Is There No End to Inanity?

By now, the more perceptive of you may have realized I haven’t been writing about pollyticks lately.  That’s not because I’ve lost interest, it’s because I’ve been awash in a target-rich environment.  After so many hours of exposure to ever-increasing stupidity, day after day, my poor brain crawled out a convenient ear canal and ran away.  I’ve been luring it back by feeding it lots and lots of science, not to mention a heaping helping of Connie Willis.

We’ll have a nice roundup of political dumbfuckery later this week.  For now, suffice it to say that if a politician in this country has got an R after his/her name and is currently electable, he/she is probably batshit fucking insane, so deplorably stupid that no words have been coined which properly describe the horror, and the fact he/she has any chance at all of getting elected solves the mystery of why great civilizations fail.  Forget all those theories of environmental catastrophe, barbarian invasions and so forth: it was probably the because they let their politicians become as horrifically idiotic as ours.

You’d think this current election cycle would have sated my appetite for stupidity.  Alas, no.  It’s just caused me to crave a little variety.  IDiots are always good for a laugh, and watching ol’ Billy Dumbski nearly get expelled for not toeing the good Baptist line gave me the giggles.  Still, I wanted more.  So I went though PZ’s blogroll looking for new sources of entertainment, and came across a site called DC’s Improbable Science.

Parents: if you have ever thought of sending your kiddies to a Waldorf school, unthink that thought now.

In an article entitled “The true nature of Steiner (Waldorf) education. Mystical barmpottery at taxpayers’ expense. Part 1,” we learn that these schools are repositories of quackery of the first order.  We’re talking people who think the moon’s phase is important to crops, kiddies aren’t completely incarnated yet, and pigeonhole them based on “The Four Temperaments.”  Yes, just like the Four Humors, only in this case, even dumber.

Oh, and if you think your kiddies shall at least be taught to read, think again.  That, you see, would hinder their spiritual development.

As far as history class, well, you know, “‘The narrative thread for Ancient civilisations often begins with the fall of Atlantis’.”

You may remember the fear of being held back a grade because you were flunking reading, math, or science.  Well, kids in Waldorf schools have a whole other set of concerns:

To quote from The Age:

“One parent, who did not wish to be named, said she moved her son out of the school after a Steiner teacher recommended he repeat prep “because his soul had not been reincarnated yet”.

“I just don’t believe it is educationally sound,” she said.”

Ya think?

I marvel, my darlings, positively marvel, at the sheer volume of utter bullshit human beings seem capable of swallowing whole.  I guarantee you: down a cocktail of magic mushrooms and LSD, write down the insanity that ensues, blend it with the contents of the newage and religion sections of your local bookstore, pick bits of it at random, and serve it up after having translated it from English to Swahili to Japanese and back to English using Babelfish, and you’d still find people who would wholeheartedly believe every incomprehensible word of the resulting mess.

People are weird.

Best Friday Dose of Woo Ever – or Should That Be Worst?

Orac occasionally reposts some of his classic Insolence, which is a good thing – especially when he reposts something so mind-meltingly five-alarm Woo that I wonder where it’s been all my life.  This bit of classic Insolence alternatively made me laugh, cry and howl.  I ended up starting silently at my computer screen in numb disbelief.

A taste:

Regular readers of this blog are probably aware of my general opinion about Reiki and other “energy healing” modalities. In short, they’re woo, pure and simple. Consequently, one might reasonably ask why I’ve never featured the woo that is Reiki in Your Friday Dose of Woo. There’s a simple reason for that.

Basic Reiki is boring.

Really, I mean it. In and of itself, it just doesn’t reach the level of sheer ecstatic nuttiness that I like to feature every week. Oh, sure, there’s lots of handwaving about “channeling the universal energy” through the healer to augment the life force of the person being healed. Certainly there’s lots of serious woo about being able to heal people at a distance or through laying on of hands. (And you thought Jesus was main guy known for this.) But, in its basic form, Reiki lacks something to put it truly over the top. I wasn’t sure what it was, but I found out.

