Thursday, November 30, 2006

Living Conditions In Afterlife Worse Than Third World

Here's a burning question that EoR has always wanted the answer to: do spirit guides have names?.

When I am tuned in to do a reading, I encounter a collective energy made up of the person’s higher self, spirit guides, angels, celestial beings, ascended masters, and deceased relatives.

That's a lot of dead people. Sorry - "those who have passed". EoR wonders if there's a housing crisis on the other side.

Let’s talk about names for a second. Do spirits have names? I don’t really think so. But they do have identities. And they know we like to use names to identify down here, so I think they oblige by handing us a name we can use to call upon their energy.

Of course, they're very forgetful on the other side, and often have trouble remembering their exact name. Often they can only recall a letter, and it's not always the first one they think of that's correct either. "Hi! I'm R. No, sorry, B. No, I meant there's a B in my name. Or an R. Would you believe, an S?"

So far we see that the other side is a crowded confused melange of forgetful "energies". Doesn't sound inviting, does it?

Now, a deceased relative will always present the way they looked when they lived, so that the medium can identify them to their client.

"When they lived"? What, when they died? Cancer riddled, all their systems failing, gasping for breath? That's hardly a pleasant way to spend eternity. Or is it when they were children? Or a specific age? Maybe 23 and a half? And what about missing bits (appendixes, organ donations, surgical excisions)? Do they return? More information about the magic world, please (oh, if only this woman was Sylvia Browne, we'd have all the specifics about the elves and unicorns).

EoR was also somewhat confused by the commenter who asked about gods from other traditions, such as Celtic, Roman, Greek and Eastern. It must be really crowded on the other side. And EoR presumes the theological debates could get really nasty. Or is there a Greek God Ghetto? A Celtic Corner?

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

IDiots Return

Intelligent Designism is making a minor push again in the UK. And also, apparently, in Australia. Encounter, Radio National's religious documentary radio show, looked at the subject recently.

While some principals of religious schools are not amused by the propaganda efforts of the Discovery Institute and their lackeys ("It seems to argue from a long bow I think" says one) others are keener to see ID on the educational agenda (and, presumably, evolution off it). Something called the Victorian Association for Religious Education, which EoR has not previously heard of, apparently arranged a seminar for teachers and students on ID.

The organiser of the seminar seems to be excellent at promoting ID with the usually applicable spin:

Nicholas Coleman: Oh, the seminar I thought was a brilliant success. We had primarily teachers from Christian schools, but there were teachers and students from Jewish schools, there was a Muslim speaker and there were several Muslims in the audience. There were various people who were completely non-denominational if not non-religious who came more from a scientific point of view. The numbers were, oh well, not bad, they were not great but they were not bad for something of that sort.

Margaret Coffey: How many people did turn up?

Nicholas Coleman: Oh I didn't count them, thirty-five, forty maybe.

So, that's 35 (maybe 40) in total. And he didn't even bother counting them. Was it so hard to count that high? And not even all of those attending were pro-ID. So, while ID continues to be pushed, it certainly seems to be struggling in Australia.

Mr Coleman spouts the usual claims: he's "trying to promote thought" and he wants to "help equip [his] students to deal with those big questions that will pop up in their lives at some stage" (yes, "God did it" is the ultimate portmanteau answer).

The program briefly addresses the Jewish perspective on ID and creationism ("Jewish religious thinkers have never had a problem with evolution - traditionally they haven't been drawn toward creationist ideas - and that's all to do with how they read the Bible") and also finds a Muslim paleontologist, Gary Dargan, who argues that the Qu'ran supports evolution since, at one point, it gives as one of Allah's attributes "the evolver". Mr Dargan, however, appears to be in the minority.

Margaret Coffey: On ABC Radio National, this is Encounter, looking at responses to the Intelligent Design critique of evolution. Within Islam, the people Gary Dargan speaks of as 'pushing Intelligent Design' are behind the Harun Yahya phenomenon. Harun Yahya is the pseudonym of the front person for an organisation based in Turkey. This organisation produces a prolific amount of audiovisual material and books with titles such as "Evolution Deceit". As Gary Dargan explained to the seminar, the material is produced in many languages and a Harun Yahya representative has visited Australia to promote the organisation's ideology.

Audio from Harun Yahya DVD: Materialism, the philosophy which holds that everything is composed of matter, and which denies the existence of God, is actually the contemporary version of paganism ... This superstitious belief of materialism is called evolution ... the belief in evolution first introduced in the pagan cultures of the ancient Sumerians and then the ancient Greeks was, in a way, revived in the 19th century by a group of materialistic scientists and brought on to the world agenda - Charles Darwin is the best known of these scientists.

Gary Dargan: Harun Yahya's views have become very, very strongly accepted in the Muslim world. In Nigeria, for instance, Harun Yahya's textbooks are now being used in their biology syllabus. In NSW I have been contacted by a biology teacher at a high school saying, "I've got a lot of Muslim students, they quote Harun Yahya at me, and say all this evolution business is rubbish; we are not going to bother learning it." So there are issues but most of those issues stem from ignorance.

Most imans Mr Dargan has met reject evolution. Harun Yahya's understanding of science becomes clear from this DVD excerpt:

However, as mentioned earlier, materialism is collapsing with a big bang.

Regardless of the inappropriateness of using a scientific concept like the Big Bang to disprove science, since when did a big bang "collapse"?

Luckily, slightly later in the day, Radio National broadcast a talk by Richard Dawkins arguing against religion. Go and download it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Pharmacists Gag on Bent Spoon

The Australian Skeptic's Bent Spoon Award for 2006 went to the pharmacists of Australia. That's a lot of winners to share the trophy, but I don't think they'll be bickering. According to Skeptics, pharmacists "manage to forget their scientific training long enough to sell quackery and snake oil in places where consumers should expect to get real medical supplies and advice."

Well deserved. Go into practically any pharmacy (drugstore) these days and you'll wonder if you have apparated into The Apothecary of Diagon Alley. Pharmacists are suffering symptoms of gravely degenerate magical thinking - peddling the likes of Rescue Remedy for first aid. I've seen this taking pride of place on the front counter. Handy, I suppose, for peanut allergy victims or cardiac arrests. Many host in-house naturopaths, pushing fantasies like homeopathy. How can contradictory health advice harmoniously co-exist under the same roof? I guess when you're exposed to woo all day, it becomes an occupational hazard.
Whenever I have to wait for a script, I enjoy observing the dual reality. What wins when put to the test? The other night a girl, with an asthmatic cough and a cold, came in for advice. I held my breath - right before her was a fabulous array of homeopathy, aromatherapy, immunity boosters and detox kits. What would she get? The pharmacist reverted - told the girl to see her doctor and sold her a ventolin inhaler. But it wasn't a good testcase - the naturopath had gone home - they don't seem to do 'out-of-hours'.

It's probably about money. Pharmacies have lost out to supermarkets (in return they're trying to snatch turf from doctors - why can't everyone keep to their own patch?) But there's hope. According to Australian Doctor magazine (10th Nov '06) the Pharmacy Guild of Australia has concerns about the way the Therapeutic Goods Administration listing gives complementary medicines "pseudo justification for their efficacy". And a campaign is being waged by scientist Loretta Marron and University of Sydney's Prof Lesley Campbell, to de-list placebo products and those with "no basis in science". Should they succeed, 2,000 or so products will be delisted. It won't stop sales, but the lolly section of pharmacies may need extending.

Mind you, why wait for the TGA? Rumour has it Québec is developing a new code of ethics for pharmacists, including banishing non-pharmacist health counseling from the prescription desk.
Could there be a happy ending here? If Aussies cleaned up their shops, would Skeptics consider stripping the Bent Spoon from Australian pharmacists?

Monday, November 27, 2006

A Universe Of Madness

EoR came across Magic Healing Power of Your Subconscious Mind while browsing some paranormal blogs recently (he needed cheering up, and those sort of blogs are always good for a laugh).

In another article written on this website about energy, it explains how everything is energy and that everything therefore is connected. Your subconscious power is what connects you to the 'oneness' of all things. The 'oneness' is something we are all a part of, every person who has ever lived now, before or in the future, in fact every single thing on the earth and in the entire universe is a part of this 'oneness'. This is inescapable, this is truth.

Ignoring the fact that everything isn't energy (energy and mass can be converted, they are not the same thing) and that there is not logical reason to therefore assume "everything is connected", why is it the subconscious that connects EoR to everything? By the above argument it's just as likely to be his duodenum, or the Islets of Langerhans. But the woo brigade love their subconscious connection to the universe. All very hippy.

Your subconscious knows the answer to all things. [...] There is nothing your subconscious mind cannot do.

"The answer to all things"? Does anyone really believe this claptrap? The answer to peace in the Middle East? The answer to what is the largest prime number? The answer to life, the universe and everything? And as far as the "power" of the subconscious to do everything, EoR suggests that believers in this axiom step out of a tenth floor window without any harm coming to them.

You apparently only get old and sick because you imagine you do.

