Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Obama Watch

Posted in politics, Skepdude by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

This is not a political blog. Nevertheless, I feel that the, so-far deserved, adulation showered on President Obama comes with the consequence of accountability. As such I have decided to deviate a little from the regular content of Skepfeeds to create this Obama Watch list in which I will try to gather links to the President’s actions in two categories (admittedly subjectively sorted by me) Pros and Cons, where Pros means good decisions that resonate with his campaign promises and Cons the ones I don’t like and I think go against what he promised. Please feel free to leave links to news articles in the comments section for me to include. Thanks.


Obama orders halt to prosecutions in Guantanamo – NYTimes 01/21/09

Obama freezes salaries of White House employees making more than $100K per year and tightens lobbying rules. – NYTimes 01/21/09

Obama retakes the President’s Oath without using a Bible – The Buffalo News 01/21/09

Obama signs order to shut down secret prisons and Guantanamo within 1 year – NYTimes 01/22/09

Freedom of Information Act – Obama Memorandum directs government agencies to “adopt a presumption in favor of disclosure” and transparency.– 01/22/09

Obama introduces “The American Reinvestment and Recovery Plan” – 01/24/09

Executive Order “Ensuring Lawful Interrogation” a.k.a. anti-torture order – 01/22/09

Obama reverses “Mexico City Policy” – Bush’s anti-abortion and anti family planning order through own executive order – 01/23/09

Obama signs fair pay law – – 01/29/09


Obama expands White House Faith Office – NYTimes 02/05/09

PS: The president has been raking up a bunch of pluses, no? Good going, I hope he keeps this up!

Tagged with: ,

Your Friday Dose of Woo: The best woo is breast woo

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

Personally, if I could control the matter that is my body other than in the standard, boring, visible way of having my central nervous system fire off nerve impulses that make my muscles move, I know I’d probably like to bulk up my muscles a bit and perhaps get rid of a bit of fat. Oh, wait. There already is a way of doing that for someone like me, who’s put on about 10 pounds over the last year and is a bit out of shape. It’s called diet and exercise. But that involves work! Some people will risk surgery to get rid of that fat, and some people will risk surgery to get a better-looking body. Wouldn’t it be so much better if “mind over matter” could eliminate that choice? No more having to choose between either diet and exercise or plastic surgery, on the one hand, versus remaining unsatisfied with one’s body on the other, none of which are appealing choices. I’m sure you can see the appeal of using the mind to fix the body this way. After all, haven’t woo-meisters been telling us for years that the mind can fix the body?

In any case, if you’re a woman and unsatisfied with your endowment, why go through all the difficulties and potential risks from surgery if you can simply use Adam Eason’s Hypnotic Breast Enlargement System?

First off, if you want some yucks, you really should listen to the recording of Eason’s comments about his system:

You know what? Your brain knows how to grow your breasts. It knows how to do it. It’s grown them before and it can do so again, all wonderfully naturally. It’s very likely that your breasts enlarge when you menstruate…They’re capable of doing it, and this audio program shows you how to do it once again but even more so…This is one of the most fascinating uses of hypnosis.


Movie to ‘Push’ dubious psychic powers

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

The movie “Push,” in theaters Feb. 6, is about a group of young Americans with various psychic abilities who team up to use their paranormal powers against a shadowy U.S. government agency tracking them.

One of the psychic powers featured in the film is psychokinesis, also known as telekinesis or, less formally, “mind over matter.”

The idea of people being able to move objects through mind power alone has intrigued people for centuries, though only in the late 1800s did it become popular and seen as an ability that could be demonstrated. This occurred during the heyday of Spiritualism, when psychic mediums claimed to contact the dead during séances, and objects would suddenly and mysteriously move, float, or fly by themselves across the darkened room, untouched by human hands.


Measles cases up for third year in England

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

LONDON (Reuters) – Measles cases in England and Wales rose by more than 70 percent in 2008 from the previous year, mostly because of unvaccinated children, government health officials said on Friday.

The number of reported measles cases in England and Wales rose to 1,348 in 2008, from 990 a year earlier, Britain’s Health Protection Agency said.

At the same time, the number of children who have received their first dose of the vaccine by their second birthday has risen to about 80 percent.

But that is still well below the 95 percent vaccination coverage needed to confer so-called herd immunity to people in the general population who do not receive the vaccines.


Bad Economy Boosts Psychic Business

Posted in Unreasonable Faith by Rodibidably on February 6, 2009

[Originally posted at: Unreasonable Faith]

As most of us know, when people are in hard times they are more open to superstition. So while it’s no surprise that psychics are getting more business, it’s still a little disappointing.

CNN has a profile on a psychic fraud (except they call her a “medium” instead of the more accurate term “fraud”):

“It’s more types of people I have never seen before,” says [psychic] Roxanne Usleman. “Men in the business world, high-powered jobs, stock market, Wall Street.”

Since last fall, she says she began to see a new type of client — a “logical, [A-type] of personality.” Many of them are “just completely lost,” says Usleman.

Wait, logical personalities are going to a psychic? They must really be lost, because there’s nothing logical about going to a psychic.

[Read more of this post at: Unreasonable Faith]

Ben Goldacre is getting sued…again

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

Lawyers must love Ben. All he has to do is speak the truth, and wham, the kooks charge in. He recently posted a clip from a radio program in which lunatic anti-vaccination nut Jeni Barnett said many stupid things, so she rushed to silence her own words. Can’t have the fact that she’s spluttering nonsense made public, of course!

