Archive for May, 2008

May 30 2008

Alleged Alien Video to be Shown Today

Published by under Uncategorized

Jeff Peckman wants to convince the world that extraterrestrial aliens are indeed visiting the earth. He promises us proof in the form of a stunning video that he will show the press today. However, the press is not allowed to record or rebroadcast the video.

Peckman said the general public will have to wait to see it because it’s being included in a documentary by Stan Romanek.

OK, I can understand that if someone had compelling video of an ET they would want to maximize their personal profits. That would be a valuable commodity. Of course someone in possession of a fake video of an ET would also be so motivated. Remember that alien autopsy video?

The Rocky Mountain News reports:

“It shows an extraterrestrial’s head popping up outside of a window at night, looking in the window, that’s visible through an infrared camera,” he said. The alien is about 4 feet tall and can be seen blinking, Peckman said earlier this month.

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May 29 2008

Bad Medical Journalism

Published by under Uncategorized

I often rant against the generally poor quality of science journalism. There are a few bright spots every now and then (like the recent article on vaccines in Time magazine) but overall reading science news in the mainstream media is a depressing and frustrating affair. At least it gives me material for this blog, which then serves as a means for (albeit modest) damage control.

Also, being the skeptic, I have to question my own observations. Perhaps I am falling victim to confirmation bias – noticing the bad science journalism that confirms my biases and missing good science journalism or dismissing it as “the exception.” I assume that this is happening to some degree, and so try to keep open-minded about the media. Of course some objective systematic information would help me assess the accuracy of my subjective perceptions.

Well, now I have some.

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May 27 2008

Back from the Dead

Published by under Uncategorized

I have noticed in recent months several examples of absolutely horrific medical science journalism. The two most common themes are a medical miracle that has doctors baffled, or the stunning (yet dubious) medical breakthrough. In the latter category have been a number of cases of people “brought back from the dead” – people who were presumed dead or brain dead but who survived none-the-less.

I wrote previously about the case of Zack Dunlap, who was declared brain dead after a serious injury and while being prepped for possible organ donation regained consciousness. In this case the simplest explanation is that the PET scan used to make the diagnosis was simply in error.

I discussed on my podcast this story about a man whose heart had stopped in the emergency room. He underwent cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) for about 45 minutes to no avail. At that time the cardiologist, Dr. Chauncey Crandall, told the team to shock his heart one more time. That shock did it – the patient’s rhythm returned and he eventually recovered.

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May 26 2008

Resurrecting the Tasmanian Tiger

Published by under General Science

This is a cool story from the BBC. Australian scientists have been able to extract a cartilage gene from DNA taken from a preserved specimen of Tasmanian tiger 100 years old. They then placed that gene in a mouse, and the gene worked pretty much as the native mouse gene would.

Any resurrection of DNA from an extinct species provokes images of Jurassic Park. However, this is a long way from once again having Tasmanian tigers in zoos, or the wild. The Tasmanian tiger, or Thylacine, went extinct due to hunting, with the last specimen dying in 1933. Interestingly, there continues to be local legends that the animals still exist in the wild. It is sort-of their Bigfoot – the evidence consists of sounds heard in the wild, trace evidence, and tall tales.  But, alas, the evidence strongly suggests that the Thylacine is no more.

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May 20 2008

Lost Blog Entries

Published by under General

Recently the data file for this blog was corrupted and about half of my posts were down. As soon as I discovered this we worked on the problem (thanks to Mike for helping with this) and restored every post from the archive. However, for some reason they appear to be down again.

Interestingly, Michael Egnor noticed the absent posts and wrote about it here. I never received the e-mail he sent me, and there is no way to leave comments on his blog.

All of the blog entries are archived. We will have them restored as soon as possible and I will leave a notice when they are back.

— Update 05/20/08 —

The problem appears to be with the new version of WordPress we just installed and Brinkster, our host. I am told that by tonight everything will be back. We will have to go back to the old version of WordPress, but that will not affect subscribers, just the back end.

I suggest that if you leave any long brilliant comments today you should save a copy offline. We will try not to lose anything in the transition, but it”s better to be safe.

Thanks for your patience.

_____________________

Update 5/24

All blog entries seem to be back up. Please let me  know if you find missing entries or broken links.

