Monday, April 30, 2007

HIV Denialists "Delusional"

Late last year EoR blogged about a man appealing a conviction of having unprotected sex without informing his partners he was HIV positive.

The verdict is now in.

Justice John Sulan today dismissed the witnesses' testimony, saying the pair lacked credibility and were advocates for a cause rather than independent experts. He said the evidence that HIV existed was compelling and he rejected the application for a re-trial. [...] To counter the claims, the prosecution called eight HIV experts including AIDS research pioneer Professor Robert Gallo. Prof Gallo, who was one of the scientists who discovered AIDS in the early 1980s and linked HIV as the cause of the disease, testified via video-link from his home in Bethesda, Massachusetts. He told the court the Perth Group members was misguided, inappropriate and delusional.

The main witness for the delusional idea was Eleni Papadopulos-Eleopulos, founder member of the HIV denialist Perth Group and who, during the trial, apparently claimed Africa does not have an AIDS epidemic. EoR suspects the whole of Africa breathed a sigh of relief.

EoR still remains confused about Ms Papdopulos-Eleopulos' qualifications. According the the Perth Group website, she is a biophysicist. According to the Australian newspaper, she is a medical engineer. According to the report, she is both a medical researcher and a physicist.

More Good News For Psychics

Just what every real psychic needs: GPS tracking for your dog.

Instead of guessing where the lost pooch is, use amazing invisible powers to locate the wandering canine!

Which Clash Of Civilisations?

In the Guardian recently, Julian Baggini considers the moral vacuum that has been created between relativism and dogma.

The clash of civilisations is happening not between Islam and the west, as we are often led to believe, but between pragmatic relativism and dogmatic certainty. [...] How did we get to this dismal Hobson's choice? The finger of blame has to be pointed largely at academics and intellectuals who have been so keen to debunk popular notions of truth that they have created a culture in which the middle ground between shoulder-shrugging relativism and dogmatic fundamentalism has been vacated. [...] Perhaps the most powerful idea to filter through from the universities to the streets was articulated by Foucault, who adapted and popularised the Nietzschean idea that what passes for truth is actually no more than power. There are no facts, only attempts to impose your view on the world by fixing it as "The Truth". This idea is now so mainstream that even a conservative like Donald Rumsfeld could complain about those who lived in the "reality-based community", arguing "that's not the way the world really works anymore ... when we act, we create our own reality."

EoR is impressed by Donald Rumsfeld channelling Deepak Chopra while demonstrating the power of the Nonsecret.

Baggini argues that this postmodernist inspired relativism has, in fact, widened the gap from dogma and made dogma more attractive because of its unflinching certainty:

Far from making liberal openness more attractive, such denials actually make it appear empty, repugnant and weak compared to the crystalline clarity and certainty of dogma.

Baggini concludes:

They owe us an apology for failing to either see themselves, or make it clear to others, that in the everyday world we can and must distinguish truth and falsity, right and wrong, even if on close examination these terms do not mean what we thought they did. Science may not be God-like in its objectivity, but it is not just another myth. Moral values must be questioned, but if discrimination against women, homosexuals or ethnic minorities is wrong here, then it is wrong anywhere else in the world. Truth may not be the simple phenomenon we assume it to be, but falsehoods must be challenged.

Unless we can make a convincing case that the choice is not between relativism or dogmatism, more and more people will reject the former and embrace the latter. When they do, those who helped create the impression that modern, secular rationality leaves everything up for grabs in the marketplace of belief will have to take their share of the blame.

Which really, EoR suspects, the vast majority of the population would agree with. You don't regularly see alties walking across busy highways because "they create their own reality". Instead they check for an opening in the traffic first. You don't regularly see alties stepping out of tenth floor windows because "they create their own truth". They take the lift. You do, however, see alties regularly taking homeopathic water, having needles stuck in indeterminate and nonexistent "meridians", and having nonexistent "auras" smooth and placated. Because "they create their own reality and truth".

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Natural Life Threatening Medicines

Since the requirements to register natural supplements in Australia are far less stringent than those for pharmaceutical medicines, the Australian population effectively becomes the large scale drug testing cohort for the "natural" manufacturers. This week sees a Class One recall ("Class I defects are potentially life-threatening or could cause a serious risk to health") of a Herbal Health International product, Excite for women and Ultimates for men. Ultimates seems a most appropriate name, given the life-threatening nature of this "natural" product:

The products have been found to contain an analogue of sildenafil, a prescription only medicine, which could give rise to serious health consequences, especially for patients with existing medical conditions such as heart problems, or persons at risk of stroke.

This product was registered with the TGA. Which just shows that registration does not equate to safe, effective or necessary.

Saturday, April 28, 2007

Trust Me, I'm A Doctor

Listen to an anti-fluoridation believer squirm, at Bad teeth, bad economics

One of the leading advocates in the anti-fluoride push in Queensland is Brisbane GP Dr John Ryan, from a group called Australian Professionals Against Fluoridation. In an opinion piece in Brisbane's Courier Mail late last year, Dr Ryan said water fluoridation lowered the IQ of children, increased rates of hip fractures and bone cancer, and decreased thyroid functions. Dr Ryan based his claims on an influential review of the science literature on fluoride in water by the National Research Council, the NRC, in the United States. Background Briefing dug up the report to see if it did indeed make these findings.

How does Dr Ryan, a member of a professional organisation, a man who (presumably) understands how to read a scientific report and who, indeed, has summarised that report in the press, respond to criticism? Will he specify the science supporting his beliefs? Or will he simply resort to excuses, fluffs and non sequitars?

Background Briefing put a call in to Dr Ryan's surgery and raised the fact that the report concentrated on research that was looking at much higher levels of fluoride than exists in Australian water.

John Ryan: There was some manipulation, and there was a report on to - there's some trickery involved there, to take the focus on the fluoridated areas, but if you read the report, there is an enormous amount of reference notwithstanding their brief, to any harm done from fluoridation.

Wendy Carlisle: Is it right though, for you to say that, because I've had a good look at that report, and it doesn't actually say what you claim it to be saying. You say that water fluoridation causes hip fractures. But that actual report says that no conclusions could be drawn on fracture risks for levels of 1 milligram per litre; isn't that dishonest of you to present that as unequivocal proof that fluoride in water causes hip fractures?

John Ryan: Well I'll have to agree to disagree until I check what you are saying. But the report I am reading now was prepared with access to that very study. And there was also in that report, if you read it, it was a little bit divided in pro and anti fluoride, and there was this large amount of dissenting. So the consensus that you wish to rely upon, was not agreed to by all parties.

"Agree to disagree"? Doesn't he know what the report stated? Why was he publishing an article in the press about it then? EoR admires the way the interviewer isn't fobbed off by flippant excuses, and sticks to her point.

Wendy Carlisle: But you're making unequivocal statements from that report to support your case against fluoride.

John Ryan: But in terms of hip fracture I can give many other studies, and I'm happy to -

Wendy Carlisle: But you're relying on the NRC report to say that, and it doesn't support what you are saying.

John Ryan: I was quoting that particular report.

Wendy Carlisle: You say also that this National Research Council Report from the States supports your claim that fluoride causes lower IQ in children. The report doesn't actually say that.

John Ryan: It says so even - there's a lot that goes on in that report, I disagree, it says that, and it said even in low doses.

Wendy Carlisle: The report says, and I'm quoting here, that it cannot assess the strength of the studies due to methodological problems.

John Ryan: Yes, well I haven't got the report right in front of me, but colleagues have received the report and lots of summaries, and this is the consensus of what we perceive that the report says. Have you got the report right in front of you this minute, Wendy?

No! Don't ask that Dr Ryan!

Wendy Carlisle: Yes, I do.

Damn! A journalist who's read the report and has a copy right in front of her! It's time for obfuscation again...

John Ryan: It's a very big report and there's a lot said in it other than in the summary.

Is "the consensus of what we perceive" supposed to mean something? If the statements Dr Ryan made, based on the report, are not supportable by the report, why doesn't he simply state where the evidence for his statements was in the report?

EoR admires his closing riposte. Yes, it is a big report. Sadly, some journalists actually take the time to read the whole thing and call him on the misleading statements.

Get Your Entries In

Anthony Grzelka, where are you? It's time for the 4th Annual Paranormal Photo Hoax. Mr Grzelka has a whole page of fake ghost photos that would be ideal as entries. His site even satisfies the optional condition:

I also recommend including a one-paragraph phony story to go along with the photo, fabricating how you happened to capture the photo. This is not required, but adds to the fun

There's phoney stories aplenty on his website. All about magic skills and ghosts and boggarts and things that go "Wooooo!" in the night. Though looking at last year's winners, the competition seems to be pretty stiff, and Mr Grzelka's "let's run a clone brush over this one!" and "Oooh! Look at the dust on the lens!" and "Look! A reflection from a whiteboard!" efforts probably wouldn't even warrant a "Thanks for submitting" note.

Friday, April 27, 2007

My Magical Weekend - Part Two

I rose at dawn and fed the horses. When I returned I found breakfast underway - at least I'll call it breakfast, but I shouldn't give the impression they were ingesting food, as such. Before each setting at the massive jarrah table was an assortment of what, at first glance, appeared to be mixed lollies. Then I realised they were pharmaceuticals.

