Wednesday, May 31, 2006
Midweek Cuckoo: Tine van der Maas
Tine came to the attention of the South African public two years ago when she gained the ear of our Minister of Health, Dr. Manto Tshabalala-Msimang. Tine is convinced that her diet (consisting of garlic, ginger, olive oil, beetroot, lemon juice, spinach and african potatoes, plus various vitamin supplements all whizzed together) is a miracle cure that restores the immune system. Manto, herself a qualified medical doctor, has stated she has seen more than 100 AIDS patients "who have got up and walked" after going on the diet. She even gave Tine access to patients in hospitals around the country, to administer her as-yet-untested treatment to the desperately ill. However, no documentation of these 'trials' is available from any relevant institute or department. A search of PubMed returns no papers with Tine as author.
What reason does Tine give for there being no record of her patients? A burglar broke in and peed on all of them. All the records, for supposedly 40,000 people. That's one determined burglar, with one very large bladder.
So is it possible that patients can undergo a miraculous recovery after consuming what sounds like the most vile smoothie ever? In South Africa, it can certainly appear to be so. The issue at hand is that the majority of HIV and AIDS sufferers are also chronically malnourished. Even the tiniest increase in their nutrition can result in a seemingly incredible improvement in their condition, with many patients indeed getting up and walking. This means nothing: it can be seen with any improvement in nutrition, not just Tine's diet, and it has absolutely no effect on the progression of the disease. It is a temporary fix that makes the patient feel better for a while but ultimately does not change their diagnosis or their death sentence.
And yet Tine claims that her diet is all that is required for a healthy immune system, and is as good as ARVs. Well, except in one case: she has said, "I am not against antiretrovirals. If I were raped I would still go for nevirapine - but I'd also eat four carrots." Tine also believes that if you never hear from your patients again, it's a good thing because it means they are ok. If there's a problem, they'll phone. She doesn't seem to entertain the option that they might not phone because they're dead. Oh, and Tine also uses her diet for people with epilepsy, diabetes, cancer, depression, asthma, ulcers, cataracts, high cholesterol and glandular fever.
Qualified nutritionists are dismissing her theories as bunk, yet our Minister of Health continues to defend her. So much so that she has now contributed, IMHO, to the deaths of two prominent figures in SA:
- Yfm DJ Fana 'Khabzela' Khaba - Manto sent Tine to his house to take care of him and adminster her diet to him personally, when Khaba refused to take ARVs because he believed they would kill him. The Minister had an opportunity to persuade him to go on ARVs, and instead she sent him Tine and her garlic and olive oil concoction. He died, only 8 months after he was diagnosed.
- Nozipho Benghu, daughter of KZN MP Ruth Benghu - Nozipho was one of Tine's most vocal supporters, and a follower of her diet. According to Nozipho, "It works, I'm the scietific proof." She died last week, and the Treatment Action Campaign called her death both unnecessary and premature.
These aren't poor, rural people, uneducated, easily swayed by those in power or unable to afford ARVs. These are wealthy, educated, upper class people who could easily have lived many years longer than they did. There is absolutely no excuse for deceiving these people into thinking that diet can prolong their lives, when they are infected with a rampant virus for which there is no known effective treatment except antiretrovirals, and for which there certainly is no cure.
How is it that someone with this obvious a fakery can bend the ear of our topmost health officials? Well, you only have to look at the officials themselves. Manto aside, KZN Health MEC Peggy Nkonyeni recently stated that people needed to be aware of unscrupulous individuals who manufactured certain viruses to infect communities so that pharmaceutical companies could benefit. She said this at Nozipho Benghu's funeral, standing over the grave of a woman who died because she and they couldn't see these theories for the bullshit they are. Tine van der Maas and her friends will always find a place in South Africa, as long as this kind of thinking prevails amongst our policymakers and politicians.
Tuesday, May 30, 2006
Does Guinness Know?
But people have every reason to be skeptical. Firstly, Pat is 76 years old. Secondly, he has apparently broken the previous world record by 665 lbs, a herculean feat. Thirdly, i think Skepchic describes best why breaking the record is astounding:
Dan Kendra held the former record for a leg press at 1,335 pounds. When Dan performed his feat, his eyeballs exploded. Well, the capillaries in his eyes. Do you have any idea what this means? Not only does Pat Robertson possess the strongest thighs in the world, but also his eyeballs are blessedly protected by Jesus.Not to mention that Dan was much younger, and an athlete, and they had to modify the leg press machine to hold that much weight?
I think if anyone actually buys Pat's shake and then tries to leg press 2,000 lbs, and is later found trapped under the weights with their femurs snapped like chicken bones and their eyeballs resting moistly on their cheeks.... they deserve it. Stupidity should hurt.
The world didn't end last week. No surprises there. Eric has been flailing around, explaining how the comet may not actually cause the wave but merely be blamed for it, that he saw the comet enter the atmosphere, that we should be mindful of the upcoming resignation of the US Treasury Secretary.... blah blah blah. It didn't happen Eric, give it up. The aliens aren't talking to you, you're crazy.
Michael Jackson made his first official public appearance this weekend, and guess where he decided to go? An orphanage. That man should fire his publicist. Right now.
Also, here is another argument for requiring a licence to become a parent: putting a child in the tumble dryer because she spilled something on herself. The 13-month-old girl suffered severe burns to her feet and her left hand, after the mother's boyfriend put her in the dryer, closed the door and turned it on for 'a couple of minutes'. Granted, Samuel Siddall wasn't the child's father, but in a case like this i feel that castration should be part of the mandatory sentence. This person has proved that they are totally and utterly incapable of parenting a child, and should never be allowed to have a child of their own. Ever.
