing about mediums is that they still employ such a troll-baiting method for their act.

Arthur Chu: “So, a question, to my fellow male nerds. What the fuck is wrong with us?”

In the wake of Elliot Rodger killing two women and it transpiring that he was very open about hating women for not sleeping with him, Arthur Chu is quite literally asking “what the fuck is wrong with us?

Male nerds – gamers, anime fans, fantasy readers, sci-fi enthusiasts and all the rest – are beginning to get a bad rep around the internet for being misogynistic. And not without very good reason. Games feature a repeated trope of getting the girl, Revenge of the Nerds features a fantasy that is effectively rape (it may have been ground-breaking to portray nerds on top back in the ’80s, but now that scene is just creepy) and women frequently report abuse, groping and sexism at conventions – often being dismissed as “not real geeks” or “whores in a geek uniform”, as if the only True Fans are male because they are.

Indeed, what the fuck is wrong with us?

Got someone who doesn’t understand that correlation does not imply causation? Show them that, for instance, US spending on science, space, and technology correlates with the number of suicides by hanging, strangulation and suffocation.

Correlation does not imply causation. But even though it can wink suggestively saying “look over there”, sometimes the law of large numbers gets the better of us. Spurious Correlations charts, with some rigour, any significant looking correlation between a large range of figures. Did you know that the number people who drowned by falling into a swimming-pool correlates with the number of films Nicolas Cage appeared in? Or that honey producing bee colonies inversely correlates with juvenile arrests for possession of marijuana? Well, now you do!

There are a lot of important lessons to be learned here for skeptics and rationalists alike, as well as taking some good laughs from how bad these conclusions really are. We need to be careful of the data being looked at, and be sure that random chance isn’t playing tricks on us, because it seems that, contrary to popular belief, R2 values of 0.99 really do grow on tress.

May The April Derp Be With You – The Best of the Clogosphere

Oy vey! Time to put out another post of something. This time, what caused people to go “oh my, that’s stupid” in RationalWiki’s WIGO:Clogs last month. 70 stories were submitted, here are the top 8.

Homosexuality isn’t real Because Cows

Mediaite reports a speech by the Ugandan First Lady to select bishops from the Church of Uganda:

“If cows did not practice homosexuality, how could we the human beings start arguing over homosexuality?”

Of course, her information is significantly out-of-date, as homosexual behaviour has been observed in around 1500 species so far. The animal kingdom is fabulous, darling.

And odd definition of “most likely explanation”…

The range and known positions of MH30. Credit to Soerfm, and Wikipedia.

NaturalNews this time,  and the subject is the disappearance of flight MH370. For those living under a rock in March and April, flight MH370 simply disappeared on March 8th, taking all 227 passengers and 12 crew with it. So, what did NaturalNews have to say on the subject? That the plane was turned into a massive stealth weapon. No, seriously. Here are the highlights of what the ‘Health Ranger’ had to say:

Whoever took control of Flight 370 now has a massive stealth weapon which an incredibly long flight range. This aircraft can now be outfitted with nuclear weapons and dispatched to almost any desirable target anywhere in the world, including cities like New York and Washington D.C., unfortunately.


There is a realistic chance the passengers are being kept alive as some sort of international bargaining chip.


I wouldn’t even put it past these people to now secretly sink some aircraft debris in the Indian Ocean so they can “find it” and thereby complete the cover-up.


In which Pick-Up Artistry stops even pretending not to be explicit rape advocacy

Note; we’re not even going to link to this one, for Reasons. In this Return of Kings clog, ‘Emmanuel Goldstein’ (the choice of username should be a dead giveaway), argues  that “real men don’t wait for a yes”. Now, if anything about that phrase sounds perfectly acceptable to you, you should probably never be with another person. Ever. Here’s one particular snippet that should whet your appetite for what he has to say:

At first, Stan doesn’t seem so different from Eddie. They’re both fairly quick to touch girls. But look a little closer, and there’s a world of difference in how Stan acts. At any given moment, Stan is doing whatever the fuck he wants. He’s thrown caution to the wind, and listens only to what his dick is telling him. His thought process is “I wanna bang this chick” and everything else flows from that. He doesn’t even think – he doesn’t have some complicated mental model telling him when and when not to touch a girl. The only thinking he does is “how do I get this girl to a place where I can bang her?” 

Oh, and ‘Goldstein’ is a Stan. Of course. Like, eeeewwwwww….

If Your Husband Cheats, It’s Your Fault

Let’s be brutally honest here, the Daily Mail’sSidebar of Shame‘ has never been something that treats women with anything but utter contempt, as this article from ‘Femail’ shows.

The first step towards recovery needs you to commit to change. And while you’ve probably said you are sorry a million times before to keep the peace, have you made a full apology? This is one that acknowledges your unhelpful behaviour (eg taking him for granted), accepts your responsibility (you’ve been so wrapped up in the children you’ve forgotten to be a wife as well as a mother), expresses sorrow and a determination to change, and is sincere.

Some might take it as a some odd kind of Hard Truth, but really it’s just treating people like shit the same way that spiritual healers blame the people they don’t heal because they “didn’t pray hard enough”. Look how the Mail sows mistrust amongst its readers with this handy chart:

Is This Photograph Proof That…

Almost 100 years after the Cottingley Fairies perplexed Sherlock Holmes author Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and others unfamiliar with the magic of photography, the Manchester Evening News asks the same question. Betteridge’s law of headlines was unavailable for comment. As the photographer says:

“People can decide for themselves what they are. The message to people is to approach them with an open mind. I think it’s one of those situations where you need to believe to see.”


If Evolution is Real, Why Don’t Eskimos Grow Fur?

See. Fur. Therefore evolution worked!

Presented without further comment.

Okay, maybe one further comment; holy crap are there any straw man versions of evolutionary biology that haven’t been used by creationists yet?!

Hitler and Darwinism, Again…

Normally when you see someone blaming Charles Darwin for the Holocaust, you’re talking with an absolute crank. But in this case, this one is presented in Salon, which is arguably mainstream and fairly sensible. Supposedly. In the article, author Dan McMillan pretty much plays the trope straight and unimaginatively.

April was a pretty bad month for Salon, publishing a range of shitty articles that caused PZ Myers to take note and sway his fans away from the site.

We aren’t sure if God hates fags, but Satan fucking loves Lego

And finally, everything is not awesome as the Telegraph reports Polish priest, Slawomir Kostrzewa, saying that Lego is a tool of Satan, and that parents should watch out for it. The comments were apparently precipitated by the ‘Monster Fighters’ range, which includes vampires and zombies.

And before you say it, no, just no.

The Facebook Digest – Hell for Singularitarians, Politics and Rubber Nukes

A couple of days late for Reasons, so, what have the oiks of the RW Facebook Group been chatting about this week?

Guess Who?

Long-time user Genghis Khant – he can remember when dinosaurs roamed the open pastures of MediaWiki’s monobook skin – was scanning through some old photographs and came across this. Who is it? Clues so far is “British Politician”. No cheating.

How Do You Explain Crazy?

Roko’s Basilisk. How exactly do you explain it to people? A few editors have been hacking at it to get it up to a better standard. But come on, what’s so hard about wrapping your head around the idea that a ‘Friendly’ future superintelligence will torture a copy of you derived from reductionist base principles, which is also actually you, because you didn’t give all your money to a ‘research’ group that inexplicably has an office somewhere in Oxford University to bring about the existence of said future superintelligence because it will save the world and if you know this you deserve even greater retroactive acausal punishment? I mean, it’s so simple

Common Core? Common ASS!

Further extensive discussion occurred around this image:

Because, of course, throwaway comments from comedians make for effective policy debate.