The capsules, coloured pills and powders were explained one by one: fish oil for brain and joints, glucosamine for joints, calcium for bones, herb-X for liver cleansing, herb-Y for female troubles, herb-Z for free radicals, psyllium for the colon, iron for blood, B12 and folic acid for brain, multivitamins for anything else, and a couple of ibuprofen tablets thrown in - for what? I felt conspicuous with my bowl of sliced peaches, yogurt and macadamia nuts.

Packing saddlebags was exciting. I stuffed mine with mushroom and fetta foccacia bread, an apple, carrots and chocolate. I wondered if the others would get by on pills - but they seemed to be loading up with real food too.

Our Bowen specialist went ahead to prepare her Natural Horsepersonship- trained horse, Billy. He needed to be chased in circles to earn her respect before a ride. I caught Red, my unnaturally well mannered horse, and saddled up in the old-fashioned way.

We set off in perfect mild and sunny conditions. The forest shimmered. Butterflies, blue wrens and scarlet robins flit through the undergrowth and bright red and green parrots flashed by. But noises from the rear of the ride indicated all was not well. Someone was riding a new horse. Although aged and apparently placid, his rider was anxious and felt out of control. She and the hypnotherapist chose to turn back, so as not to spoil the ride for the rest of us. I was disappointed. What about hypno-firstaid to treat her fear? The Bowenist was also displeased. She saw it as a healing crisis. Things may seem bad but they'd get better, she said. They should work through it.

As the two turned for home, the Bowenist's horse, Billy, decided he'd like to go too. After some plunging he was sent up the front. But Billy refused to lead. He was put in the middle, but he didn't like our horses and showed it. Billy was sent to the back, rolling his eyes and on a tight rein, and he stayed in that position most of the ride.

We continued on through a lush Jurassic landscape dominated by macrozami "palms" and tall grass trees, then through groves of muted dark greenish-grey casuarina, their wispy needles padding the track, and eventually into a Dr Suess landscape of banksia with crazy zigzagy leaves.

Distant rumblings could be heard. Clouds rolled over and it began to rain. I cowered as the thunder closed in. Someone cheerily said she knew of a horse struck dead in a storm only last week. We plodded on, wondering if things were going to worsen before they got better, but fortunately the storm passed without a crisis. Then my friend's horse, Sam, decided to liven up. She said rain excited him, but I wondered if it had anything to do with all the ponycubes he stole from my horse's dinner.

As well as kangaroos, we came upon a family of emus. They ruffled their brindle feathers and bounced ahead of us down the track. Eventually the forest gave way to pine plantations. This was our halfway point so we found a resting place, tethered the horses, and raided our saddlebags.

The homeward ride was uneventful, apart from Billy being unrepentant to the end and Sam not exhausting his ponycube energy. I think they needed twice the distance to become respectful and tired. My horse managed without any soreness on his bare hindfeet after riding for about five hours. Nothing extraordinary for endurance enthusiasts, but enough for pleasure riders.

Back at the cottage the other two greeted us with gluten-free chocolate cake (proving you don't need flour to make a cake delicious) and hot drinks. On their way back after leaving us, they had happened to stop by at the vineyard, and after tastings of essence of nashi, raspberry, strawberry, blackberry, pear, quince, plum and grapes, and applecider, had felt perfectly able to resume riding. They'd continued on for a few hours through forest trails. As the vineyard is only 10 minutes walk from the cottage, I wasn't sure whether this was by choice, or under the influence of tasting.

The evening's topic of conversation fluctuated between the benefits of Natural Horsepersonship and Amazing Cancer Cures. Pat Parelli was worshiped. Monty Roberts was forgotten (possibly due to falling behind in merchandise). But even Parelli was deemed to have "holes" in his methods. I was informed these gaps were being filled by inventive local instructors, marketing their own brands of NH. No one seemed to care how blatantly opportunistic these commercial ventures were. They loved the displays like going to the movies.

Gossip intensified with tales of local personalities who cheated in their supposedly Natural Horsepersonship methods, depraved riding establishments, cruelty and RSPCA rescues, muddled veterinarians, horror horses fit for dogmeat but whose owners doted on them, and horror owners fit for dogmeat.

In between horse-talk we heard "proof" of hypnotism/herbs/vibrational thoughts curing cancer. A study was described - allegedly half the cancer sufferers were cured and half went into remission. We also learnt we are beyond the age of Newtonian physics and into the Einsteinian age, and how everything we used to call science is useless because of something to do with quantum physics, and how scientists know nothing yet these women know everything.

I practically ground my teeth away to keep my mouth shut. Perhaps the hypnotherapist caught my expression, as she announced she never argued with people of fixed views, but respected their right to think what they wished. In other words, arguing with her would be rude.

One by one others drifted off to bed. I found myself alone with the hypnotherapist. I felt strangely drawn to her. Maybe opposites do attract. We sat by the woodfire and she recited excerpts of NOVA to me. There was an article on being nice - how women try too hard to smooth things over, avoid conflict and subvert their own wishes for the sake of others. She looked at me meaningfully. "Yes", I nodded. "Guilty!"

I thought of people who cut themselves, to shock themselves back to reality when experiencing bad hallucinations or delusions. I wondered if there was anything sharp on hand.

To be continued...

Carnival Time

much qi in balance
59th skeptics' circle
questioners abound

Thursday, April 26, 2007

What I Tell You Repeatedly Will Be True

In the latest Mind&Body supplement to the West Australian newspaper (24th April 2007) Dr Dingle again appears, pushing his "diet causes disease" line.

Associate professor in environmental science at Murdoch University Dr Peter Dingle said highly processed food could trigger ADHD symptoms. [...] Dr Dingle said decreasing protein could cause difficulty in producing neurotransmitters in the brain which can result in depression and ADHD.

Dr Dingle also provides an ADHD curing menu which EOR won't bother boring his readers with. He says we should eat what "grandma and grandpa used to eat." Which, given the sort of unhealthy food they fed on, is perhaps not the best advice.

As EoR has pointed out before: Dr Dingle is not a medical doctor or mental health specialist; depression is a multifactorial problem; depression is frequently lethal.

To be implying that depression is a result of a bad diet is incorrect (indeed, the effect may actually be the cause). To be publicly repeating these statements is potentially dangerous. Particularly when the last week has seen the tragic case of two young girls hanging themselves.

Is Dr DIngle suggesting that if only these girls had had a proper breakfast, this tragedy would not have occurred? Would he be prepared to state that directly to the girls' parents? Is Dr Dingle's continued insistence on his diet/toxin source of ADHD and depression not only dangerous, but deeply offensive?

Why does this article describe Dr Dingle as an environmental scientist, but not reveal a possible conflict of interest in relation to his commercial enterprise?

Other media nutrition advisors seem to be more circumspect.

What I Dream Three Times Is True

From Mind&Body for 24th April 2007, Dr Charmaine Saunders advises a correspondent:

Some theorists believe that if you dream the same thing three times in a row, then it's a prediction. Obviously, if the same dream comes very close together, then the precognitive aspect is intensified, simply because the message is clearly urgent.

Some theorists? Can anyone name these mysterious theorists? Does Ms Saunders mean somebody once speculated wildly, and she's now presenting it as proven? Unless Ms Saunders is referring to the published Dr Carroll Theory of Triplicate Veracity.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

My Magical Weekend - Part One

Someone wise said it is good for you to spend time in the company of people who possess different points of view to your own. Therefore I am trying to console myself that last weekend, despite being infuriating, was ultimately beneficial.

Let's start at the beginning. We had a small group of circa 45 - 55 years old (should I just say "perimenopausal"?) women. We brought horses. We brought food. We rented a beautiful cottage in gorgeous surrounds. There was a grassy paddock for our horses, picturesque gardens, a jarrah forrest and a vineyard. Magical.

Day one: arrival, settling horses, putting away food, and a short walk through forest to sample the fruit essences of the vineyard. Quince wine was fine but the strawberry champagne won our hearts and a place on the table that night. As we relaxed under the influence of berry essence, conversation turned to personal interests and ambitions. I had been invited by a friend who is a physiotherapist. In a strange lack of professional jealousy, she had invited other friends who practise (in varying combinations) Bowen therapy, reflexology, iridology, numerology, hypnotherapy, homeopathy, aromatherapy and herbal medicine. None professed to be psychic investigators or past-soul retrievalists, but The Secret was mentioned so I expect they covered all specialties.

Being horse owners, equine woo was foremost in our minds. Barefoot was a hot topic. They all endorsed The Movement, but one by one made shamefaced admissions of relying on conventional shoes as their horses were unable to sustain ridden work without them. The trail rides in this area cover hilly hard ground, and I had been told fully-shod was a must as last year's gathering had been spoilt by lame horses - turning the long ride into a misery of a long Barefoot limp home.

Now, my horse has good feet and doesn't need shoes on the sandplain where we live but I keep him shod (on the front feet only) so we are always ready for anything, as I take him out in the hills occasionally. As it transpired, my horse was the only one at this gathering with barefeet, albeit only the hind ones, and I don't even bother with Barefootology. I have an excellent, experienced farrier and my horse has never had hoof troubles. We leave shoes off his hind feet, but he gets trimmed and front shoes replaced monthly. I didn't bother putting hinds on for this occasion as he's managed similar rides without soreness.

The other women were tormented by their belief in the goodness of "natural" yet being unable to sustain the dream. They fretted on about how they might achieve this: designer yards with footsoaking baths, limestone crunch pads, beds of nails and obstacle courses. And still they'd need to call out the 4-point-Barefoot Podiatrist every week to gouge out their horses' soles. The inaccessibility of their dream drove down the strawberry champagne and we had to break open dark chocolate essential supplements.

Next we concentrated on hypnotherapy. I admitted an anxiety about difficult situations sometimes reduces my participation in events. For example, I was scared to attempt some of the higher jumps in crosscountry courses, which limited us to lower level competitions. It was tempting to accept the
hypnotherapist's offer of a session that would "deal with fear". But what about the consequences? If it worked, wouldn't my horse need to be hypnotised too? And what if our confidence overrode his ability to jump massive neckbreaking obstacles? "But there you go again", the hypnotist said. "I Can!" must replace "if only I could".

It was time for dessert. The coeliac served a gluten-free packet-bake. I wondered if she should get hypnotised "I can eat eat flour" and thereby share in the delectable plum syrup cake I had brought from home.

On full stomachs, the Bowenists commiserated about rates of pay. They said hypnotherapists received more than they did, and Bowen was badly under-enumerated for the skill involved. They complained health funds required accreditation in order to provide a rebate on a service. This
involved going back to study anatomy at TAFE or University, which meant long hours of application, memorising and recalling information. This was considered a waste as they already knew they could heal people. It was decided they should take up hypnotherapy instead - and direct patients to
stop feeling the pain, and to heal sore muscles/strained joints/blocked chi all by themselves (under weekly hypno-maintenance). The hypnotherapist said she used to feel guilty about taking so much money, but now she thinks of it as "energy transfer" so it's okay afterall. She also disclosed she dabbles in property development to further optimise energy inflow.

At bed time, having a limited number of double beds between us, it was a case of "sleeping with the enemy". I chose the safest option - and shared with my physio friend. It is strange going to bed with another woman when you are accustomed to a hetero lifestyle. We both lay very still on the outer edges of the bed, facing opposite directions, and hardly breathed, let alone slept.

To be continued...

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Reiki Real, Really.

Thanks to Liz Ditz providing a link to a minor woo healer and fantasy artist, EoR was gradually drawn deeper into the maelstrom of reikisms, and all the amazing "scientific" proof for it which he'd been studiously avoiding for far too long.

First there was Reiki 4 Life [sic].

Reiki is an amazing energy that comes from the highest spiritual source. It has its own intelligence and knows exactly where to go and what to do. It is multi-dimensional and will heal the cause of a problem on whatever level it may exist - body, mind, or spirit. It does not have to be directed by the practitioner. Because it is a channeled healing, the Reiki practitioner's energies are never depleted. In fact, when giving a treatment, the Reiki practitioner is healed as well and always experiences an increase in life-force energy. People that already do healing work report their healing energies increase by at least 50% after receiving Reiki training.

EoR wonders how that claimed 50% improvement is measured? A life-force-o-meter? A God-o-graph? And why does "Meredith" go on about how to gradually "project" the energy to various parts of the body, when she has just said the energy "knows" where to go? And what, precisely, is a "channeled healing" that "does not have to be directed"? In fact, why does it even need a human? Isn't god (EoR presumes that's what she means by "the highest spiritual source", though it might just mean Deepak Chopra) sufficiently omnipotent and omniscient to do the work herself?

"Meredith" also makes some pretty far reaching (and frankly unproven) claims:

In its long history of use Reiki has aided in healing virtually every known illness and injury including serious problems like cancer and heart disease as well as skin problems, cuts, headaches, colds, sunburn, insect bites, insomnia, anxiety, depression, mood swings, etc.

"Aided"? What does "aided" mean? Cured? Improved? Worked in any manner different from a placebo? Or just "believed" or "claimed" to help? What's the bet that all these reiki healers and miracle workers still have aspirin in their home (or willow bark at least)?

Then there's the Reiki 4 Life blog. Now, EoR might have become confused somewhere, but it seems all you need to do to become healthy is to shake faster:

Have you ever noticed that animals in the wild are rarely traumatized, yet experience life or death situations every day? That is because they RELEASE the traumatic energy almost as soon as it has occurred. Have you ever seen animals trembling and shaking after being attacked, or hit by an automobile? The shaking and trembling releases the survival energies from their bodies. [...] Thoughts, like emotions, hold a vibration, and frequency. Negative thoughts hold a lower or denser vibration, which may be perceived as thick, heavy, soupy, or solid like a wall. When a person holds onto these lower vibrational thoughts, the entire system is affected and weighed down. Reiki will transform the lower vibrations into those of higher quality such as peace, serenity, love, joy, etc which may be perceived as light, fluffy, soft, or effervescent.When experiencing a higher vibration, the person feels lighter, bubbly, and happy. These feelings attract thoughts of similar vibration thereby accelerating the journey towards wholeness.

"Thoughts of similar vibration"? What, the "light, fluffy, soft" type of thoughts? Well, EoR certainly can't deny that. This article is its own condemnatory evidence.

Moving on further, EoR was pleased to learn that global warming appears to have been averted:

The World Peace Crystal Grids were placed at the North and South Poles on May 3, 1997 and December 17, 1999 respectively. These two grids are located right at the places where the earth's magnetic field converges. The magnetic field of the earth is like the earths aura and so by having the Peace Grids located there, they affect the energy of the whole planet. The inscription on the grids says: "May the followers of all religions and spiritual paths work together to create peace among all the people of earth." The World Peace Crystal Grid is made of solid copper in the shape of the heart chakra, 12 inches in diameter and plated with 24 carat gold. A 12 sided quartz pyramid is at the center under which are inscribed the Usui power symbol and the Karuna peace symbol. Double terminated quartz crystals are on each petal.

Crystals, pyramids and reiki! The world is safe at last! With so many busy practitioners healing the "earths aura" and others doing acupuncture on the earth, we can all rest easy at night now.

Finally, EoR was stunned by the evidence provided in Science and the Human Energy Field, not least the fact that the human body emits light. EoR knew it reflected light, but not emitted it as well. Presumably, this means we can all save on those incandescent light bulbs that are so harmful to the environment. Also "In a sense, all medicine is energy medicine". In a sense, maybe. Though EoR's not sure how that applies to surgery, for example. The actual "science" (and very poor science it is at that), seems to come down to:

Based on this information, one possible hypothesis is that when a Reiki practitioner begins giving Reiki, feelings of compassion, love, and other healing feelings are created in the heart. These feelings modify the electrical energies of the heart, which travel through the nerves and especially through the electrically conductive vascular system into the hands, where they create healing biofields that are induced into the client. My guess is that the fields produced during Reiki treatments will be tiny and very precisely tuned to specific frequencies that stimulate the immune system and other important body systems. This is a hypothesis that needs to be tested.

Another possible hypothesis is that there is nothing occurring, or nothing that cannot be differentiated from a placebo effect. This is not a guess. This is a high probability. Before explaining how "biofields" modify "electrical energies" based on the frequency of "compassion, love and other healing feelings", it first needs to be established that there is, in fact, anything happening at all. Especially since a child can easily show nothing is happening, whereas Dr Oschman has to twist himself into verbal gymnastics of possibilities and guesses to even come up with bizarre way that a nonexistent effect might do something (which he still only claims are "tiny")

Dr Oschman then goes on for some while about quantum non-locality and other effects that are noticeable at the subatomic scale but not elsewhere, before a much clearer statement about how reiki works:

My suspicion is that what is being passed during the attunement process is a frequency or a set of frequencies that can be transferred from a teacher to a student via the energy field and that will always be remembered by the student. The memory process is probably similar to that involved in homeopathy

Reiki is like homeopathy? Ah, so it is a placebo effect!

Doing a search at PubMed showed only one vaguely related entry (as well as a number of publications on cockroach and squid cell functions which were non-reiki related) from Dr Oschman: a comment in the J Altern Complement Med on Our place in nature: reconnecting with the Earth for better sleep..

That would be the sleep of reason, then?

Monday, April 23, 2007

Chi Whiz: The Surprising Amazing World Of Altie Reality

The latest issue of Nova is a joy to behold. EoR could fairly feel it vibrating with quantum healing powers as he picked it up (this month's theme: chi - though EoR continues his push to rename it "fairy dust" since fairy dust has exactly the same amount of science, proof, validity and evidence, and is a much more accurate term).

Rather than analyse any particular article (since there's nothing you haven't seen before) EoR thought it would be interesting to skim the amazing weltanschauung of the target audience of this magazine.

There's a lot of stuff about "spiritual insight", "meditation", "connecting" and so on. Now, EoR has no problem with this. If people feel the need to seek out the Meaning of Life, then all well and good. But when that search contradicts reality, a choice needs to be made. Most people would redefine their search. Alties instead deny reality.

