Posts Tagged 'The Skeptic Zone'

Enlightning Bolts – 01.28.2010

Dr. Rachael Dunlop of the Skeptic Zone podcast is up for a Shorty Award (a Twitter contest), in the category of health. She’s up against some alternative medicine pushers, so if you have a Twitter account vote!

If you’re in favour of English Libel Law reform (keeping libel laws out of science), check out this website and sign the petition if you agree:

Freedom to criticise and question, in strong terms and without malice, is the cornerstone of argument and debate, whether in scholarly journals, on websites, in newspapers or elsewhere. Our current libel laws inhibit debate and stifle free expression. They discourage writers from tackling important subjects and thereby deny us the right to read about them.

Here‘s an account of PZ’s recent visit to Winnipeg by another local blogger who took notes. Smart!

Canada AM once again provides a platform to a kook: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. spouts nonsense, including the ridiculous idea that “even a molecule of mercury could destroy brain cells and cause deformities in children.” What the what? Fail! It’s a morning show, so I don’t expect any hard-hitting journalism, but he was saying some horrible and blatantly wrong things, and there was almost no voice of skepticism. This piece even seemed to be propping him up as some kind of hero. Awful.

Steve over at Skeptic North has kindly responded to this, check it out here. Thanks Steve!

And last, but definitely not least, Andrew Wakefield, the researcher who started the whole vaccines cause autism myth, was investigated by the General Medical Council. They found that he “acted ‘dishonestly and irresponsibly’ in his research and with ‘callous disregard’ for the children that were the subject of his research.”

I predicted on Twitter that the anti-vax response to this would be something like: “Wakefield being found guilty will prove that the courts are IN TEH POCKET of Big Pharma!!!111” It turns out I wasn’t even that far off.

Ear Candling with Jessica Simpson

One of the first exposures I had to skepticism was through the Skeptic Zone podcast, in particular the episode about ear candling. It struck a cord with me because ear candles had been recommended to me by a couple of people, but I found out in the episode that it’s actually illegal to sell them in Canada because they’re so dangerous (not to mention completely useless).

Today I was looking at Perez Hilton’s blog to see what the scoop is on poor Brittany Murphy when I saw this video that was tweeted by Jessica Simpson today of her using an ear candle.

It’s actually the first time I’ve ever seen ear candles in action and…wow…I mean it just looks ridiculous, and she’s screaming the whole way through! Seriously you have a candle right over top of your hair, it’s not even relaxing! Even if they did work I would just stick to Q-Tips.

Ear candles are hollow candles that you place over your ear…you light them and the premise is that the heat creates a vacuum that sucks the wax up out of your ears. Here’s what Dr. Rachie has to say about that:

I’m almost embarrassed to tell you that good science from proper scientists and doctors has been wasted testing these things. The seminal study on the safety and efficacy of ear candles was published in the journal Laryngoscope in 1996. The authors were particularly interested in the claim that the candles create a vacuum so they used a pressure device to measure changes in pressure for the duration of the burn. In 20 trials with 2 different candle types, they detected no negative pressure at any point during the trial.

In a clinical trial also conducted as part of this study, 4 people (2 with ear wax and 2 without), the authors reported the candles did not remove ear wax as proposed and in fact, in some cases candle wax was actually deposited in patient’s ears (2).

The authors also conducted a survey of 122 ear nose and throat specialists and found 21 cases of serious injury caused by ear candling. In 6 of these cases, patients temporarily lost their hearing. Other problems reported among the group included, 13 cases of burns, 7 cases where the wax from the candle had blocked the ear canal and 1 case of a punctured ear drum (2).

You can read more about ear candling in Dr. Rachael Dunlop’s blog post on the topic here.

I’m optimistic that this video of Jessica Simpson using ear candles will make people scared of them…but then again, people are silly.

[follow me on Twitter @EnlightningLinZ]

It’s Been a Year Since I Lost My Religion

A year ago today my life began to change in a big way. On October 3, 2008 Bill Maher’s movie about religion, Religulous, was released in Canada. At the time I was a Christian, but I decided to see the movie because I was intrigued by the previews. I had never been exposed to such outright criticism of religion.

I didn’t know who Bill Maher was (honestly…people find this hard to believe), so I didn’t know what to expect. What I saw was a crass, in-your-face dump on faith. But rather than feeling offended I felt inspired by the closing scene of the movie. Maher said:

Faith means making a virtue out of not thinking…keeping mankind in a bondage to fantasy and nonsense that has spawned and justified so much lunacy and distruction.

The only appropriate attitude for man to have about the big questions is not the arrogant certitude that is the hallmark of religion, but doubt.

I started to allow myself to doubt my beliefs, and to consider that the Bible was probably just a fairy tale.

A short time after I had seen the movie I was in a book store and noticed Christopher Hitchens’s book God is not Great, and decided to pick it up. By the time I finished reading the book I was an atheist, and wondering how I ever believed in a god in the first place!

I was now very fascinated with the topic of religion, and picked up Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. Dawkins introduced me to the world of skepticism of all sorts of beliefs. I discovered that there was a whole online community of skeptics.

I filled up my iPod with podcasts that allow me to learn while I’m working:

The Atheist Experience
The Conspiracy Skeptic
Hunting Humbug 101
Point of Inquiry
The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe
The Skeptic Zone
Skeptoid

I also got into reading blogs that kept me up to date on the big stories in the atheist and skeptical communities:

Bad Astronomy
Friendly Atheist
NeurologicaBlog
Pharyngula
Skepchick

And I’ve been doing my best to get a fairly well-rounded understanding of science. Some of my favourite books:

The Elegant Universe – Brian Greene
Death From the Skies! – Phil Plait
Quirkology – Richard Wiseman
Trick or Treatment – Simon Singh
The Selfish Gene – Richard Dawkins

I’m being opened up to a whole new, fascinating, mind-boggling, incredible, inconceivable, evidence-based, beautiful and awe-inspiring universe.

It has been quite a year! I’ve been taking in so much information that I needed to start this blog in order to articulate some of my thoughts, and to try to take part in what others in the skeptical community are doing. I’m learning and growing every day, and I can’t wait to see where I’m at in a year’s time.

If any of the people involved in the podcasts, blogs and books I mentioned above happen to stumble upon this blog entry, I just want to say thanks!

I think that the best thing that I’ve learned in the last year is the importance of science. Science is the most useful tool that we have, and I’m excited every time I see someone promoting it to the wider public. It seems to be on the increase and that’s so encouraging.

I’ve rambled on long enough, but I just felt the need to reflect on the past year. Thanks for reading!

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