May 27, 2005

Important Notice, A Year of Serious Thinking, Caveat Emptor, News Flash, Public Money Down the Drain, Really Second-Hand Testimony, More LifeWave Drivel, and A Significant Request....


Table of Contents:


IMPORTANT NOTICE

(This item has been inserted into an already-active web page because it involves a critical matter. I urge our readers to take action.)

Reader Isabelle Vella Gregory, a student in Archaeology at the University of Cambridge, is alarmed — and rightly so — at this development:

The Smithsonian has gone absolutely insane. They are airing a movie on "Intelligent Design" in return for a donation of $16,000 from the Discovery Institute. Worse, they are claiming this money will help them fund science research. See www.nytimes.com/2005/05/28/national/28smithsonian.html

I have just sent the following email to the dear people at the Smithsonian. I intend on being a major pain until they give up this nonsense:

Subject: Declining standards at the Smithsonian

Dear Sir/Madam

I am writing to you with reference to the Smithsonian's decision to air the Discovery Institute's film on Intelligent Design. I have always believed that the Smithsonian is one of the foremost institutions of learning, a bastion for science, and a public institution. Your mission statement clearly states that you want to promote "innovation, research and discovery in science." It is thus impossible to comprehend why you have chosen to air a film on ID. This volte face from your side undermines not only the way you have consistently chosen to present the past and scientific discoveries, but also your very integrity.

What is even more appalling is that one of your spokespersons has been quoted as saying:

The event should not be taken as support for the views expressed in the film. It is incorrect for anyone to infer that we are somehow endorsing the video or the content of the video.

I do not think you could be more incorrect if you tried. You know perfectly well that a museum's raison d'être is extremely apparent in the way it displays its material and the activities it organizes. That you would sell your integrity for $16,000 dollars is not merely incomprehensible but also shameful.

I do hope that after your short sightedness you realized that your actions will be taken to mean support for the ID movement. This, after many court battles to keep creationism and ID out of science class, do you not realize that you have also done a major disservice to the parents, educators and scientists who have fought tirelessly against this nonsense? Do you not realize that if ID had anything scientific to say they would publish their "findings" in peer reviewed journals? Is it possible that the eminent museum has no biologists to point out that ID is merely religious apologetics?

Please do not treat us with contempt and mumble that you will use the money for scientific research. You have just dealt science (and your public) an underhanded, unwarranted blow. I wish you luck in dealing with the backlash.

We need to be alarmed and militant about this situation. The "Discovery Institute" is the center of the Intelligent Design movement, which is only a semantically-disguised support group for creationism. By donating a mere $16,000, it has purchased the use of the Smithsonian facilities along with their implied co-sponsorship of the film, "The Privileged Planet: The Search for Purpose in the Universe."

The Smithsonian Institution has a space-use policy that precludes certain forms of religious presentations, regardless of donations that might be offered. Yet it welcomes the opportunity to sponsor this blatant "Intelligent Design" propaganda? The disclaimer that Ms. Gregory cites above will do nothing to nullify the damage done by the Smithsonian.

Though we cannot imagine what political external or internal pressure was brought to bear on the Smithsonian to trigger this incredible blunder, we can count on the creationists now crowing about validation from one of the world's most trusted scientific authorities. If James Smithson were alive today, judging from what he wrote in his diaries and letters, I believe he would want his money refunded upon hearing of this travesty...

Readers, do something about this. Please send an e-mail to giving@si.edu addressed to Mr. Randall Kremer, Public Affairs. Tell him of your concern over this situation. And, you might add that the JREF is willing to donate $20,000 to the Smithsonian Institution if they agree to give back the "Discovery Institute" $16,000 and decline to sponsor the showing of the film. And the JREF will not require the Smithsonian to run any films or propaganda that favor our point of view...


A YEAR OF SERIOUS THINKING

Another note has dropped into our mailbox, this one from reader Benjamin Crawford of Memphis, Tennessee. He writes:

Today (5/25) marks one year since I released myself completely from religious beliefs and all other unfounded & irrational thought processes. That was the culmination of a few agnostic years of questioning everything in which I believed or had "faith." I call it "intellectually born-again" if you wish. This came about mainly through a better understanding of scientific evidence, especially that of cosmology/astronomy and evolutionary biology. Over the last year or so, my grasp on reality has been further strengthened from your website, as well as a few others, like the Skeptic's Dictionary and Bad Astronomy. Since I've taken my place as a freethinker and an atheist, I'm happier in life now than ever before.

Benjamin, let me offer you some advice. First, don't adopt a negative attitude toward those who persist in irrationality in respect to their belief systems and/or actions. Try to understand that they have adopted this attitude for many varied reasons, perhaps the same reasons you used.... Second, keep a low profile, and don't become an evangelist! It's easy to now jump on your white horse and start to ride off in all directions. Third, consolidate your thoughts in light of your new decisions; work at being tolerant, respectful, and helpful.

Though I've still work to do on the "tolerant" aspect, I've been in my present mode for some 65 years. Believe me, it gets easier after the first 30.....


