The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Archive for June, 2009

Alternative “Medicine” Quackery Goes Mainstream

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 10, 2009

Since I’m on a kick about alt-med lately, let me just throw one more thing into the mix… a recent news story about how alt-med quackery has gone mainstream:

AP IMPACT: Alternative medicine goes mainstream

The news article is very revealing in its analysis of how pseudoscientific nonsense such as reiki, touch therapy, and “natural” herbal supplements have wormed their way into the medical profession over the years.  One of the big reasons is due to a political push…

Fifteen years ago, Congress decided to allow dietary and herbal supplements to be sold without federal Food and Drug Administration approval. The number of products soared, from about 4,000 then to well over 40,000 now.

Ten years ago, Congress created a new federal agency to study supplements and unconventional therapies. But more than $2.5 billion of tax-financed research has not found any cures or major treatment advances, aside from certain uses for acupuncture and ginger for chemotherapy-related nausea. If anything, evidence has mounted that many of these pills and therapies lack value.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Death by Alternative “Medicine”

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 6, 2009

In my most recent post – Silencing Skepticism: The Case of Simon Singh – I outlined the dangers in allowing alternative “medicine” woo-meisters to silence skeptics.  But in the process of writing that entry, I left out perhaps the most important reason why skeptics must fight against attempts to silence them: alternative “medicine” can kill.

Case in point…

Parents guilty of manslaughter over daughter’s eczema death

A couple whose baby daughter died after they treated her with homeopathic remedies instead of conventional medicine have been found guilty of manslaughter.

Gloria Thomas died aged nine months after spending more than half her life with eczema.

The skin condition wore down her natural defences and left her completely vulnerable when she developed an eye infection that killed her within days of developing.

Thomas Sam, 42, a homeopath, and Manju Sam, 37, of Earlwood, Sydney, were charged with manslaughter by gross criminal negligence.

Sadly, this isn’t an isolated case. ‘Nuff said.

Posted in medical woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Silencing Skepticism: The Case of Simon Singh

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 6, 2009

There is a very important issue regarding skepticism & free inquiry that came to my attention just today.  I was listening to the latest (June 3rd) Skeptics’ Guide to the Universe podcast, and they were discussing the case of Simon Singh. Singh is a science journalist in Britain, who has written a number of popular science books (such as Fermat’s Last Theorem and The Code Book) plus a lot of newspaper articles.

And it was one of these articles, written for The Guardian in April 2008, that got him into some trouble.  In this article – titled “Beware the Spinal Trap” – he criticizes the alternative “medical” woo of chiropractic and specifically takes to task the British Chiropractic Association for the promotion of nonsense such as using chiropractic subluxations to treat children with asthma.  In short, Singh laid down the gauntlet to the BCA in his article by noting that they didn’t have any scientific evidence to support their claims.

The BCA’s reaction?  They’re suing Singh for libel. No written response to The Guardian outlining flaws in Singh’s argument, nor did the BCA attempt to provide evidence showing their claims – this despite the fact that they were invited to do so publicly by The Guardian. Instead they sue Singh in an attempt to use England’s libel laws in order to shut down any public criticism of their pseudoscientific garbage.

**Aside: You can read the entire account of this sordid affair, in Simon Singh’s words, at this link.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in free inquiry, medical woo, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Conversation with an Anti-LHC Lunatic

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 5, 2009

As a quick follow up to a recent post – LHC Lunacy & Doomsday Scenarios – I wanted to share with you an online discussion I had with a physics woo on this topic.  The conversation with James Blodgett, who seems to have a history of opposing the Large Hadron Collider on pseudoscientific grounds, is recorded on the Science & Technology subforum of the JREF Forum.

Allow me to, as a lesson in the kind of thinking employed by many pseudoscientists, point out some of the more egregious statements & arguments by Mr. Blodgett and why they are so off-base…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Science, Morality, and Meaning

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 1, 2009

Sometimes people are turned off from science because they view it as a sterile & cold process.  Often the argument is made that if one takes a science-oriented view of the world that it doesn’t necessarily foster a good moral life.  Many argue that only religion, as opposed to science, can offer any guide for morality, ethics, and the philosophy of the good life.  I think those critics of science are wrong.

That is why I wanted to pass along a great podcast from the folks at Point of Inquiry which touches on all of these topics.  On May 1st, D.J. Grothe interviewed Dr. Jeffrey Schweitzer about his book Beyond Cosmic Dice: Moral Life in a Random World.

Here is a quick summary of the interview…

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in philosophy, scientific method | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
%d bloggers like this: