A critical analysis of archeology leads to rejection of astrology, conspiracies, etc.
The world as a whole has become increasingly reliant on science to provide its technology and inform its policy. But rampant conspiracy theories, fake news, and pseudoscience like homeopathy show that the world could use a bit more of the organized skepticism that provides the foundation of science. For that reason, it has often been suggested that an expanded science education program would help cut down on the acceptance of nonsense.
But a study done with undergrads at North Carolina State University suggests that a class on scientific research methods doesn’t do much good. Instead, a class dedicated to critical analysis of nonsense in archeology was far more effective at getting students to reject a variety of pseudoscience and conspiracy theories. And it worked even better when the students got their own debunking project.
The study, done by Anne Collins McLaughlin and Alicia McGill, lumps together things like belief in astrology, conspiracy theories, and ancient aliens, calling them “epistemically unwarranted.” Surveys show they’re widely popular; nearly half the US population thinks astrology is either somewhat or very scientific, and the number has gone up over time.
You might think that education, especially in the sciences, could help reverse this trend, but McLaughlin and McGill have some depressing news for you. Rejection of epistemically unwarranted ideas doesn’t correlate with scientific knowledge, and college students tend to have as much trouble coming to grips with reality as anyone else.
This Nova documentary The Case of the Ancient Astronauts destroys the claims made by Erich von Däniken and his looney ancient astronauts (alien) theory. Read more about von Däniken below the video.
Erich Anton Paul von Däniken (/ˈɛrᵻk fɒn ˈdɛnᵻkᵻn/; German: [ˈeːrɪç fɔn ˈdɛːnɪkən]; born 14 April 1935) is a Swiss author of several books which make claims about extraterrestrial influences on early human culture, including the best-selling Chariots of the Gods?, published in 1968. Däniken is one of the main figures responsible for popularizing the “paleo-contact” and ancient astronauts hypotheses. The ideas put forth in his books are rejected by a majority of scientists and academics, who categorize his work as pseudohistory, pseudoarchaeology and pseudoscience.
The Nova documentary The Case of the Ancient Astronauts shows that all the claims made by von Däniken about the Pyramid of Cheops were wrong in all accounts. The technique of construction is well understood, scholars know perfectly what tools were used, the marks of those tools in the quarries are still visible, and there are many tools preserved in museums. Däniken claims that it would have taken them too long to cut all the blocks necessary and drag them to the construction site in time to build the Great Pyramid in only 20 years, but Nova shows how easy and fast it is to cut a block of stone, and shows the rollers used in transportation. He also claims that Egyptians suddenly started making pyramids out of nowhere, but there are several pyramids that show the progress made by Egyptian architects while they were perfecting the technique from simple mastabas to later pyramids. Däniken claims that the height of the pyramid multiplied by one million was the distance to the Sun, but the number falls too short. If it were true, it would make the pyramid 93 miles high… He also claims that Egyptians could not align the edges so perfectly to true North without advanced technology that only aliens could give them, but Egyptians knew of very simple methods to find North via star observation, and it is trivial to make straight edges.
Continue reading @ Wikipedia – – –
The term ‘ancient astronauts’ designates the speculative notion that aliens are responsible for the most ancient civilizations on earth. The most notorious proponent of this idea is Erich von Däniken, author of several popular books on the subject. His Chariots of the Gods? Unsolved Mysteries of the Past, for example, is a sweeping attack on the memories and abilities of ancient peoples. Von Däniken claims that the myths, arts, social organizations, etc., of ancient cultures were introduced by astronauts from another world. He questions not just the capacity for memory, but the capacity for culture and civilization itself, in ancient peoples. Prehistoric humans did not develop their own arts and technologies, but rather were taught art and science by visitors from outer space.
Where is the proof for von Däniken’s claims? Some of it was fraudulent. For example, he produced photographs of pottery that he claimed had been found in an archaeological dig. The pottery depicts flying saucers and was said to have been dated from Biblical times. However, investigators from Nova (the fine public-television science program) found the potter who had made the allegedly ancient pots. They confronted von Däniken with evidence of his fraud. His reply was that his deception was justified because some people would only believe if they saw proof (“The Case of the Ancient Astronauts,” first aired 3/8/78, done in conjunction with BBC’s Horizon and Peter Spry-Leverton)!
Most of von Däniken’s evidence is in the form of specious and fallacious arguments . . .
Continue Reading @ The Skeptic’s Dictionary – – –
Natural News is the worst of the internet.
By Sharon A. Hill via Doubtful
Would you get your medical advice from a non-medical doctor with inadequate training? How about one investigated by the FBI for supporting killing of scientists? Would you get your news from a site that denies the basic tenets of science and how the universe works? How about a site that promotes policies that can result in death (AIDS denialism, anti-vaccine, homeopathic remedies for deadly diseases such as Ebola)? Is a site led by a alt med salesman that pushes baseless conspiracy theories and calls respected doctors and scientists names (or worse) a reputable source of information?
