After World War II, conspiracy theorists started making increasingly strange claims about the Nazi party: One of the strangest claims concerns magic.
An examination of energy, as new agers use the term.
I’m feeling a little low today, so let’s tap into a source of energy from a neighboring dimension as a quick upper.
Faith in pseudoscience is rampant. Everywhere you turn, intelligent people fully accept the existence of anything from psychic phenomena, to angels, to new age healing techniques, to ancient health schemes based on mysterious energy fields not understood by science. Most of these paranormal phenomena rely on “energy,” and when the performers are asked to explain, they’ll gladly lecture about the body’s energy fields, the universe’s energy fields, Chi, Prana, Orgone, negative energy, positive energy, and just about anything else that needs a familiar sounding word to explain and justify it. Clearly, there are too many loose interpretations of the word energy, to the point where most people probably have no idea exactly what energy really is.
I believe that if more people had a clear understanding of energy — and it’s not complicated — there would be less susceptibility to pseudoscience, and more attention paid to actual technologies and methods that are truly constructive and useful.
A friend told me of her ability to perform minor healings, and her best explanation was that she drew energy from another dimension. She had recently rented What the Bleep Do We Know, so she was well prepared to explain that alternate dimensions and realities should be taken for granted, since science doesn’t really know anything, and thus those things cannot be disproven. That’s fine, I’ll concede that she can make contact with another dimension: after all, the latest M theories posit that there are probably ten or eleven of them floating around, and I’ll just hope that my friend’s is not one of those that are collapsed into impossibly small spaces. What I was really interested in was the nature of this vaguely defined energy that she could contact.
I asked what type of energy is it, and how is it stored? Is it heat? Is it a spinning flywheel? Is it an explosive compound? Is it food? These are examples of actual ways that energy can be stored.
In popular New Age culture, “energy” has somehow become a noun unto itself. “Energy” is considered to be literally like a glowing, hovering, shimmering cloud, from which adepts can draw power, and feel rejuvenated. Imagine a vaporous creature from the original Star Trek series, and you’ll have a good idea of what New Agers think energy is.
In fact, energy is not really a noun at all. Energy is a measurement of something’s ability to perform work. Given this context, when spiritualists talk about your body’s energy fields, they’re really saying nothing that’s even remotely meaningful. Yet this kind of talk has become so pervasive in our society that the vast majority of Americans accept that energy exists as a self-contained force, floating around in glowing clouds, and can be commanded by spiritualist adepts to do just about anything.
Autism cure promoters are people who claim they “cure” people with autism.
The claims made by these people are very conversational, both in their claims about autism and it’s causes, and what they say can cure autism.
Now there are a lot of different things I have noticed about autism cure promoters, but I’ve narrowed it down to five different things.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about autism cure promoters:
5. They’re closely aligned with the anti-vaccination movement.
Autism cure promoters and the anti-vaccination movement are pretty much like peas in a pod. Anti-vaccers often promote these so called “therapies” that the autism cure promoters claim can cure a person with autism, and autism cure promoters also tend to publish on their websites anti-vaccination movement propaganda, mainly in the form of claims that certain chemicals in vaccines can cause autism.
Some of these promoters also like to use certain words that the anti-vaccination movement also uses inorder to sell their therapies to people with autism or have autistic children, such as “vaccine damage”, “vaccine injury”, or “autism epidemic”.
They also ignore the fact that such words are not only incorrect and misleadinf, but very insulting to people with autism. Ofcourse they’re not actually promoting their therapies towards people with autism, they’re really promoting them towards parents of children who have autism and just want their kids to be normal.
4. They exploit the fears and desires of parents with autistic children.
For some parents when a child is diagnosed with autism it can be devastating to them, and the fact that there is no way to cure autism can make that devastation to them even worse. Then comes along someone who claims they can do things that the medical industry cannot do and can “cure” their child of autism, and if they don’t know any better they may take that person up on their offer.
A person who is misinformed about what autism is and what causes autism, mixed with both the fear of what will happen to their child and how their life will turn out due to their autism, combined with their desire to have a “normal” child, would be very temped by someone whom claims they can cure their child of autism and give them a chance at a normal life and be willing to pay whatever price they can inorder to do so.
The people who are promoting these so called autism cures know this and know that they can exploit these fears and desires to sell people products and services that scientific research has concluded are useless at curing autism.
3. They’re trying to give a simple solution to a complex issue.
Autism is a neurological disorder, and like all neurological disorders it’s complex without any simple solutions.
Autism cure promoters try to make it look like autism is caused by toxins in the body, and that by removing these toxins a person whom has autism one can be cured of autism.
While some toxins can cause neurological disorders, all legitimate scientific research has shown that autism isn’t one them.
While the actually cause of autism is still technically unknown, most scientists who study autism agree that it’s . . .
Mike Adams, the creator of the website Natural News, and one of the biggest promoters of alternative medicine there is, also known as non-science and non-evidence based medicine.
Now many things have been said about him and the way he acts, and I myself have noticed a few things about him as well.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about Mike Adams:
5. He’s a conspiracy theorist.
Mike Adams, despite the fact that his website, Natural News, constantly writes about stuff related to medicine (by that I mean bad mouthing science and evidence based medicine and promoting alternative medicine, no matter how ridiculous or dangerous it is) is neither a doctor, nor a scientist. He is a conspiracy theorist who promotes just about every conspiracy theory there is, although he mainly promotes “big pharma” conspiracy theories.
Even if he was an actual doctor or scientist with a legitimate degree in either science or medicine it still wouldn’t matter, because what he’s promoting is non-science based medicine, as well as other types of conspiracy theories besides just the big pharma ones, and he’s using fear mongering and paranoia inorder to promote these things, as well as bash science and evidence based medicine.
Pretty much his only “connection” with the health industry is his self appointed title of “The Health Ranger”, and that his website is used as an example by those in the health care industry and those who promote science based medicine as what a bad science website looks like.
4. He’s against all forms of science based medicine.
Mike Adams isn’t just someone whom believes that there are a few types of science based medicines and medical techniques that are bad for you. Nope, he’s against them all, no matter how much scientific evidence there is showing that something works, like chemotherapy, or vaccines, or drugs that help fight HIV (which he thinks doesn’t exist in the first place).
It almost seems like anything that’s accepted and promoted by a valid and respected medical organization is automatically viewed by Adams as dangerous and part of a conspiracy. I bet he would even tell people who come to his website not to use homeopathy, acupuncture, or chiropractic “medicine” if several legitimate medical associations were to come out and say that this stuff works and works well. Infact I bet he would claim that people in homeopathy, acupuncture, or chiropractic “medicine” were hiding the fact that their stuff doesn’t work, and that they were sending out shills, or just using brain washed idiots to spread disinformation and make threats to try to scare off people who questions them, and even go so far as to sue people who criticize them…
Hopefully you see the irony in the that last sentence there.
Last Sunday, April 26, I went down to my town’s annual Earth Day Festival to check out everything that was there, just like I do every year.
Last year I was appalled by the amount of pseudoscience and alternative medicine woo mixed in with all of the legitimate booths and displays promoting legitimate environmental causes and advice [read about it here] to the point where they pretty much overshadowed what the Earth Day festival was suppose to be about.
The worst offender last year of course was a booth promoting Anti-GMO conspiracy theories.
Fortunately that person wasn’t back this year, but still there were people back again promoting the same woo, including the Astrology and Tarot Card reader from last year . . .
. . . and the chiropractors from last year are back as well . . .
. . . but I have some new ones for this year, starting with this one:
Now I admit at first glance this one wasn’t that bad, even through it had nothing to do with environmentalism.
Creating art can help relax a person and cut down on stress. That’s the good part about what’s being presented there.
Then there’s the woo.
They also promote past life regression and trauma healing, clearing of curses, negative spirits, and other stuff of the like, and how to protect yourself from such things, all while using nature and spiritual energy.
In other words instead of addressing any real things that can cause stress in a person’s life, they’re just claiming that it’s supernatural forces, and use “techniques” they claim to get from Shamanism to “cleanse” a person of these supernatural forces.
The next offender of promoters of woo that I saw there was . . .
Breatharianism is a New Age Movement belief that asserts that people don’t need food inorder to live, and only need clean air and sun light.
Now there are a lot of things I have noticed about this belief (mainly the body count) but I have narrowed it down to five main things.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about Breatharianism:
5. It’s a typical New Age Movement belief.
Breatharianism is a belief that is apart of, or at least viewed to be apart of the New Age Movement, and like most beliefs in the New Age Movement it’s mess-mass of several different beliefs all rolled into one.
Practitioners of Breatharianism believe it is possible to live off of prana (which is according to Hindu beliefs is a vital life force energy) and that the best source of this prana is from light and air, and with enough skill and knowledge they can somehow manipulate this prana to the point where they can live off of it forever and never need any food or water.
Another part about Breatharianism is the attainment of spiritual enlightenment, which apparently involves not eating. This sounds an awful lot like fasting, which is something that Abrahamic religions tend to do.
Basically Breatharianism is a combination of certain beliefs from Eastern and Western religions.
Also, like with many other New Age beliefs…
4. It’s Pseudoscience.
While Breatharianism is primarily based from Eastern and Western religious beliefs, everything about it is pseudoscience.
Like all pseudosciences it’s based off of a tiny scientific fact, and that fact is that we do need air and light inorder to live (well, not so much light, but we do need air) and that there is energy all around us… it’s just not prana. This energy is either in the form photonic energy from light sources, or radio waves, or electromagnetic fields from electrical sources, or kinetic energy from air movement and the movement of the Earth.
Yes, there are many forms of energy that surrounds us. Prana is not one of them, and even if it was, it’s very probable that we couldn’t manipulate it with our minds.
The main claim about Breatharianism, as I stated before (and the one that doctors and scientists and people with common sense have a problem with) is that humans can live off of this prana and don’t need to ever eat or drink again, which is impossible.
I suppose with these beliefs it seems that…
3. They make it sound like humans are actually plants.
Now I’m sure that no person alive that claims to practice Breatharianism will actually say that humans are pretty much like plants, but it does sound an awful lot like that’s what they’re trying to get at with their insistence that people only need air and sun light to live, which is something that plants need inorder to live.
Many years ago I was asked to give a talk to incoming university students on the nature of psychology. As a social psychology professor, I had a lot of interesting material that I was sure students would find fascinating, from blind obedience to authority to the everyday persuasion techniques of salespeople. Yet to my surprise, at the end of my presentation, I had but two questions from the students: “Does The Secret really work?” and, “Can psychics really read minds?” For those unfamiliar with The Secret, it is a bestselling book and film that promotes the idea that we can have whatever we want merely by thinking about it, all couched in New Age terms and a gross misrepresentation of quantum physics. And as for psychics, there has yet to be any solid experimental evidence of extrasensory ability, even though there is $1 million on the line (more on that later). I initially thought that students asked these questions because they did not have much formal training in science at this point in their academic career, though I soon came to realize otherwise.
College and university students, from freshmen to seniors, have asked me similar questions, along with queries about aliens, ghosts, and a wide variety of New Age and alternative health and psychological treatments. Through countless questions on these topics, I’ve realized the need to teach scientific skepticism, and that using examples of pseudoscience — claims that appear to be scientific but are not — can be an invaluable resource for helping students become discerning consumers of real-world claims.
I just saw the trailer of a new movie, The Principle. The movie is produced by Robert Sungenis, who writes the blog Galileo Was Wrong. Sungenis is what we technically call a kook. He believes the earth is at the center of the universe and that there was no Jewish holocaust, but rather the Jews were conspiring with Satan to take over the world.
Sungenis, however, is apparently a kook with money, so he is making a documentary film preaching his bizarre notions to the world. This much is nothing new. There are plenty of such films out there, like What the Bleep Do We Know and Expelled. They superficially follow the science documentary format, but they have an ideological agenda.
This film, unfortunately, will be narrated by Kate Mulgrew, who played Captain Janeway on Star Trek: Voyager. Old Star Trek stars lending their fame to pseudoscience is also, sadly, nothing new.
I was surprised to see Lawrence Krauss and Michio Kaku in the film. I know that Kaku has been flirting with the edges of responsible science promotion, but not Krauss. I suspect that they were duped into being interviewed for the film.* Perhaps they were not aware of the film’s editorial stance. (I will be seeing Krauss this weekend and will ask him.)