Over time you imagine yourself getting older and you do and then illness starts to set in. The truly amazing thing is your subconscious made your body and all of your organs and it can heal you of any illness or problem with your health. There is an infinite intelligence within you that goes beyond your intellect and when you believe in this miracle working power you will realize anything is truly possible.

No medical science required. Not even herbs. Or homeopathy. Or even magic hand waving reiki. No. If you think yourself well and young, you will be! It's just like magic. This is Positive Thinking taken to the nth degree. And the proof that positive happy trippy thoughts work? Well, the author had a "planter" wart (EoR presumes he means a plantar wart, but it might be something agricultural workers get) which disappeared when he thought his merry thoughts. Even though the Mayo Clinic mistakenly thinks most plantar warts go away on their own.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A Hit. A Palpable Hit.

When EoR was being faintly sarcastic about there no longer being a difference between The Origin of Species and Harry Potter in people's minds these days, little did he know his third eye had opened and he was psychically seeing visions.

Further investigating the amazing topic of "psychic investigators" and specifically the subject of the first show, psychic Nancy Weber, he discovered this transcript.

GRACE: You know, Nancy, so many people -- have you ever read Harry Potter?

WEBER: I love Harry Potter.

GRACE: I love Harry Potter. Do you remember the teacher in Harry Potter that teaches how to cast spells and read the future? Woo, crazy. That`s what I think of when I think of a psychic. When you walked in, in a business suit, I nearly fell over.

WEBER: Well, that`s what I used to think psychics were, and that` why I was terrified of it. And I didn`t want to be part of that world. So I never labeled it.

When I worked as a young nurse, before I got into psychiatric nursing, the doctors were wonderful to me. So if I had a patient in a medical unit brought in, and they were rolled in, and the doctor`s writing orders, and the doctor writes a diagnosis of congestive heart failure, and I go, "I`m 19 years old," and I look at him, I go, "Wrong orders."

He goes, "What?" I said, "He doesn`t have congestive heart failure." Do an upper G.I. He has got a hiatal hernia. And he goes, "Really?" And I go, "Absolutely." And he goes, "OK." Orders it, comes back, and he goes, "Thanks." And he goes, "How did you know?" And I said, "You don`t see it?"

Nancy also relates her powers to The Sixth Sense, another documentary to be used in the support of spurious claims in the tradition of What the Bleep Can We Sell You.

EoR also, strangely thinks of "woo, crazy" when the subject of psychics comes up.

ABC Supports Woo. Again.

Thursday nights on ABC TV at 8PM is the science slot, normally occupied by Catalyst. During the summer break, however, another documentary takes its place: Psychic Investigators.

When Rachel's body was found buried in the woods Micco was shocked by the accuracy of Weber's visions. Against his superior's orders Micco asked the psychic to help him find the killer who by now had disappeared.

After the demise of the comedy show Second Opinion (after which this blog is affectionately named as a tribute) in the wake of its well deserved Bent Spoon Award from the Australian Skeptics, EoR thought the ABC had learnt its lesson. Obviously not. Elsewhere the actual real true scientific of the paranormal is stated:

Real-life detective thrillers take on a supernatural turn in Psychic Investigators, a documentary series about actual dramatic crimes that are solved through the unlikely combination of hi-tech detective work and the paranormal powers of a psychic.

Which would make interesting viewing, except for the slight error that no psychic has ever demonstrated paranormal powers.

The presentation of fantasy as science to a public already increasingly mislead about the difference between the two (think Origin of Species as opposed to Harry Potter) has also created a minor flurry at the JREF Forums.

EoR feels his own psychic powers being enhanced by this impending woo: he sees a world in which every crap secondrate "psychic" claims their stageshow is real because the ABC showed "scientific proof". Sigh.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Oh, We Like Sheep

Encounter recently looked at children and spirituality. David Hay, a zoologist, states:

Now, little kids are permanently living in the here and now when they're very small. We know this; it's called the 'point mode.' They don't think about the past or the future, it's only gradually as they get a little bit older that they begin to go into the past and the future - into what's called the "line mode." Now that's interesting, because that area of point mode is where prayer and contemplation takes place. For example, someone who's a believer in God places themselves in the presence of God here and now, and stays in that area. And so, we thought that's a good area to look at.

The second area we looked at was 'mystery'. Again , when we're adults, we have learnt that there, supposedly anyway, are explanations for everything, and we learn about them in science class at school, as I did, I'm an empirical scientist, and we lose a lot of the feeling for the mystery of why there is something and not nothing. But little kids are right in there all the time, they're full of questions like, "why does water come out of a tap when you turn the tap on?", "why when you switch the switch does a light come on?", and so on. Everything's mysterious to them. So they're very much in touch with profound mystery.

The host comments:

Carmel Howard:According to David Hay, this capacity of 'relational consciousness' needs to be nurtured in children, if it's to endure in any meaningful way.

Dr David Hay:Very quickly in a secular culture, children pick up the idea that this area of life is to be ignored or not to be taken seriously. Especially boys by about the age of ten are beginning to pick up the surrounding culture and be dismissive. So, one of the things one can do is first of all, help the children to keep an open mind.

Presumably, that means that water comes out of a tap due to various physical processes, as well as numerous engineering and manufacturing resources that went into building the infrastructure of the city water system. Or maybe it's God.

Lights come on due to an electrical circuit being completed. Or it could just be the angels willing it to be so.

Wouldn't it be better to turn this joy and amazement that children feel at the world, and their unrelenting questioning, to the finding of answers, rather than "nurturing" their spirituality? That's not answering anything. Maintaining the "profound mystery" (or, more precisely, maintaining ignorance) doesn't benefit anyone. Other than those seeking new recruits for their dwindling cults.

The program also describes something called The Catechesis of the Good Shepherd, a program for schools that "allow[s] the child to come into relationship with God in their own way". To EoR it seems more like indoctrination by stealth, and a recruitment method applied to children before they've developed their critical thinking skills. Rather than accept EoR's point of view, however, here's another authority's view on such matters:

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child: but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Ugly Like a Skeptic, Beautiful Like Woo

The other day, crawling home through peakhour traffic, I was distracted by Simon Armitage reciting "You're Beautiful" in his tuneful northern accent: "You're beautiful because you believe in coincidence and the power of thought. I'm ugly because I proved God to be a mathematical impossibility." This got me thinking. Could it be that 'beautiful' is the love child of fuzzy logic and emotionality? 'Ugly', on the other hand, is the test-tube baby of rationality and cynicism?
Just run the scintillation counter over your family and friends. Who sparkles? Not the careful-with-their-facts ones. More likely the huggie-kissie ones who whoreship the 'documentary' "What the Bleep", enshrine Deepaks by their bedside and seek daily psychic adjustments. Who gives a stuff for a killjoy who nags that your flu was self-limiting and not cured by homeopathics? Or makes insinuations about how your new $599 NASA-chip device (that melted Ms Nextdoor's frozen shoulder) resembles a recycled mouse?

If you believe in Anything you come across as positive, generous, fun and sympathetic. If you confuse Qi and Pi who cares? Everything's everything. Physics says so. There's no need to worry; life is predetermined by stars, overseen by angels, swathed in auras and road-mapped by meridians. When loved ones die they still speak to you.

The Questioners however, are hateful cynics. They pedantically point out miniscule discrepancies. They read aloud smallprint disclaimers on everlasting-healthproduct advertisements. Their types lurk at psychic fairs, popping irreverent and irrelevant questions to 'spoil it' for others. Where ever they go they can't resist exposing frailties of humankind. When loved ones die they say goodbye.

No wonder we tend to scowl and grumble and develop antisocial habits. Eventually, it seems, we'll regress to a state of profound and terminal ugliness.

Global Orgasm Project - The Aftermath

Did the earth move for you? Did you feel the palpable increase in global peace?

Sadly, EoR was unable to participate due to a lack of naughty bits.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

48th Skeptics' Circle

The skeptic's last will and testament is now online. EoR hopes homeopaths, acupuncturists, chelationists, herbalists, spiritual energy massagers, and sundry other real health professionals are hurrying to the scene to provide much needed assistance.

Vet Uses Magic To Cure

Another article from Nova magazine this month demonstrates that lunatic ideas are not just promulgated by the ignorant, but also by those who seem to be either deluded or interested only in the money: Animals As Family. "Holistic" vet Dr Clare Middle describes how having pets can improve people's health (through such factors as increasing exercise, or giving nursing home residents an interest in life - all of which has been well studied and is supported by evidence as well as plausible mechanisms) but the article rapidly devolves into the depths of disproven pseudoscience (which doesn't mean Dr Middle isn't happy pushing it as real science):

Maybe while patting an animal, the pet's energy field is "taking away" certain negative energy frequencies from their owners, and thereby pets are lessening the disease of their owner? Dogs, in an energy sense, (on a Kirlian photograph, which shows the auric or energy field of the dog) appear as mostly heart chakra. Dogs in general, are so unconditionally loving, some would say too loving for their own good, and it is common for dogs to suffer heart disease when older. [...] We could infer that the frequency of the heart chakra energy is especially transferred between dog and owner.

Well, yes, we could infer that. It doesn't make the inference correct, and it relies rather too heavily on the assumptions that Kirlian photography shows "auras", that "auras" prove "chakras", that "auras/chakras" can transfer "energy", that specific animals only transfer certain "energy" and so on and so forth. A whole chain of assumptions and magical inferences. It's not just a flimsy house of cards, it's houses of cards stacked on houses of cards.

Dr Middle clearly knows her stuff though, and rapidly brings in the "Q" word to show that pets and owners have the same diseases:

I can list numerous owners who have diseases surprisingly similar in type to their animals. How often have I heard an owner say, "Oh, but that's what I've got too!" when I diagnose their pet's condition. I have seen owners who have had repeated unsuccessful surgery to their knee, and so has their dog, to the same side knee, and yet others who have severe allergy or chemical sensitivity, and so does their animal. Or both owner and animal are diabetic, both have a back problem at the same vertebral space, both have a thyroid imbalance and on it goes. Although I have seen so many cases of shared human/pet disease ("Oh, it must run in the family," the owners joke!), these are the extreme cases where the energetic pattern has existed for so long in the household, it has eventually become manifest physically. (This concept is scientifically explainable, according to Einstein's laws of physics, which states that energy and matter at the quantum level are continually interchangeable).

Of course, too much woo is never enough, and the article continues (in the print edition only - not available online):

I have seen numerous animals who show allergies to the same substances as a child in the family. By using kinesiology, we can identify items to remove or desensitise to help the animal's allergy, but often the animal will not "be happy" or get better from the allergies until the child in the house with similar allergies has been desensitised or also removed from the influence of the allergic substance. [...] In energy terms, the dog "notifies" us that the family energy imbalance has returned to normal, by reflecting that in its own energy field by becoming symptom-free.

And here's her conclusion:

This is a very complex and magical occurence.

Yes, Dr Middle relies on magic to effect her "cures". How many of the 6 Mistakes Of Thinking can you identify in Dr Middle's arguments?

EoR feels, however, that this could be a breakthrough for doctors. No longer do you need to take a history, run tests, diagnose, prescribe and review. Just ask your patients what's wrong with their pets.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006


Via the latest edition of Nova EoR learns about "Facing Facts".

Although we are told it's shallow to do so, most of us judge people by their appearance, and this can be an accurate barometer.

Predicting the weather from facial features? Actually, this is just a bad metaphor, but the lunacy soon begins.

For instance, anyone looking at the Dalai Lama will instantly notice the deep compassion in his eyes. So when I heard of face reading as a scientific tool I was less sceptical than may be imagined. [...] In modern times, face reading is being used not to label people and categorise them, but to reveal and release their true potential. Face readers assert that [it] is an extraordinarily accurate way of finding out about yourself.

EoR's convinced already. Show someone a picture of the Dalai Lama (the newage poster boy) and they see "compassion" (though evidently not compassion for homosexuals or birth control or, indeed, anyone suffering - since, according to Buddhism, it's all your own fault in a past life).

There's a couple of nutters travelling the newage carnival circuit in Australia at the moment, promoting this lunacy in return for money. Joey Yap (who also does Feng Shui and astrology and other assorted woo) describes Steve Irwin:

"He had a very unique set of eyes - peach blossom eyes - that represent the attractiveness he obviously had. His mouth was very special for structure, particularly his manner of speaking. The eyebrows, if you noticed, were slightly protruding: they indicate his character was pretty strong, that he was quite confident in what he did and very firm in his opinions."

EoR is amazed by the ability of someone to be shown a picture of a famous person, and then accurately describe that person post facto! How on earth do they do it? The other showman is "prominent face reading expert and therapist" Herman Mueller.

"Energy flows geometrically. If you look at it in that way you will see the straight lines, upright lines, curved lines are all showing the flow of energy in a person's face. The size and depth of the different features all have significance about the neural responses of our body."

Does this "flow of energy" in a face mean you could connect a couple of wires up and use it as a battery in an emergency? If you're wondering the same thing EoR was by now (apart from, how do people get away with this?), the answer is: Yes, cosmetic surgery can change your fate (just as changing your name can numerologically alter your doom - but what if your face and your numbers are positing different dooms?).

Joey is well aware of cold reading techniques - it's dangerous to state up front a "fact". Generalisations are more open to interpretation by the touch and be confirmed as "hits".

If someone is not so trustworthy, you can't just tell them, 'Hey, you're not so trustworthy'. You have to be tactful and tell them in a certain way like, 'It's important that you be truthful and call a spade a spade. Don't hide the facts'.

Yes, it's cod newspaper-astrology reading of personality. Herman Mueller explains further:

[T]he information you get is in their formation of how their lives, their face, their chakras, their energy centres, their psychological responses have been in life. It's recorded in the face."

So, it's sort of like phrenology meets palmistry.

This sounds uncomfortably similar to certain ideas that the Nazis had about facial structure in "degenerate" races as opposed to the far superior Aryan skull structure. But the newagers would probably not want to be reminded of that. It would hurt their feelings and their faces would probably contort permanently in response.

Of course, faces are important in forming reactions to someone (for example, see this page at Cognitive Daily, or just go along there and do a search for "attractiveness" or "face"). That, of course, doesn't mean that the face determines the person's destiny.

Some final tips from Joey: the white part of the eye must be clearly defined to ensure wealth and success; friends are best found in people with eyes that are not too close together; ladies with thicker eyebrows pay less attention to detail.

"If the husband has a very high forehead, the wife should have a very round forehead so the yin yang match."

EoR posits the corollary: if a person has a face indicating they're gullible enough to believe this, they should also have a large wallet so the yin yang match.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Homeopaths Fail Logic Test. Again.

One more bizarre highlight from the Mind&Body supplement of 14th November 2006. Thankfully, unlike yesterday's appalling recommendation to inflict pain and suffering on your children, today's is just so bizarre EoR suspects it's a parody someone has slipped into the journal.

"Beat Summer Bugs" tells how to deal with viruses in Summer the natural way:

According to homoeopathic practitioner Jan Owen, of Owen Homoeopathics, many of the symptoms of hay fever mirror the common cold and people often confuse the two. "But the beauty of homoeopathy is that because you are treating the symptoms presented, rather than the illness by name, it remains straightforward to treat," she said.

This, even by altie standards, is bizarrely bizarre. Homeopathy treating the symptoms, not the illness? Is Jan confused? Doesn't she know that that's the evil Big Pharma Medical Conspiracy line? It's conventional medicine, as she well knows, that refuses point blank to do anything other than treat the symptoms. And here she is saying homeopathy does the same thing.

And what about the homeopaths' regular plaint that their magic can never be tested scientifically because it's all about individual differences? Jan seems to think homeopathy is "straightforward".

EoR loves it when alties run around in existential circles like that. Not that it will make any difference to their target markets, but it's still rather amusing.

Naturopath Sam Botica also seems to be living under the mistaken belief that homeopathy is all about relieving symptoms.

Ross River virus is also a problem in summer and according to Mrs Botica, homoeopathic remedies are effective in boosting the immune system and helping to alleviate symptoms.

At least she's got the altie mantra to "boost the immune system; boost the immune system" down pat. Or does she?

Mrs Botica said probiotics (such as acidophilus and bifidus) should be taken to boost immunity and keep viruses at bay. It was also useful to take probiotics to reduce hay fever symptoms. She said probiotics had been shown to reduce the immune response to the gut wall (most of our immune system is actually in the gut).

Which is really rather telling about homeopathic methods and anatomy. Boost immunity by taking something that reduces the immune response. No, EoR can't figure it out either. And since when was the immune system located in the gut? Apart from in fictional Materia Medicas that some acolytes still clutch to while screaming their rejection of any advances made in science and medicine in the last two hundred years. "No! No! I like living in the dark ages! Leave me alone!".

For a truly natural, immune boosting way of dealing with viruses, EoR suggests doing nothing. The virus will infect you (which is natural) and your immune system will boost itself in response (which is also natural).

Monday, November 20, 2006

Become An Acupuncturist. Torture Children.

Imagine this scenario: a woman sits at home, cradling her newborn infant. A strange, maniacal glow suffuses her face as she methodically pierces the infant's body with needles. The bizarre ritual continues, the mother ignoring her infant's cries of pain as she pricks the sensitive skin time after time.

Such a woman would, rightly, be locked away or treated for a delusional disorder, and her child removed from her care in its best interests. Unless, of course, she's an acupuncturist.

In the West Australian newspaper's Mind&Body supplement (14th November 2006) James Wade of the Chinawest Clinic espouses the benefits of acupuncture for children "from a few days old".

The most common conditions seen in our clinic are digestive-disorders and recurring colds with a cough and phlegm. The children have often had repeated courses of antibiotics but the conditions return.

