Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Stupid People

Many alternatistas just don't seem very bright or skilled in assessing logic, evidence and causal relationships, but some people are just so stupid they shouldn't be allowed out on their own... This man was apparently trying to dry a child.
A 21-year-old man accused of putting a baby in a tumble-dryer has been granted bail in the Perth Magistrates Court. Samuel Barnes-Siddall was babysitting the 14-month-old girl at her Warwick home last Thursday while her mother was out. Police allege he placed the child in the dryer, closed the door and turned it on. Detective Senior Constable Deb Newman says the baby was inside the dryer for about two minutes. She says the girl has serious burns to both feet and her left hand, as well as bruises to her forehead and back.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Probability of Towers of Terror

The RMIT Brain Tumour Inducing Towers received mention on Ockham's Razor, with a discussion by Professor Simon Gandevia, a neurologist from the Prince of Wales Medical Research Institute. Professor Gandevia discusses just how difficult assessing probabilties is.
We thus readily attach a cause to a sequence of random events. Technically, we 'see' or actually 'invent' a positive serial correlation (indicating that one successful shot predicts another).

The cognitive illusion in assessing randomness is that we believe a small sample is as reliable as a large one. This has consequences not just for gamblers. The failure to note the true randomness accompanying a short sequence of outcomes means that scientists are often too easily swayed by the results of small numbers of 'experiments'. As a counter to this cognitive bias, in medicine, clinical trials must include large numbers of participants, alternatively, the results of several 'similar' trials are pooled in what is known as a meta-analysis. This pooling of numbers of participants is a deliberate attempt to counter or dilute the superficial attraction of the initial results of an experiment with small numbers.

Would EoR be surprising anyone here by momentarily reminding everyone of the alternatistas' preference for small trials?
Why do these illusions exist? In the evolutionary world of predator and prey, snap decisions are quite literally vital. It has been argued that because we need time to evaluate probabilities before making a decision, a default system has evolved that rapidly evaluates choices. The Nobel laureate, Francis Crick, is well known for his discoveries about the double helix of our genes, but he later worked in the field of neuroscience. He and his colleagues postulated that humans needed to develop what he termed 'zombie thinking' in order to deal efficiently with the massive sensory input we continuously receive about the external world. This mode of thinking is thus necessary to allow us to react rapidly to external events, so that these cognitive illusions are 'built in' to us, almost certainly for evolutionary reasons. None of us is immune to them, not even those trained as scientists or judges. Our capacity for rational thinking is limited. Propagandists and advertisers are all too well aware of this.

Would EoR be surprising anyone here by momentarily reminding everyone of the alternatistas' 'proof' that 'it works for me'?

Professor Gandevia concludes
The purpose of my talk has been to make you conscientiously cautious in evaluating probabilities. I have also introduced the sometimes harrowing world of cognitive illusions and how we really think. So, while William of Ockham reminds us that conclusions should not (in his words) be 'multiplied beyond necessity', I am reminding you not to 'jump' to them if you have the opportunity for considered reflection.

Would EoR be surprising anyone here by momentarily reminding everyone of the alternatistas' frenzied jumping?

Monday, May 29, 2006

Odd Books

EoR has been spending some time at Odd Books, a delightful site run by Alfred Armstrong.

Mr Armstrong has saved EoR the expense and time of purchasing and reading How to Defend Yourself Against Alien Abduction, an essential text written by Ann Druffel. Apparently, there are various methods of warding of anally probing aliens in the night, such as ceiling fans, or saying "Please go away." Heavy stuff. EoR is amazed that such wimpish aliens manage to ever abduct anyone anywhere.

There's also the wonderful delight of alternatista poet Alcinous B. Jamison, M.D who believed that constipation was the cause of all the body's ills (Hilda Clarke, are you listening?). Sadly, little has changed in the alternatista world since (a prime indicator of holding alternatista beliefs is a refusal to give up those beliefs in the face of all evidence - damn it, it's a religion!). Here's a few stanzas, though EoR finds the first few lines strangely reeking of double entendre.
With perfect form in each respect,
It proudly stood with head erect
And skin surpassing fair,
Surveyed itself from foot to head,
And then complacently it said:
"Naught can with me compare."

When lo the face began to pale,
The body looked too thin and frail,
The cheek had lost its glow;
The tongue a tale of woe did tell,
With nerves impaired its spirits fell;
The fire of life burned low.

In the intestinal canal
Waste matter lay and sad to tell,
Was left from day to day;
And while it was neglected there
It undermined that structure fair,
And caused it to decay.

Or Sidney C Tapp's Why Jesus Was a Man and Not a Woman.
Jesus had to be a Son and not a daughter - a man and not a woman - in order to undergo the temptation of the sex senses of the flesh - the mind of the serpent.

Of course, EoR and all good skeptics know Jesus was a woman, since she had no father to pass on the crucial Y sex chromosone.

For the moment, EoR will conclude with Frank Rudolph Young's Cyclomancy: The Secret of Psychic Power Control (though there's much more to browse on the site) with exercises such as the following (EoR's comments in square brackets):
Exercise. How to Establish Mutual Rapport Fast Between You and Anyone. You run into Martin on the street, in the office, at a social gathering, in your house, or his, the golf course or anywhere else [ie, you run into Martin]. Instantly visualize his torso, from head to thighs [sounds a bit naughty], as secreting within it a profusion of acetylcholine at every Nerve Gap [ooh, ooh, naughty secretions]. Or you can just visualize his torso and at the same time think strongly of a juicy steak or of something else that you relish eating [EoR is beyond comment]. Maintain that thought or vision clearly for two seconds.

This mental picture will automatically be telepathized [now there's a word EoR will have to slip into conversation] into Martin's mind. It will be a picture of a painless torso, for acetylcholine is secreted by your loving nerves, and those are nerves of pleasure, not pain.

Martin's conscious mind will subsequently ignore any pain sensations from his Sensations Recording Center which originated in his torso or which are caused by it reflexly [another word for general conversations], like a stomach headache [how does a stomach get a headache?]. So he feels better immediately and subconsciously associates you with that feeling. He is left eager to meet you or associate with again. You have created mutual rapport between you two ... fast. [and a mutual desire to share "loving" secretions?]

EoR hasn't laughed so much since the last time he listened to Anthony Grzelka.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Reading this week's Mind&Body&Woo supplement in the West Australian, EoR wonders about the delights of Nominative Determinisn. Apparently people with names like De'Ath and Paine are forced to become doctors, while the entertaining cast of characters this week are forced to become alternative therapists. We have Madelaine Innocent (WA president of the Australian Homeopathic Association), Bobbi Buckle (reiki healer) and Mr Joy (runs group therapy retreats). It's like a surrealist game of Happy Families.

EoR was fascinated by how potent homeopathy can be in cases of infertility since, as Ms Innocent points out,
homeopathy treated the whole person and not fertility alone.

Something those nasty evidence based medical practitioners would never do.
Ms Innocent holds the contraceptive pill accountable for many fertility difficulties. She said it altered the delicate balance of hormones

So stop taking the contraceptive pill if you want your fertility treatment to work. Thank God we have holistic homeopaths to tell us those sort of things we'd normally miss.
Homeopathy raised the body's immunity, vitality and energy to better cope with life and any stress.

Which rather begs the questions: how are the immune levels, "vitality" and "energy" measured to prove they are "raised"? And how does this relate to fertility? Please include references to published studies in the comments.

At least homeopathy is safe.
"Remedies are subtle and gentle with no side effects," Ms Innocent said.

Liars are often subtle as well, if they're any good at it. And politicians. And scammers. But at least EoR is reassured to know that water drops (or is it sugar pills?) have no side effects. Though the word "side" is redundant.

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Not Just the Towers of Terror

It seems the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT) is not just the location of an apparently phone tower induced plague of brain tumours, and the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research, but it also hosts a Department of Chiropractic, Osteopathy and Complementary Medicine. EoR is beginning to wonder if any real science is undertaken there. Perhaps it should be better termed the Royal Melbourne Institute of Urban Myths and Magic?

EoR is always fascinated by veterinarians who have turned to the dark side (also the unproven, unsupported, illogical and nonphysical side) of medicine. After all, he never knows when he might need a lost tail nailed back on.

As an example, R J Kilmartin B.V.Sc Post Grad Dip Animal Chiropractic discusses seven cases of Canine Acral Lick Granuloma. EoR would presume that someone with a BVSc after their name had at least some understanding of the scientific method, and what constitutes proof. Sadly, the much longer Post Grad Dip Animal Chiropractic seems to have a negating effect.

Of the seven cases briefly described, three were treated with drugs and no chiropractic intervention, one with drugs and no chiropractic treatment (a chiropractic examination was conducted but no vertebral subluxation found - surely a good chiropracter would have found something wrong since all animals and humans have subtle spinal and postural deviations), one was treated by chiropractic methods ("There was an audible release when the adjustment was made.") and the condition resolved (it had previously resolved and recurred while on drug treatments), one was treated unsuccessfully with both drugs and chiropracty though when chiropracty alone was continued the condition resolved after three months, and one received chiropractic treatment "and the lesion resolved" (it is not clear whether only one treatment was undertaken or many, how long the lesion took to resolve, or whether the physical restraint previously utilised was also continued with).

So it appears that, of seven cases, only two resolved while on chiropractic treatment (the third case resolved while on chiropractic treatment, but had previously on a number of such treatments failed to resolve).

Of course, such resolution of a condition that can recur and resolve repeatedly throughout a dog's life does not necessarily indicate any causal link between chiropractic manipulation and resolution. Indeed, Dr Kilmartin states "This study is not a scientific trial". Yet, towards the end of the page this transforms to "ALG's have been successfully treated with chiropractic". All mention of drugs has been dropped by this stage. In the Conclusion, this becomes "Chiropractic has been shown to be an effective non-invasive treatment in this condition". Of course, this is a miss-statement of what occured, since no causal mechanism has been found by which spinal manipulation can resolve a skin condition, nor has it been shown that such manipulation even affected the cause of the disease.

Sadly, Dr Kilmartin is not alone in his belief that "therapies" which subvert and defy the whole basis of the science they studied are real. This vet, for example, utilises such remedies as homeopathy, flower essences, bicycle tubes and string, cabbage (but not cabbage moths), shiatsu, craniosacral and cupping.

And EoR won't even mention this vet since it's by a hoofbeats contributor and contains such wisdom as "Every day horses injure part of their spine." With claims like that, it's not surprising that these people are succeeding in creating their own new market share of needlessly worried owners.

Friday, May 26, 2006

More on The Towers of Terror

The science correspondent on Tony Delroy's Nightlife program on the ABC on Tuesday reported some updates to the RMIT Phone Towers of Terror Saga.

She pointed out various salient points that would lead one to believe that the original reports were a bit of a beat up and scare mongering by the press. Buildings, for example, are made of concrete and steel and tend to be good shielders of Electromagnetic Energy (hence the difficulty getting a good mobile phone signal in them). Mobile phone towers are designed to radiate energy outwards, not downwards (since that is a waste of power).

She also pointed out that a plethora of various tests have been conducted at RMIT, all of them inconclusive, or not finding any source of danger.

As she also pointed out, such clusters of brain tumours are hardly ever sourced to a cause (if there is a cluster occurring, since humans, being pattern observing animals often see patterns where there are none - and often in workplaces that are already stressed). Also that many many studies have been conducted into the Evil Energies of mobile phones, and none have found a cancer causing effect.

She also pointed out how this panic could lead people to taking unnecessary CAT scans (with the inherent irradiation of these people for real) which could well find small anomalies, leading to people having completely unnecessary surgery.

EoR expects none of this to be reported in the mainstream press, since unproven and unfounded scare stories sell more papers. One shouldn't let science and common sense affect reporting or the public.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Whom Do You Trust?

For the last few years the Reader's Digest (okay, not the most prestigious of journals) has published the results of an Australian survey into who we trust, conducted by The Leading Edge. According to this report, the survey
was conducted between February 23 and March 1 this year. The Leading Edge surveyed a sample of 1502 adult Australians asking them to rank 100 individuals, 30 professions and 119 brands. Half the sample was asked how they trusted the individuals and professions in the poll and half about the brands and professions they trust the most.

The survey was also covered by Radio National's Life Matters where it was revealed that the professions we trust the most are ambulance workers and firefighters (pilots, nurses and pharmacists take the next few spots). We trust call centre workers the least, who rate worse than politicians. Tellingly, trusted only just above call centre workers are psychics. So it seems their true worth (ie none at all) is recognised by the population at large.

Apart from call centre workers, these results are the same as last year:
The annual survey of trust, now in its fifth year, found ambulance officers, firefighters and mothers were the most trusted professions, while politicians, car salesmen, real estate agents, psychics and journalists are the least trusted. [...] Reader's Digest editor-in-chief Tom Moore said the findings of the most trusted list mirrored those of the wider trust survey. "It is clear from our survey results that many of Australia's most trusted individuals and professions share a generosity of spirit, while on the flipside, those with a low trust ranking are perceived to be motivated by self-interest," he said.

Psychics motivated by self-interest? Who'd credit it? Anthony Grzelka as a self-serving theatre act only in it for the money?

In contrast to self-seeking self-proclaimed psychics, the top three individuals we trust are all scientists: Dr Fiona Wood (former Australian of the Year), Dr Ian Frazer (current Australian of the Year) and Dr Barry Marshall (Nobel prize winner).

EoR encourages Mr Grzelka to try harder. He's sure Mr Grzelka could make it to the top of next year's list. Perhaps by easily winning the James Randi Prize and donating the money to the ambulance workers...

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


EoR proposes an organised resistance against the bullshit claim of the alternatistas about their alternative therapies and medicines. Something along the lines of a Bullshit Alternatista Resistance Front.

A spectre is haunting the world - the spectre of alternative medicine. The alternatistas disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing scientific reality. Let the logical classes tremble at an Alternatistic revolution. The alternatistas have nothing to lose but their chains of reason. They have a world to win.


Sunday, May 21, 2006

Doga: Yoga for the Gullible

EoR was half listening to the ABC vet on the radio today. He was slightly bemused by the vet's suggestion to use "complementary and alternative therapies" for renal problems in raptors, especially since he didn't elaborate. Which therapies would be useful, EoR wondered? Acupuncture? Homeopathy? Herbs? Aura cleansing? Alien rectal probing? The list is endless. But then the vet casually mentioned Yoga for Dogs, yet another "alternative" modality that EoR had been completely unaware of until that moment.

Yoga for Dogs (aka Ruff Yoga aka Doga) appears to be making inroads into Australia.
A new craze in America is 'ruff yoga', or 'doga', where people take their dogs to yoga classes. They read their pooches dog stories, give them a big kiss, and put them in yoga positions so that the dogs can concentrate, which makes it easier for their owners to take them for walks in the park. Does this sound weird to you?

No, not weird. Stupid. A waste of money. Mindnumbingly desperately idiotic. But not necessarily weird. And talking of stupid and idiotic, the holistic vet interviewed claimed animals did yoga naturally because they happen to stretch. Then again, the vet appears to have fallen for the full "I'm too stupid to really be a vet"* thing:
Doctor Wilson doesn't only do yoga with pets, he also uses homeopathy in treating things like skin complaints.

In the longstanding tradition of the ABC in such matters, the whole issue is presented uncritically. Though some people think such inanities are the stuff of humour.

Doggy Yoga apparently started in the USA (in New York, where they obviously have too much money, too many dogs, and too much time). And, while one yoga teacher states
"It's hard for a dog to be mindful. Because dogs don't understand English, you can't lead them through a guided meditation."

they can still join in the chanting:
A few months ago, Chai began chanting with the students, making a sound like a happy moaning.

EoR expects animal psychics to be joining the yoga teachers any day now to aid communication during exercises.

