Robert Todd Carroll is one of a growing band of non-scientists (he teaches philosophy) who believe they are qualified to tell us what we should and shouldn't believe, scientifically. That he has no scientific qualifications, or training, or professional experience, does not deter6streams.xyzfrom his conviction that he is an authority on this subject and, in The Skeptic's Dictionary, he sets out to tell us ordinary people what we may and may not legitimately think.
This bogus-guru stance should be warning enough of what is to follow but, once he warms to his subject, Carroll's inhibitions disappear completely and he veers from the dogmatic to the preposterous in a hilarious display of scientific ignorance and prejudice. From a mountain of mistakes and misunderstandings, here are a few of his more entertaining errors.
AcupunctureCarroll says; "Scientific research... has failed to demonstrate that acupuncture is effective against any disease." Except for the scientific research that has demonstrated acupuncture is effective against some diseases and was published in peer-reviewed scientific journals more than a decade ago, such as Dundee, J.W., 1988, inJournal of the Royal Society of Medicine, Dundee, J.W., 1987, inBritish Journal of Anaesthesia, 59, p 1322. And Fry, E.N.S., 1986, inAnaesthesia, 41: 661-2. Had Carroll made even the slightest attempt to search the scientific literature he would have found these and many other references to well-conducted double-blind trials in which patients experienced measurable benefits in comparison with the placebo group.
CryptozoologyThe Skeptic's Dictionary tells us that; "Since cryptozoologists spend most of their energy trying to establish the existence of creatures, rather than examining actual animals, they are more akin to PSI researchers than to zoologists. Expertise in zoology, however, is asserted to be a necessity for work in cryptozoology, according to Dr. Bernard Heuvelmans, who coined the term..." Had he read Dr Heuvelmans' book, Carroll would have learned that the discovery of new species is normal science and many are discovered each year. New species number hundreds amongst insects, and dozens among small mammals and reptiles. Discovery of large unknown mammals and reptiles is unusual but certainly not unknown or even rare. In 2002, for example, respected primatologist Dr Shelly Williams of the prestigious Jane Goodall Institute in Maryland, tracked and came face to face with a previously unknown species of great ape at Bili in the Congo, deep in the African jungle. The creatures stand some 6 feet tall and weigh up to 225 pounds. Dr Williams reported in New Scientist, "Four suddenly came rushing out of the bush towards me. These guys were huge and they were coming in for the kill. As soon as they saw my face, they stopped and disappeared."
Dermo-optical perceptionCarroll says; "Dermo-optical perception (DOP) is the alleged ability to 'see' without using the eyes. DOP is a conjurer's trick, often involving elaborate blindfolding rituals, but always leaving a pathway (usually down the side of the nose), which allows for unobstructed vision." The scientific view; Dr Yvonne Duplessis was appointed director of a committee to investigate Dermo-optical sensitivity. Her conclusion is, 'Controlled studies indicate support for the theory of dermo-optical sensitivity and perception.' Dr Duplessis's experiments have even led to a possible perfectly natural explanation. In her conclusions, she says, 'Thus these different methods show that the thermal feelings induced by visible colors are not subjective, as it is generally admitted, and that the infrared radiations, situated in a far infrared range. are acting on every part of the body. This gives us possible grounds for concluding that also during ordinary visual perception of colored surfaces a human eye reacts not only to rays of the visible spectrum but also to infrared radiation emitted by these surfaces.' More simply, Dr Duplessis's experiments appear to show that coloured surfaces reflect energy as heat as well as light and that the eye (like other parts of the human body) is to some extent sensitive to heat as well as to light -- a very much simpler explanation than Carroll's baseless inventions.
Extraterrestrials (UFOs, Flying Saucers)Carroll says "Edward U. Condon was the head of a scientific research team which was contracted to the University of Colorado to examine the UFO issue. His report concluded that 'nothing has come from the study of UFOs in the past 21 years that has added to scientific knowledge...further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified in the expectation that science will be advanced thereby'." Carroll adds, "So far... nothing has been positively identified as an alien spacecraft in a way required by common sense and science. That is, there has been no recurring identical UFO experience and there is no physical evidence in support of either a UFO flyby or landing." Had Carroll troubled to actually read Condon's report he would have found this conclusion of Dr Condon's regarding photographs identified by the report as 'Case 46'; 'This is one of the few UFO reports in which all factors investigated, geometric, psychological, and physical appear to be consistent with the assertion that an extraordinary flying object, silvery, metallic, disk-shaped, tens of meters in diameter, and evidently artificial, flew within sight of two witnesses.' It is perfectly true that Edward Condon concluded that 'further extensive study of UFOs probably cannot be justified' but the reason he gave is that it is not possible to study fruitfully a phenomenon that occurs at random. He and his team emphatically did NOT conclude that "there is no physical evidence in support of either a UFO flyby or landing" - that is the conclusion of Carroll alone, and it is based purely on ignorance of the real facts as stated in Dr Condon's report.