Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Goal missed

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 30, 2009

My goal of reaching 50 subscribers by the end of  June has not been reached, unfortunately. The new goal is to get up to 75 by 12/31/2009. I have to start participating in the Skeptics Circle a little more often to do that.

Mr. Deity and the Book, Part Deux (Episode Two, Season Three)

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 30, 2009

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Horror of Kenya’s ‘witch’ lynchings

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 29, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “BBC NEWS”

Villagers, many straight from their farms, and armed with machetes, sticks and axes, are shouting and crowding round in a big group in Kenya’s fertile Kisii district.

I can’t see clearly what is going on, but heavy smoke is rising from the ground and a horrible stench fills the air.

More people are streaming up the hill, some of them with firewood and maize stalks.

Suddenly an old woman breaks from the crowd, screaming for mercy. Three or four people go after her, beat her and drag her back, pushing her onto – what I can now see – is a raging fire.

Burned alive

I was witnessing a horrific practice which appears to be on the increase in Kenya – the lynching of people accused of being witches.

I personally saw the burning alive of five elderly men and women in Itii village.

I had been visiting relatives in a nearby town, when I heard what was happening. I dashed to the scene, accompanied by a village elder.

He reacted as if what we were watching was quite normal, which was shocking for me.

As a stranger I felt I had no choice but to stand by and watch. My fear was that if I showed any sign of disapproval, or made any false move, the angry mob could turn on me.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “BBC NEWS”

The death of a giant

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 26, 2009

Michael Jackson was a giant, no ifs or buts about it. He was controversial, eccentric, some may even say bizarre, but he was undoubtedly spectacularly talented and quite probably the most influential musician of the past few decades.  He was truly a global superstar. Too bad he died thinking the whole world hated him, when it is clear, since yesterday, that many, many people did not.

Cosmetic acupuncutre

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 25, 2009

People will never stop coming up with new and improved versions of woo will they? Just when you think that a modality has been so definitely battered by science and evidence that it ought to wither and die, just when we’re getting ready to get out of the acupuncture fight…they pull us right back in. Oh and this one is a clever one:

Martha Lucas, Ph.D., L.Ac., Denver-based acupuncturist and practitioner of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), has authored “Vanity Calamity: Your Guide to Cosmetic Acupuncture for Anti-aging.” The announcement is made by Dr. Lucas who says “Vanity Calamity tells the history of vanity and what women have been willing to do to look younger or more beautiful. Now there’s a healthy, safe option – Cosmetic Acupuncture. My new book, now available for purchase at Amazon.com, shares how to look young naturally.”

As Terra Sig rightly points out, it is quite telling that she is billing her “option” as healthy and safe, not particularly effective. What I find even more telling is that Dr. Lucas, has a PhD in Psychology, which I suspect would come in very handy with the gullible crowd of acupuncture believers.

As a practitioner of TCM, Dr. Lucas has seen the negative side effects that can occur through use of modern techniques for looking younger. “I’ve seen a patient whose face was still numb two years after a surgical facelift, a neck burned by a laser treatment, a young mother who was upset that she couldn’t make facial expressions after receiving Botox® injections, and a woman whose skin had hyper-pigmentation after a ‘natural’ peel,” Dr. Lucas explains. “In turn, I decided the general public needed more information about the natural option called Cosmetic Acupuncture – hence my new book.”

Right, so in exchange I offer you my brand new, fresh off the woo oven, no-side-effect , not-shown-to-have-an-effect-either therapy based on millennia old magical thinking and pseudo science. But hey, you won’t get a burn and your face won’t be numb at least!

Vanity Calamity is full of information that people need to know about how to use natural medicine to look younger and feel more vibrant. According to Dr. Lucas, “we have forgotten the importance of our natural beauty and that it can often be achieved through the use of natural means.”

Naturally! Because what’s more “natural” than sticking man-made, steel needles in your body?

For the Gullible Man: A New Baldness Calculator

Posted in News, Skepdude by Skepdude on June 24, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT LIVESCIENCE

A new baldness calculator, touted as being very accurate in an article at a British newspaper’s web site that just lost even more of my respect, is little more than an advertisement cloaked in a quiz framed under the guise of science.

It preys, of course, on the nearly universal fear among men that they’ll go bald, a fear I’ve never understood. Interestingly, scientists speculate that since so many men go bald, it must’ve had some evolutionary advantage, such as acting as a sign of physical and social maturity, thereby increasing status.

The web-based program — designed mysteriously for UK men only — asks you 12 questions, including your age, what state your hair is in now, whether you wear a hat frequently, and how often you are stressed out, and where in the UK you come from. Apparently those in London have different odds for baldness than, say, someone from London who now lives in Wales. Yeah, right.

The calculator is, as you’d expect, provided by a company with an ulterior motive: It makes shampoos.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT LIVESCIENCE

Skepdude says – I took the test too, and according to them I am likelty to go bald at 55. Oh noooo! I did tell it that I was from Scotland though, so maybe my answer will change if they add NYC to the list. Of course they recommended I buy their shampoo. Pathetic.

WTF???

