Posts Tagged “pseudoscience”
This blog entry is more of an “interesting tidbit” than anything else. It may well be an example of one type of metaphysics squeezing into another … although it’s too soon to tell how far it might go.
It seems American churches are opening themselves up to something new (to them, anyway), called the Enneagram. It’s a personality-typing model, symbolized (and supposedly explained) by a 9-pointed figure (hence its name, derived from Greek εννεα or ennea meaning “nine”). Religion News Service explains the Enneagram’s early seepage into American Christendom (WebCite cached article):
What’s your number?
It’s not a pickup line. At least, it wasn’t at the pre-conference portion of an event called “Why Christian?,” which was back this past week for its second year at Fourth Presbyterian Church in Chicago.
No, this inquiry is actually just a standard part of the Enneagram, an ancient personality typing system that recently has exploded in popularity in Christian circles.
Ian Morgan Cron, who co-led the Enneagram Conference on Thursday (Sept. 29) with Suzanne Stabile, called it “disruptive spiritual technology.”
But it may not be as modern as it sounds, or as alien to the faith as some might fear.
In fact, some trace the Enneagram to a fourth-century Christian monk and ascetic named Evagrius, whose teaching later influenced the formation of the seven deadly sins, according to Cron and Stabile.
Others detect elements of the Enneagram within Sufism and Judaism.
As someone who knows about early Christianity, I have to call B.S. on the idea that Evagrius Ponticus had anything to do with inventing the Enneagram model. He did no such thing. He didn’t even invent personality typing. Not even close! Evagrius was an early Christian mystic, that much is true; he also taught that humans were prone to eight types of malicious thoughts, which all descend from a ninth, i.e. love of self, hence his association with psychology and the number nine. But none of that has anything to do with personality typing; it actually has much more to do with the subsequent Catholic notion of “seven deadly sins.”
No, this business about Evagrius supposedly inventing the Enneagram is a lie intended to make it appear native to Christianity. The truth about the Enneagram model is that it’s the product of 20th century Jungian mysticism, not the mysticism of a 4th century Desert Father.
This interested me because, around 20 or 25 years ago, I’d briefly looked into personality typing. I investigated the Myers-Briggs model, the Kiersey Temperament Sorter, and other personality-typing models. (Most, if not all, were based on Jung’s list of psychological types.) I took tests, which sometimes produced what seemed to be different results. Looking more closely at the questions, I realized that it was possible I might have answered some of them differently, at different moments. There was no way for any given test to actually pin me down to any particular one of its personality types; not consistently, anyway, without me making a concerted effort to recall the questions I’d seen already and ensure I answered them the same.
It turns out that, aside from introversion/extroversion distinctions (which may have at least some basis in reality), personality types are pseudoscience, plain and simple. Bullshit. A steaming load. The reality of human beings is that they can act in varied ways, at any given moment, based on dozens of factors at the time. Their minds aren’t locked into particular “types” of personalities, temperaments, etc. which dictate their words and actions. People may tend to act and speak in particular ways more than others, but that’s a far cry from the notion that their personality types define what they say and do at all times.
At any rate, this may be an example of one type of metaphysical nonsense (i.e. the Enneagram) being grafted onto another (i.e. Christianity). For anyone who wants to see an example of nascent syncretism, this may well be one.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: carl jung
, evagrius ponticus
, kiersey temperament sorter
, myers-briggs type indicator
, personality type
, personality types
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There’s a paper published not far from me, that I read from time to time, the Torrington (CT) Register Citizen. A few years ago I noted — and documented several examples of — that paper printing a lot of “hauntings as news” stories. Of course, they’re not the only ones guilty of that bad journalism trope. Thankfully I haven’t seen them do too much of that lately. So that’s an improvement.
But today I see they ran another specious story, though of a different kind. This article is a puff-piece promoting a Litchfield, CT naturopath/chiropractor and his so-called “practice” (WebCite cached article).
