Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Sense About Science: Celebrities and science 2010

I have referred to "Sense About Science" in the past and I think they are a wonderful (and necessary, unfortunately) organization that is dedicated to showing what the science really says about issues that are often misrepresented.

Each year they put out a report that reviews the health claims that are made by celebrities and other people in the public eye. 

This year they tackle issues ranging from magnetic bracelets and Power Balance bands to "detox" diets and homeopathy.

You can download the PDF report or read some of the news coverage here and here.

(They tackle the "full of chemicals" claim that I, often, have to counter - Nothing is chemical free: everything is made of chemicals.)

The poor need help all year long (And helping isn't something only Christians do!)

On Monday, a letter to the editor was printed in The Observer regarding a church helping a particular woman. Below is the letter (with a few comments from me inserted):

Church comes to aid of woman (link)

Sir: This time of year, the media reports the generous acts of so many inspired by the spirit of Christmas. Invariably, we lament this spirit does not last all year long. It does.

The Christians of Bluewater Baptist Church quietly (so quietly that she's bragging about it in the newspaper - luckily Jesus didn't say anything about being humble) and diligently watch over and provide for so many of the small needs of a close friend who lives in a dilapidated old house with her cat. Her small disability check barely covers her needs.

She is so poor that even a box of Kleenex, toilet paper, fresh fruit, bread and milk are a luxury she cannot afford in the middle of the month after all her bills have been paid. Every bout of cold or flu is an emergency for her since she rarely has any of these little comforts on hand. Moreover, her immune system has been compromised by the chemo pills prescribed for her arthritis and she gets sick a lot.

Her hands are so crippled that she cannot shovel her own sidewalk and keep her porch steps snow and ice free. She depends on the kindness of neighbours and friends.

God bless the Christians (and none of the others? Oh, right, my bad - god doesn't exist) who make a point of providing for her small needs, who rake the snow off her roof in the winter, who clean her eaves troughs in the fall, who paint the peeling house and mow her lawn in the summer and who recently added a handle to her door-frame so that she could pull herself through the doorway -a thousand small acts of kindness each year.

Jesus said the poor will always be with us (as long as people adhere to illogical ideas and dogma, for sure). At any time, if we truly want to be doers of The Word and not merely hearers of The Word, we can put our faith into action.

We can extend small acts of kindness any day of the year. We can welcome the poor and the lonely into our homes to share a meal and enjoy our company. These small works are opportunities for us to grow as human beings in charity for it is when we are giving that we are most fully human. (Especially if the giving is to support a million dollar church.)

Let us recall frequently the words of Blessed Mother Teresa, "Love gives until it hurts." (Now, Mother Teresa probably isn't someone I'd refer to - and I suspect Linda wouldn't either if she didn't just blindly accept what her pastor tells her from the pulpit.)

Linda Kennedy
Aside from the suggestion that it is only Christians who help others (which doesn't explain why the greatest philanthropists are non-believers), and the blatant bragging, Linda's letter is a good reminder to everyone (especially Christians) that help is needed all year long.

It bothers me that Christians, like Linda, can't see the sad truth that the millions (tens of millions) of dollars spent on churches (in our own community alone) and their upkeep/staffing could be used to address the problems of people like the woman referenced in this letter. She must ignore the fact that the vast majority of money given to churches does not go to help others - it stays in the church to pay salaries, upgrade churches, buy vehicles, install bigger parking lots, purchase nicer digital signs, etc.

Mother Teresa, as I mention above, is not someone to be idolized - she was a friend of poverty but not a friend of the poor. Mother Teresa was against birth control - she equated it with abortion and murder. We know that one proven method for elevating a society out of poverty is the empowerment of women. Giving women control over their reproductive cycle and providing them an education does wonders. (Which reminds me - Bluewater Baptist Church is intimately involved in the horrendous Pregnancy Centre.)

And, finally, if Christians do good because of the reward in the afterlife, they're simply doing good things for bad reasons. Doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do is a more honourable reason.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Fear as a motivator - an excellent example

I was recently browsing a local online classifieds site ( and saw an ad:

Wanted: Health Wellness Work From HOME (Note: Since I started writing this entry the ad has been removed)
Are you sick and tired of all the hazardous and toxic chemicals found in your household products?

Well here's a solution!!!

It's a group called Motivated Moms. It's a team built up of mothers from all across North America who support each other by making a safer and healthier environment and lifestyle for you and your family, while still making extra cash!

