The year has come to an end, and it’s time to look back at some of my favourite pieces from 2012. The latter half of the year has been full of fear, stupidity, and hysteria; but even when it seems that times are the most bleak, it’s best to stay optimistic about our current situation and about the future. So the following articles are my favorites for each month. Click the picture if you want to see the article.
“Even with increasingly productive medical technology and an ever increasing body of knowledge on the ailments, illness, and the human body, errors are absolutely necessary to make us better at what we do.”
This article looks at the vast amount of data showing preventable errors made by doctors. But it doesn’t simply blame doctors for mistakes, because they’re not the only ones at fault when it comes to medical errors. There are some measures that can be taken by both doctors and patients to increase the chances of a positive medical outcome.
“In the context of the complete research literature, it seems pretty clear that keeping a gun in the house decreases safety significantly.”
What can I say? This article was simply a collection of studies that looked at the question of gun ownership and safety. This post gets lots of hits every time another big shooting happens in America. But this one is not an opinionated article – it’s just straight-up science. The next articles on the other hand…
Guns in America
Part 1: The Current State of Gun Violence
Part 2: Gun Cultures and Foreign Solutions
“If I was a gun manufacturer, I’m sure I would make a killing. But I’d really prefer just to make a living.”
One question I wondered – what will it take for Americans to have a real discussion about guns? – was basically answered by the recent elementary school shooting. And yet, I am still totally pessimistic about the discussion. This post very critically shows why I think gun proponents are wrong.
“Perhaps religious people are just self-reporting more altruism than actually acting. How would we ever know? This is where the study of the Good Samaritan may be helpful.”
This article looks at the science of altruism and challenges the stereotype that religious people are for some reason more altruistic than their non-religious counterparts.
“It appears as though students are living in an alcohol-filled culture – no thanks, I’m sure, to movies revolving around sex and alcohol – but some people are doing it just to fit in. Is this true happiness?”
Considering the amount of drinking that goes on in campuses all over the world, it’s worth asking the question “is it socially benefitial?” This article looks at the science involved in that very question.
“If Iranians like President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who sponsored his own anti-semitic cartoons in the past) were attempting to show the hypocrisy of the West with regards to free speech, they didn’t just fail – they were obliterated like a bomb strapped to a torso.”
After so many Muslim nations saw protests and riots at American embassies, I decided to look at the history of satire in Middle Eastern cultures. I was surprised to see that there was some self-critical satire in such places; but not so surprised to see that many satirists are subsequently targeted by authorities.
“America didn’t send a man on the moon by praying him there. It was science that did it. In other words, educated people, smart people, and experts.”
It seems like Americans are busy arguing about the “war on Christmas,” but no one is talking about the war on intelligence. The five quotes I’ve collected show you just how bad it has gotten, along with explaining the cultural context in which intellectuals – including educators – are often vilified.
“Something that psychologists have gradually come to understand is that there’s one way to make your message penetrate listeners’ defences – be funny.”
Something I have wanted to talk about for a long time – why comedy is so effective. The first stand-up comedian I ever saw live was eye-opening, not just because it was so funny, but because it was so persuasive. This article shows the science that explains why that is. And actually, if you browse Skeptikai then you’ll notice that I very often refer to comedians to make my points for me.
Part 1: Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Suffers in Silence
Part 2: Ahmadinejad, Israel, and the Presidency
Satiran is a two-part satire about Ahmadinejad and Iran. But this is not a random essay that looks at the absurdity and hypocrisy of the Iranian regime. There is a source to justify practically every statement made, making this a remarkably honest piece. It’s more like a news article written from a biased Iranian perspective… plus the sources (which are all real, check them out). The articles talk about the legality of Ahmadinejad’s practices, as well as his struggles and current issues in the country and abroad.
“While boredom may intuitively feel like a relatively trivial subject at first, just think of all the doctors and peacekeepers who deal with saving lives, as well as the productivity that’s at stake for every other job.”
Oddly enough, I started reading some articles about this while I was at work. I can’t say I was bored, so much as curious; but regardless, this topic turned out to be more interesting than I expected. This article looks at, among other things, the life of doctors in warzones when they’re not working on a patient in need.
“The apocalypse is real… but only if you believe it.”
The thing about this article is that… despite the December 21 doomsday prophecy already having ended, this article is not exactly dated. It was made so that it would always be true. This article shows that such doomsday prophecies are serious things, and children need to be aware of them in a scientifically responsible way. If we learn more about the world, we would know that likelihood of such doomsday prophecies is so minute that it’s not even worth worrying about.
An Amazing New Year
I hope this post doesn’t put a negative spin on the year. Indeed, there’s a lot to mourn in today’s media-obsessed world – we’re never been so aware of the pain and suffering going on in and outside of our respective borders.
But there’s also a lot to be thankful for, and a lot of amazing things all around us, happening every day. Every second. Every moment.
May 2013 bring you many amazing moments. Like the one you’re about to experience with this amazing video: