skepticism

A Brief Career in Science Journalism

September 27, 2011
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Like Howl’s moving castle, Chez Belm houses a collection of autonomous processes over which I have little control. In the (almost) sixteen years that I’ve lived in the house, I have noticed that books and other printed matter eventually collect on the third floor in the room behind my office. In order to create a […]

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Bent Out of Shape

December 7, 2010

He Who Will Not Be Ignored came home yesterday with another reading comprehension homework assignment, the usual “read the story and answer questions” exercise that bores him to tears. Sometimes the story is just that – a short piece of fiction – but sometimes it’s a factual article or news report. Regardless of the content, […]

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I Didn’t Buy a Lottery Ticket Today

October 8, 2010
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Lest you think the title implies that I buy lottery tickets on other days, let me disabuse you of that notion: I don’t buy lottery tickets. Ever. I shouldn’t have to elaborate the usual statistical arguments, because this isn’t really about winning the lottery, it’s about a day full of coincidences. I had reconnected with […]

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The Downfall of Vaccine Denial

March 30, 2010
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If you thought the vaccine denial movement was immune to the Downfall video meme, you’re in for a surprise. As you can see here, der Führer had a rough time of it after learning about a Danish study demonstrating no causal link between vaccines and autism. It’s worth it to hear him scream: It’s not […]

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“Scientifically Unsupportable”

March 16, 2010
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Last Friday, special masters of the U.S. Court of Federal Claims released their findings on the second phase of the Omnibus Autism Proceedings, and found no evidence of a causal link between autism and thimerosal in vaccines. (The first phase, decided last year, addressed the claim that the MMR vaccine caused autism. ) Test cases […]

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Try Reason, Not “Everything”

March 5, 2010
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Last week Time magazine published “The Autism Debate: Who’s Afraid of Jenny McCarthy?” As much as I’d like to rant about her, as I’ve done before, instead I’ll call your attention to this paragraph, buried halfway into the article: There are dark murmurings from scientists and doctors asking, Was her son ever really autistic? Evan’s […]

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Irresponsible and Dishonest

February 2, 2010
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Almost exactly a year ago, I wrote about Andrew Wakefield’s falsification of data linking vaccines and autism, calling his behavior “irresponsible and criminal.” Last week the General Medical Council, the British medical licensing body, arrived at the same conclusion: In reaching its decision, the Panel notes that the project reported in the Lancet paper was […]

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Chocolate, or Shinola?

October 21, 2009
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Taza Chocolate sent me an email today announcing the availability of this year’s Special Edition Stone Ground Chiapan Chocolate. I’ve tasted last year’s edition (is “edition” really the appropriate description for a short-run foodstuff?), it’s definitely good chocolate, but the stuff costs $9.50 for a three-ounce bar. I’ll buy a bar or two this year […]

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Science and the Deity

October 20, 2009
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Not the Deity, Mr. Deity. If you haven’t heard of him, visit his web site and get caught up on his doings. Recently he’s been looking for a science advisor, and may have found one in PZ Meyers, biologist and writer of the blog Pharyngula: “Evolution, development, and random biological ejaculations from a godless liberal.” […]

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Mahlon Hoagland: 1921-2009

September 25, 2009
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He worked with James Watson and Francis Crick. He discovered transfer RNA and amino acid activation. He was twice nominated for the Nobel Prize. His name was Mahlon Hoagland, he passed away last week, and you have never heard of him. I had never heard of him until a series of unlikely circumstances brought us […]

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