A timeline of the Earth

Thanks to The Mary Sue, I see that the timeline of the Earth is all spiral like!

I’m betting no matter how big you embiggen this, you’re still not likely to see Jesus riding on a dinosaur.
A timeline of the Earth
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Science link roundup 10.4.14

No more oxygen masks?

We’re not quite there yet, but University of Southern Denmark scientists have developed a crystalline material that absorbs oxygen from water and air, and stores it for future use.

 The aptly named “Aquaman Crystal” uses cobalt to work its magic, and it doesn’t need a lot — just a few grains provides enough oxygen for the first breath. As the research team notes, because the material can continually absorb oxygen from the water, a diver would only need to bring a tiny amount underwater in order to breathe without a tank.

“It is also interesting that the material can absorb and release oxygen many times without losing the ability,” said Christine McKenzie, one of the scientists involved with the project. “It is like dipping a sponge in water, squeezing the water out of it and repeating the process over and over again.”

It has uses beyond diving, too. The scientists note that the material can also be used to help lung patients who breathe with the help of an oxygen tank.

“When the substance is saturated with oxygen, it can be compared to an oxygen tank containing pure oxygen under pressure — the difference is that this material can hold three times as much oxygen,” McKenzie said.

(via Mic)

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19 year old college fresher in Kenya aims to stop elephant poachers

While searching for this pic, I discovered many images of elephant poaching. My stomach churned. Part of me wanted to hurl. The images I saw were graphic and revolting. That people could do such a thing to an animal is abominable.

With the help of her classmates, the 19-year-old freshman at Strathmore University in Nairobi City, Kenya developed a sensor to let park rangers know when poachers have entered a wildlife preserve. The result was shown at the United Nations Social Good Summit last month.

[…]

She and her class received support from Innovate Kenya, a program that awards funding to students who pitch solutions to local problems. This particular solution involves Arduinos, which are little sensors that detect nearby movement. By placing enough of them around park borders, authorities will know if someone sneaks in (and alert them to the presence of wildfire, another issue).

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Epic eruption of volcano in Iceland captured on video by drone

* * * *

Things I did not know about cheese

But now I do, thanks to this article. I even know the answer to a question I never thought to ask (and am still shaking my head over): Can you make cheese out of human breast milk?

Other questions that are answered-

  • Why is cheese yellow?
  • Why are some people told to avoid raw-milk cheese (incidentally, this is a serious one.  Raw milk is not pasteurized, which is the process by which pathogens are eliminated from milk, which greatly reduces your chances of y’know DYING from consuming dairy products)?
  • Where do the holes in cheese come from?
  • Can lactose intolerant people eat cheese?
  • What is the difference between making cheese and yogurt?
  • Why are certain varieties of cheese made in specific places?
  • Why do fresh cheese curds squeak?

There’s a final question, but I won’t include it, bc it’s too cheesy.

Science link roundup 10.4.14

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Man sets a new world record by diving more than 1000 feet

Diving off the coast of Dahab, Egypt, Gabr reached a depth of 1,090 feet 4 inches (332.35 meters). The previous record holder for the deepest scuba dive, Nuno Gomes of South Africa, also dove off the coast of Dahab, in 2005, reaching a depth of 1,044 feet (318.21 m).

To put these depths into perspective, three American football fields laid end to end would measure 900 feet (274.32 m) long — less than the distance these divers reached underwater. Most recreational scuba divers only dive as deep as 130 feet (40 meters), according to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

It took Gabr only about 12 minutes to reach the record depth, which he achieved with the help of a specially tagged rope that he pulled along with him from the surface, Guinness World Records officials said in a statement. However, the trip back up to the surface took much longer — about 15 hours. Returning too quickly from such depths is associated with a number of health risks, such as decompression sickness (also known as the bends) and nitrogen narcosis from excess nitrogen in the brain, which Gabr luckily avoided.

15 hours to return to the surface? I wonder if he got bored with all that waiting.

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Paralyzed rats walk with spinal cord stimulation

Spinal cord injury is one of the leading causes of paralysis in the US, and the outlook for the vast majority of patients is depressingly bleak. The spinal cord is essential for movement because it acts as a middle man between the brain and the rest of the body; when it is injured, the flow of information to other body parts can be disrupted, resulting in the inability to move some or all limbs. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment, so for many the paralysis is permanent.

But recently, there have been some encouraging developments in treatment as scientists figured out a way to mimic the brain signals required for movement by directly stimulating the spinal cord with electrical pulses. Remarkably, this experimental therapy allowed four paraplegic men to regain some voluntary movement in their hips, ankles and toes.

The problem with this technique, which is known as epidural electrical stimulation (EES), is that the amplitude and frequency of electrical pulses need to be constantly adjusted, which is difficult to achieve while an individual is attempting to walk. To overcome this limitation, EPFL researchers have developed algorithms that automatically adjust the pulses in real-time during locomotion, dramatically improving the control of movement.

For the study, the researchers used paralyzed rats whose spinal cords were completely severed. They surgically implanted electrodes into their spines and then placed them on a treadmill, supporting them with a robotic harness. After testing out different pulses and monitoring walking patterns, the researchers discovered that there was a relationship between how high the rat lifted its limbs and pulse frequency. Using this information, the researchers were able to develop an algorithm that constantly monitored the rats’ movement. This data was then fed back into the system which allowed automatic, rapid adjustments in the stimulation in real time, mimicking the way that neurons fire naturally.

