Friday, December 31, 2010

It's snowing! It's snowing! The world's going to freeze!

On January 23rd 2010 Anthony Watts, fearless independent climatologist, posted this graph from the Danish Meteorological Institute, chortling over just how low and how rapidly Arctic temperatures were dropping. Clearly that's all deniers need to disprove the multiple lines of proof of climate science: three weeks worth of data. Note that Watts described the green line as 'normal' — a meaningless statement without some sort of context, and a strange term to use when the deniers claim that 'climate is always changing'.

Even as the gloating amongst his followers commenced, the data started moving back up again. Watts then posted this updated version:

What did his remarkable insight, his knowledge of climate, atmospherics, geology and politics suggest as a hypothesis that might explain this? What would follow? Watts didn't know, merely asking rather hopefully "will it oscillate back?" Comments on the post ceased on January 28th.

EoR decided to check to see whether it had 'oscillated' back or not. Here is the full graph for 2010 (the green line, rather than being 'normal' represents daily mean temperatures for the period 1958-2002).

Not only did it not 'oscillate' back, it was for most of the year above the averaged mean, and the greatest variations were also largely in the warmer rather than the colder range.

Arctic sea ice extent, as graphed by the National Snow and Ice Data Center is also low.

While the average monthly Arctic sea ice extent continues its inexorable decline.

But surely we're entering a new Ice Age? Isn't the world currently being blanketed by unprecedented amounts of snow? James Hansen at NASA notes

Back to the cold air in Europe: is it possible that reduced Arctic sea ice is affecting weather patterns? Because Hudson Bay (and Baffin Bay, west of Greenland) are at significantly lower latitudes than most of the Arctic Ocean, global warming may cause them to remain ice free into early winter after the Arctic Ocean has become frozen insulating the atmosphere from the ocean. The fixed location of the Hudson-Baffin heat source could plausibly affect weather patterns, in a deterministic way — Europe being half a Rossby wavelength downstream, thus producing a cold European anomaly in the trans-Atlantic seesaw. Several ideas about possible effects of the loss of Arctic sea ice on weather patterns are discussed in papers referenced by Overland, Wang and Walsh.

However, we note in our Reviews of Geophysics paper that the few years just prior to 2009-2010, with low Arctic sea ice, did not produce cold winters in Europe. The cold winter of 2009-2010 was associated with the most extreme Arctic Oscillation in the period of record. Figure 3, from our paper, shows that 7 of the last 10 European winters were warmer than the 1951-1980 average winter, and 10 of the past 10 summers were warmer than climatology. The average warming of European winters is at least as large as the average warming of summers, but it is less noticeable because of the much greater variability in winter.

In Canada, "the Hudson Bay region of Canada had monthly mean anomalies greater than +10°C." It's interesting that this isn't receiving the same amount of coverage that the snowstorms in Europe and the US are. Or the flooding in the Balkans, Central America and Australia (unless you happen to be in one of those areas). And the World Meterological Organisation reports:

The year 2010 is almost certain to rank in the top 3 warmest years since the beginning of instrumental climate records in 1850, according to data sources compiled by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The global combined sea surface and land surface air temperature for 2010 (January–October) is currently estimated at 0.55°C ± 0.11°C1 (0.99°F ± 0.20°F) above the 1961–1990 annual average of 14.00°C/57.2°F. At present, 2010’s nominal value is the highest on record, just ahead of 1998 (January-October anomaly +0.53°C) and 2005 (0.52°C)2. The ERA-Interim3 reanalysis data are also indicating that January-October 2010 temperatures are near record levels. The final ranking of 2010 will not become clear until November and December data are analysed in early 2011.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

In which an advertisement is found

While EoR was doing some research on anti-global warming science he was forced to read the IPA Review, the house publication of a right wing think tank called the Institute of Public Affairs. IPA Review is the favoured home of Bob Carter and Ian Plimer. In the December 2006 issue, however, EoR discovered this amusing advertisement.

The message is rather droll: don't give your money to the parasitic state, give it to the parasitic conservatives instead!

It also demonstrates the lack of scientific understanding of the right, since EoR can't see any parasites in the image (unless the human has a tapeworm).

It also seems remarkably strange that the social(ist) ants appear to be helping our fearless Libertarian Hero.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Free pr0n for asylum seekers

Spiegel Online reports how the Czech Republic tests whether applicants for asylum are telling the truth or not when they claim they would be persecuted for being gay. It seems the report may have been written by Benny Hill, since it notes that

the only way to obtain hard evidence was to administer a test using a phallometric device.

People who make such puns should be given a stiff dressing down. EoR just won't stand for it.

Furthermore, the person administering these tests is a physician and sex therapist called Dr. Ondrej Trojan. More proof of Nominative Determinism.

It also seems that Dr Trojan has difficulty determining patient/doctor boundaries:

A former patient claims that he offered to masturbate in front of her while she was under his treatment, and she says that she intends to produce video recordings as evidence. Trojan insists that he was merely applying a method known as "demonstration therapy," which even he admits is "controversial."

EoR doesn't know which is worse. That a sex therapist offered to masturbate in front of a patient, or that the patient was videotaping the whole thing.

Saturday, December 25, 2010

Merry Cthulumas!

Merry Cthulhumas! It's that special day of the year when the Elder Gods wake at R'lyeh, and travel the world visiting all the good little boys and girls delivering fear and terror and tentacles and unspeakable horrors!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Homeopathy: proudly advancing science into the 1800s

EoR has been browsing through Homeopathy: Medicine for the New Millennium (1985, 26th edition copyrighted 2000) by George Vithoulkas in which he "Describes the foundations upon which this seemingly miraculous method is built". As the cover proudly declaims, Vithoulkas was:

Awarded the Alternative Nobel Prize for Health 1996.

His biography inside also emphasises this achievement:

In 1996 his untiring endeavours to spread classical homeopathy were acknowledged internationally when he received the Alternative Nobel Prize for Health in the Swedish Parliament for his 'Outstanding contribution to the revival of classical homeopathy.'

This just demonstrates how homeopaths like to skew results to claim any thin legitimacy they desperately crave. The Right Livelihood Awards are, indeed, known as the Alternative Nobel Prize, but that is not their official designation and it seems like desperation to splash the 'Nobel' word across the front of a homeopathic book. The claim that it was awarded in the category of 'Health' also seems spurious:

Unlike the Nobel Prizes (for Physics, Physiology/Medicine, Chemistry, Literature, and Peace), the Right Livelihood Award has no categories. It recognises that, in striving to meet the human challenges of today's world, the most inspiring and remarkable work often defies any standard classification. For example, people who start out with an environmental goal frequently find themselves drawn into issues of health, human rights and/or social justice. Their work becomes a holistic response to community needs, so that sectoral categories lose their meaning.

Regardless of its millennial claims, the book is replete with phrases such as "we must look back again to the days of Hahnemann". Perhaps EoR misread, and the millennium referred to was the previous one? Like any good text on homeopathy, there are invocations equally to God and Einstein so that those who believe in religious cures are catered for, as well as those who demand science (even if it's magical science). Quoting nineteenth century homeopath J T Kent (who features prominently throughout the book as an authority for the New Millennium):

They will tell you that the bacillus is the cause of tuberculosis. But if man had not been susceptible to the bacillus he could not have been affected by it... The bacteria are results of the disease... the microscopical little fellows are not the disease cause, but they come after... They are the outcome of the disease, are present wherever the disease is, and by the microscope it has been discovered that every pathological result has its corresponding bacteria. The Old School considered these the cause...but the cause is much more subtle than
anything that can be shown by a microscope.

