News From Around The Blogosphere 7.20.11

July 21, 2011

Okay, it’s been awhile so this is going to a long one.

1. Campus Crusade for Christ is changing their name – In an attempt to change their image, the CCC has finally decided to get rid of that pesky “Crusade” in their name to avoid offending people and are now calling themselves the very inoffensive “Campus Holocaust for Christ.” Just kidding. From now on they’ll be known as the “cru”, cause strange lowercase acronyms are hip, chill, and groovy with the kids these days. Though if they really want to be more popular with the kiddies, maybe they should just call themselves Lady Gaga, and then put out announcements that Lady Gaga is coming to their campus. Can I solve image problems or what? I expect my check in the mail later this week.

2. Deepak Chopra, the videogame! Rated M for Moron – You know, for years I’ve listened to Jack Thompson shamelessly blaming video games for just about every atrocity in human history from the Crusades (probably) to the Virginia Tech shootings. But now Deepak Chopra is making me realize video games really can be harmful to society due to his new game called “Leela” (I’m assuming because he’s a huge Futurama fan) involving “seven different interactive exercises based on the seven ‘chakras,’ the points along the body that Chopra says serve as energy centers. No, Chopra has no background in actual human anatomy; I guess this is what he means by willing things into existence. If you believe in nonsense long enough and you can invent your own biology. In related news, Phil Plait has penned an short piece published in Playboy magazine that chastized Chopra for massacring science with his mouth.

3. Ireland vs. Vatican

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny condemned the Vatican for continuing to downplay the rape and sexual torture of children in order to protect the image of the Catholic church.

Kenny’s condemnation comes in response to last week’s release of the Cloyne report, a scathing expose of current and ongoing Vatican efforts to cover-up the ever-present sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy.

Kenny claimsthe Cloyne report “tells us a tale of a frankly brazen disregard for protecting children;” and, “exposes an attempt by the Holy See to frustrate an Inquiry in a sovereign, democratic republic as little as three years ago, not three decades ago.”

PZ Myers also wrote about this story here. And retired Bishop of Cloyne, John Magee, has been in hiding since the Cloyne report exposing his poor handling of child sex abuse allegations was published.

And speaking of the Catholic Church…

4. Catholic bishop bans fund-raising for breast cancer research

A bishop from Toledo, Ohio will not allow parishes and parochial schools to raise money for the Susan G. Komen Foundation (which helps fund the fight against breast cancer) because there’s a chance they may one day fund embryonic stem-cell research.

Glad to see they have their priorities in place.

5. Austrian officials allow Pastafarian to wear colander in drivers license photo – Austrian Niko Alm is being given permission to wear a colander, the official headwear for Pastafarians, on the license, which is clearly a far superior fashion statement than the Jewish yarmulke. Blessed be the Flying Spaghetti Monster and his noodly appendages.

6. Child Holocaust-denying nazi musicians renounce much of their former beliefs – The Olsen Twin look-alikes who form the Hitler-admiring pop band Prussian Blue have now publicly rejected the views that made them famous and for which their band was named after.

7. Jesus appears on Walmart receipt – Either that or Charles Manson, though that’s not really a very meaningful distinction.

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News From Around The Blogosphere 3.30.10

March 30, 2010

1. Single unvaccinated kid source of 2008 California measles outbreak

The family’s 7-year-old boy, who was intentionally unvaccinated against measles, was exposed to the virus while traveling in Europe. When he returned home to San Diego, he unknowingly exposed a total of 839 people, and an additional 11 unvaccinated children contracted the disease.

Three of those infected were babies, too young to have yet received the measles vaccines, and one of the babies was hospitalized for three days with a 106-degree fever, according to a report to be published in the April issue of Pediatrics.

Wow, that’s one hell of a path of destruction caused by a single anti-vax family. Thanks Jenny McCarthy.

2. Magnets can almost instantly change a person’s moral judgment – This would seem to pretty definitively debunk the notion of dualism and fairly conclusively show that the mind is, contrary to Deepak Chopra’s claims,  purely a localized phenomenon. It also further illustrates how absurd the evangelical notion of “objective morality” from “God” is.

3. Critical thinking and skepticism begins at childhood – Here’s a great story of a kid scientifically investigating the Tooth Fairy and successfully debunking it

But not all kids are brought up to be such critical thinkers.

4. New Harris poll confirms most Americans are dummies

The poll involved 2,320 adults responding to true or false questions. Among many other disturbing facts, 14% of respondents said they believed Obama could be the Antichrist.

. . .

When broken into partisan results, it seems 24% of all Republican respondents hold this view, while only 6% of Democrats are that batshit crazy. But taken as a whole, the numbers in this poll are depressing. 32% think Obama is a Muslim. 23% think Obama is a racist. And 20% say Obama is “doing many of the things Hitler did.”

But I’m pretty sure Hitler didn’t hold a Passover seder in the White House…or cut out the middleman in student loans…or sleep with Michelle Obama.

5. Bill Donohue continues shameless campaign defending child rapists – Now he’s taken out an ad in the NY Times defending the man most responsible for ensuring the child rapists could continue to prey on more children, The Pope. Oh, and he’s moved on from blaming the families of the victims to blaming the gays. It won’t be long now before he blames everyone on Earth except for The Pope.

And he’s not the only one defending child rapists. . .

6. The Vatican has selflessly thought up 3 reasons why they feel The Vatican is not liable – The first is that the Pope, as head of state, is immune from prosecution (aka Joey Ratz does whatever Joey Ratz wants and if you get in the way, he’ll whack you or have your children horribly raped). The second excuse is that the American priests were not Vatican employees  (This should go over really well with the American Catholics). And the third excuse is that they’ve declared by fiat that the smoking gun evidence that has been confirmed by high ranking church officials is really not smoking gun evidence at all (I call this the Jedi Mind Trick defense – these aren’t the droids you’re looking for. Now move along):

McMurry insisted Tuesday that Crimen is a smoking gun.

“The fact is, this document and its predecessors make it an excommunicable offense to reveal any knowledge of allegations that a priest has sexually abused,” he said in an e-mail.

The existence of Crimen did not become publicly known until 2003, when a lawyer noticed a reference to the document while reading a 2001 letter written by Benedict, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. McMurry is seeking to subpoena Ratzinger’s letter, which instructed all bishops to send cases of clerical sex abuse to him and to keep the proceedings secret.

As for that first excuse that a head of state can’t be sued, fine, let’s call it an act of war then. I hope the Vatican has a strong military.


Sam Harris & Michael Shermer crush Deepak Chopra & Jean Houston on Nightline

March 23, 2010

Although PZ Myers thinks watching the latest Nightline debate is a waste of time, I highly recommend it, particularly because Sam Harris in particular simply demolishes Deepak Chopra and the other woman. Actually, aside from a few needlessly drawn out stories that go nowhere, Jean Houston was almost nonexistent in this debate and I almost even liked her.

The real debate though was between Sam Harris and Michael Shermer against Deepak Chopra, who couldn’t have made more of a fool of himself. Even a guy in the audience during the Q & A session exposed Chopra’s ignorance.

The common theme in the debate seemed to be exposing Deepak as hack who incorrectly co-opts terminology from both science and religion in order to formulate his own brand of meaningless New Age gibberish. The debate was about whether or not the god concept has a future and Deepak refused to actually address the very topic he was invited to discuss, ignoring the god concept that 99.999999% of the world means when they talk about god in order to promote his own “god” in name only that has no resemblance to what almost everyone on the planet would consider “god.” So then why did you agree to the debate in the first place, Deepak?

This is like if I were invited to debate free will versus determinism and instead demanded that we discuss homeopathy, which I renamed “determinism.”

Deepak was also frequently corrected on his constant misuse of quantum physics as a justification for his incoherent magical claims.

Anyway, it’s a fun debate to watch, so check it out. Here’s the first part:

Oh, and check out Shermer’s post-debate debate with Chopra here. No, I didn’t accidentally type “debate” twice. Chopra and Shermer have continued debating a particularly idiotic claim Chopra made on their blogs.


Deepak Chopra: ‘Only Spirituality Can Solve The Problems Of The World’

March 3, 2010

Deepak Chopra has written another fluff piece in the Huffington Post called “Only Spirituality Can Solve The Problems Of The World.”

How you might ask?

If there is anything that will at this moment heal our wounded planet with its immense problems of social injustice, ecological devastation, extreme economic disparities, war, conflict and terrorism, it is a deeper experiential understanding and knowledge of our own spirit.

How you might ask again?

If there’s anything that WILL heal this planet? I would like Deepak to name one problem in the world HAS BEEN solved by spirituality. Just one will do. Then I’d like him to explain how spirituality will give us practical solutions to human trafficking, third world poverty, heart disease, the sky-rocketing unemployment rate, the AIDS crisis in Africa, the crisis in Haiti, or any of the millions of real problems we face in this world.

Sorry Dee, but the answer to our problems is science, reason, and education. Science delivers the goods, not ancient superstitions repackaged as New Age Mysticism.

If ever I doubted the fact that Deepak Chopra has no clue how to address the practical concerns we face in our modern world and is nothing but a life-sized fortune cookie handing out a bunch of trite, easy answers, I will never doubt this again.


Dr. Oz returns to my shit list

March 2, 2010

The great and powerful Oz decided to have both Deepak Chopra and Joseph Mercola on.

Now I can forgive him for Chopra, who while delusional, isn’t all that dangerous. But Mercola is a total quack and a disgrace to the medical profession, far more than Mehmet Oz.

After all, Mercola is a supporter of some of the most blatant quackery out there. The worst example of his support of quackery occurred when he promoted the cancer quackery of Dr. Tullio Simoncini, the Italian “oncologist” who believes that all cancer is caused by fungus and that he can cure it using baking soda. He’s also claimed that baking soda can cure H1N1, making it the all-purpose cure-all. Add to that Mercola’s support for homeopathy and anti-vaccine views, and Mercola is rapidly approaching Mike Adams territory.

Ozzy might as well have invited Andrew Wakefield on too while he was at it.


News From Around The Blogosphere 2.25.10

February 26, 2010

1. A new study suggests acupuncture is good for depression in pregnancy. . .or does it?

In other words, acupuncture specific for depression produced an effect that was not different from that of one of the controls. But by creating a group that combined non-specific acupuncture (ineffective) with massage (effective), they were able to create a composite that was ineffective, and then they compared the experimental group with the composite. But that doesn’t change the fact that acupuncture for depression was no better than massage.

Have the authors shown that acupuncture specific for depression is effective for treating depression in pregnant women? I don’t think so. If it offers no advantage over massage, we can forget about acupuncture and simply offer depressed pregnant women a day at the spa. It is no less effective and probably far more enjoyable.

2. Smile or Die:  How positive thinking fooled America and the world – In her new book, Barbara Ehrenreich presents the evidence of numerous studies demonstrating that positive thinking has no effect on survival rates. She also provides testimonies that suggest that possibly great harm comes from this false hope.

Pity, for example, the woman who wrote to the mind/body medical guru Deepak Chopra: “Even though I follow the treatments, have come a long way in unburdening myself of toxic feelings, have forgiven everyone, changed my lifestyle to include meditation, prayer, proper diet, exercise and supplements, the cancer keeps coming back. Am I missing a lesson here that it keeps re-occurring? I am positive I am going to beat it, yet it does get harder with each diagnosis to keep a positive attitude.”

New Age mysticism may sound harmless enough but here is a great example of how dangerous such irrational beliefs are.

3. A gene mutation is linked to autistic symptoms in mice – Once again, this is research that would not exist if J.B. Handley, Jenny McCarthy, and their anti-vaccine cohorts were making the decisions because they have zero interest in exploring the genetic basis for autism.

4. Stem Cells restore sight to blind mice – I feel like this news story is a rerun. Anyway though, once again this is research that might not have existed if George Bush was president.

An international research team led by Columbia University Medical Center successfully used mouse embryonic stem cells to replace diseased retinal cells and restore sight in a mouse model of retinitis pigmentosa. This strategy could potentially become a new treatment for retinitis pigmentosa, a leading cause of blindness that affects approximately one in 3,000 to 4,000 people, or 1.5 million people worldwide.


Deepak Chopra childishly attacks his critics…again

January 3, 2010

Last time Deepak Chopra wrote an insipid piece in the Huffington Post attacking his skeptical critics, I blasted him as did everyone else. Now after being challenged by Michael Shermer on Larry King’s show, he’s written yet another rant in the Huff Po against what doo-doo heads us skeptics are. Oh Dee, you’re so cute when you’re agitated.

And amusingly, PZ Myers just reported about a speech Chopra apparently gave at an Astrology conference (Yes, that’s astrology, NOT astronomy). Sadly, I think that was the more rational of the two instances. That’s why I decided it’s more fun to respond to his dopey Huff Po piece:

Dee, show a little self-respect. You’re a grown up & seen by many as some sort of guru. Yet one would never guess this by reading your pieces in the Huff Po, which simply fling vitriolic insults at your critics. Are you twelve?

For some1 who touts himself as “open-minded” & a person seeking understanding, you make an awfully bad attempt to understand where your critics are coming from or, you know, even what their criticisms are. Instead of accepting the possibility that you may not understand science as well as you think you do or even show a willingness to take some responsibility for being misunderstood, you act like a child screaming that he only got an F because his teacher hates him. The skeptical community has gone into great length to explain where you’re wrong on the science on countless occasions & you’ve yet to ever offer a legitimate rebuttal.

Instead of even considering that they may have some valid points or have good reason to be unconvinced by your arguments, you irrationally declare they’re just close-minded zombies who wouldn’t accept your claims no matter how much evidence you present. It’s a classic gambit used by those w/ no evidence at all. But appeals to hypothetical evidence that may arrive in the future is not a legitimate form of argument, nor legitimate science.

Whether some sort of spiritual realm exists no one can definitively say. The only realm that can be verified empirically to exist is the material one. & if you’re rejecting materialism then I challenge you to prove it by leaping out of the nearest 30-story window. I suspect you won’t accept just as I suspect that you enter buildings through doorways instead of by trying to walk through the walls. I suspect you lock your doors at night, see a doctor when you’re sick, look both ways before crossing the street, use a seat belt, & any number of behaviors that are entirely pointless within your non-materialist ideology.


Deepak Chopra: pathological bullshitter

December 1, 2009

Deepak Chopra doesn’t understand skepticism or, you know, reality

Statistically, cynical mistrust is correlated with premature sudden death from cardio vascular disease. Since the skeptics who write venomous blogs trust in nothing, I imagine that God will outlive them. In the interests of better health, these people should read scripture, or at least a poem, twice a day. Doctor’s orders.

A doctor of what, Deepak? Straw man arguments.

No skeptic, to my knowledge, ever made a major scientific discovery or advanced the welfare of others.

Ever hear of Socrates? Plato? Benjamin Franklin? Edward Jenner? Charles Darwin? Albert Einstein? Stephen Hawking? Harry Houdini? James Randi? Carl Sagan? Hell, you constantly reference Richard Dawkins in your article, Dee, and obviously he’s been a science educator for decades and is largely responsible for advancing the idea of memes. So your article lacks even internal consistency.

Typically they sit by the side of the road with a sign that reads “You’re Wrong” so that every passerby, whether an Einstein, Gandhi, Newton, or Darwin, can gain the benefit of their illuminated skepticism.

Guess you have heard of some of the skeptics who have advanced human welfare afterall. It’s a shame that you fail to grasp the difference between someone who shouts people down out of hand and someone demanding scientific claims be backed up with physical evidence and reasoned logic.

That being said though, as much as you New Age guru types love to insist that everyone’s right and no one’s ever wrong (except apparently their own critics), some times people really are wrong. And in such cases, the intellectually dishonest thing to do is to tell them that they are wrong, ideally while describing the reasons that led to the conclusion that they’re wrong.

For make no mistake, the skeptics of the past were as eager to shoot down new theories as they are to worship the old ones once science has validated them.

I’m confused. Are you criticizing unnamed, hypothetically skeptics of the past or current skeptics like your favorite target, Richard Dawkins. Speaking of which, can you please cite a single example of Dawkins unreasonably shooting someone down without being able to back up that position with substantive evidence?

It never occurs to skeptics that a sense of wonder is paramount, even for scientists.

Are you kidding? Carl Sagain didn’t have a sense of wonder?

Neil DeGrasse Tyson doesn’t have a sense of wonder?

Richard Dawkins doesn’t have a sense of wonder?

I beg to differ. In fact, the only dismissive one here seems to be you, Dee.

Einstein insisted, in fact, that no great discovery can be made without a sense of awe before the mysteries of the universe.

Again, your preposterous article lacks internal consistency. Does Einstein lack a sense of wonder or insist on it? Which is it, Dee?

Skeptics know in advance — or think they know — what right thought is.

That’s a denier, Dee. A skeptic is someone who weighs the evidence and bases their conclusions on evidence. It’s you who arrogantly professes greater knowledge than can be demonstrably proven and chastises those who have the audacity to disagree with you. Pot. Kettle. Black. Chopra.

Thirty years ago no right-thinking physician accepted the mind-body connection as a valid, powerful mode of treatment. Today, no right-thinking physician (or very few) would trace physical illness to sickness of the soul, or accept that the body is a creation of consciousness, or tell a patient to change the expression of his genes.

Wow. There’s so much that’s wrong with those two sentences that I don’t even want to attempt a point-by-point critique. Soul? Dee, care to present some evidence for that soul that “right-thinking” people believe in so much?

Dee, you’re right about one thing. No sane, rational person would doubt that you’ve got a big imagination. The problem, however, is that perhaps you’ve overdosed on the stuff. Maybe you should switch to pot. Less long-term brain damage.


Alt. Med. suffering from epic fails

June 10, 2009

alternative-medicine-for-dummiesOkay, I’ve got a whole bunch of material today that suggests the “Alternative” “Medicine” industry is in dire straits.

1. First up, the AP reported yesterday about the many dangerous toxins found in “natural” products. This is kinda hilarious because of course one of the chief selling points Alt. Med. practitioners make is that their products are toxin-free. Just about every altie plays the toxin gambit, insisting how real medicine is full of evil, dangerous toxins, but not their products. And of course, the accusations of dangerous toxins in real medicine are a crock of shit. So now it seems their projecting the problems with their own products onto others.

One quarter of supplements tested by an independent company over the last decade have had some sort of problem. Some contained contaminants. Others had contents that did not match label claims. Some had ingredients that exceeded safe limits. Some contained real drugs masquerading as natural supplements.

This underlines another flaw in the whole Alt Med system. Unlike real medicine, there’s no oversight protocols to properly regulate products to ensure they are safe and that people are actually getting what they pay for. System Fail.

2. Next up, a government study has determined that–wait for it, wait for it–almost no alternative medicines actually work:

“Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.”

Ultimately, this is what inevitably happens almost every time carefully done tests are conducted on Alt Med treatments. The quality of the test protocols have a direct inverse relationship to how effective the treatments turn out to be. The better the study, the smaller the effect size of the “treatment.” Test Fail.

3. Next up, after the British Chiropractic Association won their libel case against Simon Singh (though he’s fighting the decision), the chiropractors are suddenly running scared:

. . .the McTimoney Chiropractic Association has strongly warned its practitioners to take down their websites and replace any information on their techniques with just brief contact information. Why would they do that?

Because of what we consider to be a witch hunt against chiropractors, we are now issuing the following advice:

The target of the campaigners is now any claims for treatment that cannot be substantiated with chiropractic research. The safest thing for everyone to do is […] [i]f you have a website, take it down NOW.

Ya gotta laugh at the absurdity of this. If the chiropractors are as upstanding as they claim to be, what do they have to be afraid of? Shouldn’t the chiropractors have been sure to not put unsubstantiated claims on their websites from the start?

It’s very telling, isn’t it, that the McTimoney group isn’t telling its people to only stick with proven methods, but instead to take down any claims that might get them sued.

Interesting.

If you go to the McTimoney website, all it has now is a terse note with contact information, with no other information on the technique at all.

Of course, if they do have unsubstantiated claims on their website, they can’t hide it now because the internet remembers all and erases nothing. C’mon chiropractors, what do you have to hide? Evasive Action Fail.

4. Next, a cancer patient learns that herbals can interfere with proper treatment:

When Palella learned he had cancer, he added the chiropractor’s “prostate cancer protocol” to the other combos he was taking. They had names ending in “plex” and he had no idea what they contained. He swallowed more than three dozen pills each day, and was thrilled to learn that his ex-wife, also a chiropractor, could get them for half price instead of the $700 they would have cost him.

chiropractor-kittyUh oh! I see where this is going:

“I didn’t think they were medications. They’re not prescription, they’re not drugs. This is all natural substances, made from natural products,” he explained.

But he told the dietitian the truth. She was alarmed, and at his next visit, “She had a file ready for me,” Palella said. She said that some of his herbal pills could interfere with hormone treatments for his cancer, and showed him a recent medical study raising concern about that.

. . .

“I thought I was really doing a great thing and strengthening my immune system,” he said. “I feel so stupid.”

That’s why they publish Alternative Medicine For Dummies. Because that’s what you feel like after you realize that there is no alternative to real medicine. Diagnosis Fail.

5. And the final story is Deepak Chopra’s pathetic attempt to stick up for Oprah after Newsweek heavily criticized her for her promotion of pseudoscientific medicine. I addressed Oprah’s own poor attempt to justify her nonsense here. Chopra goes for the Sarah Palin defense:  dodge the issues by attacking the “gotcha media.” Well as Julia Sweeney says, “Deepack Chopra is full of shit!” Defense Fail.


Does Satan Exist? No, now go away.

March 27, 2009

Nightline produced a debate on whether or not Satan exists. They chose for the debate to include 4 god-believers and zero atheists. Good thinking, Nightline!

If you have to ask the question in the first place, then you’ve got your answer. And what does it tell you when Deepak Chopra looks like the rational one in the debate?

For the masochists out there, the full debate (and unaired footage) can be seen here.