Archive for skepticism

When Anti-Vaxxers Cross the Line, or You Can Take the Credulous out of Church but you Can’t Take the Faith out of the Credulous.

Posted in Science, skepticism with tags , , , , , on November 4, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Recently on my Facebook status I posted the following.

Nathan Hinman I’ve been vaccinated against H1N1 because the science could not be refuted by any of the arguments against it. My immunity will protect those who could not get the shot.

I received more than a few comments but what struck me was the vehemence of the anti-vaccination crowd against my decision. It also highlighted how little some of the people I know do not understand me, and the path that led me to embracing reality.

I was attacked by one individual for getting the vaccine despite not technically being in an “at risk” group myself. With the research I’ve done on vaccination and the virulence of the H1N1 strain I thought it would be irresponsible for me not to. My father has a compromised immune system, my brother is unable to receive the vaccine due to egg allergies, and my nephew is less than a week old. These facts coupled with me working in one of the worst buildings in the city for spreading infectious diseases only reinforced my desire to do my part for herd immunity. I will not apologize for my decision since I sought to protect my loved ones.

It only took a short exchange to expose this individual’s true feelings on vaccines which included all the usual catchphrases like “Big Pharma” and “Mercury”. Imbedded in his new tirade however was an accusation that I was acting like the mormons by calling him on his clear lack of understanding and a blatant contradiction since he has been hounding others on Facebook as well with equally ridiculous arguments.


It appears to me that some people use whatever rationalizations necessary in order to maintain faith and belief in whatever it is that they agree with. Reality or perception? It’s ok, a little shit in the water, or a little shit in the vacccine, that won’t hurt you. BAT GUANO! I’m not disapppointed in your decision and GOD I would hope that youand others don’t resort to god dam shame to guilt others into choosing what you have. This US vs. THEM is absolute crap Nathan. You use the same approach the morg does when it comes to discovering the truth. The Morg conditioned and indoctrinated us to believe that if we didn’t get the right answer, we weren’t sincere enough…not righteous enough…not good enough, not doing it right. You blame decision of those to not get the shot on a lack of understanding. Hmmm…am I now anti-vaccine? Not at all, only critical of the claims being made.

(I changed his name in the above quote but not his words, my FB friends can confirm that. Morg is a combination of mormon and org, a way to stab at scientology used by former mormons.)

Members of a local group of ex-mormons like this commenter have been on the warpath lately with almost a religious zeal against vaccines, water fluoridation, and whatever other conspiracy floats their boat this week. Any dissension with their opinions gets one labelled as acting like a mormon. For those who have read my blog my stance on the church is well known, I have no love for the organization. The accusation that I am acting like them is both infuriating and leaves me wondering if association with such a group is beneficial to my well being. This commenter wasn’t the only one to make the mormon allusion either.

Getting back to the meat of this post though is when the anti-vaxxers go too far. And I found that in the form of another mindless tirade against vaccinations, this time in video format posted by another member of this same group. Watch if you can stomach it.

I couldn’t watch after more than a minute in, this was beyond unacceptable. I’ve known that anti-vaxxers were prone to believing some pretty out there claims, but this one just made me want to puke. Vaccines do not cause Shaken Baby Syndrome! Portraying the man convicted of his child’s aggravated murder as a victim of vaccination was too much for me. This video was a trailer for a movie by Gary Null noted quack and HIV denier. Spreading this utter garbage and fear mongering pushed all the wrong buttons in me and this kind of response shows just the lack of responsibility that I despise in the likes of Jenny McCarthy.


Watergate, thalidomide, USS Liberty, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, Enron…there are plenty of conspiracies that have proven true. Conventional wisdom isn’t always that wise.

I believe the role of skeptics is to preserve the status quo and try to make anything that is outside of the parameters of “accepted wisdom”, seem silly. I think that skeptics are doing a disservice to society by not being skeptical of the themselves and the role that they play. The services of skeptics are required, but I believe skeptics have become lazy. They believe that some things are just too stupid to put any investigation into, so they read the latest debunking webpage and that’s good enough for them. Problem is that a lot of debunking is flawed and can be debunked itself. The skeptic has already decided that something is false and then tries to find evidence to support that belief. That is not real skepticism. I’m skeptical of skeptics.

I understand now that as I post this I am likely alienating those who I’ve previously called friends but so be it. I left the mormon church for different reasons from them, not because I was angry with the church per-se but that the evidence for their claims did not pass muster (though trampling civil rights does get my ire up).   Maybe I’m giving up on them but when I see that kind of devotion to such without a single ounce of critical examination I need to walk away.  I will continue to focus my efforts on educating those on the fence, but I won’t be wasting my time with the true believers.


A Long Time Ago in an Immune System Far Far away

Posted in Science, skepticism with tags , , , , on October 4, 2009 by Northernskeptic

One of the problems with combating misconceptions of science is placing the concepts within an easy to understand frame for the recipient. Take vaccination for example and the belief that vaccines contain the virus itself which will make people sick anyways. This is just one of many falsehoods that are spread by the anti-vax movement but it might be one of the easier ones to dispel with a simple analogy.

Let’s start with a disease; we’ll call it the Galactic Empire.

The Galactic Empire is spread by the Death Star Virus or DSV for short.

A vaccine was developed for the DSV, it was called the R2D2 shot.

The R2D2 vaccine contained the plans for the DSV but not the actual DSV itself.

Alderaan was in the at risk population for DSV but did not receive the R2D2 shot, and so was susceptible to terminal infection. Additionally the DSV infection was allowed to spread.

Yavin 4 was also at risk however the R2D2 shot was delivered to the immune system which we’ll call Rebel Headquarters.

Rebel HQ examined the DSV plans delivered by the R2D2 shot, which in turn allowed for the development of the X-Wing anti-bodies plan of attack.