It’s missing laser beams. No, really. We’re talking about Laser Reiki, which provides this promise:

If you loved the movie The Matrix, then you will love healing your life and changing your reality with Laser Reiki.

Now we’re talking! Personally, I did like The Matrix. I even liked The Matrix Reloaded. The Matrix Revolutions kind of sucked, though. Is Laser Reiki like The Matrix, or is it like The Matrix Revolutions? You be the judge!

It gets better (worse?) from there.  The shit some people come up with to ‘splain why their chosen Woo is ever-so-scientific is truly remarkable.

Quantum physicists in the audience, be warned: your heads might explode.  This cantina is not responsible for traumatic brain injury, damage to furniture, walls, or electronics, or cleaning costs for removing bits of brain matter and skull shards from any nearby surfaces, up to and including carpet, chair, pets and loved ones.

You May Think I Hate You After This

I assure you, I don’t.  I can prove it.  I’m warning you ahead of time, read Orac’s Friday Dose of Woo in increments.  Just nibble away at the edges of the burning stupid, then take plenty of antacid and digest for a bit before returning for more.

On the continuum of burning stupidity, this one’s roughly the temperature of the Sun’s core.  Here’s the appetizer:

What, you may ask, is “DNA activation”? Let international spiritual teacher, Soul Wisdom Psyche Doctor, distant healing specialist, co-founder of the Higher School for Conscious Evolution, and author of the Great Master (not to mention DNA practitioner) Toby Alexander explain why you should activate your DNA:

Most people know that DNA is the ‘blueprint of life’ and is located in every cell of the body. In addition to each chromosome’s 2 strand double helix of DNA, there are an additional 10 etheric strands of DNA available to each human, which have been de-activated and dormant since the beginning of recorded history. Each additional strand possesses attributes that permit the individual to perform greater human accomplishments. Scientists acknowledge that we currently only use 3% of our current 2 strand DNA. Thus we live in a society where people are sick, unhappy, stressed out, create wars, have “difficulty experiencing love, and are totally disconnected with the universe. Most people have to meditate for many years just to have a so-called ‘mystical’ experience, that’s how disconnected we are now. Imagine activating 100% of your 2 strand DNA, PLUS 10 additional strands! You will go from using 10% of your brain to becoming a multi-dimensional being with psychic, telepathic, and manifestation abilities beyond anything you’ve ever dreamed of. Plus, you will stop the aging process and actually start to rejuvenate to look and feel YOUNGER. This is the Original Divine Blueprint, what man USED to be. It has been written that Jesus had 12 strands of DNA activated. There have been children born throughout the history of humanity to raise the frequency of the planet that have more than 2 strands of DNA active – they are known as Indigo children. These are the incredibly intelligent, loving, and amazing children that are being mistakenly diagnosed as having A.D.D. because they are too smart to pay attention in class. Your DNA is your blueprint of life and is what controls every single function inside each of your cells. If you change your DNA, you really will change your life.

Holy woo, Batman!

I swear I felt brain cells fuse from the heat of the stupid as I read on.  Some neurons seem to have actually vaporized on contact.  It got so bad I had to go clear out my work email’s inbox for a while, until things stopped steaming and molten bits of brain matter stopped dripping from my ear canals.

I’d planned to do a Dumbfuckery du Jour today, but nothing in politics came close to being that inane.  It’s all anticlimax from here.

And why am I tormenting you with this?  Because watching Orac spank someone that insanely stupid is an education and a pleasure.  Also, I had to explain why I haven’t got any nice geology outtakes from the trip ready for you yet.  The unmelted bits of my brain curled up in a fetal ball for protection and refuse to uncurl.  I’m putting them to bed with a book on glaciers, a friendly glass of Beaujolais, and a warm, purring, only mildly homicidal feline.  (I love winter.  The temptation to