Thursday, February 23, 2012

Chiropractic Is Bogus

I have no love for the alternative medicine. I think it is based on bogus evidence, or a complete lack of thereof, its various "branches" are mutually exclusive, it feeds on people fears and weaknesses, and it sucks up valuable resources (as in $$$) not only from our individual pockets, but also from larger public funds and governments.

Recent blog activities on the interwebs (some of this can be found here and here), reminded me of a case from a few years ago, in which chiropractic, a widely-accepted, "medical" practice, based on pretty much magic, was put to a test, not only by scientists (this has been settled long time ago), but in a court of law in Great Britain.
In this case, a British science writer, Simon Singh, was accused of libel by the British Chiropractic Association, after he had published an article in The Guardian, claiming that the practice of chiropractic is based on unscientific, unproven principles, and that promoting such practices equals false advertising. Even under the libel-friendly British law, the BSA was forced to withdraw the law suit, after it became evident that Singh was correct in his criticism. A side effect of the case was a magnified focus received by chiropractic and its principles, which boils down to a very simple thing: it is crap.

The problem is that a lot of insurance companies in the US will pay for chiropractic visits and that's the money that eventually comes out of our collective pockets. While I do realize that not all medical treatments are perfect (as all sciences are not perfect and definitive), when I'm paying for something, I would like to make sure that it has at least some validity. In the meantime, chiropractic is based on wishful, magical thinking and 100+ years of coming up with bs to justify charging people for a "fancy" massage. You'd be better off going to a real, licensed physical therapists. At least they get education and training in real medicine, and you get a real treatment.

If you want to find out more about chiropractic, The Skeptic Dictionary is a great place to start.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Less Is NOT More in Case of Education

I can't see ANY good reason to give our children less education... less as in the "four-day school week" idea, which is being studied in Pasco County this year as one of the possible ways to address the local school district's budget shortfall.
On the other hand, I can see a lot of very good reasons why we should try any other solution first to make sure our local schools operate well. Among them the pressing need for better Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), as it is nicely described in an article on the CNN portal:
Two indicators are particularly worrisome, especially as this country experiences greater global competition and high unemployment. American students score 23rd in math and 31st in science when compared with 65 other top industrial countries. In math, we are beaten by countries from Lichtenstein and Slovakia to the Netherlands and Singapore. In science, we are beaten by countries from New Zealand and Estonia to Finland and Hungary.
For the United States, which led the way in space after Sputnik and showed the way in technological development and economic growth for the last 40 years, this is more than an embarrassment. And, for the future of our own GDP, economic well-being, and employer and employment needs, this is a disaster in the making. If the United States wishes to remain the most competitive and innovative country in the world -- never mind just another competitive and innovative country in the constellation of industrial nations -- this cannot stand.
Read: U.S lag in science, math a disaster in the making

This is just one reason, but probably one of the most important and compelling ones. It's good to see that the majority of parents are not happy about this idea and they are voicing their opinions in both meetings and online surveys.

Let's hope the cooler and smarter heads prevail, we'll stop smoking tea leaves and get some money for our children's education, even if it means looking for new sources of that cash.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Florida Science Standards - Fordham Institute Report

Well, while Florida fared pretty well when it comes to our teachers' quality, the science standards in our schools pretty much smell like a big pile of..., well, 'nuff said.

The Fordham Institute released its evaluation of science educational standards and Florida scored a big, bad D, mostly due to the lack of clarity, but also because both Physics and Chemistry ranked zero.
Surprisingly, even in the "southern" and unscientifically-leaning state like Florida, "controversial" topic such as evolution, gets some praise:

I guess, we have some work to do at home to ensure that out children are well prepared for the challenges of the 21st century
Evolution, on the other hand, is very well covered. Take, for example, the following:
Explain how the scientific theory of evolution is supported by the fossil record, comparative anatomy, comparative embryology, biogeography, molecular biology, and observed evolutionary change. (high school life science) Describe the conditions required for natural selection, including: overproduction of offspring, inherited variation, and the struggle to survive, which result in differential reproductive success. (high school life science) Discuss mechanisms of evolutionary hange other than natural selection such as genetic drift and gene flow. (high school life science)
Even human evolution is treated—a rarity in state science standards:
Identify basic trends in hominid evolution from early ancestors six million years ago to modern humans, including brain size, jaw size, language, and anufacture of tools. Discuss specific fossil hominids and what they show about human evolution. (high school life science)
Barely a handful of states tackle human evolution in their standards, bolstering the life science score of the Sunshine State’s standards.