Archive for the ‘Pseudoscience/Non-science’ Category

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Perfect…

22 June 2008

I don’t even think I have to say anything about the video.

Just watch:

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Conservapedia takes on Science

18 June 2008

For those of you who have never visited the website Conservapedia.com, I suggest you go read some of their “articles, especially the ones discussing homosexuality and evolution. Comedic gold I tell you…Gold.

Now, they have decided to take on science for real. Now keep in mind the man who runs Conservapedia, Andy Schlafly has no background in biology.  He runs the website along with a group of (really unfortunate) home-school students.  So, this makes his attempt to take on Dr. Richard Lenski who recently released a study of E. coli.  Schlafly decided to write a letter. From Off Resonance: Read the rest of this entry ?

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Which Beliefs Deserve Respect? Part I

15 June 2008

This post is a result of a discussion that I had in the comments of a re-post of my note “Bad Parenting” on Facebook. I argued that while as members of a (supposedly) open society we are often told that we should treat all ideas equally and respect others’ beliefs, this eventually leads not to a breakdown of traditional moral values that those on the Right seem to be so afraid of, but to consequences that damage the pursuit of equality in our country and the world. That said, there are two perspectives that I would like to look at this from. The first, and possibly more straightforward, is the scientific perspective. This perspective will be used to examine ideas such as Creationism, naturopathy, homeopathy, and faith healing that claim to be scientific beliefs and ideas. The second is a socio-political perspective: Ideas such as racism, sexism, and classism.

Recently in the United States, there has been a great deal of debate regarding whether or not certain ideas should be taught in science classrooms. The most publicized debate has been between those who wish to teach a hypothesis (at best) called Intelligent Design. Those who are subscribers to this hypothesis claim that the evidence for Evolution just doesn’t exist. The problem is, that they offer no evidence besides what amounts to religious reasoning. Despite this, some say that both sides of the argument must be heard in the name of “fairness”. The problem is that science is not necessarily about being “fair”.

In science, a hypothesis must be testable and falsifiable. That way, research and experiment can be used to determine whether or not the hypothesis a person proposes is factual. This is where ideas such as Intelligent Design fail. There is no way to test “God did it”. Thus, Intelligent Design cannot be considered scientific, and should not be given the same treatment as tested theories, such as Evolution. However, this does not only apply to the Intelligent Design vs. Evolution debate. In essence, what the proponents of Intelligent Design are saying that despite what overwhelming evidence says, they are correct. Some even go as far to say that God placed fossils in the fossil record to “test our faith”.

read more of this post

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The Happening – Intelligent Design Movie of the Year?

14 June 2008

Disclaimer: I haven’t actually seen the movie, so I am relying upon other sources for specifics from the film.

Remember Expelled? That “documentary” by Ben Stein and Co. that sought to prove that Big Science was actively censoring anyone who had evidence of Intelligent Design. Well, while that may have been the most obviously pro-Intelligent Design movie of the year, it seems that M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening demonstrates an apparently tenuous grasp of science as well as the influence of “spirituality”.

In an interview, he was asked what influence religion and spirituality had on his film. He states that “”the Native American culture and relationship with nature, the relationship with the sky, the earth, the rock the bear.” He also claimed that cast he Mark Wahlberg because of his strong faith in Jesus. But Wahlberg’s religious faith ended up causing a ton of reshoots. Whenever Shyamalan would ask Wahlberg what he was thinking about, and Wahlberg replied, “Jesus,” Shyamalan would make him reshoot the scene in question”. It turns out, as the title of the interview states the science behind The Happening is Jesus. Which of course means there is very little science at all.

Apparently, in the movie Mark “Can’t stop thinking about Jesus” Wahlberg plays a science teacher who explains to his students that “Evolution” is “just” a “theory” (They keep using that word, I do not think they know what it means). Of course, when asking why the bees are apparently disappearing, we are told that it is an “act of nature that we simply cannot understand”. This sounds suspciously close to the IDiots idea that science doesn’t really allow us to understand the world around us because of Jesus (or something of the sort).