There's also a lot about vital forces and miasms. And the true believer will, of course, not use any real drugs at all (not least because it seems homeopathy is so fickle and weak, almost anything can interfere with it):

Allopathic drugs are among the most powerful interfering factors. An occasional aspirin for temporary aches or pains is generally no problem, but consistent use of analgesics, tranquillizers, antibiotics, contraceptive pills and especially cortisone can completely counteract the action of homeopathic remedies. In some instances, even dental work can produce the same effect. Therefore, homeopathic patients should refrain from all other therapies except for true emergencies and, if possible, only after consulting the homeopath.

Of course, the anecdote is required evidence (indeed, the only evidence), and there are plenty of them, many involving cancer cures. The best is this one, about a woman with serious metastasised lung cancer who Vithoulkas initially refuses to treat (because he considered the case too 'serious'!). The tale is long, but EoR felt that any editing would reduce the overwhelming crescendo of madness and improbability:

She then started pleading with me to at least listen to her symptoms. Seeing my insistence in refusing to take her case, she told us a story which made me change my mind. She said "One night I prayed to God to help me with my health, and then I heard the voice of God telling me, 'Go to Vithoulkas, he will cure you'" and this was the reason why she was insisting so much to see me. I said to her again: "I do not know what God told you, but what I do know is that with homeopathy it is impossible to cure such a case". She kept on pleading so much that I finally agreed to listen to her case. As it came out it was one of the strangest stories I have ever heard in my whole career. She was a 43 year old woman from a very rich family in Australia. Her father had died several years before but the strange thing was that her mother had developed a really vicious hatred for her, to the extent that in one of their fights she had wished openly that her daughter, the patient, would die from cancer. Two years after the mother's vicious wish, the daughter actually developed cancer of the lungs, which was soon metastasized to the bones and then to the brain. The patient had also developed an equally strong hatred for the mother, to the extent that she also wished her dead. The complication for the patient was that in spite of the fact that the family was very rich, the wealth was controlled totally by the mother in Australia, who provided very little to the daughter. She, in turn, mixed with the high society of London, borrowed money from her affluent friends to cope with living in the style of the rich and in the hope that when the mother died - she was already approaching her eighties - she would be able to pay them back. As I progressed with the taking of her case, listening to all the symptoms, I found out that the indicated remedy - strangely enough - was clear in this case, something that happens very rarely and indicates that there is really hope for the patient. Homeopathy has different ways of evaluating the strength of the defence mechanism which is actually stimulated and brings about the cure. Therefore, after 3 hours of taking her case, I had come to the conclusion that there was actually a possibility for an improvement in this woman. I then told her this but the problem was that she was taking many strong painkillers and the homeopathic remedy would not work together with them. I explained the situation to her, to which she answered immediately that this was not a problem, she could stop the painkillers right now! I said that this would be impossible as the pains on the bones would be so intensely aggravated before the homeopathic remedy could act that she would not be able to stand them even for a few days. She left for London the next day. After a week I received a telephone call from her. Her first words were: 'I am well.' I asked what she meant, had she really stopped the painkillers? She said, "Yes, the same day I started your medicine". "And there was no pain?" She said none! I could not believe my ears. Anyhow I gave further instructions and forgot about the case. In three months she telephoned to say that she had been back in the hospital in London where they monitored her case and she told them how well she was. She said, "I danced in front of them in order for them to believe that I could walk again without pain". I still could not believe my ears, but anyhow I gave further instructions for the medication. A month later I received a telephone call in my house, very early in the morning, about 3 a.m. in London and 5 a.m. in Athens. She was on the phone screaming that she most probably broke her ribs during her sleep in the night and the pain was excruciating, unbearable. She could hardly speak from the pain. I told her that these pains were a relapse from the metastasis and not from a broken rib! I thought that's it, I could never control the pain again, but all the same I instructed her to try a remedy and to phone me in the evening. Sure enough she telephoned to say that there was no more pain any more! These relapses happened another three times in the 11 months of treatment, and were always controlled by the homeopathic remedy. One day she telephoned in a panic saying that the right eye was bulging out and could not see. There was also a severe pain in the head. Again the homeopathic remedy controlled the symptoms. After a year she considered herself cured and stopped telephoning. Three years later I inquired from the lady in charge of the clinic in London who had initially phoned me about the patient to know what had happened with this case. And she told me the most amazing story I could have heard. The mother in Australia had died but before her death, she gave all her property to a foundation in Australia, leaving the daughter with all her debts. The patient despaired so much that she went to an expensive restaurant in London, ordered a luxurious meal and took with it enough pills to kill herself. I mention this case here though I cannot know to what extent the improvement really was, whether after a year or two the cancer would have come back and killed her, as the case was monitored from the London hospital and I had no access to their findings. But this case really shows the extent to which homeopathy can be effective if it is practised properly. For many decades, homeopathy was practiced in a very bad manner. Instead of trying to find the indicated remedy for each individual case, which requires a lot of time, doctors would prefer to give ten, fifteen or even twenty remedies together hoping that the right one would be within these twenty. With such a practice results were very poor and people got the impression that this method was good only for simple ailments like common colds and headaches.

You can't make this sort of stuff up.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Santa's just an old pervert

The festive season is all about fun and celebrating traditional values.

Christmas cheer

Like smoking. And surprising your loved one under the Cthulhumas tree with a new Prince Albert (link very much NSFW).

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The adventures of Christopher Monckton in the real world (Episode two)

What a proper education can do for you

The Telegraph have replaced the blatantly warmist propaganda piece that was so horribly out of place on their website which insinuated that the Lord of the Dance Climate Skeptics agreed climate was warming due to anthropogenic causes, with a much cosier rant from the man himself, in which the Loony Lord, who so detests the vile ad hominens thrown at him by the alarmist brigade in lieu of any actual science, refers in the first line to a "bearded, staring enviro-zomb with the regrettable T-shirt". EoR doesn't know why the T-shirt was 'regrettable' since the Illogical Lord fails to give a reason.

Monckton laments the loss of:

Perspective, the Olympian capacity to see events as they affect not just us and our mates but everyone, and not just in the excitement of the present but sub specie aeternitatis, in the long, calm, kindly shadow of eternity: this has gone from what passes for education in the West.

Are we, then, to assume that Monckton considers himself one of the Olympians, possessing, as he does, a transcendent vision of humanity, the world and existence that far outstrips the average mortal schmuck? Monckton has always evidenced a grandiosity complex, but it grows worse every day.

The global warming scam has been so successful, he claims, for three reasons.

The climate bugaboo, the strangest intellectual aberration of our age, rampages because in the me and now we have cast aside three once-universal [sic] forms of learning that gave us perspective: a Classical education, to remind us that in reason and logic there is a difference between true and false; a scientific education, to show us which is which; and a religious education, to teach us why the distinction matters.

