Quickies

Skepchick Quickies 5.5

Happy Cinco de Mayo, everyone! Jen is busy mixing margaritas in the Skepchick lounge, so I’ve taken on her Quickie duties for today.

Rebecca Watson

Rebecca leads a team of skeptical female activists at Skepchick.org. She travels around the world delivering entertaining talks on science, atheism, feminism, and skepticism. There is currently an asteroid orbiting the sun with her name on it. You can follow her every fascinating move on Twitter or on Google+.

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26 Comments

  1. My first thought on the wart psychic was that he was a pervert trying to get people to take pictures of their genitals- then I remembered that warts happen on other body parts. I think it’s an occupational hazard that my mind goes right to the gutter.

    Still, can’t rule out the pervert bit.

    Also, it probably works about half the time- as I recall the placebo effect is strong with warts.

  2. The comments on unintelligent design are hilariously ignorant

    “You appear to have overlooked the important point….the fact the the code is there as DNA in almost all living things in the first place.”

    ALMOST ALL? This baffles me as supposedly saying ALL (a true statement) is MORE convincing to their case. Virus and prions are by definition not alive since they lack chemical life, and they are the only replicating organic machine I can think of that would not have DNA. I love that these people bring up that DNA is supposedly evident of the same code, but then ignore and get pissy about the DNA evidence indicating common descent. Which you know…anyone with a flipping base understanding of biochemistry…scratch that, biology, would know that common descent explains why everything is DNA.

    “You have also overlooked the beautiful architecture of the double helix and it’s ability to store copious amounts of data sufficient to describe and control your make up as a living, breathing thinking being.”

    Hey, dumbass. The double helix (of which there are by my flawed recollection three types of in DNA) is not a unanimous design. It’s the natural form of DNA due to structural limitations. It isn’t used because it’s efficient or pretty, it is in helix form since it’s the most stable configuration. Again the chemically illiterate think they understand profound truths that the experts can’t see.

    “In your DNA you have your program, your recipe, your code made up of a code of four bases adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine. Instead of the 2 value O’s and 1’s of Binary, a 4 value code of A,C,G,T

    But you claim to have no hand of a designer…..”

    DNA isn’t a code, and it isn’t analogous to binarry. It’s a chemical structure that affects the way transcription works. Also A, C, G, T are just the most common bases. You can get methylated bases (which are generally problems in some cases), misplaced Us, radicals etc. There’s no design with A, C, G, T etc they’re there because of structural stability. Also, in binary each combination of 1 and 0 in whatever frame you’re reading has 1 value. Ie 10010 is going to be distinctly read different from 10001. This is not so in DNA. The code is redundant and most of the triad readings are pointless. If it was designed there would be no reason to have 8 different codes for the same value.

    “Given that the central tennent of creationism is that everything God made was ‘good’ prior to the fall, and only subsequent to this, did disease, death etc come into being, this seems rather ironically to point towards God as our creator. ”

    If everything was Good how the fuck did the fall happen?

    “While I have to agree with the facts of the piece, I am going to be honest and advise that I probably will not agree with some of the extended conclusions that the author might draw, if the headline is any indication of where the train is headed.

    However, this article is unusual for being from the anti-Intelligent Design school and in that it is generally fairly-written, does address counter-arguments likely to be raised by the other side within the framework of the piece, and has a reasonable conclusion ”

    Way to keep an open mind there!

    “The real question is whether God, if He does in fact exist, intended to produce perfection “at any cost”, or if He possibly has something else in mind.

    What if the ultimate objective, for example, was to draw those who belong to Him to Himself, by showing them to be imperfect sinners hopelessly lost unless they make a conscious decision (simply) to trust in Jesus Christ for their eternal salvation?”

    a) perfect creator, all powerful. What we get is by definition what he intended

    b) if he intended to make things flawed so people would come to him, then he’s an asshole. He made people with Kohns disease specificly to make people who will suffer. He made people with Downe Syndrome specifically to make people with Downe Syndrome. He made people with MLS specifically to have people that have generally short painful lives. He made brittle bone disease specifically so they’ll be kids who are born in agony from broken bones. He made HIV so people will get it and die from opertunistic infections. He made Flarial worms so people will get sick and permenently deformed from elephentitus. He made Loa Loa specifically so people will go blind and suffer. And all this because he wants people to love him? This is by definition psychotically insane. Forget the evidence, which would anyone rather have. A god who made things the way they are so people will suffer and thus love him, the ultimate cause of their suffering, or the knowledge that any suffering and disease isn’t personal. I mean, if I raised my kid in a sealed room, and threw in a jar of angry hornets in the room with him, even if I’m not stinging him myself I’m responsible for his suffering. The “I did it so he will learn to appreciate and love me” excuse wouldn’t fly. I’d be taken away and hailed by the press as the most insane abusive parent of the decade.

