Category Archives: Skepticism

Sexy Alternative Medicine

Why waste your money on medical insurance when a new-age dork and a Russian hottie have the answers? Massage your problems away.

A member of my family was recently diagnosed with a hiatal hernia, a condition involving the esophagus, stomach, and diaphragm. He spent two nights in a real hospital where he was examined by actual doctors. He received a blood transfusion and underwent a battery of unpleasant tests. His initial symptoms were  severe fatigue and a persistent dry cough. An abnormality in a blood test, found during a routine checkup, is what got the whole process rolling. He was found to be dangerously anemic –his red blood cell count was way too low. He’d been slowly bleeding for months from stomach ulcers caused by the hernia. And his body no longer had enough iron to make up for the loss. He’ll be fine thanks to science-based medicine.

Now, the alternative as found on YouTube: Holding up a person’s arm and poking them in various abdominal locations is somehow supposed to diagnose a hiatal hernia. And a gentle and arousing stomach massage is in some way going to correct it. Most everything the man in the video said about this type of hernia is incorrect. Many of the symptoms associated with hiatal hernias are actually nonspecific and could be caused by more serious conditions like cancer. That’s why my family member had an array of intrusive tests, to check for all the possibilities, and to rule out the worst.

The vagueness of “alternative” medicine lends it perfectly to fraud and disastrous outcomes. All you have to do is perform a useless examination, then provide the patient with a bogus untestable (by alternative means) diagnosis. Finally, recommend an innocuous treatment (like massage) and hand over the bill. You’re done, unless you’ve mistakenly lulled the patient into thinking they have a mild ailment, when in fact they have a deadly disease; then you’re a menace to society.

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Jeffrey Epstein, Lawrence Krauss, and The Inequity Of Justice

Jeffrey Epstein —media mogul and sex offender — has a loyal friend, perhaps too loyal. If you have big names like Lawrence Krauss —physicist and sometimes skeptic–on your side, and you have enough money and influence, you can wriggle your way out of hard trouble and into soft justice. Epstein received only 18 months for paying to have sex with numerous underage girls. Some of his other friends who sang his praises prior to his arrest included President Bill Clinton, billionaire clown Donald Trump, and Duke of York Prince Andrew. The inequity of the justice system is always disgusting to behold. To contrast, radio talk-show host Bernie Ward was sentenced to 7 years in federal prison for “downloading graphic images of child sex and distributing them on the Internet.”

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Ghost Hunting With Geiger Counters?

TV ghost-hunters have raided electronic stores for every possible piece of testing equipment that can produce pseudo-scientific drama with speculative data. They use them to span the intellectual and logical gaps –to attribute perfectly natural phenomena to the paranormal or supernatural without any further explanation as to why. Anecdotal evidence is not research. So, it’s no surprise to learn that the GhostHunterStore sells Geiger counters:

A geiger counter can be very useful in an investigation for monitoring the changes in the background radiation of a location. Researchers have found that ambient radiation seems to be drained or increased in the presents [sic] of ghosts. Geiger counters have been shown to be effective in paranormal investigation since the 1970’s and are recommended by ghosthunters such as Troy Taylor and Peter Underwood. [my emphasis]

Yes, what a wonderful “present” a ghost would make. It’s better than a pet rock, and no wrapping is required. And it’s value and size are left up to the imagination. Splurge if you wish, give a friend a dozen ghosts for their birthday. You can easily confirm your ghostly “purchase” (wink, wink) because radiation levels increase or decrease in their presence. Talk about hedging your bets. Up or down and you win. If the level remains steady, I guess it means that your ghost is dead or just resting after a long haunting.

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SmartMeter Anxiety –Part 1

A YouTuber from Ontario, Canada has come to the “scientific” conclusion that a SmartMeter is somehow killing off a shrub. For we all know that evil shrubs can only be killed off by modern technology. Garden pests, dehydration, flooding, over-fertilization, under-fertilization, or strangulation by other plants just won’t do the job. It’s electromagnetic fields that are the bane of gardens everywhere.

Out of nerdy curiosity, I downloaded the PDF instructions for the very model of meter this concerned citizen is utilizing, the HF-35C RF Analyzer. The audio “alarms'” from the meter give the false impression that some sort of dangerous overexposure is occurring, like a Geiger counter frantically clicking away. The reality of the RF meter is not so dramatic.

