News From Around The Blogosphere 12.11.09

December 11, 2009

1. Chiropractic debunked…again – The vast majority of chiropractors believe that most disease is caused by spinal misalignments and that manipulation of the spine to correct a “subluxation” is capable of treating most disease. This is the basis of all of chiropractic, though some have evolved to view chiropractic as just beneficial for back problems. But a new study failed to show any causation associating chiropractic subluxation with disease. None. Chiropractors have onlya few options:  throw out the subluxation model entirely (which again is the basis of their whole practice) or reject the study. My money’s on door number two.

2. The SkepDoc to write for O, the Oprah Magazine? – The chiropractic article linked to above was written by Harriet Hall aka The SkepDoc. She has just been offered a column in Oprah’s magazine. It seems that the new health and environment editor at O reads Skeptic. According to Hall,

I had never actually seen Oprah’s magazine, but I suspected it was not a reliable source of science-based medical information. I asked for a copy and my prejudice was confirmed by finding an article by Dr. Mehmet Oz that included recommendations for homeopathy and aromatherapy. The magazine has a circulation of 2.4 million – only slightly lower than Playboy and TV Guide and over three times that of Scientific American.

My column will begin with the January issue. It won’t amount to much. It is limited to 250 words, under tight editorial control, and restricted to debunking common health myths like the idea that you lose most of your body heat from the head. But at least there will now be a small corner of Oprah-land that will be guaranteed entirely free of woo-woo.

Hopefully this will work out better than when Angel took that job at Wolfram & Hart.

3. It’s the end of the world…again – The same website that so successfully predicted The Rapture on September 21, September 23October 21, Fall 2009, and November 11 has predicted The Rapture again. This time it’s going to happen before Monday, December 14. I know what you’re thinking. Talk about having a case of the Mondays! But at least we get to enjoy the weekend before the apocalypse. So remember, folks. The apocalypse may happen on Monday, so dress accordingly.

4. No more atheist ads in Barcelona – Promedios, the company in charge of the advertising, has now banned all ads causing “social controversy.” The first to suffer from this rule is an ultra-Catholic religious group.

5. But an atheist ad is going up in New Zealand – They raised more than the necessary $10,000 in two days.

6. Clergy ratings on honesty and ethics hit 32-year low – Half of the people polled do not trust the clergy.

Uh oh! I don't like the sound of that.

News From Around The Blogosphere 11.19.08

November 20, 2009

1. Oprah’s going off the air!! – The Flying Spaghetti has answered my prayers! Unfortunately, it’s not going to happen until 2011 at the earliest and I’m sure it won’t be the last we’ll see of Oprah. But it’s cause for some degree of dancing in Munchinland.

2. California atheist group made to take down sign at tavern meet-up – The Seal Beach Atheist Meetup Group held their meet-ups at a bar called Hennessy’s Tavern. But after at least one complaint, the bar manager made them take down their oh, so offensive sign that read:  “SEAL BEACH ATHEISTS MEETING.”  Here’s the tavern’s contact information. Do with it what you will.

3. Even Christians don’t like Ray Comfort

So, congrats to you Ray Comfort. You have truly surpassed all previous Attie award winners. You have  slandered a man (Darwin), you have made all Christians look like ignorant boobs, and worst of all, you have caused people to question the validity of Christ through your dishonesty. You were in the zone today, my friend.

4. The limey’s are back with a brand new atheist ad – This time it features a couple of kids with the slogan, “Please don’t label me. Let me grow up and choose for myself.” And in the background we see a bunch of religious labels:



I love it!

5. Jenny McCarthy is featured on Living Without Magazine – I guess they’re living without is standards and integrity.

6. When is being dismissive justified? – I say NEVER!!!!! Period. That question is too ludicrous to even warrant any further answer than that.

Oprah & Dr. Oz against quacks?

August 21, 2009

Oprah & Dr. Oz against quacks? Well, this is a new one. For once, instead of pushing more woo on people, Beavis & Butthead actually did something right. After discovering that many quacks try to cash in on the legendary influence of the dynamic duo of dumb by falsely claiming endorsements by the Double O’s. Some websites even use voiceovers from actors who sound like Oprah. But a statement released on Wednesday refers to a federal lawsuit:

These defendants are willfully capitalizing on plaintiffs’ valuable reputation and intellectual property rights to lure consumers into ordering their infringing products on the false premise that they have been tested or recommended by Ms Winfrey and/or Dr Oz when they have not. The suit claims the actions had “gravely injured” their reputations.

I kinda got to laugh at that last part about their reputations being “gravely injured.” Obviously these 2 have endorsed products just as absurd as those that Fake Oprah and Fake Oz have endorsed. As promoters of alternative “medicine” and pseudo-science their reputations can’t get any lower than they already are. Real Oprah endorses The Secret.

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.


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.

Oprah: bad liar or worst liar?

June 7, 2009

Last week, Newsweek published a cover story that ripped Oprah Winfrey a new one, criticizing her for her endless support of anti-scientific medical quackery, particularly turning her show into an unchallenged platform for celebrity propagandists like Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Somers.