New Atheists

New Atheism is a trend of the last few years that has pretty much run its course now. Bashing “New” Atheism is now a far bigger trend (are we now in third-wave atheism?) as this piece from The Grauniad’s ‘Trolling is Free’ section suggests – though it doesn’t always hit the mark. As commentators suggest, Baggini’s piece seems to go beyond merely taking issue with Richard Dawkins’ approach to religion and into outright dismissing the concept of logical positivism as a ‘blip’ no more significant than New Atheism itself.

Indeed, what has logical positivism ever done for us?

Proving Atheists Wrong with SCIENCE!

This classic meme also popped up. Did anyone ever really figure out if it was parody or not?

Advertising on RW

Since someone asked, it remains a RationalWiki policy not to advertise on the site. It used to be done to help fund the running costs way back when, but the revenue stream was pitiful and the ads shown were hilariously terrible. As a result, RW is now a donations-only site, with costs paid and money raised by the Rational Media Foundation. There are no plans to ever change this. If you see ads on RW, do two things:

  1. Check that it isn’t vandalism. This isn’t unheard of, and can be checked by examining the wiki text source code. If the advert isn’t written in the article text, then it isn’t “real”.
  2. Scan your computer for adware. This can insert advertisements into web pages and make you think you’re being served from us – you aren’t, and there is no policy to have adverts on site.

Rational Politics

RationalWiki’s political slant always attracts attention. But let’s reiterate – RW has no editorial political slant per se. What its editors, authors and contributors think is what its editors authors and contributors think. Nothing more, nothing less.

And finally…

It’s a nerf nuke. It’s a NERF. NUKE!

Apparently it’s an April Fools joke. It was as if a million nerds cried out at once and then… silence.

What’s Hot in April – The best of WIGO:World

Remember those little green and red arrows in RationalWiki’s What’s Going on in the World? page? Well, they now have a use! Overall, 86 stories were submitted to the page in April. Here’s what got people picking the “up” arrow.

Brendan Eich steps down from Mozilla

Eich has been big story across the ‘net this month. Revelations that he donated a thousand dollars to Proposition 8 are hardly new, but it was this month those revelations decided to finally come bit Mozilla in the ass – causing a heap of controversy over whether such a progressive organisation should be endorsing a man who has donated money to an anti-gay cause.

Right-wing nutter arrested

Texas, of all places, the FBI have arrested a man who allegedly was plotting to use explosives and weapons to kill police officers and blow up government buildings and mosques. After setting up a Facebook page called ‘American Insurgent Movement’ (AIM), he allegedly sought to recruit five or six like-minded people who wanted “to restore America Pre-Constitutionally and look forward to stopping the Regime with action by bloodshed.”

Affluenza may be becoming a pandemic

A man convicted of raping his three-year-old daughter only faced probation after a state Superior Court judge ruled he “will not fare well” in prison.

Affluenza‘ has been coined to describe the, let’s be frank here, rich and feckless. But it’s been raised in several cases in the last year where wealthy individuals convicted of serious crimes, including manslaughter, have been given lighter sentences purely as a result of them being too wealthy and affluent to know any better. The Huffington Post, quoting Delaware Public Defender Brendan O’Neill, notes:

…that the light sentence for the member of the one percent raised questions about “how a person with great wealth may be treated by the system.” (Though perhaps it provides more answers than questions.)

Glenn Beck’s chickens are coming home to roost

Never one to shy away from stirring up shit wherever possible, Glenn Beck has been perhaps the most mainstream of all conspiracy theorists in the last few years (we can be thankful that Alex Jones is, technically, still on the fringe). This reached its pinnacle when Beck accused the Obama administration of actively covering up ‘facts’ about the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013. Beck then launched into a campaign to prove that Abdul Rahman Ali Alharbi, a man  injured in the bombing, was actually an al Qaeda agent.

Now that Beck’s absolutely batshit crazy conspiracy has had the wind firmly taken out of it, Alharbi is suing Beck for defamation and slander.

LHC confirms existence of exotic hadrons

In less crazy news, the LHC has done some real-ass science, again! This time, they’ve confirmed (to within a very significant margin) the existence of exotic hadrons – a type of matter that cannot be classified within the traditional quark model. The first suspected observations of these particles came in 2008, and multiple suspected exotic hadrons have been spotted in the last few years. But now with the LHC’s power and enormous data output, their existence has been confirmed to within a very minute margin of error for the first time. The LHC Beauty project analysed tens of thousands of decay paths from trillions of particle collisions to arrive at their evidence.

India recognises a third gender

One of the most populous countries in the world now recognises the existences of transgender and the ability for individuals to chose the gender they identify with. Recently, the Indian electoral commission allowed for “male”, “female” and “other” on their registration forms, but now the choice to identify as “trans” is officially recognised across all government documents. Estimates suggests there are 3 million transgender people in India who will now be able to express their chosen gender identity more succinctly.

It’s the end of the world as we know it… again

Raw Story reports:

Pastor John Hagee is warning members of his megachurch to prepare for the end of the world because a “blood moon” eclipse on Tuesday is signalling that the End Times could be beginning.

We’re still waiting.

Manitoba government side with science and public health

When fifth grader Aidan Walsh was sent home and kept out of school in case he had measles, his mother was furious. She had refused to vaccinate him against the morbid and potentially fatal disease – because she thought he would be safe with homeopathic remedies. Seriously, we’ve seen anti-vaxxers declare their hatred of this effective medical intervention because they think it causes autism, because they think it’s some plot to infect our precious bodily fluids, or just because they believe it’s their right to refuse because they can – but replacing a small shot with magic water is perhaps the most absurd reason – and the local Manitoba authorities (noting a current measles outbreak in western Canada) agree with the assessment, declaring that indeed the unvaccinated boy should stay away from school to prevent spreading the disease or even contracting it himself.

The healthcare plan people voted for is starting to work – oh no!

NPR reports that sign-up under the Affordable Care Act (colloquially known as Obamacare) has now reached 8 million people – with many being under 35, with the younger population being a key indicator of its success and meeting its aim of bringing health insurance coverage to those who cannot normally afford it. This is despite repeated de-railing attempts by Republicans, who have attempted to repeal in over fifty times.

The United States is currently the only major western developed country with privatised healthcare, and spends 17% of its GDP on health care – almost twice the average of similarly placed countries. Yet estimates suggest in some states there may be as many as 30% of the population without health insurance, with many simply unable to afford it as pre-existing conditions and other factors drive up the price. The ACA aims to mitigate this, and the fact that it’s working might leave a sour taste in the mouths of people who think you should only have health care if you “deserve” it – and by “deserve”, they mean “afford”, and by “afford” they mean “have rich parents”.

Cliven Bundy Strikes Back

Of course, way out in front of all the other stories was the breaking of the Cliven Bundy saga. Even if you’re sketchy on the details, you’ve probably been living under a rock if you’re not at least partly aware of this situation. But let’s just quote how RW decided to phrase the story on WIGO:World:

In Nevada, a brave Patriot a freeloading, self-centered dipshit named Cliven Bundy lets his cattle graze on government land illegally for the past 20 years, and now the government hasconfiscated his cows. Tea Party and libertarian whackers too lazy to fact-check make him out to be some sort of hero, and a militia group shows up to defend him. Unsurprisingly, Alex Jones is circle jerking to the news. Update: The BLM gives in to armed protesters. Not a good precedent.

So, let’s leave it there, and see what crazy shit May brings!


The Facebook Digest – Pride, Bras, and “Rational” “Science”

This week from the active minds* of RationalWiki’s Facebook group, we have an ever-impressive** selection of stories for you, summarised for your enjoyment.***

*For a certain approximation of “active” and “minds”.

