Placebos And Deception

Monday, August 15th, 2011

“The first principle is that you must not fool yourself, and you are the easiest person to fool.” – Richard Feynman
We (meaning people) are really good at fooling ourselves. Our brains excel at that task perhaps in excess of all others. I suspect this…

Cognitive Dissonance

Saturday, April 16th, 2011

As skeptics, it is baffling to us that people can believe in so many different things that have little or no evidence to support them and often have plenty of evidence against them.  We tend to look at these people as cranks, kooks, or loonies.&nb…

The Real Meaning of Crop Circles: Vandalism

Sunday, July 19th, 2009

cropgraffitiReader John calls our attention to a recent article in The Mail in which curious sightseers investigating a crop circle saw something unexpected flying overhead: shotgun fire. The report is a bit confused, but it seems that a farmer, one of his cousins, or a hired hand fired a shotgun over the heads of a group of Norwegian tourists who had come to see a recent crop circle.

Why do such a thing? Simple, he says. He was defending his property.

One onlooker was surprised to come under fire:

I have been visiting crop circles for a decade and have in various ways been told that we are not welcome, but this is the first time I have been threatened with a gun.

Farmers have the right to protect their land, but they have no legal right to threaten people. It was totally unnecessary and incredibly scary.

So, let me get this straight… she knows she’s not welcome, and admits that famers have a right to protect their land, but these realizations aren’t enough for her to stop trampling people’s crops. Got it.

Paper or Plastic?

Wednesday, March 11th, 2009

Jeff Wagg notes:

Naomi Baker is a chemical engineer and founder of the Houston Skeptics Society. She is currently in Mexico on her third Amaz!ng Adventure.

Paper of Plastic? How do you answer?  If you give what you think is the ‘correct’ answer, you say ‘paper’ or you’ve brought your own bags.  Let’s examine that choice.

The paper bags used in the grocery stores begin in the forest, with the clear-cutting of forests.  Even though trees are a renewable source, there is more to producing new paper than planting new trees.  The paper industry is one of the dirtiest industries we have.   The chemicals used in the paper pulp process include sulfur, bleaches, and acids.  The process uses huge quantities of water, which must be treated and cleaned, a process which also uses chemicals.  According to a representative of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, paper manufacturing also receives a larger number of complaints than refineries on ‘nuisance odors ‘ which is a term meaning that the facilities emit very strong, disagreeable odors, as unpleasant to live near as a feedlot.   Processing facilities must control odors to the same extent that they must control pollutant emissions.

The EU Officially Embraces Quackery

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Our associate in Hungary, Gabor Hrasko, informs us of this alarming situation:

You might be unaware of the fact that EU [the European Union] is promoting homeopathy and other alternative medicine in its directives. It urges the member countries to provide a simplified registration process for homeopathic remedies where the efficacy and safety of these drugs does not have to be proven. Chapter 2/Article 13/Paragraph 2 states:

Member States shall establish a special simplified registration procedure for the homeopathic medicinal products.

Hungary did it immediately. In my opinion it is against the Competition Act, as it provides exceptions for homeopathic remedies. It uses pseudoscientific reasoning, like “it can not cause harm due to the high dilution” while it does not use the same reasoning to realize that it could not have a specific effect due to that same fact.

All-in-all, homeopathy remains an important issue for the European skeptics, not only because it is a clear example of pseudoscience (as it is handled by the US skeptics), but because IN SPITE OF THIS it is a widely used practice. In Hungary and in many other countries it is used by real doctors who spent six years in prestigious universities studying physics, chemistry and evidence-based medicine earlier.

I must ask: Just why are such exceptions – “special procedures” – granted to quack notions, just because they are popular delusions?  Do we have to wait for major losses of life to occur, with the inevitable monstrous lawsuits that would ensue, before anyone assigns any importance to stopping fraudulent systems before they get to that state? I once thought that the EU was a splendid idea, but then I addressed a meeting in Oslo before Norway joined up, and found that those before me had no notion of the true nature of this farcical concept called homeopathy. Did they react to my exposure? No, they opted to go along with the fraud, anyway…