Thursday, December 4, 2008

Skeptics' Circle 101: The African Edition

Welcome to the 101st instalment of the now venerable Skeptics' Circle, your fortnightly dose of reality, logic and critical thinking! Being the second time I've hosted the carnival, I figured I'd be the opposite of demure and seize the opportunity to promote African skepticism because the continent, you see, needs skepticism. Irrationality, of course, is a world-wide phenomenon to which Africans are no more or less susceptible and we aint no 'Dark Continent'. But Africa lacks, it seems to me, a sufficiently effective rational counter-insurgency and to get one off the ground, we need your help. That 300,000+ people died in South Africa due to AIDS denialism, that children in Nigeria are widely accused of witchcraft and that many other horrors attributable to false beliefs occur, is everyone's business. So... what can you do? Many things, but two stand out: (1) write about African skeptical topics and contribute to our carnival, and (2) read, support and promote at least one African skeptical or science blog. (Oh! And link to Stop Danie Krugel... we need your Google juice!).

The African Invasion

I have a large list of African science and skeptical blogs in my blogroll, under "African Science Blogroll" (please let me know if you know of any more!) but here are some notable blog entries from African skeptics over the last while...

First up is James Hough of Acinonyx Scepticus with a fascinating post on the application of evolutionary psychology's error management theory to scientific skepticism.

Owen Swart of 01 and the universe introduces and debunks the tokoloshe, a common Southern African superstition sure to interest many of you. (It's a bit like a really evil leprechaun).

Probably South Africa's best known skeptical activist is George Claassen, who runs Prometheus Unbound. George has two great recent entries: on 13 things we should tell our children and on creationist stupidity in the South African media.

Angela, The Skeptic Detective, admirably dissects a crazy quack chain email that claims rubbing Vicks Vaporub on your feet will cure your of a cough.

Finally, a couple of entries from a blog new to me, The Skeptical Blacksheep: silly Christians yet again being fooled by pareidolia and a deeply troubling instance of censorship at the CSRI (an important research outfit in South Africa).

Everybody else...

Leading the non-African pack is Techskeptic's Data Daily with an excellent explanation of why fMRI cannot be used to justify pseudoscience.

Skeptico explains how there is a big difference between race, sex, sexual orientation and handicap status on the one hand, and religion on the other, which means anti-discrimination laws cannot be used to justify banning 'blasphemy'.

Happy Spirochete of Ideas are Dangerous claims Michael Egnor is a stupid poopy head. I, for one, am not skeptical of that claim...

Greta Christina, in usual good form, explains that the universe is not perfect or 'fine tuned'.

Karen Stollznow, The Skepbitch, discusses bigfoot (aka Bigfootae Ambiguus Subjectico).

Next up is Scepticon (all the way from New Zealand, it seems), who interviews Alison Campbell (of BioBlog).

Also from Down Under is Kylie (the PodBlack Cat) on a play that promotes the 9/11 conspiracy nonsense. Who would have though such a thing possible?!

Aerik Knapp-Loomis has a challenging post about feminism and skepticism, specifically, he takes Phil Plait to task for allegedly sexist comments.

Politics and science. Science and politics. It'll never work... or at least not as long as a chiropractor is the Minister of Science, as is the case now in Canada, as Polite Company explains.

Our next host, Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes (how did he come up with that name?), has a Modest Proposal... (about drugs).

Next, Einar from Waffle ("Devoid of all delusions save those of observation, experience and reflection") reviews CS Lewis' The Screwtape Letters. To put it lightly, he was not impressed, and I can see why...

The Lay Scientist submitted an appropriately indignant post on science reporting so preposterously bad that even the NHS was pissed off.

Finally, there is Life, the Universe, and One Brow, with three posts skewering philosopher Thomas Nagel for claiming (among other things) that evolution and design are not alternatives.

AiG-obsessed Bing from Happy Jihad's House of Pancakes will host the next edition of the Circle on December 18th. If you'd like to contribute, check out the guidelines and then email your contributions to the host.


  1. Leading the non-African pack is Thechskeptic's Data Daily

    LOL... is that how you spell "Tech" in Africa?

  2. Perhaps it's short for "Theocratic Skeptic"...?

    Thanks for the inclusion, and I'll admit to not paying as much attention to African science as I should: anywhere that includes the birthplace of humanity should be on the list, eh?

  3. A fine edition of the Circle, and a fine cause. :)

  4. Thanks for the link, much appreciated. And congrats on a great edition of The Circle.

  5. Techskeptic - sorry! I've fixed it...

    Thursday - it's never too late to start!

    Karen & James - thanks and no problem :-)

  6. LOL micheal, I was just kidding around. No biggie.