Suzi Teitelman, the creator of Dog Yoga, was led to her "epiphany" when her dog revealed the inner wisdom to her.
As Crunch's New York-based director of yoga, she had her epiphany when her devoted cocker spaniel, Coali, began hovering by her yoga mat during at-home sessions. "Pretty soon I was getting Coali into positions, and I could just feel him getting happier," says Teitelman, who wears her dog-love proudly. "This is a partner class, where you and your dog get closer by working through poses together."

Does anyone think the dogs enjoy being held down in unusual poses? Does anyone think this has any benefit whatsoever? Does anyone think there is anything more to this than marketing as a way of extracting money?

Q: Why do dogs perform Dog Yoga?
A: Because they can.

*Also known as the "I can make so much more money with this woo stuff and without the liability issues" thing.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Top Secret Knowledge - Only Available to Those with Money

Grandmaster Choa Kok Sui* appears to be branching out from the multifarious income streams generated by his Pranic Healing conglomerate, and is now offering spiritual wisdom from both a Christian and a Buddhist perspective.

Such knowledge is very special
Only Very High Lamas hold the Healing Buddha Empowerment or Initiation as it is kept very secret and it is transmitted but to the rare few.

Or to those enlightened newage souls who are already so far advanced on the path to buddhahood that they have $A250. Incidentally, the photo of "Monks giving pranic healing to each other" looks, to EoR's jaded eyes, as monks practising religious disputation. He certainly can't see any auras.

GM Choa Kok Sui will teach What Buddha Really Taught, including such principles as
life is a series of attachment and de-attachment - a skill that allows one to practice high spirituality, compassion towards all, yet not be "sucked in" to peiple's emotional and social chaos.

That's attachment and detachment (EoR is shocked at the GM's spiritually appalling attitude to grammar, English and spelling) in the sense that the GM detaches your cash and attaches it to his bank account. He also has the gall to have himself photographed in front of a statue of the Buddha performing the mudra for protection. He also promises
In every course he teaches there is always experiential segments to ensure that the students are clear about the technique and demonstrates experiments along with many anecdotal stories.

EoR thinks the emphasis is probably on the "experiential" and the "anecdotal" with the "experiments" glossed over. He'd love to see the "experiments" (or even just the published results) but he balks at spending huge amounts of money to support an already wealthy guru.

*"Grandmaster" as in "I'm a grandmaster because I've appointed myself one".

Friday, May 19, 2006

Guest Blogger

Today's guest blogger is George Orwell, who wrote the following in his "As I Please" column in the Tribune for April 14th, 1944.
ATTACKING Mr C. A. Smith and myself in the Malvern Torch for various remarks about the Christian religion, Mr Sidney Dark grows very angry because I have suggested that the belief in personal immortality is decaying. ‘I would wager,’ he says, ‘that if a Gallup poll were taken seventy-five per cent (of the British population) would confess to a vague belief in survival.’ Writing elsewhere during the same week, Mr Dark puts it at eighty-five per cent.

Now, I find it very rare to meet anyone, of whatever background, who admits to believing in personal immortality. Still, I think it quite likely that if you asked everyone the question and put pencil and paper in his hands, a fairly large number (I am not so free with my percentages as Mr Dark) would admit the possibility that after death there might be ‘something’. The point Mr Dark has missed is that the belief, such as it is, hasn’t the actuality it had for our forefathers. Never, literally never in recent years, have I met anyone who gave me the impression of believing in the next world as firmly as he believed in the existence of, for instance, Australia. Belief in the next world does not influence conduct as it would if it were genuine. With that endless existence beyond death to look forward to, how trivial our lives here would seem! Most Christians profess to believe in Hell. Yet have you ever met a Christian who seemed as afraid of Hell as he was of cancer? Even very devout Christians will make jokes about Hell. They wouldn’t make jokes about leprosy, or R.A.F. pilots with their faces burnt away: the subject is too painful. Here there springs into my mind a little triolet by the late G. K. Chesterton:

It’s a pity that Poppa has sold his soul,
It makes him sizzle at breakfast so.
The money was useful, but still on the whole
It’s a pity that Poppa has sold his soul
When he might have held on like the Baron de Coal,
And not cleared out when the price was low.
It’s a pity that Poppa has sold his soul,
It makes him sizzle at breakfast so.

Chesterton, a Catholic, would presumably have said that he believed in Hell. If his next-door neighbour had been burnt to death he would not have written a comic poem about it, yet he can make jokes about somebody being fried for millions of years. I say that such belief has no reality. It is a sham currency, like the money in Samuel Butler’s Musical Banks.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Drumming Up Business

Tuesday's Mind&Body supplement in the West Australian seems to be becoming the healthy eating guide, covering as it does such topics as wheat grass (a report of Choice magazine's findings that wheat grass contained less vitamins and minerals than 30g of cooked spinach and broccoli, and no or inconclusive evidence as to its cancer prevention/curing abilities), the importance of good diet to prevent depression (which almost makes sense until towards the end the promoter of this topic starts talking about "imbalance" and "dis-ease". In the final paragraph it is evident this is an advertorial since the promoter's seminar is pushed, in which foods that help "mental clarity", amongst other things, will be revealed), weight control for kids (the next big epidemic appears to be childhood obesity, but EoR wonders whether the true cause is mercury in vaccines; after all, the obesity problem has only appeared since the introduction of childhood vaccination), and "Does milk make you sick?" in which a naturopath links "diarrhoea, constipation or muscle pain" to, and only to, lactose intolerance.

As a break from this food-inspired madness, "Get Into the Beat" promotes the positive benefits of drumming by a member of a drumming group which runs "corporate drumming workshops".
Working in a drumming circle is a freeform, improvisational and non-judgmental space to make strong spiritual connections. [...] Mr Koresis says drumming engages the right and left side of the brain and helps with co-ordination. It can also release serotonin and endorphins. Drumming also releases interleukin-2, a protein made by the body that causes infection-fighting cells to multiply.

EoR wonders why, since sex also involves a repetitive, rhythmic activity that engages the right and left sides of the brain, and releases endorphins, that there aren't more corporate sexual intercourse workshops. It would make a change from the normal corporate screwing that most staff get.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006


Australian Doctor for 5 May 2006 has an interesting opinion piece from Dr Kerri Parnell on "Research fraud tarnishing science community's image".

Dr Parnell relates two recent cases of high profile scientific fraud: that of Dr Hwang Woo-suk (who, as most readers will know, fabricated the results of his claims about his stem cell research); and a study by Dr Jon Sudbo published in The Lancet in October 2005 which showed that long term use of NSAIDS was associated with a lower risk of oral cancer (again, all the details were fabricated).

These cases of fraud not only created a sizable stir in the scientific community, but spilled over into the international media and, in the eyes of many, severely tarnished the image of science and scientists.

Yet, EoR sees this as a affirmation of science. It was scientists who initially publicised the fraud, and it was the scientific community who were advised about the fraud and forced to reassess their standards. As Dr Parnell concludes:
One of the biggest worries, say Snyder and Loring in the NEJM, is that such goings-on reinforce the public's view that scientists can't be trusted. But it's a fact of life that "rogues, though rare, are as much of a fact of life in science as in any other endeavour".

So, while we can't be certain that anything scientists publish is not fraudulent, the very nature of the scientific process (peer-review, however poor; replication of experimental findings; being open to scrutiny) provides its own corrective measures. The scientific process may not be perfect, but it is the best method we have yet found to determine how things work.

These cases probably haven't affected the confirmed alternatista's view of science and scientists, but EoR contrasts what has happened to how the alternatistas handle their "discoveries" and "knowledge". Fraud is unknown in their world (indeed, how could it be when they deal with nonexistent entities such as qi, prana, reiki, auras and so on?). Knowledge, also, does not advance. It's impossible to disprove the unprovable, and the whole edicice of alternative beliefs rests on the shaky foundations of, if not fraudulent, at the very least false and unfounded beliefs. Studies are generally not done or needed (for a variety of offered reasons: cannot be tested, too expensive, too busy and so on). Where they are conducted (usually by scientists) they are lauded if confirmatory, and strenuously criticised if negative.

Is fraud in science a bad thing? Of course. Can it be eliminated? Of course not. But at least science is awake to the possibility, and a little more alert now than before. Other belief systems are not nearly so rigourous.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Nova and Wealth

The May issue of Nova has as its theme Wealth, which is probably appropriate given the massive financial enterprise that the Big Altie funded conglomerate of alternative therapies and supplements is.

The editorial points out
Wealth is a controversial topic, too. It's a widely held belief that people on a spiritual path can't make money out of their passion, their skill, their sacrifices. But then others ask "Why not?"

Which ties in nicely with the advertisement on the facing page for ShantiMayi.
ShantiMayi is one of the rarest flowerings of human consciousness, a Spiritual Master. In total dedication to the Spiritual Awakening of all beings. [...] To experience ShantiMayi is to experience Unconditional Love.

This enlightenment can be enjoyed by attending her "Experiences" (the advertisements don't specifiy whether they're talks, meditations, seminars, or telepathic illuminations) which seem to run almost every day, for the correct fee ("Season Cards available"). So the new paradigm is making money? Very newage. In fact, Nova is filled with advertisements for all sorts of woo, at a price. So where did the idea that "people on a spiritual path can't make money" come from? Or are the people advertising not on a spiritual path, but only a monetary one?

"A Meeting with Love" is an article that, in retrospect, is rather unfortunate featuring as it does Sri Mata Amritanandamayi Devi, she who recently introduced large numbers of people around Australia not to enlightenment, but to measles.
Swami Amritaswarupanda's [the translator's] imperturbability has an infectious quality.

Also, according to Amma
Suffering can totally be removed because suffering is mostly because of poverty and starvation.

The upwardly mobile middle class devotees of Amma will be pleased to know that they do not suffer. Particularly not for health reasons. And especially not by having measles. Amma concludes by giving the correspondent a hug and a kiss to her hair. But hopefully not any pathogens.

Charmaine Saunders (PhD) advises us that
Money is energy, thus its inflow is directly in proportion with your outflow of energy. [...] If you keep money in an "emergency" account, you will for sure attract an emergency to use it for.

Spend your money now! Avert disaster! Let the emergencies hit those poor suckers with the money to afford it! After some more rambling about Postive Thinking, the whole thing rather collapses in a Hallmark-inspired dreary Molesworth "Hello sun! Hello sky!" way:
We live in a miasma of wealth; just look around you - the cloudless, endless blue sky, the tranquil river and the restless sea, a child's laughter, the entertaining playfulness of a cat, the unconditional love of a dog, sand in your toes, the healing power of music, losing yourself in an absorbing book, sitting in your garden on a balmy afternoon, the hug of a friend - the list is infinite.

Meanwhile, Melanie Hubbard enlightens us all as to how the scientific teachings of Master Choa Kok Sui can help us all:
Take a salt bath. [...] Salt is filled with green prana that quickly breaks down dirty energy. [...] Burn sandalwood. [...] Sandalwood is the most cleansing as it contains much high quality green prana. Pour water into a large glass jar or bottle and leave it in the sun for one to two days to absorb solar prana. [...] Face north in important discussions about wealth - your basic chakra will be slightly bigger.

EoR was also rather amused by a letter from Kim Murray regarding recent television advertisements for Lipton's Tea which present various newage beliefs (crystal healing and so on) as loony ideas that are made fun of and satirised mercilessly. Ms Murray, however, is a crystal healer.
[The advertisements] basically suggest that it's all a load of rubbish and the people who are into it are stupid and gullible.

EoR can only concur. Speaking of advertisements, "Bulimia Therapies Australia" had EoR intrigued with its claim for "Coaching for self-recovery" accompanied by a picture of a woman hugging a dolphin and the injunction "For information phone Dolphie". Dolphins have mobile phones now? And why does "Paula" put in an advertisement headed "Need a psychic?" Doesn't she know?

And as for the book review of Dr Sandra Cabot's Bird Flu Virus: Your Personal Survival Guide, the less said the better.
Dr Cabot argues that the best defence is a strong immune system. [The guide] contains invaluable advice about how to use herbs, vegetables and fruits, culinary ingredients, even aromatherapy to build strong immune systems.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Mobile Phone Towers Cause Cancer

The media in Australia is currently promoting a scare story about mobile phone towers and tumours. Seven people at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology have been diagnosed with brain tumours in the last seven years. Coincidentally, they are all reported to work on the top two floors of a building that also has "telecommunication" towers on its roof. The relevant union is demanding health audits, and implying a link:
Mr McGowan said that while it was as yet unknown whether there is a common link between the different cases, the floors’ proximity to the building roof, where telecommunications towers are erected, is a serious concern.

While no one is actually stating outright that the cause of the cancer is the phone towers, these stories play on the unproven assertion that such a causal link exists. Indeed, in this report various factors for and against such a hypothesis are raised, all in the context of a presumed phone tower induced epidemic.
Most of the affected staff have worked on the top two floors for at least 4 years, and some as long as 10.

So, that means they've worked on the top two floors for different periods? Where else have they worked? And what is "most" in a sample size consisting of only seven people? Or is it only seven?
Some are saying that there could be more and so we're ready for that, but we're keen to hear.

Which is a meaningless statement. "Some are saying". Who? On what basis? With what authority? Yes, there could be more. There could also not be.

At one point, the reporter makes a direct connection:
It's what's on the roof that's causing some concern. Tests are being done on Telstra mobile phone equipment.

As a radiation and occupational health expert points out though:
In most cases, cluster investigations don't produce a nice clear cut answer as to what was the cause of this going on. Occasionally useful information is produced.

EoR is not saying that the brain tumours are not a result of proximity to phone towers, only that there is no evidence for this, and that sloppy reporting is reinforcing the general view of the public that such a link has already been proven. It's the same sort of news reporting crying wolf that now has the general population convinced that vaccinations cause autism.

The original hypothesis about the mobile phone and brain tumour nexus was that the radiation from the phone caused localised tumours in the brain since the phone was applied directly to the head. Indeed, the argument for this was that the tumours were supposedly all formed in areas against which the phone was held. This has not been conclusively proven. Nonetheless, were this hypothesis true, two things should logically follow. The high power transmissions from phone towers should not only cause brain tumours, since the whole body is being irradiated. Secondly, anyone, anywhere, in proximity to phone towers should be showing high rates of tumours (brain or otherwise) if the effect is this strong. This presumably includes humans and animals. This, however, seems to be the only example so far.

EoR also wonders whether, in an Institute of Technology, that phone towers are the only technology these workers have been exposed to.

Finally, EoR is also intrigued that, while studies have found no reproducible link between electromagnetic radiation and tumours, the Australian Centre for Radiofrequency Bioeffects Research is based at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT), with the following amongst its aims:
Increase knowledge by conducting research on possible health effects associated with electromagnetic energy emissions from radiocommunication devices, such as mobile phones and mobile phone towers, and to facilitate translation of
research findings into policy and practice.

Promote and enhance radiofrequency EME research and research outcomes, through broad and impartial collaboration and interaction with other researchers and other organisations.

Coincidence? EoR thinks not, since coincidence has not been mentioned as a possible factor in the brain tumour occurrences.

Ben Goldacre at Bad Science has also recently addressed a similar issue.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Mind&Body (No Brain Required)

The West Australian's Mind&Body [sic] supplement for Tuesday May 2, 2006 is a little gem (to continue the theme of the 34th Skeptics' Circle for a moment).

The headlining article is "Feng Shui Your Life" (EoR will just leave the sloppy grammar of that for his readers' amusement). The article is headed:
Does sitting in a cluttered, dark lounge room leave you drained and depressed? Clare Morgan reports that feng shui can help.

Not "might", "maybe", or "could" but "can" help. No argument. Indeed, in the whole article the remote possibility that such inanities as
A feng shui study or audit on a building involves looking at both the tangible qi, the things you can see - objects, structures, furniture, roads, rivers, mountains - and the intangible qi, the subtle life force, the energy that we don't see

could, perhaps, be only a belief is broached only once in passing. Otherwise, the necessity to have
qi energy circulating around your home in nice, even circles so everything is calm

is presented as solid, indisputable fact. You know, like all that unintelligible stuff in physics textbooks. Wouldn't everything be calmer if all that "qi energy" wasn't rushing around so much? This is, of course, unscientific gibberish which has no meaning even within its own magical framework, and all presented as solid fact.