So, acupuncture appears to be good for common self limiting conditions in children (which probably don't even need the antibiotics) and these conditions will never recur after acupuncture. No more digestive upsets. No more colds. Or at least, that's what Mr Wade seems to be implying.

Acunpuncture for babies and young children is quick and relatively painless.

Note: relatively painless. Relative to what we are not told, but EoR would imagine it's relative to not inflicting unnecessary pain on infants.

There are some tears occasionally but these quickly disappear when the child realises that it was nothing more than a mosquito bite sensation.

EoR wonders why alties hate children so much. Don't vaccinate them so some of them die. If they live, cause unnecessary pain to them (it's okay, it's not child abuse, it's therapy!).

EoR was recently talking to a woman with Multiple Sclerosis who suffered huge amounts of pain while enduring acupuncture. In her case, at least, she made the choice whether to participate in the masochistic ritual, but inflicting pain on children and infants is simply a disgusting abuse.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Anthony Grzelka Debunked

In a shameless ripoff of the 2% Company's Allison Dubois Debunked, EoR presents Anthony Grzelka Debunked, complete with its own little button in the sidebar, since EoR believes that readers should have ready access to information about Australia's only real psychic (in a deleted scene on the DVD release of Lost one of the characters remarks "Psychics are just magicians who aren't good enough to play Vegas" and that aptly describes Mr Grzelka).

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Worrying Thought

Woo is becoming more popular, from safe, natural herbal treatments to safe, natural nonherbal reiki.

Cancers, autism and many other diseases, we are told, are at epidemic levels.

Why is the woo failing? And why don't the woo-users care?

Friday, November 17, 2006

The Hobbit of Flores: Science, Fairytales and Opera.

I wondered why, when the Hobbit story broke, there was such feuding and a rush to dismiss its significance. My namesake Lucy and, more recently, infant Selam were received with joy (well, amongst scientists anyway). Now the Hobbit has been with (some of) us for 2 years, and they're still squabbling. Someone may soon decode its DNA, and there'll be tears or rejoicing, depending upon one's calling. In the meantime I'll spin a little fairytale, based on real-life, based on a fairytale...

Once upon a time, beyond the Steamy Mountains of Java, squatted a profound old dragon (Prof for short) and his dragonettes (Dr for short), Dr J and Dr SS. When Prof eventually ran out of steam the Drs inherited his cave of precious bones. But they couldn't agree on how to organise the loot, and were forever re-labelling and re-stacking the fossils whenever the other slept. So they became more and more sleep deprived and tetchy.

Now dragons are inherently acquisitive creatures - always after more bones - but the Drs weren't taking any old remains, they coveted human-like bones - the older, the better. In particular they were on the lookout for halfling or 'hobbit' bones, because of the legend. Folklore held the secret of humankind lay within their braincase or 'ringbone'. Because the Drs couldn't trust each other not to mess with the skeletal arrangements when left alone, they enlisted excavators to ride from village to village paying folk to report any hobbitsightings (known as 'black riders' because the villagers would be financially 'in the black' after playing one Dr's excavator off against the other).

Then one dark night, enfeebled from lack of sleep, Dr SS was lured outside by a Komodo siren and devoured on the cavestep. Dr J now had the whole cavern to rearrange as he pleased. And that's exactly what he did and at last he put the bone collection in perfect order, in one long line, just right. He called it his 'oneline' system. You'd think he'd be happy, but after so many years of rivalry he knew no other way. Being the senior now, he upped his title to Prof J, but refused to budge from his cave and still sent black riders out to make sure that if anything turned up he'd know about it.

One day a black rider rushed in with alarming news. At Liang Bua cave on the nearby island of Flores, treasureseekers from Downunder had unearthed a strange and wonderful bone, a tiny ringbone - exactly as legend foretold. Prof J virtually self-incinerated. Was he not the most profound dragon in these parts? Why was he not invited? Why had his black riders failed? He must have that ringbone and deal with it. His reputation and his system were at stake.

Again the black rider returned with bad tidings. The treasureseekers wouldn't handover. They called the ringbone 'precious'. If he wanted to borrow it he'd have to wait - meanwhile he could install new shelves. He'd have to dismantle, rearrange and relabel his entire collection. Prof J exploded. He flew down to Liang Bua in a fiery rage. The treasureseekers' assistants hadn't seen him out of his cave before. They dropped the ringbone and gaped in awe.

Now, Prof J was in contact with others by a form of phototelecommunication known locally as a phalantír. It was fixed in a remote corner of his cave and when it glowed, he answered it. Over the years, visitors took advantage of this and often fingered his fossils while he was preoccupied. Prof J would fume after they'd left, finding a bone had been chipped or replaced out of line. Following the ringbone incident, the phalantír glowed continuously. Some communicators were angry, using words like 'meddling' or 'theft', while others were keen to quash the ringbone on its small head.

Prof J rallied allies from near and afar. It wasn't hard to find fellow oneliners in defense of order, and the treasureseekers had enemies in all sorts of places. Senior treasureseeker, a Ranger, was always under suspicion as he looked like a dirty vagabond and rumour had it he was was in league with elves. The junior seeker was a blustering Dwarf with a voracious appetite for bad language and inherent clumsiness. He had fallen foul of his old Master-of-Bones by knocking over his collection, then stomping on his fingers when he'd tried to pick up the pieces. The doctors feared his master would never write again.

Prof J gathered supporters to his cave. Soon it seemed they were speaking in dragontongues. Impressive bullettins issued forth denigrating the little ringbone. The Brainiac declared it diseased and urged immediate quarantine. Prof J's lap-orc chewed off a corner, then complained it was a plastic toy. The Facilitator fancied variability as an explanation - anything could become everything. This hobbit was an underperforming human (given the right facilitator, it could have become Einstein) and the ringboneless remains were merely pygmy modern human anacephalics. The True Believer didn't mess around. He had a oneliner: 'deny everything' and he stuck by it. And the ex-Master-of-Bones (still nursing old wounds) said he'd sign off on anything, if they would forge his signature. The Dwarf heard of their postings. He spluttered vulgarities and scoffed "why were they scratching on dunny walls - were they out of loo paper?"

In the meantime, a Fellowship was forged to rescue the situation. The Grey Wizard sought resolution via a 'please no-one' solution. He proposed a twinline system (oneline good, twolines better). The Elfin Lady offered to shine light into the darkest interior of the ringbone to destroy any diseases. The Dwarf put the boot into the Facilitator's theory with enough abuse to fell a Stegodon. The Brainiac came knocking on the Fellowship's door. He pleaded for love and peace and more physical evidence, and promised to shut up once he'd been satisfied.

An old peer-dragon glowed Prof J on the phalantír. He warned the ringbone brought nothing but disorder and despair and he may as well be rid of it. Prof J was inclined to agree. He was fed up with tramping back and forth to answer his phalantír. He hurled that pesky ringbone right out of his cavern.

The Fellowship was glad to have a look in at last. The Dwarf complained it was tarnished, but nobody took much notice. They told him to stop cussing and give their ears a rest. At the Fellowship's Council, it was decided the ringbone must be deciphered, even though it might be destroyed in the process, as only this would resolve its mystery. The right person for the task must be open, disorderly, and, above all, curious. Thus a young wizard was found and entrusted with the task.

And so, the protagonists watch and wait. There'll be tears and cheers at bedtime...

The End.

"To one with an obsession, everything looks like proof."

Thank you to the Grey Wizard, Tolkien and the other sources of inspiration.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Reiki Bad Woo Good

EoR always finds it amusing when alties get into catfights about which woo is better, or which woo is more evil. For example, there's this advice from Crystal Healings:

First of all, if you have been attune to Reiki visit a metaphysical practitioner, as attunement to Reiki is a spell that needs to be removed. It is not a good spell and if you decide to heal through meditation, it blocks the healing process of your inner self. This removal must be done in order to balance your aura and get you functioning in harmony (or reconnected) with the Universe.

Then there's the Christian Medical and Dental Associations:

Christians should completely avoid Reiki as it violates biblical commands against contacting spirits (Deuteronomy 18:9-14; cf. 1 Corinthians 10:19-22). Anyone practicing or promoting Reiki should be required to describe the practice thoroughly and clearly, especially its spiritual and religious nature.

Unfortunately, such an approach doesn't seem to work. EoR has had experience of trying to persuade a group of reiki-believers that they were being taken for a ride. When logic and facts didn't work, he tried the "Reiki is an evil occult link with the Devil" approach, since the group were also devout Christians, but also to no avail. EoR remains constantly amazed by the ability of believers in one unsustainable belief system to simultaneously believe in a plethora of other such systems, even where they contradict each other.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Google Says You Have Insufficient Qi

EoR read about this study recently in the local paper, dismissing it as silly and rather pointless. A couple of people at the Princess Alexandra Hospital in Brisbane have assessed the usefulness of Google to diagnose illnesses and publised a paper in the British Medical Journal about it. They decided that Google delivered a correct diagnosis in 58% of cases. Unfortunately, there were only 26 cases, and the confidence interval varied from 38% to 77% in 95% of those cases. The study concluded that

As internet access becomes more readily available in outpatient clinics and hospital wards, the web is rapidly becoming an important clinical tool for doctors. The use of web based searching may help doctors to diagnose difficult cases.

