Archive for October, 2009

Skeptics with a K: Episode #007

Acupuncture, pain pixies, breast enlargement by hypnosis and the fruit fly sexual tsunami. All this and more in the latest Skeptics with a K!

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A Word From Our Man In Ottawa…

Humanist Dave with beard and taped photo

Humanist Dave with beard and taped photo

Last month, MSS member Chris jetted off to a bright future and a new life in Canada. I think. I mean the brighter future bit, not the Canada bit – I know he’s in Canada. Or at least he said he is, I’ve no real hard evidence. Hmm. Anyway, in his first overseas missive, Chris introduces us to the Canada Humanist scene and their own Atheist Bus Campaign…

Greetings from Canada! Coincidentally, just as Ariane Sherine prepared to make her way to my old stomping-ground in Liverpool I attended my first meeting of the Humanist Association of Ottawa (HAO) at which the topic was the Atheist Bus Campaign. I thought it worth mentioning not only because of the fact that it was relevant to a Merseyside meeting, but also because it raises some issues that haven’t been so important in the UK. Read the rest of this entry »

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Psychics, Pies and Challenging Lies

I love a psychic story. It’s like catnip to me. Give me a local reporter shamelessly pandering to the nonsense of a purported sage or mystic, and I’m instantly all fired-up with lovely apoplectic ire. ‘Talks to the dead, does he?’ ‘See the future, can he?’ The irritation caused by yet another credulous, fact-free, pseudoscientific puff-piece just feeds me. Which is why I was delighted to find a report in local paper Wigan Today reported this week on the psychic pieman. ‘Oooh’, I thought, ‘Here we go’. So, who or what is the psychic pie-man? Well, apparently, Wigan-based baker Kevin Warrilow has put aside the pastry knife and taken to the crystal ball after undergoing an ‘unexplainable’ transformation in his life. The paper explains:

“Things changed dramatically after the pie shops hit financial problems and he began to be guided by the spirit of a beautiful Afro-Carribean (sic) woman called Lisa, whose face would materialise in curtains, doors or tables to tell him of the new direction his life must take”

I think the key phrase there is ‘financial problems’ – after converting his pie shop into a Love and Light Spirituality Centre and flogging crystal, tarot readings, Angel Cars and incense, I think it’s safe to say his income is somewhat flourishing. Read the rest of this entry »

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You Are Feline Very Sleepy…

Hypnotherapist Cats: A Real Threat

Hypnotherapist Cats: A Real Threat

This week I’m going to take you back to my native North East – imagine if you will the taste of fresh stottie, the smell of the River Wear and the lush and verdant scenery of Durham’s forest. And then forget most of that, because it’s in no way relevant to what we’re about to talk about. Which, specifically, is an episode of the BBC One North East show Inside Out. The show this week featured George Jackson’s success in registering with a professional-seeming organisation of hypnotists. Many people might think a little odd, given that George is in fact a cat.

In the show, which took a look at the hypnotherapy industry and the sham claims to legitimacy of many practitioners, presenter Chris Jackson decide to test just how easy it is to set yourself up as an “accredited” hypnotherapist with absolutely no qualifications. Rather than register himself, he decided to try the Ben Goldacre approach and aim for feline registry – and he discovered that using a fake diploma and paying a pretty nominal sum it was alarmingly easy to set his moggy up as a ‘genuine’ hypnotherapist.

The stunt is reminiscent, of course, of Hettie Goldacre’s success in achieving membership of the American Association of Nutritional Consultants (AANC), despite being both a cat and dead. Ben registered his deceased moggy in order to show up the nutritionist and non-doctor Gillian McKeith’s claims to accreditation – reports of the whole affair can be read in full on his excellent Bad Science blog. Read the rest of this entry »

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The Turin Test

Turin Shroud courtesy of http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Manoppello_and_Turin_shroud.jpgRecently in Italy a scientist has reproduced the Shroud of Turin, thus proving once and for all that the so-called relic wasn’t actually Jesus’ burial cloth, but was in fact nothing more than a fake.

The Turin Shroud, as I’m sure you’re all are aware, is one of the most famous relics in the world. Many Christians believe the shroud is the cloth that covered Jesus when he was placed in his tomb and that his image was recorded on its fibers at or near the time of his resurrection. In fact the relic was endorsed by Pope Pius XII in 1958, who offered official confirmation that the cloth did in fact bear the image of Christ. Which is interesting, of course, because the Pope is God’s spokesperson on Earth and his word is meant to be directly the word of God, and thus infallible. Clearly, however, in this case God had just been having Pope Pius on, because in 1988 the fakery was discovered when radiocarbon-dating placed the creation of the cloth at somewhere between 1260 and 1390, whereas Jesus was meant to have died in 33 AD. Because Jesus was born in 1 AD, which is the very definition of the term 1 AD. Obviously. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics in the Pub: November 19th – Alastair Miller

Quackery in the 21st Century: Unproven Treatments for Unexplained Symptoms

Alastair Miller MA FRCP DTM&H

When: Thu, Nov 19, 2009 8:00 – 11:00 PM
Where: Crown Hotel, 43 Lime Street, Liverpool.
Alastair Miller

Summary

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) otherwise called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME) is a medically unexplained syndrome. That is, it is a well defined complex of symptoms that add up to this diagnosis but with no biomedical explanation at a physiological, anatomical, biochemical or molecular level to give a basis for these symptoms. However, there are well established therapeutic approaches (Cognitive Behavior Therapy and Graded Activity programmes) that are evidence based and approved by NICE (the National Institute for Clinical Excellence). Regrettably, because these approaches are behavioural rather than pharmacologic there is much dissatisfaction with them in the patient community which therefore spends considerable time and money on unproven therapies exploited by well meaning or less well meaning practitioners.
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