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Naked Skeptic

The Naked Skeptic column

My Patience Is Tried

By Peter Bowditch

Scientists and skeptics look for evidence and change their minds when evidence requires it. For some people, however, no evidence is enough, no matter how clear.

Peter Bowditch is a former President of Australian Skeptics Inc. (www.skeptics.com.au).

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Knowing Things That Just Ain’t So

By Peter Bowditch

Evolution has hard-wired us to make mistakes.

Everybody “knows” things that are not true. It is the nature of humanity that nobody can know everything and all of us have misconceptions and gaps in our knowledge.

Most of us recognise this and seek out people with appropriate expertise when we come across something that we don’t know, and accept revision to our internal knowledge base when we get evidence that contradicts what we believe to be true. There is, however, a very large number of people who seem content to be wrong and who cannot be convinced to change their minds when presented with evidence.

We Don’t Need No Stinkin’ Science Books

By Peter Bowditch

Texas is the most important market for textbooks in the USA, making it a pivotal place for creationists to influence what the rest of the nation is taught in science classes.

Denialists Ignore the Science

By Peter Bowditch

The media are favouring economic and ideological interests over the science in debates about climate change and genetic modification.

This winter saw several science-related stories taking up space and time in the media. The common thread was that scientists are being ignored, essentially on emotional or ideological grounds.

The big story was the proposed carbon tax. I’m not going into the economic arguments of a tax on carbon dioxide production versus an emissions trading scheme, because both of these are attempts to solve the same problem. The arguments against it are, on the surface, either political or based on self-interest, but the underlying thread is denial of climate change.

Skeptic Sued By SensaSlim

By Australian Skeptics

TGA's Complaints Resolution Panel forced to put investigation on hold.

Dr Ken Harvey, adjunct senior lecturer in the School of Public Health at La Trobe University and a regular campaigner against non-scientific products and services, has been put under great personal and financial pressure by a ‘SLAPP’ suit (a strategic lawsuit against public participation) over a complaint he has made concerning a slimming product.

Are Invisible Rays Frying Your Brain?

Child with mobile phone

There are more mobile handsets in Australia than people, so if there is any problem with them then it has the potential to be a very big problem indeed.

By Peter Bowditch

What are the dangers, if any, from radiation emitted by mobile phones, microwaves, power lines, WiFi and Bluetooth.

The dangers of mobile phone use seems to be a perennial story in the media. It is a subset of the electro­magnetic radiation scare story, and has two components – radiation from the phones themselves and radiation from the towers.

Let’s start off by looking at how the spectrum of electromagnetic radiation is made up. Shorter wavelengths mean higher energy, and it is generally accepted that cancer caused by DNA disruption requires wavelengths shorter than visible light. Longer wavelengths – like those used by microwaves, mobile phones and WiFi – do not possess the necessary energy.

The End Is Nigh! Repent!

By Peter Bowditch

One sure prediction about the end of the world is that there will be failed predictions about the end of the world.

I’m probably wasting my time writing this because we will all be dead or ascended into Heaven by the time you would normally be reading it. The world that we know was supposed to end on 21 May, just before this magazine is supposed to be arriving in your letterboxes.

That’s right – the latest prediction from some religious folk for the end of time is 21 May 2011, and it must be true because I read it on the Internet.

Confirmation Bias, Denialism and Morton’s Demon

By Peter Bowditch

Science is a search for truth, but three filters can prevent the truth from being recognised.

Anyone who has ever conducted research will be familiar with the problem of confirmation bias – hearing what you want to hear. Anybody doing research in the social sciences has to be constantly aware of the possibility of selecting results and readings that fit the hypothesis and either ignoring or eliminating things that don’t quite fit.

Treating the Symptoms

By Peter Bowditch

Practitioners of alternative medicine claim that conventional medicine treats only the symptoms and not the underlying cause – which ironically is what homeopathy’s founder first advocated.

I must be told on a weekly basis that real doctors treat only symptoms while alternative, holistic medicine men treat the underlying causes of disease and therefore provide cures. Strangely, I have also been told that there can be no disease or illness in the absence of symptoms, and when I mention four occasionally asymptomatic medical conditions that are close to me – Type 2 diabetes, multiple myeloma, basal cell carcinoma and melanoma – I usually get a response that consists of a pause followed by a repetition of the “fact” that symptoms tell the story.

Final Jab for the Anti-Vaccination Lobby

By Peter Bowditch

The truth comes out about research linking vaccination with autism.

In April 2004 this column profiled Dr Andrew Wakefield, whose paper in The Lancet in 1998 led directly to a reduction in rates of measles vaccination and the deaths of some children in the UK from a disease that hadn’t killed for decades. The research supposedly revealed a link between measles virus in the gut and autism, and was suspect from the start, but the truth only came out following some excellent research by British journalist Brian Deer.