Moving on: Pranic Healing. Again, there is only one passing reference to what practitioners "believe". Unfortunately, the rest of the article is presented as fact. Anyway, it must be real, since Sir Charles Gairdner Hospital uses it. A single anecdotal case is presented of a cancer patient who (note the scientific style of reporting)
After undergoing pranic healing before his last bout of chemotherapy, he didn't develop any sores and left the hospital after five days, instead of 21 days.

Nonetheless, the practitioner featured states
Pranic healing will not cure cancer but Mrs Yorg said it might help adjust the body's energy levels to help recovery.

So does it or doesn't it cure? Or is the important word there "might"? And what effect is the chemotherapy having?

In other articles shiatsu is featured (more references to the already accepted and proven manipulation of qi), an article on calcium supplements being of little apparent benefit for children (based on a study in the Cochrane Database - must mix some real science in there to subliminally convince the readers that everything is science), and "TOXIC METALS LINKED TO ILL HEALTH" (which is hardly newsworthy enough to warrant it being in capitals like that), mixing information with fact with fantasy, all without any boundaries.
Toxic metal burden may be the reason naturopathic or medical treatments fail to work.

Or maybe they just don't work at all. Anything "may" be the reason. Anyway, get yourself a hair analysis to find all the toxic metals in your system, and
Eat organic food, drink filtered water and avoid chemicals in the home.

A worthy goal. EoR is going to spend a whole day avoiding all chemicals in his home. But since everything is made up of chemicals how will he do it? Oh no, he's just realised his own body is made up of chemicals! In order to achieve balanced energy levels, he's going to have to avoid himself. Perhaps some sort of transdimensional temporal loop...

The final article of interest is "BACK CRACKING QUESTIONED" which reports a metastudy of 26 studies on spinal manipulation, conducted by Professor Edzard Ernst. It was found there was "little evidence" of the treatment's effectiveness, and some potentially serious rare complications. Predictably, the chiropracters and osteopaths refuse to assess any new information about their "science" (it's a university course, it must be a real science - EoR believes it's part of the Faculty of Medicine and Magic) and update their knowledge, but simply stick their fingers in their ears.
But chiropracters and osteopaths in Australia have slammed the study, backing their British colleagues who accused the review team of focussing on negative results.

Well, says EoR... If the results are negative, the results are negative. That's what science is about. Scientists (not chiropracters or osteopaths who live in a fantasy world where nothing ever changes and they only ever have to look at studies that support their beliefs) frequently have to face up to results that are contradictory to expectations.

The rest of the article provides all the reasons about why osteopathy and chiropracty are A Good Thing, Work Really Well, and are not at all dangerous or deluded.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Psychic Entertainment

Psychics? Really truly gifted superhuman individuals with a hotline to the land of the dead and All Things Hidden? Or theatre acts?

EoR considers them rather boring and repetitive entertainers (if you're entertained by that sort of thing) but many people are dazzled by their patter and their stage act and some are even fooled into believing that they are really channelling information from supraphysical sources (these people presumably also think stage magicians really do perform magical acts - sawing women in half and levitating people - and that all stunts in movies happen really exactly as they appear: the truth that these things are illusions, enhanced by sound and light and wishful thinking and, yes, deception is much more mundane).

What does the Department of Consumer and Employment Protection have to say about psychics?
Preying on people’s fears, loneliness and desire to be loved and rich is a host of unscrupulous clairvoyants, mediums, astral advisers and just outright charlatans who are costing vulnerable people thousands. "Whilst we accept that there is a place in today’s society for those who choose to be involved with psychic type activities for personal entertainment or recreation, there is an alarming number of shysters with questionable abilities who are only focussed on ripping people off", Consumer Protection Commissioner Patrick Walker said.

Let EoR just repeat that: personal entertainment or recreation.

What do the promoters think? Well, Anthony Grzelka's nationwide tour is listed under Theatre and Performances.

Legislation no longer addresses witchcraft or fortune telling as crimes in Australia, though Section 178BB of the Crimes Act may be of some relevance:
obtaining money by false or misleading statements which are known to be false or misleading.

Someone who is regularly attending a psychic and is also addicted to illegal drugs and who attends a Medical Practitioner must be notified to the Department of Health:
The Drugs of Addiction Notification Regulations define a person as being addicted to drugs where: [...] he/she is under a psychic or physical dependence to take a drug of addiction or any substitute.

Though EoR thinks he might have read that wrong.

Of course, as a performer, you have to maintain the illusion, the patter, and the belief that what you do is real. It's part of the "theatre" and "performance".
Reiki, colour therapy, crystal healing, and meditation are now common remedies prescribed to cope with the stresses of life. [...] "I connect to loved ones passed to deliver messages to the living. The messages are always powered by love and bring a great sense of healing and relief to those receiving them," said Anthony.

Sometimes though, they just can't help telling the truth:
Anthony's funny

Following on from his encounter with The Grzelka Groupie, EoR can see three possible explanations for Mr Grzelka's uncanny powers (at least, his believers consider them uncanny, EoR considers them a less than average cold reading act):

  • Mr Grzelka really does communicate with the dead. Sorry, "those who have passed". Given his repetitive fishing, wrong guesses, question asking rather than statement making, and extremely low hit rate, this would seem to be a very low probability. If he does perform such communication, the evidence and accuracy is so low that such an assertion cannot be supported.

  • Mr Grzelka really does hear voices speaking to him. This is not an unknown phenomenon, particularly in cases of schizophrenia. While this, also, is not a high probability, it is possible that such a disorder led him to believe he is a clairvoyant and to his subsequent public performances. In this case, therapeutic treatment is recommended and warranted.

  • Mr Grzelka really does not hear any voices, and is fully conscious and aware that what he does is a stage act with the end goal of receiving remuneration. In the absence of any medical evidence to support or deny the second possibility, occam's razor leads EoR inevitably to accept this option as true.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Our Father, Who Art in Real Estate

The West Australian for Wednesday, May 10, 2006 reports that UK clergy are having a tough time battling the newage movement.
People worried about crime in their street, rising damp in their home or lacklustre sex in the bedroom can now call on divine assistance. The Church of England is going into partnership with estate agents to offer blessing services to people moving home. [...] Clergy behind the scheme want to tap into the explosion of interest in New Age practices such as feng shui as a way of tempting people back to church.

EoR suspects they haven't quite got the hang of this newage stuff though, since they apparently can't do it at a distance, nor can they do it by vaguely waving their hands in the general direction of the item to be blessed, unlike all good reikiists, pranic healers, and aura massagers.
As the vicars go from room to room, they will lay hands on everything from the bed, praying for a healthy sex life, to the lavatory, asking for "good health and to give thanks for sanitation".

We all know good sanitation is solely thanks to god. Not science or public health departments.
"There will be those who are worried about security and we will ask God to watch over the house." However, "divine protection" was not a guarantee against burglary, he said.

So, if an omnipotent, omniscient god can't prevent your home from being burgled, what chance have you got?

EoR expects to see remakes of The Exorcist featuring terrors such as nonfunctioning toilets, rather dissatisfying sex lives, and pagan burglars.

An online report is here.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The 34th Skeptics' Circle: Critical Thinking Crystallised.

Eor surveys the Wonderful World of Crystals, and receives some interesting etheric vibrations as a result. By applying the higher vibrational properties of these gems to his chakras he received contact with various arcane and occult information previously only held in the Akashic archives. As the world moves into a new quantum consciousness paradigm, where science has now conclusively proven the existence of qi, water memory, ghosts and fluffy blue rectal fairies, this information can now be released publicly. Om.

Note: as the original site that EoR ripped these pictures off from points out,
If a crystal or stone gives you a different "vibration" as to what it should mean, then go by what you feel. Other divination meanings can be given to these stones. You don't have to be restricted as to its symbolic meaning. The power that any stone has is the power that your psychic energy gives it. That's what really counts.

Onyx: Dispels stress, anxiety, helps physical pain, attains goals. Clark Bartram at Unintelligent Design corrects some delusional thinking about alternative medicine.
Rhodochrosite: Helps oppressed feeling, heals the earth, calming energy. Orac at Respectful Insolence advises everyone to be a celebrity nutritionist, marry a porn star! and incidentally shows how the alties have now advanced their science up to the 16th century. Only a little way to go to catch up to the rest of us.
Lepidolite: Brings out very deep rooted emotions. Tara C Smith at Aetiology considers whether a new study shows HIV isn't sexually transmitted?.
Fluorite: Keep one nearby where you work, bring one with you when you expect to be around negative people. Meanwhile, Ben Goldacre at Bad Science reports on a mercury poisoning study that no one else has reported on: and now the news.
Bloodstone: Self image, asssist achieving potential. Ballastexistenz discusses why judging people with disabilities by the abilities of others is wrong in Looking away from the keyboard: Debunking the debunkers. EoR touchtypes.
Amazonite: Transmits energy, clarity and knowledge. Dad of Cameron at Autism Street is amused but unpersuaded by the sCAM, skeptics, and chickens involved in an alternatista's argument for "other ways of knowing".
Garnet: Promotes dynamic ideas, eliminates self deceit. Michael Nilsen at xenophile reveals what happens when alternative medicine meets Xenu.
Carnelian: Activate other crystals. Jef Clark at Humbug! Online discusses the differences between philosophical skepticism vs pragmatic skepticism. And don't mention solipsists.
Chrysocalla: Magical understanding of Higher things. Beep Beep of Beep! Beep! It's Me looks at the philosophical basis of skepticism, and surveys some famous dead skeptics.
Amethyst: Uplifting of the spirit, engages courage, level mindedness, return to reality. Plittle at Aurora Walking Vacation tells us of "I Superman" and what a flying man has to tell us about god.
Hematite: Eases depression, dispels nightmares. Skeptico at Skeptico analyses one of the world's best psychics and awards him points for every hit in John Edward re-revisited. Hint: like Anthony Grzelka the guesses and the successes are the same, and just as impressive.
Rose Quartz: Improves speech, mirrors the soul, increases perception. Cfeagans at Hot Cup of Joe discusses embellishments of memory: the unreliable nature of eyewitness testimony in the context of countless UFO sightings.
Apache Tear: Attuning with oneself or another, inner wisdom. The Bad Homeopath willingly undertakes a course in homeopathy to bring us the wonders of how hompeopathic medicines work. The Bad Homeopath is also a member of the UK Skeptics.
Calcite: Open doors to knowledge and wisdom. Edwardson at Hokum-Balderdash Assay asks what would you do to save your child. Woo or science? Or woo and science?
Blue Chalcedony: One can focus their desires through this stone, visual images in the mind are transformed into universal messages. Sean at God is for Suckers! takes a look at really truly authentic absolute proof of aliens: Greetings! I travelled a thousand light-years to peer up your ass!.
Clear Quartz: Facilitates visualization of wearer and healing properties. Prometheus at A Photon in the Darkness commences his survey of the 7 major thinking errors of highly amusing pseudoscientists.
Citrine: Guards against excess. Lord Runolfr at The Saga of Runolfr discusses the wizard's first rule.
Smoky Quartz: Helps choice making, stimulates intellect, brings good luck to warriors. Hell's Handmaiden at hell's handmaiden takes to task Alvin Plantinga... hmm, never really liked Plantinga where philosophy and ID collide.
Jade: Assists the conscious mind and body in analyzing conditions and situations in a rational and non-emotional manner. Jeff Paredo at The Big Picture lets us read his creationist correspondence in AiG response -- and my response to it.
Obsidian: Past life access, communication, teaching, kundalini. BigHeathenMike at Mike's Weekly Skeptic Rant states "I was working on a flat tax proposal, and I accidentally proved there's no god." after an encounter with Dr Dino.
Peridot: Helps locate connection between thought and physical illnesses. John Wilkins at Evolving Thoughts shows that many logical fallacies do not a scientific argument make. How many fallacies can ID pack in one article?.
Lapis Lazuli: Enables communication from other realms in the universe. Mark Chu-Carroll at Good Math, Bad Math finds the Young Earth Creationists all at c when he looks at relativity and young earth bogosity.
Agate: Protective, guards against bad vibes. Brian from Backseat Driving discusses the 9/11 conspiracy and the math of the Twin Tower collapses. Not myth. Math.
Green Aventurine: A filter and trap for those negative thoughts and emotions that are everywhere present. Nick Terry at Holocaust Controversies disagrees with a holocaust denier (well, a minimiser) in Arolsen: AAARGH, all those names.... over the true numbers of the disappeared.
Malachite: Connecting with the Universal source of knowledge. Thursday at Polite Company provides some hands-on experimentation exploring sex: sexes, battle of the.
Moonstone: Wards off fear forms that are generated from others. GrrlScientist at Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted) is amazed at Money magazine's view of someone's fantasy world.

The next Skeptics' Circle will be hosted by Skeptico on 25th May 2006. Send your submissions to skeptico[at]skeptico[dot]net. The full schedule of hosts is also available.

[Update: table issued fixed - thanks to Sergey Romanov and Tim Lambert]

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Psi Power - Dedicated to Anthony Grzelka

EoR is having an ongoing discussion with a Mr Grzelka groupie. The gist of the argument seems to be
All of Anthony's services are very reasonably priced given his excellant reputation around the country, and i believe it is clear to all those that have he has given validation to that he is a geniune and ethical person.

But then, how many conmen deny being "genuine" and "ethical"?

Back in his hippy days EoR was a Hawkwind fan (though for real trippiness he always turned to Gong and their Radio Gnome Invisible trilogy - whatever happened to Shakti Yoni?). Their heyday, however, was in the early eighties when the late lamented Robert Calvert was writing their lyrics and provided some direction to the group. He also published poetry in New Worlds, released a couple of solo albums (Lucky Leif and the Longships and Captain Lockheed and the Starfighters) and cowrote "I Lost My Heart to a Starship Trooper" for Sarah Brightman and Hot Gossip (does anyone else remember Kenny Everett and the Hot Gossipy Naughty Bits?). Here's Psi Power (released by the Hawklords due to a shortlived contractual dispute during one of the group's frequent changes of personnel about who owned the name):
When I was a kid in school
They showed me symbols on a card
Then they sent them from a locked and bolted room
I had to fake that it was hard
Circle Waves Triangle Square
I got them crystal clear by the hour
And all I said was may I please take a rest
I didn't want them to know I was possessed

With Psi Power
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
I can read your mind like a magazine
I see where you're at I know what you mean
I get all the secrets that you'd rather keep

When I was a teenage kid and I hung around the street
I could see inside the mind of any girl that I wanted to meet
Waves Triangle Circle Square
They opened to me like a flower
How would you like to have your mind caressed
Can't you feel that I'm possessed

With Psi Power
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
I can read your mind like a magazine
I see where you're at I know what you mean
I get all the secrets that you'd rather keep

It's like a radio that you can't switch off
There's no way to get peace of mind
I'd like to live inside a leadlined room
And leave all this psi power behind
Circle Square Triangle Waves
It's a gift that soon turns sour
Why don't they let me get some rest
It's too much to understand to digest

Psi Power
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
I can read your mind like a magazine
I see where you're at I know what you mean
I get all the secrets that you'd rather keep

Of course, we all know this is fantasy. Reality is much more like this:
It's like I'm getting a male
Do you have someone on your mother's side
Who's passed on beyond this vale
A sudden sort of death or suicide?

Psi Power
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
I can sort of see this blurry scene
Are you going in for a minor operation?
I get all the money that you'd rather keep.

Tell me now, who could be M?
Have you lost a child or had a termination?
Tell me more so that I can claim
All this as a psychic communication.

Psi Power
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
Psi Power (Psi Power)
I can sort of see this blurry scene
Are you going in for a minor operation?
I get all the money that you'd rather keep.

