Friday, December 23, 2011

Tim Minchin's Song Cut from ITV Show

Though many will have already seen this, in the interest of keeping it trending, here is Tim Minchin's song that was cut from Jonathan Ross' show on ITV (Britain).

It is a beautiful, intelligent and funny song about Woody Allen... Jesus.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Logan Tucker Case: Not Solved by Psychics

Because I'm busy (preparing for Isaac Newton's birthday party), this is a cross-post from www.stoprobbie.com (the site with the focus of exposing the harms committed by liars (psychics) like Robbie Thomas - who is not psychic).

I received an email about Robbie Thomas being on a recent "radio" show (December 15 or 16) and though I haven't had a chance to listen to the program yet (I have to put all my forks away or the "radio" show will drive me to poke my eyes out - Robbie is a consistent liar and an abuser of the English language.  Listening to his radio programs involves a re-write of the dictionary to make his statements even close to sensible - but enough with the ad hominem attack), but I followed some of the links they included in the email.

First, let me point you to further proof that Robbie Thomas is a scumbag - on the following site, Danielle Egnew advertises her upcoming (at the time) participation in the Psychic Justice Tour (which failed miserably because of supposed anthrax attacks (though I suspect the more likely reason being that he is such a horrible liar)).  The advertisement that is placed on the site is almost verbatim what Robbie had initially used when promoting his tour - so Danielle Egnew can really only be guilty of failing to even do a cursory search of Robbie's (false) claims.  Robbie Thomas continues to use and abuse already victimized families by claiming to have been involved in solving their cases - even when the cases haven't been solved.  That's what a scumbag does.

http://www.wix.com/backseatbordello/psychic

Danielle will be the featured guest speaker during the Los Angeles leg of renowned criminal Psychic Profiler Robbie Thomas' Psychic Justice Tour dedicated to the families and victims of unsolved crimes, hitting 30+ cities in two countries thus far. The Los Angeles event is tentatively scheduled for July / August of 2010, times and venue TBA.

The tour showcases Robbie Thomas, whose TV pilot "Psychic Justice" has already been shot, discussing his 18 years as a psychic criminal profiler while presenting his involvement with sensitive high profile cases such as Victoria Stafford (Woodstock, ON), Elisha McMaster (Toronto, ON), Cesar Ivan Aguilar-Cano (Louisville, KY) , Logan Tucker (Oklahoma City, Ok) Natalie Holloway (Birmingham, AL), Karen Caughlin (Sarnia, Ontario), Marc Campbell (Sarnia, Ontario) and many others.


I suspect that I needn't point out that the Natalee Holloway case has not been solved (notice the misspelling - I suspect it is to limit people finding out that he is abusing her name but it could simply be that Robbie is that stupid.)  But, for those that don't know, the Elisha McMaster case is not solved (Elisha's mother, Jane, is still searching for help and, unfortunately, from other 'psychics'), the Karen Caughlin case is not solved (follow the link above for more information) and the Logan Tucker case is one that was not solved by Robbie Thomas.

The Logan Tucker story is available online and it clearly does not involve a psychic solving the crime.  Other psychics who attempted to get involved were outed as failures (see Oklahoma is not "OK" for psychic) and as the body of the missing boy has still not been found, Robbie is obviously lying about his involvement in the case.

The Marc Campbell story will be for another entry - but, rest assured, Robbie Thomas did not solve the crime and definitely didn't do so with his so-called psychic powers.

Robbie Thomas is a liar and a fraud - these are not merely opinions but statements of fact.  We've made these claims for a number of years and if they were not true, they would be actionable.  As always, if Robbie Thomas wishes to sue me, I will happily identify myself to his lawyers and I would be overjoyed to expose his lies, further, in a court of law. 

Friday, December 9, 2011

Call in the authorities: Michelle Duggar kills baby

Okay, maybe she didn't kill the baby, maybe the baby committed suicide.  One of them is definitely going to hell.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/12/09/showbiz/tv/michelle-duggar-miscarries-ppl/index.html

I had to point out this (really sad - even if you disagree with people literally fulfilling the requirement to "go forth and multiply") story to give some perspective on the inanity that is being labeled as "personhood".  The religious right is trying to push through legislation to define the beginning of life at conception which would, ultimately, make it illegal (a felony) to have an abortion (which is their ultimate goal anyway).  But would that same legislation bring about the need for an investigation into the death of every unborn fetus, embryo, morula and zygote?  Surely it would - a miscarriage is simply an abortion by another name.

If Michelle's body terminated the pregnancy, is she responsible, criminally, for its death?  If the pregnancy self-aborted, does the unborn baby's soul go to hell to suffer eternal punishment for committing suicide? 

"Personhood" legislation is stupid - life does not begin at conception - regardless of what your beliefs are about abortion.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oh My! Fake Psychic Endorses Pure Stupid!

Let me first apologize for not checking my email so frequently - I will do my best to read and respond to the emails in a more timely fashion.  

I was sent a link to a website for wristbands that claim to improve health/balance/all sorts of other things that it doesn't actually do and I clicked on it before I read the rest of the email.  I looked at the site (www.shuziqi.com) and was instantly reminded of the complete smackdown that PowerBalance received and the recent news of PowerBalance filing for bankruptcy.  I clicked away from the website thinking "that's a tax for not thinking" and returned to my email.

Noticing that the email was longer than simply "take a look at this site and the claims they make", I read a little further.  It turns out that the email was more to point a finger at non-psychic Darin James/Darin Scheiding and giggle.  Darin James/Darin Scheiding endorses the wristbands by providing a testimonial to them:

Darin Scheiding (Ontario, Canada)
I was first introduced to Shuzi just over two yrs ago. I have used Q ray and various magnetic products. But nothing gave me the relief and energy that the Shuzi did. I don't know if it is my bodies energy but the Q ray didn't work more than six months and thats alot of money. I swear by Shuzi and recomend everyone has one of these amazing products.
I am disabled with four separate conditions mostly in my spine . Shuzi gave me the energy to do more than I was in some time. And I can honestly say in my case 90% or more of my fybromyalgia pain was gone thanks to Shuzi. Having that kind of difference in my life means alot to myself and my family so thank you Stealth Health Canada for introducing me to this life changing product. Darin Scheiding Sarnia Canada.

Though he cautions that it may not be the same Darin Scheiding from Sarnia who also claims to be a psychic (liar), I think that the spelling (ha!) is on par with Darin's best.  (See Darin's twitter account or his website and compare for yourself!)

Seeing scammers being scammed by other scammers just doesn't seem so bad. 

(I do have to point out that the "Doctor Testimonials" on the Shuziqi site are laughable - the first two are clearly identified as D.C. (not real medical doctors, just gullible chiropractors) and the third is not a real medical doctor either - but they fail to disclose on their site that he, too, is a chiropractor.  Why aren't other chiropractors speaking out against such inanity?  Probably because when you live in glass houses...)

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Duty Exemptions for the Religious

While browsing through the Customs Tarriff T2011-3, as most of us regularly do, I came across some interesting duty differences.  Though it is frustrating to see religious exemptions, I was mildly entertained by the related statements.

In Chapter 62 (pdf) (some in Chapter 61 as well), you will find that the Most Favoured Nations (MFN) duty rate for most clothing is 18%.  However, there are a few items that are less than 18%, see below:



You will notice that under "Other made up clothing accessories; parts of garments or of clothing
accessories", it states "For clerical or ecclesiastical garments or vestments", the tax rate is 7.5% - for all "other", it is 15%.  A 50% savings in duty simply because it is "For clerical or ecclesiastical garments or vestments".

Below that you will see that prayer shawls are 0% duty and all others are 18% (with the only other exception being one that made me giggle - "Of protective suits to be employed in a noxious atmosphere;", which, for many of us, "noxious atmosphere" includes anywhere that someone is babbling about their sky-fairy daddy (ie. church, on your doorstep, at family dinners and the like.).  Does "protective suit", in that situation, simply mean any article of clothing that clearly suggests to the babbler that you are an atheist? If only.)

Sadly, just below that, you will also see that bullet-proof vests are subject to a regular duty rate of 18%!  Something that can help you (a bullet-proof vest) costs you 18% (duty) while something that can't help you (prayer/prayer shawl) is duty free.  Religious exemptions seldom make sense - this is no exception.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Lawsuits to Silence Criticism & The Streisand Effect

Without explaining the whole "affair", Rhys Morgan, a young skeptic from the UK, had blogged about a clinic in Houston, Texas that was offering an, at best, unproven treatment for cancer (that science-based medicine actually has treatments for).  After writing the blog, he received threats from a (though not confirmed) lawyer threatening him with legal action.

Unfortunately for the clinic and his "treatment", Rhys didn't roll over and, as a result, the clinic is experiencing the Streisand effect - "The Streisand effect is a primarily online phenomenon in which an attempt to hide or remove a piece of information has the unintended consequence of publicizing the information more widely. It is named after American entertainer Barbra Streisand, whose attempt in 2003 to suppress photographs of her residence inadvertently generated further publicity." (Wikipedia)

In addition to the Streisand effect, people like Burzynski will also be faced with a further empowered and more determined adversary - I should know, I've been threatened with legal action a number of times.  Though the letters and threats are rather unsettling at first, once the reality is discovered (that they are baseless, pointless threats), the attention to the matter and resolve of the accused can encourage them to dig deeper. 

