Carnivalia and an open thread

Three announcements about blog carnivals of interest to my readers:

  1. Medical blogging: Grand Rounds, vol. 3, no. 19 has been posted at Envisioning 2.0.
  2. Science blogging: Tangled Bank #72 has been posted at Ouroboros.
  3. Skeptical blogging: The Skeptics’ Circle will be appearing tomorrow at Slicing with Occam’s Razor. If you’re a blogger who writes about critical thinking and the application of the scientific method to everyday life, you still have a few hours to get your entries to Okcam at And, as always, if you’re interested in hosting, drop me a line at

And now, something I don’t do very often: an open thread. You’ve got something to say? Knock yourself out!

If you don’t know where to start, how about a bit of fun seeing how many logical fallacies, straw men about evolution, and plain downright idiotic statements you can find in this article by Pat Boone (of all people!) on evolution that’s been making the rounds in the blogosphere. (This one looks ripe to have some poo flung at it by a master.) Think of it as a warm-up in critical thought for tomorrow’s Skeptics’ Circle.

Beware, though; I’m sure that I lost a few thousand neurons just from coming in contact with its highly concentrated idiocy. Alternatively, you could have some fun with Scott Adams’ lame “it’s all just semantics” reply to all the criticism directed at his “Big Bang was intelligent” post yesterday.

Or create your own topic.


  1. #1 Nigel
    January 31, 2007

    Some days I wish I could “unread” something.
    From now on I will stick to killing my brain cells with beer, at least there is some enjoyment out of it.

  2. #2 anonimouse
    January 31, 2007

    J.B. Handley – misguided money mark or anti-vaxing psychopath?


  3. #3 Orac
    January 31, 2007

    The two are not mutually exclusive, you know. There’s no reason he can’t be both.

  4. #4 Blake Stacey
    January 31, 2007

    The Scott Adams kerfluffle reminded me of “Dogbert’s New Ruling Class”. I haven’t paid any attention since the mid-1990s, but I recall that Adams ran an online fan club whose premise was that when Dogbert finally took over the world, the members of the DNRC would become the elite philosopher-kings lording it over the “Induhvidual” mob. You can either take that as a satiric send-up of elitism, or view it as evidence, perhaps slightly exaggerated, of the way the world really works. Is it a joke, or do people actually see life that way, a struggle of slans against the Moron People? Faux elitism, or the real thing?

    (Now, there’s nothing particularly wrong with elitism. I admit it: I’m an elitist. I love my elite so much I think everybody should belong to it.)

    Like Adams’s attempt to redefine “intelligent”, the DNRC is to me a joke which falls flat. The fawning response Adams received from his fans — people who clearly didn’t view his remarks as a joke! — makes me wonder how many people took Dogbert’s Dream of Domination as a reflection of their honest wishes.

    I didn’t think much of it at the time, but looking back, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were some cross-fertilization between DNRC types and the teenage Ayn Rand cult. Interesting possibility. . . .

  5. #5 Bronze Dog
    January 31, 2007

    I’m all for elitism, but I prefer the term, “meritocracy.”

    I’m thinking of doing an Image Dogtoring of a Dilbert cartoon. Suggestions would be appreciated.

  6. #6 Emily
    January 31, 2007

    I do have something to say, which is that I’m annoyed with myself for falling asleep at the switch, again, regarding Grand Rounds… I could’ve submitted my utterly apropos post on the American College of Physician’s health reform proposal focusing on patient-centered care!

    I’m sorry, did you ask a question that wasn’t about me?

  7. #7 IAMB
    January 31, 2007

    Catshark brought that Boone one to my attention a few days ago. I saved the link in my “future targets” folder for a day when I have a little more time. First things first though: I need to pay a visit to Kaz instead of just his Underwhelming Evidence followers…

  8. #8 Prup aka Jim Benton
    January 31, 2007

    i’ll take advantage of the ‘open thread’ to mention something that the rock fans will be interested in.
    Question Mark (of Question Mark and the Mysterians who did the classic “96 Tears” and who are still doing live concerts) recently had a fire in his home that totally destroyed all the memorabilia of a 40-year career. He is looking for anyone who can replace some of them. If you can help, his my space page is
    (h/t Crooks and Liars, who have a YouTube video of him up).

