Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Asshole Skeptic Honour Roll #5 - The Rational Response Squad

Somehow I've got myself where I'm working on three massive posts - one of which will appear on Skeptic North early next week & I may cross-post here.  But whew!  Are these ever throwing me off my new current goal of posting once a week.  There has simply been too much research required.  So instead, I end up posting much smaller token posts...

But this entry is more than the average token post...

It's time to add another name to the Asshole Skeptic Honour Roll.

I'm not sure what exactly happened, but an old Skepticality Episode interview from 2007 appeared in my iTunes queue today - perhaps it was re-posted or... well who knows.  What appeared today was the un-cut interview (episode 53a) that Swoopy did with the Rational Response Squad.  I recall the original episode (Episode 53), but that was from back before my views began to gel regarding the spectrum of ways which skeptics need to present themselves.  In the interview, they discuss very similar notions to what I suggest (between the 10 & 20 minute marks approximately).

The Rational Response Squad has been on my radar from some time (probably since I first heard the edited version of the interview) but I guess I've got too much of my head up my ass to have really noticed that we are not only singing the same tune, but are carrying the same harmonic line.

Anyhow... hooray for the RRS and welcome to the 5th Asshole Skeptic Honour Roll inductee.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

NOT an April Fools' Joke... seriously.

If you are a new junkie of any of the following stripes; Western Canada, Vancouver, Anti or Pro-Vax, Infectious diseases that ought to be nearly eradicated.... You may have heard that there has been a measles outbreak in the greater Vancouver area.

It's all covered in this article.

All issues with the quality of reporting aside - which to be honest, I haven't effectively assessed - I take a certain level of solace from this article.  Not because an outbreak of measles amongst the un-vaccinated serves to further the proof of the efficacy of vaccines.  This is absolutely one of those cases where one hates to be right - like that hunch I had that there were no WMDs in Iraq.  What pleases me is the plus/minus ratio in the comments.

Take a peek at the comments.  The number of thumbs up to thumbs down on each comment can serve as a predictor of the comments.

Are the votes on the comments more than two to one thumbs up?  Then the chances are that the content is (gratifyingly) based on rational thought and real science.

Are the votes on the comments more than two to one thumbs down?  Then chances are the content of the comment is (written by poster 'loandtreys_mom' and) based on at least one logical fallacy and is rank and file anti-vax bullshit.

If the votes are pretty much even there is a pretty good chance that the content is incomprehensible.

I really want to take the comforting position that this means that the average joe has tuned in to the fact that vaccinations are generally good and that anti-vax propaganda tends towards unmitigated intellectual sewage.  But that is kind of what standard CAM (and other magical thinking) dreams are about, isn't it?  Taking the comforting explanation to an uncomfortable circumstance.

The commenters on both side of the argument are self-selected; it's hardly a scientific sampling of public opinion... but some days we critical thinkers need a sign that we're having a positive effect... even if it is a possibly spurious one.  No sign at all is just too soul-sucking to consider, and only leads to skeptical burn-out.

So here we have just a little extra nitrous for the tanks.

Happy April Fools' Day, fellow skeptics.