If you are sick of all these brand name products being recalled, and want to convert to environmentally friendly products, or just want to make some extra cash then this is for you! You don't have to be a mom, ANYONE can join this group.

If you are interested or need more info email me!
Too often the method for attracting/motivating people is the use of fear in the advertisement.  Some examples are a little more subtle (ie. When cholesterol was being talked about as being "bad", McCain's started advertising that their french fries were cholesterol free.  The reality is that potatoes have always been cholesterol free.) but this "ad" goes straight to it.

The first sentence is simply poisoning the well - the idea that the "chemicals" found in household products are "hazardous" and "toxic" hasn't been established in the claims.  One is to assume that it is true (and true of all household products - except the ones that she is trying to sell) and the logical position to take would be for you to be "sick and tired of" them. 

Now that they've identified a horrifying problem they, as marketing wizards, introduce the solution.  They suggest that their products are safer and healthier for the environment and, here's a great bonus, you can make extra cash!

The next paragraph builds on the promotion of "fear" - "all these brand name products being recalled" and "convert to environmentally friendly" are designed to provide a false impression.  Not very many (relatively, at least) "brand name" products are being recalled and not all "brand name" products are the opposite of "environmentally friendly". 

Her claims are unsubstantiated, they utilize fear as a motivator and are used to ultimately push a multi-level marketing scheme (I talked about these a few entries ago) - warning signs galore. 

Using the word "toxic" is almost a guaranteed sign of "fear mongering" - the toxin is in the dose.  Few would say that vitamins and minerals are "toxic" but, at the right dose, they are.  Water is toxic if too much is consumed.  "Chemicals" is a scary word for many people - possibly because of our lack of science education - but it shouldn't be.  What is made of chemicals? Everything.  The products that she is selling are most definitely made of chemicals too.

Think about it - doing so could be what saves your health, your life and your pocketbook.  Skeptical thinking could help reduce the number of people who are taken in by such outlandish claims and destined-to-fail marketing schemes.

(Additional info.  I went to (I assume that is the website for the "company").  I read the "work from home" and "get more info" pages.  They claim not to be a multi-level marketing company and that you don't need to make any sales.  Yet, when you visit their success stories it is clear that products are being sold and you are recruiting other people.  What makes it even more silly is that at the bottom of the site it states who engineered/maintains the site (an MLM marketing software company) and that "this is not an mlm site" but links to, you guessed it, an MLM software site.  If it quacks like a duck and is greasy like a duck... something like that.)

(A blog follower pointed out the irony of a "program" that says you don't have to make sales (and recruit) actually posting an ad to sell products (and recruit members).)

Update (December 28, 2010 - 4:23PM) :  I sent an email to the person who posted the original ad asking for more information ("than is supplied here..." with a link to this blog).  She responded without, apparently, reading my blog:

i am with a company called Motivated moms and we are teamed up with a wellness company called melaleuca. Melaleuca has over 400 products that are safer then the grocery store brands with no harmful chemicals! If you would like i can book you in for a presentation it takes about 45 mins. and then you can learn all about what it is we do and how it works and how you can be on your way to making 500-1000 extra a month! Just let me know a day and time that would work that you can be infront of your computer for the presentation. Thanks!

You can do your own searching on Melaleuca :) 

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Quickly - A couple letters to the editor

Bob Maniuk writes to The Observer in response to a column by Bob Ripley.  You can read the letter to the editor here:

The letter had a number of sentences and words that weren't necessary.

Sir: Regarding the column "Reason in the Christmas season" by retired Rev. Bob Ripley (The Observer, Dec. 18, 2010).

I read his column each week, and although there are times I do not agree with him, he does offer a unique perspective. But this is the first time I've felt compelled to respond. I have never heard Rev. Ripley sound so cynical sensible.

He seems to question the Virgin birth of Jesus, and that He was the Savior of the world. He goes on to lament that the "kind Bishop St. Nicholas has been hijacked into a mythological marketing tool." The last part That I agree with.

As a child, as I got older and realized that there is no Santa Claus or Easter Bunny or Tooth Fairy, I wrongly concluded there was no God or Jesus Christ, and that was my thinking as I entered into adulthood.