Krauss did tweet about the movie: “It is nonsense,” in case there was any doubt there.
It seems that Krauss and Kaku are there to simply say how strange and mysterious the cosmos are, and to discuss the edges of our current knowledge. This is a common ploy – focus on what we do not currently know in order to make it seem like we don’t know anything. The movie trailer opens with Mulgrew saying that everything we think we know about the universe is wrong.
Apparently Sungenis thinks he is smarter than the entire scientific community. Perhaps he thinks that modern science is all a conspiracy.
*Update: This is from Krauss’s blog:
“I have no recollection of being interviewed for such a film, and of course had I known of its premise I would have refused. So, either the producers used clips of me that were in the public domain, or they bought them from other production companies that I may have given some rights to distribute my interviews to, or they may have interviewed me under false pretenses, in which case I probably signed some release. I simply don’t know.”
The Principle trailer via YouTube
Another improperly done and ineptly reported acupuncture study has appeared. Julie Medew is the health editor for The Age, an Australian newspaper with an online presence. She authored an article yesterday with the headline:
The headline is accurate but falsely implies that acupuncture was effective, which most people will probably take to mean that acupuncture, by some as yet undiscovered means, really relieves pain. Many people will also jump to the conclusion that this is a good thing because drugs have side effects and acupuncture doesn’t. Is that true? It’s not obviously true or intuitively true. We need evidence before we should accept such a claim. Many people will also jump to the conclusion that this is a good thing because acupuncture is cheaper than pain pills. Is that true? If it is, it is not obviously true or intuitively true. Where’s the evidence?
Anyway, the study was done by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology’s [RMIT] school of health sciences in conjunction with emergency physicians at four hospitals. I’d never heard of RMIT until yesterday. The website says it is a university and the health sciences webpage says:
The School of Health Sciences engages in teaching and research in Complementary Medicine, Nursing and Midwifery, and Psychology.
We recognise that many of the greatest advances in Science are made at the intersections of disciplines. With our strong interdisciplinary approach we have set our sights on establishing an evidence base for the quality, safety and effectiveness of interventions for the ageing population and those with chronic diseases. Our research findings inform clinical teaching and advance the treatment of patients.
One can only hope that the quality of research in other areas investigated by this institution is superior to that reported on by Ms. Medew. According to her, the “randomised controlled study of about 550 patients” gave acupuncture to some and a”strong oral analgesia, such as Endone, Panadeine Forte, Voltaren and Valium” to others. Medew reports that Dr Michael Ben-Meir “said it showed acupuncture offered the same level of pain relief as analgesic drugs when patients rated their pain one hour after treatment.” You read that right. The conclusion that acupuncture is as effective as pain pills was based on asking the patients about their pain level one hour after treatment. Was there a group of patients in the study who were give a dummy pain pill or fake acupuncture? No, but there was a group given both acupuncture and a pain pill. Guess what? After one hour, their reported pain level didn’t differ from those given only acupuncture or only a pain pill.
Indiegogo is rapidly earning a reputation for not caring whether or not they fund pure pseudoscience. This, in my opinion, is a bad business model, not to mention morally dubious.
I wrote previously about an Indiegogo campaign to fund a free energy device – a “home quantum energy generator.” Indiegogo claims to have a process to weed out fraud from their campaigns, but this one apparently slipped through their process. When I e-mailed Indiegogo to question them about this campaign, I received nothing but a generic response.
Now pandodaily has been covering a new Indiegogo campaign for a “miracle” device – the GoBe by Healbe. The company claims on their Indiegogo page:
GoBe is the only way to automatically measure calorie intake—through your skin. Simply wear it to see calories consumed and burned, activity, hydration, sleep, stress levels, and more, delivered effortlessly to your smartphone.
They have raised almost a million dollars. Pandodaily has done a great job of investigating the company. It looks as if they are a Russian company with a minimal footprint in the US. They have no patents, have not published any data, and have no history of producing real medical devices. No one outside the company has seen or tested a working prototype. Read the article for all the sordid details. I want to delve a bit further into the alleged science behind their claims.
One huge red flag for any scientific claims – especially one involving a working device – is when there is no trail of scientific progress leading up to the alleged device. Scientific advances tend to proceed through necessary steps. You have to establish the basics before you get to the more advanced applications.
For anyone following a particular scientific field you can see the paper-trail of a scientific advance as each incremental step is published and debated by the community. It’s a dynamic process. When a company or researcher claims to have made a breakthrough that is many steps ahead of the public transparent science, this is a red flag. Companies coming out of nowhere with advances that are 10-20 years or more ahead of their time is the stuff of movies, not reality.
Also See (April 9, 2014):
AIDS Denialism and the Anti-vaccination movement. Two groups that promote what many scientists and and doctors and skeptics alike consider to be the two most dangerous and deadly types of pseudoscience there is. In fact many skeptics have debated which one is more deadly!
Regardless of which one is more deadly, both of groups have an awful lot in common, and I’ve come up with about ten different things that both groups have in common:
They become very upset when someone questions their claims.
Anti-vaxxers and (as I have learned in the past few weeks) AIDS denialists really do not like it when someone questions what they are claiming. It doesn’t matter how nice you are to them, or how many facts you present to them, if you question their claims they will become very anger and start throwing around accusations and insults and start spamming people with a bunch of propaganda. This is of course annoying at best, and usually just something that gets them blocked on an internet site, but sometimes they take it to the next level and start doing the next thing on this list…
They use intimidation tactics.
AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers just seem to love to use intimidation tactics. Many times these intimidation tactics can be a benign type, like fear mongering and emotional appeal, which is used to sway people who might be on the edge of whether to believe them or not over to their side, or it can be an aggressive type, like death threats, or threats of lawsuits, or harassment, which is used in an attempt to frighten people away from questioning their claims, or to stop skeptics from debunking them.
They claim to do research.
Both AIDS Denialists and Anti-vaccers will often say that they have done their own research into the claims that they are making, and then through this so called research they will claim that they have come to a conclusion, and then proclaim that their conclusion is correct and that all others are incorrect. This is of course if they’re not simply claiming that the contradictory information isn’t apart of some “big pharma” disinformation propaganda campaign to “slander” Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists. And that’s another thing…
They think there is some kind of big pharma conspiracy.
Many Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists sincerely believe that not only what they believe is true, but they also believe that pharmaceutical companies also know “the truth” and that they’re keeping this so called truth hidden from the public so that people will keep buying their products, products that Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists believe that no one actually needs and sincerely believes is dangerous.
The reasons why these two groups claim that the pharmaceutical companies are keeping this so called “information” hidden is because if people knew “the truth” (i.e. their truth) that they would no longer buy anything from these pharmaceutical companies and they would go out of business. That, or according to some Anti-vaccers and AIDS Denialists, vaccines and HIV medication is part some kind of NWO/Illuminati plot.
They have no problem censoring people.
Ever make a comment on an Anti-vaccer’s or AIDS Denialist’s page or comment section for a Youtube video, and said comment either criticizes what they are saying, or debunks what they’re saying? Well then you probably know that not many people are going to see it because most administrators of such sites will usually remove such comments pretty quickly… and probably ban you. While this type of censorship is bad they do have every right to do it because they have every right to control the content that is on their webpages.
Some of these people will take the censorship of people who disagree with them to the next level and actually try to get entire webpages and videos from various social media websites removed, either by flagging a webpage or a group or a video as inappropriate or harassing, or even by sending out bogus DMCA takedown notices (which is illegal).
Even for weird internet ads, this one is especially disgusting. It looks like it was drawn in crayon by a six year old, and shows three equally icky images. One is a “white coated tongue” sticking out, another is a naked guy with rashes all over his body and arrows pointing at him listing all sorts of ailments, and the third is someone sitting on a toilet, apparently suffering from constipation. And the text reads “250m Americans infected” with an arrow that invites you to “learn more.”
On the surface, this looks like just another “one weird trick” ad, using cheap animation and ugly art to promise secret knowledge of miracle products at low, low prices. But “250 million Americans” infected with something is a lofty claim, even for the internet. Is there anything to be concerned about regarding this apparently horrible plague? And could YOU be infected with…whatever it is?
As per the other “one weird trick” ads, clicking on the link is going to give you a lot of information, but none of it with any value. Like many of the other ads of this genre, this ad takes you to a half-hour animated video drawn in the same crude style as the ad. The video is a long blather delving into the usual food conspiracy about the FDA and Big Pharma using aspartame to make us fat, sick and stupid. Nothing you haven’t heard before. It’s only 16 minutes into the video that you even find out what “the infection” is.
But when you do, it’s really bad. It’s presented as “a consequence of the unnatural elements we’ve been exposed to” and “the deep, dark secret the food conglomerates are, as we speak, spending millions of dollars to sweep under the rug.” It’s described as a “killer” that “takes over your body from the inside” and you “never know it’s there – until it’s too late.”
“It” turns out to be candida, a variety of yeasts that lives in our guts, on our skin and in other parts of the body. Everyone has it and it normally doesn’t hurt anyone. It’s a completely harmless fungus that occasionally multiplies out of control due to stress, sickness or antibiotic use. This can cause a yeast infection, or thrush, if it’s occurring in the mouth.
Despite the almost total harmlessness of candida, a fake condition called “Candida sickness” or hypersensitivity has become very popular among alternative medicine advocates. It’s looked at as the new one-size fits all disease, causing everything from . . .
Cults… those groups of seemingly nutty people that have been around with us since forever.
Most cults tend to die off, but some do stick around and in some cases evolve into religions.
Now many cults do have a lot of things in common but I’ve noticed five certain things about them.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about cults:
5. They’re self destructive.
With a few notable exceptions most cults will eventually die off and cease to exist.
Most of the time a cult will cease to exist due to it’s leadership’s abusive and controlling behavior, which sometimes results in either a member getting kicked out for some minor infringement, or a member getting fed up with the behavior of the leadership and leaving. These combined with the public’s finding out about a cult’s abusive behavior, plus what ever strange beliefs they may have, might keep some people from wanting to join, and thus the the cult eventually dies out due to it being unable to gain new members.
Of course sometimes a cult dies off not slowly and gradually, but very quickly due to it’s members committing criminal acts that forces law enforcement to imprison most of it’s members (those that come peacefully that is) or they get killed by law enforcement because they refuse to be arrested, or the members commit mass suicide or murder/suicide.
4. They isolate people.
Almost every cult there is encourages (or forces) it’s members to engage in some form of isolation. For some this may be as minor as encouraging it’s members to have as little contact as possible with people that are considered to be possibly “harmful”, to having no contact with people who left the cult, to outright isolating themselves from society in general.
Sometimes this isolation isn’t the result of a cult encouraging it’s members to stop having contact with other people, but instead encourages them to engage in behavior with non-members that is usually considered to be bizarre, imposing, or abusive. Such behavior often times causes non-members to not want to be around any of these members, regardless of whatever relationship they may have with these people.
Regardless of however a cult does it, ultimately a cult will usually end up causing a member to be isolated from those that were closest to them (i.e. friends and family).
3. They’re financially ruinous.
Many cults encourages it’s members to do things that can cause them to go broke, or at least set them back financially.
One of the ways that cults ruin people financially is that they encourage their member to give large sums of money to the cult.
By Ian O’Doherty via Independent.ie
Well, that’s a bit of a bummer, isn’t it? Yeah, yeah, so the families of the 239 people who went down on Flight MH370 will finally find some much-needed closure. And sure, when you’re feeling all grown up and mature about things, you are prepared to accept that the 300 pieces of wreckage they found in the ocean yesterday provides incontrovertible proof that the airliner crashed. But still, aren’t you just a little bit disappointed? Isn’t the truth so banal and uninteresting?
In fact, such were the similarities between this case and Lost that people are now looking at the mundane facts of the crash with as much disappointment as they felt when they watched the last ever episode of that infuriating show.
Obviously, any time a plane crashes, it’s news. The bigger the plane the bigger the story, and they don’t get much bigger than the Boeing 777 which, until now, had an enviable flying record. But what we’ve witnessed over the last two weeks quickly waved goodbye to mere ‘news’; and became a febrile asylum of claims, accusations and conspiracies, the madder the better.