No. And this is really serious. NO.
Learn the name NATURALNEWS.COM and avoid it entirely. They call themselves “The world’s top news source on natural health”. They are the top source for health misinformation and pseudoscience. This is not in doubt:
NN also publishes this disclaimer:
The information on this site is provided for educational and entertainment purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for professional advice of any kind. Truth Publishing assumes no responsibility for the use or misuse of this material.
In other words, treat this site as a joke because it’s not a science, news, or medical site. And, if you do follow the terrible advice or take our word for it and then hurt yourself, we absolve ourselves of everything.
How noble, eh? Sadly, some people really do believe this stuff.
If you read NN, which is possible because the damn thing is very popular, you are indulging in the wrongness; please go prepared for massive doses of nonsense and delusional commentary. If you share any of these stories as useful or true, you need an immediate intervention. Every time you share one of their links, even to make fun of it, you add to their Google search ranking. So don’t do that. Just don’t ever click on that site for anything.
Skeptoid twice named NN the #1 Worst Anti-Science website:
By Dennis Mersereau via Cyprus Mail
In 2003, Barbra Streisand frantically tried to censor pictures of her home in Malibu after someone posted them online. In 2003, millions of people saw pictures of Barbra Streisand’s home in Malibu. In what became known as the Streisand effect, attempts to suppress information about something usually backfires and leads to even more publicity for the supposedly secret thing.
There is a strong argument in the weather community that we should ignore the growing number of people who sincerely believe that there is a worldwide governmental conspiracy to control the weather through, among other means, “chemtrails”. Bringing attention to their cause, one may argue, only helps to attract more attention and thereby more adherents to this particular brand of anti-science.
While that is probably true for a small number of people, ignoring the conspiracy theorists only makes them scream louder for attention through the Streisand Effect. The best way to remedy a situation isn’t to bottle it up and pretend that it isn’t happening, but rather to shine light on it and expose the silliness for what it really is.
If you’re not familiar with the chemtrail conspiracy theory, let me fill you in real quick. The thin, wispy clouds left behind by high-flying aircraft are known as contrails, short for condensation trails. These clouds are left behind as a result of the warm, moist exhaust of the plane’s engines meeting the extremely cold temperatures of the upper atmosphere. It’s a similar principle behind why you can see your breath on cold mornings.
Contrails appear and disappear based on the moisture content of the air through which the plane is passing. If the upper atmospheric air is moist, the plane will leave a contrail that could last hours and spread out into a deck of cirrus. If the air is extremely dry, it might not leave a contrail at all.
Since about the mid-1990s, there’s a subset of people who believe that these contrails are really chemtrails, or trails of vaporised chemicals being sprayed into the atmosphere by aircraft that are really flying around with with tanks full of chemicals rather than passengers. These alleged chemtrails are the work of any number of groups: governments, companies, Jews, you name it. The ultimate goal differs depending on whom you ask, but the two biggest strains of thought are that the chemtrails exist to control the weather or make the populace sick.
For most people with a basic level of science education, the idea is absurd, but the conspiracy theorists truly believe that these chemicals are being sprayed to control the weather, make the population sick, or partake in other “geoengineering” activities.
Back to the theorists themselves.
Lumosity to Pay $2 Million to Settle FTC Deceptive Advertising Charges for Its “Brain Training” Program
The creators and marketers of the Lumosity “brain training” program have agreed to settle Federal Trade Commission charges alleging that they deceived consumers with unfounded claims that Lumosity games can help users perform better at work and in school, and reduce or delay cognitive impairment associated with age and other serious health conditions.
As part of the settlement, Lumos Labs, the company behind Lumosity, will pay $2 million in redress and will notify subscribers of the FTC action and provide them with an easy way to cancel their auto-renewal to avoid future billing.
“Lumosity preyed on consumers’ fears about age-related cognitive decline, suggesting their games could stave off memory loss, dementia, and even Alzheimer’s disease,” said Jessica Rich, Director of the FTC’s Bureau of Consumer Protection. “But Lumosity simply did not have the science to back up its ads.”
According to the FTC’s complaint, the Lumosity program consists of 40 games purportedly designed to target and train specific areas of the brain. The company advertised that training on these games for 10 to 15 minutes three or four times a week could help users achieve their “full potential in every aspect of life.” The company sold both online and mobile app subscriptions, with options ranging from monthly ($14.95) to lifetime ($299.95) memberships.
A friend of mine shared an eyebrow-raising article on Facebook. The linked story was along the lines of “private planes stolen by terrorists in the Middle East, and an attack is imminent”. The sensible people among his friends good-naturedly mocked him. They ribbed him about how ridiculous the prediction was. And all you had to do was consider the source.
My friend had shared the story from a notoriously crackpot Facebook page. The post lacked any merit, save a few tenuous and unrelated pieces of actual news. This behavior was typical of this particular page. Often, these types of pages hook you with a kernel of truth, and then wrap it in layers of idiocy.
