Podcast #59 - September 5th, 2006
News Items: Ed Warren Dies, New ESP claims, Evolution of Superstition; Your E-mails and Questions: Korean fan deaths, New UK Homeopathy law, Science beliefs, Recycling; Name That Logical Fallacy; Science or Fiction; Skeptical Puzzle
- Famous Ghost Hunter, Ed Warren, Dies www.courant.com/news/local/hc-ctwarrenobit0824.artaug24,0,879837.story?coll=hc-headlines-local
NESS article on the Warrens - www.theness.com/articles.asp?id=39
- Researcher proves telephone telepathy. ESP Researcher Rupert Sheldrake claims to have proven telephone telepathy.
- Humans evolved to be superstitious Psychologist claims humans evolved to be superstitious
Questions and E-mails
- Korean Fan Deaths Hey everyone,
I'm a big fan of the show, and I recently encountered a topic that you might be interested in discussing on the show.
This summer, I roomed with a visiting student from Korea for summer school. Every night before we went to bed, he would shut off the fan in our room. I thought this was a bit odd, but I ignored it until I learned that his behavior was motivated by a widely believed South Korean urban myth called 'fan death' (more details at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fan_death). Many South Koreans apparently believe that a fan left running overnight can suffocate people by sucking all the oxygen out of the room.
I was astonished to discover that this was why he had been turning off the fan, particularly because he is an engineering student. I managed to convince him that it wasn't true, but I began to wonder how so many people could believe something so patently absurd. Why do you think this is and can you think of any analogous examples of widely believed American myths?
- Homeopathy Double Standard The link below leads to an article from the UK, about homeopathic remedies and a new law that allows the homeopathy industry to claim efficacy for curing real medical conditions. Ridiculous!
By the way, the podcast is outstanding! Definitely one of the better skeptical shows out there. Keep up the great work Dr. Novella and company.
- Science in America In your August 18th podcast, the panel commented on the recent Michigan State University study of nations' attitudes toward evolution. I think the derogatory comments that you made of Americans were unduly negative, e.g. 'I want to blow this country. It's just disgusting.'
In a 2001 NSF survey, Americans actually scored higher than Europeans in seven out of thirteen science questions:
In contradiction to one panel member's conclusion, i.e. that Americans are 'backward baboons,' I would say the NSF quiz shows Americans better understand what matters most to them (genetics, medicine, and technology) instead of what matters most to the MSU investigators (evolution.)
It might be true that Americans' disbelief in evolution is largely a result of the greater role of religion in our society. If that's the case, scientists cannot realistically expect people to reject their faith to accept a theory that has no real consequences -- positive or negative -- on their lives. Unlike Christian Scientists' rejection of modern medicine, the rejection of evolution has no serious ramifications.
While there can be no doubt that scientific literacy in this country is too low, the public would be better served if those who make public education their goal would end their fixation on one polarizing (but relatively unimportant) scientific topic at the expense of other, more important ones. Derogatory comments about the supposed stupidity of an entire nation are equally unhelpful to the cause.
- Is Recycling Bunk? In a few episodes back, you asked everyone about which fallacy they wish were actually true. Rebecca mentioned that she wished that recycling was. Did I miss something earlier? Is it really bunk, I'm skeptical.
Apex, North Carolina
Some articles on recycling:
Famous 'Recycling is Garbage' Times article - www.williams.edu/HistSci/curriculum/101/garbage.html
Name That Logical Fallacy
- Logical Fallacies 'Most, if not all, of these adolescents must have acquired HIV from perinatal infection for the following reasons: sexual transmission of HIV depends on an average of 1000 sexual contacts, and only 1 in 250 Americans carries HIV (Table 1). Thus, all positive teenagers would have had to achieve an absurd 1000 contacts with a positive partner, or an even more absurd 250,000 sexual contacts with random Americans to acquire HIV by sexual transmission.'
Submitted by Chris Noble
Science or Fiction [ Show Answers ]
- Question #1 Fiction A newly published survey of dinosaur fossils indicates that dinosaur species were already largely in decline before they were wiped out by a meteorite collision 65 million years ago.
- Question #2 Science Despite the common saying, 'monkey see, monkey do,' imitation has only previously been described in humans and apes. A recent study, however, demonstrates for the first time monkey imitation.
- Question #3 Science Ornithologists have discovered that urban members of certain bird species are much more resistant to stress than their rural counterparts.
- Puzzle New Puzzle:
He says that the power of the mind is like an iceberg, 90% of it lies beneath the surface.
He says that this 90% of the mind's power is the subconscious.
He says the subconscious listens and absorbs experiences - much like a sponge soaks up water.
He says we need only talk to our subconscious to make ourselves happy, relaxed, strong, or whatever else we desire.
He says the absorptive qualities of subconsciousness will make these things come true.
He says the subconscious speaks back to us and that we need to listen to it.
He calls this instinct and intuition.
He says instinct and intuition are psychic gifts.
And he says by listening to these psychic gifts, we use more power of our minds than Albert Einstein ever used his.
Who is this deep thinker?
Questionsa nd E-mails
- Recycling: Hello guys, I love your podcast, but I've been disappointed by the discussions about recycling, in that the panel seems to be using the words 'costs', 'resources', 'effort', and the like, without really defining what we're talking about.
For instance, I recall one discussion seeming to turn upon whether recycling pays for itself. Steve concluded that normally it does not, from a financial standpoit, and seemed to advocate recycling only where it makes financial sense, and Rebecca said things to the effect of 'it seems to balance out on either side,' 'it's a tradeoff of resources without clear benefit,' and so forth.
Both of these bordered on straw man arguments, in that they avoided the single overwhelming argument for recycling, which is that it conserves the plant fibers, processed hydrocarbons, and refined metal that the US is consuming at astronomical rates. The market price for these goods simply does not include the environmental damage caused by mining, logging, and oil extraction.
Furthermore, when Rebecca talked about a tradeoff of resources, I assume she was referring to the energy spent in collection, sorting, transport, and the like involved with recycling. However, these energy inputs pale in comparison with the energy saved from using 'pre-refined' metal, fiber, and hydrocarbons. The production of purified metal from rock ore, the production of bleached and refined fiber from wood, and the production of refined plastics from crude oil requires a tremendous amount of energy that is orders of magnitude larger than the energy cost of collecting and transporting recycled materials.
If the true cost of materials was included in the market cost, either of these arguments would kick-start recycling into hyperdrive. The true cost of losing our natural ecosystems, and the true cost of energy to refine raw materials when you include global warming, military expenditures, and government subsidies, are vast fortunes compared to the sma