Archive for Debate

12 Amazing Things in Less Than a Minute!

Posted in Critical Thinking, Optical Illusion, Richard Wiseman, science, skepticism with tags , , , , , , , , , on March 2, 2011 by theskepticalsamurai

The title says it all!

Watch and enjoy!

This has been the skeptical samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…

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The Element song

Posted in Critical Thinking, science, skepticism with tags , , , , , , on February 22, 2011 by theskepticalsamurai

Every have difficulty remembering all of the elements on the periodic table?  Are you ever in the middle of a chemistry exam and cannot quite remember that certain noble gas or metalloid?  Well fear not dear reader!  I have the solution to all of your periodic table problems!  I give you…

The element song!

This has been the skeptical samurai…

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…

Magic Deck of Cards

Posted in Critical Thinking, Magic, science, skepticism with tags , , , , , , , , , , on February 15, 2011 by theskepticalsamurai

Check out this “Magic” deck of cards.  Pause the video at the 00:20 mark (prior to the big block text that reads: REVEAL) and try and figure this one out for yourself. 

Again, further proof that what we think we see and what is actually going on can be 2 very different things!

This has been the skeptical samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…

The Skeptical Samurai Guide to the Movies: Finding Nemo

Posted in Critical Thinking, movies, Skeptical Samurai's Guide to the Movies with tags , , , , , , , , on February 7, 2011 by theskepticalsamurai

Time for another instalment of…

The Skeptical Samurai’s Guide to the Movies!

This week’s movie: Finding Nemo

I am not going to dissect the entire movie, as this is not the type of movie that really lends itself to Fact vs. Fiction treatment.  Instead, I am going to focus on one aspect of this film.  More specifically, I am going to focus on the opening sequence.  In the opening scene we are introduced to Marlin…

…a nervous wreck of a clown fish who, to the disappointment of his friends, cannot tell a joke to save his life.  We learn that Marlin’s nervousness is a direct result of a traumatic incident involving his deceased wife, Coral. 

In the film, Coral, Merlin and their young (who are just eggs at this point) where viciously ambushed and attacked by an “evil” barracuda.  The result of this encounter was that Coral and all but one of the children perished.  The boy with the gimpy, I mean lucky, flipper…

Nemo

The above events set the stage for the rest of film.      

And let us stop right there.  It is this opening sequence that requires clarification and correction.  I mean we cannot allow an entire generation of young and old alike be mislead regarding the mating habits of Amphiprion, or clown fish as they are more commonly called, can we!  The skeptical samurai will not stand by and watch as Disney/Pixar poisons the minds of all those who have watched this movie!  The truth must be told!

In the words of Sheldon Cooper…

“Bazinga”

You see, Amphiprion

are sequential hermaphrodites.  Most people know what a hermaphrodite is.  It is a classification that signifies that an animal has sexual characteristics of both a male and a female.  But what many people do not know is that there are different classes of hermaphrodites in the animal kingdom.  The designation of sequential hermaphrodite is used to identify animals that are born as one sex, but have the ability to change into the opposite sex at a later stage in their life cycle. 

Clown fish live together in groups consisting of 1 female and a number of males.  The female is the oldest within the group and is the lone breeding female.  Despite several males in the group, only one will mate with the female, specifically, the eldest male.  The rest of the younger male clown fish will not mate with the female.  Now, if for some reason the female is removed from the group (as the result of death, predation, etc) then the oldest/breeding male will become a female, and the oldest non-mating male will become the new breeding male.  Order, balance and mating hierarchy has then been restored for the clown fish.    

So with all of that in mind…

For the film to be an accurate portrayal of what would have actually happened in nature Marlin should have become Marlene and Nemo would have become a sexually mature male…

And well…

You can figure the rest out! 

But at the end of the day I guess we are having this discussion in relation to talking cartoon fish, so I guess we can let it slide.