When confronted, this friend said, “well, we’ll see who’s right in time.” The prediction by Natural News has failed to become reality almost a year later.
The Facebook fan pages below have a habit of spitting scientific inquiry and reason in the eye. They also have an unreasonably high number of fans who share their inanity. Shares from the following pages deserve a serious eye roll and shaking of one’s head.
#10 Alex Jones
Facebook fans: 856K
What He Says About Himself
“Documentary Filmmaker, Nationally Syndicated Radio Talkshow & Prisonplanet.tv Host – Free video/audio stream”
What He Really Does
Mr. Jones uses a ton of hyperbole, conspiracy theories, and a loose connection to reality, to whip up fear and loathing in his audience.
Whatever your feelings are on using legislation to increase vaccination rates, you won’t find any legitimate support for implications that vaccines contain toxic doses of chemical. Nor that there are aborted fetal cells in any of the shots we get.
Sample Fan Comment
#9 Food Babe
Facebook fans: 938K
What She Says About Herself
“Vani Hari started FoodBabe.com in April 2011 to spread information about what is really in the American food supply. She teaches people how to make the right purchasing decisions at the grocery store, how to live an organic lifestyle, and how to travel healthfully around the world. The success in her writing and investigative work can be seen in the way food companies react to her uncanny ability to find and expose the truth.”
What She Really Does
Ms. Hari, the “Food Babe”, parrots Dr. Mercola and cobbles together cherry-picked blurbs from questionable studies and Wikipedia. She uses the term “investigation” to excuse the fact that she often gives medical advice without having any education in the life sciences. She picks the weirdest ingredients to go after.
Sample Fan Comment
On Facebook, it’s only a matter of time before someone pulls out the EO sales kit.
Here is the latest fad to make you smarter with one easy trick – Superbrain Yoga. The technique is simple (and worthless, but we’ll get to that).
All you have to do is touch your left hand to your right earlobe, your right hand to your left earlobe, take a deep breath, and do a squat. Who knew it could be so easy to improve your brain function. There are a few more details, helpfully shared by Parenting Special Needs magazine:
– Connect your tongue to your palate.
– Face East
– The left arm must be inside and the right arm must be outside (over the left arm).
– Inhale while squatting down and exhale while standing up.
– You thumbs should be touching the front part of your earlobes, index fingers behind the earlobes.
– Perform the exercise 14-21 times, once or twice a day.
Facing East is very important, because magic.
When I first heard of Superbrain Yoga I thought it was going to be a neuroscience-based pseudoscience, with some hand-waving explanations about blood flow or something. This one is actually blatantly spiritual magical nonsense.
This practice is based on the principles of subtle energy and ear acupuncture. Basically, SuperBrain Yoga allows energy from your lower chakras–or energy centers–to move up to the forehead and crown chakras. When this happens, this energy is transformed into subtle energy, which is utilized by the brain to enhance its proper functioning.
It’s Eastern mysticism, however, which is a far-off exotic culture, so that makes it OK.
Source: Doubtful News
- Prophecy isn’t real.
- Religion is not science.
- Hagee is selling a book, encouraging fear to bring people to his brand of religion.
- There is no natural reason why the end of the world has anything to do with this date.
- There have been 62 tetrads since the first century, these are natural cycles, nothing special.
When Jerry Sargeant woke to a loud crash and flying glass in the passenger seat of a taxi cab in Romania, on his way to the airport, he had no idea it would be the birthing process that led him to discover an amazing healing ability.‘My families safety were all I was thinking about. The taxi was swaying backwards and forwards all over the road. It was crazy. It turned out we had hit two ladies crossing the road and the first lady came through the windscreen, hit me in the head as I was asleep, got sucked back out of the car and landed in the road. I don’t know whether it was the bang in the head or me seeing her soul hovering over her body once I got out of the car that kick started these abilities – maybe it was both’.
The galvanic skin response
I was recently asked to look into a product called Zyto technology. This is an electronic device that you place your palm on top of so that it can read your “galvanic skin response” (GSR) to specific stimuli. It then uses your responses to prescribe a specific treatment.
Several years ago, during a lecture on Science-Based Medicine, I noted that if there were one medical pseudoscience that was vulnerable to extinction it was homeopathy. Homeopathy is perhaps the most obviously absurd medical pseudoscience. It is also widely studied, and has been clearly shown to not work. Further, there is a huge gap in the public understanding of what homeopathy is; it therefore seems plausible that the popularity of homeopathy can take a huge hit just by telling the public what it actually is.
Further, homeopathy is in a precarious regulatory position. Homeopathic products are presented and regulated as drugs, but clearly they are not, and they are also not supplements, herbal drugs, nutrition-based, or natural products. They are simply fraudulent drugs riding a wave of ignorance.
