The Extraordinary Claims Campaign Hits Canada

On Friday, the Centre for Inquiry Canada will launch the “Extraordinary Claims Campaign” featuring bus ads and in-person educational events:

There’s a wonderfully broad spectrum of foolish beliefs on that list. But this is Canada, not the US, so I wonder how much traction it will get in the media…

Still, it’s a campaign worthy of your support.

(via Canadian Atheist)

  • Hitch

    I like the aesthetic craftsmanship on these. Very nice.

  • Kaitlin

    I wouldn’t oppose alternative medicine all together. Western traditional medicine has taught us that it’s ok to put Lithium, Vicoden, Prozac,& thousands of other drugs into our systems to be “normal”. I know alternative medicine won’t cure a broken leg, but in a stress sense yoga is relaxing and good for me (I by no means worship anything about it…) I think it’s more healthy to promote eastern ways of lifestyle coping than western’s version- neither should be worshiped, I just don’t want to promote putting battery chemicals inside of people’s bodies instead of stretching :)

  • Richard Wade

    I really, really like this! I’m making a donation to CFI Canada just to support them for this excellent idea, but I want to see this in the U.S. How can I help bring it here?

  • JSug

    Ooh, purty. They should really consider selling poster versions of that. I’d buy one.

    @Kaitlin: It’s great if you are able to relieve stress by doing vigorous stretching. There’s plenty of evidence that exercise is good for you in many ways. But there are legitimate medical reasons for prescribing all those drugs. The fact that you personally get by without them is apropos of nothing. (am I even using that phrase right? :) )

    The saying goes: If it worked, they wouldn’t call it “alternative medicine”. They would just call it “medicine.”

    “Alternative” is the label that marketers use when they can offer no evidence that their product/technique has any beneficial effect.

  • SmilingAtheist

    Kaitlin Says:

    I wouldn’t oppose alternative medicine all together.

    Well your idea of ‘alternative’ medicine is based on exercise, which isn’t really all that alternative and is good for us. When talking about alternative medicine the claims of acupuncture, homeopathy, and naturopathy, etc are what most people talk about which require the ‘placebo’ effect to work, though naturopathy can be dangerous if someone takes the wrong thing. Let’s not discuss Chinese medicine.

    I don’t disagree with you with regards to too much meds but that’s not just about meds, it’s about people who want them or doctors who prescribe them, sometimes unwarranted. Nothing is black and white in this and I wish people wouldn’t make generalized statements.

    Other than that this is a great idea and I hope it does some good. Canada is a great place but there are still those who sometimes need some ‘help’ seeing reality.

  • Unrein

    I wouldn’t oppose alternative medicine all together. Western traditional medicine has taught us that it’s ok to put Lithium, Vicoden, Prozac,& thousands of other drugs into our systems to be “normal”. I know alternative medicine won’t cure a broken leg, but in a stress sense yoga is relaxing and good for me (I by no means worship anything about it…) I think it’s more healthy to promote eastern ways of lifestyle coping than western’s version- neither should be worshiped, I just don’t want to promote putting battery chemicals inside of people’s bodies instead of stretching :)

    I wonder if yoga destroys brain cells, so blithely ignorant is this little screed. What the hell is “western traditional medicine”? Not everyone’s body works the same way, and what works for one does little for someone else. The medicine is fine, but it’s the bullshit American system that keeps advertising all kinds of medicine for people who don’t need it. “Ask your doctor if this shit is right for you” is absolute bullshit. You go to the doctor with an ailment, not because you think you need some damn pill. One of the medicines you mention has rid me of panic attacks completely, which is pretty good for “battery chemicals”, don’t you think?

    And I highly doubt stretching would have done jack shit to help.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Can we get this campaign exported south, plz?

  • http://auryn29a.livejournal.com Auryn

    Anybody else kind of disappointed it’s not in alphabetical order?

  • Lauren

    wow. so much for “friendly” already.

    how do you define “alternative”

    Garlic is a KNOWN anti-biotic and anti-viral. it is not as strong or concentrated. but it would certainly fall under “alternative” same with lots of other herbs that have real effect.

    I can induce my period anytime I want without “western” meds.

    Using the known fact that vitamin C is an emmenagogue is alternative. Most people don’t use it, and my doctor would be mad that I’m messing with my cycle (even though hormonal birth control completely does away with your cycle)

    To say that “it doesn’t count because it works” is bull. there is mainstream and there is the alternative to mainstream. some things in the alternative work.

    oregano, garlic, onion are expectorates they are an alternative to mucinex.

    etc. etc. etc.

  • Jeff B

    I just got back from my first visit to Vancouver. In the Midwest where I live, it always seems trendy to joke on Canada as being secondary to the US, but this campaign is ballsy as hell and you’d be hard pressed to find something this blatant and awesome in the states. Love it

  • lynna

    i LOVE this …purely because it has to do with my hero, Mr. Sagan :)

  • Hamilton Jacobi

    I was wondering why there was no acknowledgment of Carl Sagan on the web site, but then I clicked through to the video and was pleased to hear his voice.

    I agree that this needs to be exported south of the border.

  • Kaitlin

    I said I don’t oppose “alternative medicine” all together, I did by no means encomapass every single belief of it. I take Neurontin and Xanax because I have temporal lobe epilepsy which I feel is quite more significant than a “panic disorder”. Lithium is not even used an as anti anxiety medication it is only used to treat bipolar and schitzophrenia, yes I’m highly educated in psychology and medicine- sorry. If you really were educated about your own illness as you say so many ignorant people aren’t than you would know that the only prescribed pills for this disorder are benzodiazephines (you would also be very familiar with the phrase “western traditional medicine”) so I suggest you see your doctor and find out what is really wrong. Anyways, next time you decide to let out your misplaced hypomanic aggression on a blogger you should think of the title of the website “friendly atheist” and abide :) Cheers! <3

  • Flail

    I realize that some chiropractors make silly claims about what they can do, but chiropractic treatment can actually help with certain health issues. It won’t cure blindness or the common cold, but it can certainly help with joint related problems. I’m not sure why it is being placed in the same camp as homeopathy, which is proven to be BS.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/ChristopherTK ChristopherTK

    Virgin Birth,

    The bravest, silliest lie ever told to an impotent husband to cover some woman’s actions.

