Archive for January, 2010

Homeopathy and the 10:23 Campaign

10:23 Campaign

The 10:23 Campaign

On January 30th, 2010, at exactly 10:23am, large groups of skeptics will gather in the town centres of around a dozen cities in the UK and consume a full bottle of homeopathic pills, in order to demonstrate the ineffectiveness of homeopathy. Marsh explains why…

Homeopathy in the UK is alarmingly pervasive – setting aside the fact that the industry is worth an estimated £40million per year, the National Health Service actually plows £4million per year of taxpayers’ money into providing sugar pills as a Complementary Alternative Medicine – much of which goes into the upkeep of the four government-run homeopathic hospitals. That figure doesn’t even take into account the £20 million spent on the redevelopment of the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital. According to the British Homeopathy Association, more than 400 GPs regularly refer patients to homeopaths. Homeopathy is everywhere. And then we have the UK’s leading pharmacy, Boots…

Boots are as much a British national institution as the Royal family, the BBC and the sense of quiet superiority over our former colonies. Yet this well-respected and trusted organisation lends its well-earned reputation to quackery in the sale of homeopathic remedies (including it’s own-brand range) alongside real medicine. What’s more, their decision to stock these sugar pills is compounded by the fact that they have no real belief in their effectiveness, as became clear in the laugh-a-minute evidence check session, where Boots’ Professional Stand-up Com… sorry, Professional Standards Director Paul Bennett admitted the company’s policy of selling homeopathic remedies was based not on a belief that they work, but in a belief that they sell, and sell well. And that’s before we even take a look inside the Pandora’s box that is the Boots Learning Store – Alternative Medicine module (sample statement: ‘Foxglove (Digitalis) extract is used in the treatment of heart failure’). Read the rest of this entry »

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Got Tapped?

In his first post for the MSS, Allan take a look at needle-free acupuncture and Emotional Freedom Technique…

I was so overcome with joy when I discovered what I am about to tell you that I am now writing with my eyes full of salty tears, warm and wet with emotion… Friends! I come to you with Good News!

Are you – a beautiful, delicate human soul – suffering from some sort of emotional pain, or physical ailment? Do your unique thoughts blossom as the daisies in the meadow, but often gravitate onto grave issues that induce effects from the mild melancholic to chronic, debilitating depression, perhaps interfering with your mathematical abilities? Do intrusive, perhaps obsessive thoughts on your disruptive encounters with precious friends or beloved family trouble you in your daily life, causing a phobia of lifts or dyslexia? Are the ongoing effects of war and rape pushing up your golf handicap, troubling your urination or just leaving you with an untidy room?

  • Would you like to completely overcome all of these problems and many more in just minutes?
  • Would you like to harness the completely unverifiable, but incredibly powerful meridian and chakra knowledge of the ancient Chinese? Then…

*shudders* For a minute there, I felt like a Chopra.

Where was I?

Ah yes! What we all really want in these twisted, perverted modern times is the ability to have all of our guilty pleasures without any of the guilt, take heart from our healthy pleasures without spending time on them, in short to have our horseshit without the pressing need for a horse. Sugar-free sweets, fat-free butter, exertion-free exercise, arsenic-free arsenic solution, cure-free cures and, of course, needle-free acupuncture. Read the rest of this entry »

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Christian Rock: The Devil’s Music?

No, it isn’t.

The truth is, no music is the Devil’s music. I don’t say this because of my lack of belief in the Devil – I recognise a useful metaphor when I see one – I say it because I think that kind of statement has a nasty quality to it, and in turn it speaks volumes about the person using it. It says: I detest the music you like; it is evil and corrupt, and therefore you are too, for listening to it. And, of course, the only person who ends up looking ‘evil and corrupt’ is the person speaking against this music in the first place.