Which does rather expose the real agenda of the deniers: godlessness and atheism are the heathen evils to be fought. If we were only more godly (presumably, worshipping Olympians like Monckton himself) then we wouldn't be so stupid. And the Flying Spaghetti Monster could just magic away global warming.

Monckton also neglects to mention that part of a Classical education was the art of rhetoric. EoR does agree that a classical education would be helpful, since it would make more people knowledgeable about the Sophists, those who would argue a cause whether it was true or false, or whether they believed in it or not. Indeed, the description of Sophists could be applied directly to Monckton without any difficulty at all:

[The Sophists] wandered about Greece from place to place, gave lectures, took pupils, and entered into disputations. For these services they exacted large fees, and were, in fact, the first in Greece to take fees for teaching wisdom.


The most popular career of a Greek of ability at the time was politics; hence the sophists largely concentrated on teaching rhetoric. The aims of the young politicians whom they trained were to persuade the multitude of whatever they wished them to believed. The search for truth was not top priority. Consequently the sophists undertook to provide a stock of arguments on any subject, or to prove any position. They boasted of their ability to make the worse appear the better reason, to prove that black is white. Some, like Gorgias, asserted that it was not necessary to have any knowledge of a subject to give satisfactory replies as regards it. Thus, Gorgias ostentatiously answered any question on any subject instantly and without consideration. To attain these ends mere quibbling, and the scoring of verbal points were employed. In this way, the sophists tried to entangle, entrap, and confuse their opponents, and even, if this were not possible, to beat them down by mere violence and noise. They sought also to dazzle by means of strange or flowery metaphors, by unusual figures of speech, by epigrams and paradoxes, and in general by being clever and smart, rather than earnest and truthful. Hence our word “sophistry”: the use of fallacious arguments knowing them to be such.

Monckton's education in grammar and debate also seem to be failing. At times, he refers to himself in the article in the third person, and at others in the first person. It seems he is dissociated from himself in an almost Freudian way.

Monckton attacks "another headline last week [that] shrieked" he had admitted global warming was real and human caused. Monckton (in whatever person) doesn't mention it was in the same paper. His argument that the claim is wrong? He admitted four years ago that global warming was real and it was human caused. So much for your "Classical" logic and reason.

Would someone please tuck the good Lord into bed, give him a warm drink, turn the lights out, and gently steal away.

Meanwhile, for those with an interest in the actual science, rather than schoolboy rhetorical exercises, Miloslav Nic has created a wonderful online searchable database for the IPCC Fourth Assessement Report.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The adventures of Christopher Monckton in the real world

EoR is a little disappointed with the rather poor efforts of climate change deniers of late. Andrew Bolt used to post monthly temperature graphs to 'prove' there was no global warming. Then he posted monthly temperature graphs to 'prove' there was no global warming because there was only a slight increase. Now he doesn't bother at all. There's only the occasional post claiming sea levels aren't rising quite as fast as some people claim. Though they are still rising.

The Lord Clown of Deniers, Christopher Monckton, also seems to have been quiet lately, but maybe that's just because the media have become bored with his repetitive schtick. And the fact that you can't really be a Lord High Denier and All Round Genius to the conspiracy set when you admit that global warming is happening, and it's caused by humans (the Telegraph, for whatever ulterior reason, has deleted the relevant article — it is, however, still available on the internet). Oh dear. EoR bets all the cardigan-wearing set have torn his posters from the wall in a fit of right wing pique.

Lord Monckton admitted the world is warming as a result of mankind’s activities.

“Some warming is to be accepted as a result of our activities but on balance not very much,” he said.

In a bizarre press conference attended by a handful of journalists and a ‘climate sceptic activist’ dressed in a polar bear suit with a sign reading ‘I am fine’, Lord Monckton spoke out about his theories on climate change.

His theories? How many does he have?

Monckton was introduced as the 'Lord of the climate skeptics'. It reminds EoR of when tours of insane asylums were undertaken, and people would be introduced as 'Napoleon'.

John Vidal at the Guardian reports how the man who was incensed at 'Hitler youth' at Copenhagen is now employing the same tactics.

But it seems that the man who in Copenhagen last year compared young protesters to Hitler Youth because they gatecrashed a meeting of climate sceptics, had not actually been invited to the largest business conference of the summit that featured Lord Stern, Richard Branson and several Mexican billionaires.

After an hour of tolerating Monckton, the patience of the organisers wore thin. "Who is this man?" asked one American green venture capitalist. "These are weird views," said another. A few minutes later he was asked to leave.

You can listen to a 7 minute interview with Monckton at the conference. Monckton argues that modelling is wrong, and when he was taught science "measurement and observation were the appropriate processes". This is a line taken by Ian Plimer in Climate changing: How global warming lost its science and support (IPA Review, March 2010). EoR wonders who's copying their argument from whom?

My scientific critics are decades younger, had a postmodernist education, are scientifically narrow, play with computer models and lack the ability to argue logically. This is probably why ad hominem attacks had spelling errors and poor English.

Of course, the irony of Plimer calling his opponents 'illogical', 'scientifically narrow', 'bad spellers' and users of 'poor English' and then crying about ad hominen attacks against him is hilarious.

In the audio interview, Monckton also refers to a question in the House of Lords, which he had to get a sitting member to put. But isn't Monckton a member of the House of Lords? If that particular lie was true, he could have asked the question himself.

Monckton is not a climatologist (nor any sort of scientist, in fact) but a rhetorician, as a post by Gideon Rachman demonstrates. Rachman, who was about to take part in a (non climate related) Oxford debate with Monckton, spoke to him. Or was spoken at.

I began to think that Viscount Monckton might be a formidable opponent during the debate. Then he told me that he has discovered a new drug that is a complete cure for two-thirds of known diseases - and that he expects it to go into clinical trials soon. I asked him whether his miracle cure was chiefly effective against viruses or bacterial diseases? “Both”, he said, “and prions”. At this point I felt a little more relaxed about the forthcoming debate.

Monckton disputes this account, and has written a rebuttal which Rachman has published:

Lord Monckton has pointed out an inadvertent inaccuracy and unfairness in my account of the medical invention on which he is working. Though there is a substantial body of theoretical and empirical evidence that his invention may prove efficacious against multiple infectious and auto-immune diseases, he did not and does not make any claim that the invention will prove efficacious. That is precisely why, as he told me when we met at Oxford, a series of appropriately sceptical clinical trials will commence shortly in the United States.

Personally, EoR thinks Monckton is just hiding the decline in his intellectual abilities, which has been occurring since at least 1998.

Monday, December 20, 2010

The forgotten genius of Henry Hoke

It's always good to see a forgotten genius finally being recognised, especially when he's Australian. Henry Hoke is the Australian Einstein or Alexander Graham Bell (both of whom he knew — he corresponded on a first name basis with Einstein) and was the subject earlier this year of a long overdue exhibition at the South Australian Maritime Museum.

Hoke, of Hoke's Tool Company, was a neglected but wide ranging inventor, producing myriad ideas. Sadly, he is now mostly forgotten, though (like Tesla) many of his inventions were stolen by others and have become well known in these copies. There's the Quack of Doom (so powerful and dangerous the US military decided to go with the atom bomb instead). He was also a pioneer of alternative energy, developing a clockwork car (this is now lost, though the key — Hoke's Giant Wind-Up — still exists). Some of his other prescient inventions include:

Refined Bulldust, so beloved of alties. Similar to Philip Pullman's Dust, it is everywhere.