Only one of the top three results from Google had to be correct to be classed as a "hit" (does this strike anyone as remarkably similar to the "skills" evidenced by psychics?).

As The Register points out

The "researchers" were also remarkably generous with their definition of a correct diagnosis. If one of the top three results returned by Google was correct, it was considered a success. So Google was returning false diagnosis up to 80 per cent of the time. You might as well throw darts at a spinning dartboard, tied to the back of a drunken horse. Yes, it's another of those pieces of research which start with a conclusion, works back to a premise, and then tries to pad out the bit in between (what used to get called "evidence") with garbage.

Given the types of results that Google is likely to throw up, you're more likely to be prescribed crystal therapy or colon cleansing utilising this method. The only way that EoR can possibly see it working is if the doctors already know what the diagnosis is, so that they can determine which of the myriad sites that pop up is the real one (assuming any is). Which rather defeats the purpose. Perhaps patients might like to google "making a will" before attending doctors using this latest methodology.

Father Dan's Six Mistakes In Thinking

Via Father Dan comes this list of mistakes in thinking identified by Thomas Kida that can lead to the acceptance of false ideas:

1: We prefer stories to statistics.
2: We seek to confirm, not to question, our ideas.
3: We rarely appreciate the role of chance and coincidence in shaping events.
4: We sometimes misperceive the world around us.
5: We tend to oversimplify our thinking.
6: Our memories are often inaccurate.

Well, that seems to cover just about all "proven" altie therapies.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Gary Douglas: Your Horse Says Hes Hungry

Well, the MindBodyWallet festival had been and gone, but Gary Douglas is hanging around giving amazing demonstrations of horse whispering (remember, he's the one who promises that he will step out of this reality, communicate with horses, and "contradict all of your ideas about the way things should be"). Well, he appeared briefly on the radio yesterday, and EoR was able to gain a little more insight in to his methods of horse training.

Apparently Mr Douglas is not a horse whisperer at all, but rather just another pet psychic. He believes all language (including, of course, the "language" of animals) is translatable because "words have the same vibrations". Mr Douglas somehow tunes into the horse to "find out the vibration I need". He explained how powerful his technique is in a telling anecdote. One particular rogue horse was quietly taken aside by Mr Douglas who spent a long time "talking" to the beast, explaining that, if it persisted in its wilful ways, it would end up as dog meat. The very next day, the animal was quiet and docile.

In another case he claims to have "tapped" into a lame horse through the owner (why not just chat directly with the horse?) and discovered the lameness was not in the foot. "My knee hurts" said Mr Ed to Mr Douglas. The owner scoffed (oh, ye of little faith!) but returned a week later to humbly apologise and admit a bone chip had been found in the knee (not an uncommon occurrence in horses in heavy work).

Mr Douglas also works with "energies" to unlock rider's abilities, but also admits to "hands on techniques to take care of the places where the energy gets locked up" (and given his seminars on sex, this worries EoR a bit).

His final anecdote, while a little unclear as to what he actually did tells of the showjumper a woman trialled, and which was initially lame. Mr Douglas "made" the horse better while the lady rode him, until he was jumping magnificently. Quite apart from the ethics of riding a lame horse, this sounds like a stiff or arthritic horse (assuming any of the self-spruiking is actually true, of course).

Unlike other woos who think What the bleep do we know? is both a documentary and irrefutable proof of their beliefs, Mr Douglas chooses to use another documentary to support his particular beliefs, in this case The Matrix. He also runs a course on The Joy of Creating Money!.

Interested in knowing how to break through the barriers of receiving Money? Find out what's keeping you from receiving the flow of infinite abundnce that is yours to have.

EoR is willing to suggest that Mr Douglas has clearly broken through those barriers. Though whether anyone in the world has an "infinite abundnce" of money is questionable. He also provides a less than helpful glossary including "The Clearing Statement":

"Right and Wrong, Good and Bad, POC and POD, all 9, shorts, boys and beyonds, A through F, ad infinitum"
This is the current "clearing" statement used in Access. This phrase unlocks and erases all the programs, agreements and judgments which keep you stuck throughout all of time and space.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Equine (Less) Breathing

Here's a new one on EoR: Equine Breathing. The "theory" behind this technique (you will note that there are no scientific studies referenced in relation to this technique, even though some quite amazing claims are made for it) is based on the Bohr Effect which relates oxygen transport by haemoglobin to pH levels. Lower pH results in oxygen being released more readily by haemoglobin (though other things also affect this response as well).

Equine Breathing is a variant of Buteyko Breathing.

Equine Breathing reduces the volume of air breathed which enables carbon dioxide levels to build back up. The more carbon dioxide is available the longer the cells can keep going on aerobic (oxygen based) respiration rather than having to switch to damaging and less efficient anaerobic respiration. Horses with better breathing (and therefore higher levels of carbon dioxide) will be able to maintain aerobic respiration for longer than horses with poor breathing (lower levels of carbon dioxide) during strenuous exercise and will therefore recover more quickly.

The fact that reducing the volume of air breathed also reduces the amount of oxygen intake is not addressed. Nonetheless, Equine Breathing is claimed to treat (seemingly on the basis of one case study):

arthritis, respiratory problems, sarcoids, mud fever or rain scald, behavioural problems such as wind sucking, anxiety or head shaking[,] receding gums, a hay allergy, difficulty keeping condition, high worm count[,] sarcoids, lameness, separation anxiety, attention deficit, phobias. It means that horse owners can heal their horses from even severe 'incurable' symptoms.

You can achieve all this with the "1N" method (that's technical talk for "one nostril"). Hold your hand over one of your horse's nostrils for five minutes, so he can only breath through the other nostril. Swap nostrils and block the second nostril for five minutes. Easy! Amazing! (A slightly longer, PDF, explanation is available here).

Equine Breathing has a direct and immediate physiological effect on the horse's body. Although gentle, 1N can have profound effects.

EoR wonders how this increases CO2 levels in relation to O2 levels, since the ratio of gases is not changed, only the volume of atmosphere.

This is, of course, just an attempt at hypoventilation:

Hypoventilation is breathing that is not adequate to meet the needs of the body (too shallow or too slow), or reduced lung function. Hypoventilation results in inadequate oxygenation of the blood due to a rise in the carbon dioxide level.

So, where are the studies that show blocking a horse's nostril increases CO2 concentration in the blood (let alone has all the miraculous curative properties claimed for it)? How is this "better" breathing maintained when the nostril is not blocked? At what level is inadequate oxygenation a concern?

EoR would like answers to these questions before he even considers the effectiveness of this in treating sarcoids, mud fever (a bacterial skin infection), levels of worm infestations, attention deficit (EoR wasn't even aware there was an equine variant of ADHD) or phobias.

EoR also wonders why it's not called Equine Buteyko? Were there copyright reasons? "Equine Breathing" is too twee. All equines breathe. The promoter of this woo needs something catchy to sell it under. Something like "Enhanced Equine Breathing" or "Equine Quantum Breathing". EoR himself is developing a variant (and therefore much stronger, much gentler and much more effective since all renamed woo therapies are automatically better) called Quantum Enhanced Equine Respiration. So, if you want to QUEER your horse's breathing, give EoR a call (it's okay, the special enhanced woo waves can be sent without EoR attending). The magic healing breath of life will be sent as soon as EoR receives your credit card number.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Supping With The Devil

Sometimes the woo onslaught gets too much. Wouldn't it be nice just to get away for a while and enjoy a nice meal?

Looking for something different for a fun night out? Need some peace,clarity and guidance in your life? Have you thought about attending a Psychic Dinner and receiving three unique readings from three different Psychics. Anamchara Pathways Psychic Dinners are held at a variety of top quality restaurants around Perth offering you three courses of delicious food. On any given night there is Tarot, Palmistry, Psychometry, Astrology, Numerology, Crystal Readings, Clairvoyance, Angel Messages and Mediumship. [...] Throughout the year there are theme nights for Halloween, Samhein (the Southern Hemisphere Halloween), St. Patrick’s Day, April Fool’s Day etc.

Three unique readings? If they're all different, how do you tell which one is real?

Mind you, given the quality of the psychics available, EoR doubts that this is anything more than a comedy show. There's Chick who uses a set of Granny Jones Tarot Cards "to tune into a person to see who is wanting to come visiting!" An invaluable skill. There's Wendy who truthfully, but probably inadvertently, claims to be "studying the act of Traditional Healing". There's Dawn of the wild staring psychic eyes. There's Diane with her words of wisdom: "IF YOU WANT TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE YOU HAVE TO CHANGE YOUR LIFE". Very profound. Very deep. And there's Maggie-Rose who looks like the ghost of some mad murdering nun and who has "her own Psychic Hotline". EoR visualises spirits ringing her urgently at all hours of the night.