But, as fascinating as any plane crash is, and understandable though it may have been for people to fill their gaps in information with deranged theories, one simple fact remained – planes crash, bad things happen and people die all the time. The simple truth is that sometimes we would do well to remember the words of that wise sage Homer Simpson who reminds us that life is just a bunch of stuff that happens.
It became depressingly obvious just how far the once respectable trade of journalism has slipped when CNN anchor Don Lemon devoted an entire section of his show to possible ‘supernatural’ explanations, which saw him actually ask his guests: “Is it preposterous to consider a black hole as a possibility?”
Well, the simple answer to that question is… um, yes, it is extremely preposterous. And dumb. And scientifically absurd. Having dealt with the black hole theory – the guests declared they thought it an unlikely explanation – the Bermuda Triangle was then discussed as a possible culprit. Now, I’m no expert, but I would have thought the Bermuda Triangle was located somewhere around, um, Bermuda, rather than the Indian Ocean.
CNN’s sister network, HLN, even featured a psychic, Lisa Williams, who reckoned the plane had landed near water or trees and boasted that: “Naturally, I don’t have hard, concrete evidence. I think any psychic who has hard, concrete evidence can’t do their job correctly, because they get misinformed.”
You have to hand it to her, and the producers who booked her on the programme, because it takes a remarkably hard neck to take pride in eschewing evidence and thinking that hard facts can ‘misinform’ you. Just as nature hates a vacuum, it’s human nature to fill gaps in our knowledge with conjecture. But the possible explanations simply became ever more outlandish, and we saw everybody from Pakistan and Iran to North Korea and the Americans blamed for stealing it, all with the now customary scant evidence.
So now that the mystery seems to have been solved, have people finally regained their senses and started to accept that sometimes a crash is just a crash? Well, not exactly.
Via Enduring Beta
I stumbled upon the website Quantum Jumping from an ad for wooey pseudoscience that just seemed… too out there. But oh how I underestimate scammers! I was struck by the techniques used to trick readers into buying into the product and story, and then felt like tearing down some of the nonsense I was reading. Come join me for a hearty laugh, a face palm, and a clenched fist.
Here’s an opening quote from the site to get an idea of what they’re saying:
I would like to share with you a technique that has completely changed who I am. It has brought me everything I could have ever asked for in life – success, talent, wealth, wellbeing, happiness – you name it.
It stems from the aforementioned idea of ‘another you’ living in ‘another reality’. Whether or not this is possible will be debated for some time, and the answer may never be known, but it creates the mindset of what’s called…
The Most Advanced Creative Visualization Technique Ever Created
Now just imagine for a moment you could find a way to ‘jump’ into these alternate universes. That you could meet an infinite number of alternate versions of ‘you’…
Imagine that you could examine their ways and learn their methods, draw upon their skills, experience and wisdom, find out how they become so happy, talented or successful.
Emphasis mine. This is a hallmark of pseudoscience to rope people in with a sensational claim like the title “Quantum Jumping” and buttress against criticism with a nod to the fact that it’s “still debated”. Or, in other words, “We’ll sell you on the idea without regard for if it’s real at all.” Legitimate self-help techniques and medicine should wait for the justification through evidence before making claims like this site does!
Burt Goldman says he developed the skills of painting, photography, writing, and business through, effectively, simply visualizing himself with those skills over time. I won’t deny that this mental technique might help with motivation, perseverance, clarity, and focus. But if you don’t have the skills to paint in your head and hands already, they’re not going to be revealed to you just by meditating. There are limits that the tone and language of this site refuse to address.
What’s further agonizing about this site is the dancing they do around whether or not they claim to Actually Contact Other Universes. For example:
[A]t its core, Quantum Jumping is simply an advanced visualization exercise. You’re tapping into your subconscious mind, where are infinite number of realities and possibilities are waiting to be discovered. Anything that can be, is.
“If a universe can be imagined, it exists.” Professor M. R. Franks
“There are vibrations of many different universes right here, right now. We’re just not in tune with them. There are probably other parallel universes in our living room–this is modern physics. This is the modern interpretation of quantum theory, that many worlds represents reality.” Dr. Michio Kaku
They tap Michio Kaku, Einstein, Planck, and more for fake science credibility. The site has moments of near-honesty, but they are sandwiched by the same vague language that can be interpreted in different ways and hollow appeals to unrelated experts and testimony:
Now I hate having to burst anyone’s bubble of having adventures through space – and Quantum Jumping was made to be an out of this world experience – but no, you wont actually leave this planet.
But what does one make of the first block? Are they claiming it or not? The real answer, of course, it that they are being intentionally vague to let the reader come to the most charitable conclusion. They are mentioning science related only in “theme” to give the quick reader, the casual glancer, the illusion of . . .
Homeopathy is bunk. It is 100% pure unadulterated pseudoscience. That is – unless it is adulterated with actual working medicine.
The FDA recently put out a safety alert warning the public that certain homeopathic products may contain measurable amount of penicillin, enough to cause an allergic reaction in those who are sensitive:
Terra-Medica, Inc. is voluntarily recalling 56 lots of Pleo-FORT, Pleo-QUENT, Pleo-NOT, Pleo-STOLO, Pleo-NOTA-QUENT, and Pleo-EX homeopathic drug products in liquid, tablet, capsule, ointment, and suppository forms to the consumer level. FDA has determined that these products have the potential to contain penicillin or derivatives of penicillin, which may be produced during the fermentation process. In patients who are allergic to beta-lactam antibiotics, even at low levels, exposure to penicillin can result in a range of allergic reactions from mild rashes to severe and life-threatening anaphylactic reactions. See the press release for a complete listing of products affected by this recall.
One has to wonder if the company was aware that their product contained penicillin. That’s a pretty good scam. In the US homeopathic products do not require testing or any FDA approval process. They are essentially pre-approved by law. While this is a shameful scam, at least homeopathic remedies are completely inactive – nothing but water placed on sugar pills. However, some specific products have been found to have functional levels of active ingredients, so they are not truly homeopathic. For example, some Zicam products were found to contain active levels of zinc, and was linked to anosmia (a loss of smell) in some cases.
In this way a company can market a drug that has actual pharmacological activity, but market it as a homeopathic product that requires no testing and is automatically approved.
This is obviously a dangerous situation. Drugs need to be carefully regulated because they can cause allergic reactions, they are not safe to use in certain condtions, and they can interact with other drugs. In this case there is also the issue of overuse of antibiotics resulting in increased bacterial resistance.
Science Denial Is Not Exclusive To Right Wing Fundamentalists
By David Jerale via The Libertarian Republic
In a column for Scientific American January of last year, Michael Shermer, the founder of The Skeptics Society, exposed what he calls “The Liberals’ War on Science.” Shermer observes that, while it is true that Republicans are more overwhelmingly opposed to well-established scientific consensus like anthropogenic climate change theory and evolution, the problem of science denial also reaches epidemic proportions on the left.
“Try having a conversation with a liberal progressive about GMOs—genetically modified organisms—,” Shermer writes, “in which the words “Monsanto” and “profit” are not dropped like syllogistic bombs.”
Taken only at face value, this seems fairly innocuous– and critics like Chris Mooney were quick to point out, correctly, that science denial is predominantly right-wing.
Fair enough, but I offer this riposte: Rick Santorum and his ilk don’t teach science.
Discovery News, on the other hand, does– and in June, they posted a YouTube video by Laci Green, a popular online social justice advocate, feminist and peer sex educator, about genetically modified organisms. In this video, Laci doesn’t explicitly state her own opinion with regard to whether or not genetically modified foods are safe, choosing instead to present arguments for and against, with a heavy bias against, ending by asking viewers to post their thoughts on the matter in the comments section below the video.
This is a clear example of “false balance,” a tendency for media to overstate controversy in scientific matters. Fox News has been criticized for this because their coverage of climate science greatly over-represents those who disagree with anthropogenic global warming theory while there is a strong consensus among climate scientists that the theory is correct. As it happens, there is a similarly strong scientific consensus on the safety of genetically modified foods, but Laci conveniently ignores it for the sake of manufactured controversy– and she’s not alone.
SciShow, hosted by Hank Green, is a YouTube channel with over 1.5 million subscribers devoted to discussing scientific topics. Last year, Hank posted a video wherein he discusses genetically modified organisms– what they are, why they exist, how they’re made, etcetera– which included some cherry-picked information and outright fabrications about the supposed dangers of genetic modification, in spite of the existing scientific consensus to the contrary. It was later removed, and re-uploaded by another YouTube user– in the comments section there, Hank explains “We dropped it because we cited studies that have since been discredited.”
But Hank and Laci Green are just a couple of online personalities– No real harm, right?
Enter Bill Nye “The Science Guy.” Bill has been, for the most part, strongly against science denial– he has spoken against teaching creationism to children as well as climate change denial, but oddly, he breaks form when the topic is genetically modified organisms.
Let that sink in for a moment– perhaps the most well-known science popularizer alive, Bill Nye, trying to scare people into thinking GMOs are harmful.
That’s a far cry from some preacher doing the same thing because it conflicts with his religious dogma. It’s science education programming being used to spread pseudoscience, and the consequences could be devastating.
Perception is one of the most commonly used tools of advertisers. If done correctly it can be used to sell a person a product or an idea, even if it’s something they do not want or need. All you need is an image combined with some information (factual or not) that catches a person’s eye and makes them interested in whatever is being sold which ultimately leads them to buying whatever it is that is being sold.
Promoters of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories know this as well, and will often times create pictures on the internet of images coupled with text in an attempt to get you to “buy” whatever claims that they are making.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
Looks nice, doesn’t it? The pretty, smiling young woman that catches your eye and causes you to read whatever it is that the picture says and perhaps even gets you to try or believe whatever it is that the text is saying, which in this case is an advertisement to get people to try out Earthing.This is an example of using positive images inorder to fool people into believing that something that isn’t true. In this case it the original creator wants you to believe that Earthing works.
Now lets take a look at this next picture, courtesy of Illuminutti.com:
Not as nice looking as the previous picture, is it? Except for the photo in the bottom left side of the page, everything else about this picture is exactly the same as the one above this one.
Most people probably would . . .
Prisonplanet and Infowars. Both are Alex Jones’s main websites, and both are two of the largest conspiracy theorist websites in the world.
Now there are a lot of things that have been said about these sites, and after taking a look at these two sites I’ve noticed quite a lot of things about them, which I have narrowed down to five things.
So here are five things I’ve notice Prisonplanet and Infowars:
5. There are a lot of ads on the sites.
I have no problems with any websites having advertisements on them, and with the size of the websites that Prisonplanet and Infowars are it’s necessary for these sites to have advertisements on them in order to make money to both pay people maintain the sites, as well as to pay other employees… and also to make Alex Jones money.
The sites not only have your ordinary, random ads that try to look like news stories, but also ads by sponsors of the sites with products or services that is geared towards the typical fans of Alex Jones (i.e. conspiracy theorists), or it’s just advertisements for books and videos and other products that Alex Jones has created himself… or at least he claims to have created. And of course there are also ads for Alex Jones’s radio show.
There are also articles on those those sites as well, not just ads, but the thing about that is…
4. Alex Jones doesn’t write a lot of articles on those sites.
On any given day if you go to Infowars and Prisonplanet you’ll find a whole bunch of articles on there, what you hardly ever see however are articles written by Alex Jones. Infact seeing an article on there that was written by Alex Jones is more rare than seeing an article on there that actually tells the truth instead of being a manipulative form of propaganda.
Not only does Alex Jones not write a whole bunch of article on his sites, but neither does his staff. Many of the articles on those sites are actually from other websites, some of which mainly promote conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, and some are from legitimate news sites.
Even when someone there does write an original article, they always seem to do this one thing…
3. They cherry pick stuff.
Most of the articles on these two sites that are written by actual staff members of Alex Jones’s tend to be just cherry picked from other legitimate news articles, with parts of the legitimate news articles being taken apart and having pieces of it taken out of context, and then the writers ad in their own comments to make it sound like the original article agrees with their point of view, even if it doesn’t. Or they . . .
Here we go again. A pseudoscience pushing website (which occasionally tosses in stories about real science) is trumpeting a primary research study (published 6 months ago) that may, or may not, indicate that plant DNA may survive intact in the digestive tract and show up in the bloodstream. You just know what they’re going to say next.
