Monday, August 29, 2011

Monday Musings

A few interesting links popped up today on my radar.

The first one is the challenge issued by JREF (The James Randi Educational Foundation) to the psychics who took part in a recent Nightline TV program about psychic celebrities. As always, they BS-ed their way around the gullible, showing no real "powers". And we all know they are not showing up to claim the prize (as Sylvia Browne never did), because they know they don't have any special psychic powers, just the power to scam some people out of their money.
But to win $1 million, you better have the real deal psychic power in your back pocket. Participants must prove their worth on randomly chosen strangers in controlled environments, two conditions that take all the fun—and likelihood—out of pocketing people's money.
I like what JREF says:
“James Van Praagh and Allison DuBois have turned the huckster art of ‘cold reading' into a multi-million-dollar industry, preying on families' deepest fears and regrets,” he says in a statement announcing the challenge. “They should be embarrassed by the transparent performances.”

More from Time: Calling All Psychics: Prove Your Worth for $1 Million

Now, on to the second one... the scary prospect of an dumb a#$ running this country after the next presidential elections:
...the odds are that one of these years the world’s greatest nation will find itself ruled by a party that is aggressively anti-science, indeed anti-knowledge. And, in a time of severe challenges — environmental, economic, and more — that’s a terrifying prospect.
Republicans Against Science

I think Paul Krugman's analysis is dead-on. The disconnect from reality that is not only rampant and accepted, but that has become a virtue on the American right (a.k.a. G.O.P.) is frightening and could lead us into a future that's bleak. And when we get there, no amount of prayer will help us.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Vaccines Cleared - Yet Again... And Again...

Here we go again. Another, very comprehensive study finds that the MMR vaccine does not bring any significant risks, especially that it does not increase a risk of autism in children.
“The M.M.R. vaccine doesn’t cause autism, and the evidence is overwhelming that it doesn’t,” Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton, the chairwoman of the panel, assembled by the Institute of Medicine, said in an interview. She was referring to a combination against measles, mumps and rubella that has long been a focus of concern from some parents’ groups.
Yet, the crazy crowd screams again:
“I think this report says that the science is inadequate, and yet we’re giving more and more vaccines to our kids, and we really don’t know what their safety profile is,” Ms. Bernard said. “I think that’s alarming.”
It's not alarming. The question has been answered and that horse is dead!!! We need to stop wasting money on studying problems that have been answered long time ago and spend our resources on research that can actually help us.

Read more: Vaccine Cleared Again as Autism Culprit

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Dumb Politicians

It appears that a large portion of our society here in the USA tends to prefer and vote for not-so-bright politicians. The current flock of the right wing candidates for the highest office in the land is the best example of this frightening trend.
Sarah Palin is a poster child of this group, but the rest of them are not better at all, and don't get me even started on Christine "I'm not a witch" O'Donnell.
The scary thing is that they are a legitimate candidates in this country, where, apparently stupidity rules.
It is always encouraging to see that someone is bringing up this issue openly in the media, without sugarcoating:
In any other party and in any other country, an individual may occasionally rise to the top in spite of being an uneducated ignoramus. In today’s Republican Party ‘in spite of’ is not the phrase we need. Ignorance and lack of education are positive qualifications, bordering on obligatory. Intellect, knowledge and linguistic mastery are mistrusted by Republican voters, who, when choosing a president, would apparently prefer someone like themselves over someone actually qualified for the job.
The whole article can be found here, and I have nothing but highest respect for Richard Dawkins for calling it what it is: stupidity and willful ignorance.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

What Is Chiropractic?

Check out this great comic from Darryl Cunningham about history and principles of chiropractic:
Here is the beta version of my strip on chiropractic therapy. It's a little rough and will need proofreading from those of you with eyes sharper than mine. All comments welcome.
See the comic strip here: Chiropractic

It's interesting and worth looking at, because most of the people I know think chiropractic is just a form of massage and spine manipulation, very similar to physical therapy. However, physical therapy is based on real science, studies and knowledge of human anatomy, and chiropractic is, well... mostly unscientific wishful thinking and semi-magical approach to healing. Such is the case with most (if not all) of "alternative medicine".

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Homeopathy - Bullying Again

I do not like homeopathy. I made it clear a number of times on this blog. I don't like it because homeopathy is pure magic, wishful thinking at its best. There is nothing but sugar (or water) in those homeopathic mixtures, since by simple math there can't be anything there at all.
Worst of all, people pay real money for this nonsense and put their trust in individuals and companies that sell them nothing but fake hope.
It is sad to see when companies that make homeopathic products (read: sugar pills), threaten those who are willing to expose them with aptly named "corporate legal thuggery". Such is the case with Boiron, a company which was nicely exposed in a CBC documentary earlier this year. They complained about the TV documentary, hoping to shut up the media; now they seem to be going after a lonely blogger:

Homoeopathy multinational Boiron threatens amateur Italian blogger

A letter sent by the Italian arm of multinational company Boiron, threatening to sue an amateur blogger over remarks he made about homoeopathy, has sparked a strong internet reaction in defence of freedom of speech.

Samuele Riva posted two articles on his blog, , on 13 and 27 July,which included pictures of Boiron’s blockbuster homoeopathic product Oscillococcinum, marketed as a remedy against flu symptoms. The pictures were accompanied by captions, which joked about the total absence of any active molecules in homoeopathic preparations.
More can be found here: Homeopathic Thuggery

In order to sell this stuff, you have to be either one:
- pretty clueless on how homeopathy works (or doesn't), or
- scamming people into believing that it works

I wonder which one it is in case of Boiron?

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Morality From Religion?

It's heartbreaking, but unfortunately true way too often.
This is what happens when you stop thinking for yourself and let your imagination take over your brain:

You can't argue that religion and morality go together and you need one to have another. The video speaks for itself.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Vaccines Save Lives

As we watch terrible tragedy unfolding in Somalia, it is important to notice how simple things could save thousands of children. I was watching CNN's report last night and it struck me how many times Sanjay Gupta repeated the simple statement: so many of the dying children could be saved by vaccines. His report, along with some other ones, can be found here:

Burying a child: A mother's unending grief

Misery in world's largest refugee camp

Saving Ahmed from starvation

Finally, there are many places, where we can all help, listed here: Famine in East Africa: How you can help

The Bill and Mellinda Gates Foundation is also a great place to see how we can all help, as they have been trying to spread the news that vaccines are simple and effective way to save thousands, especially in the developing countries.