When I was 23 years old, a miracle happened. Jesus made himself known to me personally, and I experienced the New Birth. The Bible says God is Spirit, and we must worship him in Spirit and Truth. We are body, soul and spirit. When God said "Let us make man in our own image," it is our Spirit that is in His image. Once I experienced the Supernatural miraculous awakening of my spirit, it was only reasonable to accept the Virgin birth of our Savior.

As an adult, I determined to tell my children about the truth of Jesus. I also determined not to lie to them by trying to make them believe in myths that I knew they would eventually grow out of, and come to know were false. I determined that my children would only hear me speak the truth, and that they could trust me. I would always give them my best, and would never steer them wrong.

Rev. Ripley is correct, that at Christmas time we are asked to "ponder the immortal and invisible becoming mortal and visible," although he suggests this is suspect. I believe it with my whole heart. A miracle, by definition, is going to suspend logic and what is reasonable, for if it was reasonable, it would no longer be a miracle.

The Rev. Ripley goes on to say, "The only reality is the family feud and the annual coping binge." As for my extended family, we love being together and there is no feuding. And as far as coping, it is only the details of coming together, which are kept to a minimum as we keep our focus on the "Reason for the season"-God's Gift to mankind, the Lamb of God who would become Savior and Redeemer: Jesus. man's gift to the god they created - the repurposing of pagan celebrations by illiterate men writing their own myths to replace older myths.

Bob Maniuk, Petrolia


Ken L. Maness Jr.'s article needed a lot of cleaning up.

Sir: I have a Christmas thought to share.

I would like to inform those who don't know that tobacco is a sacred gift given to First Nation people from Lord God and Creator, the Great Spirit, Chi GitChi Manitoo. It was given to Turtle Islands' (North America's) original Greenpeace Turtle Clan people as a natural healing medicine so that the life circle of Mother Earth could be sustained and maintained for the benefit of all life on her bosom.

Dictatorship and controlling people would eventually land on the last unconquered territory and try to assimilate a people used to living in harmony with all of creation as foretold by Christ before promising his return to finish his "natural" teachings.

Is it?

Fast forward 2,010 years of recorded history to present day and the dictatorship of British hierarchy continues to blindly tell us how to be in a supposed "free" country. First Nations people were corralled on to reservations of jail-like conditions and design so they could practice their spiritualism at a distance.

Tobacco is our strongest of many medicines and has quietly encompassed the world. Global smudging, world cleansing and/ or devine intervention would follow when the Great Divide realized how in the wrong they were and were given the respect and acknowledgment to the original keepers of the sacred and holy ways.

When other cultures and creeds of our Mother realize their wrongs and listen to our strong and natural voices, a vibrant culture will emerge and reality will be again gifted with the missing lessons and teachings necessary for our world to live as one body.

Do not judge others until you have run in moccasins and experienced firsthand what First Nations people have had to endure and still maintain.

Don't hate. Just love and all will benefit from what other culture has to offer.

The heartbeat of Mother Earth is represented in the drum. If you like music and the arts, then you are part of our assimilation plan laid out by God before time became.

"X" marks the spot and Sarnia is the heart of Turtle Island and our Mother Earth. Stop her abuse and listen to her pleas for world peace and goodwill to reign supreme towards all men, women and children on her bountiful bosom.

(He should have added:
We're all related - take care of each other. )

Ken L. Maness Jr. Sarnia


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Is your Power Balance wristband wearing out? Get a refund.

Okay, so your Power Balance bracelet never worked in the first place:

"Power Balance slammed by ACCC for misleading wristbands"

(To save you from having to read the 5 lines that I didn't quote...)

"All users who purchased the wristbands can now get a full refund if they feel they've been misled".

"Power Balance has admitted that there is no credible scientific basis for the claims and therefore no reasonable grounds for making representations about the benefits of the product."

"Consumers should be wary of other similar products on the market that make unsubstantiated claims, when they may be no more beneficial than a rubber band."

(Funny thing about this article is right below it (for me anyway), I see an ad for: "Pure Energy Bands Canada" - - a site that is selling the same bullshit.  They are making unsubstantiated claims that are not supported by reality.  Time for a complaint?)

Monday, December 20, 2010

A Holiday Message from Ricky Gervais: Why I’m An Atheist

Why don’t you believe in God? I get that question all the time. I always try to give a sensitive, reasoned answer. This is usually awkward, time consuming and pointless. People who believe in God don’t need proof of his existence, and they certainly don’t want evidence to the contrary. They are happy with their belief. They even say things like “it’s true to me” and “it’s faith.” I still give my logical answer because I feel that not being honest would be patronizing and impolite. It is ironic therefore that “I don’t believe in God because there is absolutely no scientific evidence for his existence and from what I’ve heard the very definition is a logical impossibility in this known universe,” comes across as both patronizing and impolite.