In the last few years homeopathy has had a rough time. While the industry is still growing, there are signs of clear trouble on the horizon. Let’s review:
Homeopathy is a 200 year old pre-scientific system of medicine based upon magical thinking. It is mostly based on two notions, the first of which is that like cures like. In other words, a substance that causes a symptom can cure that symptom in extremely low doses. There is no scientific basis for this, despite the desperate attempts by homeopaths to invoke vaccine-like analogies, or their new favorite, hormesis.
The second notion is that you make a remedy more powerful by diluting it to extreme degrees. People have fun making comparisons, such as the need to drink a solar-system’s worth of water to have a 50% chance of getting a single molecule of active ingredient. No problem, say the homeopaths, homeopathic potions contain the magical “essence” of what was previously diluted in them. It’s turtles all the way down.
Medical students and residents frustrated with bogus advice from doctors on TV have, for more than a year, been asking the American Medical Association to clamp down and “defend the integrity of the profession.”
Now the AMA is finally taking a stand on quack MDs who spread pseudoscience in the media.
“This is a turning point where the AMA is willing to go out in public and actively defend the profession,” Benjamin Mazer, a medical student at the University of Rochester who was involved in crafting the resolution, said. “This is one of the most proactive steps that the AMA has taken [on mass media issues].”
The AMA will look at creating ethical guidelines for physicians in the media, write a report on how doctors may be disciplined for violating medical ethics through their press involvement, and release a public statement denouncing the dissemination of dubious medical information through the radio, TV, newspapers, or websites.
The move came out of the AMA’s annual meeting in Chicago this week, where representatives from across the country vote on policies brought forward by members of the medical community.
Mazer and fellow medical students and residents were prompted to push the AMA after noticing that the organization was mostly silent during the recent public debates about the ethics of Dr. Oz sharing unfounded medical advice on his exceptionally popular TV show.
“Dr. Oz has something like 4 million viewers a day,” Mazer previously told Vox in an interview. “The average physician doesn’t see a million patients in their lifetime. That’s why organized medicine should be taking action.”
A Los Angeles middle school has turned WiFi off in a classroom to accommodate a teacher, Anura Lawson, who believes she has electromagnetic sensitivity. Now Lawson is petitioning to have WiFi turned off in every classroom in California. That’s what you get for catering to pseudoscience – more pseudoscience.
Electromagnetic (EM) sensitivity is a controversial disorder; well, controversial in that the scientific community has investigated it and concluded that it does not exist, but some individuals still believe they have it. Like many spurious disorders, the symptoms are mostly non-specific. Lawson claims she experienced, “dizziness, migraines, and heart palpitations,” while her daughter claims that her “brain was running slower.”
Such non-specific symptoms can be the result of anything stressing out the system: poor sleep, lack of physical activity, an unrecognized chronic illness, anxiety or depression. They may also be purely psychological. There are no specific symptoms or objective signs to indicate that there is any pathology present. Once treatable pathology has been ruled out, it’s best to focus on treating symptoms and improving quality of life.However, there are many fake or dubious diagnoses out there to place a label on patients with such non-specific symptoms. These labels have changed over the generations, but apparently have always existed. Today there are several popular fad diagnoses for non-specific symptoms, including candida hypersensitivity, multiple chemical sensitivity, chronic Lyme disease, adrenal fatigue and EM sensitivity.
Giving someone a dubious diagnosis can be harmful. It may lead to unnecessary treatment, may delay or prevent making a correct diagnosis of an underlying disease, may delay or prevent optimal treatment, is often expensive, perpetuates false ideas about health and disease, and fosters mistrust of medical professionals, often to the point of conspiracy theories.
There have been a number of provocative studies of what is now called idiopathic environmental intolerance with attribution to electromagnetic fields (IEI-EMF).
Pseudoscience is like bubble gum. It tastes pretty good, it’s fun to blow bubbles, and it annoys some people. But eventually, the flavor leaves, and you find that you’re just chewing on some nutritionally dubious substance. Now you have to find a place to spit it out.
Or I guess you can swallow it, and it stays in your intestines for the rest of your life. Oh sorry, that’s more junk science.
If you read something that makes some medical claim, here’s a quick and easy checklist to determine if it’s pseudoscience. Or real science-based medicine. What we all need is an official, Skeptical Raptor endorsed, pseudoscience detector.
Here it is, your own pseudoscience detector, based on a scientific seven-point checklist for fake science.
- The discoverer pitches his claim directly to the media. Going to media directly bypasses the all-important peer-review process, where real scientists can evaluate whether the claim is real science. There are some journalists that are thorough scientific skeptics, but it is rare. That’s why press releases rank near the bottom of acceptable scientific evidence.
- The discoverer says that a powerful establishment is trying to suppress his/her work. Special pleading for a conspiracy is just a logical fallacy. If someone discovers a cure for all cancers (probably not possible, since there are so many different cancers), the powers that be will be bringing truckloads of dollars to buy it, because they could market it for even more truckloads of money. But if you have no evidence that it cures all cancers, you’re not going get anything.
