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Students Already Planning NO SCHOOL Here Oh, and Ullman is Full Of It

January 31, 2011

Only in Texas! So today is supposed to be nice, but tomorrow and Wednesday notsomuch, and my students are already planning on sleeping in Wednesday. I betcha the Tuesday students are hoping like all get out that classes are canceled, as well.

People, I have plans. I have critical thinking skills to teach. If the comments on Ullman’s latest piece of crap at Huff (and Lanza’s and Hyman’s) are any indication, critical thinking skills are at an all time low. There’s so much fuzzy thinking over there that listening to Skeptoid podcasts should be a requirement, especially How to Spot Pseudoscience. There can be no delay in inoculating students against scientifically debunked claims! Imagine if all those homeopathy/Ullman believers had only listened to that one podcast!

I mean, Ullman’s latest post isn’t even new stuff. He’s been claiming Luc (lost his mind) Montagnier has discovered nanoparticles and EM waves and blah blah blah for a while now and that proves homeopathy is for reals. No, it doesn’t and who cares? And this was already dealt with back in 2009: The Quackometer covers this supposed proof:

At least, I think that is what is being claimed. The paper, it is fair to comment, lacks any rigour. It is a sequence of ad hoc assertions, hypotheses and post hoc rationalisations. Important experimental steps are described dismissively in a sentence and little attempt is made to describe the detail of the work.

There are many problems with the paper, not least that it is pretty much self-published in a journal without rigorous peer-review (it took two days from ‘receipt’ of the paper to publishing) and the journal was set up and edited by Montagnier himself.”

The article concludes:

“Montagnier’s status as a Nobel Prize winner lends a level of credence to these views that they do not deserve. His authority will be used by those who wish to exploit the vulnerable with quack cures. This is life and death stuff. Nobel prizes are the greatest scientific honour, but they also create false authorities and science, unique in human endeavours, does not need authorities. It runs on evidence, reason and critical thinking. And that is dangerously missing from Montagnier’s work.
Nobel Prize winners often feel a sense that they are freed to dream thoughts that others cannot. That is, on balance, a good thing. Science can make huge strides when people are able to think the unthinkable. But all Nobel unthinkable thoughts need not be true. In fact, very few will be. We need to be on our guard against those that exploit the false authority of the Nobel Laureate and examine all scientific claims with equal dispassion.”

Harriet Hall takes care of it as well, in October 2009:

A recent study is being cited as support for homeopathy. For instance, the Homeopathy World Community website says
Luc Montagnier Foundation Proves Homeopathy Works.
Dana Ullman cites it in the comments to this blog
And I assume that you all have seen the new research by Nobel Prize-winning virologist Luc Montagnier that provides significant support to homeopathy. 
Nope. Sorry, guys. It doesn’t. In fact, its findings are inconsistent with homeopathic theory.
The study has nothing whatsoever to say about homeopathy. Its abstract concludes:
This opens the way to the development of highly sensitive detection system for chronic bacterial infections in human and animal diseases.
Homeopaths are grasping at straws when they cite this study. It involved dilution and agitation: that’s the only possible hint of anything homeopathic and it is nothing but a false analogy.”

Derek at Corante this month writes:  I truly don’t know what to make of this one. Virologist Luc Montagnier has announced that he’s heading off to Shanghai, to found an institute and investigate. . .mysterious electromagnetic signals from extremely diluted pathogens.” He concludes:But at the same time, I’m not going to hold my breath waiting on success.
That’s because this whole homeopathy/high dilution/water signature business isn’t just another wild new idea that might or might not pan out. Even if it were that, this would be tricky stuff – any of the edge-of-detection phenomena are. But this area is a known swamp full of quicksand (and inhabited by various strange swamp creatures) which has claimed careers before. There are huge sunken deposits of quackery and self-delusion to be found out there, and before you announce you’re digging up something valuable, you’ll have to be very sure that you’re not just dedging up more of the same swampy stuff.”

Sometimes smart folks believe crazy things. That’s no reason to follow along. An appeal to authority isn’t valid if they aren’t really authorities and there isn’t evidence to back up their claims! It isn’t the person, peoplel it’s the claim! There’s not a moment to waste, folks, in making sure that students are prepped and ready to recognize woo when they see it. After all, anecdotal evidence and inaccurate causal assessments are easy to fall for. 

Cold or no cold, snow or no snow, this stuff doesn’t get into students’ heads through osmosis. 🙂

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