Tag 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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Filed under Science, Skepticism

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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Filed under Skepticism

Arrogance In Prayer

I invariably regret it when I check out the insipid stories linked through AOL News. (Old e-mail accounts are a burden.) Not only is the quality of the reporting from these junior outlets surpassed by that of any high school newspaper, the comments left, which I can’t help from browsing — are inherently vacuous. This time the story I fell upon is about an unfortunate 4-year-old boy, named Luke, who was struck by a foul ball at a baseball game. He suffered a skull fracture and is currently in a medically-induced coma. The reporter and several of those who left comments couldn’t help but stick religion in the reader’s face. The reporter said:

Luke was hit Sept. 2 at a minor league game in Niles, Ohio. We may never know why it happened, but what’s happened since should restore your faith in people. It might even restore your faith in faith.

Maybe this nutwing will never know why it happened, but I already know. And I think I may speak for all reasonable people when I say they know, too. It was a mere accident. Even the distraught mother said so in the video. And why would a well trained and responsive medical team restore my faith in faith? A commenter took the god slant further:

May God’s healing hand touch this precious young boy. I pray God is with his parents, giving them strength and faith in this critical time of his recovery. Also, prayers for the ballplayer, may he find comfort and peace.

In tragic cases such as this, religious minions are quick to grab credit for their non-existent deity. If the boy survives god will receive their praise, even though god didn’t prevent the accident. But if the boy dies, I’m sure the same minions will lay blame elsewhere, on the non-existent devil, perhaps. It’s not like the god of the Old Testament ever killed a child –well, except in some of those fire-and-brimstone stories, which are simultaneously and conveniently open to wide and narrow interpretation. That worldwide flood must have killed millions of innocent children. On the other hand, modern medicine has saved countless. Who to trust?

When tragedies occur and people insist on praying for deliverance, the one thing I find most insufferable is that humans can’t admit to themselves that they are sometimes helpless. Prayer is the delusion of certainty that humans have control over everything just by asking the Sky Daddy to intervene. And encouraging children to believe in prayer sets them up for disappointment when god doesn’t provide. Pray to your heart’s content, but don’t expect me to join in, and don’t condemn me as a heartless bastard when I don’t. Supporting modern medicine and reason is the best way to help children like Luke.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity

The Creationism Movie To End All Creationism Movies

The entertainment world is on fire with the rumor of another creation movie from Kevin Miller, the maker of Expelled. The story is to be based on the life of evangelist creationist Kent Hovind, a.k.a. Dr. Dino, the tax dodger, the prison bitch.

In September 2009, Resurrection Pictures is partnering in the release of The Secrets of Jonathan Sperry—a heartwarming coming-of-age story about three 12-year-old boys who are shown how to apply Scripture to daily struggles—and is a 2009 Silver Sponsor of the 168 Hour Film Project & Festival. Creation, Resurrection Pictures’ first original film project— a humorous and tearful story of a high school biology teacher’s struggle to expose the lie of evolution, based on the life of creation evangelist Dr. Kent Hovind and written by Kevin Miller the writer of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed is scheduled for production in 2010.

My reaction to this news can’t be expressed in mere words, so I offer you this video. Just pretend I’m the talk show host, and Kevin Miller and Kent Hovind are the guests. The fact that it’s in Dutch is irrelevant, for laughter is an international language.

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Filed under Evolution, Intelligent Design, Trawling For Creationism

Obama’s An Illegal Alien – His Real Birth Certificate Finally Revealed

(Click Picture To Enlarge)

Here we go. Obama’s real birth certificate is finally revealed. He was born in a foreign land in a galaxy far, far, far, far away. That’s why he’s of superior intelligence –and why his uber-detractors appear moronic in comparison. But not even Obama is perfect; he was born to parents who were only moderately telepathic. See, it’s right there on the form, plain as day, near the top -01001001001. And check out his given, middle name -011101101010. Ha, ha, ha! It’s the same as the last name of an infamous inter-galactic gangster who’s wanted in three systems for spice smuggling. And it’s all certified by an android registrar, there at the bottom. And androids don’t lie.

