Archive for May, 2008

“Dr. David Berlinski Destroys Evolution In Under 5 Minutes”

Posted in Evolution with tags , , , , , , , on May 18, 2008 by youtubeskeptic

There is one main point about this video that I wanted to address,but first I want to quickly respond to the remarks made in the first minute.

The first point Berlinski tries to make is that we should doubt evolution because some mathematicians doubt it and tries to make an argument from authority by saying that famous mathematician John von Neumann “laughed at Darwinian theory”.I couldn’t find anything quickly looking around for any quotes of von Neumann knocking evolution,but he did do a considerable amount of work in Automata Theory which dealt with the idea of systems reproducing themselves and tried to answer the question of how a system could improve upon itself.After several years Watson and Crick discovered DNA,the instructions for living automata. So,it’s not hard to imagine someone questioning evolution since the mechanism for reproduction was unknown,but even Darwin didn’t know at his time,and asking questions and finding the answers is just how science is done.Another quick point is that mathematicians are not biologists or geneticist,so it’s not really a relevant field.

Next he quickly tries so shed doubt by pointing out that there are scientists who don’t accept evolution.This is true,yet the number of those who don’t accept evolution is almost non existent in the millions and millions of scientist. There are more historians who deny the events of the holocaust than scientists in a relevant field who deny evolution-who cares?What evidence to either deniers bring to the table to prove their points? None. Only assertions and hypothesis that when proven wrong are still dogmatically held onto.For instance,I still haven’t heard Michael Behe say that his idea that the bacterial flagellum is an “irreducibly complex system” is wrong.

Next,just quickly,Berlinski tries to say that scientists say that Whales evolved from Cows. He’s making an absurd mis characterization,kinda like how people say “evolution says we came from a rock”.No,Mr.Berlinski,whales came from Pakicetids which in no way look anything like a cow. And by the way,we also have the fossils showing all the “re-engineering” needed to do so;from the migrating nostrils,adapting inner ear and loss of hind legs.

Now,we finally get to the main point I wanted to bring up. Berlinski now wants to skip all the evidence for evolution and just look at it purely from a probabilistic and statistical stand point.He specifically points out genetics as something we are going to over look for a mathematical answer only.Why is this?I’ll draw a simple analogy to prove my point. If finding out how we got the diversity of life on earth as we know know it was winning the lottery;then genetics is the winning ticket. Genetics explains how things are related,how they change,how often they change,etc. So,with that in mind here is what Berlinski would like to do- You bought your lottery ticket,watched with anticipation to see if you won and you did!You go down to the lottery office to cash in your winnings,but there sits David Berlinski. Mr.Berlinski looks at your ticket and says “that’s interesting,but lets look at it purely from a mathematical stand point to find out if you won.My calculations show that the probability of you winning the lottery were astronomical so you don’t win-couldn’t have happened”.Of course,anyone with basic knowledge in probability and statistics knows that post hoc calculations are of no value.Just about anything that happens is statistically unlikely after it has happened and you start to add up every little thing that must have happened prior to it.

Evolution destroyed in under 5 minutes? No,more like “why no one takes ID/Creationism seriously,in 5 Minutes”.

Gua Sha

Posted in Alternitive Medicine with tags on May 15, 2008 by youtubeskeptic

According to Wikipedia, Gua Sha is literally translated “to scrape for cholera” which kind of confuses me since cholera is an infectious gastrointestinal disease.The basic technique is to lubricate the skin and then stroke it repeatedly with a smooth edged object while applying a good amount of pressure.This is supposed to help pull “sha”-toxins- to the surface of the skin,and the sha causes the skin to discolor.

So what does Gua Sha supposedly help?Here is a short list of common things it is said to help:

  • Reduce fever (the technique was used to treat cholera).
  • Treat fatigue caused by exposure to heat (often used to treat heat-stroke) or cold.
  • Cough and dyspnea: bronchitis, asthma, emphysema.
  • Treat muscle and tendon injuries.
  • Push sluggish circulation, fibromyalgia.
  • Treat headache.
  • Treat sunstrokes / heat syncope and nausea.
  • Treat stiffness, pain, immobility.
  • Treat digestive disorders.
  • Treat urinary, gynecological disorders.
  • To assist with reactions to food poisoning

It wouldn’t be true woo woo if it didn’t claim to help treat a wide variety of unrelated ailments!

