Reader Cal Skuthorpe of Melbourne, Australia, directs our attention to the site for “Dinosaur Adventure Land,” "where Dinosaurs and the Bible meet!” at www.dinosauradventureland.com/kidos. Cal says:
Especially of note are the Flash animations. Note how the teacher is presented as a dull, droning man (and kids don't want THAT, do they?) presenting the children with the idea of evolution. Naturally, if you've got nothing to back up your argument, ham-fisted and obvious character assassination is an ideal backup plan. Sorry, guys, just because it's boring doesn't mean it's not true.
Also amusing is the fact that the theory of evolution is of course nonsense, but a talking dinosaur who managed to defy extinction is perfectly acceptable. Oh, and let's not forget the fact that he flies a spaceship and was old mates with Noah. Then again, maybe such a talented lizard seems just as likely to exist to people who think God's the big cheese.
Cheers for your time, and also for your essential site. It's the first thing I read with my cup of tea when I get to work of a Monday!
I felt bad when I discovered that hurricane Katrina, in brushing by us on her way to Louisiana, had brought down two beautiful and very old trees here at the JREF. Losing electric power – both here and at my home – for a few days, was a nuisance. However, the subsequent wide-scale devastation of other parts of our country makes us at the JREF feel fortunate. This page was turned out with some difficulty, but here it is.
In passing, I have to ask if our President has seen fit to blame God for the thousands of dead innocents, the loss of property that made millions homeless, the displacement and separation of families, the destruction of fine buildings and the general damage to our way of life – which took place and continues to take place despite his assurance that he’d prayed to God – begged for mercy – about the situation. One Reverend on TV thanked God for diverting Katrina slightly east so that New Orleans didn’t receive it directly; what it did to Mississippi as a result of that divine response, wasn’t mentioned. The governor of Louisiana declared a Day of Prayer, with no noticeable effect.
I suggest that we might want to depose this incumbent God and start dealing with The Real World. He’s proven – time and again – to be cruel, capricious, and vindictive. He drowns, crushes, burns, and starves millions of us every day. He created cancer, viruses, and germs to invade and destroy our bodies as He sees fit, and uses them very effectively. In His wisdom, He directed those in charge to impede stem cell research so that such a powerful approach would not be available to us and He wouldn’t have to strain the Divine Intellect to disarm that defense. We amuse Him as we flail about vainly trying to appease Him. I vote that we dump Him.
Back in The Real World, we can all do something to help. The JREF has donated $1,000 to the Red Cross for relief of the Katrina victims, as has at least one of the JREF associates, personally. Will you join us in helping the effort? Any amount is welcome. Telephone access to loved ones, a case of drinking water, other basic food needs, sanitary supplies, medical tools, a few blankets – all of these items can and will bring some comfort and hope to those who may literally die if they’re not reached in time. Please join us in doing something positive for our fellow humans.
Consider making a donation to the American Red Cross. We have.
They'll accept Frequent Flier miles as well. Visit www.redcross.org to help.
If you have space in your home for refugees, please visit www.hurricanehousing.org. (The JREF has no affiliation with either organization.)
It sure beats appealing to the sky…
From RADAR Magazine, Summer 2005, we learn this interesting data about a massive 343-question interrogation that Scientology victims are asked while clutching the terminals of the famous e-meter – more fully, the “Hubbard electro-psychometer.” This was invented by a chiropractor named Volney Mathison, but was adopted by Scientology. It is simply a Wheatstone Bridge, a circuit that measures changes in electrical resistance between the two hands of the subject holding the terminals. It is, in effect a very crude lie detector which measures “galvanic skin response.” Scientology “auditors” use it to purportedly examine a person's mental state. The reading given on the meter varies according to the pressure of the hands on the terminals, the moisture on the skin, the ambient temperature, and the area of skin contact. When asked sensitive questions, those being “audited” tend to react by tightening up on the terminals, by sweating, or by shifting their grip – all of which cause the meter reading to fluctuate, thus creating the illusion that something important is happening.
Now, since Scientology teaches that billions of years ago octopus-like aliens dumped masses of major intergalactic criminals here on Earth, and that we’ve inherited the souls that were released when the blue squid vaporized these miscreants, it’s obviously wise for the “auditors” to investigate the hidden secrets of their victims to see if they’re inhabited by the bad guys. Here, taken from the internal Church of Scientology document labeled "HCO WW Sec Form 4", are a few of those 343 questions, designed to cause squeezing and sweating and thus give away those secrets. Honestly, dear reader, can you say that you can answer “no” to all of these penetrating inquiries?