Hoke's bulldust

Willing's Suspension of Disbelief, another altie favourite, most effectively employed with the Bulldust.

Suspension of disbelief

And Dehydrated Water Pills ("Instructions for use: Add alcohol, preferably gin"). Today, these incredible pills are to be found in pharmacies everywhere with, criminally, no recognition of Hoke at all.

Dehydrated water pills

Flickr gallery of the exhibition

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Thistle thoughts (12)

EoR sits on a thistleEoR, having accidentally sat on some thistles, ponders the State of Things...

It's all very well UFOs abducting people and anally probing them, but why do they have to keep returning them?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Sandy Craw

'Tis the season for those old familiar standards, such as Santa Claus is Coming to Town, as unforgettably performed by Joseph Spence. This is simply the most brilliant postmodernist critique of the consumerist devotion to affluenza EoR has ever heard. And if Spence influenced Ry Cooder and Taj Mahal, how can he be all bad?

After this, no other Christmas songs satisfy. Except, just possibly, John Cage's 4'33".

Friday, December 17, 2010

National Broadband Network will kill us all!

Maybe EoR just imagined all this but, listening to Howard Sattler's radio show on Wednesday he heard MP Dr Dennis Jensen apparently prophesying the end of the world due to the National Broadband Network. EoR didn't hear the whole thing, so he may have totally misinterpreted Dr Jensen's alarmist ranting, but it seems the terminating nodes for the NBN which were originally to be placed outside buildings will now be placed inside them. The terrible outcome is that these release chlorine gas when they burn. And chlorine gas is what the Germans used!!!

EoR may be unusual but, if his house was burning, he wouldn't be hanging around to breathe in any fumes, toxic or otherwise. And what gases are released by burning televisions? Computers? Carpets? Plastics? Treated wood? Stored pool chemicals?

Will Dr Jensen also call for the banning of wood fires?

Dennis Jensen, though he's a legitimate scientist (his specialty is materials engineering on ceramics) doesn't seem to cope with technology well. His webpage, for instance, still includes a call to "Oppose the Government's Emissions Trading Scheme". He also seems to release a media statement every six months or so. Which is probably considered value for taxpayers' money these days. But nothing about the NBN or chlorine gas is evident there. There's no mention of it on the 6PR website. And Google also seems ignorant of these claims (whether made by Jensen or anyone else).

Dr Jensen is on Facebook but EoR didn't have the strength to become his friend. He does, however, note that Dr Jensen 'likes' Carl Sagan and Climate-gate (sic). And his favourite movie is "Not Evil Just Wrong".

Then there's his Twitter account with its regular tweets (averaging about one a month). The most recent:

No reputable scientist would claim 100% certainty that humans are causing climate change, but govt advisor Prof Will Steffen does!

Any reputable conservative politician, however, would claim that global warming is fake 100% of the time! Also, isn't that statement defamatory, since it clearly implies that Professor Will Steffen (Executive Director ANU Climate Change Institute, BSc, MSc, PhD) is not a reputable scientist? But, again, nothing about the NBN and how it's going to kill everyone.

On the 24th February he tweeted:

Rudd is totally lacking human feeling. 4 deaths from his insulation disaster, and he cannot even express sympathy

Well, Rudd is probably just as inhuman as Dr Jensen:

Dr Jensen boycotted Parliament on the day that the formal apology to the Stolen Generations was made by Prime Minister Kevin Rudd.

Perhaps EoR was having a really strange dream? Or is this just the stalking horse for an 'NBN is the new Insulation debacle' initiative by the opposition?

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Why Andrew Bolt is so gay

The sky is falling! We're all doomed to slide down the slippery slope of faulty logic to an incestuous fate!!

According to psychic Andrew Bolt ("Two years ago I warned") the result of allowing godless gays to marry will not only destroy our wonderful conservative, capitalist, Bible-sanctioned lifestyle, but next thing you know, incest will be legal!!! Before you know it men will be kissing. In public!

This is obvious, since Switzerland already has registered partnerships which — as if you couldn't guess — are supported by the Green Party of Switzerland. Being one of Australia's top journalists, Bolt links to a Wikipedia entry. Knowing his audience, he's probably certain none of them will even go there and read the article, which shows that, regardless of his random sniping at the Greens, the Swiss partnerships are far from the same as marriage, and 58% of the Swiss people approved the change. But the evil Greens want full marriage equivalence!

But now the Swiss government has drafted laws decriminalising sex between consenting family members (Bolt is more nuanced here, linking to the rightwing Telegraph). If Bolt's Believers follow the link, they'd see that the law relates to adults only. Whether you consider sex between related individuals right or wrong, it's not about all family members:

Switzerland, which recently held a referendum passing a draconian law that will boot out foreigners convicted of committing the smallest of crimes, insists that children within families will continue to be protected by laws governing abuse and paedophilia.

If the left commie pinko green unionists are running the political agenda, how did that draconian law get through? The article also notes that there have only been three cases of incest since 1984.

But what about China, France, Israel, the Ivory Coast, the Netherlands, Russia, Spain and Turkey? All countries which have no prohibitions on "consensual incest between adults". Why does Bolt single out a possible new law in Switzerland and ignore all these countries which already allow consensual incest?

Bolt also fails to explain why his argument that allowing gay marriage will lead to incestuous marriage. Switzerland made registered partnerships legal in 2003, but changing the incest law has been around much longer:

In fact, the issue’s popped up periodically since the 1980s. Each time though uproar among the cantons or among the population has derailed the plan.

Perhaps Bolt doesn't believe in democracy?

As always, the best part of Bolt's outrage is the wonderful comments from his literate, well informed (informed by Bolt's posts) readers. The very first comment invokes GOD (yes, in CAPITALS). Nonna, demonstrating that she (?) likes to think through issues and not rely on steretypes, comments

I blame the holes in Swiss cheese and too much jodelling [sic] across the alpine valleys. Maybe the resonating sound of Swiss horns has an effect on the human brain.

Sonnshine says

Hey gay couples, it’s not about you being discriminated against for any reason whatsoever when I say this -it is simply a Christian tradition that says Man and Woman. Been going on since Adam was a boy - you can’t change it to suit yourself.

Actually, all the children of Adam and Eve were related. Talk about rampant incest!

Of course, there's the usual mish-mash of anti-Muslim sentiment as well, mixed in with suicide bombers, 'refugees' (in Boltland there are no real refugees — the word must therefore always be in quotes), and impending Sharia law in Australia (even though that would, presumably, outlaw homosexuality and incest).

Next thing you know, there'll be offspring with two fathers and Conservatives sleeping with the Greens. Now that sort of thing must really scare Bolt.

And please, don't anyone tell him that those evil scientists think incest may actually lower sexual violence.

Or that people have fulminated on exactly where (and where not) to place genitalia for many centuries (readers of a nervous disposition should be advised that the following poem contains strong language):

Oh what damned age do we live in

Oh what damned age do we live in
Since there is no Christian soul
But old Father Patrick and Griffin
Dare put their pricks in the right hole.

