Back in the mid-nineties, Carl Sagan published his infamous Baloney Detection Kit in his book “The Deamon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark“, which included a similarly infamous fallacious arguments list. Unfortunately, the Internet revolution has provided fertile ground for all types of quacks, charlatans and intellectual frauds to spread their fallacious reasoning, misinformation, and pseudoscientific beliefs. Carl Sagan is no longer here to take them. But thankfully, a significant and constantly rising number of skeptics and rational thinkers are trying to counter these waves of nonsense. Two such prominent figures in the blogosphere (and not only) are Andy Lewis and Prof. David Colquhoun.
Andy Lewis is the founder of the Quackometer and tirelessly tries to expose medical quackery and frauds, while Professor of Pharmacology David Colquhoun, is actively engaged in throwing medical nonsense out of the educational system in the UK. Both of them, combined their skeptical powers yesterday in Oxford Town Hall, to discuss how to successfully detect when someone is simply talking bullshit!
Andy presented a series of outrageously ridiculous medical claims, which unfortunately some members of our society accept with seriousness. He also demonstrated his methodology for exposing the so-called experts that appear in the media, when if you dig a little deeper, you might be surprised by the lack of credentials!
Prof. Colquhoun, discussed the infiltration of nonsense in the UK’s educational system and how all “quality assurance” bodies fail to do their job properly thus allowing “science degrees” without the science. A lot of funny stories here too.
The event finished with a brief session of questions and answers, and everyone left satisfied -well, I know I did! I think some of the locals continued the discussion in a nearby pub, but it was time for me to get back to London. Nevertheless, it was an excellent day trip to Oxford!
[Thanks to Tolis and Tzeni for the company ;-)]
Update (9 Feb): Prof. Colquhoun was kind enough to send me a list of the things he talked about in Oxford along with the relevant links:
The stuff about the recent wmin audit is at http://dcscience.net/?p=984#wmin
The wmin slides are at http://dcscience.net/?p=227
Teaching Bad Science to children http://dcscience.net/?p=454
Thames Valley Nutritional Medicine http://dcscience.net/?p=260
University of Wales “validation” http://dcscience.net/?p=259