This will now be all about genetically modified foods.
In case you’ve ignored this area of pseudoscience, genetically modified crops are foods derived from genetically modified organisms (GMOs); of course, all types of agricultural breeding induces genetic modification, but in general, GMO usually implies actual manipulation of the genes. Based on some of the worst science available, anti-GMO cultists have condemned GMO foods as being dangerous. Of course, there is actually no science supporting the anti-GMO claim, and the vast scientific consensus says that GMO foods are safe to humans, animals and the environment.
A paper published in the online journal, PLoS One, seems to indicate that possible DNA fragments pass from the digestive tract into the blood. The authors, Spisak et al., concluded:
…based on the analysis of over 1000 human samples from four independent studies, we report evidence that meal-derived DNA fragments which are large enough to carry complete genes can avoid degradation and through an unknown mechanism enter the human circulation system.
Based on our knowledge of the digestive process, fats, DNA, carbohydrates, and proteins are broken down into their simplest components, and specialized transport systems move these simple components across the barrier between the digestive tract and blood. They have evolved to not transport full size molecules, partially because the blood is incapable of carrying large foreign molecules (and could induce an immune response). Moreover, small constituent molecules, like amino acids instead of the whole protein, or glucose instead of a long-chain carbohydrate, are more easily transported to locations in the body to be then used as fuel or building blocks for new proteins and DNA. We just have not seen a mechanism in the digestive tract that can move large molecules, like gene-length DNA fragments, into the bloodstream.
In fact, the authors admit that the mechanism is unknown . . .
Homeopathic medicine is probably one of the oldest forms of alternative medicine there is. Infact it was invented in the late 1700′s by German physician Samuel Hahnemann, and has been with ever since.
Now there are lots of claims about homeopathy and what it does, and after looking into them I’ve noticed several different things about homeopathic medicine.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about homeopathic medicine:
5. You can make it at home.
Homeopathic medicine is very easy to make. You don’t even need a complex chemistry lab inorder to make it. You can make it right in your kitchen!
Got a headache and you want to make some homeopathic aspirin inorder to get rid of it? Well here’s what you do:
Step 3: Shake up bottle.
Step 4: Take one drop from said bottle and put it into the next bottle.
Step 5: Repeat steps 3 and 4 until done doing so with all bottles.
Now if you do all of this you will have homeopathic aspirin and your headache should go away in a few hours… same as any other normal headache would if you were to take nothing at all.
Actually this might not work, and this is because…
4. You’re suppose to use something that can cause the problems that you currently have inorder to cure them.
Inorder for homeopathic medicine to actually work (atleast according to people who make and deal with homeopathic medicine) you don’t use heavily diluted medicine that would cure whatever it is that you have. What you actually are suppose to use is something that could cause the symptoms that you’re having rather than actually cure them. Think of it as a kind of like a vaccine, minus any backing from the scientific and medical communities.
So if you want to cure that headache of yours using heavily diluted aspirin isn’t going to work. What you actually want to use is something that can cause a headache if you take it in it’s pure form, like beer, only it has to be heavily diluted.
So using homeopathy logic the best thing to take when you have a headache is a ball park beer, because those things are watered down all to hell.
Recently on Facebook I saw a video of a Finnish martial artist named Jukka Lampila who called what he did Empty Force or EFO, and claimed that with it he could control an attacker without touching him. His Facebook page proclaims him the founder of EFO. The video begins with clips of Lampila fending off ‘attacks’ from his students. He waves his arms; sometimes he twitches, and in each case the ‘attacker’ seems to be magically thrown to the mat without ever being touched by Lampila. He also shows an example of ‘controlling’ someone on the ground. He kneels calmly beside a supine student with the back of his hand gently resting on the man’s chest. “I don’t need to use any energy” he asserts as the student appears to try with all his might to regain his feet to no avail. It is a sad display of martial arts charlatanism.
Unfortunately for Mr. Lampila, a group of skeptics were in attendance this day, and several of them volunteered to be ‘controlled’ by Mr. Lampila. His chosen method was to have the volunteer try to push him. He failed in each case to stop them from doing so. The skeptics were admirably polite, giving Mr. Lampila an ample number of opportunities to prove his claims and not demonstrably gloating at his failures. When one of them calmly asked him if he would like to demonstrate his defense against a punching attack Mr. Lampila declined. He later invited everyone to pay for and attend his seminar the next day!
I’ve been involved in the martial arts since 1971. I’ve been teaching martial arts since 1975. In this time, and long before I became aware of formal scientific skepticism I grew to see that a lot of people are drawn to martial arts styles that are based on pseudo-science. The arts that are the biggest culprits by far are the arts that base their claims of effectiveness on developing and manipulating a purported form of internal energy. Whether you label it Chi, Ki, Prana, “The Force”, or Empty Force it has never to my knowledge been proven to exist through robust, double-blind, replicated scientific experiments. If it is energy, where are the scientific instruments that can detect its levels? Is this energy chemical, radiant, nuclear, kinetic, electro-magnetic, mechanical, or ionizing? Is this energy in the form of waves or particles? At the risk of building a straw man, I’m going to go out on a limb here and guess that practitioners and apologists for these arts would say that science doesn’t know everything, and that “chi power” is as yet unexplained by science. If this were plausible, wouldn’t it follow that a large number of physicists would be pursuing a future Nobel Prize by attempting to prove the existence of this vital energy?
In the last 43 years I’ve seen quite a few ‘demonstrations’ of this power. I have yet to be impressed. Mostly what I’ve seen were sad carnival sideshow tricks, many of which I can easily explain if not reproduce, without resorting to magic. The rest were feckless displays like that of Mr. Lampila.
I assert that on the rare occasions when practitioners of these styles defend themselves effectively it is through properly applied principles of leverage and body mechanics, and not the magical power of Ki.
This phenomenon raises further questions. First, what possesses people to train in such a system of martial arts? Second, what is in the minds of people who already train in such systems and continue to do so after seeing their ‘Master’ embarrassed as Mr. Lampila was in the video?
As for what draws people in the first place, I will cite what scientific skepticism has taught me.
Why are so many Facebook friends sharing preposterous stories from Natural News?
Have you heard that eating whole lemons prevents cancer? Or that bathing in Himalayan salt rids the body of harmful toxins? That eating hijiki seaweed can delay hair graying? If you have a few Facebook friends, you’ve probably encountered some of these claims. The website Natural News —which seems like a parody but is unfortunately quite serious—published these preposterous stories, and many others just as silly, last week alone.
Hokum like this is best ignored, but hundreds of thousands of Americans fail to do so. Natural News has achieved astonishing traction on social media, garnering Facebook shares in the high five and low six figures. These numbers should trouble you—Natural News has an uncanny ability to move unsophisticated readers from harmless dietary balderdash to medical quackery to anti-government zealotry.
Let’s start by deconstructing the claim that eating whole lemons staves off cancer. The author cites two medical journal articles. She badly mischaracterizes the first, published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry in 1999. The study described the isolation of three compounds, known as coumarins, from lemon peel. Coumarins exhibit tumor-suppressing properties in a laboratory dish, but that does not mean that eating lemon peel prevents cancer. Even if the oral ingestion of coumarins were convincingly shown to fight cancer in a laboratory animal, we still wouldn’t know how much lemon peel would be required for a human to experience the same effects or whether you could tolerate the dose.
The second study the author cites is an enormous overreach. No one enjoys biostatistics, but bear with me and you’ll be better prepared to identify weak studies in the future. The study, published in the journal Nutrition and Cancer in 2000, purported to show a correlation between consumption of lemon peel and diminished cancer risk. The authors surveyed 242 skin cancer survivors and 228 controls about their citrus consumption habits, but the questionnaire wasn’t externally validated and has some screwy definitions. (Eating citrus peel “often,” for example, is defined as “50-75 percent of the time.” What does that mean?) The authors did not adequately control for race or skin tone, which is an important variable in skin cancer studies. The sample size was much too small. Only 163 of the 470 study participants reported eating citrus peel, and just 28 of them admitted to eating citrus peel often. That’s not enough to prove that eating lemon peel prevents skin cancer. In addition, the statistical correlation is very weak, close to undetectable. Had one more person with cancer reported eating citrus peel, the relationship would likely have disappeared. In fairness, the study authors acknowledged the small sample size and the need for more substantial follow-ups, but everyone knows how these correlational studies are reported in the media. This is why you should look for patterns in scientific literature rather than relying on individual studies.
Anytime someone tells you that eating something prevents cancer, your BS detector should start a-clanging. Natural News is full of these beauties.
Recently I came across this picture that were making all of these claims about coconut oil (67 claims to be exact).
Now normal when I see something like this and it has the word “Proven” in the title, I automatically assume that most or all of it is just a bunch of BS.
But I decided to give these claims the benefit of the doubt and examine all of them to see if there is any truth behind them.
1. To cook with instead of vegetable or seed oils.
This one is true. You can cook with it, but it’s advised by many health organizations not to, or not to use to much due to it’s high amount of saturated fat.
2. In your coffee/tea instead of creamer.
Sure. Infact non-dairy creamers are often made out of coconut oil.
3. To wash your face with instead of soap.
Yes, this is true. Also most hard soaps are made with coconut oils.
4. To brush your teeth with.
You could. There’s nothing dangerous about coconut oil (except maybe increasing your chance of having a heart attack if you eat to much of it) but I would stick with good old fashion (and proven) toothpaste.
My advice is that you should ask your dentist first before using coconut oil toothpaste and see what they have to say.
5. For oil pulling.
Yes, you can use coconut oil for this, although oil pulling itself hardly does anything and only really decreases the amount of tooth decaying bacteria in your mouth. Mouthwash is far more effective to use, and takes less time. Vodka also works to, and unlike mouthwash, you can actually swallow it!
6. As a body moisturizer.
Yes, this is true.
7. As a sun-screen.
Lets go back to #1 on the list, shall we. It’s used as a cooking oil. What do you think it’s going to do to you?
For those who answered incorrectly, it’s going to cook you!
8. As a hair conditioner.
It does reduce protein loss in hair, so yes you could use it as a hair conditioner.
9. As a supplement.
For what? That’s kind of vague. Plus considering how high coconut oil is in saturated fat, I wouldn’t use it as a food supplement.
10. As a massage oil.
You can use it for that.
11. To reduce scars.
It helps with dry skin, and it might help acne scars, but scars from a cut it’s not going to help.
12. To treat for lice.
Yes, you can, but you have to use a lot of it to work, and you have to leave on for 12 to 18 hours, and it probably won’t kill the eggs.
13. To soften cracked heels.
Yes, you can use it for this.
14. As a hair serum.
Yes, this is another thing you can use it for.
15. As a buttery spread.
Sure you can… if you don’t mind increasing your risk of having a heart attack in a few years.
“I believe in a lot of astrology.” So commented pop megastar Katy Perry in a recent GQ interview. She also said she sees everything through a “spiritual lens”…and that she believes in aliens.
According to data from the National Science Foundation’s just-released 2014 Science and Engineering Indicators study, Americans are moving in Perry’s direction. In particular, the NSF reports that the percentage of Americans who think astrology is “not at all scientific” declined from 62 percent in 2010 to just 55 percent in 2012 (the last year for which data is available). As a result, NSF reports that Americans are apparently less skeptical of astrology than they have been at any time since 1983.
The data on Americans’ astrological beliefs are compiled by NSF but come from a variety of sources; since 2006 they have come from the General Social Survey. Over the years, the GSS and other surveys have asked Americans a recurring question: “Would you say that astrology is very scientific, sort of scientific, or not at all scientific?”
In response, a substantial minority of Americans, ranging from 31 to 45 percent depending on the year, say consider astrology either “very scientific” or “sort of scientific.” That’s bad enough—the NSF report compares it with China, where 92 percent of the public does not believe in horoscopes—but the new evidence suggests we are also moving in the wrong direction. Indeed, the percentage of Americans who say astrology is scientifically bunk has been declining ever since a high point for astrology skepticism in 2004, when it hit 66 percent.
