My friend Tim Farley is a tireless promoter and advocate of critical thinking. He writes the What’s The Harm? website, categorizing the appalling harm done by antiscience. He created a This Day in Skeptic History app. His most important work is probably the development of Skeptical Software Tools that make it easier and more efficient to be a skeptic.
He spoke at TAM 2012 about these tools, and what each of us can do to make the world a more reality-based place. That video is now available online:
He makes a lot of excellent points; in fact, I find really nothing there to disagree with. We do waste a lot of effort and time online – in many cases trying to score cheap points when there are far more effective things we could be doing. And there are tools that can help make that happen – Tim talks about quite a few in his TAM talk. I use Web of Trust myself, and I’ve been meaning to look more into rbutr. You should take a look yourself.
When you find something attacking reality, it’s easy complain about it on Twitter or Facebook. It feels good and makes you think you’ve accomplished something. But there’s a reason this is called slacktivism. One of the most important things we can do is follow through. That’s why when I talk about antivaxxers I almost always tell people to talk to their board-certified doctor and see if they need to get their boosters, and put my arm where my mouth is. That’s why I will often tell people to contact their representatives in government about issues – and then do so myself. That’s why I went into Boulder a few weeks ago and helped get people to send letters to Congress in support of NASA’s planetary exploration… and that worked.
What issue burns in your mind? And what exactly have you done about it?
Incredibly, it looks like the long, long story of David Mabus may be drawing to a close.
He is notorious in the skeptic community: for years he has posted comments, emailed, and tweeted anti-skeptic and anti-atheist diatribes, mostly incoherent. I would commonly see many spam tweets from him filling my feed, sometimes over a dozen a day. It was very irritating, but that was all.
However, more recently his spam escalated into death threats. I’ve received them myself. When I got them I contacted the local sheriff’s office, but since Mabus (a pseudonym) lives in Canada, I couldn’t make much progress. The same was true for many other skeptics as well.
But then things changed… and I’ll let you read Tim Farley’s post about how it all came about. Tim gives an astonishingly detailed and thorough account of what happened. There are copious links and images there to give you the entire story. But the bottom line is that the Montreal Police just today announced they had made an arrest in the case, and Tim has confirmed the arrest was of Mabus himself.
I don’t have much to add to what Tim wrote, except this: I don’t want to see Mabus tossed into jail. I’m not a psychiatrist, but it’s clear the man has mental problems. We tend to stigmatize mental illness, but that’s unfair and unhelpful; it’s a prejudice that may blind us to how that person’s condition can be mitigated with attention and care. My fondest and most sincere hope is that this arrest leads to an evaluation of Mabus and that he gets the help he so obviously needs.
I am not breathing a sigh of relief quite yet, either. This arrest is another step in this long journey, but it may not be the last one. There are any number of ways this could play out, but I am very hopeful that given the importance of this new development we’ll see real progress made.
You know, I was going to write a post about how Skeptic Exchange is a really cool way for skeptics and critical thinkers to talk about various topics and get expert answers for questions, how it encourages thoughtful answers using community-based awards, and what a great resource it could be, but then Tim Farley went and wrote a very thorough discussion of it.
So I’m off the hook. Go read Tim’s write-up, then head over to Skeptic Exchange and contribute! Make the world more reality-based!
Mike Adams is an alt-med pusher; he writes at Natural News, a website chock-full-o’ nonsense about vaccines, homeopathy, and so on. Regular readers may remember Mr. Adams from his particularly vile and horrific diatribe about real medicine after Patrick Swayze died. Adams claims to want to help people, but instead peddles all manners of treatments that are known not to work at all.
So that ought to give you a picture of how Adams operates.
The Shorty Awards are a popular new internet award for people who use Twitter. It allows tweeters to vote for someone in various categories like science, humor, celebrity, and, oh, say, health.
Adams, who tweets under the name HealthRanger, was doing well with votes in the Shorties last week, well ahead of everyone else. In second place was another alt-med antivax promoter named Joe Mercola. I’ve written about him before as well.
But then skeptic Tim Farley noticed something– a lot of votes going to Mercola and Adams were coming from brand new Twitter accounts with only one actual tweet: a vote for Mercola or Adams for the Shorties.
Now, someone who may be a bit conspiracy-minded might assume that either Mercola or Adams, or their followers, might be working a campaign to stuff the ballot box by setting up fake Twitter accounts for the sole purpose of making sure these alt-med public health threats would win the Shorty award in health.
So Tim tweeted about it, and a bunch of us started to promote our friend Australian Rachael Dunlop, who has been tirelessly fighting alternative medicine quackery for years. Within a few days Rachael had moved into first place. Yay!
But there’s more! Tim (as well as several others, including me) reported Mercola’s and Adams’ voter fraud to the people at the Shorty Awards. Today it was announced that Adams was being removed from the contest due to this fraudulent ballot stuffing.
Adams, of course, took this all in stride and has been gracious and self-deprecating about it all.
HAHAHAHAHAHAHA! Oh my. Of course he hasn’t. Instead, he posted what can only be called a frothing rant about this, accusing the Shorty Awards and many of us reality-based people with all kinds of evil doing. You have to read his diatribe to believe anyone could post something so filled with rage, righteous indignation, logical fallacies, made-up transgressions, self-contradictions, and paranoid conspiracy mongering. It’s really a masterpiece of woo-based garment-rendering nonsense. He’s even threatened to sue!
Maybe he should win a Shorty Award for fiction.
To be fair, I actually don’t think Adams should have been disqualified; we don’t know who set up the fake votes for him. It might have been just one overzealous altmed fan. What should have happened was all the fake votes should have been struck from the count — a large fraction — and then let the most popular person win. It hardly matters anyway, since Rachael is so far out front that she’ll win anyway. But it would be the fair thing to do.
Not that this would assuage Adams anyway. Since he doesn’t deal with anything using facts and logic in the first place, he’ll just continue to post his nonsense as he pleases.
Orac posted a lovely satirical takedown of all this, which is worth reading. It’s always a good idea to keep yourself abreast of what these people are like. The alt-med movement talks a good game about the evil of Big Pharma and Western Medicine, and also claim they want to help people out of the goodness of their hearts… but when you actually get a glimpse of what’s in their hearts, well, it’s not exactly rainbows and unicorns.