Credibility Rake

August 10, 2018


Get comfortable, everybody. It’s going to be a long one today. Good thing it’s Friday and you’re probably not working very hard anyway.

I’ve been looking forward to this: Robert Blaskiewicz weighs in on the QAnon cult-of-conspiracy for Skeptical Inquirer:

The Pizzagate-style focus on violent crimes against children is an extension of an old, old scare story that has been used for decades to demonize outgroups, a lie as old as the blood libel, in which Jews were accused of killing Christian children for their blood to either perform Satanic rituals or make matzo. It also resembles the Satanic Panic of the 1980s, only this time nobody has found a single child who has been victimized by the cabal in question. In fact, the hardest evidence emerged from Tucson last month when a conspiracy theorist “patrolling the desert” came across a homeless camp that he immediately identified as a child rape camp, whatever that is.

Oh boy. It’s Space Force time. Grand Inquisitor Pence describes it as “an elite group of warfighters specializing in space.” Sounds like Pence is the kind of guy who would have dropped a nuke on the Heptapods before Amy Adams got the chance to scribble on a whiteboard.

The Trump campaign (as opposed to the Trump administration) wants YOUR HELP to choose the Space Force logo! I think it needs something like this.

In his Consumer Health column at Skeptical Inquirer, William London looks at aromatherapy to see if anything smells fishy. Get it? I’m sorry.

Chlorpyrifos, a pesticide known to cause developmental disabilities in children, is set to be banned within two months…not because of the EPA, which thought it was just fine, but because the Ninth Circuit just ordered the EPA to ban it.

Jacob Lupfer at Religion News Service looks at conservative American Muslims’ uneasy alliance with the Democratic Party and political progressives.

Also at RNS, Tonny Onyulo reports on the dumbfounding, what-year-is-it situation in Tanzania, where 93 percent of the population believes in witchcraft, and where vigilantes murder people (usually older women) suspected of being witches. Here’s a sentence you probably didn’t think was necessary to print in 2018: “There is no official certification required to be registered as a witch doctor.”

There’s another country where belief in witchcraft is a problem: The United States of America. Dominionist preacher Lou Engle sent this message to his flock:

Immediately following Justice Kennedy’s retirement announcement, something quite revealing began to take place — something you won’t hear about in the news. Sources revealed that witches began making phone calls to Senators’ offices to curse them with brazen witchcraft in an effort to exert a demonic influence over the process.

Okay, okay. Witchcraft is one thing, but brazen witchcraft??? NOW YOU HAVE GONE TOO FAR.

At SELF, former “alternative medicine evangelist” Denby Royal recounts her journey to alt-med skepticism. “When I started to notice the holes in the fabric of holistic nutrition, the fabric looked, well, pretty threadbare.”

The Dallas Observer talks to a bunch of psychics at the Dallas Psychic Fair to learn what red flags to look for so you don’t get scammed. My two cents: If they claim to be a psychic, you’re getting scammed.

There is now a great hubbub over Twitter’s hands-off position regarding Alex Jones and Infowars. Twitter’s CEO Jack Dorsey says Jones has never violated Twitter’s rules, so that’s that, but CNN showed otherwise, and after they ran their story, all of the rule violating tweets they cited had disappeared. Meanwhile, NYT science writer and CSICon speaker Carl Zimmer asks Dorsey what he thinks of Alex Jones’s tweet claiming vaccines don’t work. No response from Dorsey.

Meanwhile, InfoWars’ app is going gangbusters on Apple’s App Store. (And I can tell you from my own anecdotal experience that it’s one of the top downloads on Google Play as well.)

In Indonesia, police rescue a woman who had been held prisoner and sexually abused by a shaman for 15 years, abducted when she was only 13.

The United Methodist Church is not so united on whether it should take some sort of action against Jeff Sessions for carrying out the family separation policy.

The Capital View Baptist Church in DC says in its newly revised constitution that it officially endorses “shaming and shunning” as “acceptable Christian responses” to the existence of LGBTQ people.

Christopher Labos and Kenneth R. Foster examine the existing information about cell phones and cancer for Skeptical Inquirer, and what they find is a lot of inconsistencies:

We see a signal for harm in rats but not mice. We see a signal for harm in male rats but not female rats. We see a signal for schwannomas in the heart but not the rest of the body. Finally, the rats exposed to RFR actually lived longer on average than the controls. So do cell phones cause cancer while simultaneously extending survival?

According to a new study (five words you love to read), blue light from screens will make us all go blind by killing photoreceptor cells, which don’t regenerate. Um, you think CFI would let me do my job via typewriter and fax?

One year after the History Channel stepped on a credibility rake by touting photos that purported to explain what happened to Amelia Earhart but, you know, didn’t, Ben Radford checks in to see how the History Channel’s investigation into the truth is going.

Clay Jones at Science-Based Medicine introduces us to Richard Lanigan, a UK chiropractor who’s getting a lot of attention because he believes kids should never get any medicine of any kind. Except his, of course. But not yours.

Harriet Hall’s website gets a big overhaul. Check out, one of those rare instances where a dot-info domain doesn’t sound silly.

God healed televangelist Kenneth Copeland’s private jet. Your prayers are answered.

Quote of the Day

A charter school in Atlanta decides to stop having kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance every morning because of all the political and emotional tension surrounding it, looking to start their days with something more positive and inclusive. Hemant highlights this quote from a Reddit user:

If I made my wife stand up and recite our marriage vows every morning, people would think I was fucking psycho. The Army didn’t make me swear to support and defend the Constitution every day, I took my oath once and that was that. Making kids recite the Pledge even once is questionable. Making them do it every day is stupid and nonsensical.

* * *

Linking to a story or webpage does not imply endorsement by Paul or CFI. Not every use of quotation marks is ironic or sarcastic, but it often is.