Friday, April 02, 2010

Interesting turn of phrase

I'm having a lazy day.

This is probably not a good idea - actuarial exams start in under 3 weeks. However, I'm still recovering from last weekend, when I received my congregational MA at Cambridge and got absolutely wasted on College port* with some old friends. I vaguely recall dancing on tables. And I had a busy week too, so what the hey.

In particular, I'm taking the time to read up on a few blog archives, mostly related to skepticism in the UK. Of particular interest recently has been the Appeal Court decision in the trial of science writer Simon Singh. The (very senior) judges running the show apparently gave the legal version of two raised fingers to the British Chiropractic Organisation. A most welcome verdict.

(I actually walk past the BCA's head office on my way into work each day. I'm considering dropping some Sense About Science literature through their door in case they feel like signing up. Worth a try.)

One interesting thought for the day was in this pro-CAM comment on the Adventures In Nonsense blog. FYI, the blog author is the guy who sent out 500 complaints to the Advertising Standards Authority about chiropractors who claimed to treat infant colic.

The comment uses an interesting phrase: "open-minded skeptic". I am actually impressed that a pro-alternative-medicine commenter would use this phrase; many of them seem to think it's an oxymoron. But let's examine what it means to say a person is an "open-minded skeptic".

"Open-minded" = is willing to examine any new claim
"Sceptic" (with a C) = demands good evidence for any new claim before accepting it
"Skeptic" (with a K) = gets pissed off if he/she receives no good evidence and yet finds people still parroting the same sodding claim

On this basis, I would say that most of the folks on Simon Singh's side in this battle of public opinion are indeed "open-minded skeptics". I'm happy to quietly support them; I only wish I could do more.

* If you ever visit Christ's bar, do not buy the College red or white wine, it gives you a splitting hangover. The port, however, kicks ass but leaves neurons standing. There's also a cafe called Taffy's just out the College's side gate where you can buy a fry-up cure for what ails ya the following morning.

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