You may think i'm overreacting, but at least one person has managed to kill her own baby this way. Can you really believe that there's a god, when people who would make wonderful parents He makes infertile, and yet He gives children to people like this?
Friday, May 26, 2006
Everyone Still Here?
Update May 25, 2006US Congress evacuated yesterday? Surely that's something the papers would have noticed? And why do American Intelligence Services have knowledge of a window for comet impact when astronomers who are actually tracking the comet do not?
According to informed sources, contacts in the American intelligence services confirm the existence of a time window of 48 hours, centered on May 25th at midnight GMT, for the impact a comet fragment south of the Azores.
This corroborates information of an evacuation exercise of the U.S. Congress to occur later in the day of May 25th, information which reached us this morning.
As a measure of precaution, I suggest the authorities do the utmost to protect the populations of the Atlantic coastlines. -- Eric Julien
Oh well, it seems Eric has given himself until midnight GMT today. I wonder if tomorrow he will have a new window? Maybe a 2000 year one, centered on May 25, 3006?
Thursday, May 25, 2006
Just remember this about predictions of the end of the world: when it's today in the US, it's already tomorrow in Australia.
Speaking of prophets of the apocalypse, i forgot to mention yesterday the Prophets of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, an off-shoot of Mormonism. Rulon Jeffs predicted the end of the world would come some time between 1990 and 1997, and later he predicted the year 2000 as the big one to watch. When he died in 2002, his son Warren took over the position of Prophet, and all but two of his father's many wives (the actual number is unconfirmed but is quoted anywhere from 22 to 75). Today, Warren is on the FBI's 10 Most Wanted, right there next to Osama Bin Laden. There's a $100,000 reward for information leading to his arrest, on various charges relating to sexual misconduct with a minor and statutory rape.
These, then, are your prophets. You wouldn't trust these people with your children, why trust them with your future?
Wednesday, May 24, 2006
Midweek Cuckoo: Prophets of the Apocalypse
Here are just some of the examples that can be found at Religioustolerance.com's excellent End of the World collection:
Jesus Christ: literal interpretations of certain verses from the gospels (Matthew 16:28, 24:34 among others) have Jesus Christ predicting that the end of the world would occur in the lifetime of those he preached to. Since this didn't happen, biblical scholars now claim that those verses can't be taken literally.
Paul of Tarsus: similar for literal interpretations of the Epistles of Paul; similar for the failure of the prediction; similar for the church's excuse.
The Old Believers: Russian cult who believed the world would end in 1669. 20,000 burned themselves to death to protect themselves from the antichrist.
Pope Innocent III: predicted the world would end in 1824, a date he computed by adding 666 to the date of the foundation of Islam.
Joseph Smith: founder of Mormonism, predicted the world would end in 1890. He made a separate prediction that it would end by 1891. Neither came true.
William Miller: founder of the Millerites, predicted the world would end in 1843. When it didn't, he changed the date to 1844. Many followers sold their properties and possessions, quit their jobs and sat back to await their ascent to heaven. Nothing happened.
Ellen White: founder of the Seventh Day Adventists, predicted 1850 as the date of Rapture. She later predicted that the world would end within the lifetime of those attending the 1856 SDA conference. All attendees are long since dead.
The Watchtower Society: the premier society of Jehovah's Witnesses predicted the end of the world in 1914, 1915, 1918, 1920, 1925, 1941, 1975 and 1994. They evidently treat Armageddon like the Lotto.
The Branch Dividians: unsuccessfully predicted the world would end in 1952. Their second prediction that the world would end in 1995 lead them to renaming their ranch in Waco, Texas to Ranch Apocalypse. They believed that the apocalyptic end-game would begin at the compound. For 76 members, including their leader David Koresh, it did, two years earlier than they expected. They also predicted that in 1999, Koresh would return with 200 million horsemen and slaughter almost everyone on earth.
Leland Jensen: leader of a Baha'i World Faith group, predicted a nuclear disaster in 1980, followed by the establishment of god's kingdom on earth by 2000.
Sun Yung Moon: head of the Unification Church, also known as the Moonies, predicted the Kingdom of Heaven would be established in 1981.
Pat Robertson: predicted the world would end in 1982. You know Pat, he's the Reverend who agrees with Eric Julien that the world will end tomorrow. Or at least some time this year.
Benny Hinn: Assembly of God pastor, predicted the world would end in 1993. Later predicted that God would destroy all the homosexuals no later than 1995.
Marshall Applewhite: head of the Heaven's Gate cult predicted the world would end in 1997. His deceased wife Bonnie was to arrive in a spaceship disguised by Comet Hale-Bopp to save the believers from the coming apocalypse. 39 members commited suicide in March of that year, as the comet made its closest approach to earth.
Nostradamus: in one of his few prophecies that actually names a year, he predicted that in 1999, "From the sky will come a great King of Terror". Experts interpretted this as everything from a meteor to a nuclear missile.
Michael Drosnin: author of The Bible Code and The Bible Code II. According to his code, the world should have ended this Tuesday past. It pretty obviously didn't, but that's okay because he's now saying it's definitely some time this year.
These are only some of the more prominent figures in the business of predicting armageddon. There have been many, many others, playing off religious fears, superstition, and exciting-looking numbers (June 6 of this year is another big date, 6/6/6). I think we all remember new year's eve 1999 - with the double threat of the millennium (although not even the real one) and Y2K.
The question many people ask is, how is it possible that their followers continue to believe in them after they are proven wrong? In truth, not all of them do. But there is one common excuse that keeps many of the congregation believing - the world did not end when I said it would, because we were saved. God/ the Aliens/ Mother Earth heard our prayers and was merciful. How do you argue with logic like that?