The recent increase in astrological credulity was most dramatic among those with less science education and less “factual knowledge,” NSF reported. In the latter group, there was a staggering 17 percentage point decline in how many people were willing to say astrology is unscientific, from 52 percent in 2010 to just 35 percent in 2012. Also apparently to blame are younger Americans, aged 18 to 24, where an actual majority considers astrology at least “sort of” scientific, and those aged 35 to 44. In 2010, 64 percent of this age group considered astrology totally bunk; in 2012, by contrast, only 51 percent did, a 13 percentage point change.
The word “pseudoscience” is used to describe something that is portrayed as scientific but fails to meet scientific criteria.
This misrepresentation occurs because actual science has creditability (which is to say it works), and pseudoscience attempts to ride on the back of this credibility without subjecting itself to the hard intellectual scrutiny that real science demands.
Other things typically branded pseudoscience include astrology, young-Earth creationism, iridology, neuro-linguistic programming and water divining, to name but a few.
What’s the difference?
Key distinctions between science and pseudoscience are often lost in discussion, and sometimes this makes the public acceptance of scientific findings harder than it should be.
Other misconceptions about science include what the definition of a theory is, what it means to prove something, how statistics should be used and the nature of evidence and falsification.
Because of these misconceptions, and the confusion they cause, it is sometimes useful to discuss science and pseudoscience in a way that focuses less on operational details and more on the broader functions of science.
What is knowledge?
The first and highest level at which science can be distinguished from pseudoscience involves how an area of study grows in knowledge and utility.
The philosopher John Dewey in his Theory of Inquiry said that we understand knowledge as that which is “so settled that it is available as a resource in further inquiry”.
This is an excellent description of how we come to “know” something in science. It shows how existing knowledge can be used to form new hypotheses, develop new theories and hence create new knowledge.
It is characteristic of science that our knowledge, so expressed, has grown enormously over the last few centuries, guided by the reality check of experimentation.
In short, the new knowledge works and is useful in finding more knowledge that also works.
No progress made
Contrast this with homeopathy, a field that has generated no discernible growth in knowledge or practice. While the use of modern scientific language may make it sound more impressive, there is no corresponding increase in knowledge linked to effectiveness. The field has flat-lined.
At this level of understanding, science produces growth, pseudoscience does not.
To understand this lack of growth we move to a lower, more detailed level, in which we are concerned with one of the primary goals of science: to provide causal explanations of phenomena.
The controversy surrounding genetically modified organisms (GMO) has intrigued me for some time, and recently I have been reading everything I can on the topic. It is an excellent topic for skeptics – it is mainstream (not a fringe topic), it has real importance for society, there are complex scientific and logical issues to sort through, and the topic is rife with misinformation and motivated reasoning.
I wrote recently about the fact that beliefs concerning GMO tend to be dominated by two opposing narratives: GMO critics despise corporate control and greed, and fear the unnatural, while GMO advocates see this technology as an example of the triumph of human ingenuity and science. I admit that with regard to this issue my bias is toward the latter narrative, however, I can understand caution regarding huge corporations (the tobacco industry comes to mind).
But, as a skeptic I have really tried to follow a critical thinking process and pull back from my initial gut reactions. Here, then, is my overview of the issues regarding GMO.
A Brief History of GMO
GMO advocates are quick to point out that pretty much all the food consumed by humans have already been extensively modified by human activity. Corn, for example, was cultivated from teosinte, which looks nothing like modern corn. In fact, it took some detective work to figure out that they are essentially the same species.
Cultivation is mostly about artificial selection – saving the best plants from one year’s crop to provide the seeds for the following year. Repeat that a few thousand times, and you have the development of agriculture and all the food you recognize today.
Cultivation can also involve cross-pollination, creating a hybrid species in an attempt to get the best traits from closely related species. Using a combination of cross-pollination and artificial selection, breeders have created countless varieties of common plants. The black or purple tomato, for example, of which there are about 50 varieties, is high in flavanoids, which give them their color. Orange carrots were developed by a fortuitous mutation resulting in high levels of beta-carotine. This turned carrots into an important staple crop as a source of vitamin A.
Breeders who are impatient to wait for a fortuitous mutation to occur developed what is called mutation breeding – exposing plants to chemicals or to radiation that increases the mutation rate. Between 1930 and 2007, 2540 mutagenic plant varietals have been released.
Genetic modification is the latest technique for changing organisms to suit our wants and needs. The technology involves various techniques for inserting one or more specific genes directly into a target organism. There are two basic types of GMO – transgenic and cisgenic. Cisgenic involves inserting genes from closely related species, ones that could potentially cross breed with the target species. Transgenic refers to inserting genes from distant species – even from different kingdoms of life, such as putting a gene from a bacterium into a plant.
There are four types of GM plants currently approved for use: herbicide tolerance, pesticide production, altered fatty acid composition (for canola oil), and virus resistance. Many other potential applications are in various stages of development.
GMO advocates are quick to point out that GM technology is nothing new, and that it is simply an extension of the various technologies we have used for thousands of years to alter organisms. This is overstating the case, however – transgenic GMO is not just a new technique, it also opens up new possibilities, like putting a gene from a bacterium into corn. But it is legitimate to put GMO in its proper historical context. It is not entirely new. Contamination of genes from other kingdoms even occurs in nature through horizontal gene transfer.
In any case, the “it’s not natural” argument is fallacious. Meanwhile, GMO should be looked upon as a powerful technology, and such technologies can have both powerfully good and powerfully bad consequences depending on how they are used.
Alternative cancer cures.
These so called cures have been around with us for as long as science based cancer treatments have been around with us. In fact some of them have been around even longer than that.
These so called cures, while different, also have many things in common, which I have narrowed down to five different things.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about alternative cancer cures:
5. There’s a lot of them.
One of the biggest things that I’ve noticed about alternative cancer cures is that there are a lot of different types of “cures” floating around the internet and alternative medicine communities, and that there seems to be a new one that comes out every few weeks.
I’ve seen claims that balancing your ph levels, vitamins, organic foods, “detoxing” your body of chemicals, breathing in pure oxygen, and soursop can cure cancer, and in ways and speeds that would make conventional treatments obsolete.
The most recent claims I’ve seen concern cannabis oil. Along with doing all sorts of other stuff, the rumors spreading around the internet is that either cannabis oil can cure or at least stop the growth of cancer cells.
While there are a lot of different alternative medical treatments that are claimed to cure cancer, there are a few things that they all have in common, such as the fact that…
4. Many of the claims are exaggerated and dubious.
Of all the alternative cancer cures that I have seen floating around the internet they all just sound blatantly exaggerated, and when I do some research into these claims I find out that they are often times full of half truths, or are outright false. Examples of this would be Soursop which is claimed to be 10,000 times more effective than chemo (both exaggerated and false), and vitamins are often claimed to kill cancer cells because it can kill them in a petri dish (that doesn’t mean it can kill them in the human body).
Many people who promote these so called alternative cancer cures also claim that there is a “conspiracy” by “big pharma” to suppress these so called “cures” (which they have done a terrible job at) and is the reason why doctors won’t even mention these alternative “cures”. This is ofcourse made up nonsense and BS conspiracy theories. The real reason why doctors don’t recommend alternative cancer cures is because…
3. They don’t work and are dangerous.
As the old saying goes “You know what they call an alternative medicine that works? Medicine.”
The fact is that these so called alternative cancer cures don’t work. They have been tested in scientific laboratories, and have been shown . . .
I’ve written more than once about astrology, a slice of woo-woo that has never failed to impress me as the most completely ridiculous model on the market for explaining how the world works. I mean, really. Try to state the definition of astrology in one sentence, and you come up with something like the following:
The idea that your personal fate, and the course of global events, are controlled by the apparent movement of the Sun and planets relative to bunches of stars that are at varying (but extreme) distances from the Earth, patterns which some highly nearsighted ancient Greeks thought looked vaguely like scorpions and rams and lions and weird mythical creatures like “sea-goats.”
It definitely falls into the “how could that possibly work?” department, a question that is usually answered with vague verbiage about vibrations and energies and cosmic resonances.
But like I said, all of that is old territory, here at Skeptophilia. But yesterday, thanks to a loyal reader and frequent contributor, I found out something that I didn’t know about astrology; lately, astrologers have been including the asteroids in their chart-drawing and fortune-telling.
Don’t believe me? Listen to this lady, Kim Falconer, who tells us that we should consider the asteroids in our astrological calculations — but only use the ones we want. There are too many asteroids, she said, to track them all; “Use the asteroids that have personal meaning to you.”
Falconer is right about one thing; there are a great many asteroids out there. Astronomers currently think there are between 1.1 and 1.9 million asteroids in the belt between Mars and Jupiter alone, and that’s not counting the ones in erratic or elliptical orbits. So it would be a lot to track, but it would have the advantage of keeping the astrologers busy for a long time.
As far as which ones to track, though — this is where Falconer’s recommendations get even funnier, because she says we should pay attention to the names of the asteroids. Concerned about money? Check out where the asteroids “Abundantia” and “Fortuna” are. Concerned about love? Find “Eros” and “Aphrodite.” And I’m thinking; where does she think these names come from? All of them were named by earthly astronomers, more or less at random. I mean, it’s not like the names have anything to do with the actual objects. For example, here’s a photograph of Eros:MORE – - -
Over the past couple of weeks it’s been revealed that Anti-Vaccination groups and their supporters on Facebook have been launching false flag attacks (and I don’t mean types that Alex Jones thinks happens every time a shooting or a bombing or a natural disaster occurs in this country) against groups that are pro-vaccination and/or critical of anti-vaccination groups and their supporters and propaganda. These false flaggings have unfortunately resulted in the temporary (yet still wrongful) banning of multiple people and groups from Facebook who are critics of the Anti-Vaccination movement. This needs to stop. In fact, not only does this need to stop, but the people who are making these false flag reports need to be punished.
While many of you have some ideas on what should be done in order to curb false flag reporting (which I would love to hear from you in the comments section) I have a few suggestions of my own:
The first thing that needs to happen is that Facebook needs to make it easier to challenge a complaint and a ban. While you can do this even now, it’s not an easy process. Plus a person should be given a chance to defend themselves before a ban is about to occur. No more automatic bans unless a certain amount of time has gone by after a complaint was sent (I say a minimum of six hours).
Now the second thing that should happen to help curb false flagging abuse on Facebook is that those that do abuse the reporting system need to have their ability to report posts and groups and individuals that they don’t believe should be on Facebook more difficult. Granted I’m not saying they should be left unable to report someone or some group that really does contain offensive or illegal content (unless they continue to abuse the system even after restrictions have been placed on them, then their ability to report groups and people should be taken away, and they should be banned temporarily) but the process should be made more difficult for those that abuse the system, and probably should include a screen shot of any content that is being reported upon, as well as include more details about why something is being reported.
Going along side with the second suggestion that I believe Facebook needs to do inorder to curb false flagging abuse, after a person has already had restrictions put against for false flag abuse, if they do report someone or some group for their content and Facebook determines that it doesn’t violate their policies, the person or group should be informed that someone sent a complaint against them that was struct down, and the person or group should be told whom that person is, and given the option of whether or not they want to block that individual.
Anyone whom has read this blog is probably aware that I don’t like the Anti-GMO movement. I find the movement to be highly deceptive and uses propaganda and fear mongering in order to get people to buy “organic” food, and to reject all GMO foods no matter what.
Normally in spite their BS I would still have bought and eaten organic foods, not because I believed it was healthier for you (although I admit I at one time I did believe that) but because it tasted a little better, but now knowing more facts about the Anti-GMO movement and the extremes that they have gone to, and about organic food and it’s sustainability, as well as the organic food industry itself, I can no longer consciously buy and/or eat organic foods. To put it bluntly I am now Anti-Organic Foods, and I have several reasons (besides what I just what said here) why.
My first and foremost reasons for why I am now Anti-Organic Foods is because of the Anti-GMO movement itself and what it’s highly deceptive propaganda and fear mongering has done, which is to cause governments around the world to pass completely moronic Anti-GMO laws that is based off of fear rather than legitimate science, and has at times because of these laws hampered research into GMO foods, and to cause normally intelligent to reject GMO foods without any reason other than what lies the Anti-GMO movement has told them.Another reason why I am now Anti-Organic Foods is because of the deaths that have been caused by the Anti-GMO movement and their propaganda, particularly in developing in certain developing countries where the leaders of those countries actually rejected food donations because they were lead to believe (most notably by Greenpeace) that the food may have contain GMO foods and was (according to these Anti-GMO groups) poisonous. This type of deception has resulted in thousands of deaths, and possibly more.
