2.27.2015

Goodbye To Leonard Nimoy Dead at 83

Leonard Nimoy at the Phoenix Comicon in Phoenix, Arizona. via wikimedia from Gage Skidmore

This is not a skeptoid post I have one that will go up later today. This is personal indulgence for a person that inspired me to be a skeptic I am saying good by to an actor/director and I am thanking him. He smoked and early reports indicated that he died of COPD. Of all the behaviors I see that are self destructive, that one is the most insidious and prevalent. / read more…

2.27.2015

Devil(ish Illusion) in a Blue (and Black) Dress

thedressYesterday was a momentous moment for the Internet. Not because we won Net Neutrality; not because the 24-hour news cycle chose to devote all their resources to following two llamas around Arizona; but because we all had a night-long freak-out about a dress and in the process learned a little something about color theory and optical illusions.

If you missed out on the fervor over the dress, don’t feel bad. It probably means you had actual things to do with your life on a Thursday night. But if, like me, you were trying to enjoy a quiet night at home, and you just happened to be browsing Twitter or Tumblr for the latest on the llama drama, you almost certainly got caught up in the crazy. It was a drama so pervasive that Taylor Swift even Tweeted about it; and that’s when you know it’s serious.

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2.18.2015

Bruce Jenner, Paul McHugh, and Transgender Denialism

The Transgender Pride Flag

The Transgender Pride Flag

The media has been full of speculation recently about whether or not Bruce Jenner is transitioning to live life as a female (and it is all still speculation at this point, no matter how many anonymous sources TMZ speaks to). This has fueled a sometimes raucous and angry reaction online about what it means to be transgender and what the proper treatment is for gender dysphoria, the mental distress that comes from the conflict between a transgender person’s gender role and gender identity. I’m not interested today in speculating on whether Bruce Jenner is or is not transgender. I’m more interested in the high amount of science denialism the Jenner story is bringing out on the Internet, regardless of how accurate the reports are.

And yes, the crass, transphobic responses many have expressed to the Jenner story can be classified as a form of science denialism. just as climate change deniers reject overwhelming consensus about the damage we have done to the environment; just as evolution deniers ignore overwhelming consensus about the origins of life; just as vaccine deniers ignore overwhelming consensus about vaccination; so too do those who deny the validity of transgender identities and the proper treatment for the mental distress of gender dysphoria do so by ignoring overwhelming medical consensus on these topics.

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2.17.2015

Reader Feedback: Ancient Wisdom, Modern Conspiracies

As a reader, I try to live by a simple maxim: never read the comments. While this might mean I miss out on valuable discussion, it’s far more likely that I’ll miss out on insane theories, racism, weaponized anti-science and a whole lot of crazy.

However, as a blogger, this maxim can’t really apply. I try to at least give a cursory read to all of the comments left on anything I write. After all, if someone took the time to respond to what I wrote, that presumably (though clearly not always) means they read it. They gave me some of their time, the least I can do is give them some of mine.

Personal and professional obligations have kept me from reading the comments on my recent blog posts, but with a little time on my hands, I thought I’d dive in and check out what people had said. / read more…

Explore Your Inner Geek… By Cooking!

When I listened to this week’s Skeptoid Podcast by Craig Good on Cooking Myths, I had to think about a book I read a couple of years ago. Sure enough, I located it in my library (I confess, I never throw away a book). It’s called “Cooking For Geeks,” by Jeff Potter and is published by O’Reilly.

cooking for geeks

It’s a hefty book, more than 400 pages. It’s not just a cookbook; it’s also a science manual and full of tips on how to prepare your food and getting the best gadgets tools for your kitchen. Mixed in between are interviews, food safety tips, and really interesting tidbits on how to cook better and on common myths.

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2.11.2015

IMO: Safety

Safety is something that weighs on the minds of most folk, I think it’s safe to say. We worry about many perceived risks and dangers of the world around us. Parents worry about keeping their children safe, people worry about their own safety, pet owners about their beloved animal’s safety, and so forth. Safety is a major component of advertising, Internet campaigns, political agendas, and lifestyle choices.