I can't wait to see what Eric Julien's excuse is on Friday.
Tuesday, May 23, 2006
The Worst Blog in the World Mark II
This blog is an extension of my earlier "Prescribed Evolution" blog which got cumbersome with over 800 posts.When he says 'posts', he means 'comments'. It pretty much just consisted of a single post, and then John arguing with DaveScot and himself in the comments to that single post.
The new one also only has one post, and is at 200+ comments already. Again, mostly from John.
(It think there's something i need to make clear - John argues with DaveScot not because he is anti-ID, but because even within the Intelligent Design community, no one likes John. He is that rarity - an IDiot so crazy even other IDiots don't want to be associated with him. )
Intelligent Design: Lying for God
It takes the form of a chain letter showing a picture of american soldiers with their heads bowed in prayer, and then goes on to suggest that the ACLU is trying to abolish this. It's been doing the round for years and has been discredited many times. Yes, the soldiers are praying. No, the ACLU never had anything to say about it, and is not against soldiers praying of their own free will.
William Dembski seems to have had a glitch in his design filters at the time, though, because he immediately responded with 'Right On!' as the first comment. I thought he could tell false positives?
Anyway, the normal comment policy seems to continue - a comment on Panda's thumb mentioned that at the time of writing there were three comments pointing out it's a hoax. At the time i went to read it, comments were as follows:
- Right On!
- DaveScot saying "To everyone who’s pointed out that the ACLU story is a fabrication according to snopes.com - that’s hardly the point. The pictures of Marines praying are real. The fighting and dying to protect the interests of the United States is real. The request to pray for them is real. So I removed the fake names, noted the ACLU statement is rumor, and quoted a very real former Marine Sergeant’s sentiments instead. If anyone has a problem with that they can KMA. Google that."
- More from DaveScot
- Someone agreeing
- Someone else agreeing
- DaveScot saying "Now that everyone is happy that this article isn’t a fabrication the comments are closed."
And the comments for that post are now closed. So I wonder, where are the comments pointing out it's a hoax? DaveScot mentions them, so he must know they were there. Have they been deleted? Because that would be so different to the normal policy on dissenting comments on Uncommon Dissent!
Also, not only did DaveScot not put on a disclaimer when he admitted he knew it was a hoax from the start, he also didn't mention in the post that he had edited the email from the original. Also, how does DaveScot admitting it's an urban legend make us happy that it's not a fabrication? Finally, how does it change the lie to add 'rumored' in one place, where it quite blatantly says in another: "Please send this to people you know so everyone will know how stupid the ACLU is Getting in trying to remove GOD from everything and every place in America. " He is using something he knows to be false to support his religion - bad form.
And these people feel that they are qualified to make scientific remarks on the origin of life on earth. They couldn't find their ass with both hands and a map, let alone find evidence for design.
It must be true...
When God and the Aliens conspire, you know you're screwed. The only way this could get worse is if the evil pharmaceutical companies are in on it, too.
Monday, May 22, 2006
The Countdown Begins
If you haven't moved in with your relatives on the west coast yet, hurry the hell up. Lets not forget Katrina, people! I mean, we've all seen The Day After Tomorrow, do you really want to be in Times Square when that shit goes down? I don't think so.
And for my fellow capetonians, now is the time to reserve your spot on top of table mountain. As space is limited, i would suggest maybe taking a trip to Jozi this week (i hear Kalula.com has some good rates at the moment).
Also, here are some things you should stock up on for the coming apocalypse and collapse of society as we know it:
- your towel (it is international towel day after all, and a towel will be most handy)
- beer (i believe we all remember the fine example set by looter guy)
- shotguns (to defend your beer)
- shotgun shells (duh!)
- an Ark
- Two of each kind of animal in the world
Things you won't need are:
- Condoms (we're trying to rebuild the human race here people)
- Scientologists (let's just get rid of them now and say they all drowned)
I'm going to be here on Friday... are you?
Nice one, Sir Ian!
Sir Ian has a lot of experience with fiction. Firstly, he's an actor. Secondly, he has played two of the best know characters in fiction - Gandalf the Grey and Magneto. So when a journalist asked him for his take on the Christian reactionary division demanding the makers of the Da Vinci code slap a 'Fiction' disclaimer in front of their movie, Sir Ian understandably gave the best response yet:
Well, I've often thought the Bible should have a disclaimer in the front saying this is fiction.Hoorah. That's the spirit. Put a disclaimer in front of your work of fiction only when they put one in front of theirs.
Sir Ian is not known to pull punches when it comes to the Bible. I think he has one of the best methods of dealing with a church that openly condemns his homosexuality - in every hotel he stays at, he rips Leviticus (the chapter supporting the condemnation of gays) out of the Gideon Bible.
You go, girl.
(story via Mr. Angry)
Thursday, May 18, 2006
Tom Cruise: Zero - South Park: Denny Crane!
The episode was shown at London's National Film Theatre on Monday, in a free screening that accompanied a talk given by the show's creators. Afterwards, free copies of the episode were handed out. See, by making it all free, Parker and Stone completely avoid the argument that they are exploiting scientology and Tom's fame for their own commercial gain. Making it free leaves it completely in the realm of Freedom of Expression, and Tom doesn't have a leg to stand on.
What i want to know is, if he is so keen not to have the show aired, why doesn't he just zap Parker and Stone with his OT VIII super powers? Or control their minds so that they don't want to show it anymore and vow to attend at least one hundred scientology audits? Or, why doesn't he declare them Fair Game and send the scientology hit squad after them?
Because he can't, that's why. Cos there's no such damn thing.
The Da Vinci Code: Exposing the Cracks in Christianity
Why all the fuss? you may wonder. It's a work of fiction, right? If they are so confident in their Truth, how does a work of fiction threaten that?