The April Fool's Day celebration must be a riot. And oh so appropriate.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Is Your TV Killing You?

SBS is looking for people willing to participate in a new "reality" TV progam, Is Your House Killing You?.

Put YOUR home under the microscope in our groundbreaking new science show ‘Is Your House Killing You?’ We're looking for ALL TYPES of houses and occupants to take part in this exciting new series on SBS. You are invited to take up the challenge to ‘detox’ your home. [...] Are you a cleaning freak or the opposite? Are you renovating or redecorating your house? Do you live in a rambling old quirky house? Are you expecting a baby and in a nesting frenzy? Does your bathroom have things growing in it? Have you recently bought new furniture? Do you suspect any kind of pest problem and/or have you been using pesticides? Do you spend a lot of time in the garage tinkering with cars? Do you have a mould or dampness problem? Are you a market gardener? Do you suffer from asthma or allergies? Do you have eczema or dermatitis or have a persistent cough? Do you live on a busy road? Then read on! Your house, garden or garage might be toxic! However great the challenge, our super brainy team will come up with a makeover plan to rid each home of their toxic time bombs. [...] If you, or someone you know would like to have their house detoxed, contact us immediately.

From the video promo, it appears one of the "super brainy" (and modest) supersleuths includes Dr Dingle, who certainly could not be accused of independence, given his own promotion of the subject. The vision of Dr Dingle in the promo reminds EoR of the health inspector from Fawlty Towers, ferretting around in the fridge.

Notice how the blurb slips so easily from "science" to "detox"?

Friday, November 10, 2006

Parkinson's Disease Cause Found - Disease Cured

EoR was recently listening to a radio talkback discussion on the stem cell debate when a gentleman described the case of his wife. Now 44, up until a year ago she had been playing A grade netball, but now had such severe Parkinson's Disease that even her husband had great difficulty understanding her speech. He then casually mentioned she was being treated by a naturopath and that she was "feeling better every day". He also stated this (unnamed) naturopath had himself had Parkinson's Disease and had been unable to walk until he cured himself and wrote a book about it.

This rather intrigued EoR (not least why the caller supported stem cell research while at the same time saying his wife was being cured by the naturopath).

While it is known that Parkinson's Disease is due to low levels of dopamine, until recently it was believed that the cause was unknown (a view supported by the Huntington Hospital, The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Neurology Channel, and Wikipedia). Even Holisticonline states that the exact cause is unknown.

Not according to John "Return to Stillness" Coleman, who would appear to be the groundbreaking miracle worker the caller referred to.


In 1995, John Coleman was diagnosed with Parkinson's Disease by five practitioners (including three medical practitioners) . By August 1995, John had lost his power of speech. Suffering from Stage IV Parkinson's Disease and Multi-System Atrophy symptoms, he was unable to walk 5 metres without assistance, and took an hour and a half to get dressed. Severely dissatisfied with western medical treatment and prognosis, John decided to pursue other methods. With the aid of Homeopathy, Aqua Hydration Therapy, Bowen Therapy, Craniosacral Therapy, Flower Essences, Counselling, Meditation and Spiritual Development, John was completely symptom free by April 1998.

Strangely, John's own detailed story (yes, he calls it a "story") doesn't actually mention any diagnosis of Stage IV Parkinsons's Disease. The closest he gets is a neurologist who thought he might have the disease:

He said that he believed that I had Parkinson’s disease and was developing Multi System Atrophy. He thought I required some "Parkinson’s disease treatment" but wanted a second opinion first.

The two other neurologists he saw diagnosed "stress".

John refused drug treatment (which may explain the "stress", since he appears to have been working in a conventional medical centre - possibly in a nursing capacity though he's rather vague about this), preferring instead an absolute cornucopeia of alternative treatments. There doesn't seem to be anything he hasn't used (so identifying the source of his "cure", if such it is, is almost impossible): homeopathics, cranial sacral therapy, bowen therapy, flower essences, "natural" diet, meditation, grape seed extract, spiritualist religion, herbal medicine, counselling, psychiatry, massage, exercise, Aqua Formula, a clairvoyant Reiki Body Light Worker, and the catch-all "other". Even John himself has no idea what effected the miracle (which hasn't stopped him writing a "research paper" - apparently unpublished).

Why did I recover when so many had tried and failed before me? Was it the Aquas that took a little while before their full benefit became apparent? Was it the accumulation of many therapies that just happened to coincide at that time? I am not sure. I am certain that the whole of my journey is important and it is almost impossible to separate the effect of each therapy/experience from the whole.

In passing, EoR was concerned to see that John was also a victim of that rarest of rare adverse outcomes: a homeopathic overdose! Yes, dear reader, alternative therapies are not totally harmless, and can have devastating side effects!

When taken to excess, homeopathic formulas, like the Aquas, can create or aggravate the symptoms they are intended to cure. In my enthusiasm, I overdosed and exacerbated many of the Parkinsonian symptoms I was trying to eradicate.

Or it might also be possible that the symptoms of the undiagnosed complaint (well, diagnosed as stress, but John wasn't happy with this) came and went with little correlation to all the magics applied to them (other than a conceivable reduction in stress).

Like all unproven and doubtful "cures", John provides testimonials. There's RN ("While he still has much work to do, there is little doubt of his recovery in due time"). The case of CR demonstrates John's lack of insight:

In May 2000, CR was diagnosed with Prostate cancer at a severity of "4/10". His PSA reading was 8. His doctor prescribed Zolodex 10.8 implants each 3 months as palliative treatment in the hope that this drug may slow the progress of the cancer. At RETURN TO STILLNESS, we commenced herbal treatment of his immune system with a mix of Saw Palmetto, Red Clover, Couch Grass, Horsetail and Echinacea. The Zolodex caused several episodes of nausea and vomiting which were distressing, and CR became more fatigued, often sleeping after lunch. By November 2000, CR's prostate cancer was in remission and his PSA at 0.2. A remarkable turn around which can only be attributed to the immune herbs.

Just possibly, might it not also be due to the Zolodex? Might it have been a spontaneous remission due to neither the drugs or the herbal drugs? Might the prostate cancer have been a misdiagnosis?

What strikes EoR about these testimonials is that the clients are all "progressing" towards wellness, and have not yet "fully" recovered from Parkinson's Disease. John makes much of reducing or eliminating client's medication but there's no clear correlation between his woo and any changes in medication. Neurologists frequently have to change medication (type and levels) for Parkinson's Disease patients to achieve maximum effect with minimum side effects. It doesn't mean John's magic was responsible.

EoR's favourite case history is the final one, for kJ [sic]. While other woo practitioners use unbelievable tales of miracle cures, kJ is a salutary warning to follow John's regimen to the letter for ever or Suffer The Consequences.

Just before Christmas 1999, KJ's wife telephoned to say they were discontinuing the programme. They could not "see any difference after a year". While I respect the right of anybody to make decisions about their health care, I felt sad that their failure to keep notes during the past year had stopped them seeing the great progress kJ had made. I have no doubt that, had they persisted for another year or two, kJ would have made remarkable progress and, perhaps become symptom free.

Or perhaps they would have wasted another two year's worth of time and money, not to mention the emotional devastation of being promised a miracle cure that was no such thing.

John will provide comfort and hope for you without you even attending his office. For only $A80 you can consult via email.

Mea Culpa

A few comments made in the last day or so were accidentally deleted while throwing out the spam. EoR has restored these comments to the best of his ability.

There. Skeptics do admit when they've made a mistake.

47th Skeptics' Circle

Shazow! Ka-Bam! Yes, it's skeptics wearing underpants on the outside of their clothes.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Good Voices, Bad Voices

Hearing voices is a common sign of mental illness (particularly schizophrenia). So what do you do with someone who hears voices and professes to be a "psychic"? Are they really in touch with spiritual entities, or are they insane (or, of course, liars)? Well, apparently it's easy to decide. Here's Angel-Voice-Hearing Doreen Virtue:

Kerry Stewart: So how do the angels actually talk to you?

Doreen Virtue: Well they talk to all of us, is the thing. And to me, they talk as a voice in my right ear, which is ironic, because as a former psychologist, I was taught that if you hear a voice, it's a sign of insanity. But now as psychologists are becoming more open minded, and saying that: Look, if you hear a voice that is encouraging and loving and motivational, that this is a true divine voice. But the voices that are paranoid, those would be classified as hallucinations, and the angels always speak positively and motivationally.

EoR is pleased to know that psychologists have now scientifically accepted (and presumably proven) the existence of "divine voices". Unfortunately, he missed just which scientific journal that breakthrough was published in. Just as Doreen missed mentioning any actual names of psychologists.

