Friday, June 24, 2022

A Day Like No Other - 6/24/2022

Today is the day when U.S. has joined a growing list of theocracies, not unlike the ones in the Middle East or my country of birth - Poland. There is no denial that Christianity, with its multitude of sects and cults, including Catholicism, is no different that other religions that the Westerners so love to denigrate and showcase as backwards and fundamentalist. Today, as we move backwards, reducing progress that was taken for granted for generations, it is more apparent than ever before, that freedoms are not granted forever, but can be taken away swiftly, in the name of some ancients tales and myths that large parts of our societies choose to follow to make themselves feel better.

For those of us, who value freedom, rationality and who actually respect humanity in others, it is time to drop the fa莽ade and stop pretending that we support in any way those religious beliefs that constantly seek to harm others and continue to take away dignity of others.

As Steven Weinberg once said:

Religion is an insult to human dignity. Without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.

Friday, January 29, 2021

American Christians Are NOT Being Persecuted

It always amuses me when many of my Christian friends who live in America, claim that Christianity is being persecuted in the U.S. just because... insert some weird reason here. Most of those reasons are the the opposite of persecution after just a simple examination, usually pointing in their direction as the persecuting force. The best example is the annual "War on Christmas" that erupts with a predictable regularity as we all start putting away Halloween decorations.

So, I was very happy to find this short and concise guide to non-persecution of Christians in America that can be used by anyone who finds himself or herself trying to argue with someone religiously persecuted:

11 Things American Conservatives Must Stop Claiming As Persecution

Tuesday, January 26, 2021

How Grand Conspiracies Threaten Everything

It's no secret that I try to follow skeptical way of thinking in my own endeavors on line and in real life. Given the amount of misinformation and fake news (real fake news) that is bombarding our consciousness  daily from all the feeds in social media, the ability to filter out that junk and try to stay sane and reasonable is extremely important.

Last year and the COVID-19 pandemic have just added to the insane amount of pure crap that can be fed to us every day, mostly from our own friends sharing weird, unverified, untrue and plain stupid stories. It also gave us a unique insight into their minds and ow easily some of them departed reality to land in the world of conspiracies and un-reality.

We all have also seen that this kind of mindset can have profound impacts on our politics (democracy even), daily lives and health. In the world full of reality and rational thinking, the pandemic would most likely be much less deadly and the politics much less stressful and hateful. Instead, we have the world where many deny the most basic facts, promote the weirdest ideas and theories, and are ready to underwrite tyrants and dictators, just to ensure their pet theory is vindicated.

This great article from Science-Based Medicine Blog underscores the issue above when it comes to the link between conspiratory thinking and medicine that we all desperately need to be well grounded in reality:

The Threat of Conspiracy Thinking to SBM

There is also a more focused article on vaccines on the same blog:

All science denial is a form of conspiracy theory

My own experience of the last year (I know, it's just an anecdote, not real data) agrees 100% with the articles above. Those in my small circle of friends (on line and off) that have been engaged for years in science denial on much smaller scale by fighting flu vaccines, selling weird and unproven remedies through various pyramid schemes and generally disagreeing with scientific knowledge, abandoned the world of reality this year. They joined hateful opposition to mask usage, denied the whole pandemic completely and then drifted full force into Q-Anon conspiracy, expressing more and more hateful views on line and in real life. Their complete lack of boundaries and readiness to attack even their close friends just for pointing out easily verifiable facts have proven to me how dangerous those conspiracy theories are. They can't be dismissed as "harmless" on line hobbies anymore and their main source - social media - must be held accountable.

Wednesday, January 20, 2021

New Hope

Today is a good day for America. Not a miracle - those do not happen in politics - but still a good day, when a populist and an authoritarian, with no morals and ethical standing is finally replaced by a person with a long history of empathy, positive changes and ethical way of life.

As I said, I do not expect miracles. Ultimately we are responsible for our lives and, collectively, for where this country is heading, but there is hope in respect of science, critical thinking and morals exhibited by the incoming administration. There is hope in glass ceilings being broken today, there is hope in diversity of the new  cabinet and there is hope that we'll live with truth and not a never ending stream of lies we've gotten in the last four years.

Truth matters, science matters, rational thinking matters, education matters, facts matter.

Thursday, January 7, 2021

America Assaulted

With a shock and disbelief I watched the events from Washington D.C. that were unfolding on January 6th 2021. I was shocked because I came to this country more than 30 years ago, believing that this was the "perfect union", open to people of all origins, races and beliefs. I came with my own set of prejudices that were quickly challenged by the diverse interactions of New York City, and later by the experience of moving to Florida.

In 2008 I watched with hope and pride when the first African-American president was elected, hoping that one of the last  barriers was broken. It was disturbing and disheartening to see the exploding racism, hate, xenophobia and homophobia of the following years, which culminated in the four years of Trump's presidency. I saw close friends falling into the abyss of that hate, becoming openly racist, denying others the same rights and privileges that they enjoy every day.

Yesterday was the culmination of this process: hate was on full display, hate for anything different, unfamiliar...

One of the most striking images from the events of the last day was this picture from the Capitol:

Notice the shirt!!!