If you want to see a real good look at the results of Gua Sha,here is another quick video:

I don’t think I’m going to far out on a limb when I say “Sha” is nothing more than superficial scratching-in terms of the first video- and SEVER bruising and bleeding as shown in the second video!Seriously,who wants their body to look like that?It’s just bruising people!It is the hallmark of alternative and quack medicine to take something as common as a bruise and put some type of spin on it.Oh,but wait,they have proof that its not just superficial scratches and bruising.

“Sha rash does not represent capillary rupture as in bruising, as is evidenced by the immediate fading of petechiae to echymosis, and the rapid resolution of sha as compared to bruising.”

Thats right,they just say its not;therefore its not.

Amazing though,how the different colors of “sha” represent the spectrum of skin discoloration exactly the same as superficial scratching and brusing:

“The color of sha varies according to the severity of the patient’s blood stasis — which may correlate with the nature, severity and type of their disorder –appearing from a dark blue-black to a light pink, but is most often a shade of red.”

A good way for them to prove their claim is to have this “sha” tested to see exactly what it is. I mean,if its not bruising but “toxins”,then it should test as such. Have they done this? No,not that I could find anywhere.It’s just mysticism piled onto normal everyday things and since its “ancient Chinese” people think that that means it actually works.

Save yourself some cash and just get into a bar fight or something if you want to look beat up cause thats all you’ll get from Gua Sha.

Creating An Extraterrestrial Affairs Commission

Posted in UFO with tags , , , , , on May 12, 2008 by youtubeskeptic

While listening to my favorite late night radio show for woo woo –Coast to Coast AM– I heard about an interesting proposal. Heres the video:

I know it’s probably a little childish to start of with an ad hominem attack on Jeff Peckman,but it’s just too hard to pass up. Jeff Peckman = 56yr old single man who still lives parents.Of course,as any skeptic who knows anything about logical fallacies would point out,ad hominem attacks are used to discredit an argument by attacking the person and not the argument itself. Maybe this initiative is actually worth something,so let’s take a look at it.

Jeff is proposing a ballot initiative with the purpose to:

“…require the creation of an extraterrestrial affairs commission to help ensure health,safety,education,and cultural and economic development for the Denver residents in relation to potential interactions with extraterrestrial beings…”

The first thing that will strike you about this initiative is that it is being used to basically vote on the truth of the UFO phenomenon. The first paragraph of the legislative intent states that the people of the city and county of Denver hereby declare that:

“1.The presence of extraterrestrial beings and extraterrestrial vehicles on Earth,and within Earth’s atmosphere,has been confirmed by credible evidence;”

The next couple of paragraphs basically,in a nutshell,declare that the government has known extraterrestrials exist since at least 1947 and that the truth about their visitation has been covered up ever since.

Of course,if this initiative was able to make it’s way onto the ballot by gaining the required amount of signatures and ultimately was passed,this would be trumpeted by the UFO community as official legislation acknowledging that UFOs exist and that the U.S government has conspired to cover it up,even though it says no such thing.

Many Denver councilmen,like Charlie Brown (yes,thats his real name),think that this whole proposal is nothing but a big time waster.If it were to pass,the initiative requires the committee to produce quarterly reports for the mayor and city council,and to conduct at least two public hearings per year for public input.

Aside from just the idiocy of the proposal and the amount of time it would waste,there are a couple of paragraphs that I find very troubling in terms of fostering pseudoscience to the public. Two of the stated purposes of the committee are as follows:

“To coordinate information and exhibits about extraterrestrial cultures and technology at Denver’s cultural and scientific facilities;

To be a resource for curriculum development about extraterrestrial beings in Denver schools in support of harmonious,peaceful,mutually respectful and beneficial coexistence between extraterrestrials and human beings;”

So,this committee would be responsible for injecting Aliens into museums and schools and taught as if they were an established fact. Sounds pretty much like that strategy of the Intelligent Design/Creationist movement to try to surpass things like evidence and get their wacky ideas pumped directly into the public school systems.One thing I wondered,especially about the first paragraph,is what information exactly will be given to the public about alien cultures and technology? It’s not like there is a community of aliens walking around that we can observe or interview to study culturally,and there isn’t a single piece of supposed UFO technology found that can be studied;so what would they base their cultural and technological information on? The simple answer is that it would be based on whatever they want to make up.

