New episode of CrAP

Andromeda’s Wake posted a new episode of CrAP (Creation Astronomy Propaganda debunked):

I’ve also updated my original post where you can see them all.

Penn & Teller on creationism, and why the Bible is “Bullshit!”

Here’s a funny little excerpts from Penn & Teller‘s episode on creationism from Bullshit! series.

These episodes run 30 minutes each, and counting 69 through 6 seasons. A mixed-and-cut, 10 minute version of the episode on the Bible is available on YouTube:

I can’t say that I really loved the series. I found them a little bit boring – I rented two DVDs from Netflix and by the end of the first one I’d had enough. There’s too much comedy in it for me, and too little facts.

But there’s something about magicians (which is what Penn & Teller started as, at least partially) becoming debunkers. The one that stands out of them all is, of course, the great James Randi, the man who I passionately admire, who used to put up his own money against paranormal claims. Randi deserves a separate post (and not one!), but amongst other famous magician debunkers I can list Harri Houdini and Joe Nickell.

I think the reason is simple. Magicians deceive the public while the public is aware it’s being deceived, and that’s what makes the experience so astounding. Psychics, fortune tellers and other charlatans use pretty much the same tricks and techniques, but mislead the public into believing they’re genuine. That outrages fair magicians as they often do the job much better but yet never claim paranormal abilities.
(to be objective, I must add that not all psychics are charlatans – a good chunk are delusional, true believers in their own “powers”, even after it’s been demonstrated in controlled experiments they don’t possess any)

freedomOf5peech counts Kent Hovind lies

freedomOf5Speech, another YouTube activist whose channel I highly recommend, decided to count Kent Hovind‘s lies. Here’s from the video description:

I watched 30 minutes of Kent Hovind, and found 82 lies or false statements.

Many videos debunking Kent Hovind exist on YouTube. I felt that it’s pointless to make YET ANOTHER commentary video with details about Kent’s lies… it’s been done, and if you still believe Kent’s bullshit, search YouTube and you’ll have hours and hours of debunking to watch.

Instead, I wanted to make a quick video (without commentary) that moves quickly, and shows just how often Kent lies… and it’s fucking hilarious!!! I hope you laugh as much as I did making it!

Yes, he repeats his lies, and I counted them. Yes, some of the lies are not obvious, but they are lies, and if you have a question about a specific lie just ask and I’ll answer it for you. Some of the lies are just humor, but technically still lies (like when he claims his Creation Museum is the best place on earth).

Very funny. 🙂 And disturbing. 😐

But wait, there’s more! This little contest got a very recent development, as VenomFangXD (not to be confused with VenomFangX!) posted a reply video on November 8th counting 102 lies in under 42 minutes. I like this one even better, though they’re both funny:

TED: How juries are fooled by statistics by Peter Donnelly

If you have a disease test which is 99% accurate, and it’s diagnosed a patient positive, what is the probability that a patient indeed has the disease? 99%? Wrong! Think again! You really can’t tell unless you know the probability of the disease itself, i.e. how likely a random patient is to have the disease. For a quite uncommon one, this single test may present confidence of 1% or even less. Although obvious to a statistics specialist, common people are usually totally stumbled by it, and find it very hard to grasp. I won’t explain here why it is so, since I doubt I’ll do a better job than the speaker I’m about to present.

Peter Donnelly is an Oxford mathematician, specializing in applied probability. In this highly educational (and quite jaw-dropping for most) talk, he reveals common mistakes in interpreting statistics – and the devastating impact they can have. This is a great presentation of how important statistics is, and how crucial, and yet so uncommon, it is to understand it.

There are so many ways to misuse or misinterpret statistics, with one of the favorites being, of course – correlation implying causation. And yet, I believe statistics is a cornerstone of modern science. It may not play such a central role in theoretical physics, of course, but medicine, sociology, cognitive science, etc. etc. all depend on it to interpret the results of experiments correctly. If we all had better education in this area, we maybe wouldn’t be interviewing successful people so much.

Please watch this talk. It might be a little boring in the beginning, but it gets much more fun pretty soon.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

TED: Secrets of success in 8 words, 3 minutes by Richard St. John

Richard St. John spent more than a decade interviewing 500 people he defines as successful, and presents his distilled version of his book in just 8 words, and 3 minutes time.

Of course, to be scientifically correct, Richard should have interviewed at least as many people that have not become successful, to avoid what statisticians call selection bias. Nassim Taleb in his famous “Black Swan” came up with his own name for the same thing – he calls it “the silent evidence” (by the way, the book is a good read and definitely deserves a post on itself).

I guess, we’ll never know how many people exerted the same 8 traits and never got successful. Based on Richard’s “scientific” approach, we can come to a conclusion that brushing one’s teeth is an important road to success, since all(?) successful people undoubtedly do so. Of course, that wouldn’t fly, so we can presume interviewees were asked to identify behaviors they practice, but others don’t, or the questions were implicitly perceived as such. In any case, that’s not very scientific – why guess when you can actually ask the less fortunate? I’d bet it wouldn’t be nor that fascinating, not that inspiring once done. My hypothesis that it could all be distilled in 1 word, 1 second, and no book – there’s only one secret of big success, and it’s called LUCK.

Selection bias is an insidious beast. Please forgive me, as I cannot back the following story up with links or references, but I have once read of a study which confirmed “beginner’s luck” phenomena – casino players were indeed more lucky when they were just starting. The reason? Simple – those beginners who blew all their money away tend to never return to a casino, while the lucky ones tend to become the very “casino players” that got interviewed in this research.

Anyhow, I don’t want to dismiss John’s findings whatsoever, as I am sure they’re all very applicable to success in life, albeit maybe you shouldn’t really count on becoming the next Thomas Edison or Bill Gates by following them. Since you’ve probably spent more than 3 minutes reading my thoughts on it, why not spend another 3 minutes listening to a much more educated man:

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).

13 Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism

AronRa is another prominent YouTube anti-creationism activist, along with DonExodus2 and Thunderf00t. In this video series, he exposes “13 Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism”. His videos are very informational, and filled with facts. They’re not as funny as Thunderf00t’s, but much more systemic in going over creationists’ fraudulent claims step by step.

I’ve been long inspired by YouTube’s potential – this is a perfect example of a very educational, full-length popular science documentary, created by just one person. And it’s better so far than anything I’ve seen on the topic by PBS, CNN or any other mainstream production studio.

1st Falsehood:

2nd Falsehood:

3rd Falsehood:

4th Falsehood:

5th Falsehood:

6th Falsehood:

7th Falsehood:

8th Falsehood:

9th Falsehood:

10th Falsehood:

11th Falsehood:

12th Falsehood:

13th Falsehood:

TED: A brief history of violence by Steven Pinker

I’ve always felt that the natural path of development for humanity is to grow less and less violent over time, in spite of the recent phenomena which I can only describe as “violence hysteria”. Finally, some data and a very educational talk to share. Steven Pinker, experimental psychologist and cognitive scientists was invited to talk on TED three times: in 2003, 2005 and 2007. In his latest talk, he presents data proving that we leave in the most peaceful of all times, and delves into the question of why it is so commonly perceived that the level of violence has been rising in the 20th century.

Original video on TED.com (might be better quality).