Skepfeeds-The Best Skeptical blogs of the day

Homeopaths On The Run

Posted in Neurologica by Skepdude on February 26, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT NEUROLOGICA

t’s been a bad year for homeopathy, and it’s still February. The 10^23 campaign has been making a proper mockery of the magical medicine that is homeopathy, capped off with their mass homeopathic “overdose.” In Australia skeptics have been taking homeopathic websites to task for making unsupported health claims. And in the UK there has been increasing pressure to question NHS support for homeopathy – most recently the House of Commons Science and Technology Committee concluded that homeopathy is nothing more than an elaborate placebo and the NHS should completely defund and remove any support for homeopathy. This could be a death blow to homeopathy in the UK, and provide support for similar efforts elsewhere.

Last year was no better. Most memorable was this comedy sketch by Mitchell and Webb, who nicely skewered homeopaths and other cranks. When comedians are not ridiculing them, homeopaths were doing a fine job of lampooning themselves – the best is this video where Dr. Werner tries to explain how homeopathy works – pure comedy gold. Of course the best real explanation for how homeopathy works is here.

Even before the House Committee presented its final report, the embarrassing moments were being immortalized on YouTube, for example the head of a major UK pharmaceutical chain admitting that they market homeopathic products with full knowledge that they don’t work.

All of this has homeopaths a bit desperate, it would seem. They now realize that skeptics and scientists are starting to get traction with their criticism. This is good, because as I have argued before the more we get homeopaths and other pseudoscientists trying to defend themselves, the more they will do our work for us.

Thanks to commenter tl;dr for pointing out this video by homeopath, John Benneth. This is the best incoherent rant yet by a crank against skeptics. If I did not already know Benneth from his other videos, where he puts forward rambling technobabble trying to make homeopathy seem scientific, I could easily have believed this was satire. Benneth looks disheveled, distracted, and gets childishly sarcastic at one point. But that aside, the content of his rant is priceless.

Benneth decides to take on skeptics directly, and by name. He mentions Randi, Edzard Ernst, Simon Singh, Harriet Hall, Michael Shermer, and your humble servant (thanks for including me in such excellent company). He then proceeds straight to the logical fallacy aisle and fills his cart.

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT NEUROLOGICA

And then they criticize Dawkins for calling this a delusion

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 24, 2010

Because, this of course, is anything other than an utter mass delusion:

Two pastors in the Kingdom Seekers Fellowship International church were killed in a road accident on Monday last week and the faithful believed that God would resurrect them if they prayed hard enough.

Their death in a car that rolled on the Nairobi-Nakuru highway, the faithful believed, was the work of the devil and the miracle was to shame the evil one.

“Our pastors have been perishing in road accidents and it is time for us to shame the devil, who is behind the tragedies,” Pastor John Kamau William, the church’s general overseer, announced to the congregation outside their church in Nakuru

There will be some shame being dealt, that’s for sure, but I don’t think this will be going the way these poor deluded folks are hoping it will; not that that will shake their faith anyway. That’s what rationalizations are for.

At one point, Pastor Ndetei’s widow, went to the tent where the coffin was placed and shook it as she hysterically pleaded with God to raise her husband.

Another worshipper pushed the coffins in an attempt to stir the dead pastors to wake up from their “deep sleep.” Nothing happened.

By this time, one could sense doubts creeping into the minds of some of the faithful. To banish any such thoughts, Apostle Steven Bulungi from Uganda chased away the doubting Thomases.

He kept on telling the congregation that they were not being “fanatical or emotional” enough. ‘‘You are practising the word of God,” he exhorted them.

Nevertheless, the worshippers eventually lost hope. One of the pastors announced: “Some miracles do not happen instantly, as was the case when Jesus cursed the fig tree.”

I rest my case.

What the F Nouri?

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 24, 2010

What is wrong in the head of the Iraqi prime minister? Why does he insist on endangering the lives of his people? Can one man’s stubbornness, blind him so much that he’d much rather keep using a magic stick to detect BOMBS that are used daily to kill his people, than admit he was wrong?