  • James

    @Flail

    Actually Flail, have a read at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chiropractic#Evidence_basis and you will see that there isn’t much evidence at all to support Chiropractic claims: even the results for lower back pain are far from overwhelming.

  • James

    @Kaitlin

    I understand that you would take issue with comments about your brain cells.

    I don’t consider Yoga to be an “Alternative Medicine”, at least not unless someone tells people that it will cure ailments. As has been noted, increased physical fitness and lower stress are both achieved from yoga, and both improve one’s quality of life.

    However, I think other comments with regards to Alternative Medicine stand: while it is clearly an incredibly broad category, I can’t think of anything off the top of my head that falls into that category and has been shown with double blind placebo testing to be effective…

    On second thought that isn’t entirely true: for example many herbs have proven affects, however, those examples tend to get mixed up with a much larger set of other claims of the same nature that do NOT have supporting evidence (i.e. herbal remedies to cure the cold) and thus as a group they would be included in lists such as this.

  • HP

    Speaking of “western medicine,” are we just randomly throwing out shit in this thread?

    Because I’d like to say that, as a skeptic, I am far less interested in God than I am in ghosts.

    It takes an entire culture to keep a god alive, but all ghosts need are a quiet room, low light levels, a bit of suggestion, and a bit of grief.

    Explain ghosts, and you explain everything from Bigfoot to ET to Yahweh.

  • James

    @Lauren

    Rude comments from individuals not withstanding, pointing out that someone’s beliefs are not supported by evidence is not necessarily unfriendly.

    As I mentioned in my previous post, there are certainly effective remedies amongst the plethora of bunk, but it’s easier to address the larger group rather than make a meticulous list of the effective ones.

  • Peter Mahoney

    This ad campaign is AWESOME. It “NAILS IT” for me, in the sense that I don’t “just” not believe in god(s), it’s that I don’t believe in ANYTHING that is SUPERNATURAL.

    When I tell believers that I am an atheist (when that comes up), I usually tell them that I don’t believe in anything supernatural, and then I mention ghosts, the boogie-man, tooth-fairy, various gods, etc.
    I really think they are less prepared for hearing their god myth lumped in with other stuff they know is myth. (Rather than just hearing me challenge one idea: God, where my failure to believe sounds crazy to them.)

    Keep up the good work, Canadians!

  • Anonymous

    Kaitlin

    Western traditional medicine has taught us that it’s ok to put Lithium, Vicoden, Prozac,& thousands of other drugs into our systems to be “normal”

    Your prejudice is showing.
    Lauren

    I can induce my period anytime I want without “western” meds.

    Quite a claim.

    Flail: Perhaps you’d like to read some Edzard Ernst. Here’s a start
    http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/may/27/health-nice-chiropractic

    May I recommend to you all Sciencebasedmedicine.org and particularly one of my favorite writers, Harriet Hall.

  • Oz Tilson

    for all those who want to see this come south…..support it in Canada so that it is successful….then it probably will. OR contact your local skeptic/atheist chapter and make sure they know about it. Maybe YOU can bring it to your country!

  • http://www.fineartlampscapes.com Crodley

    Just FYI, here’s a very very interesting (and Looong) thread over on the James Randi forum where somebody poses the idea that the much beloved Carl Sagan quote isn’t accurate, they say evidence is evidence, no such thing as “extraordinary” evidence.
    Link

  • Angel

    WHAT? OGOPOGO ISN’T REAL??

    As someone who actually grew up with Ogopogo legends (you try living in a community on the lake and not hear them), it actually pleased me to no extent to see the lake monster listed. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who you would expect to have a much higher level of sanity in the area who have a “you don’t know what is down there, there could be a giant water monster” attitude about it all.

  • http://www.oldearthaccretionist.com/ Old Earth Accretionist

    @Angel

    I know! I loved that Ogopogo was in the list too. My sister and I spent many an hour looking for Ogopogo when my family went camping in the Okanagan. We never did find him though…

    Also, I approve of this ad campaign and am looking forward to seeing these around soon. It’s pretty hard to choose a better spoken inspiration than Carl Sagan.

  • http://www.youtube.com/aajoeyjo Joe Zamecki

    I LOVE that video and that ad poster. Very well thought out! Everybody needs to favorite that video, and share this post.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    i get so tired of this crap. acupuncture? an actual medical science. just because some people don’t understand how it works, and why it works, doesn’t mean it’s making “extraordinary” claims. no, it means you’re ignorant of traditional asian medicine. same deal for several other things on that list. people in the west can be so ignorant, and it’s quite annoying. no, there are no demons, gods or yetis. and no, we don’t know yet if there is other intelligent life in the universe, but it’s a pretty big place and i wouldn’t rule it out, given how puny and new our sciences to explore the universe are. and no, western medicine is not a perfect, wholly unbiased endeavor. in fact, if you look into it closely, you’ll see just how many of its claims are biased by powerful monied interests who have more of a desire to sell lots and lots of drugs, than they do for things like actually curing disease. it’s more profitable when people are sick.

    blech. thumbs down on this one, Hemant.

  • http://www.correntewire.com chicago dyke

    Your prejudice is showing.

    and you sound like a junkie.

    it’s so amusing to me how quickly people forget: for hundreds and thousands of years, people lived and thrived without happy pills. but if you ever want to get a million hits on your website, and a boatload of angry, pathetic comments from people, point this out to them, and point out that the “science” behind a lot of the “research” that “proves” many of today’s popular drugs work? that much of the modern day research process is utterly corrupted and biased by the tremendous power of the pharmaceutical industry. you’ll never hear the end of it. “a man in a white coat on the TV told me it’s safe and effective, so it must be true!”

    skeptical, people. it’s what we’re supposed to be. i accept your skepticism about “alternative” therapies that obviously a lot of people here have never tried, studied or used. but you better apply that same standard to those pills you can’t believe you could live without. i speak from a position of some knowledge and experience about science and research, btw.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    chicago dyke:

    acupuncture? an actual medical science.

    Sorry, but acupuncture is just an elaborate placebo. That’s especially clear when comparing acupuncture to “sham acupuncture,” where needles are placed in the wrong places and/or the needle prick is faked.

    chicago dyke:

    you better apply that same standard to those pills you can’t believe you could live without.

