WCSH6 supports woo

WCSH6 is the local news channel I most often watch. I enjoy the setup, the newscasters, and the background isn’t from the 90’s like every other channel. I even “like” the station’s Facebook page. I get some decent status updates there, including the number one reason anyone watches TV news – weather forecasts. But not all the status updates are so great. I unfortunately recently got one absolutely awful update around 7:30am this morning:

Two ways to heal for half off! Find your healthy balance for life. https://www.dealchicken.com/portland-me/4201
Women Receive 50% Off a Polarity Session or 53% Off an Ayurvedic Massage at Tracy Liberty!
Chicks rule, and Tracy Liberty Polarity Therapy and Ayurvedic Massage knows it: The wellness provider focuses solely on women’s health. Tracy Liberty is offering a 90-minute polarity session for only $42.50 (a $85 value) or a 90-minute ayurvedic massage for only $45 (a $95 value). The polarity sessi…

This is some sort of sponsorship deal the station does with various companies. I presume they make a few bucks in exchange for throwing up a status update or two. That’s all well and fine, except that in this case, they are making money by supporting woo. Ayurveda is utter malarkey and WCSH6 ought distance itself if it wants to maintain the good reputation it currently has. In fact, I wrote as much in response to the status update soon after it was made. My post has now disappeared, though I have reiterated my point. (I will also be linking to this post on their wall.)

In looking at the sponsor’s deal, it appears to include an inexpensive message along with some yoga and woo medicine. I’m sure the message is fine (in fact, it sounds like a pretty good deal), and yoga is nice and dandy, but there really is no need for the woo medicine. Given the lack of scientific standards in alternative medicine, safety is a major concern. Ayurvedic practitioners have a history of doling out toxic materials. (They even think that simple heating and melting will solve toxicity issues.) There is no telling what the leader of this woo, Tracy Liberty, is offering. It may be completely inert, but there are not sufficient standards present to allow a consumer to make a fair and informed decision. (If there were such standards in alt-med, one thing would lead to another and we probably could get rid of the malarkey all together.)

I find it disappointing that WCSH6 has decided to support woo. Whatever profit they made from this deal is not worth it. It puts the health and safety of consumers at risk for no good reason. I hope the station will refrain from making such deals in the future.

On Steve Jobs again

PZ has a post about Steve Jobs and woo. In it he summarizes the conclusions everyone on the side of science has been giving. However, he does make one error:

So the final result is that real science kept him alive and healthy as long as possible, and that an early flirtation with ‘alternative’ medicine might have contributed somewhat to lowering the odds of survival, but that what killed him is cancer. And cancer is a bastard.

No, there is no “might” about it. There is a direct correlation between when one treats cancer and how long one is likely to survive. By looking at ‘alternatives’, Jobs’ odds of survival lowered. Think about Huntington’s Disease. It’s a neurodegenerative disease which is passed on genetically. In the average situation where this disease is involved in a family, one parent has a single defective gene whereas the other parent is fine. Any child those two people have has a 50% chance of getting the disease. Those are the odds. Period. Even if the child gets tested and is found to not have the disease, the odds of contracting it will still always be 50% (as just described).

When we talk about the odds of this or the stats on that, we are not referring to a single individual. Even if Jobs’ time of survival remained the same – or even, against all the evidence, it increased because of the woo – his odds were absolutely decreased. Odds refer to the numbers we have on either a sample or population. The only way a person can change his odds is by doing something which has statistical significance. Jobs’, for instance, did just that by engaging in woo instead of treating his cancer.

PZ’s statement is no better than when Bill O’Reilly cited a single poll about atheists and then claimed a trend was evidenced.

The limits of science

Jerry Coyne has a post about the NCSE enabling woo, but there’s one part near his introduction that really stood out to me.

This accommodationism is most annoying when the NCSE assumes its science-has-its-limits stance, a stance designed to show that beyond those borders lies the proper and goodly realm of religion. Yes, of course science has some limits—it can’t (yet) explain why I love the paintings of Kandinsky and others find them abstract and boring. But how on earth do these “limits” somehow justify belief in the palpable nonsense of faith?

Going by his use of the word “yet”, it sounds like he doesn’t see science as being limited in theory. His post doesn’t focus on this point, so it isn’t entirely clear if that’s his position. However, it is my position.

Science is not limited in and of itself. It can tell us absolutely everything about the Universe. That includes telling us why we think something is beautiful or moral or why we love someone. Science is not theoretically limited in any way from being able to tell us all these things. The problem, however, that arises here is the whole “yet” thing. It causes confusion. Let me explain.

Science is limited in telling us a vast majority of things we might want to know. Right now it cannot tell us why we make all the choices we do or why some of us might find the ocean beautiful. But that is not a matter of science being limited in and of itself. In actuality, the limit comes from human ability, a lack of technology, a lack of necessity, the short span of time in which one person will live, the short time the entirety of the human race has and will exist, etc. We limit science; science does not limit us.

I think he hit them all

Dominic Speirs is a quack supporter. He’s been busy in the comments defending the greedy, immoral, scummy snake oil salesman Andreas Moritz, but he decided to branch out to Darwin.

