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Criticism

My rants, complaints, and criticisms

Criticism > Saturday, September-01-2012

Woo Spotting: The pseusoscience I find while out shopping

I'm working on the next episode, I've just had to deal with some technical glitches that have slowed me down.  In the meantime, I decided that it might be fun to make a video of all the nonsense I come across on a typical shopping trip.

Just me rambling on and complaining like a crotchety old man.  What more could you ask for?



I'll let you guys know if I come across any really interesting information about these products I talked about.

Criticism > Friday, August-03-2012

Basket 'O Cash: A Case Study in Deceptive Advertising

Keywords: epistemology, statistics, video, product

Don't get me wrong, I know that it's the job of advertisers to use the truth selectively and to tell a narrative that may not be completely true to reality.  But every so often I notice a commercial that I have to admit is a masterwork in using completely meaningless babble to trick people into believing they're getting actual information.

Case in point, Downy's recent "Basket of Cash" commercial.  Take a look, and notice how not one single point made in the commercial carries any actual real world meaning:



Now let's take a deeper look at what the ad was showing us:

Full Story

Criticism > Wednesday, January-04-2012

Power Balance Knock Off Getting Television Air Time

The thoroughly discredited Power Balance Bands have inspired yet another knockoff.  That's not very surprising, I've heard of several others.  What did surprise me, though, was turning on my television one night to find this infomercial:



They're using the exact same fraudulent demonstrations of their bracelet's "power" to improve strength and balance.  Pretty sleazy stuff.I'm pretty sure that these guys are just opportunists and that they don't believe any of the claims that they're making.

Criticism > Monday, October-03-2011

Irwin Games, Get Your Pseudoscience Straight!

Keywords: health, alternative medicine

I've got the Who Wants To Be A Millionaire board game, and recently came across this question:

Who Wants To Be A Millionare Accupuncture Question

Can't people at least be diligent enough to get their nonsense right?  Acupuncture has nothing to do with homeopathy!

Just watch though, I'll bet as I'm writing this somebody is coming up with the idea of dripping homeopathic water on acupuncture needles.

Criticism > Monday, August-15-2011

I Expect Better From The CPSO

Keywords: health, alternative medicine, Canada

The College of Physicians and Surgeons of Ontario (CPSO) has just released a draft policy statement meant to address the popularity of alternative medicine.  The document is entitled Non-Allopathic (Non-Conventional) Therapies In Medical Practice.

Straight away I have grave concerns about the content of this document.  This is the governing body for medical doctors in Ontario, and they're actually considering using the word "allopathic"?  This word is not a part of the science based medical lexicon.  Doctors do not call themselves "allopaths", that's a word used by the alternative medicine crowd.  It's one of those words that sounds science-y and technical, but isn't useful in any way except as a pejorative label.

The word has no business being part of the title of a document released by the CPSO.  There's no reason for any medical professionals to adopt this word, and the CPSO shouldn't be giving it legitimacy by using it so casually.  They put "Non-Conventional" in parentheses, I suppose partly as a recognition that medical professionals may not recognize the term "allopathic", but that's silly.  They could have just said "Non-Conventional" and left it at that.

If it was just the title that bothered me, though, I wouldn't have enough material for a blog post.  Unfortunately, the document makes several statements intended to open the door for alternative medical treatments and to stifle opposition.  CFI Canada has released a response to this draft policy that I sincerely hope will encourage the policy makers at the CPSO to rethink their position.

But I presume you're here to find out my perspective on this document, other than my nitpicking on the title.  Well, they actually defend their use of the term "allopathic" in their key features of the revised draft policy:
Full Story

Criticism > Friday, July-15-2011

Are You A Wanderer? Take The Test!

Keywords: aliens, paranormal

I've been looking through paranormal type books trying to find interesting quotes for my next podcast.  In my search, I've found something that's not suitable for a quick quotation, but is definitely worthwhile posting.

