January 23, 2013

#BrianDunning, #pseudoskeptic partner of #MichaelSherner, pseudoskeptic

Michael Shermer
Both Michael Shermer, editor of Skeptic magazine, and Brian Dunning, a regular contributor to its blog, have pseudoskeptical  issues.

First, both regularly conflate libertarian politics and political philosophy with skepticism. Think John Stossel playing a skeptical poseur, especially with Dunning, who strikes me as just one step removed from a snake oil salesperson.

Second, in other cases, it goes beyond that. If it were only that, the conflation, it would be no big deal. But, it IS more than that, and it's harmful to the image of skepticism.

Brian Dunning via his website
Dunning is "great" at setting up straw men. Take this post on the Skeptic blog, where he claims, "I'm Not in the Pay of ('Big Whatever')."

Problem is, his critics, like me, and Max, who regularly slap him around, have not claimed he's in the pay of Big Oil, Big Pharma or whatever. That's a total straw man.

On his own blog, he does the same, with SUVs, for example.

Here's this:
Based in part on these generalizations, many so-called environmentalist groups have been lobbying, often successfully, for laws against SUV's.
No URLs linking to any alleged "laws against SUVs." Just an undefended statement.

Followed by this:
The vast majority of so-called SUV's are mechanically identical to conventional cars.
As proof, he lists a whole number of Japanese car-frame SUVs without a single US-made truck-frame SUV listed.

With deceptiveness like this, it's no wonder he faces both civil and criminal fraud charges for alleged Internet cookie stuffing schemes.

Shermer, meanwhile, has now joined Sam Harris as clearly being in the realms of "scientism" by claiming that the issue of confusing "is" and "ought" as first identified by David Hume is a fallacy.

First, as Massimo Pigliucci puts it in a great takedown, even if Shermer were right to raise some issues, it's not a logical fallacy.

Next, Shermer, who's not even a scientist, joins in the call for science to take over addressing issues such as morals and ethics, claiming philosophy is dead.

Of course, beyond wrongly trying to make science an absolute arbiter of morals (and other issues better addressed by philosophy), Shermer doesn't have much of a moral leg to stand on himself.

He has had two known racialists, Frank Miele and the recently deceased Vince Sarich, on the masthead of Skeptic magazine.

The two co-wrote "Race," a horrible racialist book which believes the different races are subspecies headed toward speciation, ignores the cultural background of IQ tests and much more, as I note in this review. A sampling:
On page 1, the authors misinterpret a Lincoln quote about the difference between races, and infer that, rather than talking about the sociologocial fallouts from a clearly perceived difference in skin colors, Lincoln was talking about deeper differences in physical attributes. ...

Page 9 - Going with their unproven -- and logically fallacious idea-generating -- 50,000 year date for the evolution of modern Homo sapiens, Miele and Sarich then use this to bootstrap their own arguments about the degree of difference between races, claiming this shows how rapidly human evolution can progress. It's clear circular reasoning based on an already assumed point of view.

Pages 9-10 have a laughably racist "genetic" rather than sociological assumption of evidence for various types of athletic prowess. ...

And, the piece de resistance on page 10 -- the "mean sub-Saharan African IQ of 70." All together, now, can we say Bell Curve?
How bad is it, and are/were they? They're both associates of A-grade racialist Philippe Rushton. With Rushton, at least, I am comfortable with removing the second syllable from the word "racialism."

This type of "thinking" and much more is why I 1-starred Shermer's "The Believing Brain." Among other nuttery of Shermer's, he believes in a Ray Kurzweil-type "singularity." (That's why I just "looooove" libertarians who call socialists "utopian." Shoe pinching, Shermer?)

And, why a mag like Scientific American, even though it has gone downhill in general in the last decade, IMO, gives a Shermer blog space ...

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