The 61st Skeptics’ Circle!
Tomorrow, as I hope you all know, is Towel Day — that most holy of times when we choose to remember not just our trusted towels, but also a great author and freethinker. In honor of that occasion, I give you…
The Hitchhiking Skeptic’s Guide to the Galaxy
(not to be confused with The Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe)
Believed to be a supernatural being sent to Earth to protect its inhabitants from harm and/or destroy said inhabitants with fiery wrath. Often easily confused with reflected blobs of light.
A disability of the central nervous system believed by many humans to be caused by just about everything that does not actually cause it, including (but not limited to) “crap in your teeth.” Be sure to read the illuminating commentary that follows the cited source.
Before the human race (planet: Earth) discovered the Internet, information was primarily disseminated using printed materials simply known as “books.” Unlike the Internet (primarily composed of hard-core fetish pornography), most books were filled with thought-provoking data. However, among the encyclopedias and dictionaries were titles such as “The Complete Idiot’s Guide to [Something Completely Idiotic].” For more information, see this entry from Richard Murray detailing some of the astoundingly anti-scientific tomes available at his local library. Murray’s straight-forward reporting presents the perfect set-up for the punchline in the very first comment, delivered with pinpoint timing by the author of one of the books in question.
A human religion based on the purported divinity of the only white guy in Arabia. Dan Harlow investigated this as well as another painfully shy prophet.
The scientifically untenable position that when it comes to all the life in the universe, “God did it,” which many humans seem to find comforting despite the obvious logical conclusion that results, i.e., God consciously and purposefully produced David Hasselhoff, leukemia, and Bill O’Reilly. Still, has science failed to provide a substitute crutch? Find out more here.
The belief that if you have enough faith, you won’t mind the fact that you aren’t being healed. For more info from an insider’s perspective, see this survivor’s tale from Shalini, a former Jatravartid who escaped her planet after realizing the Great Green Arkleseizure would never return with the Great White Handkerchief as Church elders promised. If you’re still wondering why any being would believe something so charmingly stupid, this Wandering Primate gives an overview of a few of the ways other primates manage to fool themselves.
The mistaken belief that less is always more, held by the ancient Golgafrinchans. For instance, this fascinating people believed fervently that the best way to cure injuries sustained from battling a mutant star goat was to battle a much, much smaller (possibly infant) mutant star goat. As a recently discovered ancient clothing label reveals, this odd belief also passed into more common daily activities such as cleaning spaghetti sauce from polo shirts with, well, more spaghetti sauce.
A large country on Planet Earth which may be a skeptical paradise, though its billion inhabitants may not know it yet.
A product invented by Hallmark to sell to the lonely. Or, as the famous metallic canine of Squornshellous Zeta wrote, love is like fire.
The duck in Jon Mendel’s local park.
The scientific process that threatens to lead to the unthinkable conclusion that you may, in fact, be wrong. Peer review can and often is suspended in special cases such as homeopathic trials or anywhere else that the lead researcher feels it may just be too much bother. Unfortunately for Michael Shermer, skeptics and scientists are not permitted to enjoy this exemption and must cheerfully accept criticism.
Originally invented by the Jatravartids of Viltvodle VI but taken to whole new levels of silliness by humans. For ages, humans struggled to create the perfect political strategy to foster a productive and happy society. Little did they realize that all the answers could be found in shiny baubles — for more information, see this essay demonstrating the causal relationship.
A field of study which since its inception has been considered crazy, sensible, misogynistic, discarded, revived, discarded again, back to nutty, and now hovers delicately between “well maybe” and “WTF.” Ant-eating Swede Dr. Rundkvist gives the skeptical once-over.
Three-dimensional shape used by humans to bury their dead, classify their food, provide the framework for 20th century game shows, and improve the taste of their wines. Orac, the respectfully insolent Aldebaran wine-expert, disputes the latter use but silently condones the former three.