(On a side note, I am not fond of the term ‘evil’ either, a dehumanising and imaginary concept if ever I heard one, despite what George W. Bush would have us believe. But that is another blogpost for another day)

My point is that this kind of rhetoric reeks of the judgemental. It speaks of intolerance and ignorance; it speaks, ultimately, of fear. I recently blogged about a website called ‘Objective Ministries’, which purports to be a fundamentalist Christian site. It is most likely a hoax, but links to several other ‘Christian’ sites. Which of these are also hoaxes and which are genuine I find difficult to tell, but I’m not worried about that so much for now. One of these sites is called: ‘Zounds! – Youth Rock Ministry’. This site (whether real or imaginary) is a vehicle for Christian-themed music, mainly aimed at teenagers.

I feel I should mention that I am talking here about fundamentalist Christianity, which to my mind is a very different beast from your average, run of the mill, moderate Christianity. I don’t see the two as interacting together in any real sense. Fundamentalists view reality in a very different way from the rest of the population, religious and non-religious alike. Fundamentalism – of any kind – is a seperate world entirely, and is a serious issue of its own. Fundamentalist Christians are fundamentalists because of the way they view the world, not because they are Christian. There are a million outlets for fundamentalism, and I would not want anyone to think I am condemning Christianity in this post, because that is not my intention. My problem with the ‘Zounds!’ site is not the site itself, but the issues it brings up about the whole notion of ‘Christian’ music, which has always bugged me. Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics in the Pub: Anniversary Special (formerly Andy Lewis)

Anniversary Bonanza

When: Thu, Feb 18, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Unfortunately, due to unforeseen circumstances our booked guest speaker Andy Lewis is unable to make this event. However, all is not lost – in honour of the first anniversary of the Merseyside Skeptics Society we’ve decided to replace Andy’s talk with a number of short talks on a variety of topics:

  • Emotional Freedom Technique, by Allan Callister – a look at the latest craze for face-tapping therapy
  • Bad Logic, Mike Hall – examining logical failures, with examples from the world of religion
  • PR and the Media, Michael Marshall – how PR gained control of journalism, and where we go from here
  • How Science Works, Tom Williamson – what is science, how do we do it and how do we know it works?

Plus, a live recording of the Skeptics with a K show.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Skeptics in the Pub: Daniela Rudloff

Mental “Shortcuts” – A Necessary Evil?

by Daniela Rudloff

When: Thu, Mar 18, 2010 8.00 – 11.00 PM
Where: The Vines (aka the Big House), 81 Lime Street, Liverpool

Summary

Can we really trust our eyes? Why does a footballer’s performance usually drop right after they’ve been sold to a high-paying football club? What exactly is “anchoring”, and why are we doing it in a pub?

Daniela Rudloff will answer these and other questions by giving an introduction to the everyday mental shortcuts and biases we often employ, arguing that even though they might be misleading, they are also necessary – and almost impossible to avoid.
Read the rest of this entry »

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Question of the Week: What Woo Does Your Family Believe In?

What was that? There was no ‘Question of the Week’ last week? And we’ve missed it on other occasions, too? I find that hard to believe! We’ve never missed a ‘Question of the Week’!

Ahem.

If you read this blog, then you most likely consider yourself a person of the Skeptical persuasion. Objectivity and critical thinking are your cornerstones. Unfounded beliefs and woo of all kinds do not penetrate your hardened Skeptical exterior as you stride across the globe unearthing logical fallacies… Or something along those lines. At the very least, you will probably consider youself a rational thinker who wouldn’t be caught dead believing something silly.

However, the same might not be true of your family; and while you can choose your beliefs, you can’t choose your family. As much as you may like to think you are safely cocooned from all the woo and guff out there by the warm fires of the Skeptical community, we all have to interact on a daily basis with those close to us who may have beliefs which are – let’s put this delicately – a bit distanced from our own.

So, this week’s question of this week is this:

What woo does your family believe in? Are there any strange beliefs or ideas held by those close to you which raise the hairs on your hardened Skeptical hide? How do you deal with it: do you confront it head on, or do you ignore it for fear of upsetting family harmony?

Don’t worry, you can change names if you wish; the last thing we want is to have any Skeptics disowned by their parents due to comments they’ve written on this site!

So, don’t be afraid: What woo does your family believe in? Please leave a reply in the comments box below.

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