This has been the Skeptical Samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…

10 Questions for Stephen Hawking

Posted in education, pseudo-science, science, skepticism, space with tags , , , , , , , on January 10, 2011 by theskepticalsamurai

Organized and conducted by Time Magazine in November 2010, 10 questions for the great Stephen Hawking. 

A great watch!  Enjoy

This has been the skeptical samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…

“I Read a Research Paper on the Topic”

Posted in Critical Thinking, Debate, education, Homeopathy, pseudo-science, science, skepticism with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2011 by theskepticalsamurai

Sorry about the delay between posts…

I had limited internet access over the holidays.  Anyway…

If you have ever been involved in a discussion/debate (which I am sure we all have at some point), I am sure that you have heard the following statement at least once…

“Well, I have read a research paper on the topic”

The infamous “research paper” defence!

While often employed by the forces for good, the research paper defence is often used by the forces of EVIL, specifically by those promoting pseudo-science and woo.  In these circumstances the research paper defence is employed as an authoritative declaration with the intent of ending a discussion.  Thus leaving all of those involved with the sentiment that the ultimate truth on the matter has been spoken.    

Use of the research paper defence can have several different intended (or unintended) consequences.  It can be used as a means of providing information and insight into the topic at hand.  The person employing the research paper defence seeks nothing more than to add truth/facts to the discussion.  In this type of circumstance, the research paper defence is an attempt to add some truth/facts to the conversation.  On the other hand, the research paper defence can be used as a means of intentionally ending a conversation, typically with malicious intentions.  And it is this use of the research paper defence that is often employed by propagators of pseudo-science and woo.

With this in mind…

There are some important questions that one must ask when the research paper defence is employed, as not all research papers are created equal.  Instead they fall on a continuum that ranges from “utter crap” to “reliable information that represents our best current knowledge on a specific topic”.  The questions listed below will provide potential insight into the intent of the person employing them as well as the validity of the sources being quoted.   

1)      When was the paper published?

Although a seemingly unimportant question, the year of publication is actually quite important.  If someone quotes a research paper that is years or even decades old, it is possible that the information contained within that paper is no longer relevant or has been disproven.  Although the age of a research paper does automatically determine its relevance, it can provide insight into the potential validity of a paper and the information contained within. 

2)      Who published the paper?

Was the paper proving the homeopathy is more effective that conventional medicine (just for those unsure, it is not!) published by the Journal for Homeopathy that has a review panel that consists of only homeopaths?  Or was the paper published in a peer reviewed journal that proudly employs a wide variety of unbiased/objective reviewers from a variety of different relevant backgrounds that do not have a vested interest in the results of a particular paper?  Was the paper as self produced pamphlet, written and distributed by a crank that thinks that everyone is involved in a conspiracy against him that only he has uncovered?  Or was the paper published in a reputable journal that holds itself accountable to its readers and the public at large?  Determining who published a paper and information about that publisher can provide valuable insight into the validity of a paper.

3)      What type of study was run?

Was the paper reporting on a study that included 5 research participants that knew the type of treatment they were getting?  Or was the study a double blind placebo control trial?  Is the paper an opinion piece written by a lone crank or is a systematic review written by an expert in a particular field regarding a specific topic?  When assessing the validity of a paper, the type of study run is extremely important to determine.    

4)      What where the actual results/conclusion of the research paper?

This one is really important!

I have lost track of the amount of times that someone misinterprets the results of a research paper.  Whether it is intentional or unintentional the result is still the same.  It misleads the individual hearing the information and provides false data regarding a topic of discussion.  However, when done intentionally, this type of error can take on a malicious intent, and again, is a tactic often employed by propagators of pseudo-science and woo.  So when encountering the research paper defence this is a tactic that you MUST be aware of!

Though far from an exhaustive list, it is my hope that the above “questions” will serve as a good starting point to arm you in the fight against pseudo-science and woo. 

This has been the skeptical samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry….

Show Me That Smile…Yet Again!