    You mean, say, by using medication that’s been vetted by double-blind studies? That covers most “Western” drugs, actually.

  • James

    @chicago dyke:

    You might want to rethink your stance on accupuncture: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Acupuncture#Efficacy. The overall result from studies shows that accupuncture doesn’t outperform the placebo effect nor does it outperform sham accupuncture. To call it an “actual medical science” is completely incorrect. We know exactly how it works: by placebo effect (or possibly distraction from pain, but we don’t call biting a piece of leather medical science either).

    I will agree with you that there is monetary gain fueling medical research and treatment.

    I think you’re being disingenuous with “for hundreds and thousands of years, people lived and thrived without happy pills”. You do realize that our life expectancy was less than 30 years old? I shudder to think what the infant mortality rate was, or what it would be like to contract a staph infection from a cut…

  • http://www.nutzak.org/ hnutzak

    Yoga – It isn’t in the list, and I don’t believe it qualifies as “alternative medicine” or “homeopathy”. Sure, there are a lot of yoga practitioners who view it as a spiritual thing and make claims of “spiritual healing”, but they’re just common wackaloons. Deep, controlled breathing, stretching and muscle flexing are good for the body. The lymphatic system, sometimes called the secondary circular system, helps eliminate toxins from organs and tissues, but it does not have a “pump” like the heart… Lymph is circulated by body movements. Ask a medical doctor.

    Chiropractic – It needs more study, but doesn’t get much, due in large part to the war between medical doctors and chiropractors. Yes, many chiropractors have some really silly claims- I know a chiropractor who wears a pendant that supposedly shields one from electromagnetic radiation that is claimed to sap one’s energy, or some nonsense. However, you should see my spinal X-rays, before and after. They make it pretty clear why I feel much better after seeing a chiropractor.

    Being a skeptic also means being careful to not throw the baby out with the bathwater.

  • anon

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”

    Oh this is good. God an extraordinary claim? Begging the question. “God doesn’t exist; therefore, he is an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence! I see no evidence; therefore, God doesn’t exist!”

    I’ve got an extraordinary claim for you atheists. “A baby in her mother’s womb isn’t really a baby!” Pretty extraordinary, yet you’re content to flush out a woman’s uterus whenever it’s convenient, without extraordinary evidence that it’s not murdering a child to do so!

    If atheists weren’t so disingenuous, I’d expect to see an even split among pro-life and pro-abortion atheists. But you’re all, every one of you, pro-abortion. Why? Pretty simple, really. If there’s no God to tell you it’s wrong, and you can just kill your babies instead of taking responsibility for your actions, and you can take a pill for your STD, then whoopee! No more consequences for sex!

    Think about this: Paying for sex is illegal, but murdering for sex is not. It’s illegal to use a human being for sex, but it’s not illegal to use and throw out a baby for sex. Why do you think that is? To say it’s because a baby isn’t human is just forcing your hand; you have no proof that it’s not human, just that until the second half of the first trimester, it doesn’t quite look like one yet! Extraordinary evidence? More like a wild guess!

    You’ll never reverse your opinion on abortion, though, even despite the total absence of evidence in your favor, because it’s too important to prove to yourselves that sex is consequence-free so you can believe fornication is somehow not immoral.

    It’s clear beyond a shadow of a doubt to me that your loud clamoring for “extraordinary evidence” is little more than a manufactured front that you hide behind. Otherwise, you would apply it equitably and not just in cases where it benefits you.

  • http://xbowvsbuddha.blogspot.com Dr Rotwang!

    Dragons? Elves? Gnomes? Vampires? Leprechauns? Wizards? I have evidence of those! Why, I have several Monster Manuals that give evidence of –

    – okay, they give hit dice for…

    …wait. Someone claims those are real…?

  • Inthewater

    @ Anon at 8:30 am.

    Do you have some sort of evidence that all atheists are pro-abortion?

    It seems very narrow-minded of you to think you know how everyone feels about any topic.

    Or, was this just supposed to be another extraodinary claim?

  • http://www.nutzak.org/ hnutzak

    Anon- Nobody is “pro-abortion”. Show me evidence of someone expressing the idea that what we need is more abortions. Atheists would like to reduce or eliminate the need for abortions, but we prefer to do it through education and access to contraception rather than ramming the bible down people’s throats. Common sense age-appropriate sex education is proven to reduce the abortion rate, while abstinence-only sex education has been proven time and time again to increase the rates of unwanted pregnancy among teens. But you’ve clearly demonstrated that you’re nothing but a hateful, closed-minded troll, so I’m sure I’m wasting my time on you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    Hmm, not a fan of CFI but overall fairly nice. However, let’s remember that extraordinary proof often comes from the ability to make extraordinary claims.

    CFI would not have approved of Queen Isabella financing Columbus’ trip to the New World because it was an extraordinary claim. If science was left to CFI’s standards, we’d have no airplanes because man having the ability to fly is certainly an extraordinary claim.

    In other words, I don’t like the limitation of it. Let’s let imagination roam free. It’s what new inventions and understandings of our world come from.

    Yes, extraordinary claims do indeed require extraordinary evidence but, hey, let them be explored. You can’t prove shit without exploring its possibilities. And it’s exploring the possibilities that is so disproving the god nonsense these days. Just as no one believes in the ridiculousness of leprechauns these days, gods’ days are numbered due to greater knowledge and understanding.

    Also too many things are lumped under one umbrella. I frown on alternative medicine but I’ve been thinking about this since the last post and last attack on Chicago Dyke for (for which I am among the guilty and hence must, therefore, apologize, CD, and say you got me thinking anyway) and we lump things like herbs and acupunture yoga minus the woo in with faith healing? Why exactly?

    We are way too quick to resort to big pharma’s claim despite the harm often later found resulting in class action suits. I took heat for refusing Vioxx then it was recalled. I take heat for refusing a knee transplant and now they and hip replacements are being recalled. This tells me I was wise to be skeptical of so-called real (vs. alternative) medicine and I will remain so.

