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Discuss the note to the TED community on the withdrawal of the TEDxWestHollywood license.

For discussion: http://blog.ted.com/2013/04/01/a-note-to-the-ted-community-on-the-withdrawal-of-the-tedxwesthollywood-license

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    Apr 6 2013: Here's a pertinent example of pseudoscience in action:

    Yesterday (April 5, 2013), the Kansas state legislature approved a bill that mandates doctors to tell pregnant women that having an abortion places them at a higher risk for contracting breast cancer. This despite the fact that the claim is not supported by the scientific. This misrepresentation of scientific evidence, promoted by ideologues and now formalized as law, has had a significant impact on women's freedom.

    Kansas lawmakers approve sweeping abortion bill
    http://www.kansas.com/2013/04/05/2748520/kansas-senate-approves-sweeping.html

    "TOPEKA — The Kansas House voted late Friday to send a bill to the governor defining human life as beginning at fertilization and mandating that abortion doctors must provide controversial information to patients of a theorized link between abortion and breast cancer.

    "Earlier in the day, the Senate approved the final version of the bill after a bruising debate with references to the Taliban and the Dred Scott decision that once upheld slavery.

    "House Bill 2253 was one of the final bills in a late-night marathon meeting that wrapped up the regular legislative session for the year. Gov. Sam Brownback has indicated he would sign any anti-abortion bill the Legislature sends him.

    "The House vote was so little in doubt that no members went to the podium to speak in favor of it, although four of the outnumbered Democrats in the chamber harshly criticized the bill.

    "Playing off the bill’s title, the Women’s Right to Know Act, Rep. Annie Keuther, D-Topeka, said it should be called 'the Women’s Right to Be Lied to Act' because of the abortion/breast cancer information requirement.

    "The National Cancer Institute has called that theorized relationship a 'false alarm' and said it’s not supported by the scientific evidence."
    • Apr 6 2013: John, I fail to see what relevance that has to to with this debate, how is it related?
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        Apr 6 2013: Adrian, scientific research informs public policy, resulting in legislation that can affect us all. When the general public has a poor understanding of the difference between science and pseudoscience there can be harmful and even dangerous consequences.

        In the case of the spurious association between abortion and breast cancer, scientific data has been misinterpreted in such a way as to advance a specific ideological position. The assertions of scientific conclusions promoted by anti-abortion advocates and legislators misrepresent the actual scientific evidence, misleading the public, and function as tools in the hands of ideologues.

        The relevance to this debate, which is about TED's decision to withdraw sponsorship from the West Hollywood event, is with respect to the uses and abuses of scientific data and the evaluation of the contested lines between science and pseudoscience. When Kansas legislators claim that scientific studies demonstrate something that they do not, that is analogous to claims made by participants in the West Hollywood event that are contested by an informed scientific community.

        Spurious research that is claimed to be valid when it is not, whether about eugenics, vaccines, crop circles, spirit entities, crop circles, or the like, misleads the public and degrades the quality of a general understanding of science that is necessary if citizens are to be responsible in electing representatives who will create and pass legislation based on reality, not fantasy. Promotion of pseudoscience constantly undermines science education, costing taxpayers billions of dollars when the expenses of quality education are flushed down the toilet by ideologues who are a constant, erosive force in the advancement of knowledge.

        Pseudoscience, whether spurious correlations between abortion and breast cancer or spurious interpretations of crop circles as the work of extraterrestrials, can result in actual harm when it becomes a tool in the hands of ideologues.
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          Apr 6 2013: The public is a lot smarter than you give it credit for John. I'm sure everyone can spot the BS you've been peddling a mile away.
        • Apr 6 2013: John I don't see how you can connect TEDxWestHollywood, Sheldrake or Hancock to this "pertinent example of pseudoscience in action". I fail to see its relevance.
    • Apr 6 2013: What does this have to do with any of the issues at hand? I'm sorry, but this just feels like a blatant red herring. Why not tackle the issues on a more relevant level instead of bundling everything with Kansas abortion bill? That is no way to move a conversation forward, or even sideways for that matter. For someone who has been accusing others of fallacious arguments, this style of argument seems hypocritical.
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        Apr 6 2013: Jess, did you read my response to Adrian's question, which was the same as yours?

        I'm sorry that you don't think that the issue of distinguishing pseudoscience from science and highlighting the harmful effects of the former is discussion on a "more relevant level." There is a rationale for TED excluding pseudoscience from the content of its talks and conversations. While that rationale has not been made explicit, I think TED's statements and policies imply that pseudoscience is harmful. I agree, and I am providing concrete evidence of why I think that is so.