- The scientific effect is always at the very limit of detection. This is the very definition of “it doesn’t work.” Moreover, if the thing being promoted has a tiny effect, then more of it will have more of an effect, the typical dose-response relationship expected from all compounds.
- Evidence for a discovery is anecdotal. Anecdotes are not data. More anecdotes are not data. Anecdotes are not controlled, but they are subject to all sorts of bias. Like confirmation bias, where . . .
When I was an intern doing a rotation in the emergency department, on one particularly busy shift a nurse commented (to no one in particular) that it must be a full moon. I habitually look at the moon and generally know what phase it is in (right now it is a waxing gibbous, almost full), and so I knew at the time that in fact there was a crescent moon in the sky. I informed her of this. She gave a disappointed look and then went on with her work without any apparent further thought on the matter.
The episode struck me at the time. It seemed to me that I just witnessed a clear example of confirmation bias – what if it had been near a full moon? That would have confirmed her prior belief in a lunar effect, while this negative correlation was brushed aside and likely did not have any negative effect on her belief. (Although, my interpretation and memory of this event can itself be an example of confirmation bias regarding confirmation bias.)
Belief in the so-called lunar effect, that the phases of the moon exert an influence on human behavior with the most common element being a full-moon inducing extreme behavior, is very common. In my experience it is one of the most common pseudoscientific beliefs I encounter in the general public. One survey indicates that 43% of adults believe in the lunar effect, especially mental health professionals, including nurses.
When someone expresses such a belief to me I often use it as an opening to discuss skeptical principles. While belief in the lunar effect is widespread, it is usually not part of any emotionally held religious or ideological belief. It is therefore an excellent teaching opportunity. One question I like to ask is, “how do you think that works?” The most common answer I receive is probably the least plausible – that the tidal effects of the moon influence the brain because the brain is sitting in water (spinal fluid).
The tidal effect answer is incredibly implausible for a number of reasons.
By Debra Kelly via Listverse
Science is something of . . . well . . . an inexact science. Throughout history, there have been countless explanations of natural phenomena that we’ve considered true, only to discover decades later that we were really off the mark. There are some scientists, though, whose theories seem so far out in left field that they’re not even playing the same game.
10 • Wilhelm Reich Orgone
Born in 1897, Wilhelm Reich was a psychiatrist enamored of the works of Sigmund Freud. He briefly worked with Freud and later started his own practice in 1922. By 1940, he had moved to the United States and fully developed his theories.
According to Reich, he had scientifically proven the existence of a compound that he described as a form of energy in the body that was the physical manifestation of the libido, building up in the body until it was successfully discharged through an orgasm. Reich built a machine that would allow him to study this energy, crossing the threshold between not only psychology and biology, but also between Eastern ideas and Western methods. He named the energy “orgone,” as he had first discovered it while researching the mechanics of the orgasm, but he soon was looking at orgone in areas outside of human biology. It formed a crucial part in his theories about everything from gravity to the weather.
Reich and his supporters have done a massive amount of research and experimentation on the properties of orgone. In 1947, he wrote a book called The Cancer Biopathy based on his experiments injecting cancerous cells in mice with what he called “bions,” or the most basic element of the energy of life. According to Reich’s theories, cancer was largely the result of the breakdown of these elements, and he claimed to have been able to extend the lives of his mice by weeks—and even longer when he used the energy collected from his orgone accumulator.
Today, there are still organizations (like the American College of Orgonomy) that formally study Reich’s work and offer Medical Orgone Therapy as an option for the treatment of disorders including post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, anorexia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder.
9 • Frederic Petit Another Moon
According to astronomer Frederic Petit, Earth has a second moon. Working in 1846 from an observatory in Toulouse, France, Petit claimed that the presence of the second moon explained away all the astronomical irregularities that other astronomers were having difficulty with. He claimed this second moon had an orbital time of only 2 hours, 44 minutes, and 59 seconds. At its farthest point from Earth, Petit’s second moon was about 3,570 kilometers (2,218 mi) away.
No one took his findings seriously when he made them public, but he continued to release new findings about his moon and its effects on the real Moon and the Earth for 15 years after his initial discovery. Petit’s theory might have gone completely unnoticed by the scientific community if it hadn’t been picked up by Jules Verne in From the Earth to the Moon.
The reference is a brief one, but Verne comments about this second moon and names Petit as the man who discovered it. Instead of fading into scientific obscurity, amateur astronomers started searching the skies for evidence of this second moon, which has caused many other discoveries about the celestial bodies in the Earth’s orbit. In 1989, a man named Georg Waltemath claimed to have discovered that the planet was orbited by not only a couple of moons, but a whole network of mini moons. Some of these moons illuminated the sky with the same strength as the Sun, he claimed. Waltemath also released a series of dates and times at which people would supposedly be able to see these mini moons passing in front of the Sun. A lot of people spent several days in February 1898 staring at the Sun, but no one saw anything out of the ordinary.