I don’t plan to quote any of what amounts to a press release for this woo practitioner. Instead, I offer a few observations:
First, one must understand that naturopathy is a pseudoscience (aka “phony medicine” or “quackery”) based on something called “vitalism.” Chiropractic is similarly pseudomedical, based on the notion that “subluxations” in the spine cause all disease. There’s zero evidence supporting either vitalism or the subluxation-of-the-spine model of disease … but that doesn’t stop quacks like this. They’ll happily reel off any number of tales in support of their woo and nonsense.
Next, the guy complains about conventional medicine making money, as though the profit motive destroys its credibility or something. The problem is, quacks like him themselves make money, themselves, peddling their phony cures. He lampshades this by saying he’s not wealthy, but does admit he makes something, which basically invalidates his whole “making-money-on-medicine-means-it-can’t-be-any-good” argument.
In truth, no remedies — whether real or phony — are given away for free! Everyone who offers any kind of cure, does so with his/her hand out. It’s unavoidable. And all by itself, it doesn’t tell us anything about the effectiveness of the cure.
This guy is also an anti-vaxxer … and the less said about that, the better, because that movement was established by a con artist. Yes, a fraud.
This “practitioner” wants people to think for themselves and question what they’re told by conventional medicine. Questioning things is a principle I support wholeheartedly. The problem is … before one can productively question something, one must first know something about it … the more, the better. Most people are not educated in medicine, though, which means that any questioning they may do of conventional medicine, could easily go off the rails. (The popularity of the antivax movement is a sterling example of this.)
A year and a half ago, Connecticut “modernized” naturopathy practices and expanded what naturopaths can do (cached). This guy, no doubt, is profiting from that. Yes, I said “profiting.” As in, “making money.” Something the article suggests is bad for healers to do.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
, litchfield CT
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Among the ridiculous bullshit spewed during last night’s Republican primary debate on CNN … in addition to the bullshit Rick Santorum spewed that I already blogged about … another dealt with vaccines. As the Daily Beast reports, Donald “it’s my own orange hair” Trump once again repeated his asinine, pseudoscientific antivax position (WebCite cached article):
At the CNN debate Wednesday night, the GOP frontrunner broadcasted [sic] anti-science vaccine conspiracy nonsense—unchallenged by moderators or fellow contenders—to an audience of millions.
“We’ve had so many instances…a child went to have the vaccine, got very, very sick, and now is autistic,” he blathered. “Autism has become an epidemic. It has gotten totally out of control.”
Trump has long peddled goofy, debunked theories about a causal link between vaccination and autism. As far back as 2012, he suggested the practice of giving numerous vaccines to healthy babies is “monstrous.”
One of the physicians onstage, Ben Carson, was asked about Trump’s claims. Unfortunately, he punted:
“We have extremely well documented proof that there’s no autism associated with vaccinations,” Carson said. “But it is true that we’re giving way too many in too short a period of time. And a lot of pediatricians now recognize that, and they’re cutting down on the number and the proximity.”
It’s nice, I suppose, that Carson did acknowledge there being no link between vaccines and autism. But his little bit about there being too many and too frequent vaccinations is a lie, as a report the Daily Beast linked to makes clear (cached). The other physician onstage, Rand Paul, idiotically echoed Carson:
“I’m all for vaccines, but I’m also for freedom,” the curly-haired ophthalmologist said. “I’m also more concerned about how they’re bunched up. My kids had all their vaccines, and even if the science doesn’t say bunching ’em up is a problem, I might have the right to spread my vaccines out at the very least.”
His whole thing about “freedom” is a fucking joke. No parent in his/her right mind should use “freedom” to justify risking his/her kids coming down with preventable childhood diseases — which can, in some cases, be deadly (even if a lot of antivaxxers irrationally dismiss that danger). So I find Paul’s “freedom” objection to be, essentially, a non sequitur.