1. Have you ever enslaved a population?
2. Have you ever debased a nation's currency?
3. Have you ever killed the wrong person?
4. Have you ever torn out someone's tongue?
5. Have you ever been a professional critic?
6. Have you ever wiped out a family?
7. Have you ever tried to give sanity a bad name?
8. Have you consistently practiced sex in some unnatural fashion?
9. Have you ever made a planet, or nation, radioactive?
10. Have you ever made love to a dead body?
11. Have you ever engaged in piracy?
12. Have you ever been a pimp?
13. Have you ever eaten a human body?
14. Have you ever given grits to a juvenile to eat?
15. Have you ever disfigured a beautiful thing?
16. Have you ever exterminated a species?
17. Have you ever been a professional executioner?
18. Have you given robots a bad name?
19. Have you ever set a booby trap?
20. Have you ever failed to rescue your leader?
It’s obvious, even to me, that any bug-eyed villain would be unable to pass such a rigorous test…
Recently, Bob Park ran an item on his feisty “What’s New” web page – www.bobpark.org – about the scandalous scientific brouhaha involving Columbia University, a serious error that the university has simply refused to acknowledge or correct. It read:
THE MIRACLE STUDY: COLUMBIA PRAYS THE SCANDAL WILL GO AWAY. The prayers aren't working. Bruce Flamm, MD, Clinical Professor at the U. of California, Irvine Medical Center, is the reason (WN 4 Jun 04). A 2001 study from Columbia University Medical School, published in a respected, peer-reviewed journal, reported in-vitro fertilization was twice as likely to result in pregnancy if patients were prayed for without their knowledge by total strangers halfway around the world. What’s New gently explained that they must be crazy. Bruce Flamm dug deeper, publishing his findings in the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. In four years he has not let up. Under pressure from the Dean, the lead author, Dr. Rogerio Lobo, has removed his name from the study. Another author, a notorious scam artist, is in jail on separate fraud charges. The University has never retracted or apologized for the study, but has now told the journal to remove all links to Columbia. Maybe an intelligent eraser could help.
One would think that Columbia would react to all this very unfavorable publicity, which has not been politely limited to the formal scientific literature, as you can see. Dr. Flamm, referring to Park’s item, wrote directly to the president of the university:
Lee C. Bollinger President, Columbia University
Dear Professor Bollinger:
This was published today in this week's edition of “What's New,” the physics newsletter edited by University of Maryland physics professor Dr. Robert Park. Scientists continue to mock Columbia University for its participation in the absurd "research" and for failure to admit that a serious mistake was made. How long will you continue to let this go on?
As you probably know, over the past year my ongoing investigation of this scandal has been covered in Time Magazine, Nature, The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The London Times, The Scientist, The London Observer, and dozens of other newspapers and magazines all around the world.
Professor Bollinger, I again urge you to take action. Please release a statement clarifying Columbia University's position on evidence-based medicine and the flawed and possibly fraudulent Cha/Wirth/Lobo study. If Columbia fails to take appropriate action, the Journal of Reproductive Medicine will apparently not retract the absurd publication. Simply demanding that the journal remove all links to Columbia while allowing the nonsensical study to remain in the literature and indexed in PubMed, is clearly not appropriate action.
Bruce L. Flamm, MD
All of us, and especially Columbia alumni, should be pressing this serious matter with President Bollinger. It has become a major scandal and an international embarrassment.
A scientific comparison of more than 200 studies of homeopathy – that popular “alternative medicine” – and conventional treatments, has concluded that homeopathy may help people feel better, but the actual impact appears to be no greater than a placebo effect. Investigator Dr. Matthias Egger, head of social and preventive medicine at the University of Bern in Switzerland, was one of a group of international researchers who wanted to determine whether homeopathic medicine actually works. Dr. Eggar had heard from friends who told him they went to see a homeopath and subsequently got better, and he wanted to know what the cause was.
After searching the medical literature, the researchers looked into 110 studies that compared the use of homeopathic remedies to placebo – dummy – doses, and an equal number that compared conventional medicine treatments to placebo. Their report appeared in the British Medical Association’s journal, Lancet. Ailments included in the survey were respiratory tract infections, asthma and gastrointestinal problems.
This was a “meta-analysis” procedure. Because studies with small data samples can tend to produce effects that appear significant but may actually be misleading, a meta-analysis can be used to examine many such studies and combine the data – provided that appropriate “strengths” are assigned to each packet of data – and arrive at an overall view and evaluation of the research as a whole. As might be expected, the Bern analysis concluded that conventional medicine interventions did better than placebo, while the homeopathy interventions basically did the same as placebo.