How indeed. Even if Dan Brown is some kind of anti-christ, hell-bent on destroying christianity with his blasphemy (as opposed to a writer of fiction making a bunch of cash), he certainly hasn't done it in the way he would have meant to. Because it's not the conspiracy theories that expose the cracks, it's the way the church has responded to them. Their attempts to ban the book and film raise only one question in the minds of those prone to believing in conspiracy: why ban it, if it's not true?
I'll tell you why, and it's not because there is a conspiracy to cover up a lineage of christ. It's because even the church cannot know its 'truth' for sure. When all you have as proof is a single text, written by many, translated by many, and interpretted by many, you don't have a foundation on which to say for sure 'this is how it happened'. You cannot point at a different theory and say 'we can prove you wrong'. You have to admit that the theory of christ marrying and having children is based on as much evidence, if not more, than the theory he didn't. So what recourse? You make a noise, you get it banned. Because this is not an argument where you can take the high ground with evidence on your side. This is not an argument you can win in any way except to be the loudest voice, and drown out the rest.
And yet, for all their kicking and screaming, all the church is doing is making people wonder why they must kick and scream. If you are so confident in your truth, sit back and let the masses enjoy their fantasies, their fictions. Surely if you are not feeling threatened, there is no need to leap to the defensive?
Wednesday, May 17, 2006
Midweek Cuckoo: Betty Martini
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Gulf War Syndrome
- Brain Tumours
- Shooting pains
- Numbness in the legs
- Joint Pain
- Anxiety attacks
- Slurred speech
- Blurred vision
- Alzheimer's disease
- Manic depression
"My God!" you exclaim, "what a horrific substance! Surely we could improve the health of millions and millions of people if we could cut this substance from our diets! Tell us what it is!"
My good people, the substance which causes this host of troubles is none other than aspartame. That's right, the artificial sweetner in your diet pepsi is the cause of nearly every sickness known to man. It does this by converting to formaldehyde (a chemical Nancy compares to cyanide in its toxicity) at 86 degrees F, which we all know is below body temperature, thereby poisoning anyone who ingests it!
If this seems at all implausible to you, then you may have a modicum of sense. Just as there is no one substance that will cure all diseases, no magical panacea, there is also no one substance that causes all diseases. Anyone claiming that one chemical can cause the above list of medical complaints should not be taken seriously. Another red flag is raised when the email claims that the reason aspartame hasn't been banned yet is because the Evil Aspartame Overlords are paying off every scientists, university and government health authority in the entire world to keep it a secret.
This is the point when you smile and nod and back away from the crazy person.
Here are a few facts to set the record straight: aspartame has been proven by study after study to be safe for the vast majority of consumers; the exception is in the case of phenylketonuerics, who cannot metabolise it (hence the warning 'contains phenylalanine'); aspartame does not cause Multiple Sclerosis (as stated by several MS organizations who are certainly not in the pockets of the evil aspartame overlords); aspartame is safe for use by diabetics (as stated by several diabetic organizations also not in the pockets of the EAOs); the vast majority of proof takes the form of unconfirmed anecdotes; aspartame consumption has been shown to cause headaches in a very small percentage of the population but then again so has caffeine; snopes.com lists the contents of the Markle Email as an urban legend; so does About.com.
So where does Betty Martini fit into all of this? Well, it is a point of contention as to whether the 'Nancy Markle' who supposedly wrote the article featured in the email even exists. It's widely accepted that the article was actually a talk presented by one Betty Martini at a conference. Whether Nancy Markle was someone in the audience who saw fit to transcribe the talk and present the work as her own, or whether she was a pseudonym adopted by Martini, is unknown. What is not contested is that the sentiment and statements made are Martini's.
So who is this woman who has seen fit to warn the world of the dangers of aspartame? A medical doctor perhaps? Betty claims in her bio that she worked in the medical field for 22 years, but also says that she had 3 children instead of a doctor's degree (but doesn't say what, if any, qualification she does have). It seems she was diagnosed with breast cancer and was cured by a miracle herb. This may have been the start of Betty's road from responsible medical worker to outright kook, and the FDA's banning of the supposed cure certainly turned her against them permanently. Then in 1993 Betty was investigating the cause of a friend's severe neurological problems, and diagnosed him with aspartame disease (remember, Betty is not a doctor). She promptly founded an organization known as Mission Possible International, commited to removing the aspartame from our food. It doesn't seem like they've had much success so far.
It's funny in some ways that the anti-aspartame movement distances themselves from her, yet embrace Nancy Markle. From website nancymarkle.com comes the following opposing statements (on the same page):
Nancy Markle, where are you? If you ever show up, please check in with us! It was the much-criticized Nancy Markle Letter that led a lot of people to aspartame awareness, and most of them are very grateful for that.
DISCLAIMER: The owners of the website, The Aspartame Victims Support Group, do not endorse any statements made by Betty Martini. Niether do we discount them on the the grounds that she might have disseminated them. We are not associated with her, and we will be re-doing this website in the future to clearly reflect that. We are aware that she has certain alleged credibility problems, and we do not want our efforts to be tied to the negative publicity that she has received.
And yet the also state on their site that "a whole lot of people, tens of thousands, perhaps even millions by now, have found out the truth about aspartame thanks to the so-called "Nancy Markle Letter", a piece really written by Betty Martini."
So they treat her like two different people when it suits their ends to be distanced from her disproved rantings, but still note that it is the same person. What we have here is a classic case of kookdom: a woman who began a career in the medical field, was sucked into woo woo medicine during a time when she was obviously desperate and vulnerable, and who has declared war on the very establishment she once diligently served.