Note – if you registered between 5/17 and5/21 please re-register.

Thanks again to Mike for fixing my blog.

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May 20 2008

More Sloppy Thinking from Michael Egnor on Neuroscience

Dr. Egnor, writing for the Discovery Institute blog, has some more tortured logic for us. He is desperately trying to defend his justification for dualism – the claim that the mind is more than the functioning of the brain, and like the creationists with whom he has found a home, he will not discard an argument simply because it is false.

In our latest exchange I first wrote that a recent bit of neuroscience research showed that brain activity comes before any evidence for mental activity. This is not an isolated result of this one study, but is generally what we find when we correlate brain function to mental function – the brain function comes first.

This point is relevant to the materialist-dualist debate. One of the lines of evidence for the materialist theory that the brain entirely causes the mind is that brain function correlates with mental function. The dualists employ a tactic of denial by arguing that this is merely correlation and therefore not evidence for causation, and that this correlation could result from the mind causing brain activity. While logically correct (correlation does not prove one specific causation), you can still infer causation from multiple correlations, and they ignore the many independent lines of evidence that suggest the arrow of causation is from the brain to the mind. Continue Reading »

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May 19 2008

Anti-Vaccinationists Bring a Knife to a Gun-fight

Anti-vaccinationists who claim, against the prevailing scientific evidence, that there is a link between autism and vaccines, have been busy recently spamming science bloggers (at least those who have posted on this issue before) with new evidence they believe supports a connection. The evidence is a small study involving giving vaccines to macaques and measuring various neurological outcomes. Here’s mine – Kim Spencer left this comment on my recent post about the chelation related death case:

when are you going to get down and dirty on the new monkey study? waiting on your opinion on how this could be wrong… http://www.ageofautism.com/2008/05/pediatric-vacci.html

can’t wait for your explanations!!!

Notice the implication that I have been somehow avoiding taking on this new study. I am sorry to keep you waiting so long, Kim, given that this study was presented as a series of three abstracts at the latest International Meeting for Autism Research. You will note that they are dated May 16th 2008 – this is my very next blog post.

This also bears directly on my first criticism of this evidence – abstracts presented at such meetings do not pass the same rigorous peer-review as full papers published in respected journals. Most abstracts never see the peer-reviewed light of day. Continue Reading »

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May 16 2008

Einstein’s Religion

I am currently reading Einstein, His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson. It’s a great read – especially interesting are Einstein’s early years. it is difficult to look past Einstein’s iconic greatness, the transformative impact he had on physics, and his obvious genius to see the humble man he was at the dawn of his career. This section of the book is filled with the constant irony of those people around Einstein who did not recognize what he would become.

What Albert Einstein would become is an icon of scientific genius. With this he has also become the ultimate authority figure – the prime target for anyone wishing to commit the argument from authority logical fallacy, and the obsession of all cranks. Recognizing this in his later years, Einstein wrote:

In the past it never occurred to me that every casual remark of mine would be snatched up and recorded. Otherwise I would have crept further into my shell.

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May 15 2008

Ben Stein Hates Science

I know I am not the first science blogger to point this out, but I have to weigh in on Ben Stein’s slanderous and hateful nonsense he vomited forth during an interview for the Trinity Broadcasting Network. Here is an exerpt from his interview with Paul Crouch.

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch: Good word, good word.

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May 14 2008

David Brooks and Neural Buddhism

Published by under Neuroscience

Writing in today”s New York Times, columnist David Brooks discusses the relationship between neuroscience and mysticism – saying that in the future the debate will center around a concept that he calls “neural Buddhism”. He says he is not taking sides, just pointing out that this is where the real debate is going to happen. Well – let the debate begin.

First I want to point out that I read David Brooks regularly because I find his style to be very rational, educated, and thoughtful. He is one of those writers who is worth reading regardless of your political ideology. I particularly enjoy those articles in which he takes a step back and looks at the current political topics of discussion in the context of broader cultural trends. That is indeed what he is attempting to do in this article. Although he is clearly well-read on this topic, I think he has misinterpreted the implications of current neuroscience.

To summarize his position, he is saying that recently there has been a public debate between militant atheists and religious believers. In essence the atheists, like Hitchens and Dawkins, have been challenging believers to defend their belief in God. He writes: Continue Reading »

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