Oh, why do we keep such a bustle
'Bout putting a prick in an arse,
Since Harvey's long-cunted muscle
Serves Stuart instead of a tarse.

Since fucking is not as 'twas wont
The ladies have got a new trick:
As an arsehole serves for a cunt.
So a clitoris serves for a prick.

Besides, the damned tailors of France
To Great Britain's defamation
Have made better pintles by chance
Than the gods of the English nation.

But now there's nothing will do,
Their cunts are grown so wide,
Except with a French leather dildo
They get on each other and ride.
        attrib. John Wilmot, Earl of Rochester (1647-1680)

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Henry Thoreau, climate scientist

EoR enjoys rereading Walden every few years, but now Thoreau has moved on from being a Transcendentalist to revealing the changes being brought about by climate change.

Thoreau's records and subsequent observations up to the present of bird arrival times around Walden Pond are being used to study the effects of global climate change. In a soon to be published article in the journal Condor, Primack and Ellwood show that some birds, such as the Yellow-rumped Warbler and Chipping Sparrow, are arriving earlier in warmer years and later in cold years. This study is particularly significant as it represents the longest time span over which bird arrival times have been scientifically observed.

The study indicates that Concord birds are not responding to warming temperatures as fast as plants, and that they may miss the peak abundance of insect food in the spring, if insects are also responding as rapidly as plants. The concern here is that birds may not find enough insects to feed their hungry nestlings, and the baby birds will starve to death. "Insect are the missing link between plants and birds and this is the next area of focus in our lab," said Ellwood.

Some Thoreau quotes:

Some circumstantial evidence is very strong, as when you find a trout in the milk.

It is not worthwhile to go around the world to count the cats in Zanzibar.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Forgive us our warez

What do you do when your software license is posted on warez groups? You sit back and observe, noting how it spreads and who uses it.

It seems that, while condoms may be evil, homosexuals to be abhorred and stem cell research the work of the devil, software piracy is okay:

A single licence for Avast security software has been used by 774,651 people after it went viral on a file-sharing site, according to the company.

Avast noticed that a license for its paid-for security software, sold to a 14-user firm in Arizona, was being distributed online. Rather than shut down the piracy, the company decided to see how far the software would spread.

The Avast Pro licence showed up on file-sharing sites, and a year and a half later it had topped three-quarters of a million active users.

“We found our licence code at a number of warez sites around the globe,” said Vince Steckler, chief executive of Avast Software. “There is a paradox in computer users looking for ‘free’ antivirus programs at locations with a known reputation for spreading malware.”

The licence is being used in 200 countries – and has even been installed on two computers in the Vatican City, Avast added.

Avast is now pushing popups to users of the pirated software to urge them to buy the product. This also seems aimed at the Vatican City users:

While Frink had no data about exactly how many pirates had chosen to go legitimate, he said there had already been “some conversions”.

Meanwhile, PZ Myers discusses the difference between the Vatican and the Mafia (hint: not much).

Monday, December 13, 2010

Boost your immune system for improved illnesses

It appears that a boosted immune system was a cause of deaths from H1N1 flu. Professor Polack looked at recent deaths from the influenza virus, but also had a number of samples from deaths caused by the 1957 Hong Kong flu assessed.

"C4d is part of the inflammatory cascade, and while it's really good at killing organisms and protecting us, it's sort of the slash and burn approach, capable of causing lots of tissue damage," Johnson said.

But why did infants and the frail elderly escape this mechanism of death in the H1N1 pandemic?

"We found in 2009, the elderly had good immunity because they had seen a very similar virus sometime before 1957. Babies hadn't seen many viruses at all so there was no trigger. It came down to the young adults – primed with an ineffective response. Their bodies already had defenses against previous influenza viruses that look like this one but weren't close enough," Polack said.

Professor Polack also notes the effectiveness of the H1N1 vaccine in preventing deaths.

An overactive immune system also has a role to play in macular degeneration (as observed in rats).

“Our results suggest that the response works as a vicious cycle, with white blood cells the major culprit,” Matt [Rutar, PhD student] says. “Upon inflammation or damage to the eyes, the immune system kicks in and white blood cells, particularly macrophages, are recruited to clean up the debris or dead cells.”

“Under healthy conditions, the white blood cells finish their task and leave the macula. However, in cases of MD, the macrophages call in other inflammatory proteins and combine with them. This then triggers a fresh cycle in which they attack healthy vision cells.”

Matt Rutar also suggests some preventative measures people can take: wearing sunglasses, limiting exposure to bright light, eating a healthy diet, exercising, and avoiding smoking. EoR is shocked to see these. Surely he knows that he should only be recommending expensive and death-dealing drugs? Perhaps he hasn't yet signed his secret pact with the Devil Big Pharma? Or could it be that the alties' constant harping on about the need to take a holistic approach, and not go straight for the drugs, is just lies and propaganda?

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Compare and contrast

The Australian (anti-)Vaccination Network:

Polio is caused by a virus, and symptoms of the disease can take between 3 and 21 days after infection to show.
The polio virus spreads between people through contact with infected faeces and throat secretions.

Poliovirus infection occurs in the gastrointestinal tract (stomach and gut). In 90 per cent of cases, the illness has no symptoms.

Where symptoms do occur they include:
headache; nausea and vomiting; tiredness; neck and back stiffness; and severe muscle pain.
Polio can cause meningitis (brain infection) and paralysis.


Both [polio] vaccines are cultured on animal tissue and are known to be contaminated with many monkey and other viruses. Only 3 of these - SV-40, SIV and Simian Foamy Virus, have been studied. SV-40 and Simian Foamy Virus are both associated with the development of cancer in humans and laboratory animals. SIV (Simian Immuodeficiency Virus) is thought to be the cause of HIV infections in humans, leading to AIDS infections.

Polio vaccine headline

The BBC:

An outbreak of polio in Congo-Brazzaville has killed more than 100 people and paralysed hundreds more, the authorities say.

Congo-Brazzaville had previously recorded its last case of indigenous polio in 2000.

The government said the vast majority of deaths had occurred in the coastal city of Pointe-Noire.

Polio damages the nervous system, causing paralysis or death if untreated.


Congo's director-general of health, Alexis Elira Dokekias, said the victims had either not been sufficiently immunized or not immunized at all.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Homeopathic study reveals client satisfaction survey not best assessment tool

Another day, another customer satisfaction survey presented by Homeopaths as 'evidence'.

"Homeopathic prescribing for chronic conditions in feline and canine veterinary practice" involved 21 homeopathic veterinary surgeons collecting data on 400 cats and 1504 dogs over a twelve month period. Owners were asked to assess the clinical outcome on a 7 point scale (from -3, major deterioration, to +3, major improvement). Strangely, homeopathic prophylaxis, or 'immunisation' (the paper uses the word in quotes, presumably because it's not immunisation at all) were not included.

Conditions assessed in cats were dermatitis, renal failure, overgrooming, arthritis, hyperthyroidism and 'all others'. If you were a disbelieving skeptic, you'd probably hypothesize that something as serious as renal failure would not respond particularly well to a few drops of water. It is, in fact, this condition that stands out with a whopping 14.4% in the -3 and -2 rating. You would also expect other conditions that are variable in nature to score more highly. Again, arthritis is the stand out here with an 80% +2 or +3 rating of treatment.