I visited Auschwitz twice in my teenage years, both times being completely devastated. The experience of seeing what mankind is capable of in the name of ideology is lasting and hard to overcome. And yet, this is the image from the US Capitol, a glorification of one the most disturbing and heinous crimes against humanity in our history. This is not someone deep in the woods, living the life of hate: this is someone surrounded by others in the moment. This is someone whose actions are being whitewashed by politicians and Trump supporters on  line and in real life even after the desecration of democracy we have all witnessed yesterday. I fear more dark days like that in the future. They will be with us until we are all unified in condemning not only separate acts of violence like the one we witnessed yesterday, but the entire culture of hate, racism, homophobia and xenophobia that still exists all around us.

Finally, I would like to end this rant with the words from a friend. He posted it on Facebook as a reaction to what had happened yesterday. As much as I can try to understand minority experiences in this country, I realize that I come from a privileged background (white male) and it will never be possible for me to see all the large and small injustices faced daily by those communities. His words speak to me and give me pause to make another small step to a better and more just world:

I watched many people condemn Kap kneeling and BLM protests over the summer but they had nothing to say yesterday... I watched folks cry that their freedom was taken away because they had to wear a mask. Yesterday you got to see first hand what your privilege looks like, and unsurprisingly you’re still in denial If you believe protesting police brutality is the same as an attempted coup, that is encouraged by the president.... you’re part of the problem If you see folks stating this was ANTIFA dressed up as Trump supporters (when trump encouraged this) and you don’t refute, you’re part of the problem Yesterday was exactly what Trump meant when he said “stand back and stand by”, but you still voted for him... you’re to blame for yesterday (miss me with economic reasons because folks used that in the 1860s as well) Brown / black folks would have been mowed down the minute they stepped foot on the Capitol steps.. Trump supporters talking about they’re tired of double standards! 馃槀 My parents had to eat at segregated restaurants and my dad was called boy even when he was serving in the USMC. You do not know what double standards are!! And yes you’re part of the problem Yesterday wasn’t surprising ... Trump’s political career kicked off by questioning the citizenship of Obama, yet you were ok with it.... You are part of the problem We are tired of this BS!!! If you want America to heal she needs to acknowledge her original sins and so do you!! This is what’s stoking all the fear and hate

Well said!!!

Tuesday, December 22, 2020

New Pandemics Still in Our Future

If you follow scientific news and blogs, the Covid-19 pandemic was not a surprise for you. It's been predicted for years and previous, smaller outbreaks of other diseases like MERS and SARS were just the preludes to the larger one of 2020.

However, Covid turned to be an oversized problem that it should have never been due to the crazy politics of 2020 and the lack of scientific approach in many countries, with USA being the worst example. The fact that a large chunk of population is openly anti-science, defying best practices and common sense, is not helping either. Finally, we saw how many people among us are not willing to sacrifice even a bit for common good, showing us the worst of humanity and selfishness that most of us never expected.

Unfortunately, while we are still dealing with this pandemic, the scientists are actively and diligently looking into the future to stop the next one:

Hunting for 'Disease X'

Knowing what's coming and how to fight it is the best insurance for our future. If we don't, the next virus could be more virulent and more deadly, making our current circumstances pale in comparison.

Wednesday, December 16, 2020

2020 - The Year Sanity and Reason Died

Four years ago, when I realized that reason and sanity are under siege in the US and some other countries, I did not think that it could get any worse. Political polarization seemed like it had reached the unsustainable levels, misinformation from Facebook, Twitter and other social platforms was overwhelming and discussions with friends often resulted in hate and broken friendships.

Fast forward four years, a long and mentally taxing presidency and the pandemic, and we are in the place I have never imagined we could be.

In a short period of nine months from March to December, I have seen friends on line descending into madness and hate of unseen magnitudes. First, they started sharing small misinformation pieces, then they followed with larger, easily debunked conspiracy theories, to end the year with a total denial of reality on every level: science, reason and politics. Even worse, they attack anyone who does not agree with them on a personal level, suddenly employing racism and hate. 

While watching all this is heartbreaking and sad, it has also opened my eyes further into the world of antiscience and religious bigotry. One interesting observation I have made from all the interaction with such people is that the more religious people are on the outside, the more hate they seem to generate when dealing with opposing ideas and political views. I guess this should not come as a surprise to anyone who has watched religious fanatics for any period of time, but it is still hard to stomach when your closest friend are the source.

Interesting article describing the issue can be found here: The pandemic has destroyed friendships and divided families

Let's hope 2021 will be better and less stressful.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Revival - Ten Years and Counting

A few days ago marked 10 years since I had published the very first post on this blog. Yes, the blog did go into an extensive period of hibernation in the last two years, but I think, this anniversary gives me a great opportunity to make a REVIVAL! No, not religious kind, just the opposite!