The rats were able to walk 1,000 steps without failure and were even able to climb staircases. “We have complete control of the rat’s hind legs,” EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine said in a news release. “The rat has no voluntary control of its limbs, but the severed spinal cord can be reactivated and stimulated to perform natural walking.”

If they can successfully adapt this for use on humans, this could benefit so many people.  Science-continuing to advance understanding and making lives better.

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Bob Carroll of The Skeptic’s Dictionary asks a few questions in an entry on Political Skepticism

Most skeptics don’t do politics unless religion is involved. Some don’t do religion unless politics is involved. Most skeptics, however, whether they do politics or religion, claim to be involved in some sort of consumer protection. They have no problem with criticizing and debunking various so-called alternative health practices. People are risking their lives and wasting their money on treatments that provide false hope at worst and some sort of placebo effect at best. Most skeptics have no problem with criticizing and debunking pseudoscientific ideas such as perpetual motion machines, free energy claims, and junk science programs that promise to unleash all that potential you have in your brain, your heart, or your body. People are wasting their time and their money on programs and devices that have no plausible scientific support. Most skeptics have no problem criticizing and debunking people who claim to be psychic. People are being emotionally manipulated at great expense by those who claim to get messages from the dead or see into the future. So why–when people are being manipulated, robbed, or physically and emotionally abused by those cloaked in the authority of religion or the state–do some skeptics balk at going there to criticize and debunk? One answer is tradition: skeptics have traditionally focused on exposing psychic fraud, paranormal mischief, and pseudoscientific quackery. In any case, there are only a few prominent skeptics who stay away from anything to do with religion, but most still do not spend much time scrutinizing the political scene for deception, fraud, abuse, unethical extortion of money, and lies that do much more damage to us than all the psychics, supplement pushers, cancer quacks, detoxers, and promoters of brain-enhancing exercises put together.

[…]

Where are the skeptics questioning the long-term effects of creating a nationwide militarized network of local police departments that not only monitor our every move, but are prepared to turn against our own citizens? What kind of Homeland Security is that? Add to all this the federal government’s monitoring of phone conversations that have nothing to do with national security or terrorism and what do you have? A recipe for a very dark future, all begun under the guise of protecting us from foreign enemies–those terrorists who “hate our freedom.

****

Police Militarization Infographic

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Man sets a new world record by diving more than 1000 feet

Diving off the coast of Dahab, Egypt, Gabr reached a depth of 1,090 feet 4 inches (332.35 meters). The previous record holder for the deepest scuba dive, Nuno Gomes of South Africa, also dove off the coast of Dahab, in 2005, reaching a depth of 1,044 feet (318.21 m).

To put these depths into perspective, three American football fields laid end to end would measure 900 feet (274.32 m) long — less than the distance these divers reached underwater. Most recreational scuba divers only dive as deep as 130 feet (40 meters), according to the Professional Association of Diving Instructors.

It took Gabr only about 12 minutes to reach the record depth, which he achieved with the help of a specially tagged rope that he pulled along with him from the surface, Guinness World Records officials said in a statement. However, the trip back up to the surface took much longer — about 15 hours. Returning too quickly from such depths is associated with a number of health risks, such as decompression sickness (also known as the bends) and nitrogen narcosis from excess nitrogen in the brain, which Gabr luckily avoided.

15 hours to return to the surface? I wonder if he got bored with all that waiting.

****

Paralyzed rats walk with spinal cord stimulation

Spinal cord injury is one of the leading causes of paralysis in the US, and the outlook for the vast majority of patients is depressingly bleak. The spinal cord is essential for movement because it acts as a middle man between the brain and the rest of the body; when it is injured, the flow of information to other body parts can be disrupted, resulting in the inability to move some or all limbs. Unfortunately, there is no effective treatment, so for many the paralysis is permanent.

But recently, there have been some encouraging developments in treatment as scientists figured out a way to mimic the brain signals required for movement by directly stimulating the spinal cord with electrical pulses. Remarkably, this experimental therapy allowed four paraplegic men to regain some voluntary movement in their hips, ankles and toes.

The problem with this technique, which is known as epidural electrical stimulation (EES), is that the amplitude and frequency of electrical pulses need to be constantly adjusted, which is difficult to achieve while an individual is attempting to walk. To overcome this limitation, EPFL researchers have developed algorithms that automatically adjust the pulses in real-time during locomotion, dramatically improving the control of movement.

For the study, the researchers used paralyzed rats whose spinal cords were completely severed. They surgically implanted electrodes into their spines and then placed them on a treadmill, supporting them with a robotic harness. After testing out different pulses and monitoring walking patterns, the researchers discovered that there was a relationship between how high the rat lifted its limbs and pulse frequency. Using this information, the researchers were able to develop an algorithm that constantly monitored the rats’ movement. This data was then fed back into the system which allowed automatic, rapid adjustments in the stimulation in real time, mimicking the way that neurons fire naturally.

The rats were able to walk 1,000 steps without failure and were even able to climb staircases. “We have complete control of the rat’s hind legs,” EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine said in a news release. “The rat has no voluntary control of its limbs, but the severed spinal cord can be reactivated and stimulated to perform natural walking.”

If they can successfully adapt this for use on humans, this could benefit so many people.  Science-continuing to advance understanding and making lives better.

