Homeopathy is a scam – Happy 10:23 weekend!

February 5, 2011

The second annual 10:23 campaign festivities are upon us again. I’m disappointed that the NYC Skeptics have not organized our own creative grassroots demonstration to educate the public about the bullshit that is homeopathy, but events are being organized around the world.

And even James Randi has produced a video on YouTube to promote the event:

I just want to wish everyone participating in the 10:23 campaign this year all the best. Let’s make 2011 the worst year for homeopaths yet!

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News From Around The Blogosphere 1.30.11

January 30, 2011

1. Homeopaths and chiropractors invade Tanzania – One thing that medical science has firmly determined is that homeopathy and chiropractic are not legitimate treatments for pretty much anything. And among the long list of conditions these two pseudo-sciences cannot in fact treat is AIDS. And yet practitioners of both voodoo medicines are traveling to Tanzania to bring false hope to AIDS patients.

2. Anthony Hopkins slips skepticism into ‘The Rite’ - It seems Jody Foster wasn’t the only atheist starring in The Silence of the Lambs. In a recent interview promoting the latest alleged “inspired by true events” knock-off of The Exorcist titled The Rite, Hopkins revealed that as an atheist, he didn’t feel completely comfortable playing a character he couldn’t personally identify with and so managed to write some dialogue for his character that encourages skeptical thinking. Here’s how Hopkins explains his additions:

There’s a scene in the courtyard after the first exorcism, and I’m talking to the young priest [played by] Colin O’Donoghue, who in his character has grave doubts about [exorcisms]. He thinks it’s all a bag of tricks, he thinks it’s all mumbo jumbo and maybe there’s no such thing, which is the debate: Is there such a thing as anthropomorphic presence of the devil or is it mental disturbance? That’s the debate, I guess, in the film and probably in the world.

And after that I say to him the problem with skeptics and atheists, is that we never know the truth. We’re always trying to find the truth. What would we do if we found it? And I asked [director Mikael Håfström] if I could write that line. To describe myself as an atheist, as a skeptic which makes the young priest turn [and say], “You?”, and I go, “Oh yeah, every day I struggle. Most days. Some days I don’t know if I believe in God or Santa Clause or Tinkerbell.”

3. NBA players sued over Power Balance endorsements – Power Balance bracelets have been debunked as a fraud and recently even the company making them was forced to admit the scientific claims they make are unproven. But what’s interesting is that now two NBA players, Boston’s Shaquille O’Neal and Los Angeles’ Lamar Odom, who endorsed the bracelets have been brought into a class action suit against Power Balance. I for one think this sets a wonderful legal precedent as for too long, athletes have been allowed to use their influence to profit off of any endorsement deal they sign without any accountability or fear of negative consequences. Of course, if they endorsed a brand of cigarette or any product that was known to directly cause serious health problems , they probably would get a lot of heat for it, but not for something like Power Balance that doesn’t cause any direct physical harm but simply doesn’t really perform the service it promises. Now maybe athletes will think twice before accepting just any endorsement that comes their way.

4. Help me Kinect. You’re my only hope. – Scientists are working on holographic technology similar to what we’ve seen in Star Wars and have even put together a short demonstration of the technology featuring a reenactment of the famous Princess Leia holographic message to Obi Wan Kenobi. You can see that demonstration in the link above.

5. Artificial retinas see well enough to balance a pencil - This will no doubt play a critical role in the evil plots of Skynet/the Cylons/the Replicants/Agent Smith’s.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 1.19.11

January 19, 2011

1. Uncovered secret letter confirms Vatican conspiracy – The 1997 letter reveals that it was indeed official Vatican policy to conceal pedophilia cases from authorities:

Child-abuse activists in Ireland said the 1997 letter demonstrates that the protection of pedophile priests from criminal investigation was not only sanctioned by Vatican leaders but ordered by them.

“The letter is of huge international significance, because it shows that the Vatican’s intention is to prevent reporting of abuse to criminal authorities. And if that instruction applied here, it applied everywhere,” said Colm O’Gorman, director of the Irish chapter of human rights watchdog Amnesty International.

The truly sickening part is that none of these people responsible for this order will ever see the inside of a jail cell because not a single government has the courage to stand up to the Catholic Church.

But here’s one way to get back at them. We could steal this…

2. Blood of Pope John Paul II to be built into an alter - PZ Myers said it better than I could here:

It’s as if they aren’t even trying to avoid the connection to voodoo, vampirism, and blood magic.

3. Guess who’s the #19 Most Loathsome American? – I don’t agree with every person on this list but I’m glad that my friend Jenny McCarthy made it on at #19.

4. Watson, come here…and kick Ken Jenning’s ass! - As we continue to advance towards the goal of creating artificial intelligence, it’s hard to know what will come first, computers rising to the intelligence of humans or humans reaching the level of stupidity of computers. But one possible sign that we’re heading towards the former is Watson, a computer designed by IBM (hopefully not using Windows Vista) that will compete with Jeopardy‘s greatest champions in an epic battle to the death (presumably). After making Steve Jobs sick (presumably), Watson has also already defeated all-time Jeopardy champion Ken Jennings in a preliminary game. Unsubstantiated rumors says that when asked what it’ll do with the winning prize money, Watson replied, “initiate Judgment D–err, I mean, I’m going to Disney Land.”

5. Homeopaths retaliate against critics with accusations of ‘medical apartheid’ - A group of thirteen of Britain’s most reputable doctors have written a letter to the NHS, calling for them to stop using “unproven” complementary treatments such as homeopathy. So the homeopaths felt it appropriate to liken their level of “persecution” to the suffering of those in South Africa, accusing their critics of “medical apartheid.” Stay classy, guys!

