Pseudoscience at a Science Museum?

During a recent visit to Dallas’ new science museum, Tim Crookham, found some Perot Museumpseudoscience in the museum’s gift store, and he brought it to the museum’s attention.  The following is his account of what happened.

On Saturday, March 9th, I went down to the Perot Museum of Nature and Science. It’s a new museum that opened in Dallas in December of 2012. At the end of my visit I stopped by the gift shop. While looking around the museum store, I saw a necklace in a box with the words “Titanium Sport Energy Necklace” printed on the box. It looked like the braided necklaces I’ve seen baseball players wear. I picked up the box and the description on the back read something like “works with your body’s energy field to increase energy and promote well-being.” It also had things like “good for those with back pain and poor circulation”. I’ve seen enough Randi talks, Penn & Teller B.S. shows, and Richard Saunders clips that the skeptical alarm bells were ringing loud and clear. I was both shocked and disappointed that this found its way into the museum. I tried to find an employee to tell, but the store was packed.

Titanium_sport_energy_necklace

I went back to the store the next day and talked to an employee and the store manager and told them this necklace was pseudoscience and doesn’t belong in the museum. They told me that the buyers for the store are in California and that they would pass along my concern. They didn’t seem to understand that this was not a good thing to have in a science museum. I went home and drafted an email to the museum in which I included some web links such as one from sciencebasedmedicine.org regarding the unscientific nature of the product. I remembered Eugenie Scott saying that it’s important to CC: knowledgeable people and organizations on emails and the two that came to my mind were the JREF and the Skeptics Society. I also copied the museum’s PR director since the email address for the museum was just a generic inf@ email address. Below is my email:

Dear Perot Museum Representative,

I came across some alternative medicine pseudoscience being sold at the Perot Museum Store and was shocked and disappointed. The item that caught my attention was the Titanium Sport Energy Necklace. This item claims to work with the body’s energy field to increase energy and promote health. There is no scientific evidence to support those claims. As a member of the Perot Museum, I request that Titanium Sport Energy Necklace and any other pseudoscientific merchandise be removed from the museum store so as to align the store with the scientific mission of the rest of the museum. Below are articles regarding energy necklaces and their lack of scientific support.

http://www.sciencebasedmedicine.org/index.php/pseudoscience-sells/#more-15791

http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-500368_162-4525964.html

http://www.wired.com/playbook/2010/11/baseball-phiten-neckwear/all/

Regards,

Tim Crookham

Perot Museum Member

The next day I received a response with the words, “Thank you so much for your input. We will coordinate with the Museum Shop to effect removal as soon as possible.”

Yay for science and skepticism!!!

UPDATE: This story has also been covered by D.J. Grothe on the JREF Swift blog: Score One for the Good Guys

Power bracelets for sale, capitalism meets new-age.

by John Blanton

This is from the North Texas Skeptics Travel and Amusement section. OK, so there is no Travel and Amusement section, but there should be. Especially the amusement part.

On vacation in Fort Myers, Florida, we met up with some friends and stopped by a crafts fair going on near the river front. Lots of good stuff, including handmade soaps, peanut brittle and the usual fair fare. Plus power bracelets.

PowerBracelet

I’m getting old and a bit cynical, and it seems nothing is new to me. So when I saw this booth the entire scenario played out in my mind before it played out in the real world. The following dialog is barely approximate.

“What are you selling?”

“Power bracelets.”

“How do they work?”

“I’ll give you a demonstration.”

He hands me one, and I’m not supposed to put it on, just hold it in my left hand. I have to put my camera down first, lest it be damaged by the power. I am then expected to stand on my left foot only and extend my right arm. He’s going to press down on my right hand. Jesus, how far back did I see this coming?

He takes the bracelet (my left hand is now empty) and presses down. No way can I keep from dropping my right arm or else falling down. Then I take the bracelet in my left hand, and he prepares to press down on my right. I swear to Jesus I know exactly what is about to happen.

Sure enough, as soon as he starts to press down I drop my resistance and allow my right hand to be pushed down. He immediately senses I am dropping my resistance, and he immediately quits pushing. My right hand is not supposed to go down while I am holding the bracelet in my left hand. It’s his job to see this does not happen.

We go through this charade a couple more times, and I cannot resist a laugh. He is puzzled and becomes even more puzzled when I remark, cryptically, “You have no idea just who you are dealing with.” I promised him his picture would be posted on the Internet and went off to join my friends.

I’m telling you, Skeptics, it’s out there, it always has been and it always will be. There is just no end to the fun.

An Evening with Eric Meikle and a Special Expert Guest

Fascinating evening.  Eric Meikle discussed the continued prevalence of evolution denial in the United States and explained how the National Center on Science Education (NCSE.com) supports everyone involved in school administration, parents and students, teachers and administrators, as well as policy-makers in the accurate teaching of evolution, and now, climate science.

Meikle discussed the NCSE’s role in assembling and supporting the team to ultimately prevailed in theKitzmiller vs Dover trial http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kitzmiller_v._Dover_ Area_School_District.  Fortunately for NT Skeptics, accompanying Meikle to our dinner is none other than Robert Pennock (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Robert_T._Pennock), philosopher of science and one of the witnesses for the plaintiff at the Dover trial.
Pennock discussed his work a Michigan State in which they are pushing the boundaries of our evolutionary understanding.  In one of their most significant projects, they are using the principles of evolution to solve engineering problems that can improve our lives and the world in general.  In essence, they are turning up the speed on evolution to create better cars, safer tools, and much more.  For many who doubt whether the principles of evolution can produce significant design improvements, this will be clear evidence that it can.  In addition to this exciting work, Pennock shared some insights from his his book Tower of Babel: The Evidence Against the New Creationism. http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0262661659/thenorthtexasske. Purchasing his book through this link helps to support NT Skeptics. It is available in electronic format.