The survey, ordered by Nouri al-Maliki, the prime minister, found the British device, known as ADE651, generally worked. However some of the gadgets, found to be ineff­ective, would be replaced.

A government spokesman later said only 50% of the devices worked.

Replaced with what? Other ineffectual magic sticks? And just how exactly was the survey conducted? I wonder if they had two containers, one with explosives and one without. That would explain the 50% pass rate. Mr. al-Maliki, please stop making it easy for the bad guys to kill innocents.

Hey…it’s CapTAM Disillusion

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 23, 2010

I didn’t get  a chance to catch up on these videos ’til now. Nicely done!

Part 1

Part 2


Part 3


Part 4


Part 5


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British MPs Tell Gov’t: Stop Funding Homeopathy

Posted in Science Based Pharmacy by Skepdude on February 22, 2010

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED PHARMACY

In a clear statement on the absurdity of public funding and regulation of homeopathy, British MPs instructed government to stop paying for homeopathy, shut down homeopathic hospitals, cease all homeopathy clinical trials, and to crack down on homeopathic efficacy claims.

Committee chairman Phil Willis MP said; “We were seeking to determine whether the Government’s policies on homeopathy are evidence based on current evidence. They are not.”

Homeopathy doesn’t work. It can’t work. If it did, physics, biochemistry and pharmacology as pharmacists know it would be false. Yet this elaborate placebo system persists, supported in part by the pharmacy profession, which seems comfortable selling products with no active ingredients and no evidence of efficacy.

I have blogged previously about the British inquiry into homeopathy, the public relations disaster for Boots the Chemist (selling their own store brand of homeopathy), and the effectiveness of the “10-23″ protesters, who staged a mass homeopathic overdose, where, not surprisingly, nothing untoward happened to anyone.

The final report from the British inquiry has been released. It scrutinized government policies on homeopathy, and gives direction to the National Health Service.  But the recommendations apply to any country (like Canada) that legitimizes homeopathy.

Here is the Press Release which summarizes the 273 page report :

In a report published today, the Science and Technology Committee concludes that the NHS should cease funding homeopathy. It also concludes that the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) should not allow homeopathic product labels to make medical claims without evidence of efficacy. As they are not medicines, homeopathic products should no longer be licensed by the MHRA.

The Committee carried out an evidence check to test if the Government’s policies on homeopathy were based on sound evidence. The Committee found a mismatch between the evidence and policy. While the Government acknowledges there is no evidence that homeopathy works beyond the placebo effect (where a patient gets better because of their belief in the treatment), it does not intend to change or review its policies on NHS funding of homeopathy.

The Committee concurred with the Government that the evidence base shows that homeopathy is not efficacious (that is, it does not work beyond the placebo effect) and that explanations for why homeopathy would work are scientifically implausible.

READ THE FULL ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED PHARMACY

God “warns” rape victim

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 22, 2010

Unfortunately, the warning came a bit wee too late to do her any good, not that she minds that apparently.

The wife of gospel singer Louis Brittz, who was raped by a robber on Monday night, has told how the Lord had warned her that she was to be raped.

However, as it will become apparent, god’s “warning” was more of a you’re-screwed kinda statement rather than a proper warning, which name carries with it the implication that the victim-to-be has a chance to do something about it. The victim in this case never got a chance!

Later the robbers took him away. One stayed with Hettie where she lay with her hands tied, half under the bed.

She said while she was lying like this, she heard the Lord tell her: “Hettie, you are my bride”.

She answered: “Yes, Jesus, I know.”

She said the Lord then told her that the man would rape her but not hurt her. The rapist was also not violent.

Well, not violent except for the forcefully having his way with her that is! Now can someone explain the creepy “you are my bride” comment from god? I thought she was married already! I’m confused, but then so are many christians.

She said this didn’t mean the rape was unimportant. It was also not unimportant to the Lord. He said after all that he collected people’s tears and that the blood of believers was precious to him.

