Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Five positive religious headlines

Posted in Rodibidably by Rodibidably on March 13, 2009

[Originally posted at: Rodibidably]

I am accused at times of being overly critical of religion, and religious believers. In an attempt to balance that a bit, I thought I would post a few headlines of news articles that show religion in a more positive light.

  1. A catholic priest and young boy are alone for 2 hours together, and boy is not molested
  2. Evangelical christian meets person of different religious faith, and does not annoy the crap out of them with an attempted conversion
  3. Home-schooled christian child understands and accepts the consensus of scientific opinion as best way to understand the universe
  4. Homophobic christian fundamentalist pastor does not engage in sex act with male prostitute
  5. Islamic man insulted by woman, does not attempt to rape and/or kill her

[Originally posted at: Rodibidably]

Paraplegic Man Suffers Spider Bite, Walks Again

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 13, 2009

Make whatever you want of this story. It is lacking enough details to even ensure this story is being reported truthfully. Either way sounds too much like a post hoc argument to me. Furthermore, this is reality not a Spider Man movie. Not that I wouldn’t be willing to accept it if more evidence came forth about just how this could even work, it’s just that the title seems a bit misleading.

MANTECA, Calif. (CBS13) ―

He has been confined to a wheelchair for 20 years. Now a paraplegic man is walking again, and his doctors call it a miracle. CBS13 went to Manteca to find out how a spider bite helped get him back on his feet.

“I closed my eyes and then I was spinning like a flying saucer,” explains David Blancarte.

A motorcycle accident almost killed David 21 years ago. At the time he might have wished he was dead.

“I asked my doctor, ‘Sir what happened? I can’t feel my legs’,” said David.

Ever since, David’s been relying on his wheelchair to get around. Then the spider bite. A Brown Recluse sent him to the hospital, then to rehab for eight months.

“I’m here for a spider bite. I didn’t know I would end up walking,” says David.

READ THE REST OF THIS STORY AT “CBS13”

Did you ever wonder what the advantages and disadvantages of homeopathy are?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 13, 2009

No? Well head over here for a brief, concise summary. Or maybe I can summarize it for you.

Advantages

* Homeopathy basically is considered to be one of the safest forms of treatments like Ayurveda. Homeopathic medicines are aimed at improving the body’s own healing powers to be able to fight the disease. Homeopathic medicines are safe without any harmful ingredients. These medicine do not suppress the pain, rather it strengthens the immune system and treats the cause of the disease.

Generally true. Water is considered to be quite safe and at the levels of dilution homeopaths deal with, no ingredients are left in the pill/solution regardless if they were harmful or not to begin with. And of course you can’t have any of this without the usual “improving body’s own healing powers” and the “strengthen the immune system” nonsense. In other words, homeopathic solutions are to the body what spinach was to Popeye.

* Homeopathy medicine is relatively safe for children, adults and even pregnant women. These medicines do not have any side effects.

Yes, yes we already covered the water is safe routine. This does not even deserve its own bulletpoint.

* The homeopathy medicines are also natural and therefore more suitable for the human body. These medicines are based on natural ingredients.

You didn’t think you’d be going through a typical (s)CAM propaganda piece without coming across the word natural now did you? If you didn’t know by now, the use of the word “natural” is one of the top red flags of quackery. Just sayin’!

* Another advantage of homeopathic medicines is that they are easy to use. These medicines generally come in the form of tiny sugar pills and these are convenient to carry and also very easy to take at the necessary time prescribed by the doctor.

It’s a sugar pill. It’s a SUGAR PILL, they accept it themselves. Oh the irony! And boy this is so much better than the non-sugar pills that real doctors prescribe, who are so much more inconvenient to carry and take at the necessary time.  Hey homeopaths, I have an even better idea. Your stuff is even more convenient than that. You don’t even need to carry anything. Just turn the faucet on and voila you’re healed (well actually your immune system is strengthened thus allowing your body’s natural healing powers to kick in. Go Power Rangers!)