My third reason why I have rejected organic foods is because of the physical destruction caused by the Anti-GMO movement, particularly of experimental GMO food crops due to the perception that these crops were dangerous. This destruction has caused millions of dollars worth of damage, not to mention the lose of valuable research data. The fact that many Anti-GMO groups (including Greenpeace) often praise this destruction, and have been accused of directly or indirectly responsible of being the cause of such destruction only makes the whole Anti-GMO movement look so much worse to me.
Now my fourth reason for rejecting organic foods isn’t because of the Anti-GMO movement, but because of . . .
The Anti-GMO movements and Anti-vaccination movements are probably two of the biggest and most well known pseudoscience movements out there, with millions of people that adhere to their claims.
Besides the fact that both groups do have millions of proponents world wide and promote pseudoscience, both groups are a lot alike in other ways as well. Infact I’ve come up with about ten different reasons why they are so much alike, starting with the fact that…
• Proponents of both get very emotional when you criticize and/or debunk them.
Ever get into an online discussion with someone whom either promotes Anti-vaccination or Anti-GMO nonsense, and you start to tell them what they claim is BS, and tell them why what they are claiming is BS? If you’ve answered yes then you know what usually ends up happening, and that is that they tend to go off the deep end and use all of these made up “facts” and logical fallacies and conspiracy theories, and in the end threats and accusations of being a shill are often made.
• A proponent of one tends to be a proponent of the other.
It shouldn’t be to surprising, but usually if someone is an Anti-GMO proponent, they usually tend to be an Anti-vaccination proponent as well, and vice-verse.
While this isn’t necessarily true many websites that promote Anti-vaccination nonsense also tend to promote Anti-GMO nonsense as well. Infact some websites that claim to be “natural health” websites promote both equally instead of one overshadowing the other. Also, another thing about proponents of both are…
• They tend to promote alternative medicine.
It shouldn’t be to surprising that people in the Anti-vaccination movement are big proponents of alternative medicine, but it shouldn’t also be to surprising that people in the Anti-GMO movement are also big proponents of alternative medicine as well.
Infact many people in the Anti-GMO movement will, besides just promote the usual alternative medicine nonsense, claim that organic foods can heal you of just about anything and everything as well (including stuff that doesn’t even exist).
• The only papers they’ve ever had published in creditable scientific journals have been debunked and retracted.
There are lots of studies that have been published over the years about the “dangers” of vaccines and GMO foods, and while the number of papers published may look impressive to some the reality is that it isn’t, especially when you consider the fact almost all of these papers are published in “scientific journals” that a person pays to be published in.
Infact the only Anti-vaccination and Anti-GMO papers that I know of that have ever been published in credible scientific journals are the Wakefield study (published in the Lancet) and the Séralini study (published in Food and Chemical Toxicology) both of which have been formally retracted by the respective journals that they were published in after it was found that both studies data was founded off of both unethical experiments and fraudulent data, and they were only retracted long after both studies had been thoroughly debunked.
• They both claim the same things about the products in terms of health effects.
Both the Anti-GMO and Anti-vaccination movements not only claim that both GMO foods and vaccines are bad for you and cause a large amount of health problems (all of which have been proven to be untrue), but they also claim that they cause the same health problems!
Both most notably are claimed to cause autism, but both are also claimed to cause the spreading of diseases, and increases in infant mortality, and sterility, and cancer, and who knows what else. It almost seems like Anti-GMO and Anti-vaccination movements are claiming that GMO foods and vaccines causes something new every week.
Scientists at the PEAR laboratories noticed something odd during their work with coincidence: Some humans seemed to influence random numbers with nothing but their thoughts. Could this be pseudoscience, or a scientific breakthrough?
This morning while I was going through my Facebook page and looking around at some of the skeptics groups that I belong to I came across this anti-vaccination photo. It was posted to mock and criticize the anti-vaccination movement for their blatant hypocrisy:
Now of course anyone who is either a skeptic or a medical professional can clearly see why this picture is being mocked and criticized, but for those who don’t I’ll explain why:
It’s mocked because of the irony that people in the anti-vaccination movement actually believe that getting “information” off of a website that promotes pseudoscience and alternative medicine rather than a legitimate science and/or medical website or journal apparently makes you well educated, and that those who are in the anti-vaccination movement actually believe that they are well educated about vaccines.
Also, it’s criticized because it gives the impression that people who advise against vaccination are themselves well educated, which is often not the truth and that in reality they are actually to dumb to realize that they don’t know anything about vaccines other than what they’ve been told (or scared into) by the anti-vaccination movement. Even those that really are well educated have either just been fooled by the claims of the anti-vaccination movement into believing that vaccines are dangerous, or are just lying about their beliefs for reasons that are their own (usually because they don’t want to admit that they are wrong).
If pictures like this were truly honest they would . . .
. . . MORE . . .
- Vaccines and their effect on public health (slideshare.net)
- Taking the sting out of vaccines (sophiaakl.wordpress.com)
- Katie Couric’s irresponsibly misleading “Conversation” (violentmetaphors.com)
- Why is Couric promoting vaccine skeptics? (politico.com)
- Why Did Katie Couric Invite Vaccine Deniers On Her Talk Show? (thinkprogress.org)
- Anti-Immunization Rhetoric Is Simple Simon Paradigm (peoplesadvocacycouncil.wordpress.com)
It’s been almost a year since 12/21/2012, the day that the world was suppose to end… or change (depends on who you asked).
Now there was a lot that didn’t happen that day that was suppose to, and there were certain things that day that did happen, just not what some people were expecting.
I’ve looked back upon what did happen that day, and I’ve come up with the five different things that I’ve noticed about that day and the whole doomsday prediction itself.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about 12/21/2012:
5. Nothing really important happen that day.
Well… not necessarily nothing per say, but in terms of the world shattering event that was suppose to occur (at least according to some people who mistook the ending of the Mayan calendar as being a Mayan prophecy foretelling the end of the world) nothing happened that day that was even worth bothering to remember.
The only thing that I really remember from that day is that me and several fellow skeptics laughed at all of those people who seriously thought the world was going to end that day, and the History Channel showing a bunch of programs about doomsday (because that is what the History Channel does).
Basically that’s all that happened that day. Skeptics had a good laugh, the History Channel showed a bunch of BS (well a little bit more BS than usual) and that’s it… well, that and fact that…
4. Millions of Doomers realized how stupid they were.
The amount of people who thought the world was going to end that day (or atleast something big was going to happen that day) was probably in the millions, most of which I’m pretty sure were relived that nothing happen (although I’m sure a few were disappointed, especially those who thought it would bring about some kind of human “transformation”).
I say again that while I am pretty sure that most people who believed that the world would end that day were relived that it didn’t happen, I’m also pretty sure that a lot of those people felt stupid for trusting some non-prophesy that a few people who were allegedly smarter than them completely mis-interpreted and got it into the public mindset in such a way that it ended up taking off like wildfire…
Ofcourse what probably made a lot of people feel stupid for believing in the 12/21/2012 end of the world prediction is the realization that…
3. It’s not the first time a major doomsday prediction has fail.
The 12/21/2012 was not the first major doomsday prediction to fail, nor was it the first major one to create a kind of mass hysteria that caused people to waste their time and money on to prepare for, as well as possibly ruin relationships with the people in their lives. The 12/21/2012 prediction wasn’t even the first major doomsday prediction of the century that failed. Infact it was the third major doomsday prediction of the 21st century that failed (the first one was the Y2K prediction, and the second one was Harold Camping‘s Rapture prediction of 2011).
Now I went to the Wikipedia page listing doomsday predictions (and these are just some of the more famous ones) and there were huge amount of them, and obviously they’ve all failed to come true. Infact I actually counted the number of doomsday predictions between the time I was born and the 12/21/2012 prediction, and according to the list the world should have ended atleast 47 times since my birth…
Now in my opinion the whole 12/21/2012 should never have been taken seriously in the first place. This is not only due to the sheer fact that doomsday predictions always fail, it’s also due to the fact that…
Recently I read an article on a website that promotes Ancient Aliens and trying to rewrite history in the strangest way possible about how the Pyramids in Egypt are 28 million years old (read the article here).
Now the article tries to link a comet that allegedly exploded over the region 28 million years with the creation of the pyramids, but really when I tried to read it, it just sounded like a bunch of nonsense. Infact most of it made no sense what so ever and was actually hard to read at points.
At the end of the article it makes it sound like aliens might have built the pyramids due to the sheer fact that humans were not around 28 million years ago (atleast they got the fact that humans weren’t around 28 millions years ago right).
So, are the pyramids 28 million years ago?
Not a chance.
First, if these structures were 28 million years old, then the only parts that would be left of them would be the foundations, and what ever was underneath the pyramids. Everything above would have eroded away by now.
Infact many of these pyramids are in various states of erosion due to where they are located and are almost gone. Some of them don’t even look like human made structures anymore, and look more like hills or small mountains out in the middle of the desert.
- Advanced Ancient Civilizations Evidentially Existed 29,000 Years Ago (johnnyrooftop.wordpress.com)
- Ancient Egypt, Aliens & Zombies (disclose.tv)
- How Many Pyramids Are In The World? (mysticablog.wordpress.com)
- The Pyramid Code: Exceptional Documentary (2012thebigpicture.wordpress.com)
- Is the Azores’ Pyramid 28 Million Years Old? (black2tell.wordpress.com)
- The Revelation of the Pyramids – Crucial Information (humansarefree.com)
Recently I forced myself to read an article about certain claims by made by one Dr. Ellis Silver, an ecologist, about how humans came from another planet (read the article here). Now most people would think that any proof that we do not come from this planet would be in our DNA (and I’ll get to that later) but the article doesn’t even mention that. In fact, it claims because of certain aliments that humans tend to have that there is only one logical conclusion as to why we have them: We came from another world.
One of the first claims made by Dr. Silver is that a lot of us have bad backs, and because of this he believes that humans must have evolve in a lower gravity environment then that of Earth’s.
Even if this was true that we did evolve in a lower gravity environment than that of Earth’s it wouldn’t be the cause of our bad backs. Eventually our bodies would adapt over a few generations to Earth’s gravity, and this guy is suggesting that we have been here for tens of thousands of years (actually between 60,000 to 200,000). This is more than enough time for our bodies to have adapted to Earth’s gravity.
Now the real reason for our bad backs isn’t because of the gravity, it’s actually a number of different things. It can be from placing to much stress on our backs (which other species do not do unless we make them) or injury, or sitting in a chair wrong for to long of a period of time, or being overweight, or a lack of exercise, or lifting up heavy objects in an improper manner. I’m not sure if Dr. Silver ignored these facts or not, but the sheer fact that some humans have back issues is not evidence that humans are from another world.
The second claim made for why humans are from another planet is because it can be difficult for women to give birth due to the size of a baby’s head, and that it can result in fatalities for both the mother and infant. He also claims that no other species on this planet has that problem.
This claim is just weird and flawed on several levels. First we are not the only species that has big heads when we are born. Infact many species of primates have big heads when they are born, as do many other species, and do experience complications from childbirth which can result in the deaths of both the mother and child.
Also, if it is true that having a big head when we are born which makes it difficult for a woman to give birth meant that we didn’t come from this planet, then why would we have evolved this trait on another planet also? We shouldn’t have, and therefore we shouldn’t even exist…
Just because we are born with big heads does not mean we did not come from this planet.
The third claim made for the believed reason why humans cannot have come from this planet is because we cannot stay in the sun for long periods of time, unlike lizards.
Well, we’re not lizards, which are cold blooded and actually need the heat from the sun inorder to function. We’re warm blooded, as are all other mammals, and do not require as much exposure to sun as a lizard does. Infact many mammal species are even less tolerant of the sun than we are, and either spend a lot of time in shaded areas, or are nocturnal and live underground, or in trees and bushes until night time.
Dr. Silver is also suggesting that because we can be harmed by the sun (i.e. get sunburned) that we must have come from another planet.
