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May 25, 2007


 "...the chief end I propose to myself in all my labours is to vex the world rather than divert it." - Jonathan Swift

 

  1. A Great Boon
  2. Science Moves Against Quackery
  3. Gentle Wind Persists
  4. More Dowsing Sticks
  5. Official Recognition of Quackery
  6. Bob Park Scores Again
  7. Oprah Addressed
  8. Vague Numbers
  9. In Closing
An Evening with DawkinsThe Amaz!ng Meeting 5 DVD Set with Bonus Critical Thinking Workshop
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A Great Boon

A number of readers informed me that the BBC′s archives now include nearly 5,000 personal letters to and from Charles Darwin, with an additional 9,000 to come, and all that valuable data is now available to Internet users. Some great links to the subject are to be found at news.bbctech/6657237, news.bbctech/6064364.stm, and news.bbc/2276706.stm. The archive itself is at the Cambridge University site: tinyurl.com/ytvm78, and a run-down of the contents is at tinyurl.com/2b2bgz. This rich data source gives us a close look at Darwin′s personal battle, his doubts, and his eventual convictions involving the facts of evolution that he unearthed. Another triumph of the Internet and its power to inform!

“I.D.”ers need not reference this unwelcome and disturbing material, for fear of involuntary enlightenment…




SCIENCE MOVES AGAINST QUACKERY

There′s encouraging news from the UK, where a group of leading scientists led by Professor Gustav Born, Emeritus Professor of Pharmacology at King's College, London, is pushing a campaign to get their National Health Service [NHS] not to further fund homeopathy, widely accepted in the UK as a “complementary therapy.” Dr. Born is the son of 1954 Nobel Laureate (physics) Max Born, and is widely respected internationally. Of all people, he should be able to see through the pretentious and untenable claims of the dilution-beyond-presence woo-woos.

At tinyurl.com/2cazm2 SWIFT ran an item that hinted at this possible move, which I believe to be a very welcome and positive pro-rational action. Also see tinyurl.com/238g5x. Now that data suggests that the NHS is turning its back on it, supporters of the notion of homeopathy are up in arms to protect and preserve this substantial portion of the quackery industry. As our readers will know, homoeopathy is an inane idea – originated by a Samuel Hahnemann some 220 years ago – based on the concept that disease can be successfully treated with substances that are capable of producing the same symptoms in healthy people as the disease itself, but given in zero-doses. This is a mythology that hasn′t changed its basic tenets in those two centuries.

In the UK, homoeopathic products can be legally licensed for sale if the manufacturers can provide data proving that the treatments are safe, but they do not have to produce evidence of actual efficacy from clinical trials, as real medicines must do. In the USA, too, homeopathy is “grandfathered” to the extent that it is essentially immune from examination.

Now, due to this withdrawal of support for Hahnemann′s delusion, over half of the UK's 150 medical primary care trusts are either not providing funding, planning to withdraw funding, or restricting funding. More than twenty of those trusts have made the move in the last year, after the original letter by leading scientists was published.

Professor Born said he was pleased with progress that had been made, although he says it was

…slower than we'd have liked. There are still trusts that continue to use these unproven remedies through clinics and prescriptions. While it may be tempting to dismiss homoeopathy expenditure as relatively small across the NHS, we must consider the cultural and social damage of maintaining as a matter of principle expenditure on practices which are unsupported by evidence.

The Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital – one of only four specialists units in the country – has already reported that trusts have "stopped or drastically reduced" funding. Dr. Peter Fisher is the clinical director of the hospital, which obviously is an important target of this latest development. He has said that it presents a serious threat to the future of the hospital and has urged the NHS to resist the attempts of the real scientists to discourage the agency from providing funds for homoeopathic treatment.

Dr. Fisher, I′m sure you can survive quite well by going back to real medical practice – if you remember that calling… It requires the presentation of real evidence, you may recall, though that premise may escape you.




GENTLE WIND PERSISTS

From a site titled, “Disinterested Party” – seen at tinyurl.com/yoef57 – comes this alarming article:

Gentle Wind goes to school.

The mind-control cult known as the Gentle Wind Project is at it again, although now it′s targeting kids. Reno, Nevada-based KOLO-TV reports that a teacher at Mendive Middle School in Sparks, NV, “uses some materials from the program to help her students calm down,” and that the school′s principal is “aware of the teacher′s methods… but so far, [the teacher] hasn′t crossed any lines.”

That′s an interesting take on one of the nastiest little cults to take root in the U.S. – one that relocated to Nevada after it was shut down in its home state of Maine.

KOLO doesn′t name the teacher involved, but I′m guessing it′s Cecilia “Cece” Koester, whose involvement with Gentle Wind dates back two decades, and who variously describes herself as an “educator,” “educational consultant,” and “international author.” Koester is well-known for foisting Gentle Wind′s quackery on kids – she even wrote a book on her “brain gym” work. Her specialty is children with “severe and profound physical and emotional challenges,” according to a now-defunct Gentle Wind web site that Koester and her partner operated in Hawaii. In other words, targeting desperate parents, and taking them for every penny.

Time for Mendive parents to get in touch with principal Juliana Annand, and ask her what action she is taking to protect their kids from a cult whose activities have ranged from fraud to sex abuse. Annand can be reached via jannand@washoe.k12.nv.us or on (775) 353-5990.

The most charitable cursory examination of the Gentle Wind scam should have convinced Principal Annand that there is adequate reason to know that this teacher certainly has “crossed the line” in introducing quackery and superstition into her classroom. No retreat to “open discussion” or “freedom of speech” alibis will excuse this blatant support and encouragement of nonsense – unless Naivety 101 is a course at the school, which might well be the case. See randi.org/jr/2006-09/091506 for just one discussion of this scam.




MORE DOWSING STICKS

An anonymous reader writes:

This is just some information that you may find interesting and it may need to see the light of day. I find daylight so revealing when it comes to pseudo-science. Because of my work a couple of years ago evaluating the MOLE (obviously the Quadro Tracker) I occasionally get some email requesting information on some dowsing rods posing as technology. Recently I received an email about a “rod” called the “Alpha 6” that was sold to a major American-based hotel chain located in the Middle East. The engineer at the hotel stated that a company had sold the Alpha 6 to them for $23,000 US, and he was very suspicious. I had already heard that the Quadro-Tracker was being sold in Africa and the Middle East as the Alpha 6, so I replied to him that although I had not evaluated the Alpha 6, it was identical in appearance (used the same plastic injection molding) as the Quadro Tracker and the MOLE and operated under the same “operational principles” – which were not supported by the understood laws of physics. He replied with thanks and stated he would try to use the information to stop more sales. Anyway, I have included some links to companies selling the QT under different names and some pictures that clearly show that Malcolm Roe is still in business selling his wares.

Randi comments: We have already clearly established that the Quadro Tracker/Locater, the Mole, and the Alpha 6 are simply toys sold at high prices to the na´ve. When the US government tested the device and then put the QT and Malcolm Roe out of business – largely as a result of the attention brought to it and to him via SWIFT – he promptly moved his operation to the UK, changed the name of the gadget to The Mole, and resumed selling it. The Royal Engineers bought it, they swore that it worked, and when I offered the JREF million-dollar prize to them for the effective use of this dowsing rod, I received a polite letter of "no interest" – which we will understand. This is what′s known as, The Retreat of the Royal Engineers… Similar to the Charge of the Light Brigade, though with no heroism, only abject flight from the battlefield. See randi.org/jr/040204. Our correspondent continues:

To date I have identified five different names for the QT:

  1. The Quadro Tracker/Locator
  2. The Scandec (from a company in Norway)
  3. The MOLE (Global Technical in the UK)
  4. Alpha 6 (Also from Scandec in Norway, with offices in the Middle East)
  5. ADE 100 (ATSUK in England)

The funny thing about the ADE 100 version is that this was briefly offered as a low-cost version of another dowsing rod sold by ATSUK – the ADE 650. ATSUK is currently being represented in the US by COMMSOUTHWEST through Robert Balis, who was the operator of the rod during testing of the MOLE in Denver by me and by NLECTC. Soon after the failed test, Gary Bolton pulled Balis′ rights to represent Global Technical and the MOLE in the US and he immediately turned to another company selling dowsing rods. Anyway, enclosed are some pictures of various versions of the QT with some of the companies still selling it under different names. I hope this information is useful, and until I retire I must remain the unbiased (and unnamed) representative of the Federal Government. Keep up the good fight.

Thank you, sir. Readers can go to tinyurl.com/26uxee and tinyurl.com/yooey2 to see the pack of lies that these swindlers offer to potential customers, the terminally na´ve…




OFFICIAL RECOGNITION OF QUACKERY

From reader Paul Pacini comes this:

While perusing Quack Watch (quackwatch.org), I came across information indicating the recognition of the American Holistic Nursing Association (AHNA), or "holistic nursing" as a nursing specialty, by the American Nursing Association (ANA). See credentialwatch.org/inv/holistic. What the...? You've got to be kidding. Formal recognition? I searched "AHNA" and "holistic nursing" in your past commentaries and found: randi.org/jr/022505. Since the commentary was a couple years old, I thought I'd bring this to your attention. Here is the "exciting" news posted on the AHNA's website: ahna.org/new/specialty. I quote:

Having holistic nursing recognized as a specialty gives us legitimacy and authority within the mainstream of our profession and credibility in the eyes of the health care world.

Sadly, this could be true. What kind of woo-woo junk will they (over)bill our health insurance for now? I can see it now:


1 x Sterilized, ANA/AHNA-approved, hospital-grade ear candle = $1,847.36

I quote again from the site:

Specifically, holistic nursing is a specialty practiced nationwide that is based on a body of knowledge, evidence-based research, sophisticated skill sets, defined standards of practice, and a philosophy of living and being that is grounded in caring, relationship, and interconnectedness.

Evidence-based research? Really, is this research and evidence written up in any reputable journals following scientific methodology? Certainly something legit and evidence-based with defined standards can produce repeatable results in controlled experiments, right? I really like the footer of the AHNA website:

The Heart of Nursing
The Science of Holism

Um, okay. Is the science of holism like fact-based religion?

Thank you, Paul. Yes, this has to be distressing to thinking persons who care about the care provided to their fellow-humans. It′s hard to believe that the ANA has caved in to the AHNA just to ensure political correctness, but that′s the way the weak and na´ve prefer to behave. And to think that those nurses – male and female – who tended to my needs during my recent recovery, were members of the ANA, makes me very suspicious of their qualifications, I will admit.




BOB PARK SCORES AGAIN

The Unsinkable Bob Park – see him at bobpark.org and get on his free mailing list at listserv.umd.edu – has given us another bit of disquieting news about our administration′s unwavering dedication to faith-based decisions:

DOE POLYGRAPH PROGRAM: COUNTER INTELLIGENCE TAKEN LITERALLY.

A 30 Apr 07 memo notified Los Alamos employees that random polygraph tests of 8,000 personnel in high-risk categories will be conducted by the DOE [Department of Energy] as part of a new counter-intelligence program. Three years ago, a National Academy of Sciences study done at the request of the DOE, The Polygraph and Lie Detection, bobpark.physics.umd concluded that the high incidence of false positives made the polygraph worse than useless. Nothing indicates it will work any better for randomly chosen personnel. The polygraph, in fact, has ruined careers, but never uncovered a single spy. If you have an orgasm while being tested and lie about it, the operator can probably tell. For anything else, it′s a coin toss.