The inside cover is a full page ad for a remarkable (aren't they all?) new (aren't they all?) unique (aren't they all?) totally effective (aren't they all?) easy (aren't they all?) method of weight loss "backed by quantum physics". EOR can't see how that would work though he supposes if you were inside a high energy particle accelerator, it might reduce your weight by knocking a few electrons off. "Defies common sense wisdom". Indeed.

There's an article on the wonders of swimming with dolphins: "Apparently, humans and dolphins are the only two species on earth to have evolved with highly intelligent brains." EoR's not too sure about some humans having highly intelligent brains, based on that fallacious statement. It goes on to describe a woman with a PhD in psychology who states "dolphins connect with your higher self" and who is now using her toddler as a "research subject". This is probably not official research, and it is probably not subject to Ethics Committee approval. The "journalist" mentions her fear of sharks. Shouldn't she also be welcoming the opportunity to "connect" with them? Especially as she admires dolphins for having achieved their higher evolutionary form millions of years ago - sharks did that far earlier. They must be much "higher" beings than dolphins, and surely they have more "connectedness" to impart?

Then there's the effusive report of a Deepak Chopra seminar. Fear and stress are "responsible for all the major epidemics of our time like heart disease, cancer and degenerative disorders." Also, presumably, polio, AIDS, autism etc etc. EoR got lost when the article went on about "Possibility waves allow the 'immeasurable potential' for synchronicity - or to use Chopra's expression 'non-local correlation' - meaning events that occur outside the space-time nexus as we currently understand it." Later, Deepak states "Death offers opportunities for quantum leaps in creativity and evolution." As a groundbreaking genius cutting edge scientist, EoR is surprised he hasn't taken the opportunity himself. He'd still be able to report back to us, since he seems to exist outside the space-time-logic nexus.

Teya Skae (MA, BA, Dip Health Sciences, Dip Clinical Nutrition as well as a slew of alternative letters) states colonics are "quite beneficial to the whole body and especially the mind. This is because in TCM, the bowels (large intestine) and the mind are linked as one". This probably explains why these people seem to have brains that are filled with faecal matter. Reading between the lines (and EoR acknowledges that's dangerous when dealing with alties), Ms Skae seems to be arguing that we know the brain and bowel are clearly not linked as one. However, because an ancient belief system (Traditional Chinese Medicine) once argued that this nonexistent linkage existed) we should continue to belief this falsehood in order to somehow improve health. It's the scientific equivalent of sticking your fingers in your ears and shouting "La, la, la! I'm not listening!" very very loudly.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Weird Talkback Caller Of The Day

I'm not religious but I am a Christian.

Try telling that to the deity of your choice.

Friday, April 20, 2007

In Which Pooh Invents A New Game And Eeyore Joins In

EoR really doesn't have a fixation for all things faecal. It's more of a fixation for the fixation alties have with their backend functions. The West Australian's Mind&Body supplement for 17th April 2007 deals with "Inside Irrigation".

Colonic irrigation involves a small plastic speculum, attached to a plastic hose, being inserted into the rectum. Pre-warmed, sterile water is then introduced into the bowel at low pressure via a specially-designed machine. As the colon is filled with water it begins to rhythmically contract and the water and faecal matter and mucus are expelled. According to Carol Harley, owner of the Colonic Hydrotherapy Centre, colonic irrigation can feel strange at first. "It's a really weird sensation, like you've got little gremlins, you can feel stuff moving and you get the feeling like you need to go to the toilet," she said.

EoR is tempted to say at this point "No shit, Sherlock?". But he won't.

Water softens and loosens the contents of the colon and Ms Harley said colonic irrigation could remove faecal matter that had been in a person's bowel for years.

Years! How does she know? Does she radiocarbon date the expelled products?

Gastroenterologist Warwick Ruse points out that colonic irrigation has no proven benefits.

"Scientifically, it's not medically useful. After all, if it was, it would probably be used in medicine now."

Exactly. There's "medicine". And then there's the "alternative" to medicine, which is unproven, ineffective and unnecessary. Unless you happen to be a festishist of a certain persuasion.

Despite the uncertainty, many Perth nutritionists and naturopaths recommend people undergo colonic irrigation regularly and also recommend the procedure during detox programs.

What "uncertainty"? The uncertainty between accepting evidence or choosing to believe wishful thinking and advertising claims?

Ms Harley is a registered nurse.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Emperor's Organic Clothes

Bettina Arndt questions the wisdom of the "organic is better" meme.

They sold only one brand of bubbly water, proudly labelled "organic mineral water". Organic water? What on earth does that mean? Mineral water contains minerals, which are inorganic compounds, not the compounds of carbon required for an "organic" product. Water can't be organic. It's a nonsense designed to seduce consumers into believing they are buying something special. And the suckers line up for more.

Ms Arndt goes on to point out that the "organic" movement is an emperor without clothes, based as it is on its belief that synthetic chemicals are somehow evil while (identical) natural chemicals are not. That's without taking into account the increased possibility (and documented occurrences) of bacterial contamination, the higher cost, and its poorer yields in a world with an exploding population.

The organic fad is an indulgence of the rich. Even if most claims for organic farming could be substantiated, its main disadvantage is its inefficiency. Organic food costs more because average yields are 20-50 per cent lower than those from conventional farms. While the affluent trendies indulge their foolish food fad, we still need to treble food production in the next 50 years to feed three billion extra people.

While the rest of the world turns to more efficient methods of farming, and evidence based medicine, True Believers in the west are desperate to return to the good old days of disease and famine.

Addendum: Ms Arndt appears to have been psychically channelling an article from the Guardian from three years ago, as well as creating studies by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control that don't exist. The whole story is at Mediawatch.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Living The Unnatural Life

Cheeta, the original chimpanzee in the Tarzan movies, recently turned 75.

Flying in the face of the grand tradition of altie nutritional beliefs, Cheeta celebrated with sugar-free cakes and diet soft drinks (if it wasn't for his diabetes, he probably would have gone for the full sugar options). So much for the "natural" diet. Indeed, Cheeta is reported as having a penchant to "go to the drive-through and get a hamburger".

Nonetheless, nutritionists such as Helen Frost are constantly telling us "natural" is good, processed is evil, and non-organic packaged food is the work of the devil and will send us all to an early and painful grave. Which doesn't sit well with the fact that chimpanzees in the wild rarely live past their 40s, but regularly reach their 60s in captivity.

Now, if this modern diet we have was so efficient at killing us, why doesn't it apply to chimpanzees?

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Get Stoned For Health

From the West Australian newspaper's Mind&Body supplement of April 10th, 2007:

Hot Stone Healing
LaStone therapy uses hot and cold stones to massage the body. Basalt and marble stones are placed under the body as well as on the body for massage. Caroline Oakes, owner of Embody Health in Subiaco, said the hot stones are used to relax the body and remove tension. The cold stones are used as a trigger point therapy and help flush the body of toxins and work the lymphatic system. [...] LaStone therapy was devised by American Mary Hannigan in 1993 and is now widely used in Australia. Therapists who use LaStone purchase specialty stones from the United States. They leave them outside during a full moon to energise them. LaStone therapy is also used in conjunction with aromatherapy and sometimes crystal therapy.

So, LaStone therapy has only been around since 1993? It's not traditional then? Shouldn't alties avoid it then?

What the above shows is just how gullible and deluded the practitioners are, let alone the users. In what way are US stones essential? And why not leave the stones out in the sun? They'd certainly "energise" more (so much so, EoR suspects you could even feel the increase in radiant energy).

Of course, while massage has many benefits, and the use of heat and cold in therapy (particularly for muscoskeletal issues) is well documented, a woo therapy just has to have that extra frisson of marvellous magic to, in some mysterious way, make it more powerful, more balancing and more energetic (readers should recognise that all those italicised words are keywords, but are also equally devoid of all meaning in the current context).

LaStone therapy, unfortunately, isn't just a pleasant massage using heat and cold (albeit by the rather wacky idea of using stones). It comes from a higher source:

I developed LaStone therapy in August 1993. I was praying and my spirit guide started telling me about it, so it was all channelled, and I continue to receive guidance in this way about the development of the therapy. [...] LaStone is also a spiritual experience; with energy work connecting the client and the therapist to their creator (or whatever the right image is for each of them); it helps to awaken the soul to understand its path. Many people are seeking a connection to body-mind-soul in their everyday life, and LaStone therapy facilitates this. In our advance courses we teach the use of toning, chakra balancing with crystals and fossilised coral to enhance the full experience of using the mineral kingdom in a body session. In our advance courses we expand the use of alternating temperatures with many different types of therapies such as reflexology, sports massage, facials, energy work, deep tissue work, physical therapy principles and much more.

Other massages, even those using stones, are ineffective and are described as "powder puff type treatments". Which seems rather hurtful of Mary Nelson, considering how "open" she is to every other woo under the sun being used in her special spirit-channelled woo. Except directly competing woos, apparently.

The powder puff type treatments can just be one-offs, but for the deep treatment both the client and the practitioner have to make a commitment to working with long-term goals the therapist needs to monitor the process, so weekly sessions may be appropriate.

Of course, alties hate doctors for their perceived scamming of patients with dangerous pills. But try an altie therapy, and you're immediately being told you must do it weekly. Forever, presumably. That's what is meant by "holistic" (ie the therapy will last your whole life).

