Thursday, August 28, 2008

Carnival of the Africans #1

Welcome to the inaugural edition of the Carnival of the Africans! The carnival is an outgrowth of an initiative I launched a while ago to foster better cooperation and communication between South African skeptical or science bloggers. A specifically South African carnival, however, struck me as far too narrow - there are very few African science bloggers (AFAIK) and part of the point of the carnival is to encourage people to start their own blogs or existing bloggers to cover science. Moreover, Africa as a whole needs science: it needs science to develop, to prosper, and to grow the reality-based community. So, as you'll see if you look at the guidelines, this carnival has an Africa-wide mandate: it covers any science or skeptical topic related to Africa and any science blogging by Africans. The aim, ultimately, is to promote the skeptical and scientific world view, but more concretely, to stimulate discussion, disseminate good blogging and to cultivate a greater sense of community among the small number of science-minded African bloggers.

A quick note on carnivals for the uninitiated. A carnival is a kind of blog event that brings together in a single place various bloggers' good posts on a specific topic. For example, once a month the Carnival of the Africans brings together science and skeptical posts on or by Africans. The point, again, is to highlight our best posts, to allow discussion and engagement, to create a community among African science bloggers and to attract readers to our blogs. As I've noted before, participating in carnivals is a really good idea. I encourage everyone, by the way, to link to this edition to spread the word. Also, carnivals only work if there is active participation - I've had to forage for posts to include here, I strongly encourage active submissions in future.

Without further ado, this month's Carnival of the Africans...

First out of the gate is "Captain" Owen Swart of 01 and the universe with two posts: the first is on quackery about chronic-fatigue syndrome (aka ME) and the second is a lactose eating session homeopathic suicide attempt! (Also check out his follow-up)... No prizes for guessing he survived.

Effortless Incitement has a substantive post about an awesome recent study in PNAS that concluded non-verbal displays of pride and shame are innate. That Darwin fellow sure was on to something...

George Claasen, founder of Sceptic South Africa and author of the blog Prometheus Unbound, is probably South Africa's most prominent skeptic, so it's certainly appropriate to include a post by him. Back in July George produced a particularly noteworthy post combining criticism of Angus Buchan (who allegedly has 'faith like potatoes') with a report on a recent survey he did on South Africans' belief in bollocks. Depressingly, large majorities buy into ESP, alien visitation, telepathy, and young earth creationism. South African skeptics clearly have work to do.

the little book of capoeira might be the blog with the world's least descriptive title but Wim produced a good post outlining the basics of the skeptical toolkit. He takes recent events in South Africa as an example of why a functional and well-honed baloney detector is indispensable.

Amanuensis is, admittedly, a blog that focuses on the lesser science of economics, but let's be inclusive. Simon has a daunting but fascinating three-part series of posts on University of Chicago economist John List. The posts, in order, are "List-onomics", "The Interpretation of Giving", and "Homo Economicus evolves, or not". These aren't for the faint-hearted, but they certainly repay careful reading.

Next up is Angela of The Skeptic Detective with a thoughtful post about discovering her doctor is a crank. On that score, my doctor routinely prescribes antibiotics when I have the flu. She knows antibiotics don't attack viruses, but she has some sort of convoluted explanation I didn't really follow. I really should get round to emailing Steve Novella about this...

Hugo of thinktoomuch submitted a post summarizing his criticisms of the Creation Ministries International's seminar series at Stellenbosch University. Oh man creationists annoy me - can't they at least leave universities alone?

Danie Krugel. Sigh. When will this guy go away? Well, let's hope the following two posts will help that along a bit... The excellent subtle shift in emphasis has long attacked Krugel's nonsense, and has two recent posts on the latest developments. The first piece deals with silly and irresponsible academics partly endorsing Krugel's device and the second with Krugel's most recent failure.

The new Yet Another Sceptic's Blog has already produced some great material, particularly, a post on the tragedy in Krugersdorp arguing death metal is not to blame.

Finally, my own contribution, also on the events in Krugersdorp. I take the same line as Yet Another Sceptic's Blog and argue there is little reason to think heavy metal music was causally involved.

That's it! The next edition of the carnival is scheduled for September 28th and will be hosted by Wim over at the little book of capoeira. If you'd like to contribute, please check out the guidelines and then email Wim at {wim}{dot}{louw}{at}{gmail}{dot}{com}. (Removing the brackets and replacing 'dot' and 'at' with the appropriate symbols). If you'd like to volunteer to host the carnival in the future, please email Mike at


  1. Dude, why the exaggerated {at}{dot} stuff, on a page with a mailto link with your address in vanilla readable format on it? You think the crawlers are that dumb?

  2. Erm... well, because I did it form Wim... Not a good reason, I know.

  3. Thanks for including my old Danie Krugel stuff - I wanted to write something special for the carnival, couldn't find the time, and fully expected to be excluded in this first event.

  4. No problem SSiE... your Krugel stuff is great. I hope you get time to write something up especially for next month's carnival...

  5. I'm happy to find an active skeptic site in South Africa. Thanks for pointing me here, Gustav.