The RF meter can be set to produce audio, indicating the type of  RF signal. But the instructions are deliberately vague on this point and don’t tell the user which devices produce which audio, and suggest that users test it on various electrical sources to get the feel for themselves. So we are left wondering if the user in the video has the experience to match the audio we hear with the SmartMeter being tested.

This is made so much more relevant when we take into account the directionality of the signal. The RF meter detects cellphones, cordless phones, microwave ovens, 3G, and Bluetooth. The instructions are clear –multiple measurements from different directions should be taken in order to determine from where the strongest signal originates. It could, in fact, be coming from behind the user. But he doesn’t turn in a circle, he only gently arcs his arm in front of the SmartMeter.

We also don’t know if all the other potential sources of RF in or around the homes have been turned off.  Is there WiFi in the neighbor’s home, or a cellphone, or 3G? A modern, suburban street is an RF, “music festival.”

What places this video is real doubt is that SmartMeters don’t broadcast a continuous signal. Why would they need to? They’re only measuring electrical usage, which isn’t complex data. We’re not talking about uploading JPEG’s or video files. It’s just a set of numbers. And according to the utilities, SmartMeters only broadcast every 15 minutes for a about one second. So whatever is being measured here, it probably isn’t a SmartMeter.

My baloney detector is going off. It sounds a lot like a cow stomping on a pig. It’s not pretty.

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A Little About Paleontologist Per Ahlberg

Anyone interested in paleontology, rational thought, or the scourge of creationism might want to read the transcript of an interview with Per Ahlberg, Professor of Evolutionary Biology at Uppsala University in Sweden. His straight talk and wit are refreshing. Here’s a sample:

I think mainstream science has a duty and a responsibility to expose creationism and ID for the pseudoscientific frauds that they are. This is something quite different from engaging them in debate, the way you would do with adherents of an opposing but conceptually sound scientific viewpoint. Scientists must expose them simply because they are frauds, and it won’t do to have large parts of the population bamboozled by the lies and misrepresentations of charlatans… Note that there is an important point here: creationists and ID proponents by necessity attempt to befuddle their audience, not just about the evidence for evolution, but about the nature of scientific enquiry in general. They have to, because it is their only way of concealing the threadbare nature of their own claims. (His emphasis)

From this, it should be clear why I have chosen to take part; though you can add the fact that I enjoy talking to people and presenting my ideas to popular audiences. Money, fame and hot chicks would be welcome but have not been forthcoming so far…

Per Ahlberg is known for his work with fossil tetrapods. His latest contribution is as co-author of a paper about 395-million-year-old tetrapod trackways that were found in Poland. (Here’s a summary of the find by PZ Myers at Pharyngula). And a short video about the find is available on the Journal Nature website. Enjoy!

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Filed under Atheism, Culture Warfare, paleontology, Skepticism

Scientists vs. Weathermen

A string of TV weathermen has appeared on various Fox News shows over the past few months to deny climate change. The producers at Fox News sure know how to bypass the best and the brightest for the mediocre. I mean why call up an actual researcher with years of climatological experience to give you the global assessment, when an annoying, local TV, blow-hard can reduce a complex subject into anecdotal bite-sized nuggets? It’s cool and breezy at the beach today, as compared to last year at the same time, so global warming must be a liberal, socialist lie. Now back to you, Tom Tucker.

At least some people are speaking up against the stupidity. And others have made insightful videos.

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Paranormal Idiots Influence Children’s TV

This week, the Cartoon Network is broadcasting a children’s ghost-hunting show called The Othersiders. Following in the footsteps of those incredibly stupid paranormal shows on other channels, The Othersiders has children walking through creepy buildings at night with loads of high-tech equipment, with them pretending to interpret meaningless data or quibbling over non sequiturs. The $3000 microphone picked an unexplained farting sound; must be a ghost. The electromagnetic field detector indicated electrical activity near the toaster; must be the devil himself.

What’s doubly ridiculous about this show is that it has actually offended some of the professional, ghost hunters, but not for the reason it bothers reasonable people. They don’t like the idea of children handling the dangerous paranormal. Here’s a quote:

All it will take is one of these kids getting attacked and traumatized for life and all these underage shows will be removed overnight from the network. Until that happens, let’s protect them by not making the focus of Cartoon Networks new season an underage ghost hunting show. TV will not be there when stories surface of kids getting hurt while ghosthunting after watching this show. These shows are role models for this next generation of ghosthunters. . . . if we let them watch alone, we are responsible for what happens, especially if it is later determined to be dangerous.

