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!

Enhanced by Zemanta

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.

Enhanced by Zemanta

News From Around The Blogosphere 2.1.10

February 2, 2010

1. $7000 talking sex robot – I’ve blogged before about Roxxxy, the world’s most sophisticated talking female sex robot. Now CNN’s talking about it (her?):

Powered by a computer under her soft silicone “skin,” she employs voice-recognition and speech-synthesis software to answer questions and carry on conversations. She even comes loaded with five distinct “personalities,” from Frigid Farrah to Wild Wendy, that can be programmed to suit customers’ preferences.

We knew this day was coming and now that time seems to have arrived when we can build robotic women who can converse and fake orgasms.

2. 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.

Outstanding!

3. Medical researchers working on a pill to treat Fragile X

Chances are you’ve never heard of the target — Fragile X syndrome — even though it’s the most common inherited form of intellectual impairment, estimated to affect almost 100,000 Americans. It’s also the most common cause of autism yet identified, as about a third of Fragile X-affected boys have autism.

Now a handful of drug makers are working to develop the first treatment for Fragile X, spurred by brain research that is making specialists rethink how they approach developmental disorders.

. . .

“We are moving into a new age of reversing intellectual disabilities,” predicts Dr. Randi Hagerman, who directs the MIND Institute at the University of California, Davis, a study site.

This is exactly the kind of research that will one day defeat autism but from which ideologues like J.B. Handley of Generation Rescue have publicly called a waste of money because they’re obsessed with fruitless vaccine research. Autism is a genetic disorder and our be hope of treating it besides behavior therapies is manipulating the genes.

4. Henrietta Lack’s immortal cells

In 1951, a scientist at Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland, created the first immortal human cell line with a tissue sample taken from a young black woman with cervical cancer. Those cells, called HeLa cells, quickly became invaluable to medical research—though their donor remained a mystery for decades. In her new book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, journalist Rebecca Skloot tracks down the story of the source of the amazing HeLa cells, Henrietta Lacks, and documents the cell line’s impact on both modern medicine and the Lacks family.

. . .

Henrietta’s cells were the first immortal human cells ever grown in culture. They were essential to developing the polio vaccine. They went up in the first space missions to see what would happen to cells in zero gravity. Many scientific landmarks since then have used her cells, including cloning, gene mapping and in vitro fertilization.

5. Christians literally claim monopoly on aid in Haiti – Now while that might sound like a good thing, according to a voodoo priest, believers are being discriminated against in their efforts to help and deliberately prevented from getting much-needed aid to followers of their religion:

“The evangelicals are in control and they take everything for themselves,” he claimed. “They have the advantage that they control the airport where everything is stuck. They take everything they get to their own people and that’s a shame.

6. Point of Inquiry podcast gets new hosts – Now that D.J. Grothe is leaving the Center For Inquiry (CFI) to take on his new role as president of the James Randi Educational Foundation, he will no longer be hosting the CFI’s weekly podcast series Point of Inquiry. And now his replacement hosts have been announced:  Chris Mooney, Karen Stollznow and Robert Price. For the most part, these are all strong picks. Of course, regular readers may guess that the one person I’m iffy on is Chris Mooney. While I do continue to read and enjoy his blog, The Intersection, one issue that I strongly disagree with him on is his condemnation of so-called “New Atheism” or “militant atheism” as well as his insistence that science and religion can peacefully coexist.  And for this reason, he seems like an unlikely choice to represent the Center For Inquiry, whose secular goals often coincide with that of the more aggressive atheists. Though maybe I’m wrong and his perspective will ultimately just foster more challenging discussions. I hope all three the best of luck.

7. American Atheists trying to buy naming rights to Superbowl stadium for 1 hour? – I think this sounds like a really dumb idea and a total waste of money that could be spent better elsewhere. It would be one thing if they were to buy naming rights to the stadium during the Superbowl or hours before it, but–no, come to think of it, it would still be a dumb idea.


Skeptics fail in homeopathy-based mass suicide attempt

January 30, 2010

Today many skeptical protesters gathered outside of Boots Pharmacies in the UK and Australia to take part in public mass overdoses of homeopathic remedies. This protest was organized by the 10:23 campaign, devoted to proving that there are no active ingredients in homeopathic products.

But unfortunately for homeopaths, not a single protester died or was in any way harmed by these actions, as they should have been if there were active ingredients in them:

The media response to this statement was scathing. Boots: We sell homeopathic remedies because they sell, not because they work was one headline. However they sugar it, you’re swallowing a delusion was another. An open letter to Boots from the Merseyside Skeptics followed…


Skeptics to commit mass homeopathic suicide on Jan. 30

January 17, 2010

I’ve blogged about the 10:23 Campaign before. This is the project devoted to exposing homeopathy for the scam that it is. The project’s slogan is “Homeopathy:  There’s Nothing In It.”