In dogs arthritis also rated highly (beaten only slightly by spondylosis). Even lymphoma scored 40% in the +2 or +3 rating (though 53.3% rated the treatment -1, 0 or +1 — effectively no change). 'Fear' is an interesting result, scoring a stand out 68.4% in the middle range. EoR would have thought that a holistic treatment like homeopathy, which (purportedly) works on a whole body energetic level, would have been an ideal treatment for an emotional condition. Perhaps not, after all.

The paper notes that homeopathy was not the single variable in the survey. Many animals received multiple CAM treatments. Specialist referral and conventional treatment was high for lymphoma.

The authors note the limitations to their study:

Positive bias in outcomes data is an inevitable consequence of study design that is neither controlled nor randomised, and our overall 63.3% (cats) and 68.9% (dogs) with +2/+3 outcomes require further comment. These findings are in line with the 50 - 68% recorded in equivalent observations in humans.

Nevertheless, we have no intention of overstating the conclusions from this type of study. Because of the deliberate absence of a control group, we are unable to take into account many possible confounding factors such as waxing and waning of symptoms over time or regression to the mean. In addition, about 25% of cases overall did not receive FU [follow up] during the period of data collection; owner-assessed change in these animals is therefore unknown. Moreover, ‘desire to please’ is a normal facet of clinical information obtained directly from a client, and each owner will have differing views as to what constitutes moderate or major change in their pet’s state of health. As in all our other systematic observational studies, including that in horses, a causal relationship between homeopathy and clinical outcome is not an inference from this investigation.

EoR wonders if other homeopaths will be as cautious in their reporting of this study.

As an aside, EoR was fascinated to read that the study was supported, in part, by a donation from the Psionic Medical Society. EoR had never heard of them before, but they appear to be a UK charity that has been in existence since 1969 with the aim

To promote the study and improvement of the science and practice of psionic medicine for the relief of suffering and to promote understanding of its methods and application.

Mathie, RT, Baitson, ES, Hansen, L, Elliott, MF, and Hoare, J (2010). Homeopathic prescribing for chronic conditions in feline and canine veterinary practice. Homeopathy (2010) 99, 243-248. doi:10.1016/j.homp.2010.05.010.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Not the Walkleys

Well, the Walkley awards for 2010, recognising excellence in journalism, have been handed out. If you needed any more proof that they're a mates’ club run by the union the commie-socialist-bleeding-heart-greenie-stalinist-lockstep-pinko-ABC-groupthinkers gave not one, but two awards to Red Kerry, while totally ignoring the excellent, well-researched and fiercely independent journalism of Andrew Bolt.

This sort of thing is just not on. In order to redress this criminal imbalance, EoR has decided to create a special award, recognising Bolt's contributions to exposing the evil hoax that is Science (except, of course, for any science that agrees with his views) with also a special acknowledgement of his advancing the science of racial types and eugenics.

Congratualions Andrew. You deserve it.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Online poll proves global warming just a giant hoax

Dr Happs destroying the evil global warming monster

In June EoR looked at the sorry state of the WA Skeptics and its seemingly relentless parade of climate change denialists as guests. Things almost seemed to improve for a while, with the last couple of meetings being devoted to a discussion of miracles, and whether magnets can improve the taste of wine, but Dr John Happs's views are more than persistent.

Dr Happs yet again pushes the line that 'the science is not settled', that global warming is "a possibly imaginary threat" (those are classic weasel words, implying much, saying nothing) and

The [Royal] Society duly appointed a panel to rewrite its official position on global warming, and in October 2010 the panel published a new guide that indicates the areas where the science is well established, and the many areas where there are still major uncertainties. In short, the debate is nowhere near over. To claim otherwise is to ignore science in favour of ulterior political objectives.

Dr Happs seems strangely reluctant to cite his sources directly, the only source he provides being a denialist blog report about a Scientific American survey. The link from that page to Scientific American is broken, but this page explains the matter:

Ignore for the moment that this poll was not scientific (nor was it meant to be) and that it was open to all who have access to the Internet, not just to our subscribers, as Gilder implied.

Rather, the big problem was that the poll was skewed by visitors who clicked over from the well-known climate denier site, Watts Up With That? Run by Anthony Watts, the site created a web page urging users to take the poll.

It sure worked. Our traffic statistics from October 25, when the poll went live, to November 1 (the latest for which we have data on referrals) indicate that 30.5 percent of page views (about 4,000) of the poll came from Watts Up. The next highest referrer at 16 percent was a Canadian blog site; it consists of an eclectic mix of posts and comments, and if I had to guess, I would say its users leaned toward the climate denier side based on a few comments I saw. Meanwhile, on the other side of the climate debate, Joe Romm's Climate Progress drove just 2.9 percent and was the third highest referrer.

So we were horrified alright---by the co-opting of the poll by Watts Up users, who probably voted along the denier plank. In fact, having just two sites drive nearly half the traffic to the poll assuredly means that the numbers do not reflect the attitudes of Scientific American readers.

This does rather prompt EoR to ask Dr Happs: "what are the ulterior political motives in skewing an online poll?". It would also be interesting to know in what way Dr Happs thinks an online poll is trustworthy in any sense whatsoever. Furthermore, "what are the ulterior political motives in citing a skewed online poll as evidence against global warming?"

The line Dr Happs takes on the Royal Society statement (see how easy it is to link to the source document? Dr Happs could have so easily done the same if he wanted people to assess the evidence directly) is remarkably similar to that espoused in the Coalition propaganda rag, The Australian. A line that prompted Professor John Pethica, Vice-President of the Royal Society to write to The Australian correcting their errors (EoR's emphasis):

IN your coverage of our newly published Climate change: a summary of the science ("Top science body cools on global warming", 2/10) your correspondents suggest that the society has changed its position on climate change. This is simply not true.

There is no greater uncertainty about future temperature increases now than the Royal Society had previously indicated.

The science remains the same, as do the uncertainties.

Indeed, the purpose of the new guide is to help people understand what is well established and what is still uncertain.

There is strong evidence that changes in greenhouse gas concentrations due to human activity are the main cause of the global warming that has taken place over the past half century.

The warming trend is expected to continue but the sizes of future temperature increases are still subject to uncertainty.

To their credit, at least The Australian published the letter. Dr Happs appears uninterested in views that differ from his own.

Dr Happs, as a scientist, should understand that science is never settled and that there is always uncertainty. This is, as Naomi Oreskes and Erik M Conway point out in Merchants of Doubt, precisely the point deniers latch on to in order to unculcate doubt in the media. Evolution is not settled (it might interest Dr Happs to know that there are actually scientists out there still studying evolution and its mechanisms). Gravity has hardly any evidence base at all. And don't even start on Dark Matter. Medicine has many things that it doesn't understand, and many things still to learn. Again, there are actually real scientists who are studying medicine in order to discover what causes diseases and how to cure them. So much still unknown. So many uncertainties.