* Homeopathic treatment is also cost effective as compared to other forms. This treatment does not involve large expenditures. Besides, they can also complement allopathic medicines in many cases.

Of course, water’s pretty cheap. But far as I know there’s not much difference in price between any over the counter medicines and their homeopathic distant cousins. And the over the counter real medicines actually work.

Now on to the disadvantages.

As for the disadvantages of homeopathy goes, it would depend largely upon the physician who is giving you the treatment. Perhaps one would notice the dearth of professional homeopathic doctors. There is also a shortage of institutions that conduct these professional courses. This would mean there are not many genuine homeopathic medicines being prescribed by authentic doctors. Also, one cannot rely on homeopathic medicines for emergency situations.

So the problem with homeopathy is that there aren’t enough homeopaths! That’s kinda like saying “one of the disadvantages of war is that there aren’t enough soldiers around”. What kind of bullshit reasoning is this. But wait, they at least hit one nail on the head when they say that “one cannot rely on homeopathic medicines for emergency situations”. Oh the stupidity! So they spend 500-1000 words explaining all the advantages and lamenting how there arent’ enough of them, only s to turn around and admit that it doesn’t work! But, dear reader, you knew that already.

Ecstasy Could Help Patients With Post Traumatic Stress Disorder

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 13, 2009

There was a time in my teens / early 20’s that this would have been one of the top news stories of all time:

[Originally posted at: Medical News Today]

Ecstasy may help suffers of post-traumatic stress learn to deal with their memories more effectively by encouraging a feeling of safety, according to an article in the Journal of Psychopharmacology published today by SAGE. Studies have shown that a type of psychological treatment called exposure therapy – where the patient repeatedly recalls the traumatic experience or is repeatedly exposed to situations that are safe but still trigger their traumatic feelings – can be effective in relieving stress responses in patients with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other anxious conditions. The therapy works by helping the patient to re-learn the appropriate response to the trigger situation, a process known as extinction learning.

But this approach can take some time, and 40% of patients continue to experience post-traumatic stress even after their treatment. To improve outcomes, scientists have been investigating the use of drug therapies to enhance the effect of exposure therapy, making the result of exposure to the fear trigger easier, faster, and more effective. MDMA (the pharmaceutical version of Ecstasy) is one such drug.

“A goal during exposure therapy for PTSD is to recall distressing experiences while at the same time remaining grounded in the present. Emotional avoidance is the most common obstacle in exposure therapy for PTSD, and high within-session emotional engagement predicts better outcome,” explain authors Pål-Ørjan Johansen and Teri Krebs, who are based at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology and supported by the Research Council of Norway.

Psychiatrists that have administered MDMA to anxiety patients have noted that it promotes emotional engagement; strengthens the bond between the patient and doctor, known as the therapeutic alliance; decreases emotional avoidance; and improves tolerance for recall and processing of painful memories.

[Read the rest of this post at: Medical News Today]

You Are Friends With an Atheist

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 13, 2009

[Originally posted at: American Chronicle]

If you live in the United States, you are almost certainly friends with at least one atheist, agnostic, nonbeliever, skeptic, or unaffiliated humanist, whether you know it or not. And your friend almost certainly endures prejudice and unequal treatment, whether you know it or not. And your friend is roughly as decent, good, loyal, honest, courageous, and generous as your other friends, and you know it.

The March 2009 American Religious Identification Survey from Trinity College and the March 7, 2009, National Journal article on “Rise of the Godless” present a wealth of data. Let’s look at the survey first:

When asked for their religious affiliation, 15 percent of Americans say none, but only 0.7 percent say atheist and 0.9 percent agnostic. However, when asked if they believe in God, 2.3 percent say “There is no such thing,” making most of them atheists who do not like or understand the label “atheist,” 4.3 percent say “There is no way to know,” making most of them agnostics who don’t like or understand the label “agnostic” (or, in another interpretation, atheists not quite comfortable in atheism), another 5.7 percent say “I’m not sure,” making them also agnostics or atheists-lite, another 6.1 percent refuse to answer, and 12.1 percent say “there is a higher power but no personal God” making them either atheists of theists depending on whether you conceive of a “non-personal God.” This leaves 69.5 percent who say “There is definitely a personal God.” Chances are that all your friends are not in that 69.5 percent. Chances are that at least one of your friends is in the 18.4 percent who do not profess belief in a God or a “higher power.” Chances are, in fact, that at least one of your friends is in the 12.3 percent who openly say (at least to pollsters) that they doubt or disbelieve. These people are pretty evenly spread around the United States and are not all congregated in some godless metropolis far from your unenlightened region of the country. While acceptance of atheism clearly varies drastically from place to place, its existence does not.

[Read the rest of this post at: American Chronicle]

Hyperbaric Autism Treatment Shows Possible Promise

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 13, 2009

Well not really, but read the whole thing to get to Paul Offits thoughts and comments. I think the title of this piece is more optimistic than what is warranted by the actual article, but I guess you can decide for yourself.

To battle her son’s autism, Kazuko Curtin did more than look into a treatment — she started a clinic for it.

autism

While the reasons remain unclear, hyperbaric chambers may help autistic children.

(ABCNews Photo Illustration)

Twelve years ago, Curtin was told by doctors that her son had autism. In subsequent years, while attending conferences, she heard about treatment in a hyperbaric chamber, where pressure is increased in an attempt to boost the amount of oxygen in the child’s brain.

Curtin bought a machine, and today a hyperbaric chamber is one of the treatments offered by the CARE Clinics in Austin, Texas, and Tampa, Fla., which she opened last year.

“Hyperbaric is very useful,” said Curtin. “You never think autistic children are going to stay inside the hyperbaric for 90 minutes, because they are very restless. What’s amazing — they like it! For some reason, they are very calm inside.”

Curtin is the not the first to use hyperbaric therapy, a procedure with little scientific backing for the treatment of autism. But a new, small study of 56 children treated at several small clinics may change that if the findings can be replicated.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “MSNBC”

5 Facts About Friday the 13th

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 13, 2009

If Friday the 13th is unlucky, then 2009 is an unusually unlucky year. This week’s Friday the 13th is one of three to endure this year.

The first came last month. The next is in November. Such a rare triple-threat occurs only once every 11 years.

The origin of the link between bad luck and Friday the 13th is murky. The whole thing might date to Biblical times (the 13th guest at the Last Supper betrayed Jesus). By the Middle Ages, both Friday and 13 were considered bearers of bad fortune. In modern times, the superstition permeates society.

Here are five of our favorite Friday-the-13th facts:

1. Fear of Friday the 13th — one of the most popular myths in science — is called paraskavedekatriaphobia as well as friggatriskaidekaphobia. Triskaidekaphobia is fear of the number 13.

2. Many hospitals have no room 13, while some tall buildings skip the 13th floor and some airline terminals omit Gate 13.

3. President Franklin D. Roosevelt would not travel on the 13th day of any month and would never host 13 guests at a meal. Napoleon and President Herbert Hoover were also triskaidekaphobic, with an abnormal fear of the number 13.

4. Mark Twain once was the 13th guest at a dinner party. A friend warned him not to go. “It was bad luck,” Twain later told the friend. “They only had food for 12.” Superstitious diners in Paris can hire a quatorzieme, or professional 14th guest.

5. The number 13 suffers from its position after 12, according to numerologists who consider the latter to be a complete number — 12 months in a year, 12 signs of the zodiac, 12 gods of Olympus, 12 labors of Hercules, 12 tribes of Israel, 12 apostles of Jesus, 12 days of Christmas and 12 eggs in a dozen.

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT “LIVESCIENCE”

Happy Friday the 13th (sinister laughter)

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 13, 2009

Hi there, may you all have a luckier-than-the-average-day Friday the 13th today. And if you particularly believe in the nonsense that is numerology and other stuff  which name I can’t even think of, remember not to walk under ladders and if a black cat crosses your path, scream like a little girl (unless you’re already one of course) and run like hell the other way. I suggest you lock yourself in your house and watch some porn, but stay away from your genitals. You wouldn’t want some freak accident to happen now would you? And get some provisions, because there’s another one  further down the road on 11/13/09. Scary!

