Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Cult, Cults, Cultism, Cultish, Cultish Thinking: You'll Eventually Learn To Respect These Words

"Her cultish clinging to,...belief, against all scientific evidence,...cost her daughter her life in 2005 and, very likely, cost her her own life a few days ago,....

Leave it to HIV/AIDS denialist crank Celia Farber,..her claim is that Christina Maggiore did not die of AIDS. Rather,...a combination of stress and a "radical detoxification" regimen,...even if her account is accurate, matter what killed Maggiore, HIV or quackery, her case stands as a shining example that pseudoscience and antiscience kill."

-- Orac, on the self-imposed death lap taken by yet another cultish thinker, for Respectful Insolence.

Crazy Creeps Conspire To Con The Cancer Cats

"Any reasonable person looking at the many tests that have been conducted to test the weird claims made ever since Samuel Hahnemann came up with this idea back in 1792, would immediately see that the 'art' is simply imaginary, takes a totally delusional mind to still think that there's anything there to be found."

-- James Randi, saying homeopaths are "all deluded," on the JREF.

Richard Dawkins and Michael Baum: Homeopaths "Speak With Forked Tongues" And "It Makes You Weep" They Don't Have To Prove That It Works

"I'm obviously against alternative medicine, because to me, alternative, by definition, means it does not work. If it works, we would use it."

-- Michael Baum, Professor Emeritus of Surgery at the University College of London and a breast cancer specialist, in a new alternative medicine documentary with Professor Richard Dawkins, that focuses on homeopathy, for the Digital Journal.

Richard Dawkins,...switches to the main subject of the interview, homeopathy. He mentions that homeopathy uses ultra-diluted substances that are said to become more potent, the more they are diluted, and how -on the face of it- this sounds like plain bonkers. Yet, so many people swear by it on the basis of anecdotal evidence.

Prof. Baum reacts by stating that homeopathy is a system of beliefs into the nature of evidence and anecdotal evidence that is very hard to shift. What is meant by anecdotal evidence?

1. I have a problem
2. I did something
3. The problem went away
4. Therefore, what I did, works

This can be a powerful experience for the individual, and Baum says that a compassionate, caring medical practitioner must now ask the question if this could simply be the normal history of a self-limiting condition(1) that would have got better anyway or if it could be a placebo effect(2). And of course, it is also possible that this anecdote might hint that there is something active that might be worth exploring, for example, if there would be a lot of anecdotal evidence. However, an anecdote in and of itself is not evidence.

Michael Baum gives a nice example. If you would be standing in court to be judged for murder, you would probably prefer this evidence to be somewhat stronger than just anecdotal, circumstantial evidence. He goes on to say that we accept this for the judiciary and that his patients, who are often facing a life sentence (because of breast cancer) also deserve treatments for which the evidence is stronger than mere anecdotal, circumstantial evidence.

Richard Dawkins then asks how he would go about to test the validity of homeopathy. Baum says that the gold standard of testing is the randomized controlled trial. He explains that the homeopaths always advance two objections to that. First, he says, the homeopaths claim that their administrations cannot be patented and that they therefore do not have the money necessary to do these tests.

Baum says this is just not true. The homeopathic industry is hugely profitable and testing their remedies in controlled trials is simply not very expensive, one reason being that these remedies hardly cost anything. He says that a decent trial could be done for about 30,000 British pounds a year and that this is cheap, especially for an industry that makes millions. He goes on saying that he actually advised the Blackie Foundation at the Royal Homeopathic Hospital on how to design and conduct these trials. They refused.

The other argument homeopaths are always advancing is that they individualise their treatments and that therefore, clinical trials are not appropriate for testing their treatments. Baum says that this is a very poor argument, and he gives two reasons. When one buys a homeopathic remedy over the counter, it is not individualized. One asks for a remedy, say for a cold, and goes away with an off-the-shelf product, so there simply is no individualization. "So, "he says, "they speak with forked tongues." The second reason he advances is that modern testing methodology is perfectly able to accommodate for individualized treatments, and he gives an example on how to organize a four-armed trial.