  9. #9 Brendan
    January 31, 2007

    I actually read that article the other day, and I had to turn off my thinking to get through it. I clicked the link, just to see if it was the same one, and I swear, my brain tried to puke itself out through my nose and forehead simultaneously. I always wondered what my friend meant with the phrase, “That makes my face hurt, because my brain is trying to escape.” Now I know. Pat Boone, you make my face hurt.

  10. #10 doublesoup tuesday
    February 1, 2007

    Say, Orac —

    I recall seeing that you have the Golden Torc series on your bookshelf when you flaunted teh nerdliness. Do you also have some Carlos Castenada on that shelf, but are a bit sheepish about posting the pics?

  11. #11 neverclear
    February 1, 2007

    urgh. You’re right, my face hurts too. I love that the guy almost became a priest, then became a school science teacher, and thats supposed to convince us he was an expert in theology and science. Because public school science in america is just top notch right now.

  12. #12 Antiquated Tory
    February 1, 2007

    Ah, Carlos Castenada! On the one hand, he apparently made up his doctoral dissertation research by locking himself in a hotel room with other people’s ethnographies, a typewriter and some peyote. After his first book he dispensed with the ethnographic material. On the other hand, he’s gotten more students interested in Cultural Anthropology than anyone since Margaret Mead became passe.

    Oh, Slicing with Occam’s Razor is DOWN 🙁 Or at least the links to it don’t work, but the Carnival isn’t up yet, anyway.

    I also wanted to ask you fine ladies and gentlemen if you’d done much woo fighting on the subject of eugenics rehabilitators. I’d recently come across them from a troll’s comments on a Middle Eastern blog, but there is a review of the ‘field’ at the Southern Poverty Law Center. Now I had thought that race pseudoscience was pretty dead, from Franz Boas’ refutation in 1919 through hanging a few especially egregious practitioners in 1945 down to SJ Gould’s The Mismeasure of Man. But it seems that there are some people with PhD after their name who are actually making a living from it.
    One of the finer subgenres is the use of IQ studies to demonstrate that some groups of people are poorer than others simply because they are genetically less intelligent; see Richard Lynn (retired so can’t be fired) in IQ and the Wealth of Nations. It’s also popping up with a dubious link to consanguinous marriage–societies that have high rates of consanguinous marriage have lower IQs which consigns them to poverty. In a less egregious form, there’s the argument that consanguinous marriage discourages democratic nation building because of a genetic mechanism where we have greater feelings of loyalty to kin; thus where there is a lot of consanguinous marriage there will be stronger ties of kin loyalty and conversely weaker civil institutions. (If it weren’t for the bizarre biological determinant causality that article would almost start to have a point.)

    Er, sorry if I’ve hijacked your comments thread, this is just something that’s been bothering me of late. Also I remembered reading J Phillipe Rushton’s ‘controversial’ article in Social Science and Medicine when it came out in 1989. The only controversy about the article–an argument of global scope attempting to link differing levels of promiscuity to rates of HIV infection among the African, Caucasian and Asian races–should how such a piece of crap got into SS&M. You can imagine the morass of undefined terms and misused statistics.

  13. #13 X
    February 1, 2007

    IS THERE A SCIENTIFIC EXPLANATION?(considering that the poster of the comment is honest)

    Comment #19 by ‘Level7’ at chopra blog

    Holistic Heart: Uniting Computer Sc and Spirituality

    “My first trip to The Monroe Institute
    The Brainmapping Project
    The people from The Monroe Institue of Applied Sciences had been calling me after I sent them a transcript of my NDE pyramid experience. On one particular call I told one of their scientists the entire world was about to change. And it would change through (The human wall). I had seen this human wall during an OBE and was told this by a ball of energy. Approximately 2 weeks later The Berlin Wall event occured. They immediately contacted me and invited me to have my brain mapped and apparently I had the honor of being one of the first subjects to be tested with their new EEG and other brainmapping equipment. When I arrived to the institute I was met by an elderly Bob Monroe and his wife and she did the talking while Bob just stared at me and smiled. I was led into their laboratory and was met by Skip Atwater (head of the Brainmapping Project). They put me on a waterbed with a microphone suspended from the ceiling. The room was small and soundproof. They connected the EEG wires to me as well as some other devices such as a skin voltage monitor (gsr). They asked me through the microphone to use the meditation that caused the unusual experiences I was having. I decided to recreate my NDE (pyramid) formation within my meditation. I remember my body heating up and a smell like burning rubber in the room. Finally I had the square waves rolling in and forming the pyramid. After the experience ended they told me to relax and come back to normal consciousness. I was then met by Skip Atwater as he had a graph in his hand. He said the graph was my Galvanic skin response test. The line on the graph was slightly wavy and near the bottom of the paper. Suddenly the line shot to the top of the paper and went into nearly perfect (square waves)! Skip Atwater said that to produce square waves on this test was (medically) impossible. They wouldn’t show me the EEG and just said they had to analyze it. They kept in contact with me and invited me back about 2 months later with the exact same results. What baffles me about the experiment is that I was trying to produce square waves in my meditation and electrical square waves were produced on the GSR. That is mind boggling. Deepak says my non-local mind produced the event. Anyway, just another entry to my holistic pyramid knowledge. I hope everone enjoyed it.