I started this blog as a technical/geeky outlet of my ideas from the computer and electronics world. Slowly, as my own personal interests in skepticism and rationality evolved, I begun writing about issues in those areas of interest. In the late 2000s, the fight about childhood vaccines was raging and I felt it was important to get the scientifically correct information across to the wider audience. This also meant exposing cranks and scammers, who found their niche in the anti-vaxers movement. I did get burned a few times, I received my share of complaints and threats, but whenever I found some time, I kept writing. Then the Facebook came along and it seemed that the conversations moved to the social media realm. Not for long I think. Facebook is too noisy, too busy and too "emotional". Information comes fast, posts are reactive and unprepared, and the responses from your audience/friends are even more "in the moment". There is hardly any reasonable and skeptical discussion possible in such an environment. Twitter, on the other hand is too brief and too fleeting to have any meaningful exchange of ideas. However, both platforms might give you ideas for a more prolonged dissection of a particular topic.

So, I think it is rational to come back to the blogging scene. In the crazy political climate of an election year, in the time when rationality is needed more than ever, when hate, racism and bigotry seem to be on the rise on both sides of the pond, I think it is important to ensure that progressive and rational ideas are promoted and highlighted as wide as possible. Staying silent would be complacent and our history teaches us that complacency leads to tragedy.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Long Time...

This blog is not dead... just very slow, due to extensive commitments outside of the skeptical community.

Friday, July 11, 2014

New Info About Dr. Burzynski's Therapy?

As I follow the news about Dr. Burzynski's Antineoplastons' therapy rather closely lately, I stumbled upon this article from the Polish Daily News in New York:

Lek doktora Burzy艅skiego wkr贸tce w aptekach (in Polish)

It states rather clearly that Dr. Burzynski's anti-cancer drugs will soon be available in US pharmacies:
"W ko艅cu mo偶emy odetchn膮膰 z ulg膮. Wielu pacjent贸w b臋dzie mia艂o szanse na skuteczne leczenie nowotwor贸w, uwa偶anych do tej pory za wyrok 艣mierci" – tak najnowsz膮 decyzj臋 Ameryka艅skiej Agencji 呕ywno艣ci i Lek贸w (FDA) komentuje, w rozmowie z "Nowym Dziennikiem, dr Stanis艂aw Burzy艅ski, autor nowatorskiej metody leczenia raka.
"We can finally breathe the sigh of relief. Many patients with cancers seen as the death sentence until recently, now will have a chance of successful treatment" - said Dr. Burzynski after the recent decision of the FDA.
The article also states that a new drug has been approved by the FDA, and it will treat some ailments of the liver, certain kinds of brain tumors and leukemia.

I was not able to find anything on the FDA site, nor on the Burzynski Clinic web site. Both of them have numerous mentions of the current clinical trials, but no mention of the upcoming drug release. Also, the NIH's Cancer site does not have any mention of a new drug from Burzynski's clinic.

As I said before, I hope this pans out, but I don't hold my breath for some breakthrough, and I certainly hope this is not yet another publicity stunt to get more desperate patients onto the clinical trials that never end.

EDIT: 07/12/2014

A new article in the Polish Daily News:

Tylko u nas rozmowa z dr Stanis艂awem Burzy艅skim. Dokonamy rewolucji w medycynie - m贸wi dr Burzy艅ski

This time it's an invitation to a conversation with Dr. Burzynski, published in the weekend print edition of the newspaper.
"Mam nadziej臋, 偶e dokonamy rewolucji w medycynie, przede wszystkim ze wzgl臋du na nasze leki, jeden z nich ju偶 wkr贸tce trafi do aptek. Opr贸cz tego, w czwartek (10 lipca) przekazali艣my cztery artyku艂y do specjalnego wydawnictwa, a dwa nast臋pne trafi膮 tam za tydzie艅 (17 lipca). Chcemy, by zosta艂y one w najbli偶szym czasie opublikowane w specjalnych pismach medycznych. Je艣li to si臋 uda, to – po pierwsze – ju偶 na zawsze sko艅cz膮 si臋 ataki na nas i nasz膮 klinik臋, bo ka偶dy lekarz b臋dzie m贸g艂 stosowa膰 t臋 metod臋 i co艣, co jest teraz absolutnym wyrokiem 艣mierci, ju偶 nim nie b臋dzie. Pytanie tylko, kiedy lekarze wprowadz膮 nasze sposoby leczenia do swoich praktyk. Mam nadziej臋, 偶e si臋 odwa偶膮, a to z kolei spowoduje przewr贸t w medycynie" – m贸wi doktor Burzy艅ski. 
"I hope the we can revolutionize medicine, first of all, because of our new drugs, with the first one to be available in pharmacies very soon. In addition, on Thursday, July 10th, we submitted four research papers to a special publisher, with the next two articles to be submitted on July 17th. We would like them to be published in the near future in special medical publications. If we succeed, the attacks on our clinic will stop, because every physician will be able to use our methods, and what is a death sentence for some now, will cease to be. The question is: when will the doctors incorporate our methods in their practices? I hope, they will be brave enough, and that will cause the real breakthrough in medicine."  - says Dr. Burzynski.
The article on line, and probably the one in print seem the be just "infomercials" for Dr. Burzynski. The above quote is full of "if's" and "but's" and conditional statements, that do not mean much in the greater scheme of things. I remain skeptical, hopeful to be proven wrong (but I don't hold my breath).