Professor Baum also explains that he is quite upset with the way that alternologists hijack perfectly good words of the English language and pervert them into meanings they do not have. He gives the example of "holistic," and says that alternologists have debased this word by hijacking it without knowing what it means and that while they think that it means "whole" but that, in fact, holism is about the hierarchical organization of the human subject up to and beyond the family unit where at each level the sum is greater than the parts.

Prof. Dawkins and Baum also talk about the wisdom of allocating NHS (the UK National Health Service) money to homeopathy. Baum says that this is currently a minor problem, but that there is a fundamental principle at stake, namely that now, in the UK, there are two standards for medical products. Proper pharmaceuticals are to be tested rigorously and must show their efficacy, while homeopathic products do not have to show that they are effective. "It makes you weep," says professor Baum.

Later on, they talk about what Baum politely calls "post-modern relativism," the idea that everything is but an opinion. I have an opinion, but you have read some other books and you have therefore another opinion and both opinions are equally valid. As a result, we have now alternative medicine, alternative teaching methods, alternative legal advocates, "but," he says "we haven't yet come up with an alternative Boeing 747 pilot".

He links this to the MMR vaccine crisis where people are being told by alternologists and are convinced that there is a conspiracy of the medical establishment and the government that, in order to protect themselves, they were willing to sacrifice countless children to autism. "This is simply a lie," he says, and he adds that even among his closest friends, there are people who are not immunizing their children and that these children are now unprotected as a result.

Baum goes on giving another example of young women backpacking around the world who are taking homeopathic anti-malarials and as a result, are coming back to the UK with malaria.

NewAger = Nazi: A "Perfect" Fit? Nope (What Is?)

Dear Skeptic,

First, let me say I appreciate the effort you put into this comment. It's thoughtful, well-written, and devoid of the usual venom I (and other NewAge researchers) receive when we open up this subject.

For that, I thank you.

This can be a lonely, and depressing job, with little up-side, except to meet those who also understand the subject matter - which, I might add, can also sometimes be depressing as well, making me even more lonely. It's people like you I, honestly, want to engage with.

"Whatever similarities Kratz may discover or invent, New Age at the very least differs from National-Socialism in the one respect which explains Auschwitz: it rejects violence."

I was reading your comment - and even questioning myself - until it claimed NewAgers are "gentle souls" who "reject violence."

Yes, my friend, that snapped me awake because not only do I recognize it as a lie but as naive beyond (what have become) my wildest dreams.

There are certain points I've made throughout the blog that I think bear repeating. I am writing TMR, in it's current fashion, because:

1) I was married to a NewAger who, along with her friends, lied to me about the nature of their beliefs for 20 years - before, on my own, I eventually caught on - but they would have kept doing so, otherwise, which, as Prince said, "means 'forever' and that's a mighty long time."

2) My ex-wife, and another believer, killed her mother.

3) They've since gone on to kill two more people (that I know about: let's not forget they didn't report it when the first one died,...).

4) Numerous NewAgers have told me in private (as they assumed I was, still, a Kool-Aid drinking naive black Leftist, down with the cause) they wanted to start (in their words) "a Civil War" in this country - and there's nothing "non-violent" about that - or what occurred in numbers 2 and 3.

5) Rather than the NewAge "movement" being a few crackpots, these are now famous people who have weaseled their way into the larger culture, leaving those who are being strictly logical - against a foe working from a "metaphysical" framework - missing the operation in action, and even defending them as "harmless," while wondering why everything appears to be going to Hell and we see the people who make the least sense (or who we can spot outright lying) steadily gaining real power.

As my ex-wife told me, at the top of her lungs, in one of her last screeds to me:

"We're in the hospitals - we're getting legit - you'd better 'get it' before it's too late!"

Skeptic, there's nothing "non-violent" about that statement, either.

I don't blame you, or anyone else, for missing this. I did as well. We're logical, and hopefully, peace-loving people.

But NewAgers are not - they're people who "believe what they want to believe" - or, as Oprah Winfrey says, who "make your own truth," and thus (in their minds) can "spin" the ugliest of realities into gold, just as Hitler's sick mind could turn the attempted annihilation of the Jews into some kind of "good" for the german people.

Haven't you heard Oprah, and other NewAgers, talking of shedding "energy vampires" - meaning those who don't go along with the NewAge agenda once it's been accepted?

It's kind of easy to mistreat "vampires" isn't it?