Well now Oprah has responded to Newsweek’s  allegations, which isn’t surprising considering it’d be hard even for Oprah’s mostly brainwashed and braindead audience to miss Oprah’s image plastered on the cover of Newsweek, calling attention to a 6-page  indictment of the misinformation she regularly feeds them. And while Phil Plait hesitates to go as far as to call her response a lie, I have no such hesitation. Not only does Oprah lie through her teeth but her lies are so transparent that I almost applaud the audaciousness of them. Her lies are so blatantly false that it’s almost like Bush and Chaney back in the White House again:

For 23 years, my show has presented thousands of topics that reflect the human experience, including doctors’ medical advice and personal health stories that have prompted conversations between our audience members and their health care providers. I trust the viewers, and I know that they are smart and discerning enough to seek out medical opinions to determine what may be best for them.

Ah yes, the old “obviously I don’t promote anti-scientific propaganda because I’ve been on TV for 23 years and have said many things that weren’t propaganda defense.” I guess by that logic Charles Manson couldn’t possibly have killed all those people because there were times in his life where he definitely killed no one at all. Riiiiight!

There’s so much silliness in this defense that it’s an insult to the intelligence of all who read it. Oprah has clearly devoted whole shows to the likes of Jenny McCarthy and Suzanne Somers, where she’s allowed them to endlessly spout out their crap without even any token skepticism to challenge those beliefs and without even Oprah herself showing she’s done the slightest bit of research on the subject to challenge such fringe claims. Further, because Oprah never herself really plays the devil’s advocate on her show, she appears on each occasion to tacitly support what they’re selling. In fact, Oprah played a pivitol role in securing Jenny McCarthy her own show, which is only slightly less well known than the fact that pretty much every product or personality Oprah has publicly endorsed has instantly turned into an overnight success. If tomorrow Oprah called Kim Jong Il “The One”, I have little doubt he too would become a huge hit with Oprah’s audience.

For Oprah to downplay her svengali-like influence and claim that she trusts her audience to do the proper research on their own time, think critically about the program’s content, and to properly discern the truth on their own is at best horribly naive and at worst incredibly dishonest. As someone with a Masters Degree in Media Studies, I feel pretty confident saying that that would be a tall order for the audience of ANY television program, but for Oprah’s demographic, given her shows demonstrable power to rot the brain, to see that kind of critical thinking would be a damned miracle.

Fortunately, Forbes magazine just announced that Oprah’s lost her title of most powerful celebrity to Angelina Jolie. Who would have thought an atheist could unseat Oprah as the queen of celebrity influence? Suck it, Oprah!

Stephen Colbert rips on Oprah & Roald Dahl on vaccines

June 3, 2009

Stephen Colbert starts discussing the recent Newsweek cover story that criticized Oprah Winfrey’s promotion of pseudoscience, just past the 4 minute mark.

Vodpod videos no longer available.

The Newsweek article of course also spends several paragraphs slaming Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine ideology as well, which brings me to another related news item. An old essay promoting vaccines has been making the rounds on the science blogs today. The essay was written by Roald Dahl (Yes, that Roald Dahl). Twenty-four years after his daughter died suddenly from measles, Dahl wrote this essay urging parents to vaccinate.

Newsweek takes on Oprah

May 31, 2009

Newsweek has done the unthinkable; they’ve criticized Oprah. It’s about time the mainstream media took an interest in crititizing Oprah Winfrey’s dangerous pseudo-scientific nonsense.

Sadly however, the authors of this article aren’t very optimistic that Oprah’s devoted followers will abandon her and adopt reason instead:

At some point, it would seem, people will stop looking to Oprah for this kind of guidance. This will never happen. Oprah’s audience admires her as much for her failings as her successes. In real life, she has almost nothing in common with most of her viewers. She is an unapproachable billionaire with a private jet and homes around the country who hangs out with movie stars. She is not married and has no children. But television Oprah is a different person. She somehow manages to make herself believable as a down-to-earth everywoman. She is your girlfriend who struggles to control her weight and balance her work and personal life, just like you. When she recently related the story of how humiliated she felt when she arrived for a photo shoot to find that she couldn’t fit into the clothes she was supposed to wear, she knew she had every member of the audience in her hand. Oprah’s show is all about second and third and fourth chances to fix your life, and the promise that the next new thing to come along will be the one that finally works.

I’m kinda reminded of a character in the TV series “Nip/Tuck” named Kimber. Kimber is a character that has the determination to really go far but due to her own insecurities manages every season to some new self-destructive direction in her life in the guise of self-improvement, and gradually break free of it, only to fall victim to some new self-destructive behavior next season. That last paragraph quote above describes the Kimber character to a T.

The Newsweek article also takes some nice skeptical shots at Suzanne Somers, The Secret, HPV myths, and of course the queen of pseudo-scientific medical nonsense herself, Jenny McCarthy.