See here the mark of kookdom: the long list of complaints, the single cure, the cries of conspiracy, the use of pseudonyms to maintain a semblance of legitimacy, the medium of the email chain letter. Learn these marks well, for you will know the kook by his actions.
Monday, May 15, 2006
Dembski at it again
In two recent “defend science” talks, one at Cal Berkeley and the other at Kansas University, Padian singled out an Asian-American church that supports ID. In March, Berkeley’s IDEA Club sponsored two talks that I gave to packed houses on the Berkeley campus (go here). Some of the key members in that IDEA Club are also members of this church. Padian now explicitly names this church (Berkland Baptist Church) in his public talks and describes the members of the church that attended my lectures as “young,” “Asian,” and “fundamentalist,” and that this is “what we are up against today.”I would link to the post, but it has been removed, for reasons to be explained shortly. Panda's Thumb reacted very quickly, pointing out that Padian had not been at the talk (or even in the state) at which Dembski claimed this racial slur occured. Dembski parried with a lame excuse that his anonymous informants had been incorrect about the person involved in the talk, and his puppet DaveScot appeared on Panda's Thumb under a pseudonym (Ombudsman) defending Dembski's conclusion. Later, it seems that Pandian wrote to Dembski pointing out he had crossed the slander line, and had better apologise and remove the offending post. Dembski complied, and gave a very lame apology, of the "I'm sorry but it wasn't my fault and I'm still right anyway" variety.
We shouldn't really expect anything more of Bill, given his history. We're talking about a man who reported an innocent person to the Feds as planning to commit genocide, also based on second- or third-hand information and Bill's habit of taking quotes wildly out of context. But he has really outdone himself this time. By putting quotes around each individual word, Bill stretches the very limit of honest quoting. There is no indication that the words were consecutive, in that order, or even in the same sentences. And who cares if Padian did describe a particular church's congregation as young asian fundamentalists if it is true? Is it now racist to call an asian an asian?
It is blatantly obvious that Bill was quote mining in the extreme here, but he tries to defend even this. In his 'apology' he states:
Padian in his letter above does not dispute that he singled out "young" "asian" "fundamentalists" as supporters of IDHe doesn't have to dispute the contents of a talk he didn't give, and not disputing something explicitly is not the same as saying you were right! Moron!
I swear, when i finally get the power to explode heads from a distance, Bill is on my Top 10.
Friday, May 12, 2006
A few links for you on this fine friday
Michael Shermer reviews SHAM: How the Self-Help Movement Made America Helpless by investigative journalist Steve Salerno.
The Treatment Action Campaign succeeds in getting the Chambe HIV and AIDS Healing Scheme ads pulled for falsely claiming they can cure "HIV and AIDS and related diseases". It's only one small battle won in the war against HIV/AIDS fraud.
And Tony Snow, the new spokespuppet for Bush, puts his foot where his mouth is when it comes to evolution. Here's a quote that shows exactly how much Snow knows about evolution and how qualified he is to talk about it:
Today, evolutionary theorists find themselves at wits' end because the fossil record provides no evidence of any species ever turning into another. We know species adjust to environmental conditions -- ever notice how tall kids are these days? -- and that natural selection does occur. But there's nothing to vindicate the notion of an evolutionary leap.
Wow. To quote the Index to Creationist Claims:
We would not expect to observe large changes directly. Evolution consists mainly of the accumulation of small changes over large periods of time. If we saw something like a fish turning into a frog in just a couple generations, we would have good evidence against evolution.
Thursday, May 11, 2006
She should have seen it coming...
Linda, with the help of husband James and police detective Jack Makler, stole millions of dollars from the desperate, who believed her when she told them their money was cursed, and they had to give it to her for cleansing. For some reason, they believed her when she said she'd give it back. Linda commited fraud again, and again, and again, and again (and that was just from the very first page off a google search). Each time she managed to slither out of trouble, with the help of her paid-off police officer. So it was only fitting that when she finally went down, she brought him down with her.
There is a lesson to be learned here - not every psychic out there is a well-meaning but delusional fool. Some of them are master manipulators, who will exploit your credulity for all it is worth. Marks' scam only worked because people believe in things like curses, magic and miracle cures. As far as I'm concerned, the court should certainly have jailed Marks and Makler, but they shouldn't have made her give the money back to her victims. They don't deserve it, and an example needs to be made of them, fools that they are. Because her 'victims' were practically willing accomplices, so quickly and unquestioningly did they fall for her tricks. Their punishment for idiocy and for believing in flim-flam is that they got burned, and they shouldn't be made to feel any better about that. If anything, they should be put up on the stocks next to her.
She should have been forced to donate the cash to the JREF or some other organization dedicated to teaching the slobbering masses not to fall for this kind of crap.
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Midweek Cuckoo: Eric Julien
According to his bio, Eric Julien (aka Jean Ederman) is a retired French Military air traffic controller. Eric is very concerned about what will happen to our planet on May 25:
What will occur on May 25, 2006? Perhaps a planetary catastrophe originating from the Atlantic Ocean due to a medium size impact event. On this assumption, a series of giant waves, including one méga tsunami almost two hundred meters in height, will be born from a succession of underwater eruptions. These watery giants, decreasing with distance, will touch the majority of the Atlantic coasts; in particular, those most at risk lie between the equator and the tropic of Cancer. The victims of May 25 2006 will be tens of millions. The devastated survivors will be more numerous still. The economic losses will be enormous, well beyond the scales of destruction hitherto tested by our civilization. North America and Europe will not be saved, but will be affected in less dramatic proportions. By extension, other remote countries will be also affected.