Arrogance is another accusation. Which seems particularly unfair. Science seeks the truth. And it does not discriminate. For better or worse it finds things out. Science is humble. It knows what it knows and it knows what it doesn’t know. It bases its conclusions and beliefs on hard evidence -­- evidence that is constantly updated and upgraded. It doesn’t get offended when new facts come along. It embraces the body of knowledge. It doesn’t hold on to medieval practices because they are tradition. If it did, you wouldn’t get a shot of penicillin, you’d pop a leach down your trousers and pray. Whatever you “believe,” this is not as effective as medicine. Again you can say, “It works for me,” but so do placebos. My point being, I’m saying God doesn’t exist. I’m not saying faith doesn’t exist. I know faith exists. I see it all the time. But believing in something doesn’t make it true. Hoping that something is true doesn’t make it true. The existence of God is not subjective. He either exists or he doesn’t. It’s not a matter of opinion. You can have your own opinions. But you can’t have your own facts. 

Continue Reading...


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Darin James Revisited

I've talked about this tool, Darin James, before.  He had advertised his claimed psychic services on a local classifieds site so I called him out.

As a result, I would say that Darin and I had become friends - but we haven't really kept in touch. This is my attempt to rekindle our relationship - an olive branch of sorts.  (Do you think I should have held off on calling him a tool at the beginning of this entry?)

Regardless, Darin came to mind because I had received an email from a blog follower regarding another woo-woo peddling scumbag in Sarnia - Mary Demitro/Mary Young (whom I've also mentioned in earlier entries).  The emailer wanted to alert me to a site on the internet (this one).  The link he had included, however, didn't work so I searched for "psychic sarnia" (the same search he claimed to have done).   The first link I came across was the above one but I also saw the second link (Darin James - Medium / Psychic Counsellor).

I was browsing Darin's site and came across the following statement:

Note from Darin James:
It is all about the energies and the emotions that I pick up . All readings are kept very private and I will never use any person or case to promote myself. If I can help I do and if not I will say so ....... trust is a two way street .
To all my current clients thank you so much for your faith and trust. Blessings DJ.
(Found near the bottom of this page.)

It brought back memories of Robbie Thomas ( - another person who is not psychic - and his self-promotion that included using the names of dead people and the suggestion that he had solved their crimes.  Since Robbie Thomas did not solve many of the crimes that he mentions (he hasn't produced any evidence to support the claim that he has solved any and he certainly hasn't solved the ones that are listed on his site as of this posting), he was lying.

I commend Darin for not using other people's tragedies to further his goal (the goal of helping people fix their fat wallet syndrome).  So Darin, here's my olive branch to you - could you work with us to help stop other psychics from referencing horrible crimes they didn't solve to suggest they have abilities that they don't have?

Consider a quote I found on a psychic's blog:
Years ago when I was working on the Bernardo case I had to take a long break from doing these kind of cases due to the disturbing nature of the crimes and the things I seen and experienced via my gifts. It was good to get alot of the information I recieved and to have an arrest shortly after. I am not saying I completely solved this case by anymeans but any info that helped in a conviction is the important thing here.
(You can find this quote in this entry.)

Wait a minute - that's your blog, Darin!  You lying piece crap.  You can keep the olive branch - insert it where the sun doesn't shine. 

(For the record, Darin James' name is not mentioned a single time in the court documents of the Bernardo trial - nor was any evidence brought forward that was credited to a psychic.  Homolka did report that she, herself, had seen a psychic for some advice after the murders had occured.  One of the investigators had this to say:  "No. The answer to your question is no. We did not receive any useful clues from psychics." when asked if psychics helped solve the Bernardo case. )

Friday, December 17, 2010

It is not cynicism, it's skepticism.

I am often troubled by comments that friends make - allowing the statements to go unquestioned would go against everything I'm hoping our society could achieve. On the other hand, however, I need to balance the desire to keep my wife from getting mad at me for "offending" a friend.

Typically I simply try my best to avoid topics where pure stupid can be exhibited by those who have done little (no) research on the area of discussion. However, there are times when it is inevitable, a topic is being discussed that asks for (no, requires) a response.

When my friend responded with a statement of idiocy (when they gently punched my shoulder I joked about having just got my flu shot (I got it months ago) but they responded about not getting the flu shot because it is a "scam" - they referred to homeopathy, at first, and then vitamins and supplements - for the record they were unaware that homeopathic "remedies" were not the same as "herbal remedies" nor did they know that 200C meant "1 drop in 'there-aren't-that-many-drops-of-water-in-the-whole-universe"). I stopped, for a second, and weighed, quickly the benefits and drawbacks of responding. My skeptical side won out (to the chagrin of my wife).

This person suggested that they (and their kids) take an homeopathic (or herbal - it's the same thing to them! :) ) "treatment" and the kids "never get sick" but "when they do get sick, I give them X treatment and it works". Either the kids "never get sick" or they do - but no time for semantics. Mark Crislip ( mentioned a quote in one of his podcasts that I often attempt to repeat (but fail miserably as you'll see): "If you have a common cold and take an over-the-counter cold remedy, you'll get better in about 7 days but if you don't take anything, your cold will get better in about a week."

Regression to the mean, the natural history of the disease and the FACT that most (all?) common cold viruses are self-limiting often result in people attributing a causal effect of a (non-)treatment with the improvement of a set of symptoms. The anecdotes that follow seem compelling and interesting but, as far as evidence goes, anecdotes are of little value - whatever the plural of anecdote is, it is not data.

I thought I would speak to them, a bit, about Airborne but when I mentioned the product, they quickly responded with "yeah, that stuff works great, I take it before I travel or when I start to feel a cold coming on". It put a smile on my face, I could hardly hold my excitement. Airborne was falsely claiming that its product could prevent the common cold or reduce the effects of it and the FTC called them on it - as a result they had to refund purchasers' money (

Explaining the airborne refund lead my friend to ask "why are you so cynical?" It is a question that skeptics, on occasion, will have to face. Ironically, we're not the cynics - we have a positive view of the strengths of science and humanity - someone who believes in homeopathy or is anti-vaccine or believes that 9/11 was an inside job (activate comment trolls!) is cynical - they're suggesting that the "medical industrial complex" or "big government" is actively trying to profit with no regard for their fellow humans/citizens. We (skeptics) have a positive view of humanity, not a cynical one. We just happen to require a little more evidence before we accept a life-affecting proposition.

Skepticism is a positive and healthy approach to take. It is educational and rational and can help one avoid scams, health risks and abuse. So go out, be skeptical - you're helping, not hurting, your fellow human, your family and your planet.

(As a side note: Ironically, this person, who is rather against the idea of germ theory (seriously!), carries around a container of anti-bacterial hand wash.)

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Pope: F#$k the minority unless that's us!

Maybe the Pope didn't say it as it is being reported...

When condeming "the West" for enforcing the strict separation of church and state, the Pope says: "denial of history and the rejection of religious symbols which reflect the identity and the culture of the majority of citizens".  (Majority Rules!)


"In the message for the Roman Catholic Church’s World Day of Peace, marked on Jan. 1, he also reiterated recent condemnations of lack of religious freedom in countries in the Middle East where Christians are a minority, such as Iraq and Saudi Arabia." (Hey, the minority rights matter!)

And then he adds this:
“The same determination that condemns every form of fanaticism and religious fundamentalism must also oppose every form of hostility to religion that would restrict the public role of believers in civil and political life.”

It's what the Bible says and endorses that worries me.  Having people live it out in civil and political life is dangerous. 

Tim Minchin said it best...

Multi-level Marketing: The math doesn't work

This is an interesting topic to handle but since it is the holiday season and my wife is getting more and more invites to "parties", I thought I'd discuss, quickly, multi-level/network marketing.

Some of the most known multi-level marketing schemes (look up 'scheme' before you wrongly suggest that I'm poisoning the well) include Amway, Mary Kay, Qixtar, Tupperware, Avon, Herbalife, etc. Some of the newer/more recent ones that you might have heard about (or are hearing about) include: Arbonne (Cosmetics), Stampin Up, Tahitian Noni Juice, etc.

Most network/multi-level marketing organizations rely on recruitment to build an income. It is thinly veiled in the idea of selling a product and earning an income from that but sales, alone, don't allow for a real profit (unsustainable, at the very least).