 

One of many possible ways to map risk assessment. By Stuart G. Hamilton, via Wikimedia.

One of many possible ways to map risk assessment. By Stuart G. Hamilton, via Wikimedia.

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Thinking Clearly About Medical Marijuana

An ounce of Green Crack bought from a dispensary in California Via Wikimedia

Medical cannabis (aka medical marijuana) is currently being used as a medical treatment. It has many concerning similarities to many types of alternative medicine. Unlike most alternative medicine good research does show promise as a reliable medical treatment. This is a fascinating dichotomy to me as a medical professional and the use of medical cannabis is an interesting thought exercise for the critical thinker. There is good evidence for some uses and myriad of poorly supported treatment modalities. Advocates both for and against demonstrate a disdain of scientific exploration. As a skeptic I think this is fertile ground for flexing our critical-thinking muscles.

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2.4.2015

Are You Orthorexic? Our Obsession with Healthy Eating

We seem to have forgotten that humans are omnivorous. Around the world and throughout history, people have thrived on diets diverse and extreme enough to shame the fad diet section in any modern bookstore. Populations have flourished on staples like whale blubber, insects, roots, or grains, often with little else. Even in recent centuries of European plenty, generations of aristocracy touched virtually nothing but sugary cakes and alcohol, while peasants across the street survived on rotten vegetables and hard biscuits; yet both experienced similar outcomes. In fact we differ little in this respect from the humble rat, able to live healthy lives on just about anything we can stomach.

Where we break from the rat is in our intelligence (though, as the impressed father of a rat-rearing daughter, I find the difference, in some cases, may not be as marked as we think). We have the conscious ability to analyze the content of our food, to understand its constituents. We know that too little food causes malnutrition and too much makes us fat, and we understand the consequences of both. The benefit of this understanding has driven some of us to seek deeper, and sometimes illusory, targets of super-health that are not merely within the wide margins of healthy eating, but that attempt to constrict those margins to allow only very specific foods in hyper-controlled portions. When taken to the extreme, the compulsion for such restrictive diets can lead to an eating disorder that may actually cause nutritional deficiencies (even as far as starvation and death) or, even more commonly, social isolation and obsessive behavior. This disorder is called orthorexia, from the Greek meaning “appetite for the correct food.” While the anorexic feels compelled to eat ever less in pursuit of an impossible body image, the orthorexic fanatically focuses on certain foods and avoids others, chasing an imagined model of perfect health, sometimes to the point of delusion.

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2.3.2015

Will Disneyland Change the Vaccination Debate?

Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

Tuxyso / Wikimedia Commons, via Wikimedia Commons

By now you’d have to be pretty disconnected to have not heard about the Disneyland measles outbreak: over 100 cases and counting, and — surprise! — most of them are not vaccinated against the disease. It’s even been a recent topic here on Skeptoid. In case this has somehow failed to cross your particular media stream, here’s a rundown from the CDC. [Or check out this timeline from the Onion, which is less detailed but probably sadly accurate ]

It’s a serious outbreak and in regards to short-term public health, no good can come of it. In the long run, though, it’s possible that the Disneyland measles outbreak has a silver lining. Ultimately, it could serve as a watershed moment, a sign that the anti-vaccination movement has moved past its peak and towards the same fringes that conspiracy theorists and other science deniers occupy.

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2.3.2015

Four Lies About the Measles Outbreak

The Disneyland measles outbreak hasn’t shown any signs of doing anything other than getting worse. As of right now, over 100 cases have been diagnosed in states across America. Most are situated in Southern California, and the vast majority are among people who aren’t vaccinated. Sadly, this is mostly children who never gave their consent to not be protected from preventable disease.

Nobody who follows the anti-vaccine movement, and deals with their arrogance, chemphobia, fecklessness and endless self-delusion should be surprised by any of this. And nobody should be surprised by the lies that have emerged around this measles outbreak. Because that’s inherently what the anti-vax movement is about — lies. Lies about coverups, lies about toxins, lies about the real causes of disease, lies about the danger, lies about who caused it, lies, lies and more lies.

Here are four of the worst lies, but by no means are these the only ones: / read more…