As described by Discovery Health, Mary Hannigan's transformation was like a scene from Star Wars (quite apart from having another surname):

Its creator, Mary Hannigan, says that the idea for LaStone first came to her on Aug. 19, 1993, when a voice said to her: "Use the stones." At the time, she was sitting in a sauna with her niece. The voice became so insistent that Hannigan finally picked up two stones and massaged her niece's back with them. That moment launched an industry based in Hannigan's hometown of Tucson, Ariz., and a movement that its followers say draws energy and spiritual strength from the stones.

If being pounded with rocks isn't sufficiently newage for you, consider combining them with Hungarian Wellness Mud:

This treatment envelopes your client in a loving cocoon of healing energies and soothing elements, allowing their bodies to obtain nourishment from 100% natural elements of the earth. These two natural sources work in synergy with the stones, to physically and spiritually nourish the body.

Never mind obtaining your nutritional needs from wheatgrass, all you need is some mud!

Despite repeated claims to be "at the leading edge of research and development of the therapeutic application of hot and cold stones to the body" no such research is available through any of these sites. Selling training courses, yes. In fact, lots of selling. But not a lot of research.

The true LaStone therapist will also proudly display all the associated paraphernalia, such as the LaStone bib, the LaStone baseball cap and the LaStone robe.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Down Memory Lane

From the September 15th, 1920 issue of Punch:

The War Office announces that Arabs in Southern Mesopotamia have captured a British armoured train. It should be pointed out to these Arab rebels that it is such behaviour as this that discourages the tourist spirit.

Sunday, April 15, 2007

For The Term Of His Valuable Life

A Sydney couple were released on good behaviour bonds after pleading guilty to manslaughter of their disabled son, Matthew Sutton. Born without eyes, part of his face missing, nervous system and heart defects, and severely intellectually disabled, he was not expected to live beyond a few weeks. However Matthew survived to the age of 28 years old.
According to The West Australian newspaper (5th April, 07) "Even though he had serious medical problems and several operations, he reached a mental age of about four and despite limited hearing, found some joy in music. But life was a trial. He banged his head and became violent when frustrated. The court was told he also suffered at the hands of other patients when his parents, unable to care for him at home, put him into professional care."

Matthew's mother told the court he would have nothing else if he didn't have music. "How could we subject our precious son to what was ahead?" The day before Matthew was to have undergone surgery that may have robbed him of his hearing and sense of taste, his parents sedated and killed him.

According to The Australian Justice Barr said "The Suttons, who suffered from depression and stress, were affected by an "abnormality of mind" at the time of Matthew's death". He is further quoted in The West Australian newspaper that the crime was committed "out of love and labouring under an inability to properly reason".

And there was more... NSW Council on Intellectual Disability executive officer Helena O'Connell declared it "a sad day for people with intellectual disabilities". "The system let the family down, (but) the person had the potential for a valuable life," she said.

I am baffled. In what way was this merciful, selfless and considered action an act of madness and irrationality? And would Ms O'Connell please elaborate on that "potential for a valuable life" she foresaw for Matthew?

Please note: I am not necessarily endorsing "potential for a valuable life" as a prerequisite to let live. In that case I might be the first against the wall.

Saturday, April 14, 2007


Leven sounds like a crazed Scottish laird serenading his ghost bride amidst the wreckage of a bacchanalian feast. Only Nick Cave gets darker, but Jackie out-sings him, out-baritones him and out-mans him.
Overlooked and underplayed: Doll By Doll

Thought about a girl I knew when I was sixteen

In early 1979 EoR discovered Doll by Doll with the release of their first album, Remember. Now, nearly thirty years later, the Doll by Doll oeuvre is finally available on CD (all four albums that were released - the legendary unreleased fifth album remains unreleased).

Never particularly liked by the majority of the music press or even by the public (they were drowned by a rising tide of cartoon punk bands), and troubled by too many drugs, Doll by Doll were something different. This wasn't helped by being thrown off tours when they supported Devo and Hawkwind (putting Doll by Doll with them is about as bizarre as Jimi Hendrix supporting the Monkees).

Playing what their lead singer, Scot and Fifer Jackie Leven, called psychodramas, they steadfastedly refused to associate themselves with the popular causes of the day such as Rock Against Racism and Ban The Bomb, choosing instead to play gigs in support of R D Laing's Philadelphia Association. Jackie says in the liner notes "Doll by Doll was rooted in its own genuine psychic problems - mainly mine". You didn't go to a Doll by Doll gig for a good time. Catharsis, yes, but not for fun.

Named for a line in an e e cummings poem, with a silhouette of Antonin Artaud on the cover (and which became the band logo), using lines from Anna Akhmatova and Rumi on later albums, this was clearly not some teenage angst band. Indeed, the band members were nearly thirty at the time which, as Jackie has commented, meant they had more life experience to deliver in their songs.

Remember is an assault of guitars and drums, with Jackie's voice swooping and soaring, delivering lines of drama and pain, capturing the sound the band delivered live. The sound is rough and hard, but it suits the trouble that Jackie sings about. Relationships that are ending. Relationships that have ended. And a poetry that transcends. Probably only Joy Division were covering the same territory at the time. There's a lot of blood in this album, like Jackie is opening all the wounds he's accumulated over the years.

Cut my heart in quarters, dropped it on the scale
Flesh was crimson, bone was shiny and pale
Staggered out and fell into the limousine
Staggered out and fell into the limousine
Thought about a girl I knew when I was sixteen
(Butcher Boy)

But if there's one thing I remember
That I think you have forgot
I was your sleeping partner
On the night that you got shot
As I held the blood stained pillow
A voice whispered forget me not
But if you want my love I'll give it anytime I can
I know you've had a hard time
I believe for every sorrow that is born
You've got to hit the mainline
(Sleeping Partners)

The lyrics to More Than Human (the nod to Nietzsche is surely intentional) were originally printed on the reverse of the album cover: surreal poetry that opens up possibilities of meaning:

I know a man whose heart is ready to chime
This man is waiting for you - he has no sense of time
I resurrected you but, I left out one thing
I wrote it in a song that no voice will ever sing
Love is the thing that separates
Love is what makes us make mistakes
(More Than Human)

Joy Division's Love Will Tear Us Apart, with its same theme of destructive love, was released a year later.

Then there's the ballad Janice - the first example of something that Jackie has done so well in his subsequent solo career: sweetly lyrical songs about the darkest of themes, with tunes that are almost too intensely beautiful, about the pain of love that neither partner has acknowledged is over.

And Janice, tomorrow I will walk across the moorland
A perfect place to rest your head in my arms
Forget the wailing alarms
Oh yes a good friend said that I would only make you cry
Oh strangers they come in disguise
Such emptiness in their eyes
And woman, in times of trouble when your spirits are low
Remember that's the only song we could share
And it was your word against mine
There was anything that could last a little longer
Than the journey to your room

Palace of Love, the final track of the original album (the CD release adds the B-side of Palace of Love) is a seven minute odyssey that ends in a sustained sequence of white noise and feedback: a demented Phil Spectorish Wall of Terror.

I love stealing fuck magazines
And tearing them apart
Last night one exploded
And a piece blew in my heart
And as I looked to see which picture
Caused my mortal wound
A woman who had trusted me
Was drowning in my blood
(Palace of Love)

Opinions differ about which is the best Doll by Doll album (or the worst) but, in EoR's opinion, Remember has the strongest energy and drive. Yes, it's messy at times. Yes, it's confused at times. But what a debut. What a soul laid bare. And in that sleep of death, what dreams may come.

Taxi drivers yawn from Earl's Court to the Strand

The next Doll by Doll album, Gypsy Blood (also 1979 - with a new bass player) saw a more highly produced album, with a wider sound and a wider range of songs (as well as the themes that embroiled Remember there also appeared subjects that would be seen as Jackie Leven concerns: how to be a "strong" man, the highlands, the sea, and the city, as well as the use of poetry - a verse from Artaud, and Akhmatova). Gypsy Blood is considered the Doll by Doll album par excellence. There's more light and lyricism here. If anything though, it failed more spectacularly than Remember to excite the critics. Nonetheless, the album contains some songs that can only be considered classics by anyone's standards.

Consider the (only slightly) skewed view of urban life in Strip Show that juxtaposes an essentially private, male ritual of female objectification with its declarations of love:

When the strip show is over
And the management have turned up the lights
Silent people have walked back into the night
I thought of you still living alone.
When the neon universe was winking to an end
Taxi drivers yawn from Earl's Court to the Strand
I thought of you decorating your new home.

The dark surrealism, the demons of the unconscious, from Remember still surface though.

I feel I am a hunter
In forests of regret
Who finds a moment's shelter
When all his clothes are wet
Who rubs his face so wearily
And counts the kill of the day
And quietly remembers
The one that got away
(The Human Face)

Jackie's voice soars seamlessly on that last "away" in pitch and volume, echoing the regretted escape.

