The Skeptical Teacher

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

Posts Tagged ‘brain’

The Amaz!ng Meeting 2014: Skepticism and The Brain

Posted by mattusmaximus on March 28, 2014

I just wanted to pass along the news that registration has opened for The Amaz!ng Meeting 2014 in Las Vegas this July.  This year’s theme is “Skepticism and The Brain”, and it promises to be an educational and enlightening experience.  Read on for more…

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We are thrilled to announce that The Amaz!ng Meeting (TAM) returns in just a few months: July 10-13, 2014 at the South Point Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, NV.

Our theme this year – Skepticism and the Brain – is focused on the cognitive and brain sciences and how they inform the project of skepticism. Keynote speakers include the acclaimed philosopher, cognitive scientist, and best selling author Daniel Dennett and Scientific AmericanEditor-in-Chief Mariette DiChristina. Other speakers include neurophilosopher Patricia Churchland, Australia’s Dr. Karl, Evolution & Human Behavior Editor-in-Chief Robert Kurzban, Brainwashed: The Seductive Appeal of Mindless Neuroscience authors Scott Lilienfeld and Sally Satel, M.D., influential memory researcher Elizabeth Loftus, clinical neurologist Steven Novella, M.D., immunologist Paul Offit, M.D., National Center for Science Education’s Eugenie Scott, Skeptic Editor-in-Chief Michael Shermer, psychologists and best selling authors Carol Tavris and Richard Wiseman, and many, many more!

The inimitable George Hrab returns as our Master of Ceremonies. As Pacific Standard magazine recently described, Hrab’s “vaudeville-style” has set the tone for “what is perhaps the world’s preeminent gathering of self-proclaimed skeptics.”

This annual celebration of critical thinking is an unparalleled opportunity to make like-minded friends, enjoy some of the brightest minds on issues important to skeptics, and leave with tools for spreading a helpful and educational message to those who might be hurt by charlatans and unfounded belief. TAM has become the must-go-to event for skeptics and science advocates.

Join James Randi and over a thousand other like-minded folks for four days of fun, friendship, and critical thinking!

REGISTER TODAY!

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

“Proof of Heaven” Author Has Proof Called Into Question

Posted by mattusmaximus on July 11, 2013

Awhile back, there was a big book craze about a book titled “Proof of Heaven”, which supposedly chronicled the author’s journey via a near-death experience (NDE).  The author, Eben Alexander, has claimed that his experience as a neurosurgeon gives his claims of seeing “the other side” some validity; and this has, to no one’s surprise, helped to boost his book sales.

near-death-experience

“Journey into the light… but buy my book first.”  Image Source

Well, it seems that some of Alexander’s key claims regarding his supposed NDE simply don’t jibe with the facts.  The following article in The Atlantic brings up some pretty sticky questions for Alexander…

The ‘Proof of Heaven’ Author Has Now Been Thoroughly Debunked by Science

… In his book, Alexander claims that when he was in a coma caused by E. coli bacterial meningitis, he went to heaven. Of course, Dittrich’s piece is not the first time that Alexander’s text has come into question. In April, Michael Shermer at Scientific American explained how the author’s “evidence is proof of hallucination, not heaven.” But Dittrich calls into question not what Alexander experienced so much howhe did. While Dittrich looks at legal troubles Alexander had during his time practicing neurosurgery, perhaps the most damning piece of testimony comes from a doctor who was on duty in the ER when Alexander arrived in 2008. Dr. Laura Potter explains that she “had to make the decision to just place him in a chemically induced coma.” But that’s not how Alexander tells it, according to the Esquire investigation:

In Proof of Heaven, Alexander writes that he spent seven days in “a coma caused by a rare case of E. coli bacterial meningitis.” There is no indication in the book that it was Laura Potter, and not bacterial meningitis, that induced his coma, or that the physicians in the ICU maintained his coma in the days that followed through the use of anesthetics. Alexander also writes that during his week in the ICU he was present “in body alone,” that the bacterial assault had left him with an “all-but-destroyed brain.” He notes that by conventional scientific understanding, “if you don’t have a working brain, you can’t be conscious,” and a key point of his argument for the reality of the realms he claims to have visited is that his memories could not have been hallucinations, since he didn’t possess a brain capable of creating even a hallucinatory conscious experience.

I ask Potter whether the manic, agitated state that Alexander exhibited whenever they weaned him off his anesthetics during his first days of coma would meet her definition of conscious.

“Yes,” she says. “Conscious but delirious.”

In interviews in the piece, Alexander asks Esquire‘s Dittrich not to bring up the discrepancies in his story. The neurosurgeon-turned-author’s Twitter account has been silent this morning, but he told the Todayshow that he stood by “every word” in the book and denounced the magazine story as “cynical” and “cherry-picked.” …

Ouch.  That’s pretty damning, when the actual doctor who took care of you in the ER completely contradicts your account.  I wonder if Alexander will do some actual science and revise his views in light of this new information, or will he continue to hawk his book?