Said the Lancet editors:
It is the attitudes of patients and providers that engender alternative-therapy seeking behaviors which create a greater threat to conventional care – and patients' welfare – than do spurious arguments of putative benefits from absurd dilutions.
Surely the time has passed for selective analyses, biased reports, or further investment in research to perpetuate the homeopathy versus allopathy debate… Now doctors need to be bold and honest with their patients about homeopathy's lack of benefit, and with themselves about the failings of modern medicine to address patients' needs for personalized care.
But what about Dr. Egger’s friends who reported improvement following their ingestion of homeopathic “remedies”? Said he, “It just means that the reason why they feel better is probably not because of that little white pill.”
Will this put an end to the widespread embrace of homeopathic quackery? No way. It’s far too popular a delusion; natural selection will have to provide its slow-but-sure solution to this nonsense.
See the in-depth references at news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/health/4183916.stm, www.bbc.co.uk/bbcthree/news/newsfeatures/homeopathy_260805.shtml, www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/articles/health/healthmain.html?in_article_id=360420&in_page_id=1774 and www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,1556766,00.html
Dr. Terry Polevoy, MD, of Kitchener, Ontario, Canada, has been questioning homeopathy for a long time, and he brings our attention to the fact that the Health Professions Regulatory Advisory Council [HPRAC] of his province is still fussing about the rules that should govern the status of this quackery, He writes:
I don't understand how in the world HPRAC is even considering the possibility of regulating homeopathy. Don't they have more important things to do with their time? www.hprac.org/english/pageDisplay.asp?webDocID=5176#homeopathy It’s all a bloody scam, oh no I must be wrong, make that a placebo. How can you regulate a placebo?
I can just see it now. The College of Homeopathic Medicine of Ontario. What will their board meetings serve at tea time?
Millions of UK residents use placebos, so that must be okay for Canadians, too. When they sit for their board or fellowship examinations will they be issued invisible pens? If Ontario allows quackery to be regulated, who will regulate the quacks?
Use your common sense, Terry! It’ll be the Ontario Quack Professions Regulatory Advisory Council [OQPRAC]!
Just when we thought that by straightening out Walgreen’s Pharmacies on the quack nature of Kevin Trudeau and his book, we’d put a dent in his operation, this came in from reader Christine Bobinski in Norwich, Connecticut:
This morning I received an email offer from Waldenbooks. They often send out e-coupons and advertisements for discounts books (or specific books, specific genres, etc.) This particular offer listed six bestsellers available for 40% off. As the Subject line of this email indicates, "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want..." was listed. (As an aside, I wish they were wrong about it being a bestseller but it probably is.)
Here's my partially plagiarized note to Waldenbooks concerning their book recommendations:
I received an email advertisement from Waldenbooks today listing six books that can be purchased at a 40% discount. I was disappointed to see that one of the six was "Natural Cures 'They' Don't Want You to Know About" by Kevin Trudeau. This book is filled with "information" that's not only false, but potentially dangerous. For example: the sun does not cause skin cancer; sunscreen causes skin cancer. It has recently been removed from sale at all Walgreen's Pharmacies because of the inaccurate and irresponsible content in the book. (see: http://www.randi.org/jr/081905time.html#18 )
Trudeau has been recognized as a quack by the Federal Trade Commission and the Federal Courts. He's been fined $2 million and banned from advertising product health benefits in any medium by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Why is Waldenbooks supporting this man by selling his product and promoting it with a discount offer, mailed out to all its regular customers? Offering such an item for sale is surely not what a legitimate vendor should be doing, if that vendor has the well-being of its customers in mind.
I hope you please reconsider promoting and selling this book.
Christine will keep us informed of any response that might be received from Waldenbooks. I think the reaction will be to put up larger stacks of the book so that it’s all sold before the customers wake up.
You may remember the book, “The Jupiter Effect,” which caused worldwide panic among the uninformed when it came out in 1974. It predicted general disasters in 1982 due to a deadly alignment of planets that would cause tidal effects on the Earth and bring death and destruction. It was the authors – more than the specious reasoning exhibited – that made the book appear to be legitimate; John Gribbin and Stephen Plagemann were recognized astronomers!
Two years after the first publication, fresh from the excitement and sudden wealth that their book produced for them, they wrote a revised edition which also filled the bookstores. Then in 1980, just two years before this calamitous alignment was supposed to occur, Gribbin published an official retraction in New Scientist Magazine, though the public of course preferred to remain in a state of panic.
That “alignment” could reasonably be assumed – by those of us great unwashed peasants – to consist of at least the major planets – Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune – lined up in the sky, but even that was wrong; the smallest separation between these bodies was greater than sixty degrees!