I lived for a while in the shadow of Castle Frankenstein
With the sadness in the air and no life anywhere
The mirror of my voyage has been smashed so fine
And all god's eyes are strange and the season was deranged
The heroine in the story must wear gloves of steel
Her violence must be real
It is her act of glory that for love she'll kill
When death comes flying sad and sweet
It is my angel oh it is my angel oh it is my angel
(Hell Games)

Forget the past

It took two years, a legal dispute, and a change of label (though the group members remained the same) before Doll by Doll's third album (the eponymous Doll by Doll) was released. Maintaining the balance between dark and light, the opening words could almost be Jackie Leven's response to the critics:

Message understood
Now leave me alone
Since you're such a slick little girl
Since you run your very own world
There's one thing you can do
Figure it out on your own
(Figure It Out)

With the hard driving funk of Caritas (the single release from the album), the upbeat The Street I Love, the surreal folk inspired ballads such as Main Travelled Roads (an update of the traditional Bonnie Earl O'Moray) and Those In Peril, and the immensely powerful A Bright Green Field it was good to have the glorious harmonies, Jackie's exceptional voice, the range and reach of the guitars back in full force. This is mature Doll by Doll with more than one exceptional track. There's hope here as well as darkness, a bigger vision as well as hopelessness.

I put a penny in the toilet door
And then I quickly stepped inside
To some graffiti and a greyhound paper
And the gentle thought of suicide
A razor blade would make the perfect bride
Lift up your glass to the future bride
Forget the past
I'm taking your advice about that suicide.
(The Perfect Romance)

But if nothing kind comes from dying
And the holy wine tastes like rain
If the sand covers the word of the soul
If the heroes are drenched to the bone
He's an angel he's a demon
He's a child in the sand
He's a new star he's a centaur
A man in a bright green field
With a dry passion the high tide resounds
With a sigh passing from god to the ground
(Bright Green Field)

If all the leaders stopped leading and let grand passion take command

In 1982 the final Doll by Doll album, Grand Passion was released and, if it was possible, this got even more of a lashing from the critics. At the time, EoR could see why. The problem was that this wasn't actually a Doll by Doll album, even though it was marketed as such. Doll by Doll, the core three musicians that created the first three albums, had ceased to exist and Grand Passion was essentially a Jackie Leven solo album, with session musicians (though of the calibre of Dave Gilmour and Mel Collins). There was even a cover version (the Rolling Stones' Under My Thumb). There was saxophone on the album! There were even ocarinas!

After Grand Passion Doll by Doll and Jackie Leven seemed to cease to exist. Until 1994 when the first Jackie Leven album (The Mystery of Love is Greater than the Mystery of Death - Jackie clearly had accepted he'd never be a commercial success, and the silhouette of Antonin Artaud was tiny and hidden inside the CD booklet) appeared.

Now it could be seen that Grand Passion was part of a progression, from the bloody dark angst of Remember, through the more balanced (but still passionate and archetypical) Gypsy Blood and Doll by Doll, to Jackie's first solo explorations on Grand Passion.

There are still some amazing songs on this album. From the use of a Kenneth Patchen poem title for a song title (Boxers Hit Harder When Women Are Around, through the darker Doll by Doll driven energy of City of Light, the reggae influenced Grand Passion to the more laid back paeans to desperate lives such as Dancing Shoes and Lonely Kind of Show, there are many delights here.

In Eternal Jackie sings "Forgive me, I am dazzled by your sorrow" twisting the expected cliche ("I am dazzled by your beauty") into a shock of revelatory meaning, something that is a constant throughout Doll by Doll's albums. Just when you think you're safe, they'll pull you up, twist you around, and show you what's really following you.

It's a lonely kind of show
At times I laughed but it was touch and go
And when the very last curtain fell
Our eyes met through applause and snow
As we walked home through the night I felt the silence grow
Between us where do all the good feelings go?


But if the weir is blocked with tears
If the mills are closing down
Sleepy janitors disappear
By reservoirs where angels drown.
(Lonely Kind of Show)

Death is an eagle circling high
Life is an endless terror of the sky
But I shall walk into the night
And fear no evil touch
In the city of light.
(City of Light)

Doll by Doll existed out of time, untouched by the commercial fashions of the time, but not ignorant of the history of rock from the 50s on, or to the powers of poetry and dreams. An essential chapter in the history of rock is available again.

Jackie Leven continues his solo career, quietly producing an album (or more) every year of his individual mythic-poetic-balladic music (he's usually classed as "celtic soul" but that's too limiting for his range - maybe "human soul" would be better) with songs about hard men, bad relationships, the sea, the moor, the city, pubs, factories, desperation, philosophy, the ambiguity of meaning and with titles such as "The Sexual Loneliness of Jesus Christ", "The War Crimes of Ariel Sharon", "And You'll Never Hear Surf Music Again" and "Defending Ancient Springs".

Here can be great joy, but it is easy to be mangled by the process as to swing with it. It will require an act of imagination from those who do not know from their own experience what hell this borderland between being and nonbeing can become. But that is what imagination is for.
R D Laing: The Politics of Experience

Skeptics' Circle

The alluringly alliterative 58th Skeptics' Circle is now waiting with woo for you at Geek Counterpoint.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Heart To Heart

The ABC upheld its fine tradition of promoting woo as science again this week, with a spectacular documentary following the Catalyst science program: "Thanks for the Memories" (you have to imagine that with a little heart over the "i" - it was that sort of show) a worthy successor to Psychic Investigators. There were even lots of the same blurry shaky shots for the psychic visions. Four scientists were presented spouting their magic. Paul Pearsall, the main instigator of the "theory" that memories are transferred via the heart during heart transplants, two supporters of his argument (Andrew Armour and Rollin McCraty) and Gary Schwartz, without whom no such program would be complete (and who urged the first scientist to write a paper, based on his "three best cases" ie cherry picking data).

The heart has energy, we were told. More - it's magnetic energy! So it's like a radio. Or magic. Or something. Anyway, it has its own "unique" intelligence. Which must be pretty complex, since we're led to believe one man learnt to spell
and write poetry (well, doggerel) as a result of having the heart of a man who liked to write poetry for his wife. Which doesn't explain why braindead people can't still hold intelligent conversations.

The brain sends signals to the heart! The heart sends signals to the brain! So it's just got to have intelligence, damn it! No mention was made of why anal sphincters aren't equally as valid as candidates for intelligence. And much more altie-friendly. When they start doing sphincter transplants, EoR suspects people will start getting their donor's memories from those as well.

Another man suddenly started exercising after his transplant. Eerily, his heart came from a Hollywood stuntman. There could be no other explanation! If he'd started jumping motorcycles across chasms, or leaping through fires, EoR might have believed it.

A cystic fibrosis sufferer suddenly starts doing sport, which he was incapable of doing before. More proof!

A woman who was an extremely passive person prior to the transplant, and received a heart from a boxer, suddenly became "very aggressive", watching the football on the TV (which, in the world of this program, was not passive at all). If she'd started beating her husband up, that might have been more logical.

Two naysayers were shown, but they repeated the old "we can't disprove it" and "science doesn't understand this" stuff.
Which is all very true, but put up against the relentless onslaught of "visions" and scientists evangelising for their worldview, they came off a sorry second best.

No discussion was made of the fact that heart transplant patients are generally not the most active of people prior to the transplant, which is why they're getting a heart transplant in the first place. It was mentioned that around 10% of people undergo some form of personality change after a heart transplant, but the only possibility to cause this offered was the memorable heart option. Nothing like feeling better, being more physically fit, even the old "life changing conversion". Instead, vague coincidences ("Gee, I do sort of sporty things now, and the donor did as well! It must be a psychic magic power at work!") of exactly the same sort that fake psychics (yes, EoR knows that's a tautology) use.

And so the scientific literacy of the Australian populus is yet further dumbed down through the use of taxpayers' dollars.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

EoR Goes Grazing

EoR's favourite nutritionist, Helen Frost, gets a guest consulting spot in last week's West Australian newspaper's Mind&Body&Nonsense supplement, on the burning issue of "Is wheatgrass a healthy choice?".

The nutritional benefit of wheatgrass came under the microscope recently when consumer magazine, Choice, questioned the health claims made about wheatgrass by some juice makers. But wheatgrass is clawing back its reputation. Nutritionist Helen Frost said wheatgrass juice - recommended to be taken daily as a 30ml juice - was beneficial to people's diets and it was unfortunate some far-fetched claims had tarnished its reputation.

Ms Frost then goes on to make some, presumably, non-far-fetched claims about wheatgrass:

"It can help to restore alkalinity and neutralise the acidity in the body," she said. "Wheatgrass juice has got a lot of chlorophyll and it is very similar to our own haemoglobin, it will boost metabolism and reduce cravings."

The reporter then repeats the statement that chlorophyll and haemoglobin have a similar molecular structure. Ms Frost concludes:

"It's packed with antioxidants and essential amino acids, it's called a green super food and there is no denying that," Ms Frost said.

For those interested in the mythology of wheatgrass, there's a whole book available online, though the chapter on Chlorophyll and Blood Regeneration is relevant to today's discussion.

There are many reasons why cereal grass and other dark green plants can be considered "blood-building" foods. The vitamins and minerals in cereal grass are essential to the synthesis and function of the components of healthy blood. But perhaps the most interesting connection between green foods and blood is the similarity in the structures of the two colored pigments, heme and chlorophyll. The biological relationship between these two molecules, though studied for over 60 years, is still not completely clear. It does appear, however, that small amounts of the digestive products of chlorophyll may stimulate the synthesis of either heme or globin or both in animals and humans.