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

Cell Phones STILL Don’t Cause Cancer

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 1, 2011

Okay, I’ve said it before, and no doubt I will have to say it again, but here goes… there is no causal connection between cell phone use and cancer!  Not only is it physically implausible, but there is no solid research showing such a connection; in fact, the research shows quite the opposite, as evidenced by this recent article from the BBC News…

Mobile phone brain cancer link rejected

By Nick Triggle Health correspondent, BBC News

man uses phone
Mobile phone safety has been much debated over the past two decades

Further research has been published suggesting there is no link between mobile phones and brain cancer.

The risk mobiles present has been much debated over the past 20 years as use of the phones has soared.

The latest study led by the Institute of Cancer Epidemiology in Denmark looked at more than 350,000 people with mobile phones over an 18-year period.

Researchers concluded users were at no greater risk than anyone else of developing brain cancer.

The findings, published on the British Medical Journal website, come after a series of studies have come to similar conclusions. …

Posted in environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Give the Cuddly Atheist Some Good Vibes

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 30, 2010

Some of you know Kate, the Cuddly Atheist, and for those of you who don’t know her, you really need to get to know her – she’s a wonderful person.  Sadly, despite what the fairy tales tell us, some really awful things can happen to some really great people, which is why I’m posting this message.  You see, Kate had a stroke recently, and she’s also beset by all manner of other health issues which are even more unfortunate given her young age (she’s only 30).  I’ll refer you to a post that her husband, Jay, had put up over at Kate’s Cuddly Atheist blog…

The stroke – more details and how you can help

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This is Kate’s husband, Jay, again. My last post was a bit short on information. It’s been a bit of a hectic week. We are now home fro the hospital, and resting comfortably in our own bed again.

To recap, Kate had a stroke on 19 November and as a result now has Broca’s aphasia. Broca’s aphasia is what is known as an expressive aphasia. It limits her ability to express the ideas in her head, whether in speech or in writing. She is still “all there”; she just has extreme difficulty in communicating. As you can well imagine, this is extremely frustrating, particularly for someone so rightly proud of her communication skills as Kate. She has shown some improvement over the last week, and I am also getting better at interpreting her.

There are two pieces of hopeful news. Strokes cause swelling in the brain as well as damage, both of which can lead to impairment. As the swelling goes down over the next two to three weeks, any impairment due to the swelling, as opposed to damage, should spontaneously reverse. Significant improvement is likely, though not certain, soon.

Also, Broca’s aphasia is generally quite responsive to speech therapy. She met with a therapist in the hospital a few times last week, and seemed to really enjoy her sessions. Monday, I will call the speech therapy clinic to set her up on an outpatient schedule. The therapy will last up to a year, depending on how well and how quickly her communicative abilities return.

Many people over the course of the last week have asked me what they can do to help, and several have asked to send money. A lovely friend at the JREF Forums is taking up donations on our behalf at her site. Be sure to indicate in the comments why you are sending her money, or she might just spend it on hookers and blow. If you decide to do this, know that we are very grateful.

Far more important than any amount of money, though, is support and encouragement. From everything I’ve read or heard from doctors and therapists this week, the effectiveness of speech therapy will be highly influenced by Kate’s attitude. Right now, she is very upbeat and excited, but it will be a long and frustrating process. Any little words of encouragement you could leave would be worth their weight in baby tears.

Thanks for reading, and thanks especially to Hemant Mehta and Heidi Anderson, who have graciously agreed to repost this.

 

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Live Blog of CFI Chicago’s “Dangerous Nonsense” Conference – Entry #1

Posted by mattusmaximus on April 24, 2010

Well, here I am at the Chicago CFI’s conference titled “Dangerous Nonsense: Exploring the Gulf Between Science and Its Imposters” in lovely, foggy downtown Chicago.  Adam Walker, director for Chicago CFI is getting ready to get us started this morning.

There’s about 100-120 people in attendance today, and a nice number of people who are from out of town (about 20%).

Adam Walker is talking about how we should (as Americans) be reigniting the love of learning, learning how to ask questions, digging deeper, rejecting pat answers.  However, we see tens of thousands of young people tromping through the Creation Museum in KY – of course the Grand Canyon was carved in a weekend!  We also see the Obama administration appealing the ruling by a federal court ruling that the National Day of Prayer is a constitutional violation of church-state separation.  We also grit our teeth as the State Board of Education in Texas is giving Phyllis Schlafley the same status as Thomas Jefferson’s framing of the Constitution equal importance in history textbooks.

This is where groups like CFI Chicago comes in: we stand for reason & rationality.  We also provide opportunities to skeptics & freethinkers to join together and socialize.

Today’s topic is “Dangerous Nonsense”, because when America allows itself to be influenced by fakers & deniers because it eats away at our core principles of the Enlightenment & rationalism.

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

 
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