Bad Astronomy

A Bogus walk in the Park

Bob Park is a professor of physics at the University of Maryland, and a well-known skeptic. He writes the What’s New online column (sort of like a blog) where he discusses the latest science and skeptical news, usually with a pretty snarky and funny tone. While he and I disagree on some topics, he is a fierce intellect and has a pretty good grip on what it takes to be a skeptic.

That’s why his article, The Seven Warning Signs of Bogus Science, is a must-read for anyone who has dealt with a crackpot, might eventually deal with a crackpot, or is a crackpot.

Apropos to the last few posts I’ve written about homeopathy and vaccines, he makes a big point that the plural of anecdote is not data – in other words, because you’ve heard some people say that distilled water cured their hemorrhoids, that doesn’t mean you can take them seriously. Claims, especially medical ones, need to be analyzed thoroughly and scientifically – using a double blind test if possible. Only then can you make sure that the phalanx of fallacies our brains hold so dear can be circumvented.

There are many stories to be told about science, but not every story is scientific. Read Bob’s article and you’ll be better armed to know which is which.