Tag Archives: Simon Singh

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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Filed under Science, Skepticism

A Conservative Christian Slacker

After reading a particularly fatuous opinion piece, I’m reminded of the stale joke about the man who climbs into a cab and asks the driver how to get to Carnegie Hall. The driver says, “practice”. In my version, the man asks the driver how to get to the creation museum. And the diver says, “sleep in science class.” Well, a creationist slacker named Victor Medina, who writes a column called When Liberals Attack for the Dallas Republican Examiner, opened his latest scrawl with these words:

It would seem the free marketplace of ideas has entered a new Dark Age. Rather than keeping their [the Darwinist’s] minds open and allow for all viewpoints, the powers that be are squashing all dissent, until theirs is the only voice heard.

Irony might as well be a Klingon word to Medina, for the intellectual stagnation of the Dark Ages was the result of the church’s absolutism and its slavish adherence to scripture. And are we to believe that Medina sees all viewpoints as being equal –that Christianity stands only as tall as the next religion? Having a discriminating –or discerning– eye when it comes to ideas isn’t a bad thing; it’s how science works –by weeding out the good explanations from the bad ones. So, when Medina calls for a “free marketplace”, he’s being blatantly disingenuous. Next, he betrays his ignorance, and lack of research skills:

Darwinists, who believe in a strict following of Darwin’s theory of evolution, aren’t satisfied with blacklisting anyone who disagrees with them. Now, they want to make Darwin more accessible, hip and relevant. To do this, they have declared 2009 “The Year of Darwin.” Really. These same left wing radicals with way too much time on their hands are also promoting “Darwin Day” as an alternative to Christmas. Really. No word on the traditions of Darwin Day, but I would suggest instead of exchanging gifts, Darwinists take after their simian ancestors and throw their feces at each other.

If one were to glance at the scientific literature published since 1859 –the year when Charles Darwin presented his grand theories to the world– one would find that Darwin’s colleagues have consistently dissected his ideas and basted him with heaps of criticism –more than any creationist could ever muster. Darwin’s good ideas, like natural selection, have stood the test of time, while his bad ones have been rejected. And Darwin Day (Feb 12) is presented annually simply as a day of science education and admiration of Charles Darwin, the scientist and explorer. Medina’s hyperbolic attempt to characterize it otherwise is childish, and what I’d expect from a closed mind. And it may also surprise Medina to learn that Michael Behe, the leading proponent of ID, accepts the common ancestry of humans and apes. So, let the feces fly.

They [the Darwinists] insist that intelligent design has no scientific standing whatsoever. Why then, are they so afraid to even discuss such a theory if it is so flimsy?…This blacklisting is seen in full detail in Ben Stein’s hit documentary “Expelled,” in which some highly regarded scientists and academics were blacklisted for even considering intelligent design. Despite the fact that mainstream science has already called into doubt some of Darwin’s theories, including having to rethink the basis for the Big Bang…

Metaphorically speaking, here Medina’s calling rain without ever having watched a game or stepped on the playing field. I dare say there are at least an equal number of books by scientists discussing the intelligent design hypothesis as there are books by creationists promoting it. Academics haven’t been afraid to discuss it in the least, nor have they been “blacklisted for even considering” it. Typically it’s creationist authors who are afraid of evolution, so much so that they conveniently leave out its scientific details from their writings in order to further their ideology. Keeping their audiences ignorant of the scientific facts is their modus operandi. And yes, ID has no scientific standing because it’s not science. What research has the ID community presented other than subjectively declaring organic structures to be complex? At best ID is an untenable conclusion –and a thinly veiled religious one at that, and as such is incompatible with scientific methodology. Spokespeople for the Discovery Institute regularly and loudly promote ID as a secular proposition, but quietly –to friendly audiences– they admit it to be a Christian one. So, if intelligent design is religion, how can it be science? Finally, Medina calls Ben Stein’s movie Expelled a “hit documentary” when in reality its box office receipts were lukewarm to room temperature.

With one factual error after another, Victor Medina shows himself to be an intellectual slacker, who’s loath to do the most basic of research on a subject he clearly knows nothing about. He concludes his sermon with some projection and a Hitler invocation:

In their world, there isn’t even room for debate. There is only one way to think, their way. All other thought is pointless and irrelevant. It’s very Darwinian. It’s also very Adolf. [My emphasis]

No one’s ever said the only path to salvation is through Darwin.

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Filed under Christianity, Intelligent Design

The Big Bang: Something From Something

I find that this snippet from the debate between atheist Christopher Hitchens and grouchy Christian, Frank Turek gets me all riled up. (The entire debate can be seen here.) The reason is that author Frank Turek falsely characterizes the Big Bang as “something out of nothing” and as a “state of existence from a state of non-existence”, and Hitchens doesn’t exactly correct him on his bad science. Here in the video we have what Turek says scientists say, and over there somewhere in reality, where creationists don’t want us to look, we have what scientists actually say.

I don’t know about you, but what I’ve heard cosmologists say is that the Big Bang was the expansion of a spacetime singularity –a state of infinite density. A singularity is not nothing; it is very much something. I guess you could say it’s everything.

But Turek slyly conflates the terms creation and design, and jumps between them like a drunken ballet-dancer. But I think they are distinct. Creation can indeed be defined as something from nothing. But design is the planning of something from something else. For example, a ceramic smoking monkey can be designed, but it cannot be constructed, or created, from nothing. A ceramic smoking monkey must be transformed from a raw material which already exists –clay. I can name plenty of designed things, but I cannot think of a single material object that has been created from nothing. All the events in universe are examples of transformation, not creation.

So, the argument of “something out of nothing” is irrelevant to the discussion since no examples can actually be found in nature. The only one Turek could possible point to is the one he’s attempting to prove.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Science