** For a certain approximation of “ever” and “impressive”

*** For a certain approximat… oh, this joke is done, let’s get on with it!

“Pride” Explained

RationalWiki has often been accused of being too political and leaning heavily to the left, polluting skepticism and rationalism with politicised issues – although some might say it doesn’t shy away from it. Either way, social justice is often a hot topic and this particular image gathered a bit of attention. It’s a pretty solid explanation for the often-touted complaint of “why isn’t there straight pride” or why “white pride” is problematic (well, that the latter got associated with racists and right-wing separatists didn’t help…).

Jon Stewart rips into Cliven Bundy

You probably can’t go more than 5 tweets on the internet at the moment without seeing the word “Bundy” thrown around somewhere. But for those in desperate need of a tl;dr version, Jon Stewart characteristically provides the goods.

Dude, you’re a welfare rancher trying to pull off the world’s largest cattle dine ‘n’ dash.

Hovind vs Prison ends predictably

“Dr” Kent Hovind is suing RationalWiki. This we know. His core complaint is the accusation of being imprisoned for “tax fraud”, but since evidence suggests that this is the case it would obviously help his cause immensely if he could overturn that conviction completely. Hence him filing for habeas corpus to try and get out of jail early. This was thoroughly dismissed by Judge Laplante in mid-April.

The indictment charged that Hovind: willfully failed to deduct and pay federal income and withholding taxes for employees of his business, Creation Science Evangelism Enterprises, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7202; structured the business’s cash withdrawals, totaling more than $1.5 million over a four- or five-year period, into increments of less than $10,000 to avoid federal reporting requirements, in violation of 31 U.S.C. § 5324; and obstructed the administration of the internal revenue laws, in violation of 26 U.S.C. § 7212(a).

Something that is often colloquially referred to as “tax fraud”.

Pat Robertson

No, really, that headline just says Pat Robertson. Because Pat Robertson. This time around, Raw Story reports that he’s claiming that Jesus has told him that an asteroid could destroy the earth as early as next week!

The existence of this article stating how asteroid impact odds are underplayed is, presumably, a coincidence… we hope.

“I wrote a book!” Robertson advised viewers. 

Good boy. Well done.

You just don’t understand why I’m Conservative

Well, quite:

But it hides the real evidence of ghosts!

Several tabloids are reporting (Russia annexes half of Ukraine and yet it’s still a slow news day…) a case where a couple visiting the York Castle Museum were shocked to find ghostly apparitions in the photographs they took. Except to anyone with a head screwed on in the right place it’s obvious the images were made using one of a half-dozen readily-available iPhone apps. Like, seriously, your shitty camera phone with it’s half-millimetre aperture creates a blurred mess of a human face in low light, yet picks up a ghost with crystal clarity? It’s not the first time, either, as the Sun was suckered in by the exact same thing in 2010.

It’s not just the story that attracted some attention, but a few choice comments on the subject:

“Theres a ghost app that creates these… its a fake… images of the girl are the same… paranormal investigators (like me) hate these as it muddies the water for the real evidence which is scarce enough…”

Phyllis Schlafly schooled by a 12-year-old

If there’s one thing that RationalWiki loves more than Phyllis Schlafly, it’s syphilis. But now, that too is being challenged by Phyllis Schlafly being told where to go by a 12 year old girl. Though perhaps with more eloquence and big words than the Eagle Forum founder and Schlafly matriarch can manage in the morning.

I don’t know where you shop for your bras, but I bet you have a favorite one. I bet you have that one bra that’s comfortable and goes with just about everything. I bet the last thing you were thinking about when you bought that  bra was what a man would think about it.

Well, making choices in our lives as young women is kind of like finding that favorite bra. Not all of us are going to fit into the same kind and not all of us are going to find the same style attractive. We all deserve to have as many choices as possible, and as women, we shouldn’t be judging the choices made by other women.