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Elf Detection 101

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 13, 2009

Hat tip to Skepchick for pointing our attention this way.

An article on Iceland’s de facto bankruptcy in the April issue of Vanity Fair notes that a “large number of Icelanders” believe in elves or “hidden people.” This widespread folklore occasionally disrupts business in the sparsely populated North Atlantic country. Before the aluminum company Alcoa could erect a smelting factory, “it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it.” How do you find an elf?

Illusration by Rober Neubecker. Click image to expand.With psychic powers. According to a poll conducted in 2007, 54 percent of Icelanders don’t deny the existence of elves and 8 percent believe in them outright, although only 3 percent claim to have encountered one personally. The ability to see the huldufólk, or hidden folk, can’t be learned; you’re just born with it. To find elves, seers don’t really need to do anything—they’ll just sense an elfin presence. The Vanity Fair article says that elf detection can take six months, but it’s usually a quick process that can last under an hour. And although the magazine claims that a “government expert” had to certify the nonexistence of elves, the Icelandic Embassy insists that these consults are performed by freelancers, not government contractors.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT “SLATE.COM”

Thoughts From A Layperson About Evidence-Based Medicine

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 13, 2009

[Originally posted at: Facebook]

Upon information and belief, evidence-based medicine (EBM) is how health care providers practice medicine by applying the conclusions gained from those who authentically implemented the scientific method to acquire these conclusions.

These conclusions from relevant clinical trials are analyzed by others in regards to the risks and benefits to be considered for the treatment protocols for the patients of health care providers.

These trials are determined to be the best evidence available presently for the systematic analysis that is performed. This paradigm of a practicing fully utilizing EBM allows the health care provide to better predict the clinical outcomes from the ideal treatment options concluded according to EBM.

EBM implemented by health care providers recognize the need for improved quality in medicine. They also strive to place tremendous value on the restoration of the health of their patients- and they perceive the EBM approach to be the standard approach in their medical practices.

It is believed that there are three areas of evidence-based medicine:

1. Treat patients according to what is reasonable and necessary based on the evidence that exists regarding the treatment options health care providers select.

2. Health care providers review this evidence in order to judge and assess the best treatment for their patients.

3. Recognize that evidence-based medicine is in fact a movement that emphasizes the usefulness of this method to practice medicine.

A standard of care is created as a result.

It is also believed that there are two types of evidence-based medicine:

1. Evidence-based guidelines- Policies and regulations are produced to ensure optimal health care.

2. Evidence-based individual decision making- This is how restoring the health of others is practiced by the health care provider.

While critics claim that EBM is too restrictive in practicing medicine and treating patients, EBM seems to be the preferred way to practice medicine instead of relying on possibly biased medical guidelines.

Rather than EBM being restrictive, it is in fact potentially improved by enhancements such as electronic health records.

Medical guidelines for a particular disease state are created from a combination of clinical studies in which conclusions are drawn to reflect national standards of care for a particular disease state.

Guidelines were implemented during the 1980s as an alternative to relying on only EBM.

At times, these guidelines are privately sponsored by those profitable medical industries that are able to gain profit depending on what such guidelines state about treatment considerations. This makes guidelines, at times, unreliable due to bias, as they are without independent systematic review or quality considerations by others.

Unlike evidence-based medicine, guidelines can have major flaws and inaccuracies due to toxic factors such as commercial sponsorship received to create such guidelines. It is likely because of flaws such as this that most doctors do not follow medical guidelines, yet are rewarded and reimbursed by programs such as Medicare if they do follow medical guidelines that are established.

Dan Abshear

[Originally posted at: Facebook]

I would typically post just the first few paragraphs, but as I’m not sure the link will work for everybody, I posted this article in it’s entirety.