Case in point: Robbie Thomas

I had blogged, jokingly, about Robbie Thomas (who is not psychic - he just lies about his supposed skills (note: that is an actionable claim if it were not true!)) and his lack of recognition at a police press conference regarding an abduction/murder case that he claims to have been involved in.  I did a couple follow-ups on Robbie Thomas (not psychic) but it was his threats of legal action that drove me to dig a little deeper into who he is and what he claims.

Today www.stoprobbie.com exists to follow Robbie Thomas' claims and actions (it hasn't received many updates recently because Robbie is, apparently, lying low - after having failed at conventions, failed at his tour and been exposed by his manager, he probably needs to build up a new web of lies before he resurfaces) and to expose him when he claims to have psychic abilities or when he claims to have solved any crimes using his supposed psychic skills.

In more than 20 years (his claim), Robbie Thomas has solved 0 crimes using his self-proclaimed psychic powers.  Robbie Thomas is not psychic and he didn't predict (because he isn't psychic) that threatening to sue me would only encourage me to do more. Congratulations Robbie Thomas and Stanislaw Burzynski - you have achieved the complete opposite of what you set out to do.

For more on the Stanislaw Burzynski / Rhys Morgan news, visit:
Rhys blog entry about the threats
The schoolboy blogger who took on a US clinic (Guardian)

For more information about Robbie Thomas (not psychic):
www.stoprobbie.com

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Your Health: Worth Changing Pharmacies For

"It's one of those things that can't be repeated too many times, but homeopathy is ridiculous." - Orac

One of Sarnia's local pharmacies has a Homeopath - I've blogged about it before.  I was really (really - honestly - seriously) hopeful that the amount of bullsh*t that she'd try to push would be rather innocuous and she would encourage people to use the PROVEN remedies and just throw in some water (homeopathy - it's just water) to earn a few extra bucks for herself.  However, while I was driving by Hogan Pharmacy today, I saw a sign that made me lose ALL respect for Hogan Pharmacy.

Selling Homeopathy as a "complementary" (albeit useless) medicine is one thing - "yeah, keep taking the stuff that is actually doing something and to make you feel like you're doing something more, have these tiny sugar pills that will change nothing".  The following sign is not about "complementary" medicine - it is about avoiding REAL medicine and taking something that is going to do nothing but leave you susceptible to a REAL disease.


Influenza is something that can be deadly for some people and is definitely not a pleasant thing to endure.  The old saying is "Once you've had the flu, you'll never miss a flu shot" comes with the standard caveat of "if you survive the flu" but, otherwise, is pretty accurate.  Many often confuse a "common cold" with having influenza - they are not the same thing and the illness, though similar, comes with additional serious concerns.  Seasonal influenza is typically much worse than the common cold and will often lead to secondary infections (bacterial pneumonia) and can worsen chronic medical conditions like heart disease, diabetes and asthma.

For a pharmacy to suggest that there is an "alternative" (note: not complementary) method of protecting a person from getting seasonal flu is outright reckless.  Many people rely on their pharmacist to be knowledgeable and trustworthy and this borderlines on abuse of patients.  Homeopathic flu kits do not work. They put people at risk of real infection and the idea of a homeopathic prophylactic is absurd - not only does it go against the "laws" of Homeopathy itself but Homeopathy is blatantly absurd.  There is NO active medical ingredient (or should not be or it isn't homeopathic) in a homeopathic "remedy".

If you go to Hogan Pharmacy, you might want to consider switching.  At the very least let them know that pushing absolute stupid on a credulous and trusting public is a violation of trust.

Get your flu shot - it might not only be your life that you're saving - don't be a selfish prick. 

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Who is Maurice Hilleman?

There are many fascinating stories about this scientist. Yet almost no one knew about him, saw him on television, or read about him in newspapers or magazines. His anonymity, in comparison with Madonna, Michael Jackson, Jose Canseco, or an assortment of grade B actors, tells something about our society’s and media’s concepts of celebrity; much less of the heroic. This is not a frivolous observation.” – Ralph Nader, April 2005, Scientists or Celebrities?

I recently received a book (Vaccinated: One Man's Quest to Defeat the World's Deadliest Diseases) from a fellow skeptic and it came with a strong recommendation that I read it.  I have read much about vaccines, vaccine controversies and the pharmaceutical industry but, on his advice, I read this book and, I must admit, it is an inspiring and captivating read.  The quote above by Ralph Nader was about Maurice Hilleman – the focus of the book – a man that, unfortunately, very few people know.

Ralph’s comment is truly telling about our society and what really makes a celebrity – we know who Paris Hilton is because of sex video, we know about some classless Jersey residents because of a reality show and yet few people know about a man who, during his career, developed 40 (yes, FORTY) vaccines.  Some of his vaccines are still used today – like the Jeryl Lynn strain of the mumps vaccine can be found in the MMR vaccine – Jeryl Lynn being the name of Maurice’s daughter.  He, as any good father would do when confronted with a sick child, had the housekeeper watch her, drove to his laboratory and picked up a swab (among other items), returned home to swab his daughter’s throat and, ultimately, created the world’s first mumps vaccine.  Though the vaccine was not able to help Jeryl Lynn (who made a full recovery), it has gone on to prevent illness and death for countless children.

In the vaccine schedule there are (approximately) 14 recommendation vaccinations – 8 of those were developed by Maurice Hilleman.  It has been said that Maurice Hilleman has saved more lives during his lifetime than any other scientist.  And you don’t know who he is?

I STRONGLY recommend that you get a copy of Vaccinated: One Man’s Quest to Defeat the World’s Deadliest Diseases – it is a moving and compelling book that will have you wondering how we, as a society, pick our “celebrities” and “heroes”.  Maurice Hilleman is a true hero and the story of his life is definitely a worthwhile read.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Advice to 'Psychics': Predict your own failure - it's a sure bet!

My last blog entry (sorry that I've been so busy) was about Darin James speaking at Robbie Thomas' Paranormal Conference the end of October (this month). 

As I suspected, another venture by Robbie Thomas has been canceled.  You can see the notice on Darin James' website.

Robbie Thomas is not psychic.  Darin James is not psychic.  If psychics existed, they wouldn't be doing party tricks and scamming trusting people - they'd be collecting their million dollars from the one person who has been calling them liars for a number of decades. 

Since Robbie Thomas (who is not psychic) has taken down the website, here is the poster that he emailed to me.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Double the stupid or stupid squared?

My good friends Darin James and Robbie Thomas will both be appearing at Robbie Thomas' big waste of time (aka paranormal conference) to be held the end of October, 2011, at the Super 8 in Sarnia.  I'd give you more details about the event but it seems that they can't seem to settle on what they are.  Is it 2 days? 3?  What is the price?  Is there a VIP pass anymore?  Depends on what poster/flyer you read and what website you read and on what day. 

What makes me most excited about Darin James and Robbie Thomas "joining forces" (ha ha ha ha) is that collectively they'll still not be able to figure out who I am (at least not using their claimed psychic powers).  Just another point I can make when I point out that if Robbie Thomas and Darin James weren't lying (scumbags) when they claim they have psychic powers, why can't they figure out who I am or who the people are behind http://www.stoprobbie.com/?

Learn more Darin James and Robbie Thomas and make up your mind - is the "pairing up" going to double the stupid or will it become stupid squared?

(Unfortunately this posting comes shortly after my posting about the Caughlin request for an external review of their case - I was just sent information about Darin James appearing at Robbie Thomas' gong show and didn't want to wait to post the information.

The FACT that both of these lying pieces of shit contacted the Caughlin family (directly and through "associates") to claim they could help them is simply a coincidence and is not related to the following posting.  Neither Darin James or Robbie Thomas have solved criminal cases using their claimed psychic powers - if they claim otherwise, they're lying or mentally ill.)

Media Advisory: 1974 Unsolved Homicide - 14-year old Karen Caughlin

From: Caughlin Family
Date: May 31, 2011 10:00 AM
Location: Holiday Inn, Point Edward, Ontario (East Hall)

Victim's Family to Request for OPP Commissioner Chris Lewis to Order an External Review of the OPP's Criminal Investigation into the Unsolved Homicide of Karen Caughlin

(Pt. Edward, ON) The Caughlin family will hold a press conference to discuss and seek public support for an external independent review of their sister’s 37- year unsolved homicide under the jurisdiction of the Ontario Provincial Police.


Bob Sauve, father of homicide victim Kim Sauve (1983), will be in attendance. Convicted killer, Richard Boudreau, remains part of both families’ unease.

The Caughlin family will bring forward new information related to Karen’s whereabouts prior to her murder. They are seeking support for an independent review of Karen’s investigation in the interest of truth and justice.