For the most part, people are sold on the idea that they often buy many of the products that the particular MLM company is selling and "why not make money while using and selling the products you're going to buy anyway?" A simple and compelling concept - if it were true. They add in the idea of recruiting a few friends or family members who, like you, are also using these products in their homes. If they get a few people under them, too, and you're making commissions on their purchases and their sales, you can be making "thousands of dollars a week" or "conservatively, a couple thousand dollars a month" (these quotes directly from someone who was trying to get me to attend a "sales presentation" on Qixtar).

Without speaking about a specific multi-level/network marketing company, let us consider the simple math.

If they suggest profits based on having 5 people "directly below" you, that seems like a simple number to achieve. You have 5 friends or family members. They only need to get 5 people below them (each) - surely they know 5 people who'd be interested. If they each get 5 and that group, too, gets 5, and that group another 5 and you, along with them, sell $500/week (easy, huh, you'll spend $100 a week yourself and the people below you will as well.. all the way down the line) - you'll make $2000/month.

5 levels of 5 people - 3905 people
10 levels of 5 people - 12 million people
15 levels of 5 people - 5-6 full planets of people

Schemes like this can't simply work - there are not enough people on the planet to sustain them. Sure, the few people at the "top" might make a bunch of money (for a short time) but would you be comfortable with knowingly screwing your family and friends to make a bit of money in the short term?

Even if it only required 3 people - 363, 88572, 1/3 of everyone on the planet.

The companies selling the products/services are often selling over-priced items/services so not only are you not making money, you're spending more than you should on a product or service of similar quality/benefit. The net result is that you have better odds of making money at a casino than you do with any recruitment driven (no matter how much they try to hide that) method of earning/paying.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Santa Claus <> Real, Zombie Jew = Real

Forgive me for having to reiterate this.  I spend countless hours trying to remember this and if what they say is true, by teaching everyone else, I'll learn this twice.

Archbishop Fabriciano Sigampa reminds us that it is Santa Claus that is not real but the Zombie Jew (aka Jesus) is.

Now that we've dealt with that, get back to celebrating the birth of the Zombie Jew - after all, he was born (though likely never existed) on December 25th - just like the bible says!

Whether you believe in a god or not, happy holidays (oh, and there is no war on Christmas).  Enjoy this lovely Christmas song.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Hold your false look of surprise: Robbie lied

(Note: This is a cross post from

Well, the publication ban has been lifted on the Tori Stafford case and, as suspected, Robbie Thomas was NOT involved in solving that crime (he has never solved a crime using his claimed psychic abilities).

Details also show that, not only was Robbie not involved in solving the crime, he (as mentioned here and on actually told the family that Tori was alive and would be found alive and well - about a week after she was brutally murdered.

April 8 - Tori goes missing. (Abducted)
April 8 - Abductors buy garbage bags and a hammer.
April 8 - Lifeless body is disposed of.
April 13 - Robbie Thomas claims (on X-Zone radio) that Tori Stafford would be found alive and safe. (He also told the family this as was reported in the London Free Press and other websites)

I will make a prediction now.  Robbie Thomas' solved cases counter will not change in the next 9 years.  Robbie Thomas has solved 0 cases in 18 (or 20) years.  A perfect record!

If you have a moment, congratulate Robbie - (and, if you do, carbon copy us -

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Yes!!! Now we're getting somewhere!

I am so excited to see the latest marketing campaign from CFI Canada.  Following up their "There's probably no god" from last year is a campaign focused on a wider set of claims.

What I like most about this ad is that we're not skirting around the issue - belief in god is just as wild and crazy as accepting the existence of bigfoot, zeus, psychics, homeopathy (and the site goes on to include: chiropractic, boogiemen, vampires, leprechauns and many more) or, from the other side, believing in homeopathy or zeus or boogiemen is just as wild and crazy as accepting that a god (or gods) exist(s).


Monday, December 6, 2010

Amanda Brown Responds with what is in Homeopathic 'Treatments': Nothing

After posting the first entry on Watford's own Amanda Brown, I invited her to comment or add something to the discussion.  Another post followed shortly and then, like magic (like Homeopathy?), an email from Amanda.

The content of her email was eerily similar to Homeopathy - empty but with some suggestion of content.