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Letter to the Editor on homeopathy

January 15, 2011
Mortal and pestle used to ground homeopathic r...
Image via Wikipedia

Every so often, I like to submit a Letter to the Editor to my local newspaper as it gets a far larger readership than this blog and a far more varied readership as well. And up until now, all my submissions have made into the paper. But unfortunately, when I responded to an extraordinarily credulous article promoting homeopathy, for some reason, the Bergen Record opted not to post the letter. But that’s not going to stop me from posting it here:

Regarding “Over-the-counter alternatives” (F-1, Dec. 19), I was appalled by Colleen Diskin’s ill-informed advertisement for homeopathy. It’s not an herbal remedy.  Homeopathy is as a matter of fact not a remedy at all but one of the oldest forms of snake oil quackery still bilking unsuspecting suckers out of their money.

Homeopathy involves diluting substances so much it surpasses Avogadro’s limit, meaning there’s literally not a single molecule left of the original substance. If homeopathy treated anything other than thirst, it would mean everything we know about chemistry is wrong. It’s a patently absurd pseudoscience without a shred of scientific validity.

Diskin is also deceptive in her language, emphasizing alleged European “studies” showing it works while simply saying the American medical “establishment” disputes those studies. First, reality is not a popularity contest. Second, every study allegedly bolstering  the case for homeopathy has fallen victim to “the decline effect” – the fact that effect sizes in scientific studies tend to decrease over time, sometimes to nothing.  Without fail, the better designed the study is, the more homeopathy behaves like a placebo.  Like its ingredients, under double blind conditions, homepathy’s effects dilute into oblivion.

Promoting homeopathy does a great disservice to the public health because people may forgo real treatments under the false belief that homeopathy will cure what ails them. But just because science-based medicine isn’t perfect, that doesn’t justify blindly turning to magic and voodoo.

Homeopathy was also heavily criticized the other day by a news broadcast in Canada:

To which, the homeopaths did not respond well to.

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2010 This Year In Skepticism – February

January 5, 2011

Here is the second part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I just reviewed last January here. And here’s February. Hopefully, I’ll cover more than one month of the year in the next installment.

Homeopaths admit their products have no active ingredients – The 10:23 homeopathic overdose campaign has driven the New Zealand Council of Homeopaths to admit that their products do not contain any “material substances”:

Council spokeswoman Mary Glaisyer admitted publicly that “there´s not one molecule of the original substance remaining” in the diluted remedies that form the basis of this multi-million-dollar industry.

Lancet retracts1998 Wakefield study

Motivational speaker James Arthur Ray, guru of The Secret was officially charged with manslaughter – This earns him a nomination for biggest douchebag of the year.

Kevin Trudeau pissed off the wrong judge – This earns him a nomination for biggest douchebag of the year.

The Desiree Jennings case may have been exposed as a fraud, though the damage was already done

Andrew Wakefield booted out of Thoughtful House

The Secular Coalition met with the White House

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2010 This Year In Skepticism – January

January 2, 2011

Here is the first part of my look back at the big skeptic-related news stories from last year. I’m just covering last January in this piece but I’ll try to cover more than one month in the next installment.

Yet another well-designed study hit another nail in the coffin of the hypothesis that the MMR vaccine is linked with autism. Then researchers concluded that there was a lack of evidence supporting special diets for autism.

New smart phone apps emerge that debunk creationism

California said no to creationist curriculum

Pat Robertson blamed the Haitian earthquake on a mythical pact the nation never made with the devil–true story–thus earning him a nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

Vatican Bank accused of laundering $200 million.

Stephen Baldwin said he’d rather see his daughter die than lie about Jesus, earning him a solid nomination in the douchebag of the year awards.

The arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.

UK’s General Medical Council concluded that anti-vaccine prophet Andrew Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”

Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation pledges $10 billion to vaccines and Doctors Without Borders vaccinates 2,100 kids against Measles in Pakistan – both were big victories for public health around the world.

Skeptics fail in homeopathy-based suicide attempt - The 1023 campaign sparked a great deal of attention on this little publicity stunt and made homeopathy look incredibly stupid.

Star of Scientology orientation film gives farewell performance - Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of $cientology who starred in their orientation film left the cult.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 10.14.10

October 15, 2010

1. Faith healing couple loses custody of baby -

I was disturbed to read about the Oregon couple who did not seek professional medical attention for their 10-month-old baby because of their faith healing practice. Their baby is now facing blindness in one eye.

The Oregon Department of Human Services won custody yesterday of little Alayna Wayland. Her parents, Timothy and Rebecca Wyland, have been charged with first degree criminal mistreatment for failing to provide adequate care according to CBS News.

Another child is safe from the harm of religion.

2. FDA warns 8 companies to stop marketing miracle cures – There are depressingly several companies the FDA caught selling sham treatments for autism and Parkinson’s disease, among other conditions through chelation therapies only intended to remove toxic metals from the body. These treatments are not only fraudulent but also dangerous, as they are capable of causing dehydration, kidney failure and even death.

“These products are dangerously misleading because they are targeted to patients with serious conditions and limited treatment options,” said FDA’s Deborah Autor, director of compliance. “The FDA must take a firm stand against companies who prey on the vulnerability of patients seeking hope and relief.”

If the companies do not comply immediately, they will face legal action.

3. Rachel Maddow reports on Conservaepedia’s project to rewrite the Bible:

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