Contact Information: Kathy Caughlin: caughlink@shaw.ca

Friday, April 29, 2011

Chiropractors are not real doctors

A number of people who email me about my blog want me to "take on" chiropractic "more" - and I can surely understand their reasoning.  I have blogged about chiropractors and the lack of evidence to support their claims and I have received a number of comments (from both sides) regarding those posts. 

First of all, there are "good" chiropractors out there - though, in Sarnia, the number is probably closer to how many you can count on one finger than on one hand. 

Chiropractors should NEVER EVER EVER be considered as your primary care "Doctor" - they aren't real doctors.  Most have received extremely limited science based training and most have never received any training in diagnosing disease.  They aren't doctors and the title "Dr" before their name is misleading to many.  I get that and I understand the strong desire for me to blog about chiropractors (let's not forget that YOU could easily set-up your own blog and explain the problems with chiropractic - I needn't be a lone voice in this) but I'm cautiously optimistic that people are coming to understand that Chiropractic (for the most part - and by most, I mean, MOST) is silly (and can be dangerous).

With all that said, this story is disturbing (not all that uncommon - we just don't have investigative press, locally, to expose the scammers in Sarnia): "We Were 'Duped' by Chiropractor's Ads".  When they try to hide the fact that they are chiropractors is another whole story.

Jeffrey Needham, in Sarnia, who is not a doctor, has made extremely dubious claims himself and has been forced to remove a number of claims from his website.  I have blogged about his "feature" in a book.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Nothing fails like prayer

A recent article on canoe.ca shows another example of prayer doing nothing - or it says that the god he was praying to also wanted his father dead. 
"Confessed killer Ranjit Singh was convinced prayer could overcome the demons who told him to do bad things, a psychiatrist testified Wednesday.
But Dr. David Tano agreed with Crown prosecutor Gary Cornfield only modern medicine could cure Singh of the evil spirits which haunted him."
and
"Basically, medication is the only thing that would keep the disease under control, as opposed to his decision to pray?" Cornfield asked Tano.

"Yes," the forensic psychiatrist said.
And for those who will be offended, remember that I'm probably not talking about your god

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Confronting silly propositions where necessary

My wife and I were recently at a dinner party that involved some heavy discussions relating to weight loss, alternative medicine and the usual terms used by Alt med (toxins, balance, natural, wellness).

It is extremely disheartening (albeit somewhat laughable) that many of these 'certified' 'fitness experts' have little (no) understanding about weight loss and human physiology so I felt it important to explain some basic points to someone who was speaking, with conviction, rubbish.

After the evening conversation, my wife suggested that maybe I shouldn't have been so firm with my words when discussing another's profession. I asserted that nonsense, spoken as fact, needs to be confronted head on. I'm fine with people being passionate about and making claims about 'things' so long as they are prepared to explain why or present evidence for such claims. I'm willing to listen and I often learn from others - however, when the basis for a claim is clearly rooted in nonsense, I'm not afraid to suggest that they might be a bit 'off'.

During our drive home, I told my wife that I feel it is important to confront silly propositions especially when other people could be mislead by them. That evening was definitely one of those times. The truth matters and I believe that this person ultimately realized that maybe their position was based on bad reasoning. Others who were listening, however, benefitted the most. And that can often be the case - bystanders or witnesses to a discussion are potentially saved from accepting the proposition.

Yesterday, however, was a different case. While having dinner with our extended family, someone began talking about complete nonsense and I didn't even offer a skeptical comment. After they left, my wife reminded me of our conversation from a couple days earlier. I suggested that, because the person making the claims is one that regularly 'talks shit' and was in the company of people who would understand that little of what he has to say is based in fact, there was no need to point out the obvious.

I also find it difficult to introduce a logical explanation to people who are so simple that they could not understand it so I often don't even bother.

To put it simply, if you talk nonsense to me and I don't point out that it is silly, I likely think that:
1) You are probably thought of as a regular bullshitter and most people would see that
2) You seem so simple that I don't think you would understand how silly your claim is anyway
Or
3) I think you are the only one who might act on such a belief and the outcome has potential to be truly funny for the rest of us

In other words, if you make a claim and I ask you why you accept/believe/claim such, it is because I feel that you are possibly intelligent enough and/or respectable enough to engage. If I don't respond it may be that I have reason to believe that you may be speaking of something resembling the truth but it could be that I have reason to believe that most people would hardly reference your claims to support their arguments for your lack of integrity.

Call things stupid that are stupid unless the people claiming such stupid appear to be as stupid as that which they claim. Sometimes claims made by crazy people will drive people to assume the opposite is more likely to be true. Not engaging pure stupid can often be just as (or more) successful than actually giving them the respect of a response.

(And, yet, I am driven to argue with homeopaths, reiki practitioners and others. Silly me.)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Homeopathy Awareness Week

Now that Homeopathy Awareness Week has come to an end, I thought I'd let Homeopaths in on the big secret - people use homeopathy because they aren't aware of what it really is.

I see homeopathy awareness week, really, as counter-productive for those hoping, really, to avoid the truth.

Almost without fail, when you ask someone about homeopathy, they make reference to 'natural' and 'herbs'. I am not going to tackle the misapplication of the word 'natural' here (natural includes: influenza, feces, anthrax, lead, mercury) or what benefits might be derived from 'herbs' because homeopathy is not about that.

Often, homeopathy claims to use the very 'toxins' (don't get me started on that word) that the 'natural' 'pushers' are so against. I say 'claims' because almost all homeopathic preparations don't include even a molecule of the supposed active ingredients.

So, yes, I fully support homeopathy awareness week - we need to make people aware of homeopathy including:
- the active ingredient is diluted beyond the point of actually being present
- there is not a single large scale RCT that shows homeopathy to be any better than placebo
- it is just water
- it goes against almost all understandings in modern science
- to accept that 'water has memory' would require some evidence for such a claim (none exists but plenty of evidence exists to show that that is not the case)
- if water did have memory, how does it forget all the pooh it has had in it?
- a treatment that works also works whether or not you believe in it (homeopathy doesn't work even if you believe in it)
- just because it is sold (legally) doesn't mean that it has been tested for efficacy OR safety (ask Gary Null)

For more on homeopathy, see:
www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com
www.1023.org.uk

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Magnet Therapy - A Closer Look

There was a booth at the recent Sarnia home show for Magnets 4 Health (http://www.magnets4health.ca/). Joanne Caissie is the owner of Magnets 4 Health and someone who I have had conversations with. She readily admits that she is not a Doctor and that she isn't suggesting that magnets can cure anything - but only when you press her for the science behind what she sells/claims.

At her booth, if you just listened to what she was telling other potential customers, you would be left with the impression that magnets can cure, or offer relief from, all sorts of things. Calling her on such claims is about the only way to get her to become matter-of-fact about her products. "Many people report..." with a reference to a few different anecdotes is about as far as she would go with me. "Search the internet for yourself" and "I'm not a Doctor" was her response to "Where is the science?".

On Joanne's website, you will find the main body of the site stating "Experience relief..." followed by a list of maladies/diseases ranging from Acne to Epilepsy and Shingles to "Alzeimer's". Interestingly, Joanne would like you to believe, if you don't accept her anecdotes, that she's not claiming magnets can affect the natural history of any of those conditions but, if you aren't skeptical, it might just help you.

Remember, a therapy that actually works does so even if you don't believe in it. For example, antibiotics work whether or not you "believe" in them.

Not surprisingly, Magnets 4 Health also has a flyer that you can get at her shows and it matches her website very closely. One element, oddly, happens to be missing from her website that is listed on her brochure/flyer. Where it says "Experience relief..." on her website it says "Experience relief from..." on her flyer. I don't doubt that she took the word "from" off her website because it might be construed as implying that magnets can "heal" asthma, Alzheimer's, cancers, Multiple Sclerosis, etc - things that she can't back up with evidence.

If you happen to search for Magnets 4 Health in Google or view the source of her webpage, you'll notice the "Description" of her site begins with "Experience the healing and energizing effects of magnetic jewellery!". The same statement is found on her flyer. And the "Keywords" for her website include: "increase blood flow", "toxins removal", "pain relief", "reduce inflammation", "body healing" and "increase immunity".

In her brochure and on her website she boldly states: "Our jewellery provides the same healing effects as the methods used successfully by physiotherapists all over the world". She also claims, "Exactly how magnets help alleviate pain is only now being scientifically discovered and understood. One main benefit is the increase in blood circulation in the affected areas. Acting like a heating pad, but not limited in time of use, magnets appear to relax blood vessels, allowing them to bring more oxygen-rich blood and carry toxins away from the affected site. It is also felt that a magnetic field helps to diminish electronic pain signals sent by nerve receptors to the brain."

Unfortunately for Joanne (and the people who are mislead by the claims), we know that much of what she is claiming borders on outright fraud.

Consider this ruling by the FTC against a company that marketed magnets for "healing" that states, in part:
IT IS ORDERED that respondents, directly or through any partnership, corporation, subsidiary, division, or other device, including franchisees, licensees or distributors, in connection with the manufacturing, labeling, advertising, promotion, offering for sale, sale, or distribution of magnetic therapy products in or affecting commerce, shall not represent, in any manner, expressly or by implication, that such products:


A. Are effective in treating cancer, including lung and breast cancers, diabetic ulcers, arthritis, or degenerative joint conditions;
B. Lower high blood pressure;
C. Stabilize or increase the T-cell count of HIV patients;
D. Reduce muscle spasms in persons with Multiple Sclerosis;
E. Reduce nerve spasms associated with diabetic neuropathy;
F. Increase bone density, immunity, or circulation; or
G. Are comparable or superior to prescription pain medicine,
unless, at the time the representation is made, respondents possess and rely upon competent and reliable scientific evidence that substantiates the representation.

The order deals, clearly, with claims similar to those made by Joanne at http://www.magnets4health.ca/. Studies have been done to see if magnets help reduce pain and they have been clear - there is no benefit of "real" magnets over "sham" magnets.

Let me also deal with other misconceptions about magnets (especially those used in Magnet Therapy):
  • They often are not even strong enough to present a magnetic field below the skin.
  • The iron in our blood is NOT magnetic - if the small magnets could affect blood flow, an MRI would kill every one of us.
  • We are subjected, on a regular basis, to far greater magnetic fields with no ill effects (and no benefits).
  • The claim that these magnets are not safe for pregnant women is a silly tactic to get people to believe that these magnets actually do something.
  • If magnets truly increased blood flow, why isn't erectile dysfunction at the top of the list of conditions they treat?
I don't doubt that Joanne is aware that much of what she claims is not supported by science and her attempts to distance herself from specific claims of healing and relief are nothing more than an attempt at avoiding litigation.

In saying that, I'm often left with wondering whether someone, like Joanne, is being willfully deceptive - the idea that they can know that the science doesn't support their product and the regulatory agencies have made judgements against people for similar claims yet they still will attempt to get the idea across that their therapy can cure something without explicitly stating it.

Magnet Therapy does not work, has no plausible mechanism of action and it definitely is not a replacement for physiotherapy and other treatments/therapies. Joanne is, as she claims, not a Doctor and has no evidence to support the idea that magnets elicit anything more than a placebo.

People often ask me if they should "talk to their doctor" about things like this. I think, "Yes, you should talk to your Doctor about magnet therapy. If she/he laughs at you, you've probably got a good Doctor."

Below is a scan of the flyer available at her booth at the recent home show: (click for larger image)

An email response from Joanne Caissie (caissiej@xplornet.ca) when asked about the evidence to support her claims:
You can go on Google and research Magnetic Therepy like I did. There are hundreds of pages on studies on magnets. I am not a doctor or anything like this. I do not cure people either. I have had great sucess helping people with their small aches and pains(*). Magnets will work on most people but there are some that it does nothing for them. Magnets have been around for many years. Hope this helps you. Thanks so much.



Joanne Caissie
(*Do I need to point out that conditions often not considered small aches and pains include (and this list is a DIRECT copy off of her site - spelling is hers):
Arthritis, Achilles Tendons, Acne, Allergies, Alzeimer's, Anxiety, Asthma, Back Pain, Blood Pressure, Bone Fractures, Bronchitis, Cancer, Carpel Tunnel, Chronic Fatigue, Cold Hands & Feet, Constipation Cramps, Depression, Diabetes, Epilepsy, Fibrosis, Fibromyalgia, Fluid Retention, Frozen Shoulder, Gastric Ulcer, Gastroentreritis, Gout, Headaches, Irritable Bowel, Lumbago, Menopause, Migraines, Muscular, Spasms, M.S., Neuralgia, Papilloma, Parkinson’s Disease, Prostrate Disease, Psoriasis, Repetitive Strains Injury, Restless Leg Syndrome, Rheumatism, Sciatica, Shingles, Stomach Ulcers, Stress, Tendonitis, Tennis or Gold Elbow, Tinnitus, Torn Ligaments, Travel Sickness and Varicose Veins.)

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Of course, psychics aren't self-serving - that's why I love them

Have you ever heard someone say "why don't you ever see the headline 'psychic wins lottery'?". It bothers me when I hear that - I think, to myself, "geez, educate yourself people - psychics can't use their powers for personal benefit."

Ask any psychic and they will tell you they don't do what they do for their own benefit, they just want to help people. If that truly is the case, you can understand why none have used their powers to win the lottery, predict the stock markets (for themselves) or even made life-altering decisions to protect/benefit themselves.

Let us remember that psychics, unlike the average population, don't have 'bad' members. Never has one abused their powers and secretly purchased a lottery ticket. It is for this reason that I absolutely admire psychics and their selfless acts.

Given their special gifts, you have to appreciate that they spend their time working with people and not benefitting from it themselves. Please, the next time you encounter a psychic, take some time and thank them for everything they do - especially with no expectation of personal gain.

Crap. I wrote the above blog entry because from what psychics have told me, they're awesome people. When my wife proofed it, though, she thought I left out some important information.

I'm left with quite a quandary. My wife pointed out that psychics almost always charge for their 'readings'. If that is the case, then the reality isn't that psychics can and do use their 'powers' for personal benefit.

It also occurred to her that, if it were true that they can not benefit from their powers, psychics can no longer get involved in solving crimes where rewards are offered. That would explain why there are countless unsolved cases on the books.

So, to accept that psychics exist we have to accept that:
1.) psychics have agreed not to use their powers for personal benefit
2.) of all the 'psychics' that exist, all of them have always been honest (and not used their skills to win the lottery, game the stock market, purchase life insurance to take advantage of an unexpected death, etc)
3.) everything we know about physics is wrong

Or we could apply Occam's Razor and accept that psychics don't exist.

Really, if psychics were such caring and selfless people, why would they be spending their time charging people to do parlor tricks when they could be alleviating substantial amounts of pain and suffering of others by solving cold cases?

There are three self styled 'psychics' in Sarnia that actively advertise their skills. Today I challenge each of them to stop just claiming selflessness and start living it.

The local news agencies have recently reported that CrimeStoppers is offering $2,000 for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for the death of Karen Caughlin. Solve the crime, reduce the suffering and silence the critics OR you should be looked upon not as selfless and caring but fraudulent and heartless.

The three psychics I refer to are:
Darin James
Mary Young/Mary Demitro
Robbie Thomas

My challenge to Darin, Mary and Robbie: Solve the Caughlin case, collect the $2,000 and I'll write a public apology and publish it (full page) in the Sarnia Observer.

My challenge to you, reader of this blog, is this: make sure that Darin, Mary and Robbie are familiar with this challenge.
Darin James - darinjames@darinjamesonline.com, Phone: 519-542-7482, 519-402-0024, 519-491-6138 or twitter @the_darin_james
Mary Young - 519-337-8770
Robbie Thomas - RobbieThomas@cogeco.ca, 519-337-8333, 519-337-2344

(Note: Robbie Thomas has, for years, publicly claimed that he worked with police on the Caughlin case. The case, as mentioned above, has not been solved and Robbie Thomas has inflicted substantial amounts of pain on the Caughlin family. Robbie Thomas is a liar and a fraud - www.stoprobbie.com)


Friday, April 1, 2011

Excitement lies ahead (or excitement and lies ahead?)

Thanks to RealityInSarnia, I came across this site. I will have to set some time aside this weekend to wade my way through it. It is packed with some of the craziest ideas every dreamed up by crazy people.

I am reassured by the facebook 'like' button saying 'be the first of your friends to like this'. Though some of my friends are woo 'leaning', I think all of them would have a laugh at this site.

Take a look at the site. Laughs are no charge - everything else is probably a scam.

If I was in the country I'd be going to her Forest Health and Wellness Fair - that'd be excitement well worth the $3.00.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Stop Robbie Thomas and Accommodationism

I have blogged, in the past, about accommodationism as it relates to evolution acceptance. I'm not an accomodationist and I don't think we should be afraid to recognize that acceptance of evolution does undermine many religious beliefs.

However, my reference to accommodationism in this entry is related to our goal, at www.stoprobbie.com, to get Robbie Thomas to change his lying and abusing ways. In the past few weeks, we have been contacted by people who would be willing to help our 'cause' with Robbie Thomas/Police/Crimestoppers but my skewering of their beliefs (on other topics) make them hesitant to take part.

A couple of the other contributors to the site had pointed out the complaints and concerns and wondered what we should do about it. Rather than have this issue discussed on www.stoprobbie.com, I thought I'd talk about it here.

First of all, yes, I'm a skeptic and an atheist. Yes, I have attacked the firmly held beliefs of almost everyone (we all hold to at least a couple truly whacky ideas) and I'm not about to stop.

Robbie Thomas is a liar - he does not have psychic powers and he has never solved a missing persons or murder case using paranormal methods. I despise his activities as they relate to abusing already victimized families and I think that the goal of www.stoprobbie.com is admirable. I joined the group because I truly wanted to help - it does bother me that, possibly, the group is not getting the support it needs because of my other activities.

However, I am not going to apologize for them. I'm not sorry if something I said was counter to your firmly held beliefs - whether it be reflexology, homeopathy, reiki, therapeutic touch, chiropractic, creationism, psychics, ear candling, other altmed practices, any other anti-science or even god. My goal, here, is to encourage critical thinking, increase the understanding of logical fallacies and to promote science. Your woo-woo is fair game.