So: hallucinatory voices bad; divine voices good.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Spiritually Misguided Lunacy

The MindBodyWallet Festival is coming to Perth, with this year's theme seeming to be animal-woo. EoR is particularly fascinated by Gary Douglas who not only teaches "Money Isn't the Problem - You Are" and "Beyond Orgasm, What else is possible?", but is also presenting Conscious Horse, Conscious Rider which is described as

It is sort of like Horse Whisperer meets What the Bleep, meets Dr. Doolittle, meets Charmed. This workshop is an invitation to step outside of this reality, start to communicate with the animals, and start to see what else is possible. Some of the information presented will contradict all of your ideas about the way things should be. It will challenge everything you have ever learned about animals (and perhaps about yourself), as well as challenge everything you've ever read about them, and everything you've been told by the so-called 'experts'

Strangely, Mr Douglas also admits that the voices in his head tell him

FADS: Don't buy the latest fad as to what will finally change me. I don't need to be changed as much as I need to be listened to.

Luckily, the whole event is based on "science" and the "latest evidence". That would explain the loony presenting separate sessions on urine therapy, dowsing, and the "science" of happyology. EoR would be more interested if he was showing them off all at once.

EoR is most fascinated, however, by Gene Shafer's Spiritually Guided Surgery.

Spiritually Guided Surgery is a holistic form of healing that works on bringing the body into balance. Spiritually Guided Surgery can best be summed up as: Healing from Spirit, through Spirit, to Spirit. Unlike other modalities of healing, where energy is generally transferred through the practitioner to the client, Spiritually Guided Surgery involves surgery in the 5th auric level, which is commonly called the Etheric Template. The Etheric Template then becomes the Etheric Aura, which in turn becomes the physical body. We recommend at least two sessions 1 to 2 weeks apart; you will feel the remarkable difference in your health and in your energy. Please use Spiritually Guided Surgery in conjunction with medical doctors. We do not advise anyone to stop seeing their doctor or stop taking their medication. The benefits of Spiritually Guided Surgery may or may not be immediate and perhaps not what the patient might expect.

So, that's all clear then, isn't it? It operates in some mystic, undetectable realm. It may change things, it may not. Don't give up the real medicine, though.

This is a unique form of healing done by Spirit Surgeons working directly on your Etheric Template. [...] At the heart of this process are the Spirit entities. They are beings that are very interested in helping the human race at this time. Many are seeking to be able to help their Host humans as well as other humans through the Spiritually Guided Surgery Practitioner.

This is not, however, vague waffly woo. Oh, no, not in the least. Remember, the MindBodyWallet Festival is about science, and the Spiritually Guided Surgeons are constantly researching and updating their techniques to take into account the lastest scientific developments on the fifth auric level. Their findings are probably even published in the Journal of Etheric Medicine, detailing the latest double-blind, spirit-controlled studies.

This modality is constantly evolving. The Spiritually Guided Surgeons themselves are continually learning how to improve their techniques. Sometimes the Practitioner 'sees' what appears to be lasers, grinding tools, colour energy, polishers or tools that actually smooth the nerves and other mysterious stuff that we don't have an understanding of at this time. The Spirit Surgeons use no anesthetic of any kind yet there is no pain and no blood loss. Since they are working at the fifth auric level, they can do many more operations in one tenth of the time that our medical doctors do. [...] This modality has been highly evolving over the last two years. At the beginning the Practitioner was told to touch the client. Now two years on, the best healing occurs when the Practitioner touches hardly at all. We have been guided by the Spirit Surgeons to 'touch' the body in 3 places to enhance the healing by guiding the client to open to receive.

EoR wonders if the magic three places are the wallet, the chequebook and the credit card?

Like all the best (scientifically-based) woo healers, you don't even need to come to his surgery. He'll tell his ghost doctors where you are and send them off to operate on their own.

While his own website is rather wishy-washy about the Spiritual Surgeons' capabilities (it's the usual healing on the etheric level, he doesn't do the healing you do (but only if you truly want to) sort of stuff) claims he makes elsewhere are not so reticent (EoR's emphasis):

The Spirit Surgeons can perform actual operations as would normally be performed in a hospital. [...] The Spirit Surgeons can improve the balance of the Body by helping to bring organs, bones, joints to equilibrium. For instance a person with any of the following ailments, Thyroid problems, Cancers, Arthritis Aching joints, Migraines, low back pain, Knee pain can all get some to total relief.

So, as Gene says, there's no pain, no anaesthetic, no blood loss, no recovery time, and instant results, why wouldn't you use it? Particularly when the operations are exactly the same as real operations. He even gets rid of cancers instantaneously, while at the same time "rebalancing" your organs (EoR presumes he means something like moving the heart to the centre of the body so it's bilaterally balanced).

Mr Shafer: EoR would like to let you know about a million dollars which you can get for a couple of minutes of spiritual surgery work. Again, EoR calls on the assistance of all the clairvoyants reading this blog to psychically predict the likelihood of that happening.

Sheldrake's Morphic Resonance Fails - Experiment At Fault

Rupert Sheldrake demonstrated again his cutting edge use of Occam's Razor and his piercing understanding of science in an experiment of his wacky wayout theory for a television program in the UK.

[Sheldrake] believes that there is a memory in nature with which animals resonate and which produces, in effect, an invisible elastic band that stretches through the cosmos between the pigeons and their lofts.

For the purposes of the television show, Rupert's "theory" was put up against other ideas about pigeon navigation, such as magnetism, smell and landmark identification. Rupert's pigeons, which had a morphically resonant elastic band connection to their loft, failed to find it when it was towed out to sea.

Like any good scientist, in the face of the failure of his "theory", rather than reassess the "theory" or its assumptions he instead came up with a list of excuses.

Pigeons don't home much in November, which was when the filming had to take place.

They may not home "much" in November, but apparently not at all when psychic powers are required.

They don't fly in storms like the one experienced on the day of filming.

Which may be the only legitimate concern. EoR wonders how the pigeons in the other tests fared.

The birds had no experience of flying over the open sea and there was no time to train them.

Train them? If they're sufficiently trained to fly out to sea, how does that prove psychic powers?

Rupert also demonstrated his post-facto psychic powers:

Sheldrake says he agreed to it happening because it was "then or never", but he put on record beforehand how he didn't think the birds stood a chance. "They filmed me saying this," he adds, "but of course left it out of the film."

What's the point of having a testable "theory" when you don't believe an experiment will be capable of proving it? "You see! I said it wouldn't work! I was right all along! Bwahahahaha!!!".

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Dore Method: Repeat The Advertising Ad Nauseum

Here's an interesting conjunction: Dore (a miracle cure in the sense that it's a miracle if it's real) was featured in two forums this last week.

First, the home of diet-fads and dole-bludger-chasing, Today Tonight on commercial television:

Amelia's transformation, along with thousands of others around the world, has been achieved through the ground-breaking drug-free treatment known as the Dore Program. It's now being hailed as a cure not just for dyslexia but other debilitating neurological conditions like ADD, ADHD, Dyspraxia and Asperger's sydrome.

There are no lies here, just a heap of disingenuous weasel words. The transformation happened "through" the program, not necessarily because of it. The program is being hailed (loudly and widely) as the complete neurological miracle; it's just that all the hailing is by the promoters.

Wynford Dore says he's not in it for the money.

EoR ROTFL. Saint Wynford could, of course, provide his program for free if that was the case. Would any clairvoyants reading this blog like to make a prediction of how likely that would be?

Meanwhile, Dore is making another commercial push in the UK, as featured at Bad Science though, from EoR's reading, this isn't so much bad science as absolutely no science.

Still, the suckers will come, empty their bank accounts and, regardless of the nonsensical exercises, some will improve and attribute that improvement to Dore. And so the scam continues.

Monday, November 06, 2006

CranioSacral Therapy: Healing By Inappropriate Touch

Here's a picture of John Upledger, one of the main pushers of craniosacral therapy, performing his woo. Remember, craniosacral therapy posits a twisted telephone cord connecting the skull to the sacrum. All illhealth is caused by this, but it can be cured by "subtle" manipulation of the cranial bones (and less than subtle manipulation of the wallet).

Mr Upledger seems to be having some difficulty locating the patient's cranium...

Craniosacral breast massage

This is not an aberration, but appears to be a standard craniosacral technique (note the craniosacral image in the lefthand sidebar).

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Anthony Grzelka - Dadaist

Perth's only real true Psychic Spiritual Medium, Anthony Grzelka, (the others, of course, even though they sound exactly the same as Mr Grzelka, are fakes and are only after your money) slummed it a bit this week and appeared on the local radio to give "readings" (he's so busy scamming the money he won't be back for another show until February). EoR would go through the usual list of hits and misses but there's nothing new or outstanding there, though he did particularly enjoy the believer who was forced to blatantly provide a heap of information before Anthony of the Spirits would attempt to "channel" anything.

Caller: Is there anything that you see about my son?
Mr G: Your son? What's his first name please?
Caller: Brendan.
Mr G: Brendan. Brendan. You know, the only feeling I'm getting here - how old's Brendan now?
Caller: Thirteen.
Mr G: You know, I know this is going to sound really strange... Does he want to be a policeman?
Caller: Um, no. More into computers and a tennis star, I think. Hee hee hee hee hee hee.

In between guffawing at the performance, however, EoR got to wondering what life was like in the Grzelka household...