CAVEAT EMPTOR

Reader William Warriner points out some possibly serious difficulties with the ColdEeze remedy we discussed at www.randi.org/jr/050605free.html#10:

While some studies have shown intranasal zinc produces a modest decrease in severity and/or duration of common cold symptoms, others have shown no such effect. So, it may be a legitimate homeopathic remedy, at least in the sense that it doesn't work. In addition to possibly not working, however, it is a zinc salt, and zinc has been shown to be toxic to olfactory cells. Usage of these products can and has induced permanent anosmia — that is, a complete loss of the sense of smell, rather a severe consequence to risk in an attempt to avoid some of the discomfort associated with (of all things) the common cold! Note that anosmia is a side effect only of the nasal spray, not of the lozenges, though the studies of efficacy of the lozenges are just as contradictory.

Unfortunately, in the U.S., products marketed OTC [over-the-counter] as "homeopathic" have no requirement to be either effective or safe. Which my cynical side is saying may well be the real reason why these manufacturers insist on calling it "homeopathic," even more than to entice the gullible. Technically, it's legal for them to do so.

Anyhow, I'd have to say (ironically enough) if you want a homeopathic cold remedy, use a real homeopathic remedy, with more "normal" dilutions, say, X10 or better yet X30. That will give you the proper combination of safety and inefficacy that's the hallmark of homeopathic medicine.

Yes, a few readers sent me this warning. I can't of course declare on the efficacy of zinc compounds in these matters, and I cannot fathom the various scientific papers I've see on the subject, but I'd suggest appropriate caution. The FDA obviously doesn't care.


NEWS FLASH

I'm stunned at the announcement — according to a news release from Penta Water — that a Dr. Nikolai Tankovich, MD., Phd., CEO and "Chief Medical Officer" of Aquaphotonics — a distributor of Penta Water — has joined the Scientific Advisory Board of Procter & Gamble! This board advises P&G on a variety of scientific research directives, so from this point on, we should seriously doubt the success of any future P&G product developed as the result of research by this board. How did a supporter and purveyor of this quackery ever get associated with such a reputable firm?


PUBLIC MONEY DOWN THE DRAIN

NZ reader Damian Glenny is embarrassed by a recent move in his country. He tells us that the Foundation of Spiritualist Mediums [FSM] was given $2500 [approximately US$1800] of Auckland taxpayers money through an Auckland City Council committee, to teach people to communicate with the dead.

FSM president Natalie Huggard said that such lessons were essential to citizens of Auckland and were in high demand. Said she, "There are a lot of people who have problems communicating with the spirit world and don't know how to deal with it." She chuckled at the orthodox opinions of medical scientists, who told patients who "heard voices" that they were schizophrenic and prescribed medication. The FSM runs courses teaching people how to communicate with the dead and how to heal the sick and injured, which is what the afflicted really needed, she said.

The cash given to the FSM was reduced from the original $4500 that the council staff recommended they be awarded, so not everyone was ecstatic with this throw-away. Some councilors had reservations and reduced the amount. But, as if to validate the gift, said one councilor, "We have a vibrant, interesting and colorful community in Auckland city." Yes, so it appears. Those vacant stares and all that mumbling must add to the color. I have to wonder if they have gotten around to teaching common sense and rationality in Auckland schools, though. I note that this funding was granted to the FSM because, for one reason, the organization met the required criterion of contributing "to Auckland city's community vision." Second sight, no doubt, at the expense of first sight....

In an effort to explain the action, a counselor told the press: "Just because you don't believe doesn't mean you should deny other people the right to do so." I agree, but I suggest that it might have been well to find out if The Tooth Fairy and Easter Bunny might also be included....


REALLY SECOND-HAND TESTIMONY

Going through a large box of old clippings, I came upon one folder from 1995 which particularly got my attention. All of this material came from the town of Payson, Arizona, and concerned a strange courtroom situation there in which an unexpected witness was called to testify. Trina Kamp, a "channeler" from the Church of the Immortal Consciousness based in Tonto Village — a nearby Indian reservation — was called upon in court to summon up the spirit of Dr. Pahlvon Duran, who was identified as a 15th century Englishman. The courtroom scene was very bizarre, to say the least. Lights were lowered, the congregation broke into a Beatles tune — In My Life — and when Dr. Duran "appeared" he offered his opinions on the merits of the slander suit under consideration. It was all to no avail, especially when the spirit suddenly announced that he had another appointment in Russia that he had to attend to. That seems to have brought the court proceedings to a sudden halt.

After the fuss in the local media died down, the entire matter was dismissed by the court judge — who thereby appeared to have gained some wisdom that he'd lacked when he initially permitted the tribe to consult with the spirit as part of the court proceedings.

A local attorney offered when he said were three serious problems about accepting testimony from the spirit world. First, he said:

There is no penalty for perjury. That lends itself to an abuse that could be cataclysmic to a case. And if the defense were to bring in its own "being," you'd have a battle of the invisibles...Under the Arizona rules of evidence, you have to be a person to testify.

He pointed out that, for example, a bloodhound could not be asked to point to a suspect....

Second, said the attorney:

There is no way to determine the competency of a voice from a third party. When it comes to a spirit, we have no way to prove they have the presence to see or hear or do anything.