I just love when this kind of woo quackery gets totally exposed as a fraud. In this case it’s a bogus product called Sosatec Wellbalancer. This video features Richard Saunders of the Australian Skeptics.
Sosatec Bionics Ltd sell pendants and products (“Wellbalancers”) to protect against what they claim is harmful radiation emitted by mobile phones and WiFi – claims which are highly questionable. The scaremongering around mobile phone radiation provokes unfounded health fears in the general public. We witnessed David Bendall (CEO and founder of Sosatec) supposedly demonstrating the effects of his product, using physical demonstrations which we felt were, at best, misleading.
We have reported Sosatec’s claims to the Advertising Standards Authority.
Read Sosatec’s full response and find out more at http://goodthinkingsociety.org/good-t…
Fad diets pop up on a regular basis. I believe that is because they are so easy to manufacture and there is a ready made market for them. Add to that the fact that it is difficult to lose weight. There is also a great deal of misinformation out there about diet and health, so the environment is very friendly to pop pseudoscience.
If you want to create your own fad diet, here is a handy formula. These things pretty much write themselves.
#1 • You need a catchy title, usually taking the form of “The blank Diet.” You can fill in the blank with almost anything. For example, a recent fad diet is called “the bulletproof diet.” This doesn’t say anything about the diet itself, it’s just a catchy phrase, a brand. You can fill in the blank with a title that does reflect the diet itself, but this is optional. Creating a catchy title is actually the most creative work you have to do in making a fad diet.
#2 • Make outrageous claims of success. The bigger the lie, the more people are inclined to think that it’s not a lie because no one would be that audacious. So just come up with a very impressive figure – a pound a day, 10 pounds a week, or whatever. In reality, on a healthy weight-loss diet people will lose about 1.5-2.5 pounds per week maximum, depending on their current weight, fat percentage, and other variables. Also, weight loss itself is not the ultimate goal, just a marker. People really want to reduce fat and build muscle. Following waist size is also a good measure, and perhaps better. Using the scale is helpful to make sure you are staying on track, however. Liberally use the world “miracle,” although admittedly Dr. Oz has tainted this word a bit by overusing it.
#3 • Testimonials. Personal stories, starting with your own, are the bedrock of fad diets. Don’t worry if there is absolutely no scientific evidence to support your claims – fad diets are not about evidence. They are about selling a narrative, one in which people struggled endlessly to lose weight, but then started the X diet and the weight just fell off. Testimonials can be very compelling, even though they are almost worthless as evidence. Actually, that is their advantage for you as a fad diet marketer, because you can find testimonials to support whatever claims you wish to make.
#4 • The Secret. Your fad diet has to have the secret or key to weight loss. Make this as compelling as possible, using . . .
It is disheartening that we have to return to pseudosciences that have been debunked decades ago, because they continue to linger despite being eviscerated by scientific scrutiny. Belief systems and myths have incredible cultural inertia, and they are difficult to eradicate completely. That is why belief in astrology, while in the minority, persists.
Professions, however, should be different. A healing profession should be held to a certain minimum standard of care, and that standard should be based upon something real, which means that scientific evidence needs to be brought to bear. Professionals are not excused for persisting in false beliefs that have long been discredited.
The 1980s saw the peak of an idea that was never based on science, the notion that people can suppress memories of traumatic events, and those repressed memories can manifest as seemingly unconnected mental health issues, such as anxiety or eating disorders. The idea was popularized mostly by the book The Courage to Heal (the 20th anniversary edition was published in 2008), in which the authors took the position that clients, especially women, who have any problem should be encouraged to recover memories of abuse, and if such memories can be dredged up, they are real.
The notion of repressed memories led in part to the satanic panic of the 1980s, and many of those subjected to recovering techniques not only “remembered” being abused, but being part of satanic ritual abuse.
Recovered memory syndrome was a massive failure on the part of the mental health profession. The ideas, which were extraordinary, were never empirically demonstrated. Further, basic questions were insufficiently asked – is there any empirical evidence to support the amazing events emerging from therapy, for example? Is it possible that the recovered memories are an artifact of therapy and are not real?
Now, with three decades of hindsight, we can say a few things with a high degree of confidence.
Science Says No-o-o-o
The Pseudoscience of Ghost Hunting
By Benjamin Radford via livescience
If you believe in ghosts, you’re not alone. Cultures all around the world believe in spirits that survive death to live in another realm. In fact, ghosts are among the most widely believed of paranormal phenomena: Millions of people are interested in ghosts, and a 2005 Gallup poll found that 37 percent of Americans believe in haunted houses — and nearly half believe in ghosts.
Ghosts have been a popular subject for millennia, appearing in countless stories, from the Bible to “Macbeth,” and even spawning their own folklore genre: ghost stories. Part of the reason is that belief in ghosts is part of a larger web of related paranormal beliefs, including near-death experience, life after death and spirit communication.