For example, does Mr Grzelka get embarrassed on the toilet, with all those countless passed-on presences watching him and whispering messages?

And what is "life" like in the afterlife?

Spirit 1: E.

Spirit 2: A?

Spirit 1: [Moving object in the room around] Tom. No, Ted. No, Tom. Um, Alice?

Spirit 2: I might scare someone tonight by manifesting through their poodle.

Spirit 1: I see an operation.

Spirit 2: [Switching lights off and on] Butterflies.

Spirit 1: Something in the upper chest.

Spirit 2: Woof! Woof!

Dada at its best.

Ceci n'est pas une psychique

Past Grzelka:
Anthony Grzelka Flogs A Dead Dog
Psi Power - Dedicated to Anthony Grzelka
Grzelka Witticisms
Grzelka: Psychics Real, Skeptics Cynics
Talking to the Dead
Scams from Beyond

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Second Coming

From the latest issue of hoofbeats, the equine woo humour magazine.

Monty Roberts Returns

"According to industry sources, this year's clinic was to be the next step up from the Join Up methods demonstrated in 2004 to a capacity audience. Yet, although the display was again entertaining and informative, it was mostly a repeat of the last one.

When you're on a good thing... Or, there's a sucker born every minute... Woo and natural horsemanship®™ go together like a, well, a horse and carriage. While Pat's big, Monty's definitely the poster boy in the natural horsemanship groupie world. So it was with great joy, anticipation and adulation that his Second Coming to Perth was awaited.... Only to be sold the same old same old.

Plenty of interest was generated in the sale of Monty's merchandise - the lines of buyers and those wanting autographs winding the entire width and length of the arena.

There's also a photo of Monty holding an unnamed baby. Presumably it's a bit like the Pope - maybe somebody hopes a bit of Monty's sainthood will rub off on the little infant. Or, there's a sucker born every minute...

He recently worked with RSPCA in Queensland and the Aboriginal community of Palm Island (off the coast of Townsville) to reeducate [sic] them on the treatment of their horses. A documentary showing the communities [sic] progression from ignorance and cruelty to kindness and learning is to be aired on the ABC - a DVD also being available at the clinic.

Thank heaven for the Big White Bwana who's shown those ignorant darkies a More Civilised Way. EoR is fascinated by the way these supposedly enlightened, newage types, are showing all the symptoms of the worst sort of colonialist racist attitudes that existed in the nineteenth century. It seems they urgently need their chakras realigned with a few homeopathic drops.

It may sound trite, but the teachings of Monty Roberts do give empowerment to those willing to listen - his aim being to remove violence from the lives of both horses and people. But, as he told the audience at his Perth clinic,
he needs everyone's help to do it.

Yes, it is trite. Also, anything claiming "empowerment" is automatically suspect.

Why doesn't Monty go to Iraq/Palestine/Chechnya/Sri Lanka/Aceh etc, and solve the violence problems there?

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Equine Cranialsacral Therapy 2

Equine Craniosacral Devotees are really big on solving the terrible issue of Temporomandibular Dysfunction, or TMD. Luckily, pioneer Maureen Rogers has provided an article on this malady, though most Equine Craniosacral Woo Sites go on at length about it.

When these bones are misaligned and not articulating properly and the surrounding tissue of the TMJ is stressed, the TMJ Mechanism is out of balance and cannot function optimally. This condition is known as Temporomandibular Dysfunction, or TMD.

We all know how distressing it is for any altie practitioner to find anything out of balance.

TMD affects overall health. Indicators of a TMD condition include popping and clicking in the joint area, headaches, bite misalignment, and gritting of the teeth. If the condition is left untreated, the cartilage that makes up the articular disc that allows the mandible to move will be worn down and damaged. In severe cases of TMD, the precious cartilage is completely worn away. The condition known as TMD occurs in all horses regardless of discipline. Horses exhibit signs of possible TMD discomfort in several different ways. TMD goes hand-in-hand with the misalignment of the upper and lower incisors and/ or any imbalances that may appear in the wear of the teeth, such as hooks or waves, and each perpetuates the other.

TMD shows up in many different shapes and sizes and cases differ in levels of severity. Horses with TMD will clearly show low levels of performance, improper gaits, uneven wear of the teeth, possible head shaking, signs of headaches, cribbing and/or various behavior problems. In some cases, even a slight retrusion in the lower jaw can be seen - the lower incisors of the mandible come behind the upper incisors of the maxilla. Any horse that has TMD will have some level of difficulty in performance. [...] Other indicators of possible TMD and/or dental problems may be ear sensitivity, head tossing, difficulty taking the bit in the mouth, leaning on the bit, difficulty with specific leads or gaits, difficulty flexing at the poll, signs of headaches, head shyness, and/ or sensitivity to any touch in the jaw area.

In other words, TMD can cause almost any signs and conditions. Every horse is sure to have it to a lesser or greater extent. Probably greater. You can, however, check your own horse for this devastating condition.

A way to check to see if your horse has any form of TMD is to look at how your horse’s incisors align. The upper six incisors should align with the lower set, directly in the middle. If you see a pull to one side or the other, it is likely that your horse has some discomfort with its TMJ Mechanism. Even though the teeth may align, the muscles that make up the TMJ may still be tight, causing discomfort.

Which seems a rather pointless test if you horse can have the condition whether his teeth align or not. Like subluxations for chiropracters, TMD is a condition that every horse (by the altie explanation of the dis-ease) will have (and, of course, CranioSacral Therapy can cure it, just as chiropractic manipulation can cure subluxations). Ms Rogers provides various images of misaligned horse teeth indicative of TMD, but EoR has doubts about these. Any horse having its mouth held open by pulling its lips apart will resist this action. Such resistance can include twisting the head and jaw from side to side. Still images, as Ms Rogers uses, are inconclusive in establishing any misalignment of teeth (which, if established, may or may not relate to TMD).

Dentistry alone cannot fix this problem:

The soft tissue must be addressed and treated, as well as the energy patterns holding the TMJ in a "dysfunctional pattern". Depending on the length of time the condition has existed, it may have worked its way through the entire body, causing the horse to compensate in his work, thus unbalancing him and inhibiting his performance and athletic abilities.

TMD is a real condition (at least, in humans):

This condition is sometimes called facial arthromyalgia but many other names are used. In some cases the joint itself is causing problems, in others, it is the muscles. The pain is in the form of a dull ache that affects the jaw and muscles in the side of the face near the ear. It may also cause clicking of the jaw and difficulty in opening the mouth because of spasm in the jaw muscles. The pain may extend over the side of the head and down into the neck. Often pain may be felt in the ear, where there may also be a sense of fullness or buzzing. It may sometimes be accompanied by dizziness. The cause of this pain is unknown, although for some the problem is a product of disease in the jaw joint. It can also occur when the teeth do not align properly. This can happen when teeth have been lost or if dentures do not fit well. Treatment will therefore begin with a careful assessment by a dental specialist. It is important not to have any treatment that is irreversible as the condition clears up in most cases within two to three years.

In humans, you're better off seeing an otolaryngologist.

If the doctor diagnoses your case early, it will probably respond to these simple, self-remedies:
  • Rest the muscles and joints by eating soft foods.

  • Do not chew gum.

  • Avoid clenching or tensing.

  • Relax muscles with moist heat

Craniosacral woos are not the only people who believe they have a god-given gift to resolve TMD (EoR also enjoyed this man's assertion that he could have cured Beethoven's deafness):

Generally speaking, providing that the condition has been correctly diagnosed, a doctor or specialist is the last person able to carry out correct treatment. Because very few have been trained and achieved experience in the technicalities of mechanically sorting out the problem and resulting ramifications. By correct treatment I mean actually correcting the subluxed (twisted) joint, and furthermore tracing and correcting any other factors due to compensations arising as a result of the TMJ condition.

EoR was unable to locate any reference to TMD or facial arthromyalgia in his veterinary reference books in relation to horses (though there's a lot of altie sites on the net promoting it). He did find a case study of Temporomandibular Septic Arthritis in a Horse, though this was resolved with antibiotics, general anaesthetic and a bone saw as opposed to very light hand touches. The discussion in this paper states:

Temporomandibular pain and dysfunction are common in human beings but relatively rare in animals. Horses are no exception, in part due to the stability rendered by the equine tight temporomandibular joint capsule, fibrous lateral and elastic caudal ligaments, and overlying musculature. Reports of temporomandibular joint abnormalities in the horse are mainly focused on traumatic subluxation either with or without an associated fracture of the vertical mandibular ramus, however a few case reports of septic temporomandibular arthritis do exist.

While undoubtedly some horses have problems with the TMJ joint, and quite a few horses have less than perfectly aligned teeth (as well as legs - why not blame the problems on those instead?), it appears TMD is being overpromoted by these woo therapists without any proper diagnosis (of course, no good altie therapist bothers with a diagnosis anyway), a whole dose of worrying information for the owner about various possibilities that may or may not exist, and then applying a disproven, impossible "rebalancing" in exchange for money.