Thursday, December 20, 2007

Circle of Fun

Skeptics' Circle 76 is up at Aardvarchaeology. Read it.

UPDATE: Oh, this issue is fun. Previously, a blog called Junkfood Science had been featured on the Skeptics' Circle. However, a few bloggers noticed that JFS author Sandy Szwarc wasn't being a skeptic so much as a denialist and obsurist. See Mark Hoofnagle of denialism's analysis and another from White Coat Underground. MarkH also recently put up an article in which he says,
I'm afraid I'm going to have to put my foot down and say, if she is linked from a future Skeptic's Circle, I'm not going to link it. Don't lend this person any more credibility than she deserves by calling her a skeptic, unless you want to also include HIV/AIDS skeptics, Global Warming Skeptics, and all the other skeptic wannabe's out there.
Well, JFS was linked in the current Skeptics' Circle as well. MarkH was not happy. Nor was Orac of Respectful Insolence.

The discussion in the comments is funny and sad at the same time. It's a bit awkward to "kick someone out" of the Skeptics' Circle list, I think. But I completely support the move. If one can demonstrate that a blogger has been obscuring facts and twisting evidence, then that blog is not a skeptical blog and should not be listed in the Skeptics' Circle.

A real problem, I think, is what this situation shows us about the hosts. We see that, well... the Skeptics' Circle hosters might not be reading the articles that closely after all. Which isn't good for people who support investigation and evidence.


Anonymous said...

And have you? Have you read JFS itself before YOU piled on? Or did you just read their spins?

Martin said...

You're right, I should have read the entries in full before posting the circle. Didn't set enough time aside for it. I won't be hosting again anytime soon.

Flavin said...

To Anonymous:

I have read the JFS articles to which the articles I linked refer. Not too many others, though. I don't consider myself an expert.

But note my statements.
...a few bloggers noticed that JFS author Sandy Szwarc wasn't being a skeptic...
If one can demonstrate that a blogger has been obscuring facts and twisting evidence, then that blog is not a skeptical blog...

Since I didn't do the research myself, I didn't make any accusations. I merely reported, and tried to clarify, the opinions of others. So I'm not sure what you mean by "piled on."

Ben said...

You know, I haven't read a single one of Einstein's papers in full, but I have read enough explanation and interpretations of them for me to believe that they say what the people who interpret them say the say. If the critique is done well enough, it is OK to take it at face value as long as you look at the original to make sure nothing was out of context or if you come across enough independent interpretations which come to the same conclusion in different ways. These critiques by Orac et al. were not really independent so Flavin took a gander at the site and offending articles to make sure they statements weren't made out of context. You don't alway have to reinvent the wheel.

Flavin said...

Side note.

You really should read some Einstein; it's easier to understand than you might think. I don't think this was his original paper as he didn't call it "special" relativity until after general relativity came out, but Project Gutenberg has at least one piece of his writing on the subject.

Ben said...

Oh it's somewhere in the "To Do" pile. Problem is, that pile just keeps getting bigger and I have been adding stuff to both ends and the middle. Einstein is somewhere in the the middle. However, my point was not that Einstein was too hard to read but that seeing how it is applied and discussed is enough for me assign some veracity to the theory. However, if I personally want to see special or general relativity overthrown, it is my duty to then study Einstein's material. Einstein was the first example I thought of. Maybe I should have used Newton and how that majority of people have not read the Principia (I'll admit I have only read excerpts) and I believe it is OK to accept other's interpretations.

Flavin said...

Better yet, the Origin. Enough creationists harp on about Darwinism as if evolution hasn't advanced one step in over a century, but how many do you think have actually read Darwin's own writing?

...I haven't. Shame on me, I know. Like you said, it's on the pile.

But anyway, this discussion is sort of a moot point, because I have read the damned JFS articles.

coturnix said...

I've hosted dozens of carnivals and I have to say that SC is the hardest one to host - last time I had to send 2 or 3 entries to blog-friends with required expertise for "peer-review" before I made the decision to include or not include the posts. I can understand how a mishap can happen (it has happened once or twice before with SC).

Flavin said...

I don't want to sound like I think it's easy, or that I'm picking on Martin in particular. I can't imagine it would be anything but difficult to host any carnival, let alone the Skeptics' Circle. And I like Martin's blog.

I just think that given the subject matter of the Skeptics' Circle, it is ironic that these slips happen. They are probably unavoidable, but still a bit embarrassing.

I wonder if any other carnivals have the same problem of blogs sneaking in when they may not quite fit the criteria.

Kristjan Wager said...

I think part of the problem is that it's not the blogs that we actually include, but the posts. Some bloggers of questionable quality might actually write really good posts once in a while. Should we include those posts in the SC?

I don't have the answer to that question, and neither does Orac (as he stated in the comments to the 76th Circle).