Archive for paranoia

Layman Answers to some Climate Denial Arguments

Posted in conspiracy thinking, pseudoscience with tags , , on March 15, 2010 by cpolsonb

This one goes out to those of you who are somewhat confused about climate change and where the most recent science lies. I’ll try to keep the questions and answers as non-technical as is possible. I’m not going to go over the details with a fine tooth comb, think of this more like a quick primer on how to defend yourself from common climate denial arguments. Much of the information I’m going to pull from comes straight out of the March/April 2010 issue of Skeptical Inquirer, and an article by David Morrison.

As a quick preface it’s useful to mention that the scientific argument over whether the planet is warming has died down considerably over the last decade. Note that I say ‘scientific’ argument as there remains a small but dedicated group of ideologically driven denialists who dispute even this. Since the IPCC’s (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) latest report many who didn’t support the warming hypothesis have been swayed. The real scientific questions now lie in extracting the degree to which humans are forcing climate change. This human induced climate change or change acceleration is referred to colloquially as AGW (anthropogenic global warming). The questions that remain to be resolved are all a matter of degree, very few people and almost no climate scientists deny that the planet is warming at all.

I will now attempt to (very) briefly cover some of the most common arguments put forward by people who are either intentionally distorting the facts to serve an agenda or are too lazy to properly research climate change. These arguments range in goal from questioning whether climate change is a negative to disputing the accuracy of recordings and even accusations of fraud. Thanks once again to David Morrison’s fantastic article for most of this info.

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Diet Dilemma? What’s the Catch?

Posted in conspiracy thinking, health, pseudoscience, skepticism with tags , , , , on February 17, 2010 by cpolsonb

While stopping by my former workplace just a few days ago I came face to face yet again with one of my most hated conspiracy theories/pseudosciences. A friend and ex workmate of mine Drew asked whether I still suffer from the regular headaches that plagued me while I worked there. “Why yes” I replied and briefly mentioned some medical avenues I’m exploring to treat them. His follow up was “because I was speaking to Troy the other day and he was telling me about how diet coke can lead all sorts of problems like headaches”. Drew went on to mention how the artificial sweetener aspartame has been linked to all sorts of problems and cited a study on rats as evidence. Now Drew is a nice guy, he was genuinely interested in what I had to say and seemed to take a lot on board. The Aspartame scare was nothing new to me; in fact it is one of the most common examples of scientific paranoia that I encounter in day to day life. Let’s take a look at some of the claims from aspartame critics and evaluate the scientific evidence. I could never dream of covering such a broad topic in real depth but I wish to draw attention to a few main points.

I’ll start with a very brief and non-technical overview of aspartame. Discovered in 1965 aspartame’s chemical name is aspartyl-phenylalanine-1-methyl ester. It is one of the most commonly used artificial sweeteners world wide and is only applied in relatively small amounts (it’s around 180 times sweeter than sugar). If you’re a fan of diet drinks like Diet Coke, Pepsi Max, Sprite Zero etc. then you almost certainly consume aspartame on a regular basis.

Aspartame sits in big pile along with mercury-amalgam fillings, vaccines, fluoridated water, food from the microwave, bottled water and many other byproducts of science that are criticized heavily despite having been studied intensively and proven to be safe for regular use. A literature review examining the body of peer-reviewed research surrounding aspartame published in the journal of “Regulatory Toxicology and Pharmacology” found the following:

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