January 29, 2010
Larry Anderson, an actor and long-time member of the Cult of $cientology who starred in their orientation film has split. In the orientation film he said:
“If you leave this room after seeing this film and walk out and never mention Scientology again, you are perfectly free to do so. It would be stupid, but you can do it. You can also dive off a bridge or blow your brains out. That is your choice.
“But, if you don’t walk out that way, if you continue with Scientology, we will be very happy with you, and you will be very happy with you.”
When the guy who welcomed you in and told you that leaving “would be stupid” leaves, that should tell you something. He spent an estimated $150,000 on $cientology but had additionally spent $119,711 for future services that he never collected on and which Tommy Davis promised to return to him. Eleven months later, Anderson is out and he still hasn’t gotten his money back. That should tell you where $cientology’s interests really lie.
You can hear excerpts from Larry’s conversation with Davis here.
January 28, 2010
Dr. Andrew Wakefield
UK’s General Medical Council (the main independent body of medical regulators in the UK) has finally reached a decision about Andrew Wakefield, the long-discredited doctor whose 1998 study seeking to link MMR vaccines to autism no only endangered children but its results were deliberately faked by Wakefield himself and his PR campaign afterward potentially endangered all human life on Earth. Most of the study’s co-authors have themselves rejected that study.
So what was the General Medical Council’s decision? Focusing only on Wakefield’s ethics and not on his actual claims, they concluded that Wakefield acted “dishonestly and irresponsibly.”
What they found is that his research (involving spinal taps of children) was against the children’s clinical interest, that Wakefield was unqualified to perform the test, and that he had no ethical approval to do them.
And in response to his complete and utter disgrace, the anti-vaccination movement, who view Wakefield as an infallible god, have dropped everything to come to his defense. In fact, at this moment, the last ten blog entries on Age of Autism are all about defending Wakefield’s, [snicker] “honor.” Of course, that mostly just means flinging feces at the General Medical Council. And although I haven’t wasted my time reading all their nonsense, knowing Age of Autism, there’s got to be plenty of accusations of conflicts of interest, which is of course inconsistent with their refusal to acknowledge Wakefield’s undeniable conflict of interest where he published his “study” vilifying MMR vaccines while simultaneously developing an alternative to vaccinations, establishing a very large monetary incentive to make the public distrust vaccines.
Of course I don’t think this is enough. Wakefield should be in jail for life for his crimes. Not only did he directly and irresponsibly endanger the lives of twelve children but he distorted his data in order to discourage people from getting important medicine and built a campaign and cult (there’s even a website of blind devotees) designed to create fear, confusion, and distrust of modern medicine. This has indirectly led to many deaths. And to get a hint of just how many deaths we’re talking about, check out the website Jenny McCarthy Body Count. As far as I’m concerned, the man may be responsible for more deaths than Genghis Khan and belongs in prison.
January 27, 2010
1. Studying the attention spans of flies may lead to insights in ADHD and autism – Remember two years ago when Sarah Palin laughed at fruit fly research. . .and everyone who knew anything at all about science proceeded to laugh at her. Well here’s another reason why.
An Australian-German team of scientists at Freie Universität and the Queensland Brain Institute in Brisbane, Australia, has found a way to measure the attention span of a fly. The findings could lead to further advances in the understanding of attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and autism in humans.
And that laughter extends to J.B. Handley, who I reported yesterday has called legitimate scientific research into autism a waste of money, insisting instead that research dollars should go towards trying to prove his already debunked hypothesis that vaccines cause autism.
2. Rationally Speaking podcast is now available to download – The New York City Skeptics now have an official podcast, Rationally Speaking, which is hosted by Biologist/Philosopher Massimo Pigliucci and a friend of mine, Journalist Julia Galef, Check it out.
3. Vote Rachie – Dr. Rachael Dunlop, who once interviewed me for The Skeptics Zone podcast (ep. 51), is now in a head-to-head competition with the certifiably insane Joseph Mercola for the number one spot in the Health category of the ShortyAwards, voted by Twitter users. You can vote for her here. Mercola has even gone so far as to childish call Dunlop “fat” and “Big Pharma’s wet dream.” Classy guy.
4. New study further suggests flattery works. . .but I’m sure not on people as smart and clever as you –
What this research suggests, however, is that the implicit positivity we experience as a result of viewing these images could play an important role in what we reach for when standing in the liquor store staring at a freezer full of cheap beer. You may not know why, but you’d feel pretty good about a Bud right now. And while you feel certain to you that your preference is not due to those silly ads (just like it might seem obvious to a manager that they didn’t promote a candidate because he brings her donuts every morning), perhaps it is the certainty with which we dismiss these kinds of manipulative and deceptive appeals that allows them to hold such sway.
January 26, 2010
A new study suggests that women may feel too much guilt while men feel too little guilt:
Although changing social and cultural contexts mean guilt has less power today than it once did, a new study has shown that in the West this emotion is “significantly higher” among women. The main problem, according to the experts, is not that women feel a lot of guilt (which they do), but rather that many males feel “too little.”
“Our initial hypothesis was that feelings of guilt are more intense among females, not only among adolescents but also among young and adult women, and they also show the highest scores for interpersonal sensitivity,” says Itziar Etxebarria, lead author of the study and a researcher at the University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU).
The research, published in the Spanish Journal of Psychology, was carried out using a sample from three age groups (156 teenagers, 96 young people and 108 adults) equally divided between males and females. The team of psychologists asked them what situations most often caused them to feel guilt. They also carried out interpersonal sensitivity tests — the Davis Empathetic Concern Scale, and a questionnaire on Interpersonal Guilt, created purposely for this study.
It’s still a fairly small study so I wouldn’t put too much stock in these findings just yet. But I’d be fascinated to see the results of a similar study conducted with thousands of subjects.
January 26, 2010
Scientists have been confident that sexuality is a superior means of procreation to asexuality for some time now. And now a new study further suggests that there’s no beating good old fashioned sex:
Living organisms have good reason for engaging in sexual, rather than asexual, reproduction according to Maurine Neiman, assistant professor of biology in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and researcher in the Roy J. Carver Center for Genomics.
In an article published in a recent issue of the journal Molecular Biology and Evolution, she and her colleagues, including John M. Logsdon Jr., associate professor of biology, examined the theory that sexual reproduction, while requiring more time and energy than asexual reproduction, is also much more common among living organisms and, therefore, must be very beneficial.
January 26, 2010
CBS news reports the arrest of the businessman responsible for selling dowsing rods, aka magic wands, as bomb detectors.
Vodpod videos no longer available.