As Bob knows, both he and SWIFT have fought an unending battle against this farce known as the “polygraph.” I think that “pollygraph” would better describe it, since it delivers results that only have the form and pattern of real data, but no value. “Polly wants a cracker” would be all we should expect…




OPRAH ADDRESSED

Reader Drew Vics tells us:

From reader Helen O'Reilly comes this item, about which our Jeff Wagg says, “I like Slate more and more,” an observation with which I agree. Go to slate.com/id/2166211 and see Oprah Winfrey challenged on one of her recent very unwise endorsements…




VAGUE NUMBERS

At numerissimo.2007.fr/Eng/Intoduction you′ll find a numerology site – yes, that′s what I said – that makes an offer you cannot refuse, unless you have a few grains of common sense. I suspect that the author has English as a second language, so pass by the grammatical errors:

For very long time numerology has been the centre of numerous controversies. Today to prove you the exactness of this science I decided to send you a 200 pages study. If you want to receive this report, you just have to click the link below and fill in the form. I shall send you via email (in Word format) your study within one week.

The cost of this study is USD 5,00 but as people do not trust the Internet payments I chose the following procedure:

- First step: I do it, because I trust you!
- Second step: you pay when you receive it and just if you are satisfied (a payment link via Paypal will be included in my answer letter)

My report includes a full Personality Profile about 30 pages, detailed 10-years forecast about 60 pages which includes monthly forecast, a 3-years day-by-day forecasts about 100 pages, your "Lucky Numbers": monthly and daily numbers that work in your favour, and finally "The Diamond": the I Ching of Numerology at the interaction between the Spiritual and the Physical Body.

Folks, this is about 200 pages of material, so it′s offered for about 2.5 cents a page…! Now, though I dutifully determined my “name” and my “date” numbers – either 3 or 8, depending on which name I chose to use, and 8 for the date – I didn′t opt to find out my fortune by this means, partly because of the text that follows:

Each number has its characteristics and corresponds to a particular field which interests the man.

If one of these numbers (between 1 and 9) lack with figuring of your name, that indicates a lesson to be learned in order to better express you and consequently, to better carry you out. Your subconscious will involve you in situations which will oblige you to learn this number, to live it, in order to supplement in the future the grid of the “lacks”. It is the law of the evolution and no one can escape from it. Up to you to direct your own evolution in the positive or negative direction.

If one of these numbers is found more often than the others with the figuring of your name one says than this number is dominating. The dominant numbers characterize the principal features of your personality, your qualities in particular. But it also happens that a number is in excess. The characteristics corresponding to this number are then exaggerated and the consequences are similar to those of a missing number: you must learn how to live this number in excess and to limit the effects of them.

Any numerological analysis starts by quantifying the name and analyzing the distributions of the figures to emphasize the dominant ones and the lacking ones.

Umm, I′d say this is a little less than definitive, regardless of the mystical influences of numbers that these folks seem to embrace. But think: there are millions of persons around the world to whom such meanderings are meaningful, pertinent, and important, and they′ll pay fortunes to be told claptrap, not at all to our surprise.




IN CLOSING…

We now have a roster for TAM5.5! It consists of:

Mark Roberts, author of some very enlightening – and skeptical – reports on 9/11 conspiracy theories.

Kelly Jolkowski, President and Founder of Project Jason, an advocacy group for the families of missing persons with a special emphasis on important information about predatory psychics.

Rebecca Watson, founder of Skepchick, LTD, the most popular women-oriented skeptical site and co-host of “Skeptics Guide to the Universe.”

Robert S. Lancaster, founder of stopkaz.com and stopsylviabrowne.com. He has lots to say!

Michael A. Stackpole, the best-selling science fiction author and creator of the "Pulling Report," which debunks myths about role-playing games.

Next week I′m off to Japan with Jeff Wagg, to test a JREF-prize claimant. I thoroughly expect the same tiresome result: zilch. How these folks get convinced that they can actually perform miracles, is beyond me, even after all these years… A report will be coming up. I predict exactly chance results…

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