What could have lead to Eric believing, in the face of all evidence, that this terrible event is about to occur? Three things:
- On May 14, Comet 73/P Schwassmann-Wachmann will pass within 10 million miles of earth. The comet broke up in 1995 and is composed of a number of fragments of various sizes.
- Two crop circles corroborate his story: one which appeared in 1995 showing the entire solar system, but with the Earth missing, and another that predicted that Julien himself would be the one to bring news of the great destruction to earth.
- The aliens told him so through their telepathic mind link with him.
And there you have it! Irrefutable proof that a terrible tsunami will take thousands of lives on May 25! Ignore the astronomers when they point and laugh, for they know not what they do!
Or maybe it's not May 25 exactly. Eric himself isn't quite sure:
I received on April 7, 2006 a telepathic message from extraterrestrial friends. According to them, a méga-tsunami in the Atlantic Ocean I had experienced in a lucid dream three years ago, would occur around MAY 25, 2006 . Perhaps two or three days before or after.
So, some time that week. Or thereabouts. Anyway, i'll be in my bunker. See you guys after armageddon.
Tuesday, May 09, 2006
Anyway, over on scienceblogs they're asking the bloggers the question: if you could cause one invention from the last hundred years never to have been made at all, which would it be, and why?
It's an interesting question, and there have been some interesting answers (none, scientology, embedded advertising, the nuke, landmines, etc). I think my answer would be:
And i mean all sorts of spam. Phone spam (no, i do NOT want another credit card). Door to door spam (yes Jehovah's Witnesses, i'm looking at you). Email Spam (half of Nigeria would suddenly be unemployed). Comment Spam (not even really sure who's responsible for that shit). That weird not-quite-meat-stuff that comes in a can. Well, maybe not that last one, because then we wouldn't have that wonderful ditty brought to us by the gentlemen of Monty Python's Flying Circus. But you get the drift. I think the world would get along just fine without spam.
My second choice would be scientology, but someone else already picked it. And speaking of scientology (see that segue?), while TomKat insist that their baby's name 'Suri' means Princess in Hebrew, some scholars are not only saying that it doesn't mean Princess, they're also saying what it does mean isn't all that flattering. Says Gideon Goldenberg, a linguistics professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem:
"I really don’t know what they were thinking when they chose this name. It’s a term that denotes expulsion, like ‘Get out of here’. It’s pretty blunt.”
I think what the good professor is trying to say, although not in so many words, is that her name means Fuck Off. Can the Hebrish in the audience confirm (TW, I'm looking at you)?
Lastly, Al over at _villaLife (i just work with him, i take no responsibility) has posted that old chestnut, the MC Hammer Can't Touch This video. Watch it. Tell me you do not laugh uncomfortably at the memory of the Eighties.
Surely that's illegal, even in Africa
Case in point: this weekend I was sitting in the shoe department of a middle class department store, in a middle class mall, in a middle class suburb, trying on a pair of Cats. This was also the men's shoe department, because I just so happen to prefer the style of boots they had there. I was sitting on the bench provided for the very purpose of trying on shoes, and next to me on the bench sat a large african woman breastfeeding her baby. Not subtly, i may add. Her tits were out for all the world to see, and she was just sitting there in the men's shoe department, staring off into space, while her child suckled at her exposed breast.
I'm no prude, i can assure you of that, but surely even in Africa indecent exposure is still illegal? Seriously, if someone was found breastfeeding in the middle of a department store in the US, UK, or Australia, how long would it be before she was hustled out by management, if not reported to security? In the states especially, the populace has a collective stroke if even a little side-boob appears in an advert - I think a woman with her entire breast out in public would be considered socially unacceptable, if not illegal. Not here though. People just walked past as if nothing was wrong with this bizarre and tasteless tableau.
And yes, we're adults, we should be able to deal with a little nudity. But I might add that the men's shoe department was right next to the children's wear department. Do you really want to be taking your child to get a new jacket, and have her shout at the top of her lungs, "Mommy! I can see that lady's boobs!"
Jacob Zuma - Not Guilty, Not Innocent
Now, that's the verdict in the court of the land. In the court of public opinion, the man is guilty as sin. A man who can claim that a woman wearing a skirt is asking for it, a man who claims that a Zulu woman who wants sex will charge you with rape if you don't sleep with her, a man who can offer to pay lobola for her if she drops the charges, a man who was admittedly cheating on his wives and concubines with the complainant whether it was rape or not... if this man did not rape this woman, he is certainly capable of it. He has demonstrated that in his mind, women are either property or whores.
But that's the rape trial, over and done with. Now for the corruption trial. Does the fun ever stop for the ex-deputy president of our great land?
And the complainant? Still un-named, she is now being hurried into exile outside of the country - indeed, outside of the continent - because if her name is revealed, or if she remains anywhere within reach, there is a good chance that Zuma's supporters will kill her. And they will do it in his name, those proud 100% Zulu boys.
Friday, May 05, 2006
Random Friday Five
Time Magazine's 100 Influential People: interesting read, 100 blurbs, some written by non-journos. Mostly very well written, except for the J.J. Abrams blurb written by Tom Cruise - that one just made me want to throw up.
Madman on Kuro5hin who supposedly cured his asthma by deliberately infecting himself with african hookworm. Yummy. I may have to do some further investigation on this, because it's very Hulda Clark, but then again it might work.
Dumbasses get what they deserve when they discovered that 'train-surfing' is a bloody stupid idea.
The CIA's world factbook on South Africa. Search for your own country.
And the real names of celebrities, in case you were wondering. Go look at Chuck Norris for a surprise.
Thursday, May 04, 2006
Satan's Little Helper
Today is the National Day of Prayer in the US. We can thank Dubya for that, he's the one who declared it. As Lippard Blog points out, the religious love to make a big deal out of praying, and ask people to come out and pray on this day, and quote from the bible to support it. One quote they tend to leave out is Matthew 6:5-7:
"And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
" But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking."
