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Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit

The Richard Dawkins Foundation has combined with high-profile skeptic Michael Shermer to do a video presentation of “The Baloney Detection Kit”:

It’s a handy little tutorial on some basic critical thinking, though being filled with the usual Shermerisms about UFOs and Bigfoot it gets to be a bit of a smiley smug-fest after a while. So you can make it fun by applying the Detection Kit to Shermer himself. Here, let me get you started:

a) Reliability of the Source: Are the errors all in one direction, “slanting towards a particular belief”?

  • Shermer tells USA Today that Rupert Sheldrake’s psi observations “don’t require a theory and are perfectly explicable by normal means”. When pushed on the details of his rebuttal, Shermer admits he hasn’t even seen the book.
  • Shermer later misrepresents Sheldrake’s research in his ‘Skeptic’ column in Scientific American.
  • Shermer cites Pim van Lommel’s positive NDE study, published in The Lancet, to show that NDEs are obviously delusions.
  • Shermer says those promoting ‘quantum consciousness’ theories suffer from “physics envy”. Including such pseudoscientists as John Eccles and Roger Penrose…
  • In his August 2004 Scientific American column, Shermer attacked respected physicist Freeman Dyson over his comments that paranormal phenomena may actually exist, wrongly saying that the scientific evidence is “unequivocal” in dismissing psi.

Kinda makes us suspicious, with all that “picking and choosing” of data. I leave the rest of the analysis to you…

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