Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Yes there is harm, there is a lot of harm…

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 31, 2009

A 5 year old girl has been beheaded by a witch doctor hired by her own father so that her father may have sons who did not die early in life! Take  a second for that to sink in. This is what superstition does if left unchallenged. I don’t want to hear the “what’s the harm” stupid question ever again.

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You’re wrong!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 30, 2009

  • If you think homeopathy has been shown to work, you’re wrong
  • If you think acupuncture has been shown to work, you’re wrong
  • If you think there are valid logical reasons for believing in God, you’re wrong
  • If you think Feng Shui works, you’re wrong
  • If you think vaccines cause autism, you’re wrong
  • If you think alternative medicine works, you’re wrong
  • If you think the Bible and Quran are the word of God, you’re wrong
  • If you think Intelligent Design is a valid alternative to Evolution, you’re wrong
  • If you think psychics are anything but self deluded, you’re wrong
  • If you think there is life after death, you’re wrong
  • If you think Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster and other cryptozoological creatures exist, you’re wrong
  • If you think God talks to you, you’re mentally sick and you’re wrong
  • If you think exotic fruit juices will reverse the aging process, you’re wrong
  • If you think alien craft has visited the Earth and has been witnessed by thousand of people, you’re wrong
  • If you think Andrew Wakefield is a hero, you’re a moron and you’re wrong
  • If you think anecdotal evidence is good enough to establish truth, you’re wrong
  • If you think apostasy deserves death or scorn, you’re a stupid bigot and you’re wrong
  • If you think religious apparitions are anything but fakes and hallucinations, you’re wrong
  • If you think aromatherapy has curative powers, you’re wrong
  • If you think astrology works, you’re wrong
  • If you think atheism leads to immorality, you’re wrong
  • If you think there is enough convincing evidence about the existence of Atlantis, you’re wrong
  • If you think black magic and voodoo work, you’re wrong
  • If you think you can increase your penis size by 3 inches by taking a pill, you’re wrong
  • If you think Evolution by another name is Darwinism, you’re an idiot and you’re wrong
  • If you think chiropractice works as advertised, you’re wrong
  • If you think the Chubacabra exists, you’re wrong
  • If you think a perpetual motion machine, that produces more energy that it takes in has been invented, you’re wrong
  • If you think Global Warming is not real, you’re wrong
  • If you think everything is a conspiracy, you’re wrong
  • If you think transubstantiation is real, you’re wrong
  • If you think crystal and magnets have been shown to have healing properties, you’re wrong
  • If you think water has magical healing powers, you’re wrong
  • If you think demonic possession is real, you’re an idiot and you’re wrong
  • If you think the detox fad cures work, you’re wrong
  • If you think prayers can heal, you’re wrong
  • If you think human coexisted with the dinosaurs, you’re wrong
  • If you think the fossil record is fake, you’re wrong
  • If you think Jesus walked on water, you’re wrong
  • If you think dowsing works, you’re wrong
  • If you think the world will end in 2012, see you on 01/01/2013; you’re wrong.
  • If you think energy healing is real, you’re deluded and you’re wrong
  • If you think the Eucharist is anything but a piece of pastry, you’re wrong
  • If you think memory is reliable, you’re wrong
  • If you think the Earth is flat, you don’t belong to the human species and you’re also wrong
  • If you think there is more evidence in favor of your God‘s existence, than for the Flying Spaghetti Monster, you’re wrong
  • If you think freedom of speech must be limited so as not to offend religions, you’re wrong
  • If you think ghosts exist and have been witnessed by countless witnesses, you’re wrong
  • If you think there is such thing as a holistic healer, you’re wrong
  • If you think the immune system can be “boosted”, you’re wrong
  • If you think you’re infallible, you’re wrong
  • If you think you’re so smart that you don’t need to study logical fallacies and the rules of logic, you’re wrong
  • If you think there is such thing as luck, you’re wrong
  • If you think magic is real and not trickery, you’re wrong
  • If you think people can bend metal with the power of their mind, you’re gullible and you’re wrong
  • If you think magnetic water treatment works, you’re double wrong
  • If you think your God is real and the other person’s God is myth, you’re a hypocrite and you’re wrong
  • If you think Near Death Experiences are anything but an artifact of the brain, you’re wrong
  • If you believe in the New Age crap nonsensery, you’re wrong
  • If you think natural automatically means healthy and better, you’re naive and you’re wrong
  • If you think that Mary in the water stain is anything but pareidolia, you’re wrong
  • If you think the placebo effect is myth, you’re wrong
  • If you think poltergeists are real, you’re wrong
  • If you think psychokinesis is real, you’re wrong
  • If you think there is a thing called Qi and that it can be manipulated to our advantage, you’re childishly wrong
  • If you think there is such thing as quantum healing, you’re wrong
  • If you think Satan is responsible for the evil in the world, think again while looking in the mirror, you’re wrong
  • If you think separation of church and state is bad, you’re wrong
  • If you think  tarot cards can tell your future, you’re miserably wrong
  • If you think urine therapy works, you’re wrong
  • If you think witches exist, you’r wrong
  • If  I thought that it is impossible for me to have made an incorrect statement in the above list, I’d be wrong