EoR imagines that Dr Happs is just as convinced that evolution, gravity and medicine are huge hoaxes perpetrated in order to assemble massive grants funding and to make scientists famous. He also presumes Dr Happs takes the line that creationism, a gravity-free world, and homeopathy are valid (non-political) truths that have been suppressed by the World Communist Government Conspiracy. Or that the Bible really does reveal the terrible truth that Osama bin Laden has nuclear weapons.

Like the denial movements that attacked smoking, acid rain, and CFCs the scientists have beeen saying the same thing for a long time: the evidence tells us that the globe is warming. As The Scientific Guide to Global Warming Skepticism puts it:

Scientific skepticism is healthy. In fact, science by its very nature is skeptical. Genuine skepticism means considering the full body of evidence before coming to a conclusion. However, when you take a close look at arguments expressing climate ‘skepticism’, what you often observe is cherry picking of pieces of evidence while rejecting any data that don’t fit the desired picture. This isn’t skepticism. It is ignoring facts and the science.

Dr Happs has been president of the WA Skeptics for 25 years. Perhaps it's time for some fresh blood.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

A short primer on journalism

Today's print edition of The West Australian has a front page devoted completely to one major story, with the headline blaring 'WORLD'S MOST WANTED MAN ARRESTED'. EoR is glad to learn that Osama bin Laden has finally been arrested. Oh, hang on. It isn't him, or even any of the other five most wanted, it's some other bloke.

While the online report is slightly less inflammatory, it still notes

US politicians have called for Assange to be treated as a terrorist.

Former vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin described him as an "an anti-American operative with blood on his hands".

Elsewhere at The West, Paul Murray confuses leaks that confirmed things we suspected for leaks that "confirmed things we knew" (he mentions a little later Kevin Rudd's comments about China — something we didn't previously know, but that inconsistency seems unimportant to Murray). Leaks such as 'Climategate' seem acceptable though:

So, having conceded there was little available research material, the report relies on computer modelling of the small amount that is known. Sounds like a version of Climategate.

Crikey also points out the hypocrisy of the rightwing blogotariat in this matter. To summarise:

Hacked and leaked emails: good (if exposing Teh Evil Scientistz)
Hacked and leaked emails: bad (if exposing the good and wonderful politicians)
Hacked and leaked emails: good (if exposing Kevin Rudd — not a good or wonderful politician)

While one definition of consistency is "a degree of density, firmness, viscosity, etc", this essay notes:

We might say that while consistency is surely not sufficient for ethics, it is at least necessary for ethics. Ethics requires that there be consistency among our moral standards and in how we apply these standards. Ethics also requires a consistency between our ethical standards and our actions, as well as among our inner desires. Finally, ethics requires that there be consistency between how we treat ourselves and how we treat others.

Never let it be said that ethics got in the way of journalism.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

It's upside down, Miss Pat!

Norman "Mr Squiggle" Hetherington, 1921-2010

In 2000: "Mr Squiggle, like so many other Australians, loves his ABC and is most unhappy with the direction it is taking these days. Things are much better organised on the moon."

Mr Squiggle

“Here’s Mr Squiggle with lots of fun for everyone” was the signature tune for the children’s ABC television program, Mr Squiggle. Mr Squiggle, a marionette with a pencil for a nose, lived on the moon and created clever upside-down drawings from ’squiggles’ sent in by children from around Australia.

Monday, December 06, 2010

Things your altie health practitioner won't tell you

EoR has noted how independent, balanced, knowledgeable health researcher Dr Peter Dingle has exposed the biased, corrupt, evil Big Pharma running of the scientific medical press.

Since Dr Dingle clearly loathes how Big Pharma cherry picks data, ignores and suppresses unwanted results, and is solely interested in its own business interests, he looks forward to him noting the following news.

Dr Dingle detests statins. They're part of the Big Pharma plot to kill us all. But now it seems that statins actually help the immune system.

Widely prescribed for their cholesterol-lowering properties, recent clinical research indicates that statins can produce a second, significant health benefit: lowering the risk of severe bacterial infections such as pneumonia and sepsis. A new explanation for these findings has been discovered by researchers at the University of California, San Diego School of Medicine and Skaggs School of Pharmacy & Pharmaceutical Sciences, who describe for the first time how statins activate the bacterial killing properties of white blood cells.

The research is published in the November 18, 2010 issue of Cell Host & Microbe.

This would seem to be wholly in line with the altie need to constantly 'boost' the immune system.

Elsewhere, Associate Professor Michael Gard has a new book out, arguing that the 'obesity epidemic' has been greatly distorted.

“The book will inform those who are interested in the way Western countries tend to breed health panics,” he said. “While there was an element of truth about the obesity ‘epidemic’, it never was, and is not now, nearly as serious as declared by some. The book is a case study in how and why health panics - as scientific, political and cultural issues - grow and spread.”


“The point of this book is that in their attempts to raise awareness about obesity, many interest groups completely exaggerated the problem. As far as health resources are concerned, a huge amount of wasteful and ineffective policy has been enacted. This is why hysterias like the ‘obesity epidemic’ matter; they divert our attention away from the important challenges that face us,” he said.

Since Dr Dingle believes that his dog eats better than you, and that our children are doomed to die at a younger age than their parents, he should welcome such news and let his devoted followers know about this as well.

Of course, if you do believe there's an 'obesity epidemic', then you also need to explain why it's affecting pets, laboratory animals and feral rats.

There are several theories as to why animals and humans might be getting fatter even without the help of fast food and desk-jockey jobs, Allison said. Pathogens could be to blame: A virus called adenovirus 36 has been linked to obesity in both humans and animals. Hormone-disrupting compounds, or endocrine disruptors, have been shown to trigger obesity in mice exposed to the compounds in utero.

The change could be something as simple as our increasingly artificial environments, Allison said. Light pollution and sleep disruption have been linked to obesity. It's even possible that air conditioning and central heat are to blame.

Personally, EoR thinks wi-fi is to blame (which must be true because the Dutch government are trying to cover up the awful truth).

Then there's the terrible deficiencies of Vitamin D in the population? According to the Institute of Medicine (considering only the US and Canada):

Based on the committee's analysis, the number of people in North America declared to have vitamin D deficiency has been overestimated. The error stems in part from the fact that there is no standard for determining whether someone is deficient. In fact, a person might be told they have deficient or sufficient levels depending on the laboratory that conducts their blood test, the researchers said.

And while studies based on dietary intake show the majority of North Americans don't get enough vitamin D from the food they eat, other findings reveal that most people do have sufficient vitamin D in their blood. The missing piece of the puzzle is the sun — sunlight triggers the production of vitamin D from other compounds in the body. The report indicates that for many individuals, the sun is an important contributor to a person's overall vitamin D levels.

And, just like all those superfoods and magical supplements, too much of a good thing is not necessarily a good thing:

The committee also weighed in on the upper limits for vitamin D and calcium intake. Getting too much calcium could put people at risk for kidney stones, and too much vitamin D could damage the heart and kidneys and may increase the risk of death, the researchers said.

And what about the news that fruit and vegetables aren't really that important in preventing cancer?

Eating lots of fruit and vegetables will do little to reduce your risk of developing cancer, according to a review of a decade of research involving more than a million people. It concluded that maintaining a healthy weight and cutting down on smoking and drinking are far better ways to ward off the disease.