The all new “Rational” “Scientific” “Method”

There is a new player in the field of rationality. No, not the Church of Bayes, something else entirely – the self-declared Rational Scientific Method. Ed Brayton explains:

And yes, the proper response should be A) scratching your had and B) muttering “what the fuck?” They go on to claim that observation and experimentation have nothing to do with science (seriously). All of this fits quite well into John Baez’ crackpot index. Arguing with one of these people is even more frustrating than arguing with a creationist, mostly because they use words in really weird ways.

The whole thing seems centred around “shapes” and “frames” and stuff like that. Which perhaps explains when a wild relativity-denier appeared in the Facebook group and insisted that space can’t be warped because space doesn’t have a shape and is just a “void”. Because, of course, relativistic physics totally works like that! 

Expect an article on this particular branch of weirdness soon.

What’s hot in March – Best of the Blogosphere

Here are the top ten stories uploaded to the Blogosphere in March!

Running on Bullshit

“Fuelshark” is a device that claims to be able to save you 10% on your gasoline bill – quite a saving for a $40 capital expenditure. It’s a little blue light thingy that does, well, something or other. Too bad it’s bullshit – surprise surprise. Jason Torchinsky did the test, and found that despite claims of saving 10% on fuel, it actually did a little worse.

Seriously, you could plug an olive into your 12V socket and get similar results to what the Fuelshark does. And most of our regular readers will know this. But there’s still plenty of people out there who are bright people who don’t know or care about cars, and they want to save money on gas.

‘Data’ the buzzword vs data the actual thing

Nate Silver has long been a darling of the “data-driven” world – a man who takes input and uses Bayesian statistical approaches to make solid predictions and forecasts. Yet his new collective FiveThirtyEight blog has drawn a lot of criticism for not doing what it claims. One such critic is Noahpinion (yeah, we see what you did there), who has dived into a few posts on the new FiveThirtyEight to see if it holds up to the claim of it being “data-driven”. From tiny sample sizes to lacklustre, or even completely absent, analysis, Silver’s blog seems to now be a case of “data” the buzzword vs. data the actual thing.

The “data” in the post consists of one annual time series with a sample size of 23. That’s too small to do any sort of statistical analysis on, but then again, the post doesn’t do any statistical analysis. It shows a trendline, and from that trendline it draws broad, sweeping conclusions about the effects of climate change. How is that any more “data-driven” than what any blog does? Every newbie blogger and his dog draws a trendline and extrapolates it – and if the blogger is worth his salt, he’ll at least have the common decency to qualify his extrapolation with “if this trend continues”, which Pielke does not.

Why some people are disappointed with Nate Silver’s new FiveThirtyEight: “The problem with the new FiveThirtyEight is not one of data vs. theory. It is one of ‘data’ the buzzword vs. data the actual thing.”

International relations scholars think that the U.S. spends too much on defense

A panel of international relations experts have concluded what many people have already suspected for a long time – that the United States spends too much on defense (or defence, for those who speak proper). The result came following a “snap poll” of various scholars working in the field of international relations. This is a stark contrast to the public, a recent Gallup poll found that 28% of the U.S. public believes the country should spend more. An overwhelming majority of international relations scholars, 75%,  think it’s “too much” while only 25% of the public think the same.

Many commentators lament the “irrelevance” of political scientists and IR scholars to public and policy debates.  Whether relevance is a problem, and whether the problem isgetting better or worse, IR scholars often are  not well represented in the public discourse on foreign policy issues. This stands in sharp contrast to the role of experts from other disciplines.  Economists’ views on macroeconomic issues and climate scientists’ views on human-induced climate change inform public and political debate in both domestic and international institutions.

Creationists kill 8 year old’s suggestion for a state fossil

In South Carolina – but of course, South Carolina – 8-year-old Olivia McConnell thought it would be a great idea for the state to adopt an official “state fossil”. In this case, it was the iconic woolly mammoth – but the suggestion was shot down as soon as state senator Kevin Bryant got the oppotunity.

