Update 2. Just added one more app that I’ve been using and just forgot to put in the original article.
When I write about skepticism, sitting at my trusty MacBook Pro, I have access to every source and bit of information that is required to write about evolution, vaccines, global warming, and the existence of sasquatch. If I need to dig up a link to an article that debunks some silly anti-vaccination lunatic’s claim, it’s easy to do. However, since people make pseudoscientific claims all the time, it’s always good to have access to information right at the tip of your fingers. Of course, it’s relatively easy to put your question in google, in the hope of getting a good answer. Then again, you have to weed through the 100 hits that might actually support the bogus claim.
A while ago, I downloaded a bunch of iPhone apps that allow me to quickly access information that assists me in various arguments. Usually, the pseudoscience pushing villain slinks away into the darkness when I show them that I have an App for That. In no particular order, here are some of my favorite apps.
This is my absolute favorite of all time app for the iPhone. It’s more fun and entertaining than Angry Birds. It has better information than HuffPo (Ok, that’s too easy). It’s endorsed by James Randi who said it’s the “first aid for psychic attacks.” I think he’s referring to debates. Dr. Stephen Barrett of Quackwatch uses it for quick reference. It is definitely one of the most powerful tools for dealing with pseudoscience or general quackery. I use it all the time. AND it’s only $0.99 (less than a cup of coffee). Actually, I’m amazed it’s so cheap, because it’s so useful. It doesn’t store anything on your iPhone or iPad, so you need a 3G/4G connection or WiFi (and who doesn’t have both with their iDevices?).
This is simply one of the best skepticism apps in the iTunes Store. It lists out all the usual and a few obscure arguments made by climate change denialists. It gives both a short answer to the denialist claim, and a long sourced answer. It updates the arguments occasionally over the air, so that you have the newest information. It also has an RSS feed that gives some of the newest research and denialism in the climate change field. My only issue that it calls the denialists “global warming skeptics.” I will always contend that skepticism is science and evidence based. And if you click the above link, I make a huge commission of 5%. Unfortunately, on a free app, I get nothing. But read that again, it’s free, so it’s a great app which costs you nothing.
Atheist Pocket Debater
Atheism Debate Guide
Both of these apps are very useful if you’re an Atheist and you have to deal with some theist argument. Like that all of the Founding Fathers of the United States wanted a Christian nation, or other such nonsense. The Atheist Pocket Debater is very expensive at $2.99, and hasn’t been updated in awhile, but it includes two cool sections, one strictly on skepticism and another on humanism. Both are very useful when the atheist arguments move over to science (as they should); remember, evolution is a scientific matter, not a religious one, and this app is better at dealing with it. The second app, Atheism Debate Guide, is free (you have to love free apps) and very complete. It sticks with atheism mostly, though it provides information on logical fallacies, which I find very useful. Logical fallacies are the staple of denialists, because they mostly have no evidence, so they need to confuse the audience with logical misdirects.
This app is the official Skeptoid app, the mouthpiece of Brian Dunning, one of the best general skeptics out there. If you haven’t read his blog, you should. As opposed to yours truly, he holds back on his snark levels, just letting the evidence debunk the pseudoscientific claims. He discusses everything from Amelia Earhart to aliens. This app gives you quick access to all of his posts, so that you can watch or listen to them at your leisure. Even though you can get his podcasts for free, this app pays him a small amount for all of his efforts in the skeptical community.
This app is the podcast of Skeptic’s Magazine. It’s entertaining, and if you need to update your brain on why all of the ghost hunting shows on the History Channel are idiotic, here’s the information for you. I enjoy the episodes, so getting educated while laughing occasionally makes for a pleasant experience.
There were no vaccine apps that really helped deal with the anti-vaccination crowd, but there are two really good apps that give you accurate information about vaccines. Either one will give you good information about vaccines, and they’re both free. Get them both!
The Merck Manual-Home Edition
There really are no apps that debunk alternative medicine (really, just snake oil beliefs), so I thought I’d just post the Merck Manual. This version is actually easy-to-use, unlike the paper version, which requires a lot of work to drill down to a diagnosis. It gives the evidence-based treatments for each diagnosis, as opposed to some of the snake oil apps I’ve seen, which tells you how homeopathy cures everything. There are better medical diagnosis apps, such as Skyscape Medical Resources, Cochrane Handbook for Systematic Reviews of Interventions, Clinical Evidence – Unbound Medicine, Inc., and Medscape – WebMD, but they tend to be very expensive for the information, and they are targeted to healthcare professionals.
If you’re going to be a good skeptic, you need to have easy access to as many peer-reviewed publications as possible. PubMed is the central repository of almost every single medical and scientific publication (it sticks mostly to life sciences, so it’s hard to search out articles on dinosaurs, for example). This app allows you to quickly query PubMed with keywords to find that perfect article to debunk the “vaccines cause blah blah blah” argument.
The Magic of Reality–Richard Dawkins
This is not a book. It’s much more than that. It has the full text of Dawkin’s new book, The Magic of Reality, explaining how the reality of science is filled with more wonder than ancient myths. It is so much more than the dead-tree version, with stunning illustrations and animation, audio and video from Dawkins himself, and lots more. It makes a great tool for dealing with the anti-science types, but if you don’t walk away with a smile about the beauty of science, then I’d be shocked. I know some of you prefer hard cover books, but this is what I imagine is the future of “book” publishing. It’s only for the iPad, and probably will look incredible on the new version. If you only like free apps, then there’s not much I can say here. But if you buy electronic books, then instead of getting the black and white book version, pick this one up. I just can’t say enough.
These are my favorites. None of them are as fun as Angry Birds, but they’re probably much more useful. If you’ve got other app suggestions, drop a comment here. Maybe I’ll get it!
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