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If you buy into scientism, does that make you a scientist?

While I was on vacation, I missed a post by Sharon Hill on Skeptical Inquirer online. She recently re-shared the piece on Facebook, so I had an opportunity to give it a good read. Sharon’s pieces are usually filled with thoughtful reminders to reign in arrogance and do more than just tolerate other view points, embrace them and learn from them. I highly recommend following her regular columns there or at her blog, Doubtful News. This recent piece seems to be in response to the current discussion about the limits (and lack thereof) of science, such as this piece by Steven Pinker. However, it lacks the nuance I’ve seen in criticisms of Pinker’s piece. Hill’s piece seems to define scientism, science, and several other terms somewhat vaguely, […]

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Why Skeptics Pick On Jenny McCarthy and Bill Maher


Why do skeptics criticize Jenny McCarthy and Bill Maher? Because they publicly trash mainstream science despite lacking the expertise to properly analyze methodology and draw different conclusions (how scientists do it). Science uses peer review (not just “review”) to weed out bad studies, test the robustness of findings, and discuss appropriate conclusions. Peers are people who work in the same field – experts. Scientists in related fields (or even completely different fields) are sometimes able to criticize the methodology of a given study, but big-picture stuff usually requires specific expertise. Non-scientist experts in a field of science are rare. VERY rare. Pseudoscience and fraud are not science, so please don’t drag out the straw men and accuse me of claiming that only scientists can be good skeptics. […]

Science and Spin Are Very Bad Bedfellows

It seems that the best motivation for me (to write) is frustration. A press release by UC Berkeley about a study that was recently published on the relationships among religiosity, compassion, and prosocial behavior has been making the rounds over the last couple of days, waved by proud atheists as evidence of superiority and bashed by the more skeptical as bad science (even though most haven’t appeared to have read the study). The latter has been exacerbated by the fact that the majority of reports include very big mistakes. I’m going to analyze the study, but I will post that separately since it is likely to be long and I also want to discuss the incredible mess of BS this has become. In that post I will […]

Take Back Skepticism, Part III: The Dunning-Kruger Effect

First, if you have not read Parts I and II, please read them now. The most important parts of those posts are: Arguments over scope and the conflation of atheism and skepticism have reached a fever pitch, as have arguments over tone. I will talk about some of this, but I will not attempt to explain all of the issues in any detail because everything that needs to be said has been said here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here and here… Well, you get the picture. In fact, if you want to argue the definition of skepticism or Skepticism* in the comments of this post, don’t bother. Instead, read what I wrote about it last year, which I […]

Is that a fallacy in your pocket or can you cite some sources? A response to Women and Feminism at TAM8

Jenny McCarthy

In my mini-review of The Amazing Meeting 8 I mentioned that there were two very dark spots in an otherwise amazing (sometimes the word just fits) weekend. I was not ready to discuss these in detail, but when I stumbled over this blog post by Blag Hag Jen McCreight, I felt that at least one should be discussed and I would like to do so through the filter of one of the best talks of the weekend, given by Massimo Pigliucci. McCreight addresses the question of sexism, saying: The one annoying thing I saw was the perpetuation of the Sexy vs. Smart binary in talks. I saw none of this in talks. She gives two examples: Michael Shermer’s talk included a Los Angeles County Fair commercial from […]