Homeopathy is crap, well unless you REALLY like overpaying for water. Wikipedia does a good job explaining it here, but for those who may not be familiar it’s taking an active ingredient and diluting 10x, 20x or 50x or whatever random number pops into the head of the preparer. Every decently designed study finds it’s effectiveness no better than placebo, and why would be effective? Do people get more or less drunk when the booze is watered down? Would the same amount of chlorine put into olympic swimming pool be more effective if the pool were the size of two football fields? Common sense says no and the same goes for homeopathy.

With that being said, I’m torn because a new business opened up near a house I own. Usually I’m all for new, small business opening up. I could parrot all the usual song and dance about economics, job creators, yada yada….but I won’t. Let’s assume only positive influences. I’m torn because this store is a health food store that sells homeopathic remedies, grrrrrr. To be fair they have cliff bars, which I love!!! But the rest??? Vitamin infused water, water infused with prayer, essential oils, etc my head hurt once I entered the door.

This property has been many things since I’ve had a vested entrance in the area, this by far is my least favorite beend-is-nearsides vacant. So I’m torn, what to do? Do I sit back, enjoy the fact that at least SOMETHING is there? My stomach turns every time I see someone entering. Do I spread the word that it’s all bunk? Stand outside the door with sign like those crazy people you see telling you the end is nigh’? No can’t do that either. But guerilla style attacks, that might serve two masters…

I can hear people, one in particular (you know who you are), saying “Just leave them alone, what’s the harm?” Does any one else hear this? I try to explain but nothing gets through. Then I happen upon this. A sad, sad site that groups together tons of harm done many varied erroneous beliefs. This is the harm, if one of these people, these children suffers less, this becomes the impetus to act, to spread knowledge. How can anyone argue with that??

I would rather have an empty store front be a haven for all manner of illicit activities because at least meth, cocaine, prostitution and anything other vice isn’t advertised as healing or alternative medicine. As a substitute for actual science based medical care. No one has to convince people drugs are bad, Mr. Mackey has already forged that frontier.

I’ll update my progress, even if I become that guy with a sandwich board!


Flu Shots: Tis the season

The season is upon us, yes time to roll up your sleeves and take it. The flu shot that is, or if needles aren’t your thing, there are other options such as the flu mist. The sooner the better too, it can take up to two weeks to become fully immunized to these strains of flu. The shot is minimally painful, while the mist involves no pain. So what is your excuse???

On excuses, I’ve heard many if not all of them.

One of the most common excuses:

“Last time I got the flu shot, it gave me the flu” WRONG!

Maybe you got the flu in the intervening two weeks or maybe you had some other infection or maybe you are just lying for some other reasons, either way you’re wrong and your objections are actually reason to GET the flu shot earlier than now!!

Next we have:

“There are a lot of serious side effects from the vaccine” WRONG!

While pain at the injection site along with some redness and possibly a low-grade fever are the most common, these pale in comparison to getting the flu as anyone who has ever had it will attest to. There is also a risk a neurological disorder called Guillain-Barré syndrome. The CDC has very good information regarding this here.

Another worthless excuse is:

“I have natural immunity” WRONG!

Very few people, if any, have a natural immunity to the flu. Add to that the flu changes from year to year (evolution anyone?) and any natural immunity you have is nil. The I don’t get sick routine is a rather stupid excuse as well. Lets try out that logic with something else. I don’t get into car accidents, so I don’t need to wear my seatbelt, genius!! Here is another, more insane example. I don’t get shot when I play russian roulette, so it’s ok for me. Still want to tout that as your excuse?

Still more:

“It’s better to build your body’s natural immunities”

Sometimes face palms don’t do the stupidity of some these statements justice….. Rather than combat this by saying something to the effect of THAT’S EXACTLY WHAT A VACCINE DOES, WITHOUT GETTING YOU SICK! I’ll just say words like polio, smallpox, mumps, rubella, tetanus, measles, varicella, etc. Wonder how people with any of these conditions feel about their body’s natural immunities, I would think not very well.

Next we get into a whole new class of objections. These deserve a class by themselves, because while they are still misinformed opinions without scientific basis, their claims can lead to some disastrous outcomes. These would be called the anti vaxers.  Steven Novella writes a great definition of an anti vaxer on his blog Science Based Medicine here.