  3. “Also, it probably works about half the time- as I recall the placebo effect is strong with warts.”

    Aren’t most “warts” self misdiagnosed, and are really other skin conditions, most of which clear up within 111 days?

  4. Sanal Edamaruku seems to be missing the point. It’s worse than he says. Balti Baba isn’t a sinister man exploiting other people’s superstitions. Actually trying to kill someone with black magic on camera and failing, then throwing a tantrum and fleeing?? He obviously believes all this himself and has (or at least had) a lot of confidence in his ability to perform real magic. In his world, this is serious business and he’s performing a service, helping politicians get elected. He’s as whacked as a two dollar pinata after a party but a scam-artist? No more or less than anyone who works for politicians… Unless he thinks that this will somehow HELP his reputation and he’s a first rate actor, but I can’t really see how it will, especially if he hasn’t been seen since.

  5. I disagree with Apple removing the app from the app store, on the grounds that I disagree with their massive censorship of the only “legitimate” way to get apps onto touch devices. But that’s why I’m not going for an iPad and moving to Android as soon as my current contract runs out.

  6. I will tell the truth… I’ve idly thought “You know, if I wanted to stop offshore drilling, an accident on an oil platform in the Gulf would be a good way to do it.”

    However, no one listens to me (and I am not the Mark who sent in the article).

  7. @marilove: you disagree with removing an app that is 100% a scam?

    It’s not a scam if the people who created it actually believe it. Then it’s just stupid.

    In any case, it’s $13. I have issues with those who take hundreds or thousands of dollars from people to let them know how their “Sister who’s name begins with “V” feels about dying” but this??? The solution is not to take down the app. The solution is to educate the customer.

  8. @swordsbane: I think it’s a scam, and $13 is still money, and someone shouldn’t be allowed to scam people because it’s “just” $13. I also hate this, “Aren’t there worse things in the world?!” Yeah, so? That doesn’t mean we can’t — or shouldn’t — focus on the smaller things. The small things add up, and quickly. This is true for any cause.

    With all that said, Apple is a private company and they can choose to deny any apps they want. Just don’t get an Apple product if you don’t like it.

  9. @marilove: It’s not about “There are worse things in the world.” It’s just that there is a limit to how much I want to protect people from themselves. You try to keep the huge predators at bay so that peoples lives aren’t destroyed by scammers, but someone who is scammed out of their latte money doesn’t need justice. They need education.

  10. @swordsbane: And I think Apple, a private company, has the right to get rid of scamware if they so please. I also don’t think allowing people to be scammed is eduation.

    Also, “latte money”? Really? I have a budget of $50/wk on groceries, and that includes things like tampons and kitty littler. To me, $13 is a lot of money. To you, it may not be, but you are not everyone.

    Again, $13 is still money, and even it was only a penny, that doesn’t suddenly make scamming someone acceptable.

  11. @marilove: And I think Apple, a private company, has the right to get rid of scamware if they so please.

    Of course they do, and I have the right to pass judgment on their choice.

    and I’m not saying that scamming someone is acceptable, but it doesn’t absolve you, me or the victim from THINKING just because you’re going after the scammers. In order to be scammed, you need two things: someone who lies and someone who believes them. The one who lies is worthy of contempt, but the one who believes them is not blameless. The reason we don’t buy it when someone says “Your iPod can cure your illness” is because we recognize stupid stuff when we see it. Teaching people how to recognize stupid stuff should be as important, if not MORE important than simply stomping on the liars when we find them. It certainly generates more of a return.

    As for the amount, no…. $13 dollars isn’t a lot. A mortgage payment is a lot of money. A dental appointment for your kid is a lot of money, a car to get you to work is a lot of money. $13 isn’t.

  12. @swordsbane:

    As for the amount, no…. $13 dollars isn’t a lot. A mortgage payment is a lot of money. A dental appointment for your kid is a lot of money, a car to get you to work is a lot of money. $13 isn’t.