When the DSV was introduced into the Yavin system Rebel HQ released its anti-bodies en-mass. The X-wings were keyed to locate the DSV’s Thermal exhaust port, and deliver their proton torpedo payload.

After the attempted infection started it was quickly thwarted and the DSV was destroyed. The added benefit was that since it was gone it could not spread to other systems and so they were protected from infection by a mutual immunity.

Eventually the Endor strain of the Death Star Virus was discovered, fortunately early inoculation with the Bothan Spy Shot quickly brought that outbreak under control before it became widespread.

Skeptic North

Posted in Science, skepticism with tags , , , , on October 1, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Anouncing a new project that has been coming together between a number of Canadian skeptics that first got together at The Amaz!ng Meeting 7, and picking up more along the way.  We have started our first project Skeptic North (not to be confused with myself your humble Northernskeptic).  We will be contributing to our group blog on the site with a decidedly Canadian focus.  The battle for reality starts at home, and Skeptic North will be one of the first outposts on the northern front.

A Skeptics Oath

Posted in Random, skepticism with tags , , , on September 1, 2009 by Northernskeptic

Tip of the hat to the Green Lantern’s Oath for inspiration.  To those who think that skeptics shouldn’t have an oath, I’m just a geek having fun so NYA NYA.

In woo filled days, In spook filled nights

No flim-flam will escape my sight

Let those who schill the crackpots blight

Beware my reason, my skeptic light

Twitter Experiment in Follow-Bots

Posted in Random, Science, skepticism, twitter with tags , , , , on June 16, 2009 by Northernskeptic

On Saturday night (June 13) I decided to perform an experiment.  I sent  3 tweets to see what sort of followers I would gain, and today I present the results.

First the tweets that I sent the fourth was suggested by the totally awesome @SurlyAmy who you should be following:

  1. Network Marketing Opportunity
  2. HHO Water Power
  3. Subluxation align chiropractic
  4. Hippy Idiot Liar

Since that time which was about (9:00 pm mst) and now (10:00 pm mst) I have gained 27 new followers, I’ll break them down below.

  1. Tianna Lynn (TiannaLynn78): Generic pretty girl account already suspended
  2. Virginia Green (LuTachison): A single tweet and a link to the Library of Congress
  3. belle (belletyler111): average adolescent tweets, no deep details on the bio or linked site
  4. Mike Hobbs (mikehobbs): Network Marketing/MLM/Internet sales and he has a “Seminar” to sell too
  5. Jarod M Farnham (jarodmicah): Another Network Marketer
  6. Pam Thompson (bewellbypam): And another Network Marketer
  7. UC Chiropractic (bharshe):  Apparently he is a Chiropractor
  8. Rich OBrien (itsrichobrien): Network Marketer
  9. Mladen Bartolić (mbartolic): no tweets, no bio, no link
  10. MikeTheInfidel (freeplay): Skeptic/Atheist/Critical Thinker (my kinda guy)
  11. Joe Dawson (plumberjoeohio): A Plumber who tweets exclusively about…plumbing
  12. Greg Kelley (edumaster): A science educator
  13. zeta hanif (airempire95059): Suspended account
  14. plumbing guy (prettypipeplumb): Another plumber???
  15. Average Albertan (averagealbertan): Umm, an average albertan I guess.
  16. Edmonton Alberta (EdmontonFans): Generic gimick account
  17. Jenny Green (arithmeticsweep): Suspended account
  18. ilovebing (ilovebing): no bio but links to 4chan (please don’t hurt me anonymous)
  19. Marcus Richter (MarcusRichter): Vitamin pushing wootard
  20. Spray Adaptogens (SprayAdaptogens): The health product woo is strong with this one
  21. Néstor Pabón (HealthBeatToday): CAM homeopathy and Aromatherapy wootard and medical science denier
  22. Vancouver Canucks (canucksnews): A Vancouver Canucks fan
  23. Kerstin’s Chocolates (kerstinschoc): Edmonton based specialty chocolate shop
  24. Stargate Universe (stargateuverse): Fan of the as yet unreleased new Stargate spinoff
  25. pulseproject (pulseproject): Another Skeptic and follows the Awesome @SurlyAmy
  26. Nicole Draper (nicoleeislegit): another Myspace cam girl advertising for new “friends”
  27. Andy Lambros (andylambros): Internet “consultant”

From the looks of it I pulled in 4 network marketers, 2 supplement junkies, 1 homeopath, and 1 chiropractor.  I didn’t even get a free energy fanatic.

On the plus side I did gain 2 new skeptics and a science educator so that’s cool.

On the weird side 2, I repeat 2 followers who tweet about PLUMBING????

To fill things in I got the usual follow junkies, fansites and cam girls.  I haven’t checked to see if any of them are still following me I only went on the e-mail alerts so this is really an unscientific test but then again my targets weren’t that scientific either.  It is interesting to note that the keywords do tend to bring the woo-bots down on you.

Oh and in case you missed the subtle hints earlier follow @SurlyAmy.

UFO…or not.

Posted in Science, skepticism with tags , , , on May 13, 2009 by Northernskeptic

The other evening I looked up in the sky and saw a dark object hovering in the sky.  I observed for about a minute when it suddenly put on a burst of speed and moved what appeared to be a great distance to the south west.  It hovered there again for another half a minute and shot off to the south east.  Was this some extra-terrestrial vehicle moving against all physical laws?  No it was in fact a bird struggling against an extremely strong wind from the north, I thought to myself as I watched that the poor thing was displaying many of the same characteristics that are attributed to so called UFO’s.  It makes me wonder just how many such sightings are in fact just birds, besides the other phenomenon that are labled as “unexplained”, yet have likely explainations (ie Venus, weather balloons, planes, the moon….etc).