Note: I don't spend much time blogging about homeopathy and other pure stupid on stoprobbie.com - I could see it being a problem if that were the case.

If you can't be bothered to help stop the abuse by a psychic because you don't share my skeptical views on other topics, it is you that is in the wrong. Robbie Thomas is causing real harm and your inaction is only allowing him to continue doing so.

So...
What do you think? Should I part ways with the group? Will it get broader support without me? You can post your thoughts in the comments, email me at sarniaskeptic@gmail.com or email the group at emailus@stoprobbie.com. Your input, either way, is truly appreciated.

Friday, March 18, 2011

The only skeptic in the room...

I'm sure, if you follow any of the skeptical blogs, that you've already seen the following video but it brings me to publishing a blog entry that I wrote a while ago and had not yet posted.  Watch the video, if you haven't seen it, and then continue on to the rest of my blog below it.



It is often that I am the only skeptic in the room.  Often it is an uncomfortable position (or experience) to be in (probably moreso for my wife than it is for me) but one that I do value and cherish.  Don't get me wrong, I wish I wasn't the only skeptic in the room but I value that my comments/questions/ideas could ultimately be helping people be better thinkers (or thinkers in the first place). 

Seldom, when I'm in a group setting, that I engage a person and question their (truly questionable) beliefs/statements, do I not get a positive response from at least one person in the group.  Richard Dawkins has often suggested that sometimes the discussion isn't for the purpose of winning over the person who you are directly engaging but the other people listening - I think that is often the case and, in those instances, calling something absurd when it is absurd doesn't have such a net negative effect.  It may entrench the person who espoused the crazy belief but others who are simply watching it unfold may very well appreciate that the beliefs are crazy/absurd. 

Though it isn't the point of this entry, I think it is important that people keep "approach" in mind when there is an audience.  Conceding "points" to the other person in an attempt to get them to explain their beliefs (or lead them down a garden path) doesn't necessarily help get the real point across to those just listening in.  They might, wrongly, assume that some of your "opponent's" claims are valid.

I wanted to discuss or express my frustration with how other people react to nonsense.  After I ask someone to explain why it is they believe something and then, possibly, point out the faulty reasoning for the belief, I am, almost without fail, approached by someone who says "I knew that what they were saying was dumb but I don't know enough about it to challenge them so I just let it go in one ear and out the other". 

The point I want to make is this: You don't have to be an expert in a subject to understand whether or not the acceptance of a position is based on logic and evidence.  You can't afford to not speak out - you'd hope others would do it in situations where someone is trying to bamboozle you - you owe it to others to do the same when they might need it.

A person's belief could be based on the acceptance of something that you DO know about, as well.  If someone was to state that we aren't going to run out of oil and we shouldn't be investing in renewable energies, you might not be aware of what oil reserves actually exist and what rate we go through the oil, but what if the premise for their belief/claim was that they believe the earth is only 6000 years old and that the oil is naturally produced in a matter of years and not hundreds of centuries?  The premise is wrong so any logical extensions from it are, at best, suspect.

I'm the first to admit that I'm not an expert in much - I'm definitely not an expert in everything.  I do not know much about demolition techniques, building engineering, jet fuel burn temperatures, etc. but I can reason my way through potential red flags presented by "9/11 Truthers".  Simply applying Occam's Razor would lead one to look at the "Truthers'" claims about "9/11" being an inside job.  Asking questions like "What makes you believe that?" or "What evidence do you have to support your claim?" or even asking them why they reject the other hypothesis/explanation can be enough to have them expose their weak reasoning and for others to see just how wacky their beliefs are.

Be a skeptic, if you find something implausible, ask questions.  Your first assumption about the claims seeming "far-fetched" may be wrong and you might actually learn something but, gee, is that really a bad thing? 

Do yourself and the ones around you a favour - withhold acceptance of a claim until you have good reason to accept it and, most importantly, don't incredulously relay decision-affecting information that you don't have reason to suspect is accurate.

And maybe, one day, I won't be the only skeptic in the room :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

This week in eSkeptic - Pet Psychics

In this week’s eSkeptic, in a spin on David Letterman’s “Stupid Pet Tricks,” psychologist Bryan Farha examines the very real world of stupid pet psychic tricks—people who think their pets have psychic power. Farha not only debunks the claims of psychic pet owners but reveals how the tricks are done through a series of techniques based on natural (not supernatural) powers.

Read the article...

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Okay, psychics are entertaining - if you're not the one being screwed by them

I do get a laugh out of 'psychics' and their claims, so I will give credit where credit is due - they're entertaining for those who understand that they're nothing more than bullshitters.

However, I was flipping through the newspaper and a little piece of paper fell out.  I picked it up off the floor and turned it over to find...


Mary is a local 'psychic' who, obviously, advertises via our local newspaper.  You'll notice the disclaimer at the bottom that says "For entertainment only".  What? You can't see it?  That's right, because it isn't there.

I guess that makes Mary, just like Robbie Thomas, a liar.  And this might make her a fraud.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Judgement Day / The End of the World - May 21, 2011

Since I have a low tolerance for stupid, I can't seem to make my way through the websites that are suggesting that "Judgement Day" will occur on May 21, 2011 so I'm left with a few important questions.
  • What happens between May 21, 2011 and October 21, 2011?
  • Do these people actually have licenses to drive?
  • Is 'stupid' contagious?
But, seriously, I'm thinking this whole May 21, 2011 thing is a joke being played by atheists and it will turn out to be a movie launch for Gawd Bless America by Blake Freeman.








Monday, March 7, 2011

Let's start from the beginning

I feel like I'm repeating myself.  Okay, maybe it isn't a feeling.  I'm repeating myself.  I'm repeating myself.

Often when someone brings up Homeopathy, Prayer, Healing Touch, Psychics, etc., a "believer" in the item being discussed will argue a couple ways:

1.) Quantum mechanics/Quantum physics explains how it works
2.) We don't have instruments to test how it works so we shouldn't dismiss it/As instruments get more precise, we'll see how it works

But, they will forget to argue about the most important point.

It is true that there are a number of things that "happen" or "work" but we don't know how they happen or work even though we know that they work.  We may not know, precisely, how a particular medicine works but that is not the first part to be discussed. 

There are many things about our world and the human body that we know and there are many things that we do not know but that doesn't mean we should simply accept or reject claims based on our current knowledge (or lack of knowledge).  We use our current knowledge and models to come up with potential methods of action for new drugs/treatments and then do studies to determine effectiveness/usefulness BUT not everything that we expect to work, works and not everything that seems slightly implausible, fails to work. 

Things that work, we try to figure out how they work so we can apply this knowledge to other potential drugs or treatments.  Things that don't work, however, we don't give a shit how it is supposed to work. 

In other words - present the evidence (real evidence, not just stories) that it works, FIRST.

So, for people who claim 1 or 2 above, let me say this.  You're wrong.  Quantum physics/mechanics does not explain Homeopathy, Prayer, Healing Touch, Psychics, etc. because they don't work and there is nothing to explain.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how Homeopathy works because Homeopathy doesn't work.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how prayer works because prayer doesn't work.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how Healing/Therapeutic Touch (TT) works because TT doesn't work.
Quantum physics doesn't explain how Psychics work because Psychics are lying scumbags (http://www.stoprobbie.com/).
Quantum physics doesn't explain how anything works if it doesn't work. (Quantum physics might explain why something doesn't work, however! But only if it doesn't work!)

Before you argue about or claim 'evidence' for how something works, please, please, please, please present the evidence that it actually works.

We know why Homeopathy doesn't work (no possible method of action, no active ingredient left, biologically implausible).  We know why prayer doesn't work (too many non-existent gods to choose from). We know why TT doesn't work (no possible method of action - it's not even f'ing touching!). We know why Psychics don't work (dead people are mute). 

(And, to deal, in advance, with the standard arguments:
1.) I've tried it, and it didn't work for me. It's stupid.
2.) It didn't work for you.  You need to learn about logical fallacies ('post hoc ergo propter hoc', 'argument from authority', 'argument from antiquity', 'argument from popularity' for sure), regression to the mean, the natural history of the disease and learn about spontaneous remission, misdiagnoses of the initial condition (thanks Tim Minchin), confirmation bias, anecdotes vs. data, proper blinding, placebo, etc.
3.) I'm not a Big Pharma shill.  I don't get paid to do what I do here - helping to stop the abuse of others is payment enough.)

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Two things that 'Therapeutic Touch' isn't

1.) Therapeutic
2.) Touch

More on Therapeutic Touch.

Homeopathic remedies that work - complete list

Consult the following list of symptoms and the proven homeopathic remedies.

Symptom - Remedy
1.) -

End of list.

(Note: Thick wallet syndrome is not a recognized condition though all homeopathic 'remedies' can alleviate its symptoms.)

Looking for a REAL psychic - check out this list

Before you contact a psychic, be sure they are a real psychic - consult this exhaustive list of proven psychics. If they're not on this list, they aren't psychic.

1.)

End of list.