    TO YOU. It’s not a lot of money to you. But you aren’t poor, and likely aren’t broke (which aren’t the same thing, btw). For those who are actually poor, and for people like me who are broke, $13 is a lot of money. You =/= everyone else. What you may not find a lot of money, someone else may, and they aren’t wrong for that. It just means they likely don’t have much money.

    And next time I have only $10 to eat on for the next week, otherwise I might overdraft my bank account, or I can’t afford the $20 co-pay for an important doctor appointment because I just do not have it, I dare you to tell me, “It’s not a lot of money, what’s the big deal?” so I can tell you to shut the fuck up and get some perspective and empathy.

    Also, do you know how easily the elderly are scammed? It's not because they are stupid, necessarily; just vulnerable, and many aren't as mentally sound as they once were, or are too trusting in general. Too trusting or otherwise vulnerable does not mean stupid.

    Yes, education is important to help prevent scams, but that doesn't mean someone who is scammed is to be blamed for being scammed. The scammer is still 100% to blame.

    Many of the scammed elderly and otherwise do not learn after they were scammed once. Once scammed, they are prone to falling for another scam.

    Scamming is not education.

  13. In all fairness, I’d be willing to wager that most iphone users aren’t poor or broke- unless it’s at the hand of AT&T and Apple (that data plan is a bitch).

    But I still think it’s right for Apple to prevent a scammer from using their store to make money. I wouldn’t allow a homeopath offering a cure for cancer to park out on my lawn selling his wares. Why should Apple allow it?

  14. @marilove: TO YOU. It’s not a lot of money to you. But you aren’t poor, and likely aren’t broke (which aren’t the same thing, btw). For those who are actually poor, $13 is a lot of money. You=/= everyone else. What you may not find a lot of money, someone else may, and they aren’t wrong for that. It just means they likely don’t have much money.

    And next time I have only $10 to eat on for the next week, otherwise I might overdraft my bank account, I dare you to tell me “it’s not a lot of money” so I can tell you to shut the fuck up and get some perspective and empathy.

    You don’t have to tell me that. I’ve been there, and while I was there, I also wasn’t thinking about spending $13 on an iPod app. That’s where the education thing comes in.

    and who’s blaming people? You seem to have this problem with telling the difference between blame and responsibility. It’s the same problem our whole society has. People think that if it’s not their fault, then it’s not their responsibility. That’s not always true. Skepticism is all about responsibility, and giving people the tools to be responsible. Responsible for their own actions, responsible for knowing how to tell bullshit from the truth. Is there a segment of the population that we can say “Oh.. they aren’t as smart as us,” so we shouldn’t hold them to the same standards we hold ourselves to?

    Being scammed IS education, as long as there are people to explain how they were scammed and how to prevent it in the future. It may not be the only way to do it. I would prefer if they learned ahead of time, but your motivation to learn about scams goes up when you’re a victim of one.

  15. I was thinking the same thing. Anyone who can afford an iPhone and is willing to spend $13 on an app that supposedly cures warts can afford to lose $13.

    If you can’t spare those $13, then your problem isn’t scammers, but your own spending habits.

    ETA: those people exist too, and if anything, they are the ones most in need of help and/or education.

  16. Just for the record, most iPhone apps are 99 cents, or free. So $13 is quite a lot in that economy.

    In any event, I submitted the story because I thought it was funny. Not to start a flame war.

  17. “Also, anyone who doesn’t think getting scammed isn’t education doesn’t understand how human beings learn. One of the best teachers there is is failure.”

    This is dangerous close to “well, now that you’ve been assaulted you’ve learned a valuable lesson about what you do that attracts that behavior.”

  18. @Ing213:
    This is dangerous close to “well, now that you’ve been assaulted you’ve learned a valuable lesson about what you do that attracts that behavior.”

    Except there’s a difference between being scammed out of hundreds or thousands of $$ and being scammed out of $13. Just like there’s a difference between being punched in the face and being slapped. Technically, they are both “assault” but you don’t necessarily call the police every time you’re slapped.

    Like Zapski said, the main point is not the dangers of scam artists. No one is going to be ruined or lose their mortgage by falling for this, and I think it is far better to call as much attention to this as possible for the purpose of saying “See these morons? This is what you should avoid.” rather than simply removing the app.

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