****

Bob Carroll of The Skeptic’s Dictionary asks a few questions in an entry on Political Skepticism

Most skeptics don’t do politics unless religion is involved. Some don’t do religion unless politics is involved. Most skeptics, however, whether they do politics or religion, claim to be involved in some sort of consumer protection. They have no problem with criticizing and debunking various so-called alternative health practices. People are risking their lives and wasting their money on treatments that provide false hope at worst and some sort of placebo effect at best. Most skeptics have no problem with criticizing and debunking pseudoscientific ideas such as perpetual motion machines, free energy claims, and junk science programs that promise to unleash all that potential you have in your brain, your heart, or your body. People are wasting their time and their money on programs and devices that have no plausible scientific support. Most skeptics have no problem criticizing and debunking people who claim to be psychic. People are being emotionally manipulated at great expense by those who claim to get messages from the dead or see into the future. So why–when people are being manipulated, robbed, or physically and emotionally abused by those cloaked in the authority of religion or the state–do some skeptics balk at going there to criticize and debunk? One answer is tradition: skeptics have traditionally focused on exposing psychic fraud, paranormal mischief, and pseudoscientific quackery. In any case, there are only a few prominent skeptics who stay away from anything to do with religion, but most still do not spend much time scrutinizing the political scene for deception, fraud, abuse, unethical extortion of money, and lies that do much more damage to us than all the psychics, supplement pushers, cancer quacks, detoxers, and promoters of brain-enhancing exercises put together.

[…]

Where are the skeptics questioning the long-term effects of creating a nationwide militarized network of local police departments that not only monitor our every move, but are prepared to turn against our own citizens? What kind of Homeland Security is that? Add to all this the federal government’s monitoring of phone conversations that have nothing to do with national security or terrorism and what do you have? A recipe for a very dark future, all begun under the guise of protecting us from foreign enemies–those terrorists who “hate our freedom.

****

Police Militarization Infographic

Science, Skepticism, & Social Justice links

Thursday Link Roundup

Scientists have found Waterworld!

Psych!

Actually, scientists have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of an exoplanet far outside of Earth’s solar system.

Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed that its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water vapour.

Until now, researchers have been frustrated in their efforts to study the atmospheres of planets much smaller than Jupiter because their skies were thick with clouds. The problem was so persistent that astronomers had begun to think that all warm, small planets formed with substantial cloud cover.

But writing in the journal Nature, scientists in the US describe how they found a Neptune-sized planet with cloud-free skies, enabling them to make detailed measurements of a small planet’s atmosphere for the first time.

The planet, named HAT-P-11b, is about four times the diameter of Earth. It orbits so close to its star that surface temperatures reach more than 600C and a year passes in five Earth days. Like our own Neptune, the planet lacks a rocky surface – it’s a ball of gas – and is thought to be lifeless.

Scientists from the University of Maryland used Hubble’s wide field camera to analyse light from HAT-P-11b’s host star through the planet’s atmosphere. They found that light with a wavelength of 1.4 micrometres was absorbed, matching the absorption spectrum of water molecules.

“Although this planet is not classically habitable, it reveals to us that when we find Earth 2.0, we will be able to use this technique, transmission spectroscopy, to understand its atmosphere and determine the quality of life available on its shores,” said Jonathan Fraine, a graduate student and first author on the study.

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Grrrr, FOX News goes full on victim blaming:

Earlier this week, Forbes severed its relationship with columnist Bill Frezza after backlash from a column titled “Drunk Female Guests Are the Gravest Threat To Fraternities.” The article, which was eventually taken down, included a photograph of a barely conscious woman lying on the floor drinking wine.

“[W]e have very little control over women who walk in the door carrying enough pre-gaming booze in their bellies to render them unconscious before the night is through,” Frezza wrote. “Based on new standards being promulgated on campus, all consent is null and void the minute a woman becomes intoxicated — even if she is your fiancée.”

“In our age of sexual equality, why drunk female students are almost never characterized as irresponsible jerks is a question I leave to the feminists.”

On Thursday’s edition of Outnumbered, hosts Andrea Tantaros and Kirsten Powers agreed that women should take more responsibility for preventing themselves from being in situations where they could be sexually assaulted.

And just what situations are you referring to? All frat parties? Are you really going to tar every frat party, and thus every fratboy as potential rapists? Is your opinion of men that horrible?
Secondly, how do you account for the women that go to frat parties and aren’t raped?
Thirdly, are you saying if women don’t go to frat parties they won’t get raped? Really? Because last time I checked-women get raped at home, at school, at church, at the supermarket, on the street, at work, and pretty much any location you can think of. There is no “safe place” to avoid being raped.
Fourthly, rapists are responsible for raping. Stop putting the onus on women to magically stop a rapist from deciding to rape. Men can control their dicks and it’s ridiculous and victim blaming BS to claim otherwise. I may be gay, but I’ve been in plenty of situations where ::SURPRISE:: I didn’t flop out my penis and start raping. Why? Because I choose not to be a rapist. Other men are just as capable of making the same choices.

Tantaros argued that the columnist had expressed a “legitimate fear” that drunk women could destroy the fraternity system.

“I don’t know why this writer is taking so much heat because this is actually a problem that goes on,” she insisted. “These girls show up at these fraternity houses. The guys, what are they supposed to do? Lock them out? ‘Hey, how are you?’ They have a couple more beers, the girl passes out… so it is a legitimate fear.”

Co-host Kennedy Montgomery pointed out that not allowing drunk girls into the house was “exactly” what fraternities should do.

“They walk up to guys’ rooms, they get lost in the fraternity house,” Tantaros said. “Maybe they get drunk as the night goes on playing beer pong.”

Co-host Sandra Smith observed that it could be “the fault of the fraternities that have… no policies to handle this.”

“Don’t let them in the door in the first place,” she said. “Call somebody, get some help, don’t let them in the door.”