If you think you're psychic, you can get your name added to this list by going here. Successfully complete the challenge and we'll add you to this list.

How to tell if your house is haunted

It isn't.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Indoctrination is not choice

Discussing reasons for belief with people of faith is a touchy subject - not only because we are questioning the core beliefs of people but because it often isn't clear what their argument (or basis for argument) is (or even the definition of their god).  I have tried to address this topic in other blog entries and, I'm sure, it will be a topic that we face for years to come.  One point that is often neglected is not why someone believes but what made them believe in a particular god.

We (atheists) have a number of different arguments to make regarding belief in a god but I don't think we argue (often) enough about the method used for "making" believers - indoctrination.

It is almost always unfair for an atheist to ask what it was that brought a believer to believing in their "god" just as it is generally wrong for a believer to suggest that they "chose" to believe in the particular "god" that they follow.  Religion relies heavily on indoctrination - teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically. 

For the majority of believers, they follow the "god" that their parents followed - they stick to the religion that their family was a part of.  Though some move to different denominations of churches, very few actually change the "god" that they worship. 

To suggest "choice" it would have to be clear that one was given.  Most families don't teach their growing children comparative religions and fewer families, I submit, consider leaving discussions/information about religion until the child is old enough to reason his or her way through the claims.  In societies/religions where children were excluded from the religious rituals, practices and "instruction" until adulthood, Christianity and other religions were able to take hold and (almost) completely replace the previous/traditional faiths of those regions.

Indoctrination is not a choice.  It is the circumvention or avoidance of choice.

Richard Dawkins and others have argued that it is a form of child abuse (and with good reason).  Even ignoring the idea that children are being threatened with eternal damnation and hellfire - the abuse of a developing child's mind when it comes to reasoning and questioning is reason enough to see it as harmful.  Though some religions are (or claim to be) in favour of science, one of the greatest potential harms to a future scientific career would be to teach someone to simply accept something without evidence - this is the core point of religious faith.  To circumvent the skeptical view or to push the argument from authority before a child is even old enough to understand reason and logic is not the path we should be taking.  But I digress...

When discussing beliefs with a believer, are we naive, then, when we try to make the "how do you know your "god" is the true "god"?" point?  They didn't choose their "god" so the reasoning was never there to be questioned.  As is often said, you can't reason someone out of a position they didn't reason themselves in to.  This is made even more difficult because of the destruction of reason and logic in the indoctrination process.

The argument, although completely hypothetical, that we may really need to make is this: 
Suppose you were not indoctrinated into your particular religion.  When presented with the information and books for the different religions at this point in your life, would you have selected your current religion/"god"?  Would you be able to accept the primary claims made by any of the major religions?

Since most people were not given the choice, the "what if" scenario might be a difficult one to get across or for them to imagine.  Some will counter with the idea that they didn't really "believe" any of it until later in life when they were "born again".  I would argue that if the child had not received the original indoctrination they wouldn't have had any pre-planted idea of it being true for them to return to later in life. 

I seriously doubt that many adults could be reasoned into accepting some of the "amazing" stories presented in the Koran, Bible, Torah and other religious books without the predilection to "believing" miraculous claims without evidence - a penchant that was created during their indoctrination as a child. 

I don't doubt, however, that people will suggest on this blog and elsewhere that they were 1.) raised as a non-believer, were not indoctrinated and 2.) reasoned themselves into accepting their "god".  (I doubt that the claims are complete and accurate but I don't doubt that people will make them.)

If you believe in "god", is it the same one that your parents believed in?  If you claim to have "chosen" your "god", what actually brought you to believing in that "god"?  Had you researched the other religions/gods? (Over 2800 of them?)  Why did you dismiss the others?  I am, honestly, interested in the answers to these questions.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Robbie Thomas: Old Predictions Still Wrong (Crosspost)

Take a look at this link we just received from a follower of the blog:
Psychic story questioned

Posted 3 years ago

Sir: Re: The article "Putting killers behind bars" (The Observer, Dec. 31, 2007)

I see that local, self-described psychic Robbie Thomas has again been allowed free advertising in your paper. With the exception of two paragraphs, this article becomes nothing more.

In these paragraphs, Mr. Thomas claims he provided Louisville, Ky., police with key information regarding the abduction, on June 29, 2007, of a four-year-old boy, with no result given. Together, with the headline of this article, the implication seems to be that his tip led to solving the case, but a visit to his website further elaborates to show his disappointment with police for not investigating his information. (The boy's body was discovered by trash collectors on July 6 and a suspect was arrested on Dec. 6.)

I don't see any evidence of his assistance in solving the case.

He may well possess the powers he claims, but perhaps he could publish some verifiable details of cases that he has helped solve, as inferred by the headline.

Mr. Thomas also states in the article that his predictions "have never been proven wrong," yet in an article from June 1, 2005, regarding his investigation of the (still) unsolved Karen Caughlin murder, he predicts "the case will come to a close in six months."

Could it be that some "psychics" are using well-documented methods to take advantage of people at their most vulnerable? Does a fee of $200 per half hour sound reasonable? Caveat emptor.
It has been almost 6 years since Robbie Thomas claimed that a case would be closed within six months (see what the Caughlin family has to say about Robbie Thomas). The case, still, remains open and unsolved. The other case that this letter writer was referring to was that of Cezar Cano.

For those who've read this blog for a while, this will come as no surprise to you. Robbie Thomas is not psychic - just a liar and a huckster.

No publicity is bad publicity? Robbie Thomas must be proud

If the commonly used saying of "no publicity is bad publicity" is true, Robbie Thomas scored a major victory last week.  When I contacted the company that we advertised with about extending the ad for http://www.stoprobbie.com/ (see it here), I asked them how many views the ad had as well as how many clicks it got, they told me it was "by far the most popular ad of the week".  They sent me their standard "you should consider display advertising" email and I think we're going to do that. 

Does anyone have any suggestions for what the banner ad should have? We can put pictures and have multiple "slides" in an animated banner.  Send me your thoughts (sarniaskeptic@gmail.com) or email them to http://www.stoprobbie.com/ at emailus@stoprobbie.com.

I know that http://www.stoprobbie.com/ received donations from a couple individuals as a result of the Robbie Thomas/Crime Stoppers claims but they can always use assistance in other ways.  If you are interested in helping out, don't send me money - contact emailus@stoprobbie.com for information.  The group, as I see it, is more interested in promotion and assistance in getting the message out and, unless a big media campaign is the direction the group wants to take, we have enough money to sustain the site related expenses and current advertising for a couple of years.  (The domains have been paid up for 10 years already as well.)

Robbie Thomas or, legally, Robbie Poulton of Sarnia is not psychic - if he claims otherwise he is lying. 

And, Robbie, continue to contact my family, friends and associates - I love the comic relief.  (Keep in mind that since many of the people you are talking to actually know the truth, you are only proving to them that you are indeed as big of douche bag as I've told them you are.)

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Chiropractic Revisited

Just recently I received emails from fervent supporters of Chiropractors - oddly, it is never people who support the possibly beneficial components of Chiropractic.  They are almost always the dogmatic followers of the century old failed idea of innate intelligence. 

An email in my inbox on Monday morning was from a lady who claimed that she "wouldn't dare let a doctor inject her child with toxins", has "never had the flu shot and never got the flu", is "the healthiest (she's) ever been" and has "taken my(her) kid to a chiropractor since he was 12 weeks old". 

Without getting into the "fear mongering" that is attempted when someone says "toxins" as it relates to things like vaccines, I thought it appropriate for me to respond to her specific statements.  To the not vaccinating statements, I said, "You owe me and a great percentage of the population a lot of thanks.  Without us, you'd be putting your child at much greater risk.  Choosing not to educate yourself does not allow you to abdicate your responsibility for your children. http://www.wired.com/magazine/2009/10/ff_waronscience

Sadly I had to address the vaccination point because many Chiropractors advise their patients to avoid vaccines - and that probably made sense when Chiropractic was invented (prior to effective vaccines).  Chiropractors, I sometimes must restate, are not Doctors.  They are definitely not trained in infectious disease and they should not be (I know, many do) making diagnoses.

Chiropractic may be bad for your life (insurance)
On Monday night, only about 12 hours after reading the obnoxious rant from an, obviously, ignorant woman, I get a call from my insurance company - I'm changing my life insurance so they start the process with a phone interview about previous medical history, high risk behaviour and the like.

One of the questions that I was asked went something like this:
"Do you use the services of a chiropractor or alternative health practitioner?"

Based on the majority of emails I get to my sarniaskeptic@gmail.com account, I thought the correct answer was "Yes, Yes, I use an alternative health practitioner - science based medicine."  Like most of the questions asked during my phone call, I was able to answer "No".  I paused for a second and then asked (and I paraphrase because I was definitely not expecting a question like that!), "If I did, would that affect my insurability?" to which she answered "Do you use an alternative health practitioner?"  I reassured her that I did not to which she explained that it would not make me uninsurable but it could affect my premiums.  With further questioning she told me that she does not think that seeing a chiropractor has ever lowered insurance premiums. 