This type of attitude in movies is annoying. The stereotype of science being something that should be taken less serious that religion and spirituality because science isn’t as “deep” as religion. Well, I call that bullshit. Science goes far deeper than religion and spirituality ever have and ever will. Scientists do not accept the answer that is so commonly peddled by pseudointellectual theologians, that is, that “God works in mysterious ways” and that we should not try to understand everything about the world around us. It’s frustrating when mysticism is placed on a pedestal and the “cold, materialistic, scientific world-view” is chastised as being too cold, when without the methods inherent to science, our lives would be far worse off than they are today.

Sure, nature can be cruel, nature can be cold and unfeeling. That doesn’t mean that we should make up fantasies instead of learning about the world around us.

Read a review of The Happening here.

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Bad Parenting

14 June 2008

Imagine that you have an 11 year old child who has been diagnosed with diabetes. Now imagine that this condition is treatable with insulin (it is). So we have a clear picture there, right?

So this child enters a coma as well as DKA. Now, DKA is a life-threatening complication of diabetes mellitus, more often type I than type II, but either way it is not a good situation for a diabetic to be in, at all. In fact, it was the major cause of death before insulin injections became available. So, if your child were suffering from such a complication, what would the correct course of action be? It’s multiple choice:

A. Give your child the insulin that would have no doubt saved her life

B. Do nothing to save her life and assume that God will rescue her

read more after you choose

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Naturopathy in New York

12 June 2008

When I wrote my post about naturopathy a few days ago, I neglected to research the status of “N.D.” licensure in my home state of New York. Well it turns out that as of now, Naturopathic doctors can not be licensed in New York State. However, there is a group called the New York Association of Naturopathic Physicians that is lobbying the State Legislature to allow such licensure. The intent of the legislation they sponsor is, from their site: “to expand access to natural medicine by licensing naturopathic doctors to diagnose and treat under a defined scope of practice”.

The only problem is that naturopathy is, like other forms of “natural” healing, full of quackery. Naturopathic “physicians” rely on terms like “healing energy” and “qi”, and at accreddited Naturopathic universities courses are available in a multitude of disproven methods and the old stand-by homeopathy. So while the NYANP would like you to write letters in support of their goals, I would urge you to do the opposite: Write to your legislator and let them know that you do not support pseudoscience replacing real, science-based medicine. If you are in favor of or believe in such healing methods, I suggest you check out the Denialism blog as well as Respectful Insolence for some very well-written posts about all sorts of woo.

Read more about Naturopathy, written by a real physician here.

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Please Let this Bill Die Somehow…

12 June 2008

Oh Louisiana. Now, I understand that most of the time many of the reputations that certain states have (like Dick Cheney’s remarks about West Virginia and incest) are not entirely fair. That said, Louisiana has confirmed that they are under the sway of the same religious-right crazies that are stereotypical of much of the South.

The Louisiana House of Representatvies has just passed a bill that, on the surface, allows teachers to “supplement school science textbooks with other materials”. Now, this sounds like a reasonable goal? Education shouldn’t be limited to text book and I don’t think that was truly the case before this bill was passed. This bill, however, sounds very similar to other bills that have been proposed in states (see here and here) like Florida.

These bills, while sounding benign, are often sponsored by groups such as the Discovery Institute and their goal of subverting science education in favor of teaching “Intelligent Design”. This of course is, despite their constant denials, simply creationism (specifically Fundamentalist Christian creationism) dressed up with a new name. Luckily, there are some organisations who recognize this bill for what it is, such as the Americans United for Separation of Church and State, as well as the Louisiana Coalition for Science.

The executive director of Americans United understands exactly what this bill is: “It’s time for Louisiana to step into the 21st century and stop trying to teach religion in public schools,” “Laws like this are an embarrassment.” Now keep in mind these are not the words of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or other “notorious” atheists. No, these are the words of Rev. Barry Lynn. Notice the “Rev” before his name. If only there were more (perhaps there are?) sensible Christians like Lynn. His organization has stated that lawsuits will certainly follow after any attempt to bring religion into the classroom. I can’t imagine this is too far off. There’s no way this bill is going to be vetoed by Louisiana’s governor. Bobby Jindal is perfectly aligned with those who seek to replace science education with religious education. Sadly, it was not a Republican-only bill either. In fact, a member of the party I belong to, the Democrats, introduced this bill. So it seems that even my party has been infected with anti-science thinking…Wonderful.

On a more positive note, all of those who voted against the bill were Democrats. At least three of them had the sense to vote against this asinine bill.

Read more at nola.org.