People have tried to (or claimed to) communicate with spirits for ages; in Victorian England, for example, it was fashionable for upper-crust ladies to hold séances in their parlors after tea and crumpets with friends. In America during the late 1800s, many psychic mediums claimed to speak to the dead — but were exposed as frauds by skeptical investigators such as Harry Houdini.
It wasn’t until the past decade that ghost hunting became a widespread interest around the world. Much of this is due to Syfy cable TV’s hit series “Ghost Hunters,” now in its 10th season of not finding good evidence for ghosts. The show spawned several spin-offs, including “Ghost Hunters International” and “Ghost Hunters Academy,” and it’s not hard to see why the show is so popular: the premise is that anyone can look for ghosts. The two original stars were ordinary guys (plumbers, in fact) who decided to look for evidence of spirits. Their message: You don’t need to be an egghead scientist, or even have any training in science or investigation. All you need is some free time, a dark place and maybe a few gadgets from an electronics store. If you look long enough, any unexplained light or noise might be evidence of ghosts.
The idea that the dead remain with us in spirit is an ancient one, and one that offers many people comfort; who doesn’t want to believe that our beloved but deceased family members aren’t looking out for us, or with us in our times of need? Most people believe in ghosts because of personal experience; they have seen or sensed some unexplained presence.
by Gordon Bonnet via Skeptophilia
In order to avoid falling for whatever absurd nonsense happen to be in the offing, you not only need to have some good critical thinking skills, you also need a basic knowledge of the sciences.
This is especially critical given the penchant that pseudoscience hacks have for using scientific-sounding terms in bogus ways. Given that said hacks are quite good at sounding convincing, and can throw around random vocabulary words with the best of ’em, if you don’t understand the basic laws of science, as well as a few solid definitions, you’re going to fall for whatever tripe they’re offering.
Take, for example, the article from Prevent Disease that I’ve now seen several times on social media, called “12 Facts About Microwaves That Should Forever Terminate Their Use.”
This piece, written by one Marco Torres, is so full of false statements and specious science that it’s hard to know where to start. Here’s a sample, picked more or less at random:
Microwaves are a source of electromagnetic energy (a form of nonionizing form of radiation) electronically generated. When penetrating the aliments, they trigger an inner rotation of the water molecules inside the food. This rotation triggers a friction between the molecules and the result is a rapid growth in temperature.
Okay, he starts out well. Microwaves are a form of non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation that is electronically generated. But so is the light from a light bulb. And I don’t know what an “inner rotation of the water molecules” even means — since microwaves are good at making water molecules (and also fat molecules) spin, maybe this was just a slip. But the water molecules are not experiencing “friction” — they’re simply moving. Because that’s what an increase in temperature means. The faster molecules move, the higher the temperature, whether that temperature increase is caused by a microwave, a conventional oven, or just sitting out in the sun.
Then, though, we start hearing about all the bad things this can cause:
Microwaves use super-fast particles to literally radiate the contents of water inside food and bring it to boil. Not only has microwave use been linked to causing infertility in men, but it also denatures many of the essential proteins in the food making them virtually indigestible.
“Super-fast” — sure, given that all electromagnetic waves travel at the speed of light. And what’s the alternative to “literally radiating” the food? Figuratively radiating it?
And there is no connection between using microwaves and infertility, as long as you keep your genitalia outside of the microwave oven. So guys — if you’re microwaving your lunch while naked, don’t accidentally shut your junk in the door and then turn the oven on.
Then we have this unintentionally funny statement . . .
It starts out in Russian, the English begins at the 0:50 mark. The description below the video has been translated from Russian to English by Google Translate.
I have my fingers crossed. 🙂
Description via Google Translate:
Paul Zenon is one of the most famous British magicians with extensive experience in the representation of different tricks, illusions, frauds and paranormal topics. It has several hundred appearances in television shows and almost 30 years experience in participating in public. Began to earn money as a street magician and learns how people can be fooled and manipulated. Then apply their practical knowledge of human psychology and attention to good causes like exposing pseudoscientific “stars”.
Gender Ratio of Zeno presented the most common techniques of mediums, illustrated with examples from the past few centuries. Cold reading (cold reading) and pre-collect information about companion enjoy the same frequency as in the 19th century and television fortune-tellers today.
One of my favorite conspiracy theories to debate is “chemtrails.” The factual explanations behind the puffy white lines are so fabulously simple, you’ve got to marvel at those who harbor this preposterous notion. Entertain no fear, intelligent reader, as this conspiracy can only be held by the least scientific among us. To argue with chembelievers is to feel both frustration and bewilderment manifest.
You’ll hear the battle cry of the Chemtrailers: “Wake up! Look up!” soliciting you to abandon your ability to research for the blind acceptance of anecdotal opinion. We live in a world where information is so readily accessible for anyone who chooses to pursue it. The challenge comes in vetting sources, and this seems to be the trap in to which Chemtrailers fall. They want so badly to be right about being sprayed, they will use any source available that serves their confirmation bias.