Submit your factually accurate verses in the comments.

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Final Skeptics' Circle Reminder

A final reminder: the 34th Skeptics' Circle is being hosted here this Thursday. Get your submissions to[at]gmail[dot]com by 6PM EDST (USA) Wednesday 10th May. Include "Skeptics' Circle" or "Second Sight" in the mail subject to ensure the internet elves forward it on to a real stuffed donkey, and don't just stuff it in the spam furnace.

Monday, May 08, 2006

More Burning Therapy

Homa Therapy is today's featured madness.
Thousands of people from around the world have experienced that practice of Agnihotra and Homa Therapy relieves tension from the mind, leads to increased energy and improved health.

It presumably also relieves logic and sense from the mind, and money from the wallet.

So, what does homa therapy involve?
Homa is a Sanskrit word used here synonymously with Yajnya. Yajnya is the technical term from the Vedic science of bioenergy denoting the process of removing the toxic conditions of the atmosphere through the agency of fire. You heal the atmosphere and the healed atmosphere heals you. This is the central idea in Homa Therapy. [...]The process involves preparing a small fire in a copper pyramid of fixed size and putting some grains of rice and ghee (clarified unsalted butter) into fire exactly at sunrise and sunset accompanied by the chant of two simple mantras.

So Homa Therapy presumably is clearing up all the greenhouse gases. How does it do this? By lighting fires! And I guess you can do it anytime, since sunrise and sunset is always occurring somewhere (except in the minds of the magical flat earth adherents of which homa therapy seems to be a subset). But EoR shouldn't laugh. Homa Therapy has a venerable history:
Homa Therapy is totally a revealed science. It is as old as creation. In the course of time this knowledge was lost but it is now being resuscitated.

'As old as creation'? Were subatomic particles practicing homa therapy during the Big Bang? And just how is it being 'resuscitated'? With oxygen? That would help the fires, I guess.

As usual, there's the scientific proof, though it seems to consist of unpublished reports (or published only in the trade journal). You can use the smoke, or rub the ash on you, for all sorts of miraculous results. It can also, apparently, control the weather:
In this month we had three heavy rains at Sutagatti. First occasion was when I was performing Om Tryambakam Homa. The other two rains came during evening Agnihotra.

and it cures alcoholism and meat addiction:
My workers, their children and neighbors are very much influenced by Homa Therapy. Two of my workers who were alcoholic and non-vegetarians have stopped consuming since last two months. One of them is doing regular Om Tryambakam Homa and Agnihotra during our absence.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Trust Me, I'm An Alternative Therapist

From the West Australian last Thursday:
Sex frees evil spirits. A Malaysian housewife says a bogus spiritual medium duped her into having sex
with him 51 times as the only way to exorcise her evil spirits. The 41-year old woman, who sought the man's help after he claimed to be able to heal her from her numerous ailments, says she was told that she had many evil spirits in her, the Star daily reported. The medium, who claims to be the reincarnation of a a god, allegedly hypnotised her into having sex
with him 51 times over a period of six months. The victim was also told to pay up to $17 for each "exorcism" session. The woman's husband eventually discovered the sexual exorcism encounters and lodged a report with a local complaints bureau.

A tantalisingly incomplete report. EoR wonders: were her ailments relieved by the vigourous physical therapy? How was she 'duped' 51 times? How does the therapy actually work? EoR presumes something about activation of qi meridians and acupressure points. Or it could just be standard boring old Sex Magick. And $17 seems like a pretty good price. At least the therapist was actually doing something, unlike aura cleansers and homeopaths etc.

EoR is reminded that, unlike doctors who work with real dangers such as surgery and drugs, the largest number of complaints about alternative practitioners relate to "inappropriate touching". Gentle yes. Noninvasive? EoR doesn't think so.

Hopefully, the god/medium/therapist will be able to utilise the recently unemployed psychic Phillipines judge to assist him in his defence.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Those Funny Catholics

Oh dear. Australia's Catholic Archbishop, Cardinal George Pell, has made rather a fool of himself in the US. Speaking to a group of Catholic business leaders
The Koran, he says, is riddled with invocations to violence. There are so many of these, he says, that after about 50, or 60, or 70 pages, he stopped taking notes. He goes on to say that considered strictly on its own terms, Islam is not a tolerant religion and its capacity for far-reaching renovation is severely limited. And he points to the difficulty that scholars and commentators face when analysing the Koran, such as receiving death threats and violence when questioning the divine origin of the holy book.

EoR could waste his time going through the Bible and noting invocations to violence, but he probably wouldn't make it past Leviticus before his pencil broke. At least Christianity is much more tolerant. Ask your gay friends. Or your liberal friends. Or your evolutionary scientist friends.

Unfortunately, Cardinal Pell, having inserted one foot firmly in his mouth, in an amazing feat of gymnastics managed to also fit the other one in as well.
Green groups are bitter with the way he's described their concerns of global warming as "hysteric and extreme". In his speech, Cardinal Pell describes these worries as a symptom of pagan emptiness. And he says that in the past pagans sacrificed animals and even humans in vain attempts to placate the gods, but that today they demand a reduction in carbon dioxide emissions.

Unlike the vain attempts by contemporary religions to placate their particular gods. And just what is "pagan emptiness" anyway? And why is sacrificing animals a Bad Thing but sacrificing your god a Good Thing? EoR also feels compelled to point out, before any fundies try and justify their particular team, that god sacrifice is a pretty pagan thing to do as well, and was practised long before Christ came along.

So global warming is only a symptom of pagan emptiness. And it will probably just disappear if we all went to church on Sundays. That's church. Not the mosque.

Meanwhile, the Vatican is considering condoning condom use where a spouse is infected with AIDS.
In recent years, even as Vatican officials have criticized anti-AIDS condom campaigns, several bishops, theologians and Vatican officials have said they could envision situations in which condom use to prevent AIDS would be the "lesser evil" that can be tolerated.

So sex that isn't intended for procreative purposes, that isn't solely between married couples, that probably isn't in the dark, and probably involves removal of more clothes than is minimally necessary, is a "lesser evil". This seems like good news for Christians.

EoR suggests a religious syllogism... Murder is a heinous sin. Not killing people is the ideal. Assaulting people is not as bad as murder but worse than not killing. Therefore assaulting people presumably is the "lesser evil". Does this mean the Vatican will condone it?

And, in Brisbane, gay couples who have dual Australian and British citizenship are utilising a loophole to legally marry. Which makes the Catholic Church very unhappy.
And what we would like to do is to point out, you know, the implications that it has when we're talking about an institution that is recognised and supported by society. We're not out to go and bash, talk about bashing the people or whatever, disparaging the people who want to go down this path, we just think that they're mistaken.

That's the accomodating, tolerant church at work there.

Which all just goes to show, to EoR's mind, the confused, illogical and vituperative nature of a religion with its knickers caught in an ontological and theological knot.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Traditional Chinese Waiting

The local daily newspaper, the West Australian featured "Summer Colds" in its Tuesday Mind and Body section recently, written by Wade James of the Chinawest Clinic, Fremantle. EoR is not sure of his qualifications, since he doesn't append any of those self-created acronyms and association memberships that the alternatistas are usually so fond of. Nonetheless, he advises to
Observe carefully the clinical features of a summer cold in Perth and you will see that it typically starts with a sore throat. Then either a cough with phlegm that becomes sticky and yellow or blocked sinuses. In TCM, we say that this is a type of warm pathogen attack (Wen Bing) and a great deal has been written about these conditions during the past 500 years. The reason Chinese doctors were so interested in warm pathogens was the prevalence of epidemic diseases that swept across China. Many famous Chinese herbal prescriptions were developed to counter these epidemic febrile (feverish) diseases. Today the theories and prescriptions used then are being used to develop strategies for SARS and bird flu. [...] In the Yellow Emperors Classic of Internal Medicine (Huang Di Nei Jing), written more than 2000 years ago, there is a statement about colds in the winter reappearing in the summer. Today people with recurring sore throats are often suffering from this type of hidden or lurking warm pathogen. Because the body is constantly fighting off these pathogens, it is not long before tiredness and lethargy become part of the problem.