Tantaros agreed that there was an issue of “girls getting too drunk and men taking advantage of them. However, where’s the personal responsibility for both sides?”

“Really! If we say personal responsibility for women, the feminist go berserk,” she added. “They’re like, ‘No, we should be able to wear whatever we want, and drink as much as we want, and pass out in the streets.’”

“It makes the drunk girl completely clean no matter what happens — and again, we have to say it because some cuckoo person is going to start blogging how we are supporting women getting raped, which we do not support,” Powers remarked. “And she is not guilty or any of those things, but the point is that the drunk woman is — she’s just not held accountable for anything. The drunk guy, however, is supposed to make all these amazingly perfect decisions, and not make any mistakes.”

You can fuck the fuck off with that victim blaming bullshit.  Victims of rape are not responsible for their rape. Period. There’s nothing they can do to stop being raped because they aren’t the ones doing the rape.  Rapists rape. If rapists stop raping, rape won’t happen.  The drunk guy is expected to make one goddamn decision- TO NOT RAPE.  That’s not an “amazingly perfect decision”, it’s what any decent human being should do.  Grrrr…

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Go gay bashing and get less than 24 hours in jail!

They spent less than 24 hours in jail.

24-year-old Philip Williams, 24-year-old Kathryn Knott, and 26-year-old Kevin Harrigan all made bail and were released at 3:30 AM this morning.

Williams and Harrigan had bail set at $75,000 each, and Knott at $50,000 each. No word on why the amounts were different. It could be the judge sees their roles differently or their risk of flight differently.

They are all charged with Aggravated Assault, Simple Assault, Reckless Endangerment and Criminal Conspiracy.

All three were part of a gang of friends who were out to dinner September 11. Most or all of the group are believed to be friends from a local Philadelphia Catholic high school.

I bet if they were Hispanic or Black, they’d be sitting in their cells a good long while.  Also, their bail probably would have been higher.

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The International Olympic Committee has adopted a Non-Discrimination Clause

They couldn’t have done this sooner? Like, before Sochi?

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Gay couple in Azerbaijan fear for lives after engagement photo is shared by media

The president of Nefas LGBT Azerbaijan Alliance fears for his life and that of his fiance, according to the group’s Facebook page.

A photo of their engagement posted on social media was then published by media outlets in the Caspian Sea country without their permission.

Homosexuality is not illegal in Azerbaijan but there is strong public disapproval of gay people who are seen as abnormal.

Javid (Atilla) Nabiyev has since received death threats on his Facebook profile and has deactivated it.

Thursday Link Roundup

Religious Nonsense

Doing his best impression of William Lane Craig, Pat Robertson declared that there are different flavors of genocide.  One type is ok, but the other is a big naughty no-no.  Via Addicting Info:

In today’s airing of “The 700 Club”— a live television program that airs weekdays before a studio audience from The Christian Broadcasting Network’s (CBN) broadcast facilities in Virginia Beach, Virginia—Pat Robertson failed miserably in his attempt to answer a viewer’s rational question.

The question asked:

“While I understand the reason God told King Saul in 1 Samuel 15:3 to slay the Amalekites, how do you explain it to those who see it the same as the Quran teaching to “behead in the battlefield?”

Without realizing it, Robertson explained the similarities and struggled to distinguish a single difference between passages on killing and genocide in the Bible and the Quran. Pat cited Biblical references, which strengthened the parallel between the two religious texts; he even portrayed the genocidal context from the Biblical passage to be more extreme than those found in the Quran.

Here’s the video:

 

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‘Bullshit on stilts’-The Pseudoscience of Christian Fundamentalist Education

I went to an Accelerated Christian Education (ACE) school from the age of 11 to 14, and I can think of many reasons why this kind of education is a poor preparation for university. I spent half of every school day alone in a cubicle, working silently though PACEs (Packets of Accelerated Christian Education) – workbooks that incorporate religious instruction into every academic subject, for example teaching that evolution is a hoax.

These bastions of fundamentalism have been operating in Britain since the early 1980s. In 2010 the BBC reported that there were 60 in the UK.

In 2012 I began a PhD studying ACE, and discovered that little had changed since I left in 1999. I have campaigned against ACE, with some success. The shadow education secretary Tristram Hunt has described its stance on homosexuality as “dangerous” and “backwards”; the Advertising Standards Authority ruled last month that some ACE schools were mis-selling their qualifications; and the press finally noticed they were teaching that wives must submit to their husbands.

In all of this, however, little attention has been paid to the pseudoscience that ACE passes off as education. PACEs sometimes get basic science wrong, but more importantly they demonstrate that ACE can’t tell the difference between science and nonsense obscured with long words. For example, ACE’s Science 1087(aimed at students in year 9) suggests it might be possible to generate electricity from snow:

Scientists have known for years that snowflakes are shaped in six-sided, or hexagonal, patterns. But why is this? Some scientists have theorised that the electrons within a water molecule follow three orbital paths that are positioned at 60° angles to one another. Since a circle contains 360°, this electronic relationship causes the water molecule to have six ‘spokes’ radiating from a hub (the nucleus). When water vapour freezes in the air, many water molecules link up to form the distinctive six-sided snowflakes and the hexagonal pattern is quite evident.
Snowflakes also contain small air pockets between their spokes. These air pockets have a higher oxygen content than does normal air. Magnetism has a stronger attraction for oxygen than for other gases. Consequently, some scientists have concluded that a relationship exists between a snowflake’s attraction to oxygen and magnetism’s attraction to oxygen.
Job 38:22, 23 states, ‘Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow? or hast thou seen the treasures of the hail, which I have reserved against the time of trouble, against the day of battle and war?’ Considering this scripture, some scientists believe that a tremendous power resides untapped within the water molecules from which snowflakes and hailstones are made.
How can this scripture, along with these observations about snowflakes, show us a physical truth? Scientists at Virginia Tech have produced electricity more efficiently from permanent magnets, which have their lines of force related to each other at sixty-degree angles, than from previous methods of extracting electricity from magnetism. Other research along this line may reveal a way to tap electric current directly from snow, eliminating the need for costly, heavy, and complex equipment now needed to generate electricity.
My scientific knowledge isn’t superb – not helped by three years of ACE – so I asked Professor Paul Braterman, a chemist at Glasgow University and a committee member of the anti-creationist British Centre for Science Education, what he thought. “Bullshit on stilts” came his reply, in a brusque email pointing out that snow has no magnetic properties. The prospect of generating free electricity from snow, he added, “bears no relationship to reality”.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Religious Nonsense

Traditional Chinese Medicine is Quackery

There are people who think Traditional Chinese Medicine is superior to evidence based Western medicine.  These people think that TCM successfully treated people for a variety of ailments for thousands of years, so they turn to such treatments, rather than science based medicine.  Why do they think this?  What is TCM?   The introduction to this paper describes it this way:

Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) has a history of thousands of years. It is formed by summarizing the precious experience of understanding life, maintaining health, and fighting diseases accumulated in daily life, production and medical practice. It not only has systematic theories, but also has abundant preventative and therapeutic methods for disease.

 

Steven Novella explains why TCM is not a valid form of medicine:

It may be trivially true that TCM has a long history, but it is hard to ignore that the placement of this statement at the beginning of a scientific article implies an argument from antiquity – that TCM should be taken seriously because of this long history. I would argue that this is actually a reason to be suspicious of TCM, for it derives from a pre-scientific largely superstition-based culture, similar in this way to the pre-scientific Western culture that produced the humoral (Galenic) theory of biology.

The next line is an admission that TCM is largely based on anecdotal information, described as the “precious experience” of life. This is a point that is often overlooked or not understood by proponents but central to the scientific/skeptical position – what is the value and predictive power of “precious experience” in developing a system of medicine?

I maintain that there are many good reasons to conclude that any system which derives from everyday experience is likely to be seriously flawed and almost entirely cut off from reality. Obvious short term effects, the lowest hanging fruit of observation, are likely to be reliable. Uncontrolled observation is a reasonable way to discover which plants, for example, are deadly poisons. This is likely to produce some false positives but few false negatives, which is fine for survival.

Other obvious effects, like nausea, diarrhea, and psychedelic effects are also easy to discover. Similarly it was probably obvious that people need to eat, breathe, and drink in order to stay healthy and alive. But records of pre-scientific thinking about health and disease shows that little else was.

Pre-scientific doctors thought, for example, that pus was a good thing, a sign that a wound was healing.  They also did not realize that removing blood from the body was harmful, because they did not understand the vital physiological effects of blood and had fanciful superstitious notions about its role in the body.

So there are severe practical limits to what uncontrolled life experiences could figure out about health and disease. Every culture figured out some basic things, like local plants that had some uses, how to treat some forms of trauma, and to midwife childbirth, but could not figure out the complexities of biology, physiology, anatomy,  biochemistry, genetics, infection and disease pathophysiology and epidemiology.

Understanding health and disease took a more sophisticated method of observing nature – science.

How, then, could a pre-scientific culture without any knowledge of modern biology and without the methods of science develop a valid and effective system of medicine? The answer is – they couldn’t. In addition, there is now a large body of psychological research showing the many ways in which people systematically deceive themselves when it comes to finding correlations and making assumptions about cause and effect.

There is nothing about the Chinese culture or the Chinese people that should make them exempt from these documented psychological effects, or that would make their culture unique among the world’s cultures in stumbling upon notions about health and illness that were actually correct. It is extreme cultural hubris to think otherwise. When the institution of medicine in the West incorporated scientific methods as the standard of determining which treatments were safe and effective, and in understanding disease, over time almost everything that constituted “traditional Western medicine” was overturned. The “precious experience” of centuries of Western medicine resulted in largely worthless or harmful treatments, from blood-letting to toxic mineral-based treatments.

I’m not a scientists. I’m not a doctor.  I don’t know the first thing about treating illnesses or ailments.  I *do* know that our brains trick us in a variety of ways. Whether by cognitive shortcuts or biases, our minds fool us in many ways.  When practitioners of TCM claim that their methods work because people tell them they work, all they’re saying is that “our methods work bc we are told they work”.  That’s not a reliable method of determining the reliability of a given treatment.  That’s where science comes in, and specifically, the scientific method:

The scientific method is a body of techniques for investigating phenomena, acquiring new knowledge, or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.  To be termed scientific, a method of inquiry must be based on empirical and measurable evidence subject to specific principles of reasoning.  The Oxford English Dictionary defines the scientific method as “a method or procedure that has characterized natural science since the 17th century, consisting in systematic observation, measurement, and experiment, and the formulation, testing, and modification of hypotheses.”

The chief characteristic which distinguishes the scientific method from other methods of acquiring knowledge is that scientists seek to let reality speak for itself, supporting a theory when a theory’s predictions are confirmed and challenging a theory when its predictions prove false.  Although procedures vary from one field of inquiry to another, identifiable features distinguish scientific inquiry from other methods of obtaining knowledge. Scientific researchers propose hypotheses as explanations of phenomena and design experimental studies to test these hypotheses via predictions which can be derived from them. These steps must be repeatable to guard against mistake or confusion in any particular experimenter. Theories that encompass wider domains of inquiry may bind many independently derived hypotheses together in a coherent, supportive structure. Theories, in turn, may help form new hypotheses or place groups of hypotheses into context.