Well, for many years skeptics like James Randi and others have attempted to illustrate that there’s nothing in homeopathy by giving public demonstrations in which they down whole bottles of alleged homeopathic sleep aids, what should constitute as some kind of overdose.

In 2004, the Australian Skeptics even videotaped “The Great Skeptic Attempted Mass Suicide Using Homeopathic Crap”:

To date, all participants of the above homeopathic suicide attempt are still very much alive.

But now the 10:23 Campaign is organizing an even bigger demonstration:

At 10:23am on January 30th, more than three hundred homeopathy sceptics nationwide will be takifng part in a mass homeopathic ‘overdose’ in protest at Boots’ continued endorsement and sale of homeopathic remedies, and to raise public awareness about the fact that homeopathic remedies have nothing in them.

For those who are unaware of the Boots Pharmacy controversy, you can find my commentary on it along with incriminating video footage here.

Now an important note for those readers who might be interested in also participating in this event on their own:  do the research first. Some rare products actually do have something in them and are simply cashing in on the homeopathic name. And perhaps the best place to seek information on this is provided on the 10:23 Campaign website (don’t get thrown by their crazy British spellings of words):

If you want to get involved with the event, contact your nearest skeptics in the pub organisation. National press enquiries should be directed to Martin Robbins (press@1023.org.uk)


News From Around The Blogosphere 1.4.09

January 5, 2010

1. Researchers conclude that G-spot is a myth

The scientists at King’s College London who carried out the study claim there is no evidence for the existence of the G-spot — supposedly a cluster of internal nerve endings — outside the imagination of women influenced by magazines and sex therapists. They reached their conclusions after a survey of more than 1,800 British women.

2. Egyptian med students not the sharpest tools in the shed – Apparently Egyptian med students have it in their heads that masturbation causes blindness. Yes, I said that these were the Med students!

Baher Ibrahim writes that young women, expected by the conservative Egyptian society to be white virginal emblems of chastity, often wouldn’t know a penis from a bratwurst (I’m talking the literal food here). Meanwhile, many of the guys get their sexual knowledge from watching porn, which doesn’t do women any favors, no matter what country you’re in.

Bad or non-existent sex ed also fails to teach people to protect themselves against STDs. One student interviewed recalls a professor pinning the failure rate of condom usage in protecting against HIV/AIDS at 15-20% (it’s actually close to zero). Unsurprisingly, women are at particular risk for the disease, which spreads primarily through unprotected heterosexual sex, due to a severe lack of information on the subject. And, oh abstinence-until-m

3. Creationists given potentially unparalleled power over children’s textbooks – Texas and California are the two states that largely determine public school textbooks for the rest of the country. But now that liberal California can’t afford to buy new textbooks until 2014, Don McLeroy and his ultraconservative gang may have all the power. We’re going to need Eugenie Scott and the National Center for Science Education more than ever now.

4. British skeptics launch ’10:23 Campaign’ against homeopathy – The name comes from the Avogadro Constant, the scientific principle in which homeopathy would violate…if it were true. I also love their slogan:  “Homeopathy: There’s Nothing In It.”

5. Black Atheist is cast member on MTV’s ‘Real World’ – Apparently, one of the cast members of the latest season of the Real World, Ty Ruff, is a black atheist. I only mention his skin color because there doesn’t tend to be many black atheists.

According to  his bio:

… Despite growing up in the church, he is anti-religion and thinks believing in God is a crutch…

6. Atheist Foundation of Australia put up bus ad in Tasmania – The slogan is, “Atheism: Celebrate Reason!” I like it.

7. New study finds chimpanzees have culture too

A new study of chimpanzees living in the wild adds to evidence that our closest primate relatives have cultural differences, too. The study, reported online on October 22nd in Current Biology, shows that neighboring chimpanzee populations in Uganda use different tools to solve a novel problem: extracting honey trapped within a fallen log.

Kibale Forest chimpanzees use sticks to get at the honey, whereas Budongo Forest chimpanzees rely on leaf sponges — absorbent wedges that they make out of chewed leaves.

“The most reasonable explanation for this difference in tool use was that chimpanzees resorted to preexisting cultural knowledge in trying to solve the novel task,” said Klaus Zuberbühler of the University of St Andrews in Scotland. “Culture, in other words, helped them in dealing with a novel problem.”

8. Lifeless prions evolve or another bad day to be a creationist

Scientists from The Scripps Research Institute have determined for the first time that prions, bits of infectious protein devoid of DNA or RNA that can cause fatal neurodegenerative disease, are capable of Darwinian evolution.

The study from Scripps Florida in Jupiter shows that prions can develop large numbers of mutations at the protein level and, through natural selection, these mutations can eventually bring about such evolutionary adaptations as drug resistance, a phenomenon previously known to occur only in bacteria and viruses. These breakthrough findings also suggest that the normal prion protein — which occurs naturally in human cells — may prove to be a more effective therapeutic target than its abnormal toxic relation.