        I am not "bundling everything with the Kansas abortion bill" but rather using the Kansas abortion bill as an example of pseudoscience in action (the phrase I used at the beginning of my post). Do you think that specific examples are irrelevant to moving a conversation forward?

        Can you please explain why you think this argument is fallacious? I don't think it's a red herring at all.

        Red herring
        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_herring
        • Apr 6 2013: John your argument implies that because you have presented "a pertinent example of pseudoscience in action" you are now at liberty to attach that sentiment to this debate without any evidence. That is a red hearing by my definition.
        • Apr 6 2013: The post didn't show up until I posted my response, but that matters very little. The main argument at hand, it seems, is what we classify as pseudoscience and what is theories are allowed to be discussed in a rational manner without being automatically classified as pseudoscience. You'll get no argument from me that misinformation can be dangerous for society. Personally, and I don't speak for a monolith, I think one of the most dangerous bits of misinformation is that autism is caused by vaccines. But that doesn't give me credence to use the anti-vax movement to make an unrelated point. Say, I want to argue for more funding for astroid research while someone is arguing for less or no funding by stating it serves no purpose. I wouldn't bring up vaccinations into the conversation because it holds no real importance to the conversation. All it does is muddy the waters and paints with a broad brush. The finer points always have to be sussed out and topics should be argued on their merit alone. Why I say Red Herring, is because, by bringing up an abortion bill (One i don't personally support) in this thread, puts it in the same classification as all other topics.It's far easier to knock down the idea of this bill (IMO) than really tease out the data Targ offers up. I fail to see how the consideration of the alleged evidence of ESP is comparable to the public policy ramifications of an intrusive abortion bill. All I am saying is that automatically classifying something as pseudoscience instead of supporting a rigorous debate between the best minds of the subject isn't helpful. It smacks of ideology. If an idea is worth having, it's worth being challenged on. I think we can all agree on that.
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        Apr 6 2013: But Adrian, I have provided evidence. Your failure to see it does not mean it is not there.

        "A Red Herring is a fallacy in which an irrelevant topic is presented in order to divert attention from the original issue. The basic idea is to 'win' an argument by leading attention away from the argument and to another topic."
        http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/red-herring.html

        The burden of proof is upon you to demonstrate that the topic of pseudoscience in Kansas law is irrelevant. You have offered no evidence for that at all.

        This would be a red herring fallacy if my intent were to lead the argument away from definitions and effects of pseudoscience into the topic of abortion, breast cancer, Kansas politics, or something else, but that is not the case. In fact, my intent is to present evidence that leads right back to a discussion of TED's decisions and the rationales for them. If you insist that what I've introduced is a red herring, the burden of proof for that also remains with you.
        • Apr 6 2013: The fallacy is this:

          something called X caused trouble, therefore everything called X causes (the same kind of) trouble.

          The point being that you have zero argument against the stuff you are criticising except that you can call it by the same name as other stuff which caused problems. You are moving from "some" to "all" without any understanding that such a move is fallacious and without attempt to justify it.
      • Comment deleted

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        Apr 6 2013: That's not a red herring fallacy, Steve. It's not even a fallacy.

        Pseudoscience causes trouble, ipso facto.

        Contest that fact if you like, but stating it is not a fallacy. What has been identified as pseudoscience that's not pseudoscience? You can debate that too, if you like. You haven't yet.
        • Apr 6 2013: I never said it was a red herring fallacy but simply that it was a fallacy, and fallacy it is. Your argument moves from some A are X to all A are X. Now, it may be the case that all A are X but not merely on account of some A being X. Thus even if you show some A are indeed A then you would still need to either show that all A are X or that the other particular As you want to say are X are X.

          But if you could do the latter (or the former), there would be no need to try to make the point by using other As to do the work because you could just use the actual As to do it without the palaver involving all those other (alleged) As alongside some hefty historical revision.
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        Apr 6 2013: "Your argument moves from some A are X to all A are X."

        No it doesn't.

        It's an argument of "A is pseudoscience and B is pseudoscience, so A is like B".

        If you want to challenge either of those premises, go ahead, but the argument is not as you describe it.
        • Apr 6 2013: But you're forgetting that even if A is like B in one respect (it's pseudoscience) that's no reason to believe that A has the same effects as B (bad ones). Thus you are committing exactly the fallacy I said above and don't even know what your own conclusion is. That is, you haven't even worked out what your argument is and in attempting to justify it you missed out the conclusion which must be something like: and has bad effects like B.