    Likewise with alternative medicine and the reason it’s called alternative is it hasn’t been examined for it’s effectiveness. Herbs aren’t regulated by the FDA and, frankly, I just wonder why the fuck not? But how can we know their effectiveness or lack thereof if there’s no verification or disproval? Same for big pharma. It should not be self-regulating and the FDA has become a joke pushing shit through that it shouldn’t be resulting in later class action law suits.

    Let’s examine the harm that can be done. I won’t risk chiropractic for instance because if you get the wrong practitioner, great harm can be done. But if I take onion and garlic for congestion relatively none beyond bad breath can be done unless I ignore congestion not clearing up after taking it. Same thing for Mucinex, frankly. Only can Mucinex have side affects?

    We should protect our bodies as skeptically as we do our minds.

  • JSug

    anon said:

    Oh this is good. God an extraordinary claim? Begging the question. “God doesn’t exist; therefore, he is an extraordinary claim. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence! I see no evidence; therefore, God doesn’t exist!”

    It’s not an extraordinary claim because we assume it to be false. It’s an extraordinary claim because, if true, it has many significant implications about our understanding of the universe we live in. It would represent a discovery that is outside our ordinary experiences (hence “extraordinary”). As someone who takes a skeptical stance towards knowledge, I cannot accept such a claim without some sort of confirming evidence. Real, objective evidence. So yes, because I have not seen any such evidence, despite spending years looking for it, I don’t accept the claim that a god exists. That’s what makes me an atheist.

    I’m not going to address your rambling rant about abortion because it’s just stupid. I’ll just point out that I know atheists who are against abortion, and I personally have a much more nuanced opinion on the matter than you seem to think.

  • James

    @ hnutzak
    Check out wikipedia on homeopathy: It is an easily definable practise that has nothing to do with Yoga whatsoever. It is also one of the most widely tested and debunked alternative medicines out there.

    Check the link I put in above for chriopractic studies (it’s also from wikipedia); there have been plenty of studies. Well designed studies always trump anecdotal evidence: that’s the entire basis of scientific research, and I think science’s track record speaks for itself: we certainly wouldn’t be having this discussion on the internet without it :)

    Please remember not to feed the trolls, anon is surely one of those…

  • http://www.oldearthaccretionist.com/ Old Earth Accretionist

    @anon

    as hnutzak (nice name by the way it took me a couple seconds to get it) said nobody is pro-abortion. No one is saying go out and abort those fetuses! What we are doing is defending the right of women in extreme situations to have legal access to sage medical procedures that will allow them to have an abortion.

    What the “pro-lifers” always fail to reognize is that the people who have abortions are overwhelmingly people in dire straights and many of them are survivors of rape (not exactly having fun “consequence-free” sex is it anon?). But really, the rate of abortions performed does NOT (look at the studies and statistics) drop when you criminalize abortions. The level remains steady. What changes is the number of people who die because of unsafe, unsanitary or self-applied abortion procedures… i.e. more infant and mother deaths… i.e. the opposite of “pro-life” because in those cases the only difference is that the fetus is aborted AND the mother dies.

    Saying that we support a woman’s right to not die because she cannot support a pregnancy doesn’t mean we are all thinking “durr… I’ll have recreational sex and then abort if there’s a mistake.”

    No one WANTS an abortion. Some are DRIVEN to an abortion by a combination of circumstances. Supporting this right is not the wonton decision to have “consequence free” sex. that pro-lifers are always bandying about. This is a serious and complicated issue and it takes more than flippant, inaccurate accusations that we want people to have abortions because we love sex and hate children.

    It’s ironic that institutions like the catholic church abhor birth control, realistic sex-education and abortions. While the ONLY things that have been shown to reduce the number of abortions are birth control and realistic sex-education.

    @Chicago Dyke
    I’m going to have to disagree with you there. Acupuncture is making just as extraordinary claims as your medical doctor is when they prescribe an antibiotic or perform surgery. And they should be held to the same rigorous proofs. If you disagree with claims of acupuncture’s ineffectiveness search for studies on things like acupuncture send the people running the campaign any evidence for it you find. Every one of the claims they have listed they will have a page describing the proof or lack of proof for the extraordinary claim.

    And double-blind studies done by many different organizations and study groups about the same claims are the way researchers and scientists keep each other honest even in the face of corruption. If you publish a result that cannot be reproduced your result is considered either an anomaly or a lie and either way is no longer considered valid. This is how our modern medicine is vetted. A lot of modern medicine comes from testing claims of traditional medicine and then, in places where an effect is actually visible, determining what is causing the effect, refining the substance for controlled amounts of the active ingredients and doing more extensive testing. This increases the efficacy AND decreases the chances of harmful reactions to uncontrollable amounts of substances within the natural source.

    No one claims that nature cannot offer us many extraordinary medical advances, but we do argue for a thoroughly honest, accurate and tested basis for our medical advances.

  • Richard Wade

    Hi Muggle, I always enjoy your thoughtful comments.

    I think you’re mixing up hypotheses with truth claims:

    If science was left to CFI’s standards, we’d have no airplanes because man having the ability to fly is certainly an extraordinary claim.

    The statement, “I think that with the right mechanism modeled after what we observe in birds, that man would be able to fly.” is a hypothesis. At the time shortly before the Wright brothers it was an extraordinary proposal, or hypothesis to some, but not so much to others. But extraordinary or not, it was not a truth claim.

    The statement, “I can fly!” is a truth claim, and without any qualifying or clarifying elaboration, it sounds like a very extraordinary claim, and so begs for the appropriately matching extraordinary evidence: “Oh okay, please fly for me.”

    The fact that we do have airplanes attests to the fact that visionary, imaginative, outlandish and extraordinary hypotheses are entertained and given a chance all the time. Sometimes it can be tough for an unusual hypothesis to get funding if it’s going to be expensive to try it out, but that’s life in general. Most hypotheses in science are falsified, and money for cutting edge research is limited. You have to be able to convince people to give a new idea a chance, and that can be as much about emotions and hunches as it can be about reason. If there’s any merit to a hypothesis, it will probably eventually be tried. Then the evidence either supports it or not, either justifies further inquiry or not.

    People’s specific defenses of their favorite ideas here aside, I think the list on the poster is referring to the extraordinary truth claims that have been made about each item. For a few of these, there may be some merit or usefulness, just probably not the outlandish and amazing notions that have become attached to them. If there is some merit in them, people will persist in trying to demonstrate it with evidence until they either show the evidence that matches the claim, or they finally give up.

