Letter to the Editor on homeopathy

January 15, 2011
Mortal and pestle used to ground homeopathic r...
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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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Bergen Record publishing another of my letters to the editor

March 22, 2009

It was a long response and so it was trimmed a bit by the editor. I’m not entirely happy with all the editing choices and think it comes off as less strong than what I originally wrote, but the main message still is conveyed. And I can’t stress enough how beneficial it is for fellow atheists and skeptics to take advantage of their local newspapers’ letter to the editor section to spread their voice, especially if you’re living in a small community. You can even go under a fake name to protect your identity if you feel it necessary. But it’s a vastly underused opportunity to speak out with an audience that’s often many thousands of people.

So first I’ll reprint the letter as it appears in the paper and then I’ll include the original version after that:

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(Reprinted Letter to the Editor from The Bergen Record)

In “The coming evangelical collapse” (Other Views, March 12), Michael Spencer fails to grasp the root problem: the movement itself.

Spencer calls the movement’s identification with the culture war and political conservatism “a costly mistake,” as if another option exists for those believing the literal truth of the Bible. But how can biblical literalists reconcile the clear anti-gay message of the Bible with gay marriage legislation and remain intellectually honest?

It’s not merely that the evangelical movement will be perceived as a threat to cultural progress, bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society. Progress in science, medicine, education, as well as human and civil rights comes out of looking forward, while evangelicals look only to the past, both to primitive Bronze Age philosophy and to a romanticized Pleasantville-like version of America.

Spencer concludes that the movement’s error was in not having enough faith. The reality is the opposite. Faith motivated its adherents every step of the way. And now that Spencer appeals to reason, he’ll find a movement unwilling to listen because faith cannot be tempered by reason.

Spencer melodramatically paints a future full of anti-evangelical bigotry but isn’t troubled by the bigotry perpetrated by the movement itself. But if the movement does collapse, we won’t see anti-evangelical bigotry but rather what author Sam Harris, a researcher in the neural basis of belief, calls a “conversational intolerance” of failed ideology, an intolerance of the intolerant. When analyzing what went wrong, Spencer never stopped to ask himself why the evangelical movement is worth saving.

———————————-

Now here’s the original:

In “The coming evangelical collapse” (Other Views, March 12), Michael Spencer predicts the imminent demise of the evangelical movement. Though I agree with many of his reasons, he fails to grasp the root problem, the movement itself.

Spencer calls the movement’s identifying with the culture war and political conservatism “a costly mistake” as if another option exists for those believing the literal truth of The Bible. But how can biblical literalists reconcile the clear anti-gay message of The Bible with gay marriage legislation and remain intellectually honest?

It’s not merely, as Spencer argues that the evangelical movement will be perceived as a threat to cultural progress, bad for America, bad for education, bad for children and bad for society. It IS all those things by all objective and measurable standards. Progress in science, medicine, education, as well as human and civil rights comes out of looking forward, while evangelicals look only to the past, both to primitive Bronze Age philosophy and to a romanticized Pleasantville-like version of America that never really existed and which can only be remembered fondly by upper-class, heterosexual, male WASPs.

Spencer concludes the movement’s error was in not having enough faith when it’s the opposite. Faith, as opposed to reason, motivated them every step of the way. And now that Spencer appeals to reason, he’ll find a movement unwilling to listen because faith cannot be tempered by reason.

Spencer melodramatically paints a future full of anti-evangelical bigotry though isn’t troubled by the bigotry perpetrated by the movement itself. But if the movement does collapse, we won’t see anti-evangelical bigotry but rather what Sam Harris calls a “conversational intolerance” of failed ideology, an intolerance of the intolerant. When analyzing what went wrong, Spencer never stopped to ask himself why the evangelical movement is worth saving.


News From Around The Blogosphere 10.2.08

October 3, 2008

Researchers catch Lake Victoria fish in act of evolving

Flirting with Palin earns Pakistani president a fatwa:

A radical Muslim prayer leader said the president shamed the nation for “indecent gestures, filthy remarks, and repeated praise of a non-Muslim lady wearing a short skirt.”