It is my view that in this extended broadcast Jeni exemplifies every single canard ever uttered by the antivaccination movement. “It’s a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical industry.” “Science always changes so you can believe what you like.” “It’s a debate and a controversy.” “Measles was never that bad anyway.” “Immune systems are damaged by being understimulated.” “Immune systems are damaged by being overstimulated.” And so on.


Egnor in Forbes on Evolution

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

Our favorite creationist neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor, has published his ill-informed and logically-challenged opinions on evolution in a business journal. Darwin’s day is just around the corner (February 12th is the 200th anniversary of his birth and this year is the 150th anniversary of the publication of Origin of the Species), and so it’s a good time for a creationist smack down. As usual Egnor gets everything wrong. He clearly does not understand evolutionary theory, or simply does not care if his straw men are accurate or not as long as he gets to regurgitate the standard anti-evolution propaganda.

In his article he makes a number of wrong or misleading statements, some in question form. He substitues assertion for evidence, and fallacies for logic. His objections to evolution begin with this:

The fossil record shows sharp discontinuity between species, not the gradual transitions that Darwinism inherently predicts.

Wrong.  First, I must point out that Egnor insists on referring to evolutionary theory as “Darwinism.” As many others have pointed out before, this is a propaganda tactic to attempt to diminish evolutionary theory to the quaint ideas of one guy. It is also misleading, for the modern synthesis of evolutionary theory differs in significant ways from strict Darwinian theory.


F.D.A. Approves Drug Derived From Goat’s Milk

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

The newest product made from goat’s milk is not a tangy cheese, but a drug that could prevent fatal blood clots.

Ushering in a new era of both agricultural and pharmaceutical technology, the Food and Drug Administration on Friday approved the first pharmaceutical product made in the milk of genetically engineered animals.

The 200 goats, which are assiduously cared for at a secure farm in central Massachusetts, contain a human gene that causes them to produce a human blood protein in their milk. After the goats are milked, the protein can be extracted for sale as a drug.

Such “pharm animals” as they are sometimes called, could become a way of producing biotechnology drugs at lower cost or in greater quantities than the existing methods, which are to extract them from donated blood or to grow genetically engineered cells in steel tanks.

For instance, the protein being made in the goat milk, antithrombin, is now derived from donated blood plasma. But it is sometimes unavailable because of a shortage of plasma donations.


Born believers: How your brain creates God

Posted in News by Rodibidably on February 6, 2009

[Originally posted at: New Scientist]

04 February 2009 by Michael Brooks – Magazine issue 2694.

WHILE many institutions collapsed during the Great Depression that began in 1929, one kind did rather well. During this leanest of times, the strictest, most authoritarian churches saw a surge in attendance.

This anomaly was documented in the early 1970s, but only now is science beginning to tell us why. It turns out that human beings have a natural inclination for religious belief, especially during hard times. Our brains effortlessly conjure up an imaginary world of spirits, gods and monsters, and the more insecure we feel, the harder it is to resist the pull of this supernatural world. It seems that our minds are finely tuned to believe in gods.

Religious ideas are common to all cultures: like language and music, they seem to be part of what it is to be human. Until recently, science has largely shied away from asking why. “It’s not that religion is not important,” says Paul Bloom, a psychologist at Yale University, “it’s that the taboo nature of the topic has meant there has been little progress.”

The origin of religious belief is something of a mystery, but in recent years scientists have started to make suggestions. One leading idea is that religion is an evolutionary adaptation that makes people more likely to survive and pass their genes onto the next generation. In this view, shared religious belief helped our ancestors form tightly knit groups that cooperated in hunting, foraging and childcare, enabling these groups to outcompete others. In this way, the theory goes, religion was selected for by evolution, and eventually permeated every human society (New Scientist, 28 January 2006, p 30)

The religion-as-an-adaptation theory doesn’t wash with everybody, however. As anthropologist Scott Atran of the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor points out, the benefits of holding such unfounded beliefs are questionable, in terms of evolutionary fitness. “I don’t think the idea makes much sense, given the kinds of things you find in religion,” he says. A belief in life after death, for example, is hardly compatible with surviving in the here-and-now and propagating your genes. Moreover, if there are adaptive advantages of religion, they do not explain its origin, but simply how it spread.

An alternative being put forward by Atran and others is that religion emerges as a natural by-product of the way the human mind works.

[Read the rest of this post at: New Scientist]

Tagged with: , ,

The Detox Foot Pad Scam

Posted in Devicewatch by Skepdude on February 6, 2009

Various adhesive pads and patches are claimed to detoxify the body when applied to the feet. The best known is the Kinoki Detox Foot Pad, which is claimed to remove toxins, restore “balance” within the body, and boost energy. Various other products are claimed to strengthen the immune system, reduce stress, improve circulation, improve sleep, enhance mental focus, relieve headaches and arthritis pain. The alleged explanation for their working include reflexology, unblocking of lymphatic passages, and negative ions that release far infrared rays. All such products should be regarded as fakes, and the proposed mechanisms should be regarded as nonsensical.

Users are instructed to apply the products to the soles of the feet and leave them on overnight. In the morning, they claim, the pads will absorb toxins and turn muddy brown or black.

“Detox” product marketers have done no studies that identify what they claim to remove, measure its level in the body, and see whether such substances accumulate in the pads and have their level reduced in the body. It is unlikely they will ever try, because the basic idea that toxins will be excreted through the skin clashes with what is known about human anatomy and physiology. Real detoxification of foreign substances takes place in the liver, which modifies their chemical structure so they can be excreted by the kidneys which filter them from the blood into the urine. Sweat glands in the feet can excrete water and some dissolved substances. However, its minor role in ridding the body of unwanted substances is not changed by applying foot pads.

In April 2008. ABC’s “20/20” investigated Kinoki ad Avon pads and reported: