20 December 2009

‘The trouble with skeptics’, ‘illiberal liberals’ and skeptic projection

I appreciate jdc325’s piece on inappropriate skeptic attitudes and behaviours, having been subject to them on this blog.  I’m pleased to say however that generally the skeptic tone is much better than two years ago: Skeptic insults to homeopaths daily count: December 4th 2007.  I’d like to add a skeptic fail of my own: making up facts based on logic, or ‘flact’ for short.

Also of interest this week is Brendan O’Neill’s piece in Spiked online on the illiberal, anti-free speech treatment of Johnny Ball’s scepticism of man-made climate change at a ‘religious style get together of rationalists’ including freedom-of-speech-for-scientists and anti-homeopathy campaigners. Further evidence that science or scientism is the new orthodox fundamentalist religion.  Update: even Randi is being subject to the same treatment

And finally I agreed with homeopathyblogs that Goldacre et al are projecting onto homeopaths their own unscientific and biased approach as detailed by William Alderson’s review of Ernst and Singh’s Trick or Treatment.  The printed version of  Goldacre’s notorious anti-homeopathy piece in the Guardian contained cartoons projecting pharma’s love of its pills and forcefeeding them to innocent patients.  Given that Goldacre is involved in psychiatric work you would think that he would recognise this, unless of course he was wilfully using it to influence.


  1. Hi H4H, I suggest you do some background reading on O’Neill before casting him as an ally.

    Comment by gimpy — 20 December 2009 @ 1:56 pm

  2. (a) Re: Johnny Ball: Booing a speaker is registering your disagreement with them, not necessarily suppressing their right to free speech. Ince booked Ball to appear at the event, and allowed him to appear again after he expressed anti-AGW views.

    (b) The example you give when you define “flact” is about ‘making up facts based on fallacious logic’. Someone concluding that because you like yellow, you don’t like other colours, is fallacious logic. You then go on to claim that low rates of cholera mortality result from homeopathic treatment. I don’t follow your argument. If homeopathy alone reduces cholera mortality from 40-80% to 7-33%, that is a matter of fact, not logic. However, the studies you cite are from the 19th century and I am concerned that possibly they may not meet modern standards (like double-blinding). Are there recently conducted trials showing a similar effectiveness? I don’t think that criticism has anything to do with your concept of “flact”.

    Comment by Ben — 20 December 2009 @ 9:45 pm

  3. a) No further comment.
    b) True. The first example I give on Fact or Flact is based on fallacious logic because I noticed two years ago that some skeptics do that. I have also noticed in two years that skeptics also tend to make up facts on (good) logic. My point is that facts can not depend entirely on logic. Opinions can but should be backed up by facts and evidence. Some skeptics here have asserted opinions based on logic that are not necessarily true. I’m not going to trawl through all the comments on this blog but Andrew Taylor of Apathy Sketchpad was banned from this blog because he has a tendency to do it.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 22 December 2009 @ 5:45 pm

  4. …and re the Cholera epidemic: a large population was suffering from cholera – those that were treated homeopathically fared much better. Fact.

    Comment by homeopathy4health — 22 December 2009 @ 6:10 pm

  5. Interesting you should mention Randi since he has elevated the skeptic name calling to new heights by abruptly stopping George Vithoulkas and his group of medical researchers taking him up on his million dollar challenge. After initially accepting the Vithoulkas proposal and his foundation even having observers lined up – he is now not doing because he claims George Vithoulkas is “self deluded”.


    Comment by realside — 27 December 2009 @ 6:31 am

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