Scientific inquiry is intended to be as objective as possible in order to minimize bias. Another basic expectation is the documentation, archiving and sharing of all data collected or produced and of the methodologies used so they may be available for careful scrutiny and attempts by other scientists to reproduce and verify them. This practice, known as full disclosure, also means that statistical measures of their reliabilitymay be made.

Testability, r
epeatability, weeding out bias-these are proven methods for enabling us to understand reality.   This is not present in TCM (or any form of alternative “medicine”). Dugald Christie wrote the book Thirty Years in Moukden. 1883-1913. Being the Experiences and Recollections of Dugald Christie, C. M.G., which is available online for free.  Harriet Hall illuminates several examples of TCM found in the book:

Acupuncture

Chinese doctors own that they know nothing at all of surgery. They cannot tie an artery, amputate a finger or perform the simplest operation. The only mode of treatment in vogue which might be called surgical is acupuncture, practised for all kinds of ailments. The needles are of nine forms, and are frequently used red-hot, and occasionally left in the body for days. Having no practical knowledge of anatomy, the practitioners often pass needles into large blood vessels and important organs, and immediate death has sometimes resulted. A little child was carried to the dispensary presenting a pitiable spectacle. The doctor had told the parents that there was an excess of fire in its body, to let out which he must use cold needles, so he had pierced the abdomen deeply in several places. The poor little sufferer died shortly afterwards. For cholera the needling is in the arms. For some children’s diseases, especially convulsions, the needles are inserted under the nails. For eye diseases they are often driven into the back between the shoulders to a depth of several inches. Patients have come to us with large surfaces on their backs sloughing by reason of excessive treatment of this kind with instruments none too clean.

[…]

Mercury for bullet wounds

He describes removing a piece of bone from a severe gunshot wound, upon which a quantity of pure mercury poured out. The patient said, “That is the melted bullet!” Chinese doctors make no attempt to extract bullets, and they put mercury into the wound saying it will “melt the lead.” The patient is easily deceived.

[…]

Superstitions

Lucky days are chosen for taking medicines. A hair is twined around a limb above a sore to keep the poison from going to the heart. A patient attributed his illness to punishment for having offended the Tiger-god by eating tiger’s flesh. A Chinese doctor brought his daughter to the Western doctor, asking him to operate to “remove the evil thing that is preying on her life.” He believed a tortoise was growing in her abdomen and drinking her blood three times a day. He thought he could feel the tortoise’s head moving; he was actually feeling the pulsations of her aorta. The child didn’t have an abdominal problem; she had advanced tuberculosis of the lungs.

[…]

Doctor-shopping

Patients have little confidence in their doctors. If the medicine doesn’t cure them in a few days, they set it aside and consult another doctor without telling the first. It is common to use the medicines of several doctors at once.

Note: This is important to know, because people commonly assume that an herbal treatment that has been used for centuries must be safe and effective because if it wasn’t the herbalists would have known by now and would have stopped using it. Patients switched doctors when the treatment wasn’t working, without telling the first doctor. So he would assume his treatment had cured the patient and he got no feedback about treatment failures and side effects. These ancient herbalists had no systematic way of evaluating treatment successes vs. failures or of discovering adverse effects.

Hall concludes with:

The book offers a glimpse into history showing how truly ineffective and barbaric TCM really was. This information could go a long way to correct the misconceptions of those who have succumbed to the “ancient wisdom” fallacy. If they read it and paid attention. Which they won’t.

Plants often contain chemical compounds that act on the human body, and TCM accidentally came across some herbal remedies that actually work, but scientific testing is required to figure out which ones those are. And regulation of sources is required to prevent contaminants and ensure purification and standardization. TCM may have made a few serendipitous herbal discoveries, but as a system of medical care it has no validity. It is a historical curiosity and an anachronism.

 

 

 

Traditional Chinese Medicine is Quackery

Kevin Sorbo doesn't understand atheists

Kevin Sorbo was the star of a syndicated 1990s tv show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.  Recently, he starred in a christian film called God is Not Dead where he played an atheist.  He says he doesn’t understand why atheists are so angry about a god they don’t believe in: 

Sorbo, who is still promoting his most recent film, God Is Not Dead, in which he plays an atheist, said he can’t comprehend the logic behind atheist’s lack of beliefs and their anger.

“I’m a Christian myself and had to play an atheist. I see the anger of these (atheist) guys on TV and it’s like ‘wow, how do you get so angry at something you don’t believe in?”  Sorbo said.

Earlier this year, Sorbo discussed self-professed atheist Bill Maher, calling him “angry and lonely,” before adding, “I did Politically Incorrect a couple of times, and all I can do is feel sad for the guy, because I think he is a very angry and lonely man. Comedy comes from anger anyway. You know, what are you going to say when a guy talks like this?”

 

My first question I’d ask him is have you ever listened to an atheist?  If he had, he’d realize that we’re not angry all the time.  You see, atheists, like other human beings, are human.  We possess and display the full range of human emotions (to one degree or another, and at various points in our lives).  

We laugh when we’re happy.

We cry when we’re sad.

We get frustrated when things don’t go as planned.

We shrug our shoulders over things we don’t care about.

We care about the lives of family and friends.

We show concern when the people we care about are hurt.

