Monday, May 3, 2010

An ironic message about evidence

This cowardly screed came to my attention tonight.

I'm not even going to bother breaking it down - at least not here and now.  Suffice to say that its typical in it's failure to effectively cite any of it's claims.  It Godwins.  It features a poorly choreographed chorus line of strawmen.  And of course is accuses skeptics of being in the pay of pharmaceutical companies... geez I wish that cheque would arrive.  That's just the short tour.  Really I just want to point out that its pretty typical in it's plastering of the standard clap-trap of ad hominems, bad logic and failure to understand evidence.

One of the key tasks of a fledgling skeptic is to wrap their head around the hierarchy of good evidence, weak evidence, bad evidence and no evidence.  Indeed, I would go so far as to say that if you have a good grasp of these notions you are a skeptic whether you self-identify as one or not.

Does this mud slinging blog provide evidence?  No.  It merely falls into the tired trap of accusing it's skeptical targets (oh the irony of the Are You Being Targeted By a Skeptic or Skeptic Group? Here’s what to do. post.) of being the vilest version of their opposition.  As I've pointed out before, skeptics are lefty-hippies to right-wingers and fascists to left-wingers.  Indeed, skeptics land on both sides of the spectrum.  Yawn!

But the blog goes further.

For starters, it is anonymous.  Whoever is writing has not got the courage of their convictions.  They are cowards.  Now, I have some theories about who they might be, but I have no definitive evidence.  I understand that I don't and thus won't point fingers.  That would be legally dodgy.  If I were specifically targeted, as several people I know have been, then perhaps I would put some effort into uncovering better evidence - supportable evidence - as to who was defaming me.  Evidence that could stand in court as to the accusations I was making.... that is if someone were to decide to take me to court.

But it is clear enough to me that the authors of this post have very little notion of the hierarchy of evidence.  Let's face it, if they did, they wouldn't be supporting herbal remedies and homeopathy.  Nor would they be making specious connections as equating the denunciation of herbal remedies as being ineffective as being the same as being racist towards First Nations.  It's quite a leap.

Following from that, they go so far as to single out people as bigots - and (you guessed it) fail to provide any kind of proof, rational or otherwise.  This is legally unsound at best.  Calling someone a bigot is actionable.  And should the person so defamed decide to move legally against the accusation, one would have to have good evidence that what you were saying was unassailable fact if one was to hope to successfully defend ones self.

Before I finish, one last aside - how's this for intellectual dishonesty?  Check out the comments.  At least they are honest about their dishonesty:

You may have to click on the image and make it full size to read it clearly.

ADDENDUM (May 4th, 12:35pm PDT):

As if the integrity of the Skeptic North Watch blog wasn't bankrupt enough...

This comment from last night...

...has (rather predictably) been deleted in accordance with the defiant irrational righteousness touted elsewhere in the blog comments.

[Addendum ends.]

Oh... and just for fun... here's my favourite quote from the blog: "[The skeptical movement] was started by pharmeceutical companies recruiting people in pubs."  I had no idea Aenesidemus was under the employ of some ancient Greek equivalent of Pfizer.


  1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  2. Dude, seriously, you didn't get recruited in a pub? Man, it was awesome. They picked up my whole tab (and drinking in London can be pretty pricey, with the weak Canadian dollar and all that)!

    Seriously though, I think this should cause us skeptics to reflect on the frequency of our own anonymous posting. Out of principle, I always post under my own full name. (I used to just use an old screen name, 'jloxton', out of habit, but expanded to make it absolutely clear who I am.) I am not ever going to post anything that I don't want to be held personally accountable for. Jason Loxton

  3. They didn't recruit me so much as drug me into their way of thinking using homeopathic skepticillococcinum.