  • http://www.nutzak.org/ hnutzak

    @James: You’re agreeing with me that yoga is not homeopathy. I wasn’t defending homeopathy.

    I’ve just looked at the wiki link you provided on chiropractic, and it basically says that it can be an effective treatment for the condition(s) that led me to see a chiropractor. When vertebrae are misaligned, it can put pressure on nerves and cause muscle tension, which is painful. Realign the spine and the pressure and tension are relieved, and thus the pain. I don’t believe this to be an extraordinary claim. I never expected it to cure anything unrelated to the spine. While the article says “many … studies are available”, it also says “they are typically of low methodological quality” which supports my statement that more study is needed.

  • Robert W.

    Old Earth,

    What we are doing is defending the right of women in extreme situations to have legal access to sage medical procedures that will allow them to have an abortion.

    I think this statement is not a correct statement of those that defend a woman’s choice to abortion. It seems like they want it available for all reasons and in all situations as chosen by the women, not just in extreme situations.

    What the “pro-lifers” always fail to reognize is that the people who have abortions are overwhelmingly people in dire straights and many of them are survivors of rape (not exactly having fun “consequence-free” sex is it anon?).

    As it applies to rape or sexual assault that is simply not true. Approximately 5% of sexual assault victims of reproductive age get pregnant. That doesn’t account for the number of abortions performed in this country.

    “Rape-related pregnancy estimates and descriptive characteristics from a national sample of women,” MM Holmes et al, Am J Obstet Gynecol 175(2): 320-324, 1996

    A national probability sample of U.S. women found that rape-related pregnancy was 5% among victims of reproductive age (12-45) ; 32.4% did not discover they were pregnant until the second trimester ; 32.2% opted to keep the infant, 50% had an abortion, 5.9% placed the infant for adoption, and 11.8% had a spontaneous abortion.

  • Icaarus

    The fact that we do have airplanes attests to the fact that visionary, imaginative, outlandish and extraordinary hypotheses are entertained and given a chance all the time.

    That is exactly the point of this campaign. Each item on the list was selected because there was at least some significant claim coming from that group that was without support. There are many things on the list for which claims are made that have support. those are not being challenged but the claims like accupuncture cures cancer (I am looking at you writers of GLEE) are on the chopping block.

    I personally listened to a member of the CFI executive speak about this campaign and he said the point is to stir the pot. To get people thinking that when someone says something they should have empirical evidence to back it up. If they do then great, if they don’t then don’t try to say you can ‘cure cancer’ or ‘cure schizophrenia’ let those with supported cures help those in need.

    To a previous comment, the order, and specifically the order of the first line, is to allow the most points to be squeezed into the least amount of space. The truncated poster is the top and the first few claims, which is why Allah, God and UFO’s appear at the start. They are common and short.

    The bigger issue is the use of Allah at all. While I am all for challenging any belief in god they have put the cross-hairs on the one group not even Penn Jillette will go after. The reason for this was that they wanted to make it clear that this campaign is about all unsupported claims, from all sources. Not just the new agers or the Christians, or Scientologists, or … well you can fill in more from above. I think this is ballsy as anything and I can’t wait to see the posters on my way to work.

    One final comment, under CFI Columbus would have found the world and man would have flown. Each because people would have said something and CFI would have said okay show me. Instead of the ridicule you would have people impatiently waiting for empiracle results from exploration.

  • Robert W.

    Old Earth,

    Here is a little more info on that topic:

    Indeed, in a 1987 survey by the Alan Guttmacher Institute in which abortion patients were asked why they were having an abortion, only 1 percent of the 1,900 women questioned named rape or incest. And 95 percent of those who mentioned rape or incest named other reasons as well for deciding to abort, the institute said.

    In a separate 1979 analysis, when federally financed abortions were available in cases of rape or incest or where the pregnancy threatened the woman’s life or physical health, the institute said that a total of 3,675 women had abortions paid for by Federal money. But the institute said that it knew which category qualified only 2,444 of the women, and of these, 72 were eligible because of rape or incest.

    ”The 1 percent number from the 1987 survey is really the best we have on abortions because of rape or incest,” said Susan Tew, a spokeswoman for the institute. ”And there is no good hard data on how many pregnancies, over all, result from rape or incest.” #1.6 Million Abortions a Year Douglas Johnson legislative director of the National Right to Life Committee, said that while estimates vary, ”I don’t think there is any evidence for a number higher than 1 percent.”

    There are about 1.6 million abortions in the United States each year, so 1 percent would be 16,000. Before Congress cut off Federal funds for most abortions under the Federal-state Medicaid health plan for the poor, about one-quarter of the women getting abortions were poor enough to qualify for public funds. So if that ratio continues, there would be about 4,000 poor women a year qualifying for Federal money for abortions where the pregnancy resulted from rape or incest.

  • Kaitlin

    I thought this group was for people who enjoyed provoking thought not attacking eachother. This Friendly Atheist has an entire following of unfriendly atheists. I’m sorry my epilepsy makes me a junkie, maybe you should work on becoming a good person and not saying because I have a seizure disorder I was born with I’m a junkie? Sound a rational logic you have there. I’m glad I’m removing this site and feed from my blog and fb and will reccomend all my friend who have joined do the same- cheers! :)

  • walkamungus

    I’ll go with what works for me.

    I had severe atrial fibrillation for 22 years after being diagnosed in my late teens. A cardiologist or two later, I have a normal heart rhythm; I had a cardiac ablation (which kills little parts of the heart muscle where the electrical impulses are misfiring), a cardioversion (electrical shocks to the heart), and anti-arrhythmic drugs. About four months after all that, I was in a normal cardiac rhythm, and still am, four years later. I expect to have a normal heartbeat until I die of the cancer that runs in my family.

    On the other hand (ha ha!), I have some kind of hand/arm/shoulder nerve problem, diagnosed in my early twenties; I had a carpal & cubital release done back then, but the pain came back within six months. For years it wasn’t too bad, but then it got worse, excruciatingly worse. Painkillers didn’t work. Saw two neurologists, a thoracic surgeon, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in the lower arm, x-rays, CAT scans, MRIs, etc., etc. No nerve damage, but no one could say what the problem might be. Finally went to a chiropractor recommended by a friend. After about four spine adjustments and a couple of acupuncture sessions, the pain was back to the “normal” level that I can live with. The really bad pain just … went away.