The sad fact for the UFO community is that all their evidence is based on the “argument ad ignorantiam” logical fallacy;or the argument from ignorance. Basically “whats that?I don’t know;therefore its an alien”.One on good example of this is that I’ve seen a couple videos of people recording Venus in the early morning sky. To them,it’s a UFO,but to someone who actually knows something about the night sky,it’s nothing even close.Of course,when evidence to the contrary is presented then you are a “government shill” or are asked “how much is the CIA paying you”.This obviously is not something we should base legislation on.

On an end note,along with this initiative, Jeff has promised to release a video this week of real extraterrestrial beings video taped looking into a window of a farmers home. I’m sure it will be just as compelling as all the other “proof” of E.Ts out there,but we’ll just have to see what he comes out with and I’m sure it will end up on You Tube.

Magnetic People

Posted in paranormal powers on May 11, 2008 by youtubeskeptic

There are a number of people around the world who claim to be magnetic.Let’s take a look at a short story of one such man:

If you read most of the comments,it seems this demonstration of his amazing ability has many people convinced,although there is much bickering about it. Some propose the old ancient Chinese stand by of “qi” as the mysterious force behind the ability. One person scoffed at the idea of it being qi with the more rational idea that it was actually magnetism generated by high iron content in the blood and controlled muscle spasms.Still,according to others,no one knows why this happens and its still a “mystery to science”.

It does seem quite convincing if you were to see this come up on your television at home-I mean,he DID pull a whole car.A search of you You Tube will result in a few different stories about people having magnetic powers.Some of these people are even so magnetic that objects not usually influenced by a magnet will be attracted to them;like glass ashtrays.

Here is another video of an entire magnetic family:

Let’s take a more skeptical view of this phenomenon of magnetic people and see what we can find just through a couple simple observations of the facts in the videos.

  1. Objects are stuck to the body and remain there through some sort of force.
  2. Objects are placed on the skin with no visible “attraction” taking place like you see with magnets.
  3. Claimants never place an object on a parallel plain to the ground,they are always on a perpendicular surface.They should at least be able to stick the lighter objects to something like their arm and hang it upside down without it falling off.
  4. Claimants tend to lean backwards slightly.This is very apparent at the end of the first video where the lean is seen to increase with the number of objects applied to the body.Why lean backward?
  5. Non magnetic objects like glass and plastic stick to the body which shows the force is not magnetic.
  6. All objects are stuck to bare skin only,never over clothing.If a magnetic field was strong enough to hold an iron to your chest with no shirt on then there should be no reason that even a small object,like a fork,should be able to stick to the body with even a thin shirt on.

Of course,the simple answer is that these people are not magnetic at all.Whats really at play here is bare skin and a little moisture.Anyone ever stick a spoon to their nose when they were kids? Same idea,different parts of the body.It accounts for all the known facts and evidence and is testable.If these people were to wear a thin shirt or even apply some powder to their skin to make it nice and dry they would find that their magnetic powers have magically disappeared. In fact,James Randi did test the man from the magnetic family video on TV and he was unable to make objects stick once a bit of powder was applied to his chest.

It’s still a neat little trick and maybe you can fool some friends and family with your amazing magnetic powers.

Using Muscle Testing to Screen for Cancer

Posted in Alternitive Medicine with tags on May 9, 2008 by youtubeskeptic

Let’s watch “Dr.” Overman teach us how we can muscle test for cancer.

WOW- The level of irresponsibility in this video is just off the charts!

In case you’ve never heard of Applied Kinesiology (AK)-AK is the idea that the body can-through muscle strength- discern the truth of personal statements (like a lie detector),weather or not your body likes certain substances like food or medication,and according to this guy;weather or not you have diseases.

