How Coughlan Won the Internet (But Failed at Fact-checking)

For those looking for someone to attack Coughlan’s recent Twitter storm on the English Defense League (EDL), you are in for a disappointment. I consider Coughlan’s ridicule of #creepingsharia to be both deserved and hilarious. A quick recap of affairs (skip this paragraph if you know it), EDL spokesman and general blockhead Tommy Robinson tweeted his consternation at the use of a…

The Razor With Less Irritation (or IMMA FIRIN’ MA RAZOR!!!)

Human beings love simplicity.

People get nostalgic about living in the past – what they see as ‘simpler times’. It’s true to say that the world around us is growing more complicated every hour. At the age of twelve, I could have explained to you how the television in my house worked. Now, ten years older and (hopefully) more knowledgeable, It absolutely baffles me. As I’ve progressed through my education, I’ve discovered whole worlds so small that they cannot be seen, and so large that they cannot adequately be imagined. Every day, scientific discoveries are being made and added to the lists of information that students must learn before they can reach the cutting edge, and much of this knowledge flies in the face of our preconceived notions.

Little wonder therefore that so many people warm to anti-scientific schools of thought under the influence of Occam’s Razor. The common perception of this is that if two equally likely explanations exist for a particular phenomenon, then the simpler of the two is probably the correct one. Hopefully everyone reading this can easily think of examples where this idea is flat-out wrong.

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It’s Only Natural

‘Look at that.’ my mum said, pointing into a branch of LUSH, ‘How does somewhere like that stay open in the middle of a recession?’

For those who don’t know, LUSH sells luxury soaps and other cosmetics. I disagree with her on two points. First, she thinks their soaps smell horrible, but I rather like them (though not at the price – talk about paying through the nose). Second, I understand full well how such a chain stays afloat in economic times as desperate as these. The reason? They have a magic word that makes otherwise sane human beings spend twice as much money as they should: ‘Natural’.

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Only Amenakin Can Redeem Herself

EDIT: Since this post was written, Amenakin has changed her position. Read about it here.

I can’t stand YouTube drama at the best of times. But, since this is a slightly unusual example, I’m going to do something rather out of character and wade in on the issue.

I feel fairly safe is saying that most of us were taken aback by potholer54’s latest nominee for the Golden Crocoduck award, Amenakin. The nominee was, unlike the vast majority of nominees, not male, not Christian and perhaps most surprisingly, not stupid. I would ask anyone who disagrees to watch some of her videos; she’s obviously a sharp and articulate young lady. I think she’s one of the brand of creationist that is simply misinformed.

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Race and IQ – RukaGate

Now that most of the dust has settled over the recent YouTube drama surround HeyRuka, I thought it was time I carefully picked over the wreckage and try to give a more balanced view on things. Failing that, I’d like to stir up trouble again.

It was disappointing as someone who was very keen to have Ruka on the show to see that she’s not the skeptic that we had her down to be. It was doubly disappointing given that we’d planned to have her on our show about morality, as Ruka has found herself at the centre of a racism charge.

For those who haven’t seen her videos, Ruka has made several videos (now deleted) concerning the differences that separate the different human races. Some of this content is her attempts to defend her initial arguments, and doing nothing to make her side seem more acceptable. She has stated that the difference between races is “not skin-deep”, and I agree; any geneticist can tell you that a person’s DNA can shed light upon their ethnicity. But that’s about as good as it gets. Of course, the races aren’t as genetically distinct as to be different species. At the end of the day there’s no denying that we’re all human beings. But what I really want to address here is Ruka’s claim that the black races are genetically predisposed to be less intelligent than the other races.

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A Shot in the Arm for the Anti-vaccination Lobby, An Adverse Reaction for the Rest

image78The Sunday Express decried it as the “Jab ‘as deadly as the cancer’” right across its front page. Perhaps we should leave proceedings there, given that the same front page was also advertising a free Galaxy Caramel for every reader – this is hardly the British Medical Journal. Besides, I thought Sunday papers were meant to be lighter reading. A topic like this is hardly something to complement a freebie chocolate bar.

But let’s suspend all that for a moment and suppose that this piece of medical whistleblowing is urgent enough to save our confectionary for the Lifestyle pull-out. The claim that a vaccination is as deadly as any cancer is certainly a worrying proposition. The jab in question is to protect against the human Papillomavirus (HPV), a sexually transmitted infection that is the primary cause of cervical cancer. According to the Sunday Express, an “exclusiv[e]” (it wasn’t) interview with “Dr Diane Harper” (she’s actually a professor), who “developed” (she did not, she helped conduct its clinical trials) the “controversial” (she explicitly told them it was not controversial) HPV vaccine Cervarix. A fuller list of errata can be found in Ben Goldacre’s article for The Gardian, as posted on his blog, but the most important is this statement by the Sunday Express:

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