Sarnia Skeptic,

I just wanted to let you know that I have now read both your blog entries, and you obviously have your mind made up about homeopathy and myself! Everyone has a right to their own option. I wish you would have made reference to all the websites that confirm the amzing things Homeopathy helps people to achieve. But like you said, you are Sarnia's very own Skeptic!!! I really do not have anything to add or to comment on, because I believe and stand behind Homeopathy 100%!

Thank you for pointing out my spelling error on my initial consultation form, I will be correcting that today!

Yours in health,
I have, since, responded to Amanda with a request that she not only imply that there are "websites that confirm" but actually include them for us to consider. I suspect our communications have ended as a result - how dare me ask such impossible questions! (Almost a month has passed, as of this posting, and no response.)

I do think that Amanda is sincere in her belief in magic (homeopathy) - I've never met a Homeopath who didn't appear to be.  I think, like all of us, the desire to believe can sometimes allow us to cherry-pick information that agrees with our position (confirmation bias) and ignore the contradictory evidence.

Without a doubt, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of websites that contain countless anecdotes about people overcoming the impossible with the help of homeopathy.  One must be reminded that the plural of anecdote, however, is not data.
In the past, I have linked to studies done on homeopathy (real studies) that show no benefit beyond placebo and I have linked to a couple of tiny studies that suggest further study is required and that there may be a small benefit to homeopathy.  Small studies with limited (no) controls are not what science relies on.  Larger and more complete trials have shown, conclusively, that homeopathy's benefit is simply equal to (if not because of - which I would suggest it is) the placebo effect.
The reality of homeopathy is that it isn't based on reality - to accept that extremely dilute substances, so dilute that they can't possibly contain a single molecule of the 'active' ingredient, can affect the natural history of a disease would require us to forget what we know about biology and chemistry (nevermind physics and modern medicine).

Amanda Brown is pushing products that have no plausible mechanism of altering specific outcomes of a disease but, as a result of seeking homeopathic "treatments", having people delay real treatment can have terrible effects.  Homeopathy is not only silly, it has real potential consequences.

The Real "Secret" - Alternative Medicine is a killer

From David Gorski at Science Based Medicine: Death by “alternative” medicine: Who’s to blame? (Revisited)

I hate stories like this. I really do. I hate them with a burning passion that makes it hard for me to see straight when I first find out about them.

In fact, you might even say that stories like this are a major part of the reason why I do what I do, both here and elsewhere. They’re a major part of the reason why I’ve recently branched out into public speaking, something that used to terrify me beyond belief but that lately I’ve become at least competent at–sometimes even not bad at all. Sadly, the story I’m about to tell is one I’ve told before, most recently at the Lorne Trottier Science Symposium, where I gave a talk on cancer cure “testimonials,” although at the time I gave the talk the story’s outcome, although predictable, was not yet known.

Now it is.

The woman to whom I refer is named Kim Tinkham, who was diagnosed with breast cancer over three and a half years ago. Regular readers may recall that Kim Tinkham achieved fame not long after that when she was featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show in an episode about The Secret, an episode I discussed posts entitled The Oprah-fication of Medicine and On the nature of “alternative” medicine cancer cure testimonials. I don’t want to discuss the utter nonsense that is The Secret in any detail here. However, for those unfamiliar with this particular bit of New Age woo, it’s important to point out that The Secret’s “Law of Attraction” takes the germ of a reasonable idea (namely that one’s attitudes and wishes influence whether one gets what one wants in life, something that’s been known for millennia) and goes off the deep end of woo by proclaiming that, in essence, you can get anything you want by wanting it badly enough and thinking positive thoughts. Basically “The Secret” is that you have the power to “attract” good to yourself by thinking happy thoughts (hence “the law of attraction,” which, according to Secret adherents always works). It’s an idea that resonates in so much of “alternative medicine,” such as German New Medicine or Biologie Totale. Of course, the implication of “Secret” thinking is that, if you don’t get what you want, it’s your fault, an idea that also resonates with so much “alternative” medicine, where a frequent excuse for failure is that the patient either didn’t follow the regimen closely enough or didn’t want it badly enough.

Basically, The Secret is what inspired Kim Tinkham to eschew all conventional therapy for her breast cancer and pursue “alternative” therapies, which is what she has done since 2007. Before I discuss her case in more detail, I’m going to cut to the chase, though.

This weekend, I learned that Kim Tinkham’s cancer has recurred and that she is dying. On Saturday, a reader of my other blog sent me an e-mail...

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