It should be noted that the wheatgrass advocates seem to rely almost solely on research from the 1930s.

Wheatgrass is a wonder:

Have you ever watched cattle or horses grazing and wondered how such large, strong, and downright magnificent creatures sustain themselves on a diet that's primarily composed of grass?

Um, would it have something to do with having four stomachs, or a massive caecum in order to be able to digest the cellulose? Neither of which humans possess.

Wheatgrass is apparently even better than scam EMF blocking widgets:

It's speculated, then, that wheatgrass juice - taken on a daily basis - might even slow down the harmful effects of X-rays, and it's been claimed that wheatgrass plants kept in front of a color television set will actually absorb part of the radiation that the tube emits, as well as some pollutants and odors from the indoor air.

Speculation, need EoR point out, is not proof.

Wheatgrass has a myriad of applications - you don't just have to drink it:

Wheatgrass juice is said to be helpful when used externally as well as when taken internally. Some claim that an enema of fresh wheatgrass juice cleans out the bowel and eliminates constipation, and the liquid is also used as a douche to clear up vaginal infections. If you're plagued by dandruff, you might want to try rubbing the juice into your scalp, then rinsing and shampooing as usual. Even skin disorders such as eczema and psoriasis are said to be helped by the juice's healing chlorophyll.

Does 1 shot of Wheat grass Juice = 1 Kilogram of Vegetables?:

Unfortunately, I believe that my question has gone unanswered. Although, multiple sources claim that one shot of wheat grass is equivalent to one kilogram of vegetables, this question goes largely untested by the health community. The few studies that are around regarding wheat grass are mostly faulty in sample size. Interestingly, the few academic studies found all seem to reference each other. This close connection amongst the articles implies a lack of clinical trials regarding the wheat grass product. As wheat grass becomes more prevalent in health food stores and widely accepted internationally, the evidence behind these claims should be presented to the public. How are we to believe that wheat grass can cure cancer and prevent heart disease if we aren’t given any evidence regarding even the basic vitamins and minerals in wheat grass?

The People's Media Company states:

Wheatgrass and the juice extracted from it have become hot button issues in the world of organic health. While the proponents of the multiple benefits that wheatgrass juice offers are many, the jury made up of members of the scientific community remains deadlocked. One reason for this is that if wheatgrass really could do all its champions claim it does for everybody who drinks it, it would have to be regarded as a bona fide magical potion.

Just because two molecules are "similar" doesn't mean they are interchangeable (assuming that the chlorophyll wasn't first actually digested anyway).

Choice advises:

CHOICE compared the nutritional value of a shot of wheatgrass juice to 30 g each of cooked spinach and broccoli, and to a garden salad, and found all three contained lots more of many vitamins and minerals than the wheatgrass juice. There was also only limited supporting evidence for the claim that wheatgrass acts as an anti-inflammatory, with good-quality studies needed to back up observational findings. Claims about wheatgrass’s wound healing properties also have limited supporting evidence. There’s also little confirmation that wheatgrass juice builds red blood cells and improves circulation and tissue oxygenation. And evidence surrounding its claims of cancer prevention is inconclusive.

In a further article, Choice also investigates the claims of the wheatgrass promoters:

"A shot of wheatgrass juice is nutritionally equivalent to a kilo of fresh green vegies"
Verdict: Not true.
"Wheatgrass acts as an anti-inflammatory and has wound-healing properties"
Verdict: Limited supporting evidence. Good-quality studies are needed to back up observational findings.
"Wheatgrass builds red blood cells and improves circulation and tissue oxygenation."
Verdict: Based on conjecture - needs more research.
"Wheatgrass helps prevent and can cure cancer."
Verdict: Inconclusive evidence for prevention - none for cure.
"Wheatgrass gets rid of bad breath and body odour."
Verdict: The evidence isn’t for wheatgrass itself - and it’s mixed.
Wheatgrass safety
As far as the evidence goes, there’s minimal risk to your health from taking wheatgrass juice.

NCAHF page on Wheatgrass Therapy
Wheatgrass Madness at Skeptico

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

The Frost Report

Some more health information from the radio nutritionist. Helen Frost's last few shows have had a definite altie poo theme. EoR has now learnt the following vital information.

You need to have a good "unloading session" each night on the toilet. "So many people are walking around feeling like they've got a carrot stuck up their backside because they haven't had a good one." EoR hates to think how she knows the feeling of a carrot being rectally inserted. Perhaps she adheres to the South Park reverse digestion method.

Last week's show had a lengthy discussion on poo movements. The worst is the the "shy poo" - that's where you "get a grimace on your face, bear down and really try and get it out" but end up having to take a breath when it takes the chance to "sneak back in". Then you walk around the rest of the day feeling you've got a carrot up your bottom. Again.

What you need is soft poo. Lots of wholegrain and fibres and cereals are good for this result, though EoR imagines dysentery would also do at a pinch. If you don't do that you get sticky poo and need lots of toilet paper to wipe the sticky poo off and it will leave "skid marks inside you".

You must drink plenty of water to keep "clean" on the inside. Many people get up and have a shower in the morning to clean themselves on the outside, but neglect to perform the same task internally.

White breads, white pastas etc become glue in your backside. EoR presumes this is handy to know in an emergency if you run out of glue.

Alties have such a fascination with their bowels and their movements. It's a fundamental faecal fascination. At least it seems to give them something to look forward to in life, and a hobby to keep them out of trouble. They probably all believe in Mr Hanky.

Oh, and a word to all the oncologists out there: eating too much protein causes cancer. So, no more cancer, okay?

For a proper, life sustaining diet, you must eat live foods - these come straight out of the ground or off the tree. No cans,
packages, etc etc. Those sorts of things are dead, and you can't create "life" out of "dead" foods. Which amazes EoR, since people who can survive by eating only canned and packaged foods must be some sort of miracle. As she keeps pointing out, white bread has "no nutrition". She's a nutritionist. She'd know.

A caller rang about nuts. "We need good nuts" Ms Frost advised. Oh, if only she could see the irony...

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Reality Still Not Same As Fairy Tales

Here's some news of the lengths surgeons go to in order to correct cranial abnormalities.

Perth surgeons have for the first time in Australia used metal springs to push apart the skull bones of a 12-week-old boy to correct an abnormality which would have meant his skull had to be broken and rebuilt. Zayvien Cox was born with craniosynostosis, a condition where some of the bones in his head fused too early, not allowing enough room for normal growth. [...] "In this procedure, all we need to do is cut from front to back the suture in the skull that's fused, so it's a smaller skin incision, and then we place the springs so that they slowly push the skull apart over the next few weeks, ensuring the bones go into their correct position," he said. "After about three months, we will do a small procedure with an incision only about 3cm to remove the springs once they've done their job. Eventually we hope to use springs that dissolve so we don't need to do the second procedure." Dr Hewitt, who trained in Sweden for a year, said the main advantage of using cranio-facial springs over conventional surgery was that it was less traumatic and safer for very young children, reducing the time that babies were anaesthetised and the likelihood of them needing a blood transfusion.

Surgery. Multiple springs. Three months.

If craniosacralists are to be believed, they can transform the alignment of cranial bones with the lightest of touches. Immediately.

Does anyone else see a disjunction here?

Monday, April 09, 2007

Quantum Healing Therapies

We all know how easy it is to heal people. You only need a little magic machine that sends quantum healing waves into the ether where they'll wander around for a while, and then gently drop on the dis-eased one. Better healers do it quantumly without any equipment at all, merely using the mysterious and undefined "intention".

The reality of generating quantum energies is far more impressive, and unlikely to be seen at your local SCIO healer's office, or being transported by your friendly reikiist. It's also far more impressive when it goes wrong.

A £2 billion project to answer some of the biggest mysteries of the universe has been delayed by months after scientists building it made basic errors in their mathematical calculations. The mistakes led to an explosion deep in the tunnel at the Cern particle accelerator complex near Geneva in Switzerland. It lifted a 20-ton magnet off its mountings, filling a tunnel with helium gas and forcing an evacuation. [...] Dr Lyn Evans, who leads the accelerator construction project at Cern, the European organisation for nuclear research, said the explosion had been potentially very dangerous. "There was a hell of a bang, the tunnel housing the machine filled with helium and dust and we had to call in the fire brigade to evacuate the place," he said.

Of course, if you have some quack in your locale practicing "quantum healing", you might like to contact your council and point out the potential dangers. You wouldn't want something like that exploding in your backyard.

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Moral Dilemma Of The Day

You are an (organically) dyed-in-the-wool altie. You avoid pesticides like the autism plague, because chiropracters have shown all known disease is attributable to them. You only use organic, natural methods for growing your own holistic vegetables.

Do you then use a natural spider-based method of eliminating insects*? Even if it's produced by scientists?

*This question does not apply to animal liberationists who already know insects are worth more, morally and ethically speaking, than humans or spiders.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

A Question

What's happening? First dead people are turning up suddenly next to people on planes. Now there are zombies in Brisbane. Could it be the Rapture?

Friday, April 06, 2007

Programming For Alternative Health Professionals

EoR has had undercover agents investigating the internal programming of the SCIO magic machine (yes, yes, EoR really promises to stop going on about this - soon - honest).