Look, I get why all these guys hate vaccines. It’s because they’re largely government-mandated (in most places kids can’t get into school without them), ‘n’ y’all knows how horrbull dat dere gummint is! Dem vaccine thangs jus’ cain’t be good fer da chilluns! Dat secret Muslim Barack HUSSEIN Obama is prolly usin’ ’em fer mind control!
Of course, hating vaccines for political reasons isn’t appreciably worse than hating them because of a fraudulent study by a con-artist doctor who’d imagined a scheme to sell bogus autism treatments.
The reality is — as Ben Carson conceded during the debate — that medicine has determined there is no connection between vaccines and autism. None. Period. End of discussion.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: 2016 gop presidential primary
, 2016 gop primary
, 2016 republican presidential primary
, autism epidemic
, ben carson
, donald trump
, gop presidential primary
, mmr vaccine
, rand paul
, republican presidential primary
, republican primary
, right wing
, vaccination schedule
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Three years ago, I blogged about a California woman who went to court because, she claims, municipal wifi devices made her sick. Well, it seems a family in Massachusetts is playing the same game. As the Worcester Telgram & Gazette reports, they’re suing a private school because its wifi service afflicted their child (WebCite cached article):
The family of a student at the Fay School in Southboro has filed a lawsuit claiming the school’s strong Wi-Fi signal caused the boy to become ill.
The unidentified plaintiffs, referred to as “Mother” and “Father” in the complaint, said their 12-year-old son, “G,” suffers from Electromagnetic Hypersensitivity Syndrome, a condition that is aggravated by electromagnetic radiation. The boy was diagnosed after he frequently experienced headaches, nosebleeds, nausea, and other symptoms while sitting in class after the school installed a new, more powerful wireless Internet system in 2013, the suit says.…
Along with the complaint, the plaintiffs submitted to the court several letters from doctors confirming the adverse health effects the school’s Wi-Fi, which the family says “emits substantially greater radiofrequency/microwave emissions than … more low-grade systems used in most homes,” could be causing illness in a sufferer of EHS.
It’s true that wifi systems intended to service the public, especially on school campuses, are more powerful than home-grade wifi equipment. It has to be, because it needs to reach over a much larger space and accommodate many more devices. To think wifi at a private school can’t be any more powerful than what’s found in homes, is asinine and ridiculous.
As I blogged previously, though, and as the T&G story explains, electrosensivity is not a recognized medical condition. But that’s not for a lack of examination of “EHS,” as the WHO explains:
A number of studies have been conducted where EHS individuals were exposed to EMF similar to those that they attributed to the cause of their symptoms. The aim was to elicit symptoms under controlled laboratory conditions.
The majority of studies indicate that EHS individuals cannot detect EMF exposure any more accurately than non-EHS individuals. Well controlled and conducted double-blind studies have shown that symptoms were not correlated with EMF exposure.
That this family could find “doctors” willing to write letters to the court supporting their EHS claim, doesn’t mean much. If one is willing to pay enough, one can usually find “experts” in almost any field willing to say almost anything about it.
The question isn’t whether one or two — or even 10 or 20 — individual doctors say EHS is real: Rather, it’s whether the medical community as a whole, which is quite large, says it is. At the moment, given the studies done to date, the vast majority of medicine has determined electrosensitivity is pseudoscience — i.e. non-existent and a lie. And that remains true no matter how fervently this family believes otherwise or how many doctors their lawyer can convince to line up behind them.
P.S. None of this means there can’t be any drama associated with electrosensitivity. Michael McKean is great fun to watch as Chuck McGill on Better Call Saul, perhaps the most famous electrosensitive in the country … even if he’s purely fictional.
Photo credit: PsiCop graphic, based on originals by shokunin & johnny_automatic, both via Open Clip Art Library.
Hat tip: Rational Wiki.
, fay school
, southboro MA
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Every year around this time the Old Farmer’s Almanac, and its similar rival the Farmers’ Almanac, trot out weather predictions for the coming winter. And every year we’re treated to media stories about it … as though any of it actually means anything. Yesterday the Associated Press published a story with a lede guaranteed to pique Americans’ interest (WebCite cached article):
Just when you thought you had gotten over last winter, be warned: The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts it will be super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don’t usually see too much of it, like the Pacific Northwest.
If you don’t want to read about those four-letter words, there’s plenty more to peruse in the folksy, annual book of household tips, trends, recipes and articles, such as animal jealousy, the history of shoes and anticipation for the biggest Supermoon in decades in November 2016.
That crap is all I can take, so I won’t quote any more of it. In spite of the AP story’s paean to a supposedly accurate prediction last year, in truth, the two Almanacs” weather predictions are, in a word, bullshit! A steaming load heaved right out the back of the barn. Claims of over 80% accuracy are not true at all. They’re lies. Real meteorologists who really study the weather, who base their conclusions on real measurements, and who have real credentials that show they know what they’re talking about, have determined the Almanacs actually have very poor track records (cached and cached). The Farmers’ Almanac was, quite famously, wrong about Super Bowl XLVIII being hit with snow.
It’s utterly irresponsible of mass media outlets — especially those as widely-read and respected as the Associated Press — to treat this rank bullshit as though it’s news. It’s not. The Almanacs’ predictions are nothing of the sort! Making everything much worse … because this was released by the AP, it will get propagated by virtually every other media outlet in the country, and internationally too. Which is far more publicity than this crap deserves.
It’s time for the mass media, especially the AP, to just fucking stop falling for bullshit like this. Yes, as I said, the lede of this story is compelling. It’ll draw eyeballs for sure … but it will still be uninformative and useless crap that no one should bother seeing. Both Almanacs sell well enough that they don’t need the AP shilling for them.
P.S. Mention of the Almanac‘s prediction of a “supermoon” in 2016 is superfluous. A supermoon, aka a “perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system,” is a very predictable phenomenon. Astronomers (as in, real scientists using real equipment) can predict them many years in advance, and have done so — without the specious help of the Old Farmer’s Almanac or their mysterious, undisclosed algorithms.
Photo credit: NOAA-CIRES & Climate Diagnostic Center, via Weather Underground.
Tags: associated press
, farmer's almanac
, journalism fail
, mass media
, old farmer's almanac
, weather prediction
, weather predictions
, winter weather
, winter weather predictions
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I’ve blogged a couple times about the woo and nonsense spewed by the famous “Friend of Oprah” Dr Mehmet Oz. The insipid nonsense he reels off has been questioned both by journalists and by US Senators. But he’s been able to keep his TV show and his jobs at Columbia University … feathers in his cap which grant him more apparent credibility than he deserves (WebCite cached article). The Associated Press reports a number of physicians have petitioned Columbia to remove him due to his pseudomedical advice (cached):
Columbia University has not removed TV celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz from his faculty position as a group of top doctors has demanded, citing his “egregious lack of integrity” for promoting what they call “quack treatments.”
“Dr. Oz has repeatedly shown disdain for science and for evidence-based medicine,” said a letter the 10 physicians sent to a Columbia dean earlier this week. They say he’s pushing “miracle” weight-loss supplements with no scientific proof that they work.…
The doctors wrote that Oz, for years a world-class Columbia cardiothoracic surgeon, “has manifested an egregious lack of integrity by promoting quack treatments and cures in the interest of personal financial gain.” They said he has “misled and endangered” the public.
But Columbia clearly has no problem with one of its faculty peddling pseudoscience and gibberish, and refuse to heed this petition:
The New York Ivy League school responded Thursday, issuing a statement to The Associated Press saying only that the school “is committed to the principle of academic freedom and to upholding faculty members’ freedom of expression for statements they make in public discussion.”
Yes, Columbia University thinks “academic freedom” is a license to dole out lies and misinformation. I don’t see those in any definition of the phrase that I’ve been able to find, but they’re the ones who run an ivory tower, so I have to assume they know more about it than I — or the doctors who signed the petition — do.