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Filed under Politics

Obama Kenyan Birth Certificate Forgery

The hard-core birthers –the ones who are mulishly clinging to the belief that Obama was born in Kenya– are now waving  about an obvious forgery of a Kenyan, birth certificate, as proof of their conspiracy theory. Take a look at the so-called document. This is perhaps the first birth certificate I’ve seen that fails to mention any details of the baby –no weight, or race, or time of birth.  Obama’s mother was Caucasian and his father was black, and that certainly would have been recorded, especially in the 1960’s. Thousands of white Europeans were living in Kenya  –a British colony back then. A birth to a mixed-racial couple surely would not have gone unrecorded. But no section for entering race is even provided on the form. And no section is provided for the doctor’s name, signature, or office address. What’s most suspicious is the size of the paper and all the wasted space. Would a birth certificate from that time period would be printed on a full 8.5″ x 11″ sheet? –the document in question is clearly of those dimensions. My own birth certificate is a third that size. The whole point of using small paper is that printed records are traditionally stored in filing cabinets, or boxes, or large books, which take up space. So, the smaller the better. In a single lifetime, or beyond, how many times is an official, government copy of  a birth certificate going to be accessed — once or twice, or never? Searching through a filing cabinet full of 8.5″ x 11″ papers –which are generally stored horizontally –is highly inefficient, unless Kenya’s civil servants are trained to hold their heads tilted to one side for extended periods of time.

P.S.  Every popular conspiracy theory appears to contain the same contradiction. According to the theorists, the powerful conspirators are resourceful enough to orchestrate a grand lie, but not so much when it comes to keeping it a secret. They always leave a trail for the amateurs to follow. Not a very likely scenario.

All the other flaws in this forgery are listed here.

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Filed under Culture Warfare, Politics

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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Filed under Skepticism

Spin The Wheel Of Religion, Where She Stops No One Knows

One example of the inconsistency of religion

Trapped in the recesses of the web –like hardened chewing gum stuck for eternity in the cracks of a sidewalk– are religious forums and pseudo-news organizations with URL names beginning with “faith”, “belief”, or “answers”. They’re little worlds unto themselves, and that’s the way their readers like it. They don’t spurn reality, for they create their own; the same way Las Vegas casinos don’t cheat because they make up their own rules.

At Belief.Net a dude named David Klinghoffer has chronicled his Dialogue with Atheists. He challenged atheists to explain how life can have meaning or morality without a supernatural being bestowing them upon us. Klinghoffer stretched his argument to the extreme, though, by comparing atheists to the Joker, the supreme nihilist. He forgets, though, that the Joker also loves to expose hypocrisy.

As an atheist, I’m left wondering where religious folk find their meaning and morality. Surely it’s not in any religious text; for bestsellers like the Bible and the Quran are morally ambiguous at best. They’re all things to all people. Prohibitionists, for example, used the bible to speak against the evils of alcohol; and we know how that ended. And according to which Christians of the 19th century you consult, the Bible both supports and condemned slavery. Today, if you compare the King James version of the Ten Commandments to more modern translations here’s a hint of what you’ll find: The former says Thou shall not kill; the latter say Thou shall no commit murder. How Orwellian.

Religions are not wells of meaning and morality; they’re justifications for capricious humans. Give me reason over faith any day.

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Filed under Atheism, Christianity, Religion

Genome Size and Complexity

the groups in this figure are arranged along made-up "scala naturae" to emphasize the lack of relationship between genome size and intuitive notions of organismal complexity -- please do not construe this figure as an endorsement of a progressionist view of evolution!).

(Note: the groups in this figure are arranged along made-up “scala naturae” to emphasize the lack of relationship between genome size and intuitive notions of organismal complexity — please do not construe this figure as an endorsement of a progressionist view of evolution!).

The chart above and note are from genomesize.com

As the note says, the bars in the chart indicate ranges of genome size. The measurements are given as a C-value, which here is a measure of weight in picograms. As we can see, genome size and complexity do not go hand in hand. Salamanders, flatworms, and algae are just a few of the groups which have members with genomes sizes larger than that of the mammals. Et tu, Chondrichthyes? Members of the protozoa have the largest. Isn’t it bad enough that humans have to deal with penis envy, now this? If there is a creator, he has an “inordinate fondness” for amoebae. All that sexy amoebic swaying and oozing is what did it. It’s a damn popularity contest. The swimsuit contest lost us the most points; the amoeba slipped out of its top, showed some membrane, and won the day.

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Filed under Biology, Intelligent Design

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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Filed under Christianity, Religion, Skepticism