    I do love this poster, BTW.

  • Richard Wade

    Kaitlin,
    I’m sorry to have you leave.

    Not entirely all the atheists here have attacked you personally, or have been irrational in their characterization of you, and I think that some have been unfair and moving toward ad-hominem. Shrug them off.

    Some people who comment here are tactless, some are too quick to ridicule the person rather than just challenge their beliefs, but that’s the nature of an open blog. All kinds come and go here. The boorish ones are probably boorish everywhere they go. Sad for them.

    “Friendly” does not mean “make nice,” and it is not a prerequisite for participation. It’s a goal, a guideline, a reminder of a hoped-for standard that I have been pleased to see is followed more often here than at other sites. Sometimes even the most gentle challenges can feel “unfriendly” if it’s our own favorite ideas that are being questioned. I’ve certainly felt that way, but I then had to consider the merit of the challenge rather than just the hurt I felt.

    Take some time away to regroup, and please consider coming back again.

  • Angel

    @Kaitlin

    If one person stating something that appears to not even have been directed at you, and that statement offends you so much as to leave the community… it is probably for the best. Wishing you much success in the future.

  • walkamungus

    @Robert W. –

    I think this statement is not a correct statement of those that defend a woman’s choice to abortion. It seems like they want it available for all reasons and in all situations as chosen by the women, not just in extreme situations.

    Yep, I certainly do. There are as many reasons for having an abortion as there are women who have them: medical, economic, psychological, whatever. The vast majority of those women do not consider the decision to abort an easy one. They may involve the father, their families, or their friends in the decision. But ultimately, these women have the right to make their own decisions and then live with the consequences.

  • bernerbits

    Honestly, I feel like lumping in extraordinary claims that some take seriously with extraordinary claims that no one has ever taken seriously harms the original thesis. The title seems to say “these claims are extraordinary,” but the content comes across as more “these things are fake.”

    The purpose of the argument that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence is to counter a common complaint that we simply refuse to take an open mind towards things that are counterintuitive, improbable, distasteful, or strange. It emphasizes that that, yes, we do keep an open mind towards all ideas, but we do not simply accept them wholesale; instead, we judge them individually by their own merit.

    A more effective list would contain extraordinary claims both with and without evidence to emphasize that we don’t just reflexively associate God (or “alternative” medicine) with the Tooth Fairy. For example, evolution, the moon landings, quantum mechanics, and special relativity are extraordinary claims with extraordinary evidence. Why aren’t they on the list?

  • Icaarus

    For example, evolution, the moon landing, quantum mechanics, and special relativity are extraordinary claims with extraordinary evidence. Why aren’t they on the list?

    Because they are not extraordinary claims. The moon landing had 10 years of society watching and trying to make it happen. Furthermore it was a feat of engineering, no revolutionary science was required, just a lot of work and a lot of evolutionary advances on available materials (not to slight engineering it was an amazing achievement that I am very thankful for).

    Evolution in the simplest terms is the principle states that everything changes, changes that are better suited for survival survive, how is that extraordinary.

    Quantum Mechanics is the claim that light is quantized, that light is both a wave and a particle. The rest of QM is the mathematical product of that claim as supported by experimentation. How is thinking something can be described in two ways an extraordinary claim? Weird, I will admit, counter intuitive, maybe, but it is a simple, testable claim that is not vague or broad. So no it is not extraordinary, just evolutionary.

    Special relativity is perhaps the only extraordinary claim in your list. It does have extraordinary evidence, to the point where some have called it the most experimentally proven theory in science. (Others have said the same about QM or General Relativity).

    I hope this answers your question to your satisfaction, if not I can elaborate further on physics. For biology I am sure PZ would be happy to help.

  • bernerbits

    The moon landing had 10 years of society watching and trying to make it happen.

    The very idea of propelling a rocket into a stable trajectory is an extraordinary challenge of engineering, let alone attaching it to a habitable structure that can ferry humans to another astronomical body and back safely. That it has been accomplished doesn’t make it less so.

    Evolution in the simplest terms is the principle states that everything changes, changes that are better suited for survival survive, how is that extraordinary.

    Sure, it’s simple. It’s elegant. It doesn’t change the fact that it was and still is an extraordinary idea in that centuries later, it still continues to provide useful, even life-saving insights into biology.

    Quantum Mechanics is the claim that light is quantized, that light is both a wave and a particle. The rest of QM is the mathematical product of that claim as supported by experimentation. How is thinking something can be described in two ways? Weird, I will admit, counter intuitive, maybe, but it is a simple, testable claim that is not vague or broad. So no it is not extraordinary, just evolutionary.

    QM is far more than just the dual nature of light. The more layers we uncover on QM the weirder it gets. Its results baffle even the brightest of scientists with their counterintuitive nature and defy all but the most un-nuanced, simplistic attempts at explanation. As just one example, scientists have not been able to empirically verify decoherence ever happening, yet decoherence is necessary to explain why we don’t observe entanglement effects at the macroscopic level. This is the essence of the Schrodinger’s cat thought experiment.

    Special relativity is perhaps the only extraordinary claim in your list. It does have extraordinary evidence, to the point where some have called it the most experimentally proven theory in science. (Others have said the same about QM or General Relativity).

    But by your same criteria, we can say special relativity is no more than thinking about space and time as the same “kind” of thing and all its results as the mathematical conclusions when Newtonian mechanics are re-evaluated under those constraints. It only required a slight change in how we view the world and the rest just comes out in the math. So if you’re going to be pedantic you can’t even accept special relativity as extraordinary.

    An extraordinary claim doesn’t cease to be extraordinary just because it’s shown to be true.

  • Icaarus

    Sure the field of QM is far more, but original theory the theory of QM (what started the field and a revolution in physics) is just as I stated. But this is beside the point.