Let’s face it, the man makes a shitload of money and has a daily nationally-syndicated TV show; he probably attracts a lot of attention for the college. That must be a lot more important than valid science.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: columbia university
, columbia university medical center
, dr mehmet
, dr oz
, mehmet oz
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I’ve blogged a few times about former pastor, Arkansas governor and GOP presidential candidate Mike Huckabee. He’s said some pretty wild and fiercely Christianist things over the years. Until recently his pulpit had been a show of his own on Fox News, but he quit that lucrative job that in order to run for president again.
I guess the guy must now be really hard up for money. As the New York Times reports, this has caused him to remake himself into a snake-oil salesman (WebCite cached article):
In a wood-paneled study lined with books and framed family photos, the prospective presidential candidate looks into the camera. “I’m Mike Huckabee,” he says with all the folksy charm that propelled a career as a preacher, politician and broadcaster.
But this is no campaign ad. It is an Internet infomercial for a dubious diabetes treatment, in which Mr. Huckabee, who is contemplating a run for the Republican nomination in 2016, tells viewers to ignore “Big Pharma” and instead points them to a “weird spice, kitchen-cabinet cure,” consisting of dietary supplements.
“Let me tell you, diabetes can be reversed,” Mr. Huckabee says. “I should know because I did it. Today you can, too.”
The American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association caution against treatments like the one peddled by the company Mr. Huckabee represents.
Most medicos — as well as those with the illness — understand that diabetes is almost always a perpetual illness. If you have it, then you have it; for the most part it can’t be gotten rid of, only controlled. So Shucksabee is promising something that ostensibly he can’t deliver. As the Times explains, his putative remedy for diabetes is a combination of cinnamon (of all things) and chromium picolinate:
In his diabetes video, Mr. Huckabee promotes the “Diabetes Solution Kit,” a $19.95 booklet with advice on eating, exercise and dietary supplements. “Just sit tight,” he says in the two-minute, 40-second pitch, “because in a moment, a free presentation is coming up.” He promises it will reveal “all the natural secrets that are backed by real science that really work.”
But rather than science, the second, lengthier video peddles a diabetes “cure” consisting of cinnamon and chromium picolinate. Both the American Diabetes Association and the Canadian Diabetes Association warn that dietary and herbal supplements are ineffective for treating diabetes, which is an epidemic in the United States and is tied to obesity.
Yeah, I know what the quacks and their apologists will say: That the ADA is shilling for “Big Pharma” and is conspiring with greedy multinational corporations to make people sick in order to make a profit. Shucksabee is something of a medical-informational “freedom fighter” letting people they don’t have to be reeled in by pharmaceutical fraud and disclosing the “secret” to ending their diabetes. (Remarkably, these people screech and rail against “Big Pharma’s” profit motive, yet they happily and eagerly turn a blind eye to sale of these booklets at $19.95 each, not to mention the cinnamon and chromium supplements, which I’m sure are not dispensed for free, either.)
Among the most remarkable revelations in the Times article, is that Shucksabee himself never used the remedy he’s promoting:
Asked this month at an appearance in Iowa if he had used cinnamon and chromium picolinate to reverse his diabetes, he said he had not. “No, I reversed it by taking better care of my health,” he said.
Talk about “things that make you go, ‘hmmmmm’!”
Huckabee’s people claim his contract to peddle pseudomedicine has already concluded, but it’s curious that he was still contracted to do so at the very same time he’d started exploring another presidential run. Why would someone aspiring for such a high office stoop to selling snake-oil booklets? Why would he not have severed that contract at the same time he quit Fox News? It’s positively mind-blowing that he only just got around to ending his snake-oil gig.
In any case, Shucksabee hit the trifecta for suspicious characters: First, he’s a former pastor; second, he’s a former and possibly future politician; third, he’s selling snake-oil. About the only thing that could make this any
better worse would be if he were to start selling used cars.
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.
Tags: 2016 gop primary
, 2016 presidential election
, 2016 republican primary
, chromium picolinate
, diabetes cure
, mike huckabee
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