Despite what the word “quantum” may actually imply in the world of science, the majority of Earth’s humans understand “quantum theory” to be defined as “the theory which explains and proves whatever ridiculous thing I’d like it to.” Amazingly, only one human ever really got quantum theory right, though rather than share it with the rest of his species he made a fair profit by incorporating the concept in an onion slicer to be sold on late night infomercials. The famed physics expert Infophile was not that human (it’s a known fact that he is a Grebulon posing as a busboy at a MidWestern Olive Garden) but he does provide a critical observation of, well, observation.
see also: so-called Complimentary and Alternative Medicine
see also: Adherents with Overwhelmingly Bold Use of Logical Fallacies that Real Doctors Can Easily Dissect . . . Repeatedly.
Universally considered to be the low-rent traveling carnival Tilt-a-Whirl of the medical industry — easy to access, a little pricier than it’s probably worth, completely unregulated, and might just get you killed. Case in point: Respitrol.
The ultimate answer.
(note: the reader may be interested to know that the question that proceeds the ultimate answer is “What’s wrong with Pat Robertson?” As submitted to the Guide by Michael. More remembrances of dead televangelists to be found here.)
The Human Brain
It is a well-known fact that the human brain is a primitive mass of ape-descended gray matter. Paul Little offered one anecdote to demonstrate the fallibility of his very own monkey brain in his essay Two Suns in the Sunset.
A seemingly simple substance which is made incredibly complex by the addition of one other material: bullshit.
Well, that about covers it for this very special Towel Day Skeptics’ Circle. The fun continues on June 7 over at Polite Company.
I have enough books on the go – now you're making me reread these ones, too! Thanks! Thanks a lot!
Lovely definitions, though.
Wow, Rebecca, you're one hoopy frood!
Come on now, don't Hassle the Hoff!
It's not just any Towel Day … it's also a THURSDAY!
Nope, May 25th is a Friday this year.
And tomorrow, if you like and if you feel up to it, please click on this link and read Richard Dawkins lament on Douglas' demise, it is heartfelt.
Great job Rebecca!
Ah, Rebecca Watson, now there's one chick who always knows where her towel's at.
PS. I'm getting blocked from accessing the first Televangelist entry here at work. Is there anything NSFW about it?
Only if you work for the Moral Majority, Infophile.
I think that it there were to be an official uniform of the '80s, it should be tight black bikini underwear and a black leather jacket, opened. Chest hair would be optional, but suggested. Now THAT's an idea for the next calendar! (holy crap am I ever kidding).
Great job Rebecca. Looking forward to getting through these links links links.
Thanks for the links, Rebecca, and for the reminder about Towel Day. I always seem to forget when it is…it's like I have a block about it and about what it signifies.
I was just sitting here thinking about Douglas Adams, and I was taken aback by the realization that it's already been SIX YEARS since he died. Where has the time gone??
It's going to be lovely when I return to the states in September, this dissertation behind me, and I can continue my tradition of reading everything the man wrote (or at least all that's collected in book form) once a year.
thanks for the round-up rebecca – time to get reading. Very impressed that you got a picture of my duck, too – these qualified nutritionists must really get around…
Oh yeah, and it's clearly a ducky day on skeptical-y blogs – poor GPs being nibbled to death by ducks: http://breathspakids.blogspot.com/2007/05/are-gps…
Hmm, looking into it, they're excuse for blocking is "nudity." So of course, when I got home, I had to check out the post to see what I was missing. Couldn't find any nudity (story of my life), but the thought of Pat Robertson for President is offensive enough that I can understand it being blocked anyway.
Am greatly enjoying reading this. Thanks Rebecca!
As someone who listened to the original first broadcast of the Hitchhikers guide on BBC radio 4 in 1978 I really appreciate the theme, thanks Rebecca.
I love the teeth picture, where did you find it?
Good ol' Google Image Search, Teek! I believe I searched for "stuff in teeth."
You must log in to post a comment.