Speaking of Palin: Ron Numbers on Palin’s creationism

Pseudo-scientist Mike Adams compares Western Medicine to the subprime mortgage clusterfuck – Mike writes for Natural News aka woo central. And in a bit of wishful thinking, he writes this gem of an article entitled, Why the Institutions of Western Finance and Western Medicine are Both Doomed to Fail. To illustrate just how far gone this guy is, here’s an excerpt:

“The fraud of Western Medicine is that everybody can get healthy by taking fictitious patented chemicals (pharmaceuticals) rather than addressing fundamental issues of nutrition, exercise and exposure to consumer chemicals.”

With logic like that, I wonder if he’s related to Neil Adams.

Jenny McCarthy goes after the presidential candidates – Last year McCain said there was no doubt that a link between vaccines and autism exists. But Jenny says that McCain opted out of meeting with her at the last minute. According to the news sources, McCain denied her requests “after learning there’s no hard medical evidence linking vaccines and autism.” Man, I hope this is true because at least Obama has already spoken up recently and stated “I am not for selective vaccination. I believe that it will bring back deadly diseases, like polio.” I’ll take it.

Also, I previously blogged about a letter to the editor I wrote to my local newspaper concerning the antivaccination movement. Today an edited version of that article appeared in the paper.

New research casts doubts on calorie restriction?

Atheism 101 reading list

Sony promotes The God Delusion! – Dawkins bestselling book was prominent in the promotional setup for the Sony Reader — an e-book reader much like Amazon’s Kindle:

YouTube censors another cracker desecrating video – Only this time it’s not even a Eucharist, just an arbitrary cracker.

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Answers in Genesis reviews Religulous – Somehow I doubt they’ll declare it a must-see. They’re still sore over having. . .

“. . .experienced Maher’s subterfuge and dishonesty last year in gaining access to the Creation Museum and AiG President Ken Ham for a (fictitious) documentary on the “cultural landscape of the United States.”

This is ironic considering how fine they were with the far more elaborate subterfuge by the makers of the anti-evolution mockumentary “Expelled.” Pot. Kettle. Black. Bullshit!

Do TV, movie, and game ratings really do any good?

AND NOW FOR A MOMENT OF SCIENCE:

New Species Thanks To Different Ways Of Seeing – “A study of brightly coloured fish has now demonstrated that this has less to do with aesthetics than with the sensitivity of female eyes, which varies as a result of adaptation to the environment. Females more attuned to blue will choose a metallic blue mate, while those better able to see red will prefer a bright red male. These mating preferences can be strong enough to drive the formation of new species – provided that habitat diversity is not reduced by human activities.”

Short RNAs May Have Contributed To New Species – “MicroRNAs, the tiny molecules that fine-tune gene expression, were first discovered in 1993. But it turns out they’ve been around for a billion years.

Evidence reported in Nature on October 1 by scientists in the lab of Whitehead Member and Howard Hughes Medical Institute investigator David Bartel provides a window into the early evolution of these key regulators, placing their origin within the earliest of animal lineages. The research also suggests that microRNAs present early on have undergone extensive changes, which likely have altered their functions across various lineages.”

New Dinosaur Species Had Bony Frill And Horns – “The fossils revealed a herd of dinosaurs that perished in a catastrophic event 72.5 million years ago. The animals are characterized by a bony frill on the back of the skull ornamented with smaller horns. They also had large bony structures above their nose and eyes which lends them their name: Pachyrhinosaurus (thick-nosed lizard). These structures probably supported horns of keratin.”

Compact Fluorescent Lights: Mercury Problems? – “A team of Yale scientists has found that certain countries and some U.S. states stand to benefit from the use of compact fluorescent lighting more than others in the fight against global warming. Some places may even produce more mercury emissions by switching from incandescent light bulbs to compact fluorescent lighting.”

HIV/AIDS Pandemic Began Around 1900 – “New research indicates that the most pervasive global strain of HIV began spreading among humans between 1884 and 1924, suggesting that growing urbanization in colonial Africa set the stage for the HIV/AIDS pandemic.”

Teens With Certain Gene Have Delinquent Peers – “Birds of a feather flock together, according to the old adage, and adolescent males who possess a certain type of variation in a specific gene are more likely to flock to delinquent peers, according to a landmark study led by Florida State University criminologist Kevin M. Beaver.”


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