We are most certainly *not* angry all the time.  To believe that is to truly not know what the fuck one is talking about.

We do get angry though. 

Some of us get angry on a regular basis, and guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that.  Anger is an emotion and like all emotions it helps us express our thoughts and feelings.  There is much in the world to be happy or joyous about.  There is also much to be angry about.  I could discuss a great many things about religion in general that make me angry, but I’ll limit it to just 5 items (and not just christianity Mr. Sorbo, it’s hardly unique):

  1. I’m mad that the Catholic Church uses it position as one of the most powerful organizations on the planet to deny women the right to have an abortion.  The right to bodily autonomy is a right all human beings have.  It is foundational to the right to self-defense, which is a right all humans have.  To deny women the right to have an abortion results in women being denied a right they are entitled to by virtue of being human.  Such a denial relegates women to second class status, and I condemn that 1000%. 
  2. I’m mad that children are brought up, indoctrinated into religious belief.  The foundation of religious belief-faith-instills in children (from a very young age) the idea that it is preferable to hold beliefs without any reason to do so; in the face of evidence to the contrary.  Religious belief hinders the ability of children in the areas of logic and critical thinking.  The damage isn’t irreversible, but is difficult to overcome.  The ability to use critical thinking, logic, and reason is essential in learning how to understand and interpret the world around us.  These tools are also important in allowing us to cut through the bullshit we so often find in life. Faith-belief without evidence-allows people to believe in all manner of things, often to their own personal detriment.
  3. Religious teachings on sexuality are wrong.  As I’ve written before, there is no moral component to sexuality.  It’s personal to each individual, and has no bearing on questions of right and wrong in interactions between people.  I find the teaching of *many* religions on the subject of sexuality to be abominable.  Homosexuality is not morally wrong. Bisexuality is not morally wrong.  That many religions teach that homosexuality is morally wrong is itself deeply immoral.  These teaching have led parents to disown their kids, kick them out of their homes, and even kill them.  These teachings have led to a lifetime of shame and disgust that many people feel over their sexuality. These religious teachings have led entire countries-I’m looking at you Russia-to enact legislation that discriminates against and oppresses people.  All for the “crime” of not being heterosexual. Religious teachings on sexuality-on the whole-are deeply harmful to people, and actively work to make people miserable and the world a worse place.
  4. Creationism does not belong in the classroom.  It is a wholly religious idea that has no foundation in science.  There is no empirical evidence in support of creationism, yet despite this, there are efforts across the US and other parts of the world to teach creationism in place of evolution in the classroom.  This angers me because I want people to be educated, but I want that education to be reality based.  Not fantasy based.  Evolution has mountains of evidence to support it, and a vast array of scientific disciplines support the theory of evolution.  
  5. I am an atheist.  That means I do not believe in the existence of any god or gods.  That does *not* mean I’m an immoral shitbag who has no reason to not rape or kill people. I am angry that people believe-without knowing who I am-that I’m an immoral person. Morality concerns the distinctions between right and wrong or good and evil actions between humans.  How does one determine whether a particular course of action is good or evil?  One way is to attempt to understand how the other person feels in that situation.  If I’m trying to decided if I want to punch someone or not, by imagining myself in the shoes of someone else, it can be easy to see that they wouldn’t like to be punched.  I know I don’t want to be punched either, so it’s probably a good idea for me to not punch them, at least if I think they have the same rights as I do (which I do).  The Golden Rule-basically treating others as you would be treated yourself-has been in existence for longer than christianity, and informs morality.   Likewise, morality was a necessary component in creating societies.  There must be rules to govern our interactions if we’re going to live among each other, and humans being a social species, that’s pretty much going to happen everywhere.  These rules attempt to balance the desires of the individual against the desires of society as a whole.  Destructive, damaging behaviors obviously harm society as a whole and are discouraged.  Positive behaviors are encouraged.  This is obviously in simple terms, but we don’t encourage people to kill or rape one another because that threatens social cohesion by affecting the safety and security of others.  The idea that you cannot have morality without god is a false one (and ridiculous anyways-how can you decide which actions are good and which are bad when {if you use christianity} god commits genocide and encourages or permits rape, slavery, and murder?)

If Sorbo were interested in actually learning why many atheists are angry-sometimes-he ought to check out Greta Christina’s book Why Are You Atheists So Angry:  99 Things That Piss Off The Godless. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of good reasons to get angry at the actions of the religious. Given the shit going on in the world, if you’re not angry, then you don’t care, and apathy is responsible for tremendous amounts of human suffering.

Incidentally Mr. Sorbo, we aren’t angry at god. We’re angry at how believers act in the name
of god.

Kevin Sorbo doesn't understand atheists

Kevin Sorbo doesn’t understand atheists

Kevin Sorbo was the star of a syndicated 1990s tv show, Hercules: The Legendary Journeys.  Recently, he starred in a christian film called God is Not Dead where he played an atheist.  He says he doesn’t understand why atheists are so angry about a god they don’t believe in: 

Sorbo, who is still promoting his most recent film, God Is Not Dead, in which he plays an atheist, said he can’t comprehend the logic behind atheist’s lack of beliefs and their anger.

“I’m a Christian myself and had to play an atheist. I see the anger of these (atheist) guys on TV and it’s like ‘wow, how do you get so angry at something you don’t believe in?”  Sorbo said.

Earlier this year, Sorbo discussed self-professed atheist Bill Maher, calling him “angry and lonely,” before adding, “I did Politically Incorrect a couple of times, and all I can do is feel sad for the guy, because I think he is a very angry and lonely man. Comedy comes from anger anyway. You know, what are you going to say when a guy talks like this?”