If you listened to my appearance on Karl Mamer's Conspiracy Skeptic podcast, you'll remember that I found an interesting quiz to see if you were descended from aliens.  I kind of made fun of it for having questions that could apply to a very broad range of people.  Well, I found a quiz on a similar topic that takes it a step further.  It's hilarious to look through these questions and just notice that many of them apply to pretty much everybody on the planet - or at least to the ways that they probably see themselves.  The rest of the questions are so specifically targeted to the kind of person who's likely to read this book that it's pretty much a self selected sample.

I got this quiz from the book "A Wanderer's Handbook" by Carla Rueckert, but apparently it's reprinted from the book "Universal Vision: Soul Evolution And The Cosmic Plan" by Scott Manedlker .  As far as I understand it, a wanderer is somebody whose soul is from another planet.  Through hypnotic therapy they've managed to regain memories of their lives on other worlds.  Here's the quiz, answer for each either Yes, Somewhat, or No:
Full Story

Criticism > Monday, July-04-2011

The Irony Maven

Keywords: health, alternative medicine

Don't you just love it when the alternative health crowd makes it really easy to make fun of them?

I was just googling myself - or more accurately my blog - when I came across this post on a website called Health Maven:



Those of you who regularly read my blog will notice that the image they used is of Sherry Seethaler's book "Lies, Damned Lies, and Science", which is particularly ironic because Seethaler is quite a vocal advocate for science and critical thinking.  That image is actually taken directly from my website, probably found through a Google image search.  Whoever this "Health Maven" is didn't bother to even look up the book before posting it.

But it doesn't end there, because the quote below is marvelous!  It's apparently taken from a longer article on another website, apparently this post was merely to highlight that other article.  Who the hell has ever argued that mercury is good for us, that cell phones prevent brain disorders, or that plutonium boosts human health?

Wait a minute, I think that last one has a ring of truth to it.  Weren't there some people in the early 20th century who used radium as some sort of health boosting elixir?  I guess those scientists were pretty..... Oh wait, I just remembered!  They weren't scientists, they were alternative health quacks!

These quotations, which are presented as being established scientific positions, are anything but.  The links point to either misunderstandings of scientific research, or preliminary research that is not accepted by the scientific community.  The fact that people think that these are accepted scientific positions is sad and absurd.

Criticism > Monday, July-04-2011

Lifestyle And Other Weighty Issues

Keywords: health

It seems to me that the more our health and longevity improve, the more people become worried about their health and longevity.  And the real ironic part about it is that many people feel that we're somehow unhealthier than ever before.

I've commented on these kinds of issues before (see here and here).  It used to be my main pet issue that I would argue on forums.  But I got tired of having the same argument over and over again and I decided when I created this blog that I wouldn't focus on the issue.  But once in a while the issue comes bubbling up inside of me and it's good to have this blog to put it all out there.

And upfront I should probably acknowledge that I may be a crank on this one.  I feel that a lot of the panic and hyperbole over lifestyle is misplaced and may be doing more harm than good.  I get a lot of resistance to that, and I think that the medical community in general believes that it's important to beat this drum and do everything we can to convince people to shape up.  I think the medical research community would probably acknowledge that my facts are correct, but still argue that we need to do all we can to convince people to be more healthy.

So as you see, I'm not a medical professional and I have an opinion that differs somewhat from the opinion of most people in the field.  I've always said that expertise is important, and the fact that I disagree with the experts sends up warning flags, even to myself, that I may be completely off my rocker here.  But I think the difference here is one of interpretation of the data, and not of the data itself.  It's the people who outright dispute the facts that you really have to watch out for.  ;)

In any case, I'm not afraid of being wrong, and if I am wrong then I welcome anybody who can show me where I've reasoned poorly or mistaken my facts.  I still think I'm right on this one, though I want to assure everybody up front that I don't believe there's any kind of conspiracy going on.  I think there are some serious biases that aren't being acknowledged enough, but I don't think it's anything nefarious.