EoR is pleased to know that Chinese Medicine has made no progress for the last 2000 years, and seems to have been fully formed, de novo, like Venus. It's the equivalent of Western doctors ignoring all advances in medicine and relying solely on the works of Hippocrates for their craft.

Suggested "remedies" for lurking warm pathogens include dried chysanthemum flowers, Chinese mint, rice soup with mung beans, and pear juice. If these don't work, then
For dry coughs that will not resolve and summer colds that have become complicated with digestive problems, then a professionally written Chinese herbal prescription can target your specific problems.

EoR is sure that such a prescription, along with time and the placebo effect, will prove to all the efficacy of Traditional Chinese Waiting for illness to resolve. Sorry, Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Skeptics' Circle Reminder

A reminder: the 34th Skeptics' Circle is being hosted here next Thursday. Get your submissions to[at]gmail[dot]com by 6PM EDST (USA) Wednesday 10th May. Which should give EoR time to get all the submissions up by Thursday, if he's wound his watch correctly...

Meanwhile, Humbug Online looks at something EoR wrote about recently, the different types of skeptics.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Grzelka Witticisms

EoR wasn't actually going to bother with Australia's Greatest Psychic Medium after his last post on Mr Grzelka. But then he caught his radio act again. And couldn't restrain himself.

This show had a replacement host who demonstrated her impartiality by first relating her own visit to a psychic who apparently had her in tears within minutes after channelling her grandmother.

Mr Grzelka then told us about some study in the US where the world's top five psychics (EoR wonders how these ratings are determined? Is there a World Psychic Championship? Is it a bit like World Championship Wrestling?) were put up against the world's top five mentalists (or was it five people off the street? Mr Grzelka couldn't make up his mind). EoR presumes this was something run by Gary Schwartz, but he could be wrong since Mr Grzelka was less than specific. The psychics far outperformed the mentalists (or the street people), scoring an accuracy rate of 70 to 80 percent. Which rather puts Mr Grzelka's previously claimed accuracy rate of only 60 percent to shame.

Nonetheless, talking to the dead is real. Mr Grzelka told us so. In fact, whether what he channels is accurate or not, talking to the dead is real. Again, Mr Grzelka told us so. But if what he's telling us is accurate or inaccurate is a minor, ignorable detail, what's the point? Isn't that the fundamental reason people go to these charlatans?

One elderly lady phoned up obviously distraught and said she felt "useless". EoR wasn't sure if he was more worried that someone would phone up a radio psychic for counselling, or that a radio psychic provided that counselling.

Never mind the 60% accuracy rate, almost all of Mr Grzelka's guesses ("Who's MA?", "Is your husband here?" - no, the caller wasn't married) were wrong or failed to strike a chord. Of course, note the important word there: guesses. Almost everything Mr Grzelka comes up with is a question, not a statement.

Then a woman who had lost her wedding ring phoned up. At last, EoR thought, something that needed a specific answer, and that could prove once and for all that Mr Grzelka wasn't just a showman with a repetitive line in bullshit and a gullible audience, but really had extrasensory powers as yet unknown to humanity. But EoR was disappointed yet again. Mr Grzelka told the caller the ring was "gone". Yes. That's what she said. But where to? Why couldn't he say? He knew "someone" had found it, and that it hadn't been destroyed. So who had it? Tell us, please. EoR is betting the caller finds it under the cushions on the sofa...

Mr Grzelka then went off on a slight physical tangent, explaining how the universe functions in 30 seconds or less. EoR now understands that "everything" vibrates on the planet, including us. And that we alternate between lower and higher vibrations. EoR, however, doesn't have a damn clue what that actually means in the real world the rest of us live in. How does Mr Grzelka know this? Where are his measurements? Lower and higher vibrations within what range? Answers please.

Oh, and the old "miscarriage or termination" ploy made yet another showing. As did the "Are you going in for minor surgery?". These are like classic catchphrases. EoR expects them in every Grzelka performance. And it's good night from me. And it's good night from him.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Treloar Witticisms

According to recent advice by EoR's favourite radio naturopath provided over the last few weeks:

"There's no way you can get all the nutrients you require from food (especially with the depleted soils in Western Australia). You must take supplements."

That might just possibly be true for organic vegans who grow their own food in unimproved soils, but Mr Treloar has obviously never managed an agricultural enterprise. He also seems to think that all the food in the shops comes solely from the surrounding local area. Of course, EoR suspects him of being a Big Altie shill, since he's constantly promoting his own products.

"Echinacea is the best herb to take over a long time as a preventative - but it must be a very good quality one."

More Big Altie propaganda. If you take any product over a period of weeks and months, of course your sniffles will resolve. If they don't, it's your fault for buying the cheap stuff from a supermarket, rather than your friendly local naturopath.

Asthma attacks are the result of the body trying to restore its pH balance. A "Russian breathing technique" (EoR presumes he means Buteyko, but there may well be other Russian breathing techniques he remains unaware of) has been very successful in addressing things like asthma and fatigue. Mr Treloar recommends nose breathing rather than mouth breathing to maintain a suitable pH balance and asthma free lifestyle. For the life of him, EoR can't see what the difference is what orifice air is taken in through once it reaches the trachea. How do the lungs go "Oh no, this air came in through the mouth. There goes the pH! And the neighbourhood!"?

"It has been proven that Vitamin C and Zinc reduces the length of a cold by 50%." Well, one rather poor study indicated zinc (not a combination of zinc and vitamin C) reduced the length of a cold by 42% (Mr Treloar is obviously rounding up his statistics). Others indicated no effect. The Straight Dope gives a brief overview, including the statement that
A similar situation arose 20 years ago, only the cold cure in question was vitamin C. That controversy ended indecisively, and today you don't hear much about vitamin C as a cold cure.

Unless you trust in Mr Treloar, of course.

Visit for Mr Eby's take on the subject. Zinc cures colds. And, according to the links on the front page also has an effect in (EoR freely admits he didn't even bother clicking on any of them, his brain was hurting so much) angina pectoris, leukemia, chronic sinusitis, "many modern illness" [sic], herpes simplex, menstrual cramping and bloating, mononucleosis, HIV and AIDS, depression, arthritis, navicular disease, and smallpox.

Monday, May 01, 2006

Elusive Exclusive Brethren

Background Briefing is an hour long current affairs program of some worth. Being an hour it's not restricted to the soundbite syndrome that affects news bulletins and, being on the wireless, it's also not hampered by the illustration imperative of television shows (EoR doesn't want to see any more closeups of beer bellies to "illustrate" a segment on obesity).

Sunday's program was about the Elusive Exclusive Brethren (a full transcript should be available later in the week, but you can also listen online here).

The program revealed a deeply hypocritical secretive sect operating in a barely legal manner (or possibly illegal, since the Australian Electoral Commission is currently investigating its activities) who purport to operate under god's grace but who will separate families on a whim, apparently misrepresent themselves in political advertisements and who seem to have no understanding of what a "miracle" is. The entanglements between them and the Liberal Party and conservative politics are also deeply worrying.

At one point a document is read out praising the recruitment of the Plymouth Brethren (same schtick, different name) to their political cause as a "miracle". Obviously, there's no way two ultraconservative religio-nutter groups would band together other than if God had willed it so. None at all.

Last time EoR posted about the Exclusive Loonies he received a comment from someone purporting to be a member of that particular sect, which seemed to go against the injunction against touching computers for fear of being infected with the Taint of Satan, but Background Briefing revealed that it is now okay to use computers, faxes etcetera, as long as they are only leased. Oh, and the only place god says you can lease them from is the company run by the leader of the sect. Cosy, eh?

Seriously though, EoR wonders why an omnitemporal god has to keep changing his decrees every few years or so. Computers Bad. Computers Good. Faxes Bad. Faxes Good. Can't he make his mind up? And didn't he foresee computers when he intelligently designed all of creation? And why was it okay (indeed, demanded) that the Brethren (note the female exclusion) not vote or participate in politics, and now, apparently, the Rapture can't take place until the Brethren are in control of government?