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on June 24, 2009

How can people go so wrong? This is beyond words. It’s beyond stupid. I don’t think there is a word to describe this kind of behavior. I’m left speechless. All I seem to be able to say is What The Fuck???

Lin Zongxiu, from the southwestern province of Sichuan, heard in 2008 that soup made with a man’s head could help cure her daughter who had suffered from psychiatric problems for years, the Chengdu Commercial newspaper reported.

Lin and her husband decided to enlist the help of a man in December who knocked unconscious a drunk 76-year-old passer-by before beheading him, the paper claimed.

The couple then gave their 25-year-old daughter soup made from the man’s head, and duck.

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Evolution faster when it’s warmer

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 24, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “BBC NEWS”

Rainforest

Climate could have a direct effect on the speed of “molecular evolution” in mammals, according to a study.

Researchers have found that, among pairs of mammals of the same species, the DNA of those living in warmer climates changes at a faster rate.

These mutations – where one letter of the DNA code is substituted for another – are a first step in evolution.

The study, reported in Proceedings of the Royal Society B, could help explain why the tropics are so species-rich.

DNA can mutate and change imperceptibly every time a cell divides and makes a copy of itself.

But when one of these mutations causes a change that is advantageous for the animal – for example, rendering it resistant to a particular disease – it is often “selected for”, or passed down to the next few generations of that same species.

Such changes, which create differences within a population but do not give rise to new species, are known as “microevolution”.

The idea that microevolution happens faster in warmer environments is not new. But this is the first time the effect has been shown in mammals, which regulate their own body temperature.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “BBC NEWS”

Mozambique: ‘Alternative Medicine’ Enters Mozambican Law

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 24, 2009

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “ALLAFRICA.COM”

Maputo — The Mozambican parliament, the Assembly of the Republic, on Tuesday passed the first reading of a government bill which amends the law on private medicine so that it includes, not only evidence-based medicine, but also “alternative medicine”.

The bill defines “alternative” medicine as “health practices not covered by the National Health System and which are constituted by range of diagnostic and therapeutic practices without the appropriate scientific validation, or which are regarded as inaccessible to the scientific method and experimentation and in this latter case may use metaphysical and spiritual curative practices”.

At first sight this looks as if purveyors of all manner of superstition and fraud – homeopathy, chiropractic, aromatherapy, naturopathy or vitamin therapy – will now be treated the same as qualified doctors. All can go into private practice and open up clinics.

…………………………………………………………………………….

If homeopaths think this means they will be able to open clinics in Maputo tomorrow, they may be in for a shock. For they will have to apply for a licence, just as a clinic offering genuine medical care has to apply. And the Health Ministry will decide whether to grant the licence or to refuse it.

“We will decide on a case by case basis”, Garrido stressed.

The law also allows the Health Ministry to shut down any private practice on grounds of “proven professional incompetence” or “grave acts that damage the physical and moral integrity of the users”.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “ALLAFRICA.COM”

Scientology: Ecclesiastical justice, Part 3 of 3 in a special report on the Church of Scientology

Posted in News by Skepdude on June 24, 2009

Skepdude says – Part 3 of the St. Petersburgh’s Times expose of the Church of Scientology – just keep in mind that as much as this agrees with what we skeptics think of the cult of Scientology, at this point we’re witnessing a he-said-she-said battle and it is hard to pick out the truth from simply anectodal evidence, so let us be good skeptics and not crucify them for this unless real hard evidence is presented.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

The four high-ranking executives who left Scientology say that church leader David Miscavige not only physically attacked members of his executive staff, he messed with their minds.

He frequently had groups of managers jump into a pool or a lake. He mustered them into group confessions that sometimes spun into free-for-alls, with people hitting one another.

Mike Rinder, who defended the church to the media for two decades, couldn’t stomach what was happening on the inside.

The tactics to keep executives in line “are wrong from a Scientology viewpoint,” said Rinder, who walked away two years ago. “They are not standard practice of Scientology. They are just not humanitarian. And they are just outright evil.”

Church spokesmen confirm that managers are ordered into pools and assembled for group confessions. It’s part of the “ecclesiastical justice” system the church imposes on poor performers.

Rinder and the other defectors couldn’t cut it in the tough world of Scientology’s Sea Org, a group whose members dedicate their lives to service of the church, the church says. Rather than accept their own failings, the defectors are putting a sinister twist on something that is normal.

The Sea Org is a “crew of tough sons of bitches,” said church spokesman Tommy Davis, an 18-year veteran of the group.

“The Sea Org is not a democracy. The members of it agree with a man named L. Ron Hubbard. They abide by his policies . . . and we follow it to the T, to the letter, to the punctuation marks. And if you disagree with that and you don’t like it, you don’t belong. Then you leave.”

A better thetan

The order came about 10 p.m. on a winter’s night: Report to the swimming pool.

From around the church’s postcard-pretty base in the mountains east of Los Angeles, some 70 staff members turned out in their Navy-style uniforms. David Miscavige was unhappy with the troops, again.

READ THE FULL ARTICLE AT “ST PETERSBURGH TIMES”

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