The only danger I see in this farce is that children are being taught to act like fightened gullible sheep. Of course, there is the risk of someone tripping in the dark and falling down some stairs. But hopefully, what most of these kids will walk away with is a good laugh.

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It’s The Bishop Of Lancaster

I prefer Monty Python’s Bishop sketch to any story of real clergymen. But I’m sure the Bishop Of Lancaster, Patrick O’Donohue, is a warm friendly fellow who would offer a guest a cup of tea and a biscuit. When it comes to matters of the Catholic Church, however, I think he’s a die-hard theist. He’s all upset over the threat of “aggressive secularism”. He’s particularly in a tizzy over educated Catholics spreading skepticism. I think that’s called the free market, or in religion’s case, freewill. Huh. I get the feeling the Catholic Church doesn’t like competition, a.k.a. freedom of thought. What say you, Bishop?

“In the case of education, we can see its distortion through the widespread dissemination of radical scepticism, positivism, utilitarianism and relativism.”

“Taken together, these intellectual trends have resulted in a fragmented society that marginalizes God, with many people mistakenly thinking they can live happy and productive lives without him”

So I’m obligated to buy your product, Bishop? Even drug dealers aren’t that aggressive in their advertising. Going door-to-door and shoving crack cocaine in people’s faces is bad for business.

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Young Australians Revolt Against Gullibility

Young Australian Skeptics

When I was 7 years-old my favorite subjects of conversation were Bigfoot and UFO’s. I eagerly believed in both of these questionable phenomena based solely on “the evidence” provided by cheesy TV shows. Boy, was I a major drongo (Australian slang for a stupid person). Well, I would have been if was an Australian. I’m not. I’m an American, so technically I was a dumbass. But America and Australia share a common problem. Both countries are plagued with creationism and other pseudo-scientific, and anti-intellectual movements, COUGH religion COUGH. Rev. Ken Ham is an export of Australia, I’m sorry to say.

So, it’s only natural that an organization of young Australians would spring up to encourage others to be more discerning and skeptical. It’s called Young Australian Skeptics: A Sanctuary for Young Free Thinkers. Check it out, or you’ll go to hell. What, you doubt me? Do you want to take that chance? But what if you’re wrong?

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PETA Is A Stupid Organization

I didn’t say animal rights are stupid. I said PETA is a stupid organization. Animal rights are great. It’s the anti-intellectual buffoons who run PETA who bother me. They make the rest of us liberals look bad. The main reason is that PETA members bend reality to fit their views instead of the other way round. PETA founder, Ingrid Newkirk, in order to spread the word about vegetarianism, has repeatedly made several baseless pseudo-scientific claims.

1) Newkirk claims meat and dairy cause most human diseases, from cancer to diabetes to mental illness. Aside from the complete lack of evidence for this belief, it’s funny that hundreds of thousands of years of natural selection hasn’t removed this harmful behavior from the human lineage. PETA’s “science” seems to indicate that the most sickly and poorly adapted animals survive to reproduce.

2) Newkirk has said many times that meat enhances human aggression. To back up this claim she points to wild carnivores like lions and tigers. The problem is she doesn’t know nature very well. Newkirk confuses aggression with killing. An animal that kills another animal to eat isn’t necessarily aggressive. Cheetahs, for example, like others cats, spend most of the day conserving energy, not picking fights with strangers down by the watering hole. Herbivores, like hippos or moose, are generally more aggressive than carnivores because they have more reasons to be aggressive, like holding grazing territory and warding off predators.

2) Newkirk advocates dogs and cats being converted to a vegetarian diet. I guess it’s not enough that Fluffy-The-Cat’s owner must subsist on berries and twigs, Fluffy must be converted to the same diet. Perhaps Fluffy can be convinced to join the Green Party, for if pet and owner eat the same, they must also vote the same. But I’ve read nothing but bad things about a vegetarian pet diet. For one, vegetarian cats and dogs can develop severe intestinal problems. Part of being a carnivore is having a shorter intestine than a herbivore. Meat is, in fact, easier to digest than plant matter. This is an engineering problem, one that cannot be overcome with wishful thinking.

Currently, PETA promotes the idea of In vitro meat, meat cultured in a lab from animal cells. PETA is even offering a $1 million prize to scientists to make this happen. I suppose all the health problems attributed to meat eating by PETA are going to be removed from this laboratory grade stuff. Yes? No? Maybe?

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