Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Religion’s Impact on End-of-Life Care

Posted in News by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

Patients Who Rely on Religion to Cope Are More Likely to Have Aggressive Medical Care

March 17, 2009 — Terminally ill cancer patients who relied on their religious faith to help them cope with their disease were more likely to receive aggressive medical care during their last week of life, a study shows.

Patients who engaged in what the researchers called positive religious coping, which included prayer, meditation, and religious study, ended up having more intensive life-prolonging interventions such as mechanical ventilation or cardiopulmonary resuscitation.

The study is published in the latest edition of The Journal of the American Medical Association.

The patients who reported a high level of positive religious coping at the start of the study were almost three times as likely to receive mechanical ventilation and other life-prolonging medical care in the last week of life as patients who said they relied less on their religious beliefs to help them deal with their illness.

A high level of religious coping was also associated with less use of end-of-life planning strategies, including do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills, and appointment of a health care power of attorney.

It is not entirely clear why terminally ill patients who report relying more on their religion would choose more life-prolonging medical interventions.

But researchers say these patients may be less likely to believe their doctors when they are told there is no hope.

“There may be a sense that it is really not in the hands of the doctors to decide when to give up,” study researcher Holly G. Prigerson, PhD, of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute tells WebMD. “Refusing some of these very aggressive medical interventions may be seen as giving up on the possibility that God might intervene.”


Skepquote of the day

Posted in Skepquote by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

Here’s something to think about: How come you never see a headline like ‘Psychic Wins Lottery’?

Jay Leno

Is Canada’s Science Minister a creationist?

Posted in Bad Astronomy by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

The Canadian newspaper Globe and Mail is reporting that Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology in Canada, may not believe in evolution.

The situation is somewhat confusing. The article starts off with this:

Canada’s science minister, the man at the centre of the controversy over federal funding cuts to researchers, won’t say if he believes in evolution.

“I’m not going to answer that question. I am a Christian, and I don’t think anybody asking a question about my religion is appropriate,” Gary Goodyear, the federal Minister of State for Science and Technology, said in an interview with The Globe and Mail.

Wait, what? Religion? The reporter says he was asked about evolution! This makes the issue a little muddy.

If Goodyear was asked specifically about evolution, then it’s not directly a question about religion, and the quotation doesn’t make sense. Either the reporter got it wrong, or the Canadian Minister of Science thinks evolution is religion. Or that being asked about evolution is akin to being asked about religion.


Let me get this clear: science is not faith-based. Evolution is science, and science is not religion. Therefore, being asked about evolution is not the same as being asked about religion.

However, if he was asked about his religion, and the context was whether his religious beliefs are in conflict with evolution, then the question is very appropriate. In fact, the situation would demand it. He’s the Minister of Science! If he thinks evolution is not true because he’s a creationist, then every scientist in Canada should be demanding Goodyear be fired.

Goodyear, apparently, disagrees.


Anti-vaxxers rejoice! You got another one!

Posted in Left Brain Right Brain by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

DANA Elizabeth McCaffery died at 4 weeks of age from Whooping cough, a totally vaccine preventable disease. She was the first to die from this appalling disease since 1997.

Local Paediatrician Chris Ingall said:

“The only way to stop babies getting infected with whooping cough is by vaccination, there is no other way,”he said.“The vaccination rates on the North Coast are the worst in Australia. This is why we have so many incidences in this area compared with other parts of Australia.

“Parents should be alarmed, whooping cough kills little babies. We must get our vaccination rates up so adults don’t pass the disease on to babies.”

The local health authority acted responsibly by bringing forward the vaccine schedule – a move that many anti-vaxxers will be horrified at no doubt.

Meanwhile, over in Kittitas Secondary School in the United States, the local health authority:

…is requiring postponement of all field trips and scheduled activities or events that include other schools, school districts, and/or family members of students.

Why? Because of Whooping cough.


Science doesn’t make good comedy? You must be joking . . .

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 17, 2009

[Originally posted at: Telegraph]

Comedians are suddenly cracking jokes about science. What has happened?

A strange thing has happened to stand-up comedy recently: it has started to find science funny. Of course, in one sense it always has – mocking the other-worldly white-coated geek with his test tubes, Dungeons & Dragons and no sex life, or bemoaning perceived wastes of taxpayers’ money on frivolous research – but not like this. Now professional funnymen and women joke about evolution or particle accelerators, and ordinary people in clubs and bars laugh. From big names like physics graduate Dara O’Briain to fresh-faced newcomers, comedians are talking about science. So how did this change happen? Partly, science is more a part of our lives now than ever. Climate change, stem cell research, IVF – to discuss these topics sensibly requires a grounding in science.