Darwin didnt even believe his theory of evolution. And the word ‘evolution’ and ’survival of the fittest’ didnt turn up in his books until the 4th edition of origin of the species. (And both theorys were lifted from another man)
Darwin was influenced by his parents who were members of the Lunar Secret society. The Lunar’s agenda at that time was “to destroy in the mind of man the belief in god”. He was more easily convinced about the lack of a god/spirit by the death of his daughter.

But ultimatley he was a man of God/spirituality and by the end of his life believed firmly in God or some higher force which permeates the universe.

If this guy wasn’t in Andreas Moritz’s Facebook woo group, I might have to declare Poe’s Law. Not only does he trot out a mass of creationist misconceptions that have been addressed who-knows-how-many-times, but he gets the constant misspellings in there, too – it looks like he hit all the requirements of being a creationist. I’m thinking this sort of thing should become the gold standard for noting when a blog is starting to take off: once the egregiously cliche creationists start popping up, the blog is on its way.

But this always raises a question for me: how do people get this crazy? PZ Myers talks about Reality Rejection Syndrome.

It isn’t just creationism; those beliefs have a surprisingly high correlation with denial of climate change, denial of HIV’s role in AIDS, anti-vax nonsense, rejection of the Big Bang, dualism, etc., etc., etc. At the root of these problems is discomfort with modernity and change, resentment of authority, anti-intellectualism, and of course, goddamned religion, which is little more than a rationalization for maintaining barbarous medieval values. So, yeah, face the facts: creationism isn’t just a weird reaction to bad science instruction and those annoying godless liberal college professors — it’s just one symptom of a deep-seated mental derangement.

That seems to describe Speirs pretty well. He’s not simply into woo and silly creationist beliefs (read: lies); he despises all that is founded in science and modernity. He’s like a Republican without the nasty social libertarian streak (as he has thus far indicated; the night is young).

Mr. Jay Gatsby offers a similar analysis:

Instead, fundamentalist American movements seek to redefine and protect their culture in an age of mass culture and state-based morality creation. Especially after WWII the state’s role in the creation of the ideals of morality has expanded at a planetary rate. Fundamentalist groups, knowingly or not, reject this principle and use religion as a cultural basis.

The religious ideals on which Speirs rests are likely either Christianity or New Age, amorphous woo. The first is likely just based upon 1) statistics and 2) the fact that he embraces the crazy. But I lean towards the latter because these woo fans don’t like to be pinned down; they reside in vagueness. As MJG puts it,

What is most curious about fundamentalist groups is their lack of clear definition. Fundamentalist identity is not based on what is. Instead, the groups define themselves against the “other;” what is “not” takes precedent over what “is.”

This describes no group better than the generic woo-worshipers. As one said to me in an email,

I bet your spirit guides are really hopeing you will knock this off so you can just get on with your life.

“Spirit guides” is so vague, it would be impossible to mount a coherent argument against it/them. I don’t mean to indicate that religions are rational or anything – they aren’t – but the more learned followers of mass religion are able to at least mount a case for their crazy beliefs (however weak the case may be). The woo supporters aren’t even interested in doing that; their interests rest in rejecting what’s popular and embracing a minority…nothingness.

We are one

Haven’t you all heard? You’re me.

michael hawkins is a pea-brained idiot. Moritz should stop talking to him and the other posters who are trying to draw him in to their obnoxious game. I wouldn’t be surprised if someone paid this guy to do it. The health information Mr. Moritz presents in all of his books is comprehensive, exhaustively researched and proven effective. What I am saying on this blog is pointless for the most part though, because Hawkins and the other negative posters (who are all probably the same guy!!),are all acting like little children with their fingers in their ears. Their numbed-out brains are looking for a fight because they don’t look within. So sad. But Mr. Moritz would do well to not play in to this fear-filled folly.

Michael: Well, Michael, what do you think of this?

Michael: I don’t know, Michael. It sounds rather paranoid.

Michael: The poster might be on to something, though, don’t you think, Michael?

Michael: Think? I’ve done that in my time. I’m just not so sure about the woo supporters, Michael.

Moritz really likes the attention!

So I guess keep giving him more, right? Here’s the email he sent me after I asked him if he was seriously unaware of the Streisand Effect.

Oh, I am actually very grateful to you for spreading the word and creating a free publicity campaign for me. A lot of people who would never have heard about me, may now wonder and start to investigate. Eventually, they may want to know for themselves what this is about and buy some books of mine. I couldn’t have asked for a more effective advertising campaign. In fact, my stat counter shows that I had a 563% increase in genuine visitors yesterday and as of this early morning it is already double the number. So if it continues out be a huge success I may send you a check. I don’t mind the dozen swear emails, when my business is booming, thanks to your awareness campaign. I never had such a spike of interest in my work. Thanks again, you turned out to be a great blessing. And please, keep it going.

You hear that? He’s got all sorts of new visitors. Business must be booming. There’s no way nearly all of these new visitors could actually be people who despise everything he does. Right?

Oh, and the first result on Google right now is Orac’s post.