This group of people actively try to dissuade the use of any vaccine due to numerous inaccurate claims that range from trying to link autism, multiple diseases and mercury poisoning to vaccines. These claims are wrong. These people are dangerous. See the recent measles outbreak at the mega church in Texas. Phil Plait, one of my favorite astronomers and science popularizer, has a great article detailing the incident here. He also writes about Jenny McCarthy and her anti vaccination status along with her new position here.

Also this post wouldn’t be complete without one of my favorite vaccination videos from Penn and Teller here.

The bottom line is there are very few reasons not to get your flu shot. For your health and the health of those around you, get vaccinated, NOW!!

Miracle Whip

What makes a good miracle? It has to be believable right? No, what are you thinking!! If it were wholly believable we wouldn’t say it was a miracle now would we. Saying “It’s a miracle I made it to work on time with this traffic” is much less a miracle claim than saying “My leg grew back! It’s a miracle!!” So given those two examples, which would you believe out right? Obviously the former. So the more outlandish the claim, the more we start to define them as miracles. Agree?

It follows that miracles would have to be something that don’t happen very often or then they would become more plausible and less outlandish. So outlandish and infrequent to the tune of being unreproducible, a start to a definition of miracle?

What about who performs miracles? Can anyone perform these things? I’m sure given the right audience and the right miracle performer it would appear so. Many have been miraclelized (my new word, what a miracle of revelation!) in tent revivals, but upon further inspections, only charlatans were found. Over and over again, miracles are claimed to have been performed by countless people and over and over again naturalistic or fraudulent explanations have overruled the miraculous. Without the evidence of people performing miracles, who else could do them? If it’s not natural for a miracle to happen, why not ascribe it to a supernatural cause?  Brilliant!! Now our definition of miracle can be expanded, an outlandish and infrequent event, ascribe to the realm of the supernatural. I’m sure we could tweak that definition some and maybe we will but that’s a good skeleton to work from.

With this definition in hand, let’s examine a miracle claim.

Someone comes up and tells you they have teleportation device, they’ve used it and know it works, they’ve experienced it first hand and know without a shadow of a doubt it works. My first reaction is, great, let’s go see it!! They then tell you, well you can’t really see it, you have to believe in it and then you will see it and experience it. Your look of wonder and amazement quickly turns to an incredulous one…

You might think this would provide pause or a stumbling block, ohhhh noooo; actually it enlivens your more credulous acquaintance.  In order to convince you he points to a book that, amazingly enough talks all about belief in teleporters!! It’s a miracle! The book, on the surface anyway, seems to support his claim, just believe in teleporters and you can have your own too!

You’re still not convinced?? This acquaintance pulls more teleportation device ammo out of his bag. This book of teleportation is really old, I mean really really old. If it’s that old, then of course that lends more credibility to claim of belief in teleportation…..what’s that you say? Age of documents or people or anything else in no way gives it any more or less truth value? Hmmmm, interesting……

Still giving it the good fight, this maestro of malarkey tells you that a lot of people believe this and have their own teleporters but unfortunately you can’t see theirs either. If all these people believe it, why wouldn’t you? Don’t you know the truth can be discerned through a simple majority….

The incredulous look remains…

This painful allegory is probably above any but the extremely apt and the most cerebrally gifted to comprehend. The point remains…what evidence would you accept for a miracle?

Eye witness testimony? No

Written eye witness testimony? No

Really, really, really old documents? No

Really, really, really old documents that tell you they are inspired and true? I love a circle, but no

Video tape evidence? More compelling, but Bigfoot tells me I need more.