I am sorry but I’d much rather he made sure such tears and blood were never shed instead of collecting them. What’s that mean? Does he have little jars in shelves in some heavenly warehouse?

She said she knew people would say she was living in denial. She herself was a therapist, however, and knew what trauma involved.

And people would be right to say that. Any therapist worth her salt would probably say that a person undergoing a trauma probably shouldn’t be self treating her trauma, not anymore than a surgeon should be performing his own appendectomy at home, because, you know, he’s a surgeon; he knows what an appendectomy involves.

Do climate change sceptics give scepticism a bad name?

Posted in News by Skepdude on February 22, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN

There is a crucial difference between scepticism and non-belief in the face of overwhelming evidence

Consulting a dictionary
What’s in a name ? Scepticism has been described as a method rather than a position

In January a group of self-declared “sceptics” hit the headlines with an attention-grabbing publicity stunt. If you instinctively interpret that sentence as a reference to the battle-scarred topic of climate change, then it is a mark of how successfully those opposed to the scientific consensus on climate change have appropriated the term sceptic”.

In fact, the event in question is the mass homeopathy “overdose” staged by the Merseyside Skeptics. Do the Merseyside Skeptics (and hundreds of other groups like them) share much common ground with the army of Freedom of Information requesters currently swarming around climate science databases? Or could it be that climate change sceptics are giving wider scepticism a bad name?

Over the past three months climate change scepticism seems to have reached new levels. The Guardian’s investigation into the emails hacked from the University of East Anglia has shone a rather uncomfortable light into the sock-drawer of science. But it has revealed nothing that challenges the fact that the climate is changing – or that human activity is responsible. Trust has been diminished, embarrassing exchanges have been revealed, but the clunking wheels of the anti-climate change lobby have gone into overdrive, falsely claiming that the case for human-caused climate change has been discredited.

Climate change sceptics often position themselves as the antidote to the hysterical, exaggerated claims of climate scientists and environmentalists, adopting the tools and language of “rational enquiry”. But something is missing from this picture – where are the voices of the truly sceptical thinkers that the climate sceptics claim to represent?

The website of the long-running US magazine Skeptic describes scepticism as a method rather than a position, and one that is embodied in the scientific method. A search of the magazine’s online archives reveals not one article disputing the science of climate change. However, there are several debunking unsubstantiated claims that climate change sceptics have made. The not-for-profit organisation UK Skeptics is even less welcoming to climate sceptics, with a helpful note stating:

We are nothing to do with opposition, activist, or denialist groups who wrongly refer to themselves as ‘skeptics’ because they adopt a position of non-belief (eg global warming skeptics, vaccine skeptics, etc).


READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT THE GUARDIAN

An atheist reflects upon death

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 19, 2010

I don’t know why, but I feel in the mood to reflect about my feelings about death. I am an atheist. I do not believe in the afterlife, neither its alleged rewards nor its alleged punishments. I think that once I die that is it; I am gone, never to feel anything, ever. And that saddens me.

Many other atheists say that death doesn’t scare them. I believe that they are being truthful, although I must say that I do not see how that is possible. Life ends at some point for all of us; that is a fact. We disappear into nothingness; that is a fact too. We don’t feel anything once we’re gone, however I don’t find that fact comforting at all. I enjoy life too much not to be saddened by the prospect that at some point it will be over. There are countless things I will not get to enjoy; my grandkids kids; hanging out with friends and family; a good meal; a good sporting event; driving with the top down, a good book, The Matrix remake, etc.

One of the hardest religious arguments to counter, is the argument that religion gives people hope about death. People are promised eternal bliss, regardless if that bliss sounds more like punishment to our ears (I mean hanging out in Heaven praising God forever, or whatever is supposed to be going on up there doesn’t sound like the best way to spend eternity to me). I understand the emotional appeal that this idea has for people, especially when contrasted with the stark reality of dying and becoming nothing. Now don’t be too picky with my words please, I understand that I am made of star stuff and when I die I will go back to being star stuff. My atoms will survive, but my consciousness will not, and to be very frank I don’t care much about what happens to my atoms once my consciousness is gone. It is this loss of awareness that I refer to as becoming nothing; it is this loss of consciousness that I feel sad about loosing.