Actually the reason why we get sunburned isn’t because we evolved on another planet, it’s because we have a lot of exposed skin. Most other mammals have thick hair (i.e. fur) that protects their skin from direct exposure from the sunlight. Infact we’re not the only mammals that have a problem with getting sunburn. Pigs for example are very well known for getting sunburned, which is why they tend to roll around in mud. It’s not because they like it, it’s so they don’t get sunburned.
Now the forth claim that is made is that we have a strong dislike of naturally occurring foods, and for this reason we’re probably not from this planet.
This is completely bogus. A lot of people love . . .
- Humans do NOT come from Earth – and sunburn, bad backs and pain during labor prove it, expert claims (illuminutti.com)
- Humans do NOT come from Earth – and sunburn, bad backs and pain during labour prove it, expert claims (sott.net)
- Humans Are NOT From Earth – Dr Claims Our Bodies Are Evidence (humansarefree.com)
- Humans Came From Another Planet, New Book Claims (disinfo.com)
Despite all the we know about HIV and AIDS from the many years of research into it in hopes of one day finding a cure for it, there are still people out there who do not believe that HIV causes AIDS, or that it even exists.
There are a lot of things I have noticed about AIDS Denialism (and none of them are are positive, pun not intended) but I have narrowed it down to five different things.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about AIDS Denialism:
5. It’s a very dangerous and deadly form of Pseudoscience/Alternative medicine.
HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is a very deadly disease, and if left untreated it can kill someone within a few years of being infected (this does vary from person to person), and will kill 100% of the time.
AIDS denialists deny that AIDS even exists, or that at least HIV doesn’t cause AIDS, and encourage people not to take any medication after they’ve been diagnosed with HIV.
This is why AIDS denialism is considered to be so deadly. Because they are denying that HIV is dangerous, and that AIDS doesn’t even exist, AIDS denialists are basically encouraging those who have been infected to shorten their lives.
In fact many people consider AIDS denialism to be the second most dangerous form of alternative medicine and pseudoscience there is. Only the anti-vaccination movement is considered to be more dangerous, and that’s only because a lot of the diseases that vaccines are meant to prevent are a lot easier to get than HIV (although many of the diseases that are prevented via vaccines are usually not as deadly as HIV is).
4. It denies over three decades worth of research into HIV.
We know a lot about HIV and AIDS. We know how it’s transmitted from one person to another. We know how easy it is to prevent getting it. We know the average life expectancy of a person after they have contracted HIV, and we have known all of this for almost 30 years now.
Also, through the decades of scientific and medical research, we have developed medicines that can drastically extend the life expectancy of a person who has HIV by years, even decades, and even reduce the chance of a pregnant woman with HIV transmitting the virus to her unborn child to almost 0%. There are people who are alive today who were diagnosed with HIV back in the 1990′s who wouldn’t be alive today without all of this research (which has gone into the billions of dollars worth).
AIDS denialist just look at all of the research and all that we know about HIV and AIDS and says nope, it’s all fake…
3. It’s self destructive.
It shouldn’t be surprising to to many people but many AIDS denialists have also been diagnosed with HIV, and also not surprising many of them have died as a result of complications due to AIDS. A recent example of this would be . . .
- Science and Reality and AIDS Denialism (thepoxesblog.wordpress.com)
- Tommy Morrison AIDS death: HIV denialism victims in South Africa and the U.S. (ripley8.newsvine.com)
- Deadly Disbelief (slate.com)
- Slate’s bogus AIDS scam hit piece (fauxcapitalist.com)
- I’m just asking questions here (thepoxesblog.wordpress.com)
Why do some people continue to use alternative medicine?
Despite all the information there is about alternative medicine and how not only does it not work, but that infact it can even be harmful, people still use it and believe that it really does work.
So why is it that people still use alternative medicine? Well, I’ve been thinking about that, and I’ve come up with quite a few reasons why:
Science based medicine is an incredible thing and can cure many diseases and fix a lot of things that can go wrong with the human body, but unfortunately it can’t cure every disease, or fix everything that goes wrong with our bodies (not yet atleast). So when science based medicine can’t fix or cure what ever is wrong with us (or atleast not doing so in a way that is fast enough for us) some people, even rational people, might become desperate enough to use alternative medicine.
This sort of situation especially happens when someone has a terminal disease and they are told by their doctor that there is nothing they can do to cure what ever it is that is killing them. Some people will not accept this and will seek out anything that is claimed to be able to cure them (even if all the evidence says otherwise).
They think it’s cheaper
Because alternative medicine isn’t manufactured by the pharmaceutical companies (who are for profit businesses) it is assumed by some people that alternative medicine must be cheaper than science based medicine because they believe that the people who are manufacturing these alternative medical products are not doing it for a profit, plus when a person is told about a product that is suppose to be cheaper and work better than the conventional product, people tend to buy the supposedly cheaper product.
Now if you seriously believe that alternative medicine is cheaper than science based medicine, and that people who make these alternative medical products are not doing so for a profit, then I know a Nigerian prince that wants to give you $15,000,000.
A friend told them it works
Probably the best form of advertising there is is word of mouth. You don’t do have to pay for anything, and people tend to trust the opinion of a friend or family member over a creative ad in a newspaper or a TV commercial. Same thing holds true with alternative medicine.
Lets say you’ve been sick for a while and you have been taking some medicine for what ever has been ailing you, but so far it has had little to no affect. You tell a friend or a family member about your health issues and they might recommend that you take some herbs, or to go see this “doctor” that they recommend (who turns out to be an alternative medicine practitioner and not a real doctor) because they claim that it helped them, or it helped someone they know. Because you trust the person whom is recommending this “doctor” or this product, you might be more willing to see this “doctor” or try this product than you would if some stranger had told you.
Science based medicine can be harsh
Science based medicine (or modern medicine, or real medicine as some people like to call it) is a great thing. It has cured a lot of stuff, and has extended our average life expectancy by years, but it can also be pretty harsh at times as well. Because of this some people might either choose to stop using a science based medical treatment because they feel that it has become to harsh on them and that they believe that it might kill them if they continue to use, and so they decided to use alternative medicine instead because they believe it will help them without any side effects, or they might already know (or atleast believe) that the medical treatment that they’ve been recommend that they do could or will be harsh on them, and they decide to forgo it and use alternative medicine instead.
- Prince Charles and homeopathy: crank or revolutionary? (telegraph.co.uk)
- Affordable Care Act Raises Status Of Alternative Medicine; Insurance Companies ‘Shall Not Discriminate’ Against Practitioners (medicaldaily.com)
- Integrative Medicine’s Collateral Damage|Jann Bellamy|Science-Based Medicine (sciencebasedmedicine.org)
- Indian board of alternative medicines fake? Talking about Alternative medicines (altmedworld.wordpress.com)
- Is Indian board of alternative medicines fake? Orthodox Medicine Vs Alternative Medicine (altmedworld.wordpress.com)
- Because the world needs more Mark CrislipTM|Mark Crislip|Science-Based Medicine (sciencebasedmedicine.org)
- Can the IoE Revolutionize Alternative Medicine? (blogs.cisco.com)
- Online USA Doctors is Now Offering Complimentary, Alternative Medicine (prweb.com)
- This Is Actually A Fast Breakdown Of Alternative Medicine (healthmarketpress.wordpress.com)
Well it’s Halloween time and so I decided to do something special and talk about a monster that everyone seems to like these days: Zombies!!!
Zombies are ofcourse the reanimated corpses of people who’s only goal in their new life is to eat other people (preferably living).
Now there are lots of things that I (and I’m sure many others) have noticed about zombies, but I’ve narrowed it down to five different things.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about zombies:
5. They’re hard to kill.
(Author’s note: before anyone says it, yes I know zombies are technically dead, but because saying that you’re killing them is the simplest term I can come up with when it concerns taking one out, I’ve decided to use that.)
Thanks to movies and television shows many people have been led to believe that zombies are easy to kill, what with many screens of only a few people taking on huge hordes of the undead, I would believe that too. The problem with this is that this is unrealistic (besides the fighting zombies part) and it would actually be pretty difficult to kill a zombie.
I’m sure that everyone knows that you have to destroy a zombie’s brain inorder to kill it (you can cut a zombie’s head and the head will still be alive) but this is not as easy as it sounds because the brain is actually a pretty small target. For most people they would have to get pretty close to someone if they are shooting them inorder to hit their brain, especially if you’re using a pistol or even a shotgun, and if you have a melee weapon, you have to get up close regardless.
Now some people might think that it is okay to fight up close against a zombies because that is how it is often depicted in movies and TV, but infact…
4. People fight them the wrong way.
I know that in movies and on TV that often times battles with zombies are depicted as being up close and personal type of combat, and if you were to fight one or two of them up close there wouldn’t be any problems, but if you were to fight an entire zombie horde… you’re zombie food, because while you might be able to take a lot of them out, unless you can escape as quickly as possible, the zombies will overwhelm you and eat you!
The best way (and safest) to fight zombies is from a distance with a rifle, which is more accurate and has a greater range than a shotgun or a pistol.
Also, being up high (like in a tree) helps as well, just be sure you have a way to escape quickly incase a zombie horde is coming and you have to get out of there.
3. The supernatural explanation for them makes more sense than the viral explanation.
In almost all modern versions of zombies they are most often depicted as becoming member of the undead via a virus of some type, and while this make seem like a rational and logical explanation for why a zombie would exist in the first place, really the old traditional way that a corpse reanimates itself, via voodoo magic, makes more logical sense if you think about it.
- 5 Things I’ve noticed about… Conspiracy Theorists on Youtube (illuminutti.com)
- Ask a Zombie: “Unforeseen Consequences Are the Best Kind of Consequences” Edition (popcap.com)
- Zombie! Zombie! Zombie! HD iOS review (mobot.net)
- Romero’s Opinion of the Walking Dead (beardedknights.wordpress.com)
- The 7 Habits of Highly Effective Zombies (scottsmarketplace.com)
- Zombies – What’s with our fascination with the undead? (beaconnews.ca)
- Plants vs. Zombies 2 for Android 1.5 Now Available for Download (news.softpedia.com)
- George A. Romero, Creator of the Modern Zombie, Offers Opinion on The Walking Dead (dreadcentral.com)
- Nano-Particle ZOMBIES (mysteryoftheiniquity.com)
James Randi has an international reputation as a magician and escape artist, but today he is best known as the world’s most tireless investigator and demystifier of paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. Randi has pursued “psychic” spoonbenders, exposed the dirty tricks of faith healers, investigated homeopathic water “with a memory,” and generally been a thorn in the sides of those who try to pull the wool over the public’s eyes in the name of the supernatural. He is the author of numerous books, including The Truth About Uri Geller, The Faith Healers, Flim-Flam!, and An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural.
- James Randi – Secrets of the Psychics (Full) (illuminutti.com)
- Psychic Secrets (illuminutti.com)
- Secrets of the Psychics (illuminutti.com)
- The Amazing Randi – Penn is BAD, BAD, BAD (randi.org)
- October News & Updates (randi.org)
- James Randi – Investigating Pseudoscientific and Paranormal Claims (disclose.tv)
- Skeptics Like James Randi Are a Necessary Evil (mysteriousuniverse.org)
- Meet the Amazing TAMers: James Randi- Part 2 (secularnewsdaily.com)
- James Randi exposes Uri Geller and Peter Popoff (ritholtz.com)
- Meet the Amazing TAMers: James Randi- Part 1 (secularnewsdaily.com)
By Dr. Steven Novella via randi.org
I have to hand it to the snake oil peddlers over at NES Health – they have managed to squeeze just about every energy-based pseudoscience into one scam. What does “NES” stand for, you wonder? “Nutrition Energy System.”
“Through its pioneering work with medical doctors and acupuncture therapists over the last decade, NES Health has not only discovered – and mapped – the human body field but it has also managed to integrate this ground-breaking knowledge with the principles of energy information.”
So, in the last decade they “discovered” the non-existent “human body field” that has been part of cutting edge pseudoscience for decades. Devices that measure the body’s “energy field” go back at least to the 1970s. A simple search on the term will indicate that this is nothing new, nor unique to NES.