Sen. Kevin Bryant, a pharmacist and self-described born-again Christian who hascompared President Obama with Osama bin Laden, voted to sustain a veto by Governor Nikki Haley of funding for a rape crisis center, and called climate change a “hoax,” proposed amending the bill to include three verses from the Book of Genesis detailing God’s creation of the Earth and its living inhabitants—including mammoths.

Creationism isn’t being ignored on Cosmos

With the relaunch/reboot of Cosmos – the wildly popular pop-science show about life and universe – it was inevitable that young earth creationists would take any chance they got to snipe at the series. And they did, in droves, complaining that they should be given equal air time. Yet, if you watch it, the series is almost entirely about creationism. It’s just that Neil deGrasse Tyson spends the entire time refuting it in short order.

What creationists are upset about is that it’s not a discussion that bothers to treat their ideas like they have any scientific merit. After all, any good scientific question should eventually lead to an answer that generates more questions. Creationism short-circuits that process, instead arguing that there’s an end to questions — that, eventually, you can drill down enough to get to God — God did it or God willed it to be. No more questions needed.

Facts may not be the best method to convince conservatives.

Mother Jones reports five infuriating examples of facts making people dumber. This is an example of the backfire effect – a well-known, but frightening, cognitive bias whereby being exposed to correct but contradictory information won’t convince you otherwise, but actually make you double-down on your existing, incorrect, beliefs.

Another notorious political falsehood is Sarah Palin’s claim that Obamacare would create “death panels.” To test whether they could undo the damage caused by this highly influential morsel of misinformation, Nyhan and his colleagues had study subjects read an article about the “death panels” claim, which in some cases ended with a factual correctionexplaining that “nonpartisan health care experts have concluded that Palin is wrong.” Among survey respondents who were very pro-Palin and who had a high level of political knowledge, the correction actually made them more likely to wrongly embrace the false “death panels” theory.

A tediously accurate scale model of the solar system

Sometimes, we love stuff just because it’s cool… even if it will bore you for a bit. As Douglas Adams said, “space is big, mind-bogglingly big” and this map, showing the solar system to scale really helps get that across. There’s an awful lot of black out there. Don’t get lost.

The distance between planets really depends on where the two planets are in their orbits around the sun. So if you’re planning on taking a trip to Jupiter, you might want to use a different map.

Science deniers use false equivalence to pretend there’s a debate

Skeptical Rapor reports on the use of a false equivalence fallacy – also related to the balance fallacy. Rarely in science is there any real “balance” to be had. Opinions count for little, only facts, and facts are very biased towards reality.

We can accept scientific principles without doing the research ourselves. But, and it’s a big but, if you want to dispute accepted science, then you have to bring science to the table not a “debate.” Science isn’t hard, but it isn’t easy either. You cannot deny basic scientific facts without getting a solid education, opening a scientific laboratory staffed with world-class scientists, and then publishing peer-reviewed articles that can help move the prevailing scientific consensus.

Jimmy Wales tells it like it is

The “Association for Comprehensive Energy Psychology” petitioned Jimmy Wales, founder of Wikipedia, to “create and enforce new policies that allow for true scientific discourse about holistic approaches to healing.” Jimmy Wales responded thusly:

No, you have to be kidding me. Every single person who signed this petition needs to go back to check their premises and think harder about what it means to be honest, factual, truthful.

Wikipedia’s policies around this kind of thing are exactly spot-on and correct. If you can get your work published in respectable scientific journals – that is to say, if you can produce evidence through replicable scientific experiments, then Wikipedia will cover it appropriately.

What we won’t do is pretend that the work of lunatic charlatans is the equivalent of “true scientific discourse”. It isn’t.

Pseudoscience, cranks, fundamentalism and the eternal battle against public stupidity