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You Win Some...
Entry 1171, on 2010-03-09 at 21:01:13 (Rating 4, Skepticism)
Everyone has heard of the old saying "you win some and you lose some". Its true, I guess, because no person, group, or cause ever wins every battle and there are always setbacks to any conflict, even if the overall outcome is a win.
It has seemed in the past that the battle for rationality against superstition, pseudoscience, and other nonsense has been a losing one, but there have been a few impressive wins more recently.
Maybe the greatest win for rationality over superstition was the Kitzmiller versus Dover Area School District case of December 2005. That was the one which threw out and totally destroyed the latest creationist attack on science. The judge was damning (isn't that an ironic word) in his criticism of ID and included this in his decision: "It is ironic that several of these individuals, who so staunchly and proudly touted their religious convictions in public, would time and again lie to cover their tracks and disguise the real purpose behind the ID Policy." Ouch!
Another significant battle is currently proceeding in the UK. Noted author Simon Singh dared to criticise chiropractic. Here's what he said: "You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact they still possess some quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything. And even the more moderate chiropractors have ideas above their station. The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments."
There's nothing in that which appears controversial to anyone who has any sort of rational opinion on the subject but Britain's antiquated libel laws meant it was possible for the British Chiropractic Association to sue Singh.
The worldwide skeptical community has really got behind him, both because a lot of chiropractic treatment is simple nonsense and because the law which allowed the suit is ridiculous. According to a recent Guardian article, one in four chiropractors in Britain are being investigated as the result of campaign by supporters of Singh. The global skeptical community does have some power after all!
Another, similar incident occurred recently related to homeopathy. Homeopathy is pure nonsense - much more so than chiropractic which at least can potentially be a therapeutic massage. Skeptics staged a worldwide demonstration of the lack of effect homeopathic remedies have by taking overdoses. Homeopaths were forced to admit there's actually no active ingredient in their remedies.
And on the Sydney Morning Herald web site I found a nice article featuring Richard Dawkins demonstrating how silly creationists are and what a ridiculous idea the Noah's Ark myth is. But as he pointed out, a large percentage of the population in the most powerful country on Earth believe this junk - something that a kindergarten kid should see through!
Dawkins, and other well-known atheists, are getting more respectful and fair treatment from the mainstream media now, and their material on the internet (at sites like YouTube) is widely supported. So it seems that the ultimate form of nonsense, religion, is also under attack.
So I think that skepticism and rationality have gained a few wins recently. In every area, maybe, except climate change, but a lot of that is due to the ineptitude of a few climate scientists. That was a loss but, as they say: you win some and you lose some!
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