Robert Todd Carroll
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Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter
Issue # 21
February 12, 2003
(Past issues posted at http://skepdic.com/news/)
I didn't meet all of the folks from all over the country and the world who attended the first annual Amazing Meeting hosted by the James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. But I got to meet James Randi and Phil Plait (aka the Bad Astronomer). I also got to meet José Alvarez, aka "Carlos." It was some fifteen years ago that Alvarez hoaxed Australia as a channeler of the 2,000 year-old spirit "Carlos." I wonder if any of you in Australia would care to comment on whether there has been any residual effect of the Carlos hoax or is it pretty much forgotten now?
It was nice to make new friends and see old friends like Ray Hall of Cal State Fresno. The folks at JREF are already planning on a larger arena next year. The presenters provided entertainment and education, and the meeting went on more or less as planned despite the news about Columbia. We were fortunate to have amongst us Lt. Col. Hal Bidlack who made the announcement to the crowd of about 250 immediately following Michael Shermer's keynote address. Hal put it this way
We took a break for about an hour and a half and then resumed our meeting as best we could. Fortunately, we had some very interesting speakers that morning, including Dan Garvin, who told us about his 25 years in Scientology, and Phil Plait, whose presentation on Planet X surpassed all expectation for information and humor. Phil is an even better speaker than writer, and he's an excellent writer.
My talk came in the evening, sandwiched between Hal Bidlack's re-creation of Alexander Hamilton and Randi's performance. An expanded version of my presentation is available in pdf format online.
2) New or revised entries in The Skeptic's Dictionary & Skeptic's Refuge
Since the last newsletter I have
Ken Saladin, Distinguished Professor of Biology at Georgia College & State University and author of Anatomy and Physiology: The Unity of Form and Function, followed the link to Stein Carter's page that I gave in the last newsletter regarding the suburban myth that women have more ribs than men. Carter gives his argument and then advises readers
Professor Saladin points out that "There is no way that any university or medical school would let someone "off the street" come in and start dissecting cadavers for this purpose." Of course, he's right. For many reasons, few people outside of faculty or health-professions students are permitted access to a cadaver lab, much less to mutilate the cadavers to satisfy private curiosity. "Moreover," he says, "any properly scientifically-minded person would not be satisfied to draw a conclusion from just one dissection of each sex, but would insist on dissecting several cadavers of both sexes to be sure of the count. Carter might have done better to refer readers to various photographic atlases of human anatomy to count ribs -- although even then, I know of none that show multiple skeletons of both sexes."
In his textbook, Dr. Saladin simply notes: "There are 12 pairs of ribs, with no difference between the sexes." Finally, he says,
I'm anticipating a response from Answers in Genesis to the effect that since God didn't clip the Doberman, the analogy won't work.
A fellow named Julian Berman from an outfit called All-Edgar-Cayce.com offered to send me a free copy of “The Totally New Complete Edgar Cayce Readings CD-ROM” in exchange for writing a review of it. Why Mr. Berman would want me to write a review of anything written by Edgar Cayce is a mystery. Anyway, I agreed to the proposal. Then I got another e-mail from Mr. Berman explaining the terms of the agreement. In order to get a free CD, I had to agree to the following:
Why do I only get offers that are easy to refuse?
I was interviewed by Reggie Finley, a.k.a. the Infidel Guy, on his live radio show on February 10th. You can listen to the hour-long interview at Stream it..!! We talk about the Discovery Institute's war on science and a few other things like atheism and ethics.
My editor at Wiley tells me I should expect the proofs for the The Skeptic's Dictionary within the next few days. I don't think you will hear from me again for at least a month. Publication is set for July or August.