 

My first question I’d ask him is have you ever listened to an atheist?  If he had, he’d realize that we’re not angry all the time.  You see, atheists, like other human beings, are human.  We possess and display the full range of human emotions (to one degree or another, and at various points in our lives).  

We laugh when we’re happy.

We cry when we’re sad.

We get frustrated when things don’t go as planned.

We shrug our shoulders over things we don’t care about.

We care about the lives of family and friends.

We show concern when the people we care about are hurt.

We are most certainly *not* angry all the time.  To believe that is to truly not know what the fuck one is talking about.

We do get angry though. 

Some of us get angry on a regular basis, and guess what? There’s nothing wrong with that.  Anger is an emotion and like all emotions it helps us express our thoughts and feelings.  There is much in the world to be happy or joyous about.  There is also much to be angry about.  I could discuss a great many things about religion in general that make me angry, but I’ll limit it to just 5 items (and not just christianity Mr. Sorbo, it’s hardly unique):

  1. I’m mad that the Catholic Church uses it position as one of the most powerful organizations on the planet to deny women the right to have an abortion.  The right to bodily autonomy is a right all human beings have.  It is foundational to the right to self-defense, which is a right all humans have.  To deny women the right to have an abortion results in women being denied a right they are entitled to by virtue of being human.  Such a denial relegates women to second class status, and I condemn that 1000%. 
  2. I’m mad that children are brought up, indoctrinated into religious belief.  The foundation of religious belief-faith-instills in children (from a very young age) the idea that it is preferable to hold beliefs without any reason to do so; in the face of evidence to the contrary.  Religious belief hinders the ability of children in the areas of logic and critical thinking.  The damage isn’t irreversible, but is difficult to overcome.  The ability to use critical thinking, logic, and reason is essential in learning how to understand and interpret the world around us.  These tools are also important in allowing us to cut through the bullshit we so often find in life. Faith-belief without evidence-allows people to believe in all manner of things, often to their own personal detriment.
  3. Religious teachings on sexuality are wrong.  As I’ve written before, there is no moral component to sexuality.  It’s personal to each individual, and has no bearing on questions of right and wrong in interactions between people.  I find the teaching of *many* religions on the subject of sexuality to be abominable.  Homosexuality is not morally wrong. Bisexuality is not morally wrong.  That many religions teach that homosexuality is morally wrong is itself deeply immoral.  These teaching have led parents to disown their kids, kick them out of their homes, and even kill them.  These teachings have led to a lifetime of shame and disgust that many people feel over their sexuality. These religious teachings have led entire countries-I’m looking at you Russia-to enact legislation that discriminates against and oppresses people.  All for the “crime” of not being heterosexual. Religious teachings on sexuality-on the whole-are deeply harmful to people, and actively work to make people miserable and the world a worse place.
  4. Creationism does not belong in the classroom.  It is a wholly religious idea that has no foundation in science.  There is no empirical evidence in support of creationism, yet despite this, there are efforts across the US and other parts of the world to teach creationism in place of evolution in the classroom.  This angers me because I want people to be educated, but I want that education to be reality based.  Not fantasy based.  Evolution has mountains of evidence to support it, and a vast array of scientific disciplines support the theory of evolution.  
  5. I am an atheist.  That means I do not believe in the existence of any god or gods.  That does *not* mean I’m an immoral shitbag who has no reason to not rape or kill people. I am angry that people believe-without knowing who I am-that I’m an immoral person. Morality concerns the distinctions between right and wrong or good and evil actions between humans.  How does one determine whether a particular course of action is good or evil?  One way is to attempt to understand how the other person feels in that situation.  If I’m trying to decided if I want to punch someone or not, by imagining myself in the shoes of someone else, it can be easy to see that they wouldn’t like to be punched.  I know I don’t want to be punched either, so it’s probably a good idea for me to not punch them, at least if I think they have the same rights as I do (which I do).  The Golden Rule-basically treating others as you would be treated yourself-has been in existence for longer than christianity, and informs morality.   Likewise, morality was a necessary component in creating societies.  There must be rules to govern our interactions if we’re going to live among each other, and humans being a social species, that’s pretty much going to happen everywhere.  These rules attempt to balance the desires of the individual against the desires of society as a whole.  Destructive, damaging behaviors obviously harm society as a whole and are discouraged.  Positive behaviors are encouraged.  This is obviously in simple terms, but we don’t encourage people to kill or rape one another because that threatens social cohesion by affecting the safety and security of others.  The idea that you cannot have morality without god is a false one (and ridiculous anyways-how can you decide which actions are good and which are bad when {if you use christianity} god commits genocide and encourages or permits rape, slavery, and murder?)

If Sorbo were interested in actually learning why many atheists are angry-sometimes-he ought to check out Greta Christina’s book Why Are You Atheists So Angry:  99 Things That Piss Off The Godless. Suffice it to say, there are plenty of good reasons to get angry at the actions of the religious. Given the shit going on in the world, if you’re not angry, then you don’t care, and apathy is responsible for tremendous amounts of human suffering.

Incidentally Mr. Sorbo, we aren’t angry at god. We’re angry at how believers act in the name
of god.

Kevin Sorbo doesn’t understand atheists

I think Ray Comfort flunked middle school science class

(source: pharyngula)

Last time I checked, science demonstrated that gravity exists in space.  It’s what keeps moons in orbit around planets. It also keeps planets in orbit around the sun.  

I think Ray Comfort flunked middle school science class