Wednesday, January 13, 2010

RD Extra: The Pseudoscience Fair

Typically on RD we aim our skepticism towards claims that are religious in nature. But for this RD extra we focus instead on some of the more common targets for skeptics: alternative medicine, the paranormal, and other fringe claims. It was all for the Pseudoscience Fair, an event organized by the CFI On Campus group at Grand Valley State University. What you will hear first is Luke Galen on the psychology behind pseudoscientific beliefs and followed by Jeremy Beahan on how to distinguish between genuine science and pseudoscience. Then at the end there is a brief panel discussion between Jeremy, Luke and Dr. Paul Critelli (a psychiatrist, Magician and mentalist who currently lives in the West Michigan Area). Thanks for listening, we'll be back next week with episode 60 of Reasonable Doubts.

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snafu said...

Great episode.

Can you PLEEEASE post on the forum the pic of Jesus in a dog's arse. That is going to be useful one day.

Nicholas said...

"Right now, out in the cosmos, maybe hydrogen is flicking you off."

Best line of the show. :)

llewelly said...

I do have one nit to pick with the otherwise excellent lecture on scientific thinking.
The speaker brings up human-caused global warming as an example - and says, more or less: "... without getting into any of the politics as to whether or not it's man-made ...". (About 31:41 , or 31:19 if you want more context.)

In fact - the evidence that modern global warming is caused by humans is overwhelming, and comes from many areas of science.

There are many ways we know that humans are causing levels of CO2 (and other greenhouse gasses) to rise. These include:
(a) Over a hundred monitoring stations around the globe.
(b) Monitoring of CO2 emissions at major emissions points.
(c) Analysis of ice cores which trap air bubbles, and thus record CO2 levels. It has also been shown that the ratio of C-12 to C-14 in atmospheric CO2 is increasing in exactly the fashion that would be expected if CO2 was being added primarily by burning fossil fuels, which have proportionately more C-12.

There are also numerous lines of evidence that show CO2 causes warming. These include:
(a) Laboratory analysis of the radiative properties of CO2 and other atmospheric gases, showing a clear mechanism by which CO2 can cause warming.
(b) Numerous natural proxies, including ice cores, sediment cores, tree rings, and others, which show correlation between CO2 levels and temperature.
(c) Physical models, which use physical laws (not historical statistics, fits, or extrapolations) to model the behavior of the climate system. These models show known properties of CO2 and known physical laws explain global warming.

There are, of course, other factors involved; there are other greenhouse gasses, such as methane and (H)CFCs, there are aerosols (some of which cause cooling and some of which cause warming), and so on, but only human-emitted greenhouse gasses are trending upward; they are the primary (or, over the last 50 years, sole) cause of global warming.

This is all detailed in many readily available places, for example:

The claim that global warming is caused by humans is not at all political; nearly all climate scientists, whatever their politics, support that claim. There is no good peer reviewed science which is against it.

Jeremy said...


Perhaps my choice of words wasn't the best, but I was not in any way saying that anthropogenic global warming is just a political belief and therefor not supported by science. I was in a sense saying "irregardless of your politics you can see the how the principle of 'scope' and 'independent corroboration' apply here"

RonH said...

Great show!

But, I hear this...

"My life is not based on any kind of belief. It's based on acceptance of reality. It is what it is."

... at 38:35 and I worry.

I've seen a what happens when a Christian apologist gets hold of this kind of statement. It's not pretty: "Really!?", he will say, "Do you believe that?"

It's no better to 'accept' something that's not true than it is to 'believe' it. The point is not whether you believe or accept. The point is: What are your reasons?

So maybe are worried about saying, "I believe in evolution" or "I believe evolution". Maybe you think it sounds no different from a religious belief. Try something like "There are mountains of evidence for evolution. There are many different lines of evidence. I tell you: I'm persuaded." And then, be prepared with some examples. OK?


llewelly said...

Jeremy, thank you for the clarification.

gustavolk-swagen said...

This is an excellent post. Instead of الله اكبر ("Allah is great"), I think it can be agreed that the reality is that العلم هو عظيم ("Science is great").