It’s perfectly possible to be a religious believer, and still be smart and sane.
But that isn’t the target audience for the spam I just got.
(Click the image to expand.)
Essentially they’re selling rocks from the “Cave of the Nativity in Bethlehem”. The cave is part of the Church of the Nativity–the reader is meant to believe that the various Catholic, Greek Orthodox, and Armenian Orthodox priests who administer that temple would let pebbles be taken from the cave and sold via email spam.
Interestingly, the links go to fundybuzz.com. The spammers obviously know that smart, knowledgeable people won’t fall for the scam, so they aren’t making any effort to hide their contempt from anyone who is awake.
Long post titles ‘R us.
So I’m the chair of LI-CON. It’s what I think of as a “traditional” science fiction convention–organized by fans working as volunteers, with the people giving talks and on panels volunteering their time as well. Topics will of course include science fiction and fantasy, but with me being science nerd and skepticism guy, I’m proud that two of the first four guests are of that movement. John Rennie is the former Editor of Scientific American, and current host of the Weather Channel’s Hacking the Planet–and also a mainstay of the New York City Skeptics. John Grant/Paul Barnett is the author of the series of books Discarded Science, Corrupted Science, Bogus Science, and Denying Science. Paul is also an award-winning author of fiction and editor of encyclopedias.
I’m proud to host them, along with writer Jody Lynn Nye; writer, editor, and many other things Bill Fawcett; and more participants to be announced. And I’d love to meet you there.
To attend LI-CON, please obtain a membership via our funding campaign, iconreturns.com. While you’re there, you can pick up some swag, become an I-CON member, and in general help our 501(c)(3) charitable corporation raise some funds.
Thanks. I look forward to seeing you there.
A letter sent to the San Antonio Zoo:
I recently visited your zoo while in San Antonio. It’s a fine institution, one of the better zoos I have seen. It’s clear that, more than most zoos, you take your educational mission seriously and try to have each exhibit teach the viewer something. As a former science teacher, I can only applaud you.
However … I attended one of your keeper-led talks at the elephant exhibit. The keep mentioned that the elephant on display was receiving “the elephant equivalent of glucosamine.” I hope not–because glucosamine does not work to prevent or treat joint pain. Here is Dr. Steven Novella of Yale Medical School on the subject: http://theness.com/neurologicablog/index.php/no-benefit-from-glucosamine-and-chondroitin/
Here’s a recent meta-analysis of research in the field, showing that good studies with large patient groups show no benefit from glucosamine, via PubMed: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20847017
I’m sure you would not want your educational activities to promote the use of valueless treatments for arthritis, so please ask your keeper(s) to avoid endorsing glucosamine.
This is astonishing. I used to be a chemistry teacher, and I would have been embarrassed to have a story this nonsensical turned in by one of my high-school students.
Oxidation is combining with oxygen? Combining with oxygen derived from iron oxide is somehow not oxidation? This reaction will somehow not produce carbon dioxide or any other “pollutant”? Really?
I happen to work for an energy company. There really is “clean coal,” at least in theory. It’s a combination of removing pollutants like sulfur dioxide from the byproducts of combustion (smoke, ash, etc.) with sequestering the produced carbon dioxide so it doesn’t add to the greenhouse effect. Problem is, I just explained it better than Fox’s whole article, in one sentence.
This is what happens when you stop having science journalists and make “general” reporters cover technical stories–they make no sense at all.
The scary thing is that Fox has actually published a worse story on clean energy.
There’s a guy I know. I’ll call him “Rick” because that is not his name.
Rick is a naturopath.
Naturopathy doesn’t work. It’s a combination of sub-Hogwarts magic with some training in real stuff. The leading US school of Naturopathy is Bastyr University. Here are some things in Bastyr’s course offerings:
- Holistic Landscape Design
- Therapeutic Touch
There’s much more, that’s the result of a few minutes of flipping through their course descriptions. Interestingly, the curriculum itself looks incredibly medical. The “Physical Medicine” course sequence sounds like something a science-based physician would take, until you read the description and find out it it includes “muscle energy technique” and other woo-woo
There’s no good evidence that any of the topics listed do anything at all, except cost money and possibly delay getting real medical treatment. Well, OK, acupuncture can result in punctured lungs.
Now, here’s the thing about Rick that infuriates me. He’s not a fool. He has a science degree from a very prestigious university. He also has real medical training as a paramedic. I’ve spoken to him enough to know that he really cares about his patients, and that he doesn’t actually prescribe the stupid treatments like homeopathy, because he knows perfectly well that they don’t work.
Why would his not being a terrible physician bother me? Because by his being a sincere, caring, and intelligent guy he’s adding to the prestige of naturopaths. Naturopathy is nonsense. He’s endorsing what is frankly dangerous nonsense and because he’s legitimately a respected guy he gives it credibility. I don’t think Rick is dangerous to his patients himself–I am absolutely certain that if someone presents with symptoms of, say, heart failure he’ll refer to an MD or OD immediately. However … if he lends authority to naturopathy, he is indirectly promoting nonsense like anti-vaccine attitudes that can kill people. So I get mad.
What to do about it, I have no idea, except rant here.
Whenever I listen to the local news radio station, I hear ads for Quietus®. Quietus is a remedy for tinnitus. Tinnitus is a condition in which a person hears sounds, often roaring, humming or whistling, which are not perceptible to anyone else. In severe cases these sounds can interfere with hearing and understanding speech or enjoying music, or even prevent sleep. In many cases there is little medicine can do for tinnitus sufferers.
Medical conditions that can’t be easily cured by medicine are a natural target for medical nonsense. Quietus is (in the writer’s sole opinion) a fine example of something that couldn’t possibly work but is making money for its makers.
Quietus is a “dual homeopathic” medication. This means it has two supposed ingredients. However, most homeopathic medications in fact contain literally nothing. Homeopathy is an antiquated and unscientific pseudo-medical system based on these premises:
- Like cures like–that is, treat a disease with medication or medications that cause the same symptoms, and
- The smaller the dose, the more powerful the effect of medication.
Both are silly, but the second is what makes it impossible for homeopathic “drugs” to work. In most cases, commercial homeopathic remedies are diluted so much that none of the so-called active ingredients are actually present!
Quietus’ web site contains a page titled “Quietus® Homeopathic Treatment A Study by Dr. Thomas Latino, Ph.D.” The contents are not a study in any academic sense, however, just a description of the product’s ingredients and their traditional uses.
- Apis Mellificais which is obtained by soaking honeybees in alcohol.
- Aristolochia Clematis, also called “birthwort”.
- M. Chamomilla, German chamomile.
- Lachesis Mutusis, venom from the African Bushmaster.
- Thuja Occidentalis or arbor vita, more commonly known as white cedar or eastern white cedar (although it is not a botanical cedar).
- C. Officinalis (presumably the pot marigold, Calendula officinalis).
- K. Phosphoricum, which they also refer to as “Potassium of Potash”. This is chemical gibberish, presumably they mean just “potash”, which is potassium phosphate (and which some homeopaths call “Kali Phosphoricum” to make it sound more technical or mystical or techno-mystical or something).
- Salicylic Acid, a chemical found within some plant tissues (most famously willow bark).
[sic] for all the above organisms–in biology species names don’t start with a capital letter, but Dr. Latino consistently writes them incorrect. “Thuja Occidentalis” should be Thuja occidentalis, for instance.
It’s interesting reading the above-linked “Study” page because it says right at the top, “Homeopathic potencies accredit their strength and efficacy to the electromagnetic signatures of the original substrate. These are scientifically created dilutions and successions of medicines such that generally not even a molecule of the original substrate or medicine is present in the medicine.” They admit up front that their product has no active ingredients but claim that “electromagnetic signatures” of these nonexistent chemicals somehow cure tinnitus. I don’t think you’ll find any physicists or chemists who can identify what “electromagnetic signatures” even means in this context.
Notice the weird melange of ingredients, very typical of magic-mongers. It includes extracts from living things (an animal and several plants), a very simple chemical (potassium phosphate), and an organic molecule (salicylic acid).
The key single thing to notice on the “Study” page is this: the author doesn’t list any claims that any of the ingredients help tinnitus. Even accepting at face value all the claims of homeopathic effects listed, they’re for other, not-obviously-relevant disorders including asthma, pain, cancer, and arthritis! Want to see a classic example of misleading language? The author writes, “Derivations of C. Officinalis are administered to elderly patients to treat tinnitus and cardiac related disorders and have been found to have effective implications when taken to counteract swelling and other conditions that may adversely impact the workings of the inner ear.” Note that Dr. Latino does not claim this nostrum works for tinnitus! He says only that it is used for that complaint. (What the heck are “effective implications”?)
The author of this “Study” is Dr. Thomas Latino. PubMed reports that Dr. Latino has zero medical publications. A more general web search finds the same “Study” that’s on the Quietus site was also published by The Hearing Journal in 2010. HJ appears to be an industry trade magazine. It is certainly not a peer-reviewed, scientific publication. He is stated to be “a consultant” and no details are given of his degrees, or professional experience, anywhere that I can find. His only other publication that I can locate is promoting another homeopathic nostrum, this one for sciatica.
But surely the makers must have some evidence it works? Well, all they give is a bunch of testimonials. Anonymous testimonials. Testimonials are very convincing–we humans are easily persuaded by stories. Trouble is, testimonials are easily found for all manner of quack nonsense, including copper bracelets curing arthritis, Laetrile curing cancer, and stump water curing warts. To show that a medical treatment works, you need controlled and blinded experiments or carefully-conducted epidemiological studies, which simply don’t exist for this ludicrous treatment.
In conclusion: this stuff can’t possibly work (again, it has no ingredients), they present no meaningful evidence that it does work, and the only effect it’s likely to have is moving money from the sufferer’s wallet to the seller’s. Not recommended.