While I agree, I would add, on a more basic level, that we have no evidence that the spirits exist in the first place — but then I'm not a lawyer. Finally, said this enlightened barrister:

There is in Arizona law, the "dead man rule," which excludes testimony from the dead. Inherent in the dead man's statute is that once you're dead you can't testify, and that courts are not to rely on the conversations of the dead... [However] to this group, the witness wasn't dead. That was their position. Of course I don't agree with it, but their argument to the court was that he was going to be giving live testimony.

I note that the initial judge on the case, replaced because he refused to entertain the spirit's testimony, was not interviewed by the newspapers in their final coverage of the matter. Folks, this was only ten years ago, but it sounds as if it were a story from two centuries earlier. I have to wonder if the present administration might look fondly on calling up the dead to give testimony. After all, that sounds like a faith-based situation, doesn't it?


MORE LIFEWAVE DRIVEL

Reader Chad Lindsay directed me to www.testyourself.info/nanotech/Vid3.htm where I found an incredible 8-minute video advertising the LifeWave bunk we described at www.randi.org/jr/050605free.html#3. Wrote Chad:

I recently found this video that promised "quantified and objective approach to muscle testing" in the authenticity of their nanotechnology products. It really bothers me that these so-called experiments paired with scientific "buzzwords" like "nano-technology" and "kinesiology" are used to fool people everyday. This guy is a doctor, so he would understand the scientific method. Please help to expose him for the quack that he is. And thank you so much for opening my eyes, Randi.

This is an incredible video in which James B. Stevens, Director of the JSI Institute, demonstrates the "technology" behind this farce. View it, and notice that his eyebrows do acrobatics; they simply don't quit bouncing up and down like a pair of kids on pogo sticks. He uses the term "quite simply" any number of times in espousing the "kinesiology" scam he's selling, and the video captions include such bloopers as, "All Matter Is Composed of ElectroMagnetic Impulses." Surely that's a winner. But just look at the video to see the howlers in there....

Tricky advertising enters here, too. Read this:

LifeWaveTM Energy Enhancer patches have been tested by the USADA and the US Olympic Committee. The results consistently show that there are no banned substances as nothing enters the body.

Did you notice? There's not a word here about whether or not the USADA [United States Anti-Doping Agency] or the US Olympic Committee found any effects of any sort from the LifeWave patches — but merely that nothing enters the body! But to top it off, Stevens offers through the LifeWave marketers, under the title "NANOTECH QUOTE OF THE WEEK" at www.fflmarketing.com/go/arf/coaches.htm, this very startling and totally misleading statement they say was taken from Forbes Magazine of March 4th, 2005. That magazine issue does not exist, but the quotation is:

This is going to be the technology of the 21st century. It will impact everything we see or buy, from computer chips, to cars, to batteries.

Now, Stevens is not quoting someone working for him, but Dr. Meyya Meyyappan, Director and Senior Scientist of the Center for Nanotechnology at Ames Research Center at Moffett Field, California! Dr. Meyyappan is an accomplished, capable, recognized scientific authority working for a major organization. Just look at www.nasatech.com/NEWS/Oct02/who_1002.htm to be assured of that fact. Surely this is a confirmation of LifeWave that we must take seriously?

Well, Dr. Meyyappan will be startled to hear that he was put forth as endorsing this claptrap. His comment as published applied to the genuine science of nanotechnology, not to LifeWave or any of its nonsense and pseudoscience! This was a purposeful gimmick to use Dr. Meyyappan's prestigious name for assumed endorsement. Nanotechnology has ZERO to do with this scam!

For a barrel of laughs, go www.stormfront.org/archive/t-192443New_Nano-Technology_Energy_Patch_is_Perfect_Training_Aid.html and see the drivel that they issue on this subject — not to mention the racist crap they preach. If LifeWave gets this kind of support, they'll go under by simple Darwinist logic. An extract:

The [LifeWave] patches are sealed and contain amino acids and sugars that are programmed to cause the body's energy field to change, thus sending a signal to the cells to burn fat rather than carbs. This is where the increased energy comes in. The solutions in the patch are processed utilizing a unique nanotechnology that puts the materials into an organic array or matrix. This organic array is then "programmed" the way that we program computer chips. The incredible thing about this product is that we can program these patches with nearly ANY biological message that we want, with the patch then "talking" to the body to affect a certain metabolic response. More specifically what happens is that the human magnetic field passes through the patches, and this field causes the organic array inside of the patches to begin to vibrate (like an antenna). This is how the resonant energy transfer affects the frequency modulation in the human energy field.

Did you notice? In among all that trash, it says, "we can program these patches with nearly ANY biological message that we want." There's the solution! Just program the patch to make the patchee get smart, and LifeWave goes out of business! Simple, and an elegant solution!


A SIGNIFICANT REQUEST

This letter speaks for itself. Read the last paragraph, in particular. It's not known whether the badges were ever recovered, by dowsing, tarot cards, or ouija board, but I can't help thinking of that scene in "Treasure of the Sierra Madre": "We don't need no..."

A short page this week, due to work load....