Economics, Literature and Scepticism

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I am a PhD student in Economics. I am originally from South Africa and plan to return there after my PhD. I completed my M. Comm in Economics and my MA In Creative Writing (Poetry) at the University of Cape Town, where I worked as a lecturer before starting my PhD.

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Sunday, February 28, 2010

Carnvival of the Africans #14

Posted by Simon Halliday | Sunday, February 28, 2010 | Category: , , , |

Playing host to this month's Carnival, I've had the fun of trawling the web for a few interesting posts by Africans on relevant topics (scepticism, science, etc), and having read submissions I've received for the carnival.  If you'd like to host a Carnival then get hold of Mike at michael{dot}meadon{at}gmail{dot}com and volunteer for a position as host, vacancies as early as next month!  Take a look at the guidelines here.  Anyway, here are the relevant posts for this month's Carnival of the Africans. from Ionian Enchantment submitted two posts. First, In praise of deference, in which he articulates a position where he argues for deference to those with more scientific expertise than oneself.  I need to reiterate that his conclusions differs from appealing to authority - I believe {X} simply because {Big Name Y} believes {X}.  Read the article for his discussion. Mike proposed a second article, The Cost of Truth is Eternal Vigilance, in which he explains why one needs to be vigilant about one's own biases and the biases of others when trying to make propositions about states of the world, parodying his example '2009 was the rainiest year ever!'

Angela, the Skeptic Detective,  has three fantastics posts.  First, 'Atlas V makes you feel like you're tripping', in which she examines sonic booms and speed - a physics fun time.  In the second post, 'How to win friends...' she examines the 'work' of Mike Adams, a 'health ranger' and his beliefs in naturopathy and the natural way.  Good skeptic defence Angela.  Her third post, 'Paranormal Investigators', looks at paranormal beliefs, specific South African urban legends, and their (in)validity as investigated by the South African Society for Paranormal Research. 

At Communicating Science, The African Way, Muza Gondwese asks whether 'To snip or not to snip'.  She presents the evidence about male circumcision in several African countries and says that there is some evidence that it helps to prevent HIV transmissions (helps to prevent minimally she highlights).  She discusses policy implications for Malawi and the situation in Swaziland.  A timely post for those considering the role of prevention in HIV - look at the science, do a cost-benefit analysis. (I understand this is a contentious topic, but it's still worth reading her piece). 

Ross at the Science of Sport wrote an intriguing post on 'The mental edge or physiology' in sport, in which he tries to understand the role of psychology and 'mental toughness' in sport against physiological superiority.  One of the problems, evidently, is that of measurability: how do we measure mental toughness? Is it the same across sports? Is there a consistent and falsifiable theory of mental toughness? He tries to navigate some of these problems in a post accessible to the layperson (so, no, there aren't any discussions of falsifiability and demarcation). Skeptic Blacksheep has has two fascinating reports, the first 'My experience with Simply Slim' recounts the author electing to 'test' this herbal diet tablet and its banning in South Africa, she then recounts some of the fallout of her post on her experiences in the second post, where she was told by a marketing professional that people complaining of side effects are suffering from Munchausen's Syndrome and evidently not the effects of a double dose of sibutramine - the drug the Medicines Control Council foud in the 'herbal tablet'.  Oh conspiracies!

Mark Widdicombe has three good posts.  The first, 'Good News', in which he describes the Lancet retraction of Andrew Wakefield's paper linking the measles, mumps and rubella vaccine to autism and bowel disorders (a skeptic victory).  The second, 'Witch Professor' in which he entertainingly describes an interaction with the eponymous
doctor, has to be read for entertainment value.  Finally, in 'Smoke signals', he reports on his experiences quitting smoking, doing his best to evaluate various methods for quitting smoking.

And finally we get to me. I reviewed two pieces of research.  The first, 'Making money vs. Windfalls - Are you hardnosed' in which I reviewed a 2002 article investigating the methods of experimental economics - giving windfall cash to people and watching them behave. The second post, 'Neural Evidence for inequality aversion when giving away other peoples' money' applies the critique from the 2002 paper to a new paper from Nature investigating inequality aversion using FMRI.  I also have a more entertaining piece, looking at whether ANCYL (a South African political organisation) knows what evidence is: 'Untrue, Fabricated, False Lies'.

Lastly, in an anti-skeptical moment of lunacy, I thought I'd have to proclaim Owen Swart a Pre-Cog, a Visionary, a Psychic!  Why...? Well, he accurately predicted that I'd post this carnival! Genius. Psychic amasingness! Precognitive phenomenon! Philip K. Dick hero!
On that note I'll end this month's Carnival of the Africans.

Currently have 1 comments:

  1. Good one Simon, thanks!