    I think the real issue is: what is an extraordinary claim? I do not know the CFI’s exact criteria but from what I gathered it’s close to the something from nothing principle. How can waving ‘crystals’ and chanting cure Aids? How can an amorphous undetectable intelligence observe you? How can you see into the future? The claims being challenged are extraordinary because there is a claim about what can be accomplished, which is disconnected from their physicality, without a description of the mechanism of action. When it came to evolution the mechanisms of action were time and ability to survive. Prior to the accomplishment the idea that landing on the moon was possible was extraordinary, but now that it has been done no longer is it so.

    The only reason I say special relativity was extraordinary was because when the claim was first put forth it was extraordinary, the ‘method of action’ equivalent to special relativity are that time and space are equivalent. Only hindsight showed how close to well accepted theories of the day it was. It did insight a philosophical revolution in physics by stating something totally disparate from then current ideologies. But no, now Special relativity could not be considered extraordinary and from today’s perspective you are completely spot on.

  • http://www.cficanada.ca Justin Trottier

    Thanks Hermant for plugging our Campaign, which is being unveiled tonight. Trust me, Canadians are no less credulous than Americans in many fields, especially altmed, beliefs in psychics, and other elements of woowoo. And if the response to our Canadian Atheist Bus Campaign is any guide, we’re expecting a lot of attention, especially as CFI in Canada has established an influential network of media resources, as our spokespeople appear on radio, TV and in national newspaper columns on a regular basis. Thanks again!
    - Justin Trottier, CFI Canada National Executive Director

  • http://extro1.wordpress.com Extro

    Hey I got a thought on the actual article (imagine that):
    Does canada need this? Religion is a very private issue here and agnostiicism/no religious affiliation is the fastest growing cohort here.
    I wholeheartedly support this and I do actually think this is a very positive thing but I wonder if we even need this as canandians seem to be drifting from religion on their own (which is awesome).

  • Icaarus

    Out in the west we do need it.

    When it is minus 30 and I get stopped on the street asking if I have found the word of Jesus walking from the dry cleaner to the liquor store, it is needed.

    When I am told that “I can’t date you because you don’t believe in the same god as I do and thus you are evil” from someone that has known me for years and been my friend, we need it.

    When I am told that women cannot choose abortion because they will go to hell (proselytized many times on a university campus with gruesome holocaust photos in the background) we need it.

    When I am told that the secular agenda is destroying this nation, we need it.

    When it has been shown that there is no longer effective separation of church and state in our country then we need it (The Armageddon Factor).

    And finally when people ignore the constitution’s right to freedom from religion, we need it.

    So unfortunately yes we need it. There are some areas in this country where it is sorely needed. I am happy to hear Extro that for you it may not seem that way. That gives me great hope for the future.

  • http://extro1.wordpress.com Extro

    True enough that my perspective is probably skewed by how it is in my region, I really haven’t been asked if I have accepted jesus into my heart since college. It would be worth looking into where religious unbelief is more or less socially acceptable but to my knowledge the only way to know this would anecdotal evidence at this point.

  • Icaarus

    Actually Extro, from my experience the % Non-religious map from the last census is a pretty good indicator of where it is needed. (And the question is non-religious not non-faithful) Since being in overly religious areas, or areas dominated by one religion can create a self enforcing zone of ‘everyone must be ___’. In areas like Vancouver and Toronto the issue is not nearly as important as say rural BC or SK. That is not to say that people in the big cities are not religious, it is just to say that people are less likely care what you are.

    But that is kind of beside the direct goal of this campaign. The organizers are hoping that by showing the question more people will think critically about their beliefs. Critical thought leads to open discussion, and eventually greater acceptance of people with different viewpoints. It is also a vehicle for people looking to avoid religion to realize that they are not bad people for questioning their parent’s faith.

    The final point I missed from my previous ‘rant’

    When whole groups of the population refuse modern vaccines for various reasons they put the rest of the population at risk. When the bible cannot be discussed as philosophy or literature for fear of parents’ objections then it is most definitely needed. When biology funding is controlled by evolution deniers it is needed.

  • http://extro1.wordpress.com Extro

    Well i agree with what you say. Just to be clear I am an atheist and support this campaign for the same reasons you do and think the poster is wonderful. In fact I would like to put one up at the college where I work now. I just wonder how needed it is, perhaps more than I think.

  • Icaarus

    Extro, I guess that was a bad assumption that you were religious on my part, the how it is in my region statement threw me. I knew that a simple comment of yes would have sufficed for you. But I need to make it clear to all the Americans here as well that things, while better than the Southern states, are not all rosy up here.

    And just to be clear to all the Americans, while supposedly we enjoy more freedom of speech up here, it still took more than 3 months of negotiating to get the first bus ad up and running in one city even though there should have been no grounds for municipalities to reject the ads.

    Extro if you would like to put one up all you need to do is ask. Go here and get your very own poster. If you would like to buy in bulk or would like to get CFI to cover the cost read this document. I would be proud to walk past it in the halls. (That is of course if we are at the same school)

  • http://extro1.wordpress.com Extro

    Icaarus you engaged me in discussion, believe me that is what I wanted. You inadvertanetly helped bring the discussion back on topic too.
    As for needs based on region, province, etc. it’s hard to say. From where I am (central onatrio) I can say that even though unbelievers are still a miniority religion is kept very private. So the remaining question should be, at least near where is live, is ‘Should we leave well enough alone?’ I would say no but I have been outspokebn before and very few people seem to care here (as you pointed out might be the case)

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000586562927 muggle

    That is a difference, Richard, and I admit I didn’t consider it but I think there’s also a problem of the extraordinary claim could need study before the extraordinary proof would exist.

    Some of it falls into out and out woo. When the only proof is “faith” and personal testimony, meh, but okay there’s a difference between man can fly and man can fly with the help of technology. Still, haven’t these very things been pooh-poohed as extraordinary claims before the technology was developed. I seriously don’t believe CFI (they have a somewhat condescending attitude towards anything they’ve already pooh-poohed) would consider Columbus’ extraordinary claim if shown why he believed that he could travel around the world. I doubt they’d even give him a chance to explain.

    So, if someone thinks a herb can benefit a certain disease, and they laugh, you really think they’re giving the person the chance to explain their theory or how they want to go about trying to test and develop it? I don’t.