North Texas Skeptics Flashback, July 1992

It’s still July, right?  This was a busy month with a trip to The Amazing Meeting in Las Vegas.  Now, just in time, a history flashback 20 years ago in July from the newsletter archives.

In the July 1992 newsletter, Pat Reeder covered global warming, currently referred to as “climate change”, and back then often referred to as “the greenhouse effect”.  It is interesting that the tone of the article leaned toward skepticism against the existence of human-caused climate change, mainly because of some inconsistencies in the evidence at that time.  Even a few years ago, many skeptics were on-the-fence about climate change.  Today, most skeptics in the movement are pretty convinced by the evidence that there is anthropogenic climate change.  To examine the evidence yourself, check out sites like the National Center for Science Education‘s Climate Change 101, and Skeptical Science.

Another story briefly covered the local television minister, Robert Tilton, who was in the middle of lawsuits over his healing claims.  Tilton was accused of swindling his followers into sending him money to heal them through their prayer requests that they would mail to Tilton’s organization.  Investigations found that Tilton took the money, and the requests were thrown in the trash without being read.

Pat Reeder wrapped up his section with a news roundup of various national articles about witches, astrologers, and Elvis sightings.

Long time NTS member John Blanton described his investigation into local practitioners of the Gerson therapy diet.  John attended a lecture on healing through Gerson therapy, and describes the basic claims of the therapy and reports about some of the people he spoke with at the lecture.  You can read more about Max Gerson, his claims, and the risks on Wikipedia.

Dan Phelps covered Reverend Carl Baugh, a young Earth creationist who claimed to find human footprints next to famous dinosaur tracks in the Paluxy River basin in Glen Rose, TX.  Baugh established the Creation Evidence Museum in a trailer outside of Dinosaur Valley National Park in Glen Rose.  In the museum he displays his claimed evidence for a young Earth, including evidence of the coexistence of man with the dinosaurs. Dan visited the museum and reported what he found there.

Check out the full July 1992 newsletter for all the details.

 

Skepticism 101

Skepticism 101 BannerAre you new to the skeptic movement?  Are you looking for material to educate others about skepticism and critical though?  Need a refresher?  The Skeptics Society has a new Skepticism 101 resource section of their website.  It is a collection of recommended books, courses, papers, presentations, etc.  The material can be used in classes or for self-study.  The collection can be searched by topic, by resource type, by academic discipline, and by academic level.  Check it out.

There is also extra background information about the resource center from Michael Shermer in his blog post, How to Learn to Think Like a Scientist (Without Being a Geek) .

Welcome to Science

Zen Pencils, Welcome to Science, Phil Plait

Welcome to Science

There are a number of web comics that promote skeptical thinking and science; prominent examples are xkcd and Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal.  Recently, I discovered Zen Pencils which started in February 2012.  The general theme of the Zen Pencils is to illustrate inspirational quotes from famous people.  The most recent installment is Welcome to Science which quotes Phil Plait, The Bad Astronomer.   The full quote comes from a speech Phil gave at a science fair in 2005.  It captures well what the skeptic movement and science advocacy are about.

Skeptical comics are not a recent phenomenon.  North Texas Skeptics has been publishing comics as part of their publications dating all the way back in the 1980′s.  You can find the comics in the newsletters archived on this web site, and there is a collection of some comics on the Cartoons page.

 

North Texas Skeptics Flashback, June 1992

North Texas Skeptics FlashbackThe North Texas Skeptics has a long history, much of it recorded in newsletters dating back to 1987.  The newsletter archives are available on this site, and this article highlights some of the news from 20 years ago this month.  I hope to make this a regular post each month to review the way things were, and I suspect much of the same woo from 20 years ago is still around today.

In the June 1992 newsletter the article, The Third Eye, covers reports about UFOs and aliens on TV and on the computer bulletin boards.  This was a time when the World Wide Web was not available (not until 1993), and most of the population was not on the Internet.  Dial-up services like AOL, Compuserve, and Prodigy were places where many people communicated digitally.  You’ll see references to Prodigy in the article.

Ross Perot with AlienThis year, 2012, is an election year in the U.S., and the 4 year cycle means 20 years ago was also politically active.  There is a light hearted article which asks the question, Is Ross Perot an Alien?.  Ross Perot was running for president, and Perot’s Alliance Airport in Fort Worth was relatively new at that time. Was Alliance Airport built as a spaceport for alien visitors?

There is a review of a new age mail order company in Magic by Mail.  The company, Pyramid Books and New-Age Collection had operators standing by 24 hours a day to take the orders of “the uncritical and unquestioning across America”.  A quick search reveals that they are still around today in the Internet age as The Pyramid Collection, even with the same phone number as in the article.  They do seem to be more fashion focused today, but you can still get crystals, tarot cards, books about Chakras.

Check out the newsletter for all the details.

The Amazing Meeting 2012

The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) is hosting their annual Amaz!ng Meeting in Las Vegas, NV, at the South Point Hotel & Casino, July 12 -15, 2012.  This year’s theme will be “Skepticism and The Future”.  The meeting is full of presentations and in-depth workshops, and there is plenty of time to socialize with the speakers and fellow skeptics.  Check out the Amaz!ng Meeting site for all the details for registering and for the special group rate at the hotel. Some member of North Texas Skeptics have attended in the past and will be attending this year.  Join us at our monthly meetings and social dinners if you would like to discuss TAM, or anything else.

The new look.

Welcome to the renovated web site.  All the old content should still be here, some dating back over 25 years. Look under the Resources menu item for much of the old archives. More new content will be coming as the organization evolves.

Thank you for your patience.