Posted in Critical Thinking, Kirk Cameron, Logical Fallacies, pseudo-science, religion, science, skepticism with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 26, 2010 by theskepticalsamurai

Cue the music:

A while back I posted a video from my good friend/arch nemesis Kirk Cameron and his side kick Mr. Ray Comfort (combined they form, Mr. C+C!) regarding their assertion that the banana is proof of intelligent design and thus is evidence for god’s existence.  Here is a link to that post: https://theskepticalsamurai.wordpress.com/2010/02/02/show-me-that-smile-again/

It has come to my attention that Mr. C+C have subsequently released a statement/video attempting to better explain the claims made in their original video.  You can view the video here (do yourself a favour and jump to 01:30 and stop at the 02:00 mark.  If you choose to watch the entire video clip, do not say that I did not warn you!):

I would like to draw attention to Mr. Comfort’s “apology” regarding his original “banana as proof of god’s existence” discussion (again at the 01:30 to 02:00 mark):

“My apologies for not explaining myself more clearly.  I was not aware that the common banana had been so modified through hybridization.  However the truth remains that god gave man the knowledge and ability to modify it, so that it perfectly fit into his hand.  He did the same with big dogs so that they could fit into his car.  And with wild cats, so that they are perfectly fit for his wife.”

Wow…

Where to even start with this one!?

1st off please allow me to apologize if you watched the entire video.  I tried to warn you!  I know what you are thinking, those where valuable seconds of your life that you will never get back.   It is my hope that my critique of Mr. C + C’s video will be a step in the right direction to earning your forgiveness! 

Alright, let us dig into this one shall we!

Mr. Comfort makes the argument that the video distributed on the internet (more specifically, the video clip distributed within the skeptical/scientific community) was inaccurate, as the video clip did not show Comfort’s entire argument. 

Alright Mr. Comfort, I will give you that one.  So let us look at the argument that you were trying to make. 

In the uncut version of the video, Comfort compares the banana to a can of cola.  Comfort explains that in his opinion both the banana and can of cola have been designed in such a manner that is perfectly suited for the user.  He then goes on to make the argument that the can of cola (which has been “perfectly created”) has a designer/creator, so following that logic that banana (which also been “perfectly created”) must also have a designer/creator.  Ergo, Comfort argues that the banana is evidence for the existence of god.    

I know…

A weak argument at best…

But please, stay with me! 

Comfort’s argument hinges on the notion that the banana, in its form as we know it today, serves as a perfect example of something in nature that has been perfectly created/designed, and is thus evidence for the existence of god.  As discussed in my previous post, this argument quickly falls apart, as the common banana is the result of years of selective breeding by farmers and looks/tastes nothing like is wild counterpart.   Hardly a good example of something that was perfectly designed by an omnipotent creator!

True to form, upon discovering the above information about the common banana, Comfort does not reconsider his original argument.  He does not process the intellectual honesty to admit that the banana was an extremely poor example for his original argument.  Instead, he commits one of the worst cases of “moving the goal posts” that I have ever seen!  Mr. Comfort proclaims that the banana is still evidence for the existence of god, because god gave man the intelligence to change and shape the banana as he saw fit! 

Unbelievable!

This is why people such as Mr. C + C (and many people within the creationist/intelligent design movement) are not (and will never be) taken seriously in the scientific community. 

A scientist (or any person of reason for that matter) openly acknowledges that their opinions/beliefs on a variety of different subjects will change and evolve as new information becomes available.  Inherent in the scientific process is the notion that our understanding of the natural world is constantly changing as we gain new information.  Our understanding of the natural world does not have an end point.  Instead, it is something of a never ending constantly evolving process.  Individuals such as Mr. Comfort and Mr. Cameron have already made up their mind.  They have already drawn their conclusions. 

Put simply, they are not open to new information, and thus are closed to the wonders of science and the new and exciting information that it is able to offer us about the world/universe that we inhabit. 

This has been the Skeptical Samurai

Working to serve…

Through the process of inquiry…