Pseudoscience is common among elite athletes outside of the Olympics too…and it makes me furious.

Woo and pseudoscience are widely practiced in the sporting world.

Violent metaphors

Skyline

The many stories yesterday featuring Olympians appearing with cupping marks on their skin have brought renewed attention to pseudoscience in sports. Cupping, which involves putting a hot jar onto the skin, forming a suction that “draws out” toxins or unblocks energy meridians or something like that, might seem like a relatively benign form of pseudoscience, but it can be quite harmful.  Orac has a great post (complete with a gruesome photo) describing the harms of this particular practice:

Cupping is nothing more than an ancient medical practice based on a prescientific understanding of the body and disease, much like bloodletting and treatments based on the four humors. As the case of Lin Lin shows, it’s all risk for no benefit. It has no place in modern medicine, or at least shouldn’t.

I’m completely unsurprised to find that pseudoscience is common among the elite athletes competing in the Olympics. I’ve seen similar…

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Canadian parents killed their kid by withholding medical care in favor of maple syrup and berries

The sad consequences of using ‘Natural Cures’ instead of medicine.

Why Evolution Is True

Even the rational Canadians have a sprinkling of loons among them, and by that I mean human loons, not the ones on the one-dollar coins.  The latest pair is David and Collet Stephan of Alberta, whose son, Ezekiel, became ill with meningitis four years ago. As the CBC reports, Ezekiel was ill for several weeks, but the Stephans, whose family runs Truehope Nutritional Support, a dubious food-supplement company in Raymond, Alberta, didn’t take their child to the doctor. Rather, they dosed him with a mishmash of ineffectual nostrums:

In a bid to boost his immune system, the couple gave the boy — who was lethargic and becoming stiff — various home remedies, such as water with maple syrup, juice with frozen berries and finally a mixture of apple cider vinegar, horse radish root, hot peppers, mashed onion, garlic and ginger root as his condition deteriorated.

Court heard the couple on tape explaining to the…

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How to lie about radiometric dating, evolution, and even nuclear physics

Revelation TV’s favourite “creation scientist” Grady McMurtry has featured heavily in the station’s holiday schedule in a series of programmes in which he claims to be able to debunk evolution. Paul Braterman’s blog provides an eloquent and expert deconstruction of the psuedoscience which is the stock in trade of creationists like Grady McMurtry.

Primate's Progress

Have you heard the one about the live snail with a carbon-14 age of 3000 years? Or the lava erupted in 1800 in Hawaii with a potassium-argon age in the millions? It’s all true, true I tell you. But does this signify a major problem with radiometric dating?

Spoiler: no.

I don’t know who first dug up these examples, but they were popularised by the creationist comic-book writer Jack Chick, in a publication called “Big Daddy”. The first page, available here if you’re lucky (the links to Chick Publications only seem to work at random), shows a well-primed creationist student arguing with a singularly ill-informed biology professor. The professor has been leading such a sheltered life that he’s never met these creationist arguments before. And he doesn’t understand anything about evolution or dating of rocks or embryology or indeed anything else. Surprise! the student wins! A skilled cartoonist, Jack Chick manages…

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A Year In The Life Of A Clusterhead

First, some background.

“Clusterhead” is a colloquial term used to describe cluster headache sufferers. Cluster headaches affect about 0.2% of the general population making them very rare indeed. Unless you are a sufferer, or live with one, it is unlikely that you will have ever heard of the condition. I don’t intend to explore the epidemiology of cluster headaches but those who are interested should look at the Wikipedia article and the Organisation for the Understanding of Cluster Headache (OUCH UK) site.

What is relevant to this post is the nature and severity of the pain experienced by clusterheads.

The pain of CH attack is remarkably greater than in other headache conditions, including severe migraine. The pain is typically described as burning, stabbing, boring or squeezing, and may be located near or behind the eye. Those with cluster headaches may experience suicidal thoughts during an attack as a result of the pain. It is reported as one of the most painful conditions.

 

There is no known cause and no known cure for cluster headaches.

Secondly, some information about me.

I’m male, 66 years old and a former Biology teacher. I retired six years ago. My first encounters with CH began about ten years ago but weren’t diagnosed until January 2010. I suffered a very serious episode whilst on holiday in South Africa and upon my return saw my GP who made the diagnosis. That episode lasted three months. My next episode began on April 1st 2012. This time I was in Sri Lanka and that attack also lasted for about three months. My most recent attack began on December 14th 2014 and ended on May 12th 2015. It was by far my most severe attack as well as being the longest and it is that episode which is the subject of this blog post.

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The other religiously-abused Canadian child

Felicity Corbin Wheeler of Revelation TV fame is a big fan of Brian Clement and the Hippocrates Health Institute.

Why Evolution Is True

Now that Makaya Sault has died from her untreated leukemia, there’s another 11-year-old first Nations Child from Ontario (“J. J.”) getting “alternative (i.e., useless) treatment, and she’ll also die from the same disease unless someone intervenes. But in this case, a Canadian judge did look at the case, and refused to intervene. Judge Getin Edward, who will have blood on his hands if J. J. dies, ruled against McMaster Children’s Hospital, who wanted to force the child to continue chemotherapy. Doctors there say that J. J. would have had a greater than 90% chance of survival with chemo. But her parents wanted “alternative” and “aboriginal” treatment, though they took J. J. to the Hippocrates Health Institute in Florida, where they use quack nostrums like raw-food diets, lots of vitamins, and cold-laser treatment—hardly “native” healing.

Edward’s ruling was unconscionable; here’s how the National Post described it (my emphasis):

Justice Gethin Edward of the Ontario Court of Justice suggested…

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Scotland refuses to ban teaching of creationism

We tend to think that the teaching of creationism as being a problem in some American schools. The problem is rather closer to home than that.

Why Evolution Is True

Schools in England and Wales aren’t permitted to teach creationism, but for reasons that I can’t fathom, the Scots refuse to join them. This came to light when, as reported by Scotland’s Sunday Herald, the Scottish Secular Society (SSS) discovered that a group of American creationists “had been working as classroom assistants at a primary school in East Kilbride, South Lanarkshire.” (Note: it’s not clear whether this group actually taught creationism as science.)

The SSS petitioned the Scottish Parliament requesting explicit guidance on this issue (i.e., banning creationism the same way it’s done in the rest of the UK), but were turned back with this disappointing statement by a government official:

Tim Simons, Head of Curriculum Unit at the Scottish Government’s Learning Directorate, has written to the parliament’s petitions committee that there are no plans to introduce ban guidance called for by the SSS.

Mr Simmons [sic] said: “I can…

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