I don’t welcome the idea of death; if I could expand my life span I would. I accept death’s unavoidable reality, but not without a feeling of dread. Death is not a nice thing and I can’t be impartial and emotionally ok with that. So no my atheism does not provide hope in the sense that religion does; I try not to argue against that way of thinking too much. But then again I didn’t become an atheist in my quest for hope, but in my quest for the truth. I understand that reality doesn’t have to bend to my desires; the universe works the way the universe works, and I’m glad to be here to try and partake into this giant enterprise, even if for a tiny short period of time.

To be clear I don’t fear death because of “the other side”,  I dread the ending of my time on Earth; I dread the end of the pleasures life has to offer. Everything I feel is tied with my earthly life, not the “afterlife”; the afterlife is meaningless to me, I’ll be dead and gone, nothing could touch me at that point. It is because I don’t think there is anything else besides this life on Earth that I value this life I’ve been lucky to receive, and it is precisely why I hold the outmost respect for other’s peoples lives and their right to live it fully to whatever extend they please, so long as that doesn’t interfere with other people’s right to life their lives. And this is where the basis of a secular morality comes from. Not from fear of punishment but out of respect for the, dare I say,  holiness of earthly life.

Longing for a past that never existed

Posted in Science Based Medicine by Skepdude on February 18, 2010

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE

There once was a time when all food was organic and no pesticides were used. Health problems were treated with folk wisdom and natural remedies. There was no obesity, and people got lots of exercise. And in that time gone by, the average lifespan was … 35!

That’s right. For most of human existence, according to fossil and anthropological data, the average human lifespan was 35 years. As recently as 1900, American average lifespan was only 48. Today, advocates of alternative health bemoan the current state of American health, the increasing numbers of obese people, the lack of exercise, the use of medications, the medicalization of childbirth. Yet lifespan has never been longer, currently 77.7 years in the US.

Advocates of alternative health have a romanticized and completely unrealistic notion of purported benefits of a “natural” lifestyle. Far from being a paradise, it was hell. The difference between an average lifespan of 48 and one of 77.7 can be accounted for by modern medicine and increased agricultural production brought about by industrial farming methods (including pesticides). Nothing fundamental has changed about human beings. They are still prey to the same illnesses and accidents, but now they can be effectively treated. Indeed, some diseases can be completely prevented by vaccination

READ THE REST OF THIS ENTRY AT SCIENCE BASED MEDICINE

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Woman kills psychic over failed love spell

Posted in Skepdude by Skepdude on February 16, 2010

A clearly not all sane woman has killed a psychic over the later’s failed attempt to bring the woman’s lover back into her arms.

Tanya Nelson, from North Carolina, and her alleged accomplice Phillipe Zamora are accused of stabbing the psychic Jade Smith, 57, and her daughter Anita Vo, 23, to death in April 2005, US media report.

It is alleged Miss Nelson, 45, became angry with her fortune teller friend after she was unable to use her magical powers to get Miss Nelson’s ex-lover to return to her.

Miss Smith wrote to Miss Nelson to say she could not change reality.

Clearly there is a risk in misleading people to think that you have amazing, paranormal powers. The really crazy ones can take it literally and become violent, like Mrs. Nelson did. However, there seems to be a bit of a disconnect between claiming psychic powers and claiming of not being able to change reality. Reality forbids the existence of psychic powers; either you’re bound by reality’s rules or not. Clearly Mrs. Nelson thought that reality could be bent to her advantage. What is not clear from the article though is if the victim had claimed to be able to do the deed that Mrs. Nelson expected of her; or if Nelson had demanded it done and Miss Smith had told her that she couldn’t. Either way I hope Mrs. Nelson gets what she deserves. No ex-lover is worth 2 human lives!

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