Especially if they're loved ones - who are, both, oblivious and the first folks close at hand - and whose only true transgression is being, somehow, stuck with a person they care about who insists they must be forced into, innocently and repeatedly, attempting to suck the air out of (what appear to be) numerous non-sensical arguments?

Why, one can do a lot of damage to a loved one - who is constantly off-balance - like that, can't they?

Especially if the believer is assisted by a network of others in the process - along with, for instance, free speech advocates, like you, who are insisting NewAgers are peaceful and harmless as they continue to abuse someone, naturally, growing increasingly angry from that abuse - right?

Why, with that kind of cover they could probably get away with murder, couldn't they? But a NewAger would never do that, would they?

Sure, tell that to my ex-wife and her quack doctor, who - as I was crying, in severe emotional pain, and begging for some semblance of understanding and connection to reality as they tore my world apart - certainly weren't espousing "soft feminine values" when I last heard their laughter.

And believe me - they're, both, NewAgers - through and through.

One of the things you seem to miss, or have schizophrenically "moved on" from, is the very-real harm this attempt to change our values does to those the NewAgers are working on.

In the 70s, numerous lawsuits were brought against these groups for messing with people's heads, but that doesn't ever stop them.

They ignore the values of those who aren't asking for their help - who point out it's NewAgers who are dissatisfied and determined, by hook or by crook, to change our world - whether we like it or not, as San Francisco's NewAge Mayor, Gavin Newsom, said.

They appoint themselves as the Euphemistic PC Language Enforcement Police (as you just did over RJN's concentration camp joke) while allowing countless ethical lapses - actual actions by those "in the fold" - to be brushed away.

Thus we get the spectacle of Don Imus hung out to dry, for his "nappy headed" comment about a group of women, while Bill Clinton's been winking his way out of using the most powerful office in the land to have sex with, smear as crazy, and discard a young woman, right before the eyes of the entire country and world - and then go on to places like Davos to decide what should be done with the rest of us.

Actions his NewAge wife brushed aside - because there are "worse things" - as she was plotting her next step to power.

I guess, in order for the magnitude of his actions to have mattered (his lies did also cause a Constitutional crisis) he should have killed Monica as well.

But in this environment, I've no doubt, he may have gotten away with that - and he also might have received Hillary's help, too.

Now, I can imagine you saying, "That's outrageous!" But is it really? Consider this:

I'm a black foster child - now grown - probably one of the best examples of the "Native Son" concept you're going to find in 2009.

And what have I been unleashed into?

A world where supposedly sane adults can't determine the nature of water (Is it medicine? Does it have a memory?)

...while also belaboring my government - basically my parent - for supposedly hiding information on U.F.O.s..

They're even crowing because they've introduced quackery, like acupuncture, to Iraq war vets.

And, as they're wasting our time and countless dollars on such nonsense, and a whole lot more, the rest of you have been cowed into (and/or are now spookily determined) not to taking a stand.

To not grabbing ahold of the American values my "parent" raised me with and saying "Enough!" You've been convinced to have no interest in passing judgement on them to spare me - why not?

You fight for their right to spout Nazi craziness because they talk nice and they insist they're the ones with my best interests at heart - even when I'm saying otherwise!

And am I better off because of them? No. Things are just more convoluted and confused. Nobody, from where I sit, knows anything "for sure." So I ask you:

Who's the racists and Nazis now?

Really, the ultimate question for me is, what's happened to us? What's happened to make so many Americans determined that common sense, and truth, are out of style?

To not be able to say, "Fuck that - I am passing judgement - and I'm determined to discover the true parameters of what can be known - forget the wishes and unicorns and "possibilities" - what is really true? Right here, right now?

And who's pulling my leg? And why? And what are they costing us? And who should even be going to prison?

You say it's not Nazis, just the idiots with a European, pre-Christian ideology that Hitler shared.

Well, that kind of talk sounds a lot like when I hear newscasters say Obama "isn't ideological": what I hear is the man is a proven liar and nobody wants to call him on it because that's not PC.

Whatever the truth is, on either topic, the result is the same:

You're leaving American citizens, like me, blowing in the wind because - whether I'm right or wrong - you've lost the guts to be "devisive" and determine the truth of the matter.

You know it: you've lost The Macho Response.