The most common way I have seen to “muscle test” is the type presented in this video with an arm held straight out and someone applying medium downward pressure to the out stretched arm.The idea is that if you utter a false statement or hold a subsstance that is harmful to your body close to you;that your muscles will weaken allowing to practitioner to easily push the arm down, and the opposite for a truth full statement or a helpful substance.I have also seen muscle testing being done by creating a ring with your middle finger and thumb and then trying to break the ring by pulling it apart (someone else would do this for you),or by trying to pull it apart yourself using the index finger of the opposite hand.

Ex.

You make the statement: “I am a human being.”

In this case,you should be able to resist the downward pressure and keep your arm out to your side.

You make the statement: “I am a 12 headed aquatic unicorn.”

In this case,however,your muscles should weaken making it impossible for you to resist against the downward pressure and your arm will fall to your side.

I stumbled upon this video a few weeks ago when a friend of mine asked me if I had ever heard of AK.I told her I had and our discussion of it led me too look at any new You Tube videos posted on it since I had last looked them up. I was terrified to come across “Dr.” Overman giving a seminar and explaining to the class how you don’t need to go to the hospital and use real technology because it’s easier and cheaper to just have someone do this garbage instead.

“…you don’t have to put’em in a huge multi-million dollar building with this multi-thousand dollar instrument to screen them.You can just do it yourself anywhere you are because you have your brain and hand.Right? And I like that.”

The scariest part is that while his was making these ridiculous statements you could watch the joy and wonder on the faces of the people listening to him and listen to their agreement with his statements.

It’s no wonder that a little investigation of Overman gives you the results that he sells herbs and supplements as a way of treating sickness and disease and uses AK as a way to pick out the correct supplements for the people that come into his store.Of course,real scientifically tested and proven treatments also “test” negatively and are to be avoided.I cannot expess strong enough the importance for getting real screening and treatment of you suspect having cancer or any other illness.

I tried to leave a comment on the video stressing the point that he was being totally unethical telling people such things,but shortly after posting it I found the “Dr.” had deleted it.

Oh,and in case you were wondering by what means he calls himself a doctor-he cites himself as getting his doctorate in Naturopathy from the Trinity college of Natural Health.In other words;a doctorate in pseudoscience from the Trinity College of Bullshit.Guess what? I just got my doctorate in Puddle Jumping from Yellow Boots University.Please refer to me as “Dr.Murray,PJ” from now on.

So,is their any proof that muscle testing and AK actually work? No.

When double blinded tests of AK have been conducted the results were no better than chance.

If someone tries to bring up AK (in the case of my friend,it was a massage therapist)and convince you that it really works;here is a simple double blinded test you can set up:

  1. Get 10 small containers of the same size and shape (like water bottles all of the same brand)and black them out so whats inside cannot be seen.
  2. Fill 5 with just plain water and 5 with a mixture of water and powered rat poison. Be sure to measure equal amount into each container so there is no weight difference.
  3. Make sure all parties involved see the containers being filled so there is no dispute that 5 are indeed water and 5 are indeed the mixture.
  4. Have the person being tested do a muscle test on each bottle while they know which ones contain the water and which ones don’t.This will confirm that the persons muscles will respond positively to the bottle with water in them and negatively to the bottles with the poison mixture in them.
  5. Place the bottles in a private room or area and have one person,who is not involved in conducting the test,walk into the room alone and attach numbered pieces of tape 1-10 on each bottle randomly and record on a piece of paper which numbers correspond to which substance. (ex. 2,5,6,8,10 = water 1,3,4,7,9=mixture).Have them seal the paper in an envelope and place the envelope on a table in view of everyone.
  6. Have a different person enter alone into the room with the bottles and have them mix up the numbers on the bottles randomly and have them record which new numbers correspond to the old numbers (ex. bottle 2 now = bottle 6,bottle 4 now = bottle 9,etc).Have them seal the paper into an envelope and place it with the other envelope.This way no one knows what containers contain what until the end of the test when the envelops are opened.
  7. Have a third person go into the room and choose randomly each of the bottles one at a time and bring them out to be tested and record the results.
  8. After all the bottles have been tested open the envelopes to reveal which bottles contained which and compare them to the the results of the trials.

Chance alone would predict 5 out of 10 to be correct.Of course if AK really worked as the practitioners claim,there should be no reason for them to not score perfect or at least maybe 8 or 9 correct.