But ubiquity doesn’t equal humour. On the surface, science is either dry, stats-based and academic or vast, monumental and awe-inspiring. How to turn that into jokes? It can be done, says Australian comic Tim Minchin, whose beat poem Storm chronicles an argument about science, medicine and New Age nonsense. “There is comedy there, making something small out of something so huge, in the human condition in the face of the enormity,” he says. Robin Ince, creator of the Christmas show Nine Lessons and Carols for Godless People, agrees. “Physics can be hard for comedy,” he admits, “but biology is hilarious. It’s easier to make a joke about the sex lives of bonobo chimpanzees than it is to do a mime representing wave-particle duality.” Another bonus for science is its cast of memorable characters. Minchin mentions Richard Dawkins – “half say he’s a legend and half say he’s a grumpy old c—”. Ince delves into the history books to Tycho Brahe, the Danish astronomer who wore a gold prosthetic nose after losing his real one in a duel.

But, most importantly, there is nothing a comedian likes more than mocking someone who is demonstrably, yet passionately, wrong – and science can reveal them. “A lot of people, especially in the media, believe you can debate science in the same way you can debate art criticism,” says Ince. Minchin agrees, blaming the relativists who portrayed science as a social construct like religion or literature.

Alternative medicine is a target-rich environment; as Minchin says: “Do you know what they call alternative medicine that’s been proved to work? Medicine.” O’Briain points out that, for all our middle-class love of ancient Chinese medicine, Chinese life expectancy has doubled in the last century – “and that’s nothing to do with tiger penises”.

[Read the rest of this post at: Telegraph]

Why Can’t I Own a Canadian?

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 17, 2009

It’s always humorous when you can use their own ignorance against them…

[Originally posted at: Humanists Of Utah]

Dr. Laura Schlessinger is a radio personality who dispenses advice to people who call in to her radio show. Recently, she said that, as an observant Orthodox Jew, homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22 and cannot be condoned under any circumstance. The following is an open letter to Dr. Laura penned by a east coast resident, which was posted on the Internet. It’s funny, as well as informative:

Dear Dr. Laura:

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s Law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord – Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

[Read the rest of this post at: Humanists Of Utah]

And be sure to check out the video at the bottom.

Close encounters of the Canadian kind

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

Anyway, via Pharyngula we get a link to this poll which asks the following question:

Do you believe in Evolution?

  1. Yes
  2. No
  3. I won’t answer a question about my religion

WTF? Is this meant to be a joke? I mean it has to be right, the website masters can’t be so stupid as to actually think evolution is a religion, can they? But wait, as of right now 2% have chosen #3. So if we could generalize from this small sample I would say that we can infer that at least 2% of the Canadian population is damn stupid! Now I wonder what that percentage would be for us over here in the US? I dread what the answer may turn out to be!


Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on March 17, 2009

So good ol’ Benedict thinks you can’t fight AIDS in Africa by distributing condoms. Instead, he encourages abstinence only bullshit. That’s kinda like saying you can’t avoid getting wet in a rain through the use of an umbrella, instead you should stay inside and never go out when it rains. Theoretically that would be the best solution, but practically no one does it. And then how do you practice abstinence if you’re a grown ass, sexually active adult anyway? What is he thinking? Why are christians so set against the use of condoms anyway? What rubs them (pun intended) the wrong way?

Tagged with: , , ,

Where Does Consciousness Come From?

Posted in Uncategorized by Rodibidably on March 17, 2009

[Originally posted at: Medical News Today]

Consciousness arises as an emergent property of the human mind. Yet basic questions about the precise timing, location and dynamics of the neural event(s) allowing conscious access to information are not clearly and unequivocally determined. Some neuroscientists have even argued that consciousness may arise from a single “seat” in the brain, though the prevailing idea attributes a more global network property. Do the neural correlates of consciousness correspond to late or early brain events following perception? Do they necessarily involve coherent activity across different regions of the brain, or can they be restricted to local patterns of reverberating activity? A new paper, published in this week’s PLoS Biology, suggests that four specific, separate processes combine as a “signature” of conscious activity. By studying the neural activity of people who are presented with two different types of stimuli – one which could be perceived consciously, and one which could not – Dr. Gaillard of INSERM and colleagues, show that these four processes occur only in the former, conscious perception task.

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