Jesus himself instructs his followers, right before teaching them the Lord's Prayer, not to pray in public. So much for your prayer rallies, your prayer meetings, your prayer circles. Jesus does not approve.
I have also just read a transcript of the Stephen Colbert speech that has everyone talking - and damn is it funny. Very witty, very accurate, and I can see why Dubya didn't enjoy it. Unlike his bizarre double-act with his impersonator, I don't think Bush signed off on Colbert's speech. I don't think Tony Snow did either, what with comments like, "Fox News gives you both sides of every story, the President's side and the Vice President's side." Genius. I can also see why the press are only talking about the president's slapshtick routine with his alter ego, which made him look like a stand-up guy with a sense of humour, and are not mentioning Colbert's genuinely funny monologue, which makes bush and the press look like the idiots they are.
Oh and apparently i'm a very naughty girl:
The results are in, and it appears that you have scored 85%...
Whoa. You're not just an atheist... you're an evil atheist! Satan's Lil' Helper sees atheism as a good excuse for covering up a whole array of misdemeanours and crimes, because after all, there's no divine punishment awaiting them when they meet their doom. Whilst not believing in God, Satan's Lil' Helper would be ready and waiting to give God a metaphysical wedgie should he ever pop into existence. Keep on sinning, you evil little thing, but just try not to get caught...
The Atheist Test written by chi_the_cynic on OkCupid Free Online Dating, home of the 32-Type Dating Test
Wednesday, May 03, 2006
Midweek Cuckoo: George Goodheart and the Applied Kinesiologists
Dr. George J. Goodheart, Jr. DC (that's Doctor of Chiropractic) invented the practice of Applied Kinesiology in 1964. AK posits that diseases of the organs may be detected through changes in the strength of the muscles, detectable through muscle-testing procedures. It flows naturally from chiropractic because all that's been replaced in that last sentence is 'muscles' for 'bones'. That was Goodheart's big contribution to medicine. Both 'disciplines' believe in the existence of a life force that flows through channels or meridians of energy that more or less reflect the body's nervous system. Disease in one organ can, through affecting the complex structure of energy pathways, affect other areas of the body like the spine, or the muscles of the arm. Conversely, manipulation of the spine or the muscles of the arm may in turn either cure the disease or help doctors diagnose the disease.
If you think what i just wrote seems plausible, or if you think it doesn't matter that chiropractors and applied kinesiologists believe in magic and not medicine as long as it makes you feel better, you need to stop reading right now. As far as anyone with an iota of knowledge about biochemistry, anatomy or medicine is concerned, it's a load of bull. AK supporters often truck out all sorts of examples to 'prove' that it works - the achilles reflex test for thyroid gland disease is a common one - but fail to mention that for those tests used by real medical practitioners, there is a well documented anatomical reason for the seemingly unrelated chain of cause and effect. In applied kinesiology, there is no anatomical, biological or chemical connection made between cause and effect, except for these mysterious 'energy channels'. Nor is there any actual evidence that it works.
If the theory alone is not enough to warn you away from AK, then the methods used by the practitioners should be. The primary test used in AK is to have the patient hold a substance in their hand, over the organ in question, or place it under their tongue. The patient must then extend their left arm out to the left, parallel with the floor, and the practitioner then attempts to push the arm towards the ground. This is also done in a prone position, with the arm extended vertically upward and pushed down to a horizontal position. If the practitioner succeeds in pushing your arm down, the subtance you are holding or tasting is bad for your body. If you resist, the substance is good and is then prescribed. There are varying degrees between these two states, as there are varying degrees of 'goodness' and 'badness'. Applied kinesiology is so good at detecting what you need that you can even hold a piece of paper with the substance merely written on it, or your arm strength can be used to test the needs of your child who sits on your lap during the test. Seriously. They believe this.
Perhaps it would all be much more mysterious if it weren't for two things: firstly, the arm pushing technique is a trick, of the kind children learn at school and use to freak out their friends. Peter Bowditch of the Millenium Project has said:
"The parlour trick of pretending to test muscle strength by pushing against some muscle group and then doing it again under supposedly different circumstances is well known. I demonstrate it as a part of talks I give on quackery, where I ask for a volunteer from the audience and test how hard it is to push down an extended arm while they are holding something in the other hand. The test is then performed again with them holding something else and this time I can push the arm down easily. If the talk is being given in a dining room or in a convention hotel it is usually very easy to get packets of both sugar and an artificial sweetener, and I can show how sugar does not affect strength but aspartame makes you weak. If I ever have to demonstrate at a meeting of diet soft drink makers I will of course prove the opposite. It took very little time for me to learn how to do this, and I know of at least three methods of doing the trick."
Secondly, even if the practitioner is not a fraud and does not realise what he is doing, the principle of Ideomotor Action - the ability for the subconscious mind to move the body without the participation or even realisation of the conscious mind - is well known. Because the practitioner and the patient both have certain expectations as to what is good and bad for them, they will unwittingly conspire to obtain the desired outcome. In double blind tests, where neither the patient nor the practitioner know what the substance is, the results are utterly random. Dr. Ray Hyman describes one experiment he was involved in:
"The chiropractors presented as their major example a demonstration they believed showed that the human body could respond to the difference between glucose (a "bad" sugar) and fructose (a "good" sugar). The differential sensitivity was a truism among "alternative healers," though there was no scientific warrant for it. The chiropractors had volunteers lie on their backs and raise one arm vertically. They then would put a drop of glucose (in a solution of water) on the volunteer's tongue. The chiropractor then tried to push the volunteer's upraised arm down to a horizontal position while the volunteer tried to resist. In almost every case, the volunteer could not resist. The chiropractors stated the volunteer's body recognized glucose as a "bad" sugar. After the volunteer's mouth was rinsed out and a drop of fructose was placed on the tongue, the volunteer, in just about every test, resisted movement to the horizontal position. The body had recognized fructose as a "good" sugar.