          Thus even if we grant you the claim A is like B IN ONE RESPECT, you would still have to show that another respect (having bad effects) applies to both. And saying pseudoscience causes trouble ipso facto is simply question begging pepto-bismol. You don't get that free of explanatory charge.
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        Apr 6 2013: Where did I ever imply, much less say, that A had the same effects as B? Or even that A "causes the same kind of trouble" as B?

        I'm not being intentionally obtuse. For the sake of clarity, what would you identify as A and B?

        If you like it, you can phrase it as:

        A = The Kansas legislature
        B = Graham Hancock

        And what you are claiming that I am arguing is that:

        'The Kansas legislature has the same effects as Graham Hancock."

        Alternatively, it could be:

        A = Pseudoscience about abortion
        B = Pseudoscience about ayahuasca

        And what you claiming I am arguing is:

        "Pseudoscience about abortion has the same effects as pseudoscience about ayahuasca."

        Please choose whatever values of A and B would be appropriate so I can clearly understand what you are claiming about what I have argued.
        • Apr 7 2013: Why don't you explain the relevance of the stuff about Kansas above that started this off. Everyone else on the thread asked you how it was relevant and you just baldly asserted that it is. How? How does the stuff you cited above map onto the issues being discussed here?

          And please note, that Hancock discussion ended several days ago. This is about exTED West Hollywood. How does your Kansas stuff map on? I suspect even you don't know.
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        Apr 7 2013: Steve, scientific research informs public policy, resulting in legislation that can affect us all. When the general public has a poor understanding of the difference between science and pseudoscience there can be harmful and even dangerous consequences.

        In the case of the spurious association between abortion and breast cancer, scientific data has been misinterpreted in such a way as to advance a specific ideological position. The assertions of scientific conclusions promoted by anti-abortion advocates and legislators misrepresent the actual scientific evidence, misleading the public, and function as tools in the hands of ideologues.

        The relevance to this debate, which is about TED's decision to withdraw sponsorship from the West Hollywood event, is with respect to the uses and abuses of scientific data and the evaluation of the contested lines between science and pseudoscience. When Kansas legislators claim that scientific studies demonstrate something that they do not, that is analogous to claims made by participants in the West Hollywood event that are contested by an informed scientific community.

        Spurious research that is claimed to be valid when it is not, whether about eugenics, vaccines, crop circles, spirit entities, crop circles, or the like, misleads the public and degrades the quality of a general understanding of science that is necessary if citizens are to be responsible in electing representatives who will create and pass legislation based on reality, not fantasy. Promotion of pseudoscience constantly undermines science education, costing taxpayers billions of dollars when the expenses of quality education are flushed down the toilet by ideologues who are a constant, erosive force in the advancement of knowledge.

        Pseudoscience, whether spurious correlations between abortion and breast cancer or spurious interpretations of crop circles as the work of extraterrestrials, can result in actual harm when it becomes a tool in the hands of ideologues.
        • Apr 7 2013: Firstly, even highly informed people like, eg, Dawkins, are unable to appraise how science fits into social life and thus he espouses some outrageous social policy and crackpot views, so it's unclear that educating the public up to his level of scientific understanding (surely better than could be hoped for) would resolve the ills you speak of. It's even less clear that the Sleeping Beauty approach you advocate (hide anything that looks like a spinning wheel) would help. Moreover, it seems to me that you have a very naive view of the world and think in terms of very black and white simplistic solutions. In addition, your whole argument is predicated on your view about what constitutes pseudoscience being correct, which it isn't, along with many other highly suspect claims. Thus your argument is really a hodge-podge of false and woolly premises loosely connected, if at all, to a conclusion that fits only within a very simplified, to the point of fantasy, world.

          Thus I reject your premises, I reject your logic, I reject your conclusions and I reject your solutions.
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        Apr 7 2013: I think it is you, Steve, who are being intentionally obtuse.
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        Apr 7 2013: As for your opinion about my explanation, you're certainly entitled to it. I really don't know why I had to post it a second time for you to pay any attention to it. From what I can tell, you're just seeking opportunities to vent without any real interest in pursuing a meaningful discussion.

        My general response: So what? Who cares?

        I think it's already been established that you and I see the world in radically different ways. Shall we pour some beers and toast diversity, or would you like to vent again? If the latter, take as much time and space as you like. I won't be paying much attention.

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