Contrails, as they’re known by the scientifically literate among us, are quite simply explained. In fact, NASA does quite a good job of expounding it:
“Contrails are clouds formed when water vapor condenses and freezes around small particles (aerosols) that exist in aircraft exhaust. Some of that water vapor comes from the air around the plane; and, some is added by the exhaust of the aircraft. The exhaust of an aircraft contains both gas (vapor) and solid particles. Both of these are important in the formation of contrails. Some elements of the exhaust gasses are not involved in contrail formation but do constitute air pollution. Emissions include carbon dioxide, water vapor, nitrogen oxides (NOx), carbon monoxide, hydrocarbons such as methane, sulfates (SOx), and soot and metal particles.” 
Now the fun part…
“THERE’S CHEMIKILLS IN MY AIR.”
The quintessential Chemtrailer will claim that there are a host of chemicals being sprayed on us. In my experience, the most common particulates mentioned are aluminum, strontium, and barium. If these were being littered upon us in such volume as to cause detriment to our health, they would be easily detectable in soil and air samples yet, not surprisingly, no proof has been offered from any laboratory to date. Ask the conspiracy theorists to provide one; they can’t and they won’t.
“CONTRAILS DISSIPATE, BUT CHEMTRAILS DON’T.”
Some of the conspiracy theorists don’t want to seem as crazy and so they’ll justify their position by saying that chemtrails stay in the sky for hours while contrails dissipate quickly.
The past decade has brought news of an atrocity, mainly from Africa: the slaughter of albino humans for their body parts for use in ritual magic. Bodies are usually found headless and missing one or more limbs, but sometimes are completely torn apart, missing even internal organs. The reason is, of course, pure unadulterated pseudoscience; we can confidently state that there is no magical benefit to the use of albino body parts, and that’s to say nothing of the abhorrence of murder for any purpose. Clearly there are some fictional beliefs out there concerning the nature of people with albinism, and today we’re going to look at some more of these beliefs that might be held even by those of us who are not into black magic.
But the use of their body parts in ritual magic is the elephant in the room. Arms and legs are the witch doctors’ preferred bits. They are used as charms and talismans, and other body parts also have magical value, such as hair being sewn into fishing nets to bring good luck. About five albinos per year are reported to be killed in Africa for their body parts, but the total is probably larger. Perhaps even more frightening is that about the same number of people survive similar attacks, suddenly accosted by men with machetes who hack off the valuable limbs and abscond, with little care for the still-living victim they leave behind. It’s quick cash; in Tanzania, a single limb can be worth up to four times the average annual income. A complete albino body, chopped apart and sold bit by bit, can be worth more five times what the average Tanzanian can expect to earn in a lifetime; a figure often given in the press is $75,000. Fortunately, over the past few years, witch doctors and attackers have been prosecuted and some have been executed, leading to a reduction in these attacks.
But another problem faced by African albinos is that they are nearly always from broken homes. When some African fathers see their child born white, they assume their wives must have been having affairs with white men. The Albino Association of Kenya says that 90% of albinos in that country are raised by single mothers as a result.
There are four basic types of albinism, some of which have subtypes, corresponding to different genetic defects . . .
In terms of moral and ethical boundaries Mike Adams is well known for crossing the line often with his promotion of dangerous pseudoscience and disgusting conspiracy theories, as well as calling anyone that promotes real science, debunks his claims, or criticizes him a shill. He also says some other pretty horrible things about his critics (most of the time this is ignored because none of his critics really cares what he says about them, they’re just more concerned over what he promotes and how he influences people), and in the case of Jon Entine, threatens to sue them.
A few days ago he crossed another line, and this one may just get him thrown in prison.
On his main website, Natural News, Adams wrote an article that can be best described as endorsing and encouraging the murder of anyone that supports Monsanto and the biotech industry in general (read his article here).
To quote his article:
“Monsanto collaborators who have signed on to accelerate heinous crimes being committed against humanity under the false promise of ‘feeding the world’ with toxic GMOs.”
“that it is the moral right — and even the obligation — of human beings everywhere to actively plan and carry out the killing of those engaged in heinous crimes against humanity.”
That pretty much says it all. He is saying that people that support GMO foods and the biotech industry should be killed, and that it is justifiable to do so.
“For the record, in no way do I condone vigilante violence against anyone, and I believe every condemned criminal deserves a fair trial and a punishment that fits the crime. Do not misinterpret this article as any sort of call for violence, as I wholly disavow any such actions. I am a person who demands due process under the law for all those accused of crimes.”
Yet those two lines, plus the title, Biotech genocide, Monsanto collaborators and the Nazi legacy of ‘science’ as justification for murder, clearly shows he means otherwise.
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.
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.
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.