    Another experience from the same thread:

    Comment #18 by Harb

    “My First Experience of Oneness

    By the age of 25 I had completed my degree in Civil Engineering, joined govt. service, got married and fathered two sons. For the next about three years, while my friends and colleagues were busy building up their careers I found myself lost in what one may say are the eternal questions of mankind: Who am I? Where have I come from? Where am I supposed to go after my so-called death? Has my being, my “I” some permanent point of reference or is it merely a chance bubble floating meaninglessly in the wilderness of space? What is space? Where this world ends? What is beyond that? What is God? What is good and bad? What is the best way to live this unimaginably short life? Could it be that all this (alluding mentally to the world around) never have been? Were there then to be no.. nothing …forever….f o r e v e r….. N E V E R…?

    Then one day while I was sitting all alone in my brother’s rented flat in a big city, suspended from my govt. service, separated from my wife and two children, diseased of unattended body and dejected of unanchored mind, something entirely unexpected happened. Something like lightening but unaccompanied by usual light and thunder seemed to flux out of my head upwards, encompassing simultaneously somehow the whole of the universe into its fold…

    Actually it is not easy to describe such an experience…For, initially it so overwhelms your being that you lose all your sense of separateness, of individuality. And at long last when you regain some semblance of your sense of separateness, of individuality then something like what the scientists call Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle – simply put which states that at deeper levels you can know one aspect of reality only at the cost of the other – inhibits its truest recollection much more description: in clothing it with words you tend to lose its essential stuff, its essential beauty, in trying to capture its essential stuff, its essential beauty you increasingly get lost to the world of words…

    It was not something which had happened to me as say an ordinary incident or even accident would happen to me: a happening, happening to me as something separate from ‘me,’ so that I could simultaneously act as an observer and a participator, so that I could ‘note it down’ as it happened. It had somehow involved me totally: it had somehow involved even that part of me which was supposed to ‘note it down,’ was supposed to act as the base on which the mechanism of my memory was to function.

    Anyway, what a way of finding the answers! Off go rather the questions themselves. Off goes rather the wall itself between ‘me’ and the rest of Nature which had actually been the cause of all those questions. The questioner, the questioning and the things questioned had somehow got dissolved into one single whole, into one single woolly unity!

    Consequently, I got myself reinstated into my service, brought my family to live with me at my new place of posting and, in general, let my life adrift.

    And again, what a life it was! Eight years of almost total abandon! Everything seeming to happen as if on its own, while ‘I’ seemed to be standing still, a mere spectator to events! My family, social and service lives sub-serving one way or the other the unstoppable flow of only this almost wordless life! Perhaps it was what Nietzsche meant from his life beyond good and evil…”

  14. #14 anonimouse
    February 1, 2007

    The two are not mutually exclusive, you know. There’s no reason he can’t be both.

    I guess so. But somehow I don’t think Handley’s as much misguided as he is up to something.

  15. #15 islam
    December 27, 2007

    I’m all for elitism, but I prefer the term, “meritocracy.”

    I’m thinking of doing an Image Dogtoring of a Dilbert cartoon. Suggestions would be appreciated.

  16. #16 online shopping
    February 27, 2008

    One thing in this evolution debate that is a real problem is one of terminology and the usage of words. Seriously. “Scientific Fact” is very different to the plain English word “Fact.” “Process” seems to mean something very different in this world, too, because in my mind “Process” means moving forward and change, which inevitably means some sort of intelligence behind it. However, here, the words are all different and changed and I find it very difficult to engage with the thinking if I have to consistently think of different definitions for the same words I was taught about in grade school.

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