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Showing posts from July, 2011

Dangerous Homeopathy

This is of interest...and relevance re. the supposed "harmlessness" of homeopathy. Fron Zeno's blog. It’s bad enough when homeopaths take good money from people, claiming they can cure their colds or clear up their eczema with sugar pills. It’s another thing entirely to claim to prevent or treat serious diseases with identical sugar pills. But this is precisely what the BBC’s Newsnight programme discovered homeopaths were doing. Broadcast in January, Pallab Ghosh exposed the disgraceful behaviour of a north London homeopath and a homeopathic ‘pharmacy’ selling sugar pills as a malaria preventative. Continues...

On a weird misreading of my book

I'll say one more thing about the whole Martin Cohen review thing and then shut up about it, as I realize I'm getting obsessive. In the comments under his THES review, Cohen yesterday explained his case for saying, in his review: "Do you believe in God? Or even wonder if there might be a purpose to the universe?...Then you believe in bullshit. That is the uncompromising message of Stephen Law's new book." I denied that I ever said this. In fact I don't even believe it. To support his case that I am, nevertheless, committed to it, Cohen now comments: [EXTRACT FROM COHEN BEGINS] 1. God Do you believe in God or think that the universe might have a purpose? = Bullshit A section on p49 entitled 'Scientific refutation of God claims?' starts:'Let's now turn to the claim the God exists'. To do this, Law quotes and discusses at length the book 'the God Delusion' by Dawkins. He explicitly supports Dawkin's view saying, for example,

Conspiracy Theory Day, 25th Sept - tickets on sale TOMORROW

CFI UK and SPES present CONSPIRACY THEORY DAY Sunday 25th September 2011 9/11, alien visitation, Jewish cabals and global warming - why are people drawn to conspiracy theories, and what holds them captive? What are the warning signs of a dodgy conspiracy theory? What conspiracy theories are actually credible, and why? Spend an entertaining and informative day with some if the world's leading experts. PROGRAMME 10.30 Registration 10.45-11.55 Chris French and Robert Brotherton “Conspiracy Minded: The Psychology of Belief in Conspiracy Theories” 12.00- 1.10 Karen Douglas "A Social Psychological Perspective On Conspiracy Theories" 2.00-3.10 David Aaronovitch "Do Conspiracy Theories Have Common Characteristics Over Time And Space?" 3.10-4.10 Jamie Bartlett and Carl Miller “Truth And The Net” 4.10 End EVENT DETAILS Venue: Conway Hall, 25 Red Lion Square, Holborn, London WC1R 4RL. Cost £10. £8 BHA, etc. £5 students. Booking in advance available at the

Crystal experiment

Here's a brief extract from my book Believing Bullshit. Professor Christopher French and colleagues Lyn Williams and Hayley O’Donnell at the Anomalistic Psychology Research Unit at Goldsmiths, University of London, conducted a study into the claim that crystals have unusual powers that can be detected when they are held. The resulting paper was presented to the British Psychological Society Centenary Annual Conference in Glasgow in 2001. The study compared the reactions of a group of volunteers who were told to meditate while clutching real crystals bought from “New Age” shops with a control group given fake crystals. Those given real crystals reported higher concentration powers, heightened energy levels, and better spiritual well-being. However, exactly the same feelings were reported by those holding fake crystals. This experiment repeated an earlier one in which the experimenter, Williams, knew which crystals were real and which were fake, and so it was not “double-blind.” Thi

Martin Cohen's bizarre review - further thought

A further thought on Martin Cohen's review of my book Believing Bullshit (scroll down for my first comment). I tell you what has surprised me somewhat. Although the book is provocatively titled, it is written in a fairly measured and qualified way, and certainly doesn't go round saying all religion is bullshit, etc. It's actually fairly polite about religion, I thought - I certainly intended it to be (I have no interest whatsoever in insulting religious people per se ). But the book has provoked some very strong emotional reactions, and insults, from some religious (and non-religious) people (in fact other religious people have rather liked it, and said so). So what explains Martin Cohen's astonishing review, packed full, as it is, with obvious falsehoods, blatant misrepresentations, etc? I am thinking, perhaps unfairly, that Dawkins is onto something with his " viruses of the mind " idea. In effect, I am installing anti-viral software. The virus gets ve

Does anyone have good resource info on cell replacement?

Doing a kid's book and need to find out info on how quickly cells are replaced in the human body. I know that some turn over very quickly (liver or kidney) and others more slowly (bone) but that they are all replaced over a decade or two (well, I think so, anyway). Anyone know of a resource? I tried googling but could only find stuff on cancer, etc.

Martin Cohen's review of Believing Bullshit

Believing Bullshit: How Not to Get Sucked Into an Intellectual Black Hole 21 July 2011 Times Higher Ed Supplement. Strong whiff of a weak argument Martin Cohen finds an attack on irrationality worryingly unscientific in its methods Do you believe in God? Or even wonder if there might be a purpose to the universe? Do you suppose that human consciousness is more than merely chemical changes in "brain states"? Do you think natural selection is a zombie theory or that alternative health remedies can sometimes work? Then you believe in bullshit. That is the uncompromising message of Stephen Law's new book. Continues here... . Very weird review as I certainly don't claim, and nor do I believe , that if you believe in God, or wonder if there is a purpose to the universe, then you believe bullshit. Here's a passage from the introduction: However, it’s worth emphasizing at the outset that I’m certainly not suggesting that every religious belief system is an Int

Homeopathy survey

This via Chris French: Homeopaths are doing a survey of public opinion at You might like to complete it? It's v quick. [it's also quite astonishingly worded S.L.] He also points out there is another version of the same survey at The latter has been put up by @skepticCanary (aka Tom Williamson) who claims that "homeopaths have a track record of abandoning ideas if they don't turn out the way they wanted". Surely not, Tom! But, just in case, you might like to complete that one too. Also, information about the World Skeptics Congress in Berlin in May 2012 will be updated at the following site:

In Korea

I am currently in Korea as keynote speaker at the ICPIC conference here in Jinju. Golly it is a long way. Got picked up at airport 5.30am today, Sunday, and taken to Seoul station and put on train to Ggeongju, where I joined a tour organized by ICPIC. Everyone's been v friendly. Have missed two nights sleep though as I played drums for the Heavy Dexters Friday night at the Chester Arms pub, East Oxford, went home and 2 hours later had to get bus for Heathrow for 7.30am flight.

Talk in Oxford next Wednesday

SitP Oxford - Stephen Law: Believing Bullshit When: Wed Jul 13, 2011 6:30pm to 8:30pm UTC Where: Copa of Oxford 9 - 13 George Street Oxford OX1 2AU We use the upstairs function room. To find it, go up the spiral staircase - then look for the door immediately opposite you. Go through, up another flight of stairs and you will find us. There is a bar up here and it should be open. So no need to spill your pint on the spiral stairs. Event Status: confirmed Event Description: Skeptics in the Pub Oxford. For more information, see SitP Ref [SitP647Event]