The NES site continues:
“The link between biology and traditional Chinese medicine has been formally established by NES Health – and the organization’s researchers have identified that the human body field is a highly structured network of energy and information fields, which act as a master control system for the physical body.
As a consequence, it is now evident that to be healthy, the body’s energy fields must be functioning harmoniously – if their natural balance is disturbed, health consequently suffers.”
New technology meets ancient wisdom. I knew it had to be in there somewhere.
In their promotional video they inform us that NES is ushering in the “quantum age” of healthcare. Skeptics have been joking for some time that you could simply put the words: “quantum,” “energy,” “vibrations,” “balance,” “harmony,” “information,” “healing,” “toxin,” “nutrition,” and other commonly used vague terms into a bag, or into a computer program that will spit them out at random, and you can generate endless alternative health products, with claims that are just as coherent and science-based as anything on the market. They did coin the term, as far as I know, “infoceutical.” Nice one – supplements imprinted with information. Personally I would have gone for the trifecta – how about, quantum-infoceutical?
They do have a tab for “research,” which is always entertaining. On it you will find a few terrible studies that do nothing to support the grandiose claims of NES health. For example . . .
- Pseudoscience (illuminutti.com)
- 11 Reasons why people believe in Pseudoscience (illuminutti.com)
- Quantum, Information, Biofield Pseudoscience (randi.org)
- TED aligns with Monsanto, halting any talks about GMOs, ‘food as medicine’ or natural healing (wemustknow.wordpress.com)
- Difference between pseudoscience, metaphysics, spiritual philosophy and science (sureshemre.wordpress.com)
- TED aligns with Monsanto, halting any talks about GMOs, ‘food as medicine’ or natural healing (undergroundhealth.com)
It’s a multi-billion dollar scam industry that millions of people around the world use the products and services of year after year.
Many people who use alternative medicine will say it works, while many, many others will say otherwise.
Now there are a lot of things that I have notice about alternative medicine, but I have narrowed it down to five different things.
So here are five things I’ve noticed about alternative medicine:
5. It has a lot to do about nothing.
Alternative medicine products and services basically comes in two different forms: does nothing and uses nothing.
Most alternative medicine just doesn’t work at all (such as homeopathy), and the few that actually does do something, the effects are minor and no where near as effective as real medicine, and could even be harmful if done improperly.
Then there are some that not only does nothing, but uses nothing as well. Reiki healing is a prime example of this as practitioners of Reiki healing practitioners claim that they use “energy” from some unknown source to “heal” people. Sometimes they will use crystals to harness this power. Sometimes they’ll just use their hands. Regardless of how they “harness” this energy, they all do the same thing: nothing.
4. It works off of anecdotal evidence
Some of the best “evidence” that practitioners of alternative medicine have about how effect the products and services they offer works is anecdotal evidence. In fact it’s not just best evidence they can give, it’s also often the only evidence they can ever give (besides the stuff they make up) mainly because scientific experimentation and testing have proven that their products and services are useless.
Most practitioners of alternative medicine will tell you that their products and services does make people feel better, what they often don’t tell you is how long it took to fix or cure whatever was ailing those who used their products or services, or whether they were using real medicine and medical services along with the alternative medicine, or how many people it didn’t work for and ended up having to go and get real medicine and medical services when the alternative medicine failed to cure any thing but perhaps a heavy wallet. And that’s another thing about alternative medicine…
3. It gets expensive.
Some alternative medicine is cheap (or at least it seems that way) but a lot of it is either over priced and even cost to much for some to use (which can be a good thing in a way, because the expense forces that person to go get real medicine). Even for people with health insurance it can still get expensive because most health insurance companies will not pay for alternative medicine, so a person who wants to use alternative medicine will have to pay for it out of pocket.
Even for the alternative medicine that isn’t expensive, and can still get expensive because . . .
- Misinformation from Mayo Clinic|Steven Novella|Neurologica (theness.com)
- Indian board of alternative medicines is not fake! (altmedworld.wordpress.com)
- Doctors are too trusting of alternative medicine (irishtimes.com)
- The Best Critique of Alternative Medicine Ever (slate.com)
- Findings from Shanghai Jiao-Tong University Provides New Data on Complementary and Alternative Medicine (hispanicbusiness.com)
- How To Improve Kidney Function With Natural And Alternative Medicine (healthsandbeauty.wordpress.com)
- Dr. Paul Offit On Believing in Magic in Medicine (ieet.org)
- Indian board of alternative medicines is not fake: Scope of alternative medicine (altmedworld.wordpress.com)
- Communing with a Reiki Master (travel-monkey.me)
- Indian board of alternative medicines not fake : Positives of alternative treatment for cancer (altmedworld.wordpress.com)
Through my studying of conspiracy theories I have found that many of them are easy to dis-prove. In fact some of them are so easy to dis-prove that it’s actually kind of shocking that anyone believes in them.
Now despite the fact that most conspiracy theories are quite easy to dis-prove, a few of them could actually be proven, and quite easily at that, if a conspiracy theorist was willing to spend the and money to try to prove what they believe is real.
The following is a list of five different conspiracy theories that I feel could be easy to prove:
The Moon landings were hoaxed.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that the moon landings did happen and that we really did send 12 men to the surface of the moon and back between 1969 to 1972, many conspiracy theorists still insistence that the landings were all faked, and that they were all filmed on some movie set in on a military base in the middle of the desert.
Despite the multiple pieces of “evidence” that they believe prove that the moon landings were faked, they have not produce one shred of evidence that hasn’t ended up being debunked.
Now, despite the fact that all the evidence that they claim proves the moon landings were hoaxed have been debunked, there are actually a few simple (but expensive) ways for them to prove the moon landings were hoaxed:
First, they could build their own telescope that is powerful enough to see close up to the surface of the moon, and look at the moon landing sites to see if anything is there.
Second, build your own satellite and rocket that can travel to the moon and photograph the sites where the moon landings were suppose to be.
Third, build a space ship that can actually get to the moon, land at the sites, and see for yourself if anything is ther. Oh, and here is the bonus part about this one: If it turns out that you’re right, and you prove that the moon landing were faked, “you” become known as the first person to walk on the moon!
Among some conspiracy theorists there is this belief that the government is using aircraft to spray the population with chemicals to either dumb us down, or make us sick, or make us infertile (assuming it’s not for geo-engineering like other chemtrail conspiracy theorists are insisting).
Of course there is no evidence what so ever to prove these claims (despite what they insist) but, there is in fact a very easy way for them to prove that chemtrails are real.
All they would have to do is get a plane, attach a scope or two to that plane (be sure they are the types that remotely open and shut in order to avoid contamination) fly through an alleged chemtrail (actually you might want to do this several times in order to collect several samples, just to be sure) take the samples you’ve gotten, and have them tested to see whats in them, and how high the concentrations are (because that plays a big factor too).
Now, if this is done, one of two things will happen: You and many other conspiracy theorists will be proven to be right, and all skeptics will have to eat their own words (during the revolution that would most likely follow) or, you will be proven to be wrong, and it will be shown that chemtrails are in fact nothing more than water vapor.
- Why do people lie about their belief in a Conspiracy Theory? (illuminutti.com)
- What is a Sheeple? (illuminutti.com)
- 7 Reasons why Conspiracy Theorists get their videos and pages removed from Youtube (illuminutti.com)
- HAARPing mad – an assessment of the HAARP conspiracy theories and conspiracy theorists. (illuminutti.com)
- Michael Hastings: 5 Conspiracy Theories That Didn’t Pan Out (illuminutti.com)
- Conspiracy theories: the science behind belief in secret plots (secularnewsdaily.com)
- Conspiracy theories: The science behind belief in secret plots (theguardian.com)
Defend the Woo
1 – Learn a bunch of scientific terms. You don’t have to know what they mean–it kinda helps if you don’t–just know what they are. When engaged in a debate, fling them around without remorse. Hopefully this will confuse or intimidate your opponent into submission. Good examples are “variables,” “controlled environment,” “toxicity,” “quantum,” “double blind placebo study.”
2 – Mention a bunch of unrelated phenomenon and act as if there is a correlation between them and the subject in question.
Post hoc is your friend, and correlation always equals causation.
3 – Graphs. Lots of graphs.
4 – Appeal to a scientific conspiracy while maintaining that you in fact love and understand science.
“My detailed knowledge, and love of science has made me recognize that all science is prejudiced, full of bias, and corrupted by special interest.”
5 – Is your hypothesis or positive claim lacking evidence? No worries, you can always pull the “not enough testing has been done” card. It isn’t your fault–science just hasn’t gotten around to discovering what you (the informed, internet-savvy investigator that you are) already know.
6 – Appeal to your own valor and rugged individualism.
You’re not going to let some troublesome “scientists” with “laboratories” and “peer-review” do your thinking for you. You are more than capable of “doing your own research.” Who the hell is anyone to tell you that you cannot probe data with the best of them? You think for yourself, after all. And you have a wireless internet connection.
Why do some people believe in pseudoscience?
It’s a question that I’m sure that many skeptics have asked when they encounter someone who believes in something that has been discredited for years (sometime centuries).
Doing a little bit of research into the subject, as well as a bit of thinking, I’ve come up with quite a few reasons why some people actually believe in pseudoscience.
11. It goes along with their beliefs.
Due to either religious or personal beliefs (or a combination of both) some people will believe in the pseudoscientific explanation for something, rather than the scientific explanation for something, if the pseudoscientific explanation goes along with their beliefs. Sometimes this will even go so far as to out right reject and ignore the scientific explanation, so long as the pseudoscientific explanation goes along with their beliefs, and the scientific explanation does not.
Examples of this would be people who have strong biblical beliefs rejecting the theory of evolution in place of intelligent design because intelligent design goes along with the creation story, or people who reject modern medicine in place of alternative medicine or believe in claims that vaccines cause autism because they believe pharmaceutical companies are evil, or people who believe that GMO foods are bad for you because they believe that organic foods are better for you and that GMO foods aren’t tested or regulated.
10. Real science can be difficult to understand.
I have to admit, there are some things in science that are just difficult to understand, and unless you already have a decent amount of knowledge about a certain scientific field, you probably aren’t going to understand whats going on if someone is discussing something about that scientific field.
Pseudoscience on the other hand is usually much easier to understand than real science, and because pseudoscience tends to be much easier to understand than real science, it can attract some people who have become frustrated with real science and their inability to understand it.
9. It sounds more awesome.
Besides being difficult to understand, science can also be boring to some people.
Because some people find the real scientific explanations to certain things to be boring and uninteresting, some people will go over to the pseudoscientific explanations, because it sounds a lot more exciting.
An example of this would be the explanation by ancient astronaut theorists that the Great Pyramid at Giza was constructed by aliens using their advanced technology for reasons unknown. Sounds a lot more exciting than the actual scientific explanation in that it was a giant monument and tomb constructed over a 20 year period by thousands of people for some egotistical Pharaoh.
8. It sounds more logical.
For some people that don’t have a good understanding of both how science and logic works, a pseudoscientific explanation can actually sound a lot more logical than an actual scientific and/or logical explanation for certain things.
Lets take crop circles for example. Some people believe that crop circles are made by aliens as a way to send us a message. To some people this sounds more logical than the actual explanation of a bunch of pranksters getting together and creating these geometric shapes in wheat fields using rope and 2x4s.
7. It makes them feel smart.
Because real science can be hard to understand, it can make certain people feel dumb when they try to understand it and just can’t. On the other hand because many things in pseudoscience are easy for most people to understand, and because of the false assumption that it is real science, it can make people feel smart when they understand it.
Because of the fact that they can understand it (and because they feel that it makes them look smart because they understand it) they might be more inclined to believe in it.
Via The Soap Box
When you explore the world of conspiracy theories and pseudoscience, you often times find out that there is no deep end in the theoretical pool of craziness, and just when you think you’ve reached the bottom, you find out you’re still not at the deep end.
- Energy Medicine – Noise-Based Pseudoscience (illuminutti.com)
- 5 Ways to Tell Science from Pseudoscience (illuminutti.com)
- Just Because TED Doesn’t Promote Pseudoscience Doesn’t Mean They’re Censoring Deepak Chopra (patheos.com)
- Cleverly disguised pseudoscience (gravityswings.wordpress.com)
- Confusing Standards for Censorship – Chopra Edition (skepticblog.org)