Swimming in a Sea of Pseudoscience

This past weekend, I was out at brunch when I saw a rack of free magazines in the restaurant's foyer. I picked out one of them, which as it turned out was a promotional brochure and schedule for something called the New Life Expo to be held in New York City this coming weekend.I read on, and the further into it I got, the more appalled I was. If you thought that humanity was entering a new and enlightened age, this magazine will force you to reconsider. If you took your impressions of the … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

• Witchcraft is now a recognized profession in Romania, subjecting its practitioners to income tax. Witches who are unhappy about this are responding pretty much like you'd expect.• A female activist in Israel faces prison time for praying at the Wailing Wall. The telling quote:"The religious world in Israel has become more and more extreme," Mrs Hoffman said. "Much like in Islam, religiosity is now measured by the distances at which women are kept from society."• A … [Read more...]

The Language of God: Science Works!

The Language of God, Chapter 5By B.J. MarshallThe tagline of this books is "A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief." I've seen that the central thesis of the book is trying to harmonize religion and science, so I was surprised to find Collins spending a lot of time talking about how he mapped the genome - I could almost read the nostalgia in his voice - including the privatization issue that arose when Craig Venter (Celera) got into the genome-mapping fray. Part of how Chapter 5 begins is … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

• Despite the good sense shown by the British Medical Association in lambasting homeopathy at their annual conference last month, the UK National Health Service has announced that it will still pay for water and sugar pills passed off as medicine.• A court in Utah has thrown out the rape conviction of Mormon cult leader Warren Jeffs, due to a legal technicality, and ordered that the case be retried. Texas is still seeking to have him extradited to face similar charges, so it seems … [Read more...]

Britain Defends the Enlightenment

Despite the ongoing schism of the Anglican church, which I wrote about in my last post, I'm happy to see that there's still plenty of good sense and reason in the U.K. One outstanding example is this story from last month, where the British Medical Association voted to stop funding homeopathy in public hospitals. (UK readers, do you know if is this a binding vote or just advisory?) There's been some trenchant commentary on the decision, like this column from Ed West:The most outspoken … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup: Net Drama Edition

The intertubes are exploding with drama this week! I'm still catching up on a backlog of reading material myself, but I thought I'd post about the more notable news items.• First off, I just have to mention this because it's such delicious schadenfreude: Chris Mooney, atheist-basher extraordinaire, had a commenter earlier this year named Tom Johnson who claimed to be a scientist and wrote about how rudely and viciously he'd seen atheist professors treat their Christian colleagues. Mooney … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

I'm happy to report that there's quite a lot of good news this week:• The U.K. government recommends that primary school religious education classes should teach about "secular beliefs such as humanism and atheism", in addition to learning about major world religions like Christianity, Buddhism and Islam. This is just one more symptom of how far ahead of us our European friends are in some respects - can you imagine the religious right frenzy that would ensue if a U.S. politician … [Read more...]

Weekly Link Roundup

Here are a few edifying, inspiring, or (alas) infuriating stories that are making the rounds this week:• First up, this truly outstanding piece from Wired on the anti-vaccination movement, An Epidemic of Fear: How Panicked Parents Skipping Shots Endangers Us All. This is what journalism is supposed to do: listen to the experts, survey the facts and adjudicate the truth, without the false-equivalency tactics that are the breath of life to kooks and advocates of pseudoscience. Here are a … [Read more...]

The Opportunity Cost of Pseudoscience

Last month, the U.S. government-funded National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine released a study which found that Americans spent $34 billion annually on alternative medicine. Although this is just 1.5% of total health care spending in the country, it represents over 11% of all out-of-pocket expenditures. The report estimates that about 38 million adults visited alternative practitioners in 2007.Unusually for a mainstream media outlet, the Boston Globe offers a much-welcomed … [Read more...]

Popular Delusions XII: Qi

A popular notion in traditional Asian cultures, as well as the garbled versions of Asian culture imported into the West by the New Age movement, is the idea of qi (or chi), the vital energy that permeates the universe and flows through living things. A wide variety of pseudoscientific beliefs are based on qi, and today's post will examine some of them, through the lens of an article in a local alternative newspaper I picked up touting qi's uses in interpersonal relations and healing.The … [Read more...]


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