Today marks the fifth year since the founding of the Debunking Denialism website.
During the past year, 44 new articles have been written and posted on Debunking Denialism. Topics ranged from the large Ebola outbreak and the conspiracy theories and pseudoscientific quackery that followed (such as homeopathy) to how an alternative medicine company threatened mental health blogger Natasha Tracy with a lawsuit unless she removed science-based criticism of their product from her website.
Several topics were explored in detail using peer-reviewed scientific papers, such as false confessions and genetic privacy in the age of high-throughput sequencing.
Otherwise credible sources were dissected, such as the promotion of detox regimes by Swedish Public Radio, a credulous blog post advancing anti-psychiatry at the Scientific American Mind website, Swedish Public Television inviting anti-vaccine activists to a “debate” about safety and effectiveness of vaccines, and Tim Wise blaming the Holocaust on “scientism”.
Important issues in the skeptical movement was explored, such as those kinds of pseudosciences that deserve a lot more skeptical attention, productive alternatives to the refusal to provide evidence and the relationship between skeptical debunking, moral condemnations and emotional outbursts.
This year was also the year of the flawed statistical paradigm known as null hypothesis (statistical) significance testing (NHST). The journal Nature Methods published a scathing paper against the statistical practice and I had a largely unproductive exchange on the problems with NHST with a statistics professor.
By its very nature, the combat against dangerous pseudoscientific nonsense is endless. However, it is important to savor victories when they arise. For instance, Daniel Louis Smith, a big seller of miracle mineral solution (chlorine dioxide bleach) was convicted and faces up to 30+ years in prison, the Swedish Medical Product Agency banned a popular preparation of colloidal silver, Kerri Rivera (another chlorine dioxide proponent and seller) has agreed under the threat of legal action to stop selling the bleach and a seriously flawed paper spreading conspiracy theories about chemtrails has been retracted.
Attracting wider interest
Debunking Denialism passed both 400k and 500k views since last anniversary. WordPress calculates these statistics in a very peculiar way as a visitor is only counted the first time he or she visits during the week. I do not read too much into these stats, but it is still fun to pass a large milestone (even though they are arbitrary and based on us having base 10).
Debunking Denialism was also seen in a wider context during the past 12 months. For instance, it was linked in an article on GMOs titled Unhealthy Fixation posted on Slate that was highly critical towards the anti-GMO movement, many articles have been shared by prominent skeptical Facebook pages, and a post about NHST was recommended as part of the reading material for two university courses (“Advanced Bioinformatics for Human Diseases” as well as “Special Topics in Data Analysis and Visualization”) at Ohio State University.