A lot of people telling you it’s true? No

Reproducible, testable, measurable demonstration of said event, with some predictions for future demonstrations of said event that can themselves be tested and measured and repeated that lead to more predictions that can then be tested and measured and……… wait, lost it, that’s crazy talk

 That seems to be the antithesis of our miracle definition….It seems miracles by their very definition are unprovable and if we look at all the possibilities, the least likely. So on what grounds do we have to believe them? I say very little to none at all. Then why are so many of us prone to believe this nonsense? Nonsense such as I went to church, said some words, believed something, now my high blood pressure is cured, my arthritis is cured, my (in my best Wilford Brimley voice) diabetes is cured, my leg grew back…oh wait none of that ever happens. The person cured of high blood pressure is admitted through the emergency department for a stroke, the person with arthritis can’t move out of bed the next morning, the diabetic is found in a diabetic coma and the amputee is lucky because all they have to do is look down to see it didn’t work.

Or maybe you are a less of a big miracle kinda person and you go for instead the miracle of surviving a car wreck, going into and out of surgery without any complications, the miracle of childbirth, finding a close parking space, finding a Starbucks close by, thank Vishnu…

These in no way fit the definition of miraculous. You survive a car wreck in spite of your alcohol level and not wearing your seatbelt, wonderful welcome to the exception to the rule party. You survive and actually walk out of the hospital from your triple bypass caused by years of a horrible diet, cigarettes, alcohol, obesity and of the lone exercise of finding the remote, thank your nurses, docs, techs, the guy who empties the garbage, etc. Hell, thank yourself too for that matter. All are more deserving than assigning this to some miracle caused by some supernatural agent. It cheapens every bit of work the hundreds and thousands of people who worked their ass off to be able to provide the care and technology to keep you alive.

Next time, before you claim a miracle, take a step back and really look. Isn’t there something else there that might explain the situation better……It’s a miracle, it is finished…….


Opening Statements

So the question is why blog? My answer, I dunno, why not? I’ve got thoughts pinging around my head that need to get out or else my wife will end up on some antipsychotics from listening to my ramblings. I want to express my thoughts, even if no one ever reads them. I’m gonna do this for me, not you, if you are out there reading this, and thanks if you are by the way. If you aren’t then I don’t know why I wrote this sentence, but it’s about me.  I tend to be long-winded and get on rants; either that or I hold my tongue which pains me. So here I am left to this creative outlet, blogging.

People are stupid. Maybe not everyone and maybe stupid is a bad adjective, a better one would suffice. How about gullible, that works better. If someone is talented enough in oration or writing they can snare numerous people in their trap. Don’t believe that? Why are infomercials successful? Why do bad leaders continually get elected? How do preachers make their living? Have you seen some of the book on the best sellers? Why do conspiracy theories pop up for almost every major event? Why do 85% of people believe a lie if it has a statistic in it? People are gullible. Critical thinking is lacking. Why? This infuriates me!

We have some real problems as a society. Global warming, financial crisis looming, crazy religious people willing to die for their cause, these are problems we have to confront. This is next to impossible when a sizeable portion of the population doesn’t even admit there is a problem! Or even if they admit there is one, chalk it up to some sort of divine plan, whistle it away and say it’s a mystery. I want to rip my hair out!!

Not a good feeling....

Not a good feeling….

I’ll be honest, I haven’t always thought this way. I used to think some of the same things and same ways I’ve talked about above. Confirmation bias is a tempting mistress; it’s great to be right all the time. Sprinkle in a little ad hominem and you’ve got a great shit pie. I started looking at what I believe and why I believe. When I couldn’t rational justify my positions, I had to look around. This is a scary feeling. I compare it to Wile E. Coyote running off the ledge, unaware he is in mid-air, until he looks down. Then what happens…straight down to the bottom. The feeling of floating of having nothing to tether one self is awkward. Slowly and continually I came to realize I was never in mid-air, in fact I had become more grounded than I was before. I no longer had my head in the clouds or in the ground, whatever analogy you prefer. I had built my beliefs on a false bottom and once I started to realize this, it quickly crumbled away.

I’ll admit I had help in this way of thinking. If it wasn’t talking to co workers and colleagues then it was devouring podcasts and other blogs. It all made so much more sense, seeing the world this way.

This is what I want for others, maybe it’s a pipe dream but I’m going to try anyway. So this is my goal with this blog, that and to give myself an avenue to fully vet my thoughts without driving my loving wife crazy!!

I welcome any and all comments, I do not claim to be 100% correct on all my statements, obviously I will try to scrutinize everything fully before posting but if I miss something, I welcome corrections.