It appears the machine is programmed in an altie friendly language: Paranoid Programming Language or PPL. Where else would you find statements that so easily prove altie concepts such as past lives, prayer, chakras and homeopathy?

While PPL recognises the normal "\fC:=" method of assignment, this is recognised as being slightly conventional. The normal alternatives to this rather pedantic style of programming are:
      x !:= 3
which assigns any other value but 3 to x.
      x REALLY 3
which insists strongly that x is 3.
      x HONESTLY 3
which forces the system to believe that x is 3.
      x MIGHTBE 3
which just lets the system make its mind up, and most powerful of all,
which doesn't really give a damn.

The conditional statements are also ideal for providing data for your next scientific study proving homeopathy really works:

Well, this is the field in which PPL really scores over all other programming languages. Whereas other languages only offer a generalised IF-THEN-ELSE or a CASE statement, PPL has a whole class of utterly novel wish-fulfilment statements. For example...
      IF x WAS_EVER 100 THEN
         DON'T print(x)

      IF j IS_NEARLY right
         REFERENCES TO j

      UNLESS a IS "My Name" THEN

      WHENEVER errors THEN

      ON_SUSPICION_OF x < 100
         REFERENCES TO x


There are further procedures that are regularly implemented by altie practitioners and psychics:

Naturally a language as rich as PPL offers a sophisticated range of reality-altering features. These are not defined by the normal PPL specification document but are left to the implementors. Typical pragmas include the following:
to put extra suspicion on a procedure,
to totally forget about any calls to a procedure,
to pin the blame on this procedure whenever something dies
to forget that a procedure ever existed.

While a full PC implementing PPL is yet to be created, it is comforting to the colonic cleansers to learn that one of the peripherals already working with the prototype is a rectal pattern-recogniser.

If programming in PPL sounds a little too complicated for the busy alternative health practitioner, EoR recommends the use of the NIL programming language instead. The results obtained will be exactly the same.

In spite of the sophisticated feature set, implementation of a compiler is almost trivial. Here, in short, the necessary steps for processing:
  1. atomisation: split the source code into atoms - consider every word to be one atom.

  2. translation: convert every atom into the corresponding machine code. Since Nil is a Nihilistic programming language, only the NOP operation opcode is allowed.

  3. optimisation: using "peephole" optimisation techniques, you will see that multiple NOP opcodes can be replaced by a single one. Therefore, optimisation is extremely efficient.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

SCIO Schmio

EoR just can't get enough of the amazing and incredible and altogether unbelievable Scientific Consciousness Interface Operation system (SCIO) machine. He promises not to turn this site into a Daily SCIO Oddity (though he could very easily), but he can't resist taking one more look at the general world of SCIO delusional thinking.

Inergetix Inc provides a good history of the SCIO and its relatives. The original machine (the EPFX - they all have technical sounding acronymic names) was such a good scam it didn't even measure anything (EoR bets it was just as effective as all its followers). Then came the QXCI (Quantum Xrroid Consciousness Interface - as Inergetix points out "xrroid" is just a made-up word).

The QXCI made the bold step of taking into the realm of computerized medical diagnostics a process that was previously only applied in oracles and divination systems like the Tarot or I Ching. Just as the Tarot and I Ching have proven over the centuries to be valuable tools to access complex information, so has the QXCI been a valuable addition to many practitioners.

EoR missed the bit in science class where it was pointed out how valuable the Tarot and I Ching were to "access complex information". Stochastic is not necessarily complex. Of course, because the QXCI simply generates random data, the very next test "result" is going to be completely different. You'd think that would be an insuperable barrier to having people believe this sort of quackery was effective. Not a bit of it:

One major problem with any oracle or divination system, and here also the QXCI and SCIO make no exception, is that if you let the dice roll twice, have the I Ching sticks fall again, or make another scan with the QXCI, the results will be totally different. Traditionally people would be warned not to consult the oracle again because this would make it angry, and QXCI warns people not to do a second test within 48 hours because this would create too much turmoil in the energy field of the patient.

"Turmoil in the energy field"! Oooh. EoR feels quite faint even thinking about it. You certainly wouldn't want that to happen. Incidentally, Ingergetix have another way around this problem. They simply run thousands of (random) tests and then look for "predominant tendencies". Inergetix then introduces their own Inergetic-CoRe system (which EoR won't go into in any detail - you've seen it all before) other than to point out that it's far better than the SCIO because, while it fails to give an "energetic analysis", at least it's better than the SCIO's "FAKE not 'real' energetic biofeedback analysis". The SCIO is a fake? Surely people wouldn't be pushing unproven, illogical devices to unsuspecting consumers?

And never mind NASA technology, the SCIO seems to incorporate Star Trek technology:

The EPFX-SCIO can be calibrated to a person or animal anywhere in the world using the birth date, place and name as a trivector locator. Frequency is then transmitted via subspace with the same accuracy as an in-person session. Frequency penetration is not as great as when physically connected, which is often preferable for animals or people sensitive to frequency.

Presumably, if you know someone's birth date, place and name, you could theoretically transmit evil frequencies as well. Shouldn't these devices be controlled as potentially lethal weapons? And why aren't the US Army using them in Iraq? What if Osama bin Laden got hold of one?

The SCIO can cure depression (actually, EoR needs to point out that all these sites point out that these magic machines, in fact, do nothing. There's always the standard altie disclaimer that they don't diagnose or treat anything, but only "help the body heal itself". Keep taking your conventional treatment).

Next we usually check the neurotransmitters in the brain to see what is out of balance. We are able to balance the high and the low neurotransmitters. We are able to energetically boost neurotransmitters that are in low supply. This often helps to start lifting the depression fog. [...] Additional programs include Obsession release (to reduce worry and anxiety), Schizophrenic reunion to self, Reprogramming of karma, Stimulation of creativity, Higher purpose alignment for accelerating spiritual growth

EoR's always wanted his karma "reprogrammed", but thought that was a task normally relegated only to divinities or, at least, required living a virtuous life. Maybe the scammers using these machines need to regularly reprogram their own evil karma after ripping people off?

The SCIO also works for hepatitis C:

We do many specific things to help their system. We always boost the immune system. We do biofeedback on the liver to strengthen it. We do 13 major types of therapy to strengthen the way the body functions.

Of course:

It is important to remember that we do not substitute for doctors, nor do we ever confuse this point. We do not diagnose or prescribe. We simply energize the client to heal themselves. [...] We like to point out that our therapies coincide very nicely with traditional medicine, and in fact complement medicine and pharmaceuticals.

Parkinson's Disease, as well:

Our system is able, via distance healing, to address many of the underlying theorized causes of Parkinsons. We never offer a cure of any sort for any type of degenerative disease. However, because of the detailed ways that energetics can address body deficiencies, we enable our clients to do a better job of healing themselves.

The SCIO claims to be able to perform "neurological repair" and to " rebalance neurotransmitter imbalances in the brain". Well, if that isn't a cure for Parkinson's Disease, EoR doesn't know what is. Where's the Nobel prize for these pioneers of medicine? Except, of course, that there appear to be zero studies actually proving those claims of altering neurotransmitter levels. Which you would have thought would have been easy to prove. If it was real. Unfortunately, that would require real work, and real proof. Making unsubtantiated advertising claims is just so much easier, and far more lucrative.

Of course, there's that little legal disclaimer again:

We like to point out that our therapies coincide very nicely with traditional medicine, and in fact complement medicine and pharmaceuticals.

If the SCIO doesn't work, and you need something really effective, then maybe the LIFE System is for you. You can tell it's better because they provide this helpful little graph which shows... Well, nothing really. What's the x-scale measuring? What's the y-scale measuring? Who knows?

Anyway, even though the LIFE System has the "Dimensional Transformation - Past Life Program, The Mystic Programs, Meditation Stimulation, Clairvoyance Stimulation, Shaman Stimulation and many more" just like the SCIO, its "Color, Chakra and Aura programs are especially beautiful in the L.I.F.E System". Also (and EoR doesn't know if this is an advantage or not):

The QXCI and SCIO are filled with programs that have not been developed or just do not work. For example: Breast augmentation. This just becomes confusing to the practitioner who will find themselves wondering around and spending hours in programs that ultimately don’t get results. These programs just serve to frustrate a practitioner and devour huge amounts of valuable time.

Why shouldn't it get results? It uses exactly the same quantum mathematical subspace bioresonating bullshit as the rest of the machine. Could it be, perhaps, that breast size is something that even a completely fooled customer might notice wasn't changing?

And never mind Star Trek technology, the LIFE System goes way beyond that:

Each compound has its own energetic signature or algorithm. Each item within the test matrix has its own fractal image (A fractal image is like the sacred song of the item or compound)

But wait! There's more:

External 24/7/365 UEB (Universal Energetic Balancing) Prayer Program for prayer wheel applications for more than one person at a time.

If the machine doesn't work, pray! It's got all the bases covered!

While PubMed returns some results for "Quantum Consciousness Interface" (not studies, but four theoretical papers), it's never heard of "Xrroid". Funny that.

You could almost think it was an unproven, baseless scam solely intended to make money, and lead people into false hope.