    Let’s face it. Before any invention you can name or any progress science has made, someone had to have the audacity to imagine it or to be curious about such and such and then investigate and find what they find upon investigating the possibility of what they imagined. We would not be flying in airplanes if someone (and there were many someones who tried very preposterous things before the Wright Brothers) if the extraordinary claim had been shut down because it couldn’t be proved.

    Here’s an interesting timeline of the history of flight btw:

    http://www.aiaa.org/content.cfm?pageid=260

    It appears that the Wright Brothers had to finance their experiments themselves:

    http://www.wrightflyer.org/Background/facts.html

    Despite the financial burdens of all their research, testing and many aircraft built, the Wright Brothers were never financed by outsiders. The bicycle was a hot item at that time, and their bicycle shop financed everything. Their father gave them one thousand dollars each in the beginning, but they invested it wisely, and had they ever needed funding, it was there, but it was never touched.

    If they had been unable to do so (and if you click on the time line I linked, the US government did refuse to), I doubt progress would have been stopped but it surely would have been delayed.

    We need a wild imagination to move forward. We need people thinking extraordinary things are possible. We need people having the imagination to turn extraordinary claims into ordinary ones.

  • Angel

    It’s the splitting hairs that always does us in. We need to take a page from the GOP handbook. Message. Message. Message.

  • Loulou

    This NEEDS to be in Alberta.

  • Icaarus

    @Muggle It seems as if you have had some dealings with CFI directly.

    they have a somewhat condescending attitude towards anything they’ve already pooh-poohed

    I would like to hear why you think that the organization is condescending. Furthermore I would like to hear what is condescending about a ‘show me’ policy.

    As I have said before if the Wright Brothers said to the CFI; hey I can fly with the help of technology, the CFI would have responded wit; where and when would you like to demonstrate this? The Wrights – How about Kittyhawk on Dec 17, 1903. CFI – We will be there. Do not confuse the scientific requirement for evidence as condescension I promise you on behalf of all scientists, there is a difference. Just look up the CFI’s support of the work done by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine as proof of my above statements.

    @Angel – yes we get lost in the details, but that is because we all care about the details. To sacrifice this detail oriented skepticism would both sidestep the point of the arguments and a main themes of the CFI and skepticism in general.What would be accomplished by browbeating one opinion out of someones head only to be replaced with another that they don’t completely understand?

    @Extro, it was not inadvertent that I tried to use your post to refocus the discussion, and it was fun to chat.

    While this may not be the most friendly discussion on FA the point of this campaign has been accomplished here. Get people talking, questioning, and thinking. Get them challenging and arguing. Get them wondering.

  • Angel

    @LouLou

    As someone in the middle of Alberta, I totally agree :)

    @Icaarus

    I’m not sure what the point of your lecture was. Do you assume that I am unaware of the adverse affects of the lack of information, or that my statement somehow meant that one has to choose between the two? Both are incorrect.

  • Icaarus

    @Angel

    No I assume that you think that splitting hairs is something that can be avoided by skeptics as that is how I read your statement. My point was to show that it can’t be avoided and more importantly it shouldn’t.

    After your last comment something does confuse. By GOP are you referring to the Grand Old Party (Republicans who are known for browbeating) or were you intending something else.

  • AxeGrrl

    Richard Wade wrote:

    The fact that we do have airplanes attests to the fact that visionary, imaginative, outlandish and extraordinary hypotheses are entertained and given a chance all the time. Sometimes it can be tough for an unusual hypothesis to get funding if it’s going to be expensive to try it out, but that’s life in general. Most hypotheses in science are falsified, and money for cutting edge research is limited. You have to be able to convince people to give a new idea a chance, and that can be as much about emotions and hunches as it can be about reason. If there’s any merit to a hypothesis, it will probably eventually be tried. Then the evidence either supports it or not, either justifies further inquiry or not.

    Great point/comment Richard, and expressed perfectly, imo.

  • Richard Wade

    Muggle,
    I understand what you are saying, but I don’t think that CFI or the standards they encourage are really a barrier to broad and out-of-the-box thinking.

    CFI says this at the top of their mission statement:

    The mission of the Center for Inquiry is to foster a secular society based on science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.

    They go on to elaborate about promoting freedom of inquiry, as well as the freedom to critically question and challenge the conclusions of inquiry that has been done in the past.

    As far as I know, CFI is not an imperious gatekeeper who blocks the path of would-be maverick researchers, like a bouncer at a trendy night club. They don’t write the checks. Somebody else does that, and the visionaries and/or crackpots have to convince those people to write the checks. It can be both surprising and amusing to see the kinds of unorthodox hypotheses that do get funding, so I don’t think that CFI’s promoting a general high standard for critical thinking is going to seriously stifle creativity or innovation.

    When it’s your money being sought for a bold and on first glance unlikely plan, you, like everyone else will start to think exactly the way CFI wants you to. If I come to you and say “Hey Muggle, lend me bus fare ’cause I can play this here guitar, and I won’t quit ’till I’m a star on Broadway,” you’re probably not going to immediately hand over a wad of cash, celebrating free-spirited creativity and idealism. No, at the very least you’re going to want to hear me play, and you’re going to ask me if I have an agent with connections to Broadway, and if I have any idea at all what the heck I’m getting into.

    The goal of CFI is to help us all be skilled at sorting out the penicillin from the snake oil. We have to stop being generally naive as a society, leaving our well-being up to some hired watchdogs. If only a few people are acting as the wise and demanding consumers for the rest of us, we’re going to be in serious trouble. There’s just way too much snake oil available on the market.

  • Ron F.

    Love it!

    … although saddened to see the Flying Spaghetti Monster not included :(

  • Gliewmeden

    @Icaarus and all the Albertans here:

    Extraordinary Claims will be on transit in March.

    Join cficanada.ca/calgary to help make this happen!

    Had a great “Skepticism and The Media” (Rob Breakenridge, guest speaker) event today @ U of C that involved many great thinkers and their ideas.

    Major thot de jour being that WE need to quit being the polite little Canucks that we are and speak up! Write letters to media to get more of a vocal presence.

  • Hheennee

    The existence of the soul can be demonstrated through philosophical argumentation. No one can reasonably expect anything more extraordinary than that, given that the soul is immaterial and thus invisible to the senses. Many other truths follow from this truth.


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