The study was large and published in a reputable journal (not Nova):

In an article published today in the British Journal of Cancer, Key summarised the epidemiological evidence from more than a million people taking part in several dozen long-term research projects looking at the amount of fruit and vegetables people eat and their overall cancer risk. He also studied specific cancers of the gastrointestinal tract, lung and breast.

Key found little, if any, connection between eating lots of fruits and vegetables and the likelihood of developing cancer. "The conclusion implies that, at least in relatively well-nourished westernised populations, a general increase in total fruit and vegetable intake will not have a large impact on cancer rates," he wrote. "A certain level of intake is necessary to prevent nutrient deficiencies, but intakes above that level do not make the relavant tissues 'super healthy'."

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Holistic neo-colonialism

Here's another fascinating article from the latest issue of Nova: EarthSky. In this article Jeremy Ball relates a mysterious and spooky tale. He accompanies a Central Arrente elder and shaman and is told a tale of a cave that collapsed on "22 spiritual adepts" sheltering from a storm and who, understandably enough, were quite grumpy about this and thus became "wrathful protector spirits".

In my heart I knew I had been brought here to lead a soul release ceremony (one helping disincarnate beings move on to another realm, the realm intended for them at the time of their physical death and for disincarnate spirits that have lodged themselves in places the Great Spirit did not intend for them).

The Aboriginal elder attempts to light a fire unsuccessfully, but Jeremy steps in to help:

I knew in my heart that for some reason this time it needed to done in a different way. So I gently whispered in Frank's ear telling him of the process I had used in several places around the world, to good effect, to assist spirits in leaving this plane. I felt Frank take into his heart what I had said and he walked forward, calling out to the spirits to let them know we had arrived. He bent down to make a small fire from twigs and kindling to burn the herbs he had picked, but try as he might, the fire would not light. Two or three of us helped bring more dry kindling but, although there was no wind, the fire would not light at all - the spirits were resisting.

Frank and I have developed an almost telepathic connection and we could both feel on this occasion we needed to try something else. After several attempts to light the fire, Frank looked at me and nodded for me to use internal means. This demonstrates his humility, wisdom and connectedness - used to performing near miracle healings on a daily basis, he knew on this occasion a combination of techniques was required.

I explained the process to the group present and we formed a circle and, using our imagination, created specific geometric and colour templates within the psychic sphere. Once these were in place, I called on Archangel Sandalphon, Archangel Uriel and, of course, Archangel Michael to be present and perform the process.

Jeremy Ball explains why his method worked, but EoR is still trying to understand his explanation. Essentially, it seems that indigenous peoples' spiritual path "descends" into the earth, but Jesus taught us that the better spiritual path "ascends" into the heavens, and Mr Ball teaches us that "the time has come for us to embrace the two together, to unite the polarities".

For all his Newage words, Mr Ball is reiterating here the same beliefs that drove the Colonialist era. He may not be using the language of "primitives" needing "education" to raise them to the higher standards of white Europeans, but his neo-Colonialism is the same ideology. It takes the wise(r) white man to show the less capable indigenous race how to resolve their spiritual problems. He isn't teaching them to be good Protestants, but his rambling about a baker's dozen of newage angels is just as alien and just as inappropriate.

While the beliefs of Aboriginal people can be quite charming, they're incomplete and it's up to the spiritually better to show them how it should be done.

A concluding note from the editor warns, chillingly:

Jeremy urges caution in undertaking these practices as, if handled incorrectly, the outcome can be negative

Friday, December 03, 2010

Deck the halls with swathes of woo

The latest issue of independent science journal1 Nova includes some timely help with the top eight Feng Shui remedies for Christmas2. Leaving aside the fact that the ancient Chinese apparently had the foresight to develop helpful hints for a Western religious celebration, these may well make your Christmas a joy instead of a trial:

  1. Place metal wind chimes in the south of your house, or hang a metal ball around your door knob, or put six coins or a five element pagoda in a bowl of salted water. "Whichever works best for you". EoR presumes you might get through quite a few Christmas celebrations before you determine which is 'best'.

  2. Put six metal coins, or a Calabash, in the northwest. Well, just because.

  3. Put the colour red in the west. This will stop the 'energy of arguments'. Presumably while your relatives wonder why you've painted everything red, and whether it's safe to remain in the house with you.

  4. Avoid the Christmas rush by making a gift list in November. EoR may have missed something, but he can't quite see what this has to do with feng shui. Nor why Nova have waited until December to publish it.

  5. Budget the spending on your gifts. Yet another feng shui tip that seems remarkably unrelated to feng shui. And which is clearly wrong since The Secret (or The Power (or whatever marketing name they're using this year)) says you can have everything now!

  6. Have a Christmas card list. Because ancient Chinese sages said so, presumably.

  7. Put your Christmas tree in "an area where the family often comes together". So no more placing it in the spare room, or the garage.

  8. "Lastly, look after your 'inner chi'" by exercising and not drinking too much. EoR had never realised feng shui had some helpful lifestyle tips as well.

Bad feng shui Santa

EoR's Advertisement of the Month award this issue goes to the seller of the oxymoronic "New Age Party Plan".

1: Based on the publication of science-based health advice from Dr Dingle.
2: Which rather implies that 'Christmas' is a 'dis-ease' that needs treating. Perhaps it's an imbalance in the gift chakras?

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ants on crucifix. Civilisation doomed.

Christians are demonstrating solidarity with Muslims by making us join them in paying obeisance to their own particular strange beliefs. The (US) National Portrait Gallery has pulled a video because of horribly offensive depictions that have upset and humiliated Christians, belittling their deeply held beliefs and confronting them with things they just don't want to know about, labelling it "hate speech". The offending image? A crucifix with ants crawling over it.

Ants on a cross

As Blake Gopnik points out though:

Of course, it's pretty clear that this has almost nothing to do with religion. Eleven seconds of an ant-covered crucifix? Come on.

This fuss is about the larger topic of the show: Gay love, and images of it. The headline that ran over coverage of the matter on the right-wing Web site mentioned the crucifix - but as only one item in a list of the exhibition's "shockers" that included "naked brothers kissing, genitalia and Ellen DeGeneres grabbing her breasts." (Through a bra, one might note, in an image that's less shocking than many moves by Lady Gaga.) The same site decries "a painting the Smithsonian itself describes in the show's catalog as 'homoerotic'. "

Ladies: don't ever touch your own breasts. God will smite you.

And 'homoerotic'? Isn't that in the eye of the beholder? There's something in the Bibble about motes and beams...

Meanwhile, in Australia politicians have been forced by a vote in Parliament to determine what their constituents want in relation to gay marriage. As if it isn't already the fundamental requirement of politicians to act on behalf of their electorates. EoR's own particularly right wing member has, so far, failed to contact him. Given that he's obviously doing his best to take over Wilson Tuckey's role as Chief Lunatic in the Parliament, EoR isn't expecting him to come calling anytime soon.

Cthulhu Day

Thanks to Liz Ditz for pointing out that today is Cthulhu Day, part of the celebrations of which include "Pin the Tail on the Lurking Fear" and "Summonings of temporarily defunct deities". It's good to see that the Catholic League and Don Randall are getting into the spirit of things.