What disturbed me more than the bad science and behavior exhibited, was the fact that my friend Isaac Asimov had written an introduction to “The Jupiter Effect,” a fact that I found difficult to understand. Here, from a lecture Isaac gave back in the late 70s, is his response to a question about this matter:
These days, and any day when the future looks dark, people want answers. Now, unfortunately – by the very nature of science – the answer of the scientist is, essentially, two plus two probably equals four. The answer of the mystic is, generally, two and two is definitely and certainly, five. And, the average person would rather have the “definitely and certainly” than that “probably.” Now, as far as the Jupiter Effect is concerned, that reaches conclusions which may turn out to be not correct, but it is based, in any case, on a kind of respectable science. Gribbin and the other guy who wrote the book are legitimate scientists, and they use legitimate reasoning, and to me it was interesting and I thought it was worth writing an introduction to, and in 1982, if California doesn’t fall into the ocean, they were wrong, that’s all, but at least they’re not indiscreet.
I cannot argue with Isaac’s fair and logical response, but how he could have even considered the possibility of any such “effect,” I’ve never been able to understand….
Reader Robert Matthews of Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, informs us:
A website called Something Awful (www.somethingawful.com) has something called the Awful Link of the Day, and today's site is www.remedydevices.com which attempts to reinvent the “radionics” of quack Ruth Drown. As you know, she promised to be able to diagnose diseases by inserting a droplet of blood into a large, impressive machine and cure the disease of the blood donor by beaming radio waves using the same machine. A typically sad, gullible account can be found at http://educate-yourself.org/tjc/ruthdrownuntoldstory.shtml or just about any site found by Googling "Ruth Drown radionics".
This new device, a steal at only $425, is considerably smaller than Drown's, but it does quite a bit more. Not only can it diagnose disease and send the cure using a hair sample (so much nicer than messy old blood), it can create any homeopathic remedy imaginable; all the user has to do is speak the name or desired effects of a remedy into the box, place a bottle of sugar pills on the box, and push a button. The resulting pills are, no doubt, just as effective as the ones you can buy. As Something Awful's typically snarky commentary notes about the procedure, "Roughly translated, this means 'talk into my garage door opener which costs you over $400.'"
The remedydevices.com site contains the following explanation of the creation of the device:
Then I thought that with my knowledge of the nature of subtle energy, it should not be too hard to figure out how it works. Since I knew that all words contained power, I first set about making a very simple Potentiser based on a lens. The idea was that you would write the name of a remedy of a bit of paper, and using the lens focus the image of those words onto a glass of water, or some blank tablets. Since at the time I could not dowse with a pendulum, I had no way of confirming if I was successful. Consequently I had to again visit my Homoeopathic friend, who said no, these tablets were not potentised.
I could not understand it, as theoretically they should have been. Then I began to wonder if perhaps you had to alter the lens in some way. On an intuition, I just grabbed hold on the lens and said "I program this lens to be able to transfer potencies by light." Then I made some more tablets, and showed them to my friend, who this time confirmed that yes, they were potentised!
She sounds like a candidate for a million dollars, no? A double-blind experiment with a dozen bottles of sugar pills?
That’ll never happen, Robert. These scam artists lie awake at night in fear that they might have to be actually tested. I previously referred to Drown and “radionics” at http://www.randi.org/jr/022704dane.html#10.
Our most excellent Italian friends Massimo Polidoro and Luigi Garlaschelli have been preparing TV material on various “Superhuman Powers” subjects. Tune in on Thursday September 22nd or Wednesday the 28th at 9 PM Eastern time, and see one of the results. You should check local listings or refer to National Geographic’s Channel show time schedule to verify these times. International broadcasts will vary, please consult your local televisions listings for specific show times. This is part of a series, “Is It Real?" Everything from martial arts experts who can knock someone out without touching them to Hagelin and the Maharishi Institute and Yogic Flying to dervishes
TAM4 draws ever closer, and eBay auctions for a fabulous gourmet meal are now available. Joining the winning bidder will be Murray Gell-Mann, The Mythbusters, Nadine Strossen, Julia Sweeney, Jamy Ian Swiss, Lawrence O'Donnell, Karen Russell, Daniel Dennett, and of course, myself. The meal will be held during TAM4 in the Stardust Hotel and Casino on January 27, 2006. Even if you're not joining us for TAM4, you can still jump at the chance to meet and talk with this most impressive guest list. For more details, click here.
A bit short this week due to a day I had to take off, and Katrina. Apologies…
And, save me the puzzled letters: Question #14 in the Scientology Quiz item was one I dropped in just to see if you were paying attention – though I think it’s something that would indicate the obvious introduction of an alien not-of-this-planet foodstuff…