"After lunch a nurse brought us a large number of test tubes, each one coded with a secret number so that we could not tell from the tubes which contained fructose and which contained glucose. The nurse then left the room so that no one in the room during the subsequent testing would consciously know which tubes contained glucose and which fructose. The arm tests were repeated, but this time they were double-blind -- neither the volunteer, the chiropractors, nor the onlookers was aware of whether the solution being applied to the volunteer's tongue was glucose or fructose. As in the morning session, sometimes the volunteers were able to resist and other times they were not. We recorded the code number of the solution on each trial. Then the nurse returned with the key to the code. When we determined which trials involved glucose and which involved fructose, there was no connection between ability to resist and whether the volunteer was given the "good" or the "bad" sugar.
"When these results were announced, the head chiropractor turned to me and said, "You see, that is why we never do double-blind testing anymore. It never works!" At first I thought he was joking. It turned it out he was quite serious. Since he "knew" that applied kinesiology works, and the best scientific method shows that it does not work, then -- in his mind -- there must be something wrong with the scientific method. This is both a form of loopholism as well as an illustration of what I call the plea for special dispensation. Many pseudo- and fringe-scientists often react to the failure of science to confirm their prized beliefs, not by gracefully accepting the possibility that they were wrong, but by arguing that science is defective."
Applied Kinesiology is a load of bollocks, and anyone who can come up with this nonsense is a quack of note. As an aside, one of the great sadnesses about this proliferation of woowoo is that actual kinesiology - the study of the biology, anatomy and chemistry of human motion - is besmirched by this pathetic hanger-on.
Tuesday, May 02, 2006
Wii are not impressed
There are examples locally that immediately spring to mind. CUM books, for example. Go look at their website, www.cum.co.za. Take note of the fact that they are a Christian organization. Called CUM. On the other hand there is Cape Union Mart, who refuse point blank (and their marketing department have been given specific instructions to this effect) to ever abbreviate the company name. Ever.
Or family restaurant The Spur, whose slogan is 'Come hungry'. Is that anything like cock thirsty?
I can understand when problems occur because you're translating into another language (everyone remembers how Pinto had to be renamed for the spanish speaking audience) but isn't english widespread enough by now that everyone should know to avoid anything even phonetically resembling dirty words? Apparently not.
I swear, this is a job i could do. Someone would come to me with a name or a phrase and say 'what do you think?' And if i laughed out loud, the answer would be obvious. Man, and i could even get paid!
War of the God Killers
There were two things that interested me about his debate: firstly, that Michael Shermer sounds a little like Kermit the Frog, and secondly that Dembski came across as a lot less of a frothing maniac than usual. I think this may largely have been due to the forum - i don't think bufallo bill had the time to build up the head of righteous steam he often does in writing. Mostly, the debate was civil, with very few jibes thrown, and almost no talking over the other participant. However, as the debate progressed and the host began to bring out the Wedge document, the Dover trial, etc, Demski became increasingly flustered. His cool slipped a little, and that sheen of civility began to lose some of its lustre. He ducked, he dodged, he dived, and in the end it was very very obvious he was doing so. Apparently there was a more recent live debate between them, and Dembski did exactly the same thing.
Overall this is no big surprise - debates are not really the forum for discussing scientific questions, and neither are court rooms. At the end of the day it is the science that must speak for itself in the scientific arena, and in the case of intelligent design, there is no science to speak of. As far as the scientific community is concerned, there is no controversy to debate. I would agree with Richard Dawkins on this: there is no point to debating ID supporters, because in the end it comes down to whose rhetoric is better, not who has the facts. Nevertheless, Shermer does an admirable job and should be commended for at least trying.
Now i come to the reason for the title of this post: Shermer and Dembski both brought up points that have made me realise there is a similarity between IDiots and evolutionists that has nothing to do with their intended purpose, but everything to do with the inevitable results of their work.
Firstly, IDiots see evolutionists as having just as big a religious motivation behind their work as IDiots themselves. Dembski threw out a number of quotes to support this, but it's obvious that it's more about colouring evolutionists with the ID crayon than about any truth. ID is backed by a religious objective, so obviously evolutionary biologists must be backed by an equally sinister anti-religious objective. Biologists' only goal, in the eyes of ID, is to kill God. Whether this really is their intention (and for the vast majority it is not), Dembski is right in that it will be the result of showing creation to be a natural process needing no outside interference.
But here's the flip side of the coin: Shermer stated that if ID succeeds, it can only do so by reducing God to a piece of the natural world, no better than an alien from Vega, a smarter human, a tinkerer. Dembski doesn't think there's anything wrong with that, but i would put money on the fact that there are a lot of theologians out there who would not be happy with the metaphysical God being reduced to atoms and forces and physical laws, and his behaviour being that of an engineer and not a benevolent beard in the sky. On the other hand, if ID does succeed in developing real and reliable methods for detecting design in nature, and then do not detect any design at all, they will in the minds of many people, religious and atheist alike, have scientifically disproven the existence of God. In essence, if ID does the job it's meant to do, no matter what the outcome, its only real result will have been to reduce God to either little or nothing. They, too, are god killers.
So at the end of the day, all a debate about Evolution vs. Intelligent design really is, is a debate about which method of killing the God of the Faithful is more scientifically correct.
I love it.