I'm certain that some will argue/suggest the insurance companies are simply conspiring to destroy chiropractic and that there is no basis for them changing insurance premiums based on someone seeing an alternative health practitioner.  Get over it, there is no conspiracy.

Life insurance is based on a calculated risk as much as it can be.  The only reason that life insurance could justify raising or lowering premiums is if the risk was real or if the potential risk was reduced.  Following that, logically, there must be reason for insurance underwriters to consider chiropractic patients (and other users of alternative health practitioners) at higher risk of dying (or dying sooner - since, we are all going to die).

Chiropractic has very little science to support their services and, where they do, the services they provide are often available from other (licenced, regulated and OHIP covered in some instances) service providers (ie. Physiotherapists).  If you see a Chiropractor, you owe it to yourself to be informed; see a Chiropractor that works hand-in-hand with your Orthopaedist and avoid any Chiropractor who suggests that they can cure anything (thick wallet syndrome excepted).

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Surprise surprise - Priests accused of sex abuse

I apologize for the quick/short blog - much on the go and no time to blog.

A recent article on CNN tells of three priests who sexually abused boys and the cover-up of it by the Archdiocese. This doesn't come as a surprise - it is something that seems to happen on a regular basis. The problem with teaching people to not question things is that enables priests and others to get away with such abuses of power.

Religion is not a force for good.

Oh, and fuck the pope.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Wow - Stop Robbie Thomas Activity!

I just got an email from a contributor to http://www.stoprobbie.com/ - he has posted a new entry about Robbie Thomas, Psychics and Why it Matters!  Head over there to read it.

I have just scanned through it - quite a bit to read but I did pick up a couple of things!

First of all, I love his Penn Jillette quotes.  It is hard to beat what Penn says and the way he says it.

Secondly, I can't help but laugh when I read one of the links he included.  Back in April of 2010, Robbie's ex-manager exposed him as a liar, a cheater and a fraud and I posted the manager's complete "release" on the blog.  In an attempt to be fair, I offered Robbie the opportunity to respond.  His response was priceless and is even funnier today. 

And finally, the "advertisements" that he is referring to include some signage that is being made for http://www.stoprobbie.com/ as well as some posters and other ads.  (And... this.)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Having fun at the Walmart Pharmacy - Homeopathy awareness

My wife and I ran in to Walmart to get a few things earlier today and, while we were there, my wife asked if I needed anything (she probably regrets that now). I told her I had to go to the pharmacy - the cold medicine aisle. It was full of people but I was able to squeeze in to see the nonsense on the top shelf (homeopathic flu treatment). I grabbed a few of them (I had to reach above a couple that was squatted down looking at other medicines) and it got the attention of a few people around me. The couple that was squatted down asked if what I grabbed was 'good stuff'. I told them, no, that it was pure stupid. It is homeopathy and there is nothing in it. Completely stupid.

The lady responded and said that it was made from herbs and natural stuff. I corrected her - I told her that it is not herbal medicine or anything like that, homeopathy dilutes the active ingredient to the point when there is (literally) nothing in it. I pointed out that the particular crap that I grabbed was made from duck liver and that it is diluted "a million million million million million etc etc times. There is nothing in it.".

When she responded with the word "holistic", I knew I was dealing with an ill-informed person. Her comment was "I think that holistic medicines combining alternative medicine with western medicine..." and I interrupted her and said "what do you call alternative medicine that works? Medicine." while I put the crap back on the shelf and said "at least it is on the top shelf where most people won't be able to reach it". I left the aisle and my wife and I went to check out.

My wife suggested that I make life interesting but I'm not sure she meant it as a compliment.

Update Feb 7, 2011 9:39AM:

PS.  If you think it is stupid that Walmart carries a few Homeopathic "medicines", consider Hogan Pharmacy - they have a Homeopath on staff!  (A few points about the picture below - it was scanned out of "Business Trends" "magazine", contains a bunch of stupid - anyone who mentions "allopathic" or "allopathy" deserves to be heckled and because something is "old" doesn't make it right.  If we're going to mention "the turn of the century" (forgetting that we've actually "turned" another century in case Lynn hadn't noticed - she's referring to the 19th - 20th century not the 20th - 21st), we should also mention that life expectancy was decades shorter than it is today.  Homeopathy may have appeared less stupid then but we've grown up and we KNOW that it is stupid today.) (Click the image for a larger version.)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Come on Bill, don't beat around the bush - Is there a vaccine/autism link?

Bill Gates was interviewed by Sanjay Gupta about his recent annual letter.  Sanjay asked him about the link between Autism and vaccines...

This is definitely worth a read (or watch the video):
http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/02/03/gupta.gates.vaccines.world.health/

This might be it...

Tomorrow, I will join with my fellow skeptics in an overdose.  Unfortunately that might mean that this will be my final blog entry. (Ha!)

February 5th will be the world-wide demonstration to show that Homeopathy couldn't possibly be more dumb.

http://www.howdoeshomeopathywork.com/

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Aimee Martin Responds

A few weeks ago, I posted a blog entry, "New Year, More Stupid".  I had copied (word for word) an ad that was placed on a local classifieds site (classified.sarnia.com).  The advertisement was for Aimee's business that included a number of services.  I inserted links to sites that explained what some of those services claim to be and to explain what they are not.

Just this morning I noticed that there was a comment awaiting moderation (the blog automatically sends comments into moderation for old posts) from Aimee.  I have approved it on that entry but have copied it below.

Aimee Martin said...

Ok... first of all, I am one of the Registered Myomassologists that you have blatantly criticized without any personal knowledge what-so-ever. So before you make comments that you cant substantiate, please do take me up on an offer for a treatment, then blog about it! At least have some knowledge before you open your mouth. I am registered by the largest massage therapy body in Canada... the Natural Health Care Practioners of Canda...and we recieve the same "D" designation as all the other community colleges, medix, etc... I have all my training in Swedish Massage, just like any other therapist you would see. Most insurance companies do recognize us, and the United States employs Myomassologists throughout their health care system. Myomassology originated from the US Association of Massage Therapists in 1972. Our massage is very hands on, and not spiritual or based on energy- although many find merit in those treatments as well. And No, we are not into making a quick buck, and again, get your minds out of the gutter because we do not perform that type of massage! In fact, why not ask one of the several nurses and other health professionals that have become clients because they were thrilled with the massage they recieved from us. So before you pass judgement, I welcome you to come in and have a massage...heck I will give it you for free...but you might be covered for your additional treatments by your insurance provider...you might want to check into that! :)
First of all, I don't think I made any mention about "myomassology" at all - the only links related to the advertisement for "myomassology" related to the use of the word "holistic" and when there was mention of correcting leg length.  Since we're talking about substantiating claims, let me remind you that I made NO claims about massage therapy being bunk and it was you (Aimee) who made the claims about bunk (see below).  The ball is in your court to substantiate the claims (you won't because you can't - the evidence is counter to your claims).

With that said about "myomassology", it seems that it is massage therapy on woo-woo.  The link suggests that the concept behind "myomassology" was to take massage therapy from basic legitimacy and into complete stupidity.  You (Aimee) seem to be trying to take "myomassology" back to massage therapy and, if that's the case, I applaud you for that (you have a lot of baggage to ditch, however, first).

I'm all for massages (though my wife will attest that I don't care for them myself) as long as they are being advertised honestly (see Massage Therapy) - to relax a person and relieve pain.
 
Also, to criticize claims, I don't need "personal knowledge" - I am familiar with the claims being made and where they are bunk, I called them bunk.  I included the ad in my blog because of the references to mismatched leg lengths, Reflexology, Cranio Sacral Therapy and Fire Cupping - all of which are bunk.  I've talked about named techniques (like Contraction Release Therapy, etc.) in the past - most of which are bunk too. Since the claim isn't distinct, I didn't get into it.  The only information about it that I could find included "correcting leg length" and bullshit regarding "correcting muscle imbalances".  If you have any specific information on it, I'd be happy to review it.
 
So Aimee, if you ditch the woo-woo, the massage therapy is valid. 
 
Thanks for the response and I apologize if you mistook the point I was trying to make.  I hope this makes it a little clearer.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Homeopaths and other idiots tout the "great" blog on bioclinicnaturals? Really?

Before I go into the whole entry - I will summarize the only response that needs to be made about these arguments and Homeopathy in general.

If something does not work, it doesn't matter that science (supposedly) can't explain how it is supposed to work.

On to the response - this was posted at http://bioclinicnaturals.com/us/en/articles/6/student-voices/20/professional-themes/show/74/homeopathy-and-cbcs-marketplace-expos-or-propaganda and someone linked to it in the comments on a recent blog entry. I'm finding that I have to address the same claims over and over and it needs to be a direct response or people can't figure out that their argument is a failed one.  Here we go...

The following is a list of arguments sighted by "Marketplace" in their exposé on homeopathy with the premise of the argument clearly stated and my personal rebuttal to the premise.

Argument #1: We tested the remedies and we could find no active ingredient and no difference between two reportedly different remedies.

Premise #1: We can’t find the active ingredient so it doesn’t exist.
Stupid. That is not how science works. The 'theory' that is put forward to explain the super-dilution is question begging - how does it forget the soap, dust, etc. that the water has in it? We don't need to figure out how something is supposed to work if it doesn't work.
Rebuttal #1: The lack of precision of our tools or the flaws in our methodology does not preclude the existence of something beyond our perception. When I went to school we learned that electrons were the smallest particle. Now we have discovered several smaller sub-atomic particles and, in fact, we are no longer sure that an electron is a particle at all! Furthermore, we know that sunlight is needed to synthesise vitamin D in our skin. One might say vitamin D comes from sunlight; though no matter how we measure or analyse sunlight we are unlikely to detect any molecule of vitamin D in it. This is a simple illustration of how different mechanisms than the traditional substance-receptor model, on which pharmacology is based, might be at play with homeopathy to produce an effect.
Really? I'm beginning to think the greatest concern with homeopathy is that its adherents have never heard of Google - search 'vitamin d in sunlight' http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/vitamind/ . And not understanding pharmacology presents a real problem when you're trying to argue against it. Homeopathy doesn't work. We don't care how it might work if it did because it doesn't.

I'm also amazed that people use the evolving precision of science as an argument against it.  Predictions/descriptions were made about the atom before it could be seen, etc.  Science makes valid predictions and testable and falsifiable claims - Homeopathy does not.
Argument #2: People can take on an overdose of homeopathic pills and it doesn’t harm them so obviously homeopathic pills are inert and useless.

Premise #2: All medicines that have the ability to heal have must cause harm when taken in large amounts.
This is hardly just a premise, it happens to be true.  More evidence that Homeopathy doesn't work.
Rebuttal #2: We know that all medicines have a therapeutic window where benefit out ways harm. Some drugs like warfarin and digitalis need to be precisely dosed whereas water-soluble vitamins like vitamin C and B12 can be taken in hundreds to thousands of times the required daily amounts without any signs of toxicity. If you take the argument to extremes anything can cause harm - even water. Maybe the “overdosers” didn’t take their experiment far enough. I’m sure if you gave enough homeopathic remedies for long enough you would see first lactose intolerance in some, then obesity and diabetes in most.
The toxin is in the dose - everything can be toxic - even vitamins - ask Gary Null.  So you think that (because eating too much sugar is the end result of taking too many pillules) somehow you have an argument in favor of homeopathy? You are just admitting that there is nothing in it. Stupid.
Argument #3: There is no scientific proof from placebo controlled human trials that homeopathy is effective therefore homeopathic remedies are nothing but a placebo.
No, the scientific evidence shows that homeopathy is nothing more than placebo which, again, is nothing when it comes to actually treating/curing things.
Premise #3: Homeopathic medicines are placebos and placebos are an unacceptable, deceptive and ineffective form of treatment.

Rebuttal #3: Placebos are by far the best studied medicines. Their benefits have been evaluated and proven in every placebo controlled study ever conducted. Placebos definitely have an effect; in fact they have become the standard by which all pharmaceutical are compared. While the objective of a drug is to perform better than a placebo, there are many instances when the placebo performs as well or even better than the active treatment! Placebos also have the ability to cause harm which supports argument #2 that they have the potential for benefit.
Drugs that don't perform better than placebo shouldn't be permitted to be sold/offered as treatments - that's why homeopathy is stupid. Placebos are nothing - you keep forgetting that and, at the same time, are countering your own arguments. Lying to a patient (homeopathy) is unethical and, more importantly, not necessary because 'conventional treatments' also elicit the placebo effect. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20129180 - the complete (not quote-mined) conclusion of the study is: Placebo effects in RCTs on classical homeopathy did not appear to be larger than placebo effects in conventional medicine. Best of all, that was published in the Homeopathy Journal - one that is generally apologetic for homeopathy.
Argument #4: The use of homeopathy causes harm because people are convinced to use it in place of real treatments like vaccines and chemotherapy.

Premise #4: Persuading people to use treatments that aren't proven prevents them from using more proven treatments.
More than a premise - http://news.sky.com/skynews/Home/World-News/Homeopathy-Parents-Charged-Over-Baby-Daughter-Glorias-Death-In-Australia/Article/200905115276109 and here, here and here.
Rebuttal #4: The irony of this argument is that the examples used as standards of care are the same ones that have come under the most fire recently for their cost benefit ratio. Many cancer patients are opting out of chemotherapy for secondary cancers because of their experience with side effects and lack of results. Parents around the world are taking a hard look at whether vaccines are as safe and effective as they have been convinced to believe. Ultimately whether people chose to use homeopathy as an adjunct to conventional care, as an alternative to conventional care, or choose no care at all, the choice is theirs.
It is true that people make stupid decisions based on misinformation - want an example? People use homeopathy. Sorry. Arguing from anecdote and popularity is dumb - don't do it if you expect us to take you serious. Parents avoiding vaccines are doing so because people are lying to them. Consider.... http://www.gatesfoundation.org/foundationnotes/Pages/christopher-elias-110114-ending-the-silence.aspx

http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2011/01/17/AR2011011703882.html

We are not against choice - we are for informed consent and honesty and ethics in medicine - that means using the best available science and evidence and the avoidance of tooth-fairy science and wishful thinking.
The Underlying argument: Homeopathy doesn’t fit with what we know about medicine. Despite the reports from users that it helps them, we can’t understand how it could possibly work. Since we haven’t experienced benefit directly, and we can't imagine how it might work, it is best to conclude that homeopathy is untrue because it is incongruent with our paradigm.
This is as bad as an argument from anecdote - maybe even worse.  What is being suggested is "don't knock it until you've tried it".  Human fallibility is what is the problem - that is why we do controlled trials to see if the effect is greater than placebo and the potential benefit outweighs the potential harm.  If someone tries homeopathy and thinks it works for them it is still just them (falsely) thinking it worked for them.  Most illnesses to be treated with Homeopathy are self-limiting so we, wrongly, assume a causal effect simply because symptoms improved without considering the natural history the disease normally takes without an intervention.  (ie. Whether or not you treat a cold with an OTC cold medication, it is going to last about a week - the OTC cold medication does not alter the course of the illness.)
The Underlying Premise: If something seems to contradict the current truth then it is untrue.
Strawman. That was never claimed, stated or implied.
Rebuttal of the Underlying Premise: This premise is the opposite of science. Everything we believe to be truth is but a working theory. The purpose of science is to observe phenomena and attempt to explain them. Not to exclude phenomena from our present orthodoxy to maintain a sense of omniscience.
Orthodoxy? Homeopathy is a cult - science isn't.
It is true that we cannot say for certain how homeopathic remedies work. For certain they may not work for everyone - at least in the ways we might expect. And so, one might conclude that we should only use treatments if we know how they work. But ask yourself this: Do you know how any medicine works? You personally, not the pharmacologist who designed it, the consumer. I would suggest that most people don’t know how aspirin relieves their pain but they believe it does. In fact, unlike many of the modern designer drugs, aspirin and its predecessor white willow bark have been used with great satisfaction and efficacy long before anything was know about its mechanisms of action.
They don't work so we can't find out the mechanism. Medicines that work we use and ones that don't, we don't. If they work, we'll want to learn how they work because it might help with developing other treatments and it might enable us to refine it or enhance the effect.  If homeopathy worked (it doesn't) you would have a point - there would then be reason to research its mechanism.  However, since it doesn't work, no point.
Patients and practitioners alike can only know so much. We gather information from various sources and we have to determine how much we trust these sources. Ultimately, we all have to make decisions based on what we believe. I think the reason more and more people are seeking alternatives like homeopathy is because they have lost faith and trust in the conventional system. Evidence based critics often sneer with contempt at the patient who trusts anecdotes from a family member over a clinical trial. However, this choice is becoming more a reflection of the loss of credibility in the establishment of medicine in the eyes patients than an example of pure ignorance. To the patient they have a relationship with their family member –they trust them, they believe them. "Marketplace" aired a story that reflects the message they want to convey. I think their message is clear. What do you believe?
Science-based medicine enabled us to move from using ineffective treatments (that appeared to work) and dangerous treatments (that were based on what seemed to be logical hypotheses) to what is now saving millions of lives every year.  Science isn't perfect but it is self-correcting.  It continues to advance and change as new evidence is presented.  The scientific method provides a valid testing methodology for Homeopathy - randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trial - and, in well done studies, Homeopathy has failed to meet the basic requirements for efficacy.  The effects that it presents are nothing greater than (and explained by) the placebo effect.  With that knowledge, we are wasting our time arguing over how it might work, what quantum mechanics, physics and biology have to say about its mechanism.  There isn't a mechanism to be studied.

The problem with your suggestion is that anecdotes do appeal to us.  Who doesn't love a good or feel good story? A lack of understanding of science, logic and biases is what leads people to accept stupid propositions. People choosing alternative medicine doesn't mean it works.

I do agree that we have to determine what we trust - the reality is that people have a screwed up perception of what is trustworthy. 

Marketplace did a valid investigative piece - the reality is that homeopathy is silly. There is no such thing as 'balance' when it comes to a ridiculous proposition.