I'm not completely alone in my thinking on this though.  I've transcribed a quote from a speech given by Dr. Ben Goldacre, author of the popular book "Bad Science".  I know I've used this quote before but I think it covers my position on this really well:
Full Story

Criticism > Thursday, March-24-2011

More Insight Into That "Fact Or Faked" Show

Keywords: paranormal, video

I've been talking with some people about this show, and there seems to be a little bit of a division of opinion.  Some people think that it's at least a step in the right direction, in that they do actually solve some paranormal phenomena.  On the other hand, many people feel that the show's often shoddy methods, as well as their willingness to just call something paranormal if they can't explain it, override any good that the show does by solving cases.

I'm leaning towards the latter, but I was curious as to what Ben Radford thought, so I sent him an email.  He called my attention to a video created by his fellow Monster Talk host Blake Smith (a.k.a Doctor Atlantis), who analyzed footage from another episode of the show:



So a guy sitting at his computer was able to solve this mystery more effectively than a group of "professional investigators" who actually went out and investigated.  They weren't able to replicate the video, and concluded that it's probably paranormal.

Good stuff.  But I also ran across this article by Ben's other Monster Talk co-host Karen Stollznow.  Apparently, a group of skeptics faked a paranormal video as a promotion, and they were contacted by the people at Fact or Faked:

Along came John Maas, producer of Fact or Faked. Scouting for paranormal footage online, Maas and his staff discovered the video and thought it perfect “evidence” for an episode of the show. But the footage wasn’t fantastic enough. Without ever asking if the footage was fact or faked, Maas asked the group to re-film the scene to emphasize that no string or magnets were used, but… to also show the planchette moving more dramatically across the board. The producer of Fact or Faked was asking the group to fake the video.

That just leaves a bad taste in your mouth, doesn't it?  I was willing to give these guys the benefit of the doubt before and assume that their shoddy investigation of those lights in the sky was due to incompetence.

I did wonder if they faked the video, but I didn't want to make that accusation right up front.  Now that I have evidence of the show's shady methods, however, I think it's reasonable to strongly suspect that they actively faked that video of the moving light.

It does seem quite convenient that they caught something on the one night that they just happened to show up, doesn't it?

Of course, this isn't proof that the video was faked.  It could very well be that there's some common atmospheric phenomenon that would reliably generate these kinds of effects, and that you'd stand a good chance of spotting it on any random night.

But to me, this evidence of the show's culture of deception seriously impedes my ability to give them the benefit of the doubt.  Whenever they happen to capture what they claim is evidence of the paranormal, I'm going to have to seriously wonder whether they're dealing honestly or just faking stuff.

Criticism > Wednesday, January-26-2011

Another Round Of This?

Keywords: aliens, ancient alien theory

Tsoukalos announced on the 21st that the History channel has decided to order sixteen more episodes to make up season 3 of the Ancient Aliens series.  Its' scheduled to come out in late spring of 2011.  Wow!

Each time I do an analysis of the show it takes me several days of work just to cover all the claims made in one ten minute segment of the program.  Most of it is stuff that people just pulled out of thin air, but unlike Tsoukalos, I actually believe in due diligence and getting all my facts straight.

So, of course, they've got all these claims floating out there unanswered, and nobody on the other side has the time or resources to tackle them all one at a time.  I'm certainly not going to attempt to exhaustively analyze every single show in the series.  Just the one is enough of a handful!

And it's extremely funny when you hear that the History Channel has rejected a documentary about the Kenedy's because it was counter-factual.  Yep, that's a double standard alright!  But what do you expect?  More people are going to complain loudly when they lie about the Kenedies.  When Ancient Aliens comes on, we just grumble and make smart-ass comments.

Not that we should get angry and complain more loudly, that will just make us look like we've got a stick up our collective asses.  It's just disheartening to watch them continue to distort history willy nilly and get away with it scott free.


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