That about wraps it up. Let me know in the comments if I left something out.

Beware the Spinal Trap

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 30, 2009

Some practitioners claim it is a cure-all, but the research suggests chiropractic therapy has mixed results – and can even be lethal, says Simon Singh.

Simon Singh

On 29th July a number of magazines and websites are going to be publishing Simon Singh’s Guardian article on chiropractic from April 2008, with the part the BCA sued him for removed.

They are reprinting it, following the lead of Wilson da Silva at COSMOS magazine, because they think the public should have access to the evidence and the arguments in it that were lost when the Guardian withdrew the article after the British Chiropractic Association sued for libel.

We want as many people as possible around the world to print it or put it live on the internet at the same time to make an interesting story and prove that threatening libel or bringing a libel case against a science writer won’t necessarily shut down the debate.

You might be surprised to know that the founder of chiropractic therapy, Daniel David Palmer, wrote that “99% of all diseases are caused by displaced vertebrae”. In the 1860s, Palmer began to develop his theory that the spine was involved in almost every illness because the spinal cord connects the brain to the rest of the body. Therefore any misalignment could cause a problem in distant parts of the body.

In fact, Palmer’s first chiropractic intervention supposedly cured a man who had been profoundly deaf for 17 years. His second treatment was equally strange, because he claimed that he treated a patient with heart trouble by correcting a displaced vertebra.

You might think that modern chiropractors restrict themselves to treating back problems, but in fact some still possess quite wacky ideas. The fundamentalists argue that they can cure anything, including helping treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying – even though there is not a jot of evidence.

I can confidently label these assertions as utter nonsense because I have co-authored a book about alternative medicine with the world’s first professor of complementary medicine, Edzard Ernst. He learned chiropractic techniques himself and used them as a doctor. This is when he began to see the need for some critical evaluation. Among other projects, he examined the evidence from 70 trials exploring the benefits of chiropractic therapy in conditions unrelated to the back. He found no evidence to suggest that chiropractors could treat any such conditions.

But what about chiropractic in the context of treating back problems? Manipulating the spine can cure some problems, but results are mixed. To be fair, conventional approaches, such as physiotherapy, also struggle to treat back problems with any consistency. Nevertheless, conventional therapy is still preferable because of the serious dangers associated with chiropractic.

In 2001, a systematic review of five studies revealed that roughly half of all chiropractic patients experience temporary adverse effects, such as pain, numbness, stiffness, dizziness and headaches. These are relatively minor effects, but the frequency is very high, and this has to be weighed against the limited benefit offered by chiropractors.

More worryingly, the hallmark technique of the chiropractor, known as high-velocity, low-amplitude thrust, carries much more significant risks. This involves pushing joints beyond their natural range of motion by applying a short, sharp force. Although this is a safe procedure for most patients, others can suffer dislocations and fractures.

Worse still, manipulation of the neck can damage the vertebral arteries, which supply blood to the brain. So-called vertebral dissection can ultimately cut off the blood supply, which in turn can lead to a stroke and even death. Because there is usually a delay between the vertebral dissection and the blockage of blood to the brain, the link between chiropractic and strokes went unnoticed for many years. Recently, however, it has been possible to identify cases where spinal manipulation has certainly been the cause of vertebral dissection.

Laurie Mathiason was a 20-year-old Canadian waitress who visited a chiropractor 21 times between 1997 and 1998 to relieve her low-back pain. On her penultimate visit she complained of stiffness in her neck. That evening she began dropping plates at the restaurant, so she returned to the chiropractor. As the chiropractor manipulated her neck, Mathiason began to cry, her eyes started to roll, she foamed at the mouth and her body began to convulse. She was rushed to hospital, slipped into a coma and died three days later. At the inquest, the coroner declared: “Laurie died of a ruptured vertebral artery, which occurred in association with a chiropractic manipulation of the neck.”

This case is not unique. In Canada alone there have been several other women who have died after receiving chiropractic therapy, and Edzard Ernst has identified about 700 cases of serious complications among the medical literature. This should be a major concern for health officials, particularly as under-reporting will mean that the actual number of cases is much higher.

If spinal manipulation were a drug with such serious adverse effects and so little demonstrable benefit, then it would almost certainly have been taken off the market.

About the Author

Simon Singh is a science writer in London and the co-author, with Edzard Ernst, of Trick or Treatment? Alternative Medicine on Trial. This is an edited version of an article published in The Guardian for which Singh is being personally sued for libel by the British Chiropractic Association.

Hear D.J. Grothe’s interview with Singh on Point of Inquiry.

Faith-healing pair acquitted of manslaughter

Posted in News, Skepdude by Skepdude on July 27, 2009


OREGON CITY, Ore. – An Oregon couple who relied on prayer instead of medical care were acquitted of manslaughter Thursday in the death of their 15-month-old daughter.

The jury convicted the father, Carl Brent Worthington, of criminal mistreatment, a misdemeanor carrying a maximum sentence of a year in jail. The mother, Raylene Worthington, was acquitted in the 2008 death of their daughter Ava.

Both had faced manslaughter charges, which could have carried a sentence of up to six years in prison. The mother also was acquitted of criminal mistreatment.

The prosecution said Ava Worthington failed to flourish through most of her life because of a cyst on her neck that impeded her breathing and eating, contributing to her fatal pneumonia. She died on a Sunday evening after family and church members prayed over her and anointed her with olive oil.

The state medical examiner said she could easily have been saved with antibiotics.

‘They’re not monsters’
But the defense attacked the credibility of the state’s expert witnesses and said the child died of a fast-moving form of sepsis, an infection. The Worthingtons testified that the cyst was a trait in the father’s family and that they thought their child only had a cold.

Jurors saw the Worthingtons as loving, caring parents, said 25-year-old juror Ashlee Santos.


How to avoid answering a simple question…Christian Style!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 26, 2009

The question is simple. It has been asked many a times. It has never been answered, not even attempted to be answered honestly. This time it is no different!

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Put Maher in the hot seat

Posted in Pharyngula by Skepdude on July 23, 2009


Some people are quite rightly appalled that Bill Maher won the Richard Dawkins Award from AAI, and is at the top of the list of speakers at the AAI conference. I sympathize; Maher certainly has some wacky ideas, and I even gave him a mixed review on his movie, Religulous. (I also must repeat a clarification: the Richard Dawkins Award is not given by Richard Dawkins or the Richard Dawkins Foundation: it is an award by Atheist Alliance International, named after Richard Dawkins.)

However, let’s be clear about the obvious. He is being given this award for making a movie this year that clearly promotes atheism and mocks religion, and that’s all that is being endorsed. Not many people have done that, and it’s especially unusual in that it was a movie entirely about ridiculing religion, and it was a mainstream movie with wide circulation. That’s it. It would be difficult to ignore, and it’s something AAI would like to promote.

Let’s be clear about something else. This is atheism: we have no dogma, we have no infallible leaders, everyone is naturally flawed, and we recognize that within our ranks there is a huge diversity of opinion. Our strategy for dealing with these ideas is the same as the scientific approach — constant, relentless criticism. There is no Atheist Supreme Leader. There is no Atheist Pope. There is no Godless Ruling Council, no Atheist Inquisition, no Freethought Dogma.


Bill Maher gets the Richard Dawkins Award? That’s like Jenny McCarthy getting an award for public health

Posted in Respectful Insolence by Skepdude on July 23, 2009


Although I often don’t agree with him and have cooled on him lately, I still rather like–even admire–Richard Dawkins. While it’s true I’ve taken him to task for having a tin ear for bioethics, lamented his walking blindly right into charges of anti-Semitism(no, I don’t think he’s an anti-Semite), and half-defended/half-criticized him for seeming to endorsing eugenics. What’s really irritated me about him in the past, though, is his use of the “Neville Chamber atheist” gambit that I so detest, so much so that I once featured Dawkins in a Hitler Zombie episode (albeit not as the victim). On the other hand, I loved Dawkins’ The Enemies of Reason, particularly Dawkins’ demolition of Deepak Chopra and other woo-meisters. Indeed, his explanation of the ridiculousness of the pseudoscience that is homeopathy was about as clear and visually compelling as any I’ve ever seen, and I loved how he and P.Z. Myers totally pwned the producers of Expelled! last year.

Through it all, even though I don’t always agree with Richard Dawkins mostly on matters of religion versus atheism and how to advocate for reason, I have never doubted that he is a force for reason to be reckoned with. I’ve even briefly met him, although I highly doubt that he’d remember me, my being one of dozens of people who shook his hand that day nearly two years ago in New York. There’s even an award named after him, the Richard Dawkins Award, which the Atheist Alliance awards to one person every year based on these criteria::


The Richard Dawkins Award will be given every year to honor an outstanding atheist whose contributions raise public awareness of the nontheist life stance; who through writings, media, the arts, film, and/or the stage advocates increased scientific knowledge; who through work or by example teaches acceptance of the nontheist philosophy; and whose public posture mirrors the uncompromising nontheist life stance of Dr. Richard Dawkins.

Past recipients have included James Randi, Ann Druyan, Penn and Teller, Julia Sweeney, Daniel Dennett, and Ayaan Hirsi Ali, all worthy recipients. 

So the other day I was rather shocked to see who the 2009 recipient of the Richard Dawkins Award will be. If you read Pharyngula, you knew the answer a couple of days ago.

 Bill Maher.

 When I found this out, all I could think was: WTF?

 Let’s backtrack a minute. Longtime readers of this blog know that I do not think much of Bill Maher. Oh, sure, I find him occasionally somewhat amusing. For example, his New Rules segment is sometimes pretty funny. However I can’t really watch Real Time With Bill Maher on HBO, mainly because Maher’s smugness irritates the crap out of me. But none of that has anything to do with why I find his receiving the Richard Dawkins Award to be about as inappropriate as giving Jenny McCarthy a public health award–and for much the same reasons. After all, Bill Maher is a woo-meister supreme and, like Jenny McCarthy, an anti-vaccine crank, as I’ve documented time and time again on this very blog. He’s also a big time PETA supporter and a germ theory denialist.


Homeopathy & Nutritionists vs Real Science!

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 23, 2009

Losing my religion for equality

Posted in News by Skepdude on July 22, 2009


Women and girls have been discriminated against for too long in a twisted interpretation of the word of God.

I HAVE been a practising Christian all my life and a deacon and Bible teacher for many years. My faith is a source of strength and comfort to me, as religious beliefs are to hundreds of millions of people around the world. So my decision to sever my ties with the Southern Baptist Convention, after six decades, was painful and difficult. It was, however, an unavoidable decision when the convention’s leaders, quoting a few carefully selected Bible verses and claiming that Eve was created second to Adam and was responsible for original sin, ordained that women must be “subservient” to their husbands and prohibited from serving as deacons, pastors or chaplains in the military service.

This view that women are somehow inferior to men is not restricted to one religion or belief. Women are prevented from playing a full and equal role in many faiths. Nor, tragically, does its influence stop at the walls of the church, mosque, synagogue or temple. This discrimination, unjustifiably attributed to a Higher Authority, has provided a reason or excuse for the deprivation of women’s equal rights across the world for centuries.

At its most repugnant, the belief that women must be subjugated to the wishes of men excuses slavery, violence, forced prostitution, genital mutilation and national laws that omit rape as a crime. But it also costs many millions of girls and women control over their own bodies and lives, and continues to deny them fair access to education, health, employment and influence within their own communities.

The impact of these religious beliefs touches every aspect of our lives. They help explain why in many countries boys are educated before girls; why girls are told when and whom they must marry; and why many face enormous and unacceptable risks in pregnancy and childbirth because their basic health needs are not met.

In some Islamic nations, women are restricted in their movements, punished for permitting the exposure of an arm or ankle, deprived of education, prohibited from driving a car or competing with men for a job. If a woman is raped, she is often most severely punished as the guilty party in the crime.


Can I call this stupid?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on July 21, 2009

I have been getting a bit of flack on the comments of my entry in which I disagreed with Brian Dunning about using the label stupid. Now, I think no one can argue with me that this idiot is not stupid. Just go look at his other videos. Case closed, this guy is a mental case! The only question I am interested in is this: Did he get stupid because he got religious or did he become religious because he was stupid? Or is there no correlation at all? I don’t know, you make up your own mind.


UPDATE: I’m being told this is satire. I don’t know. I have seen and heard fundamentalist christians talk like this before, plus there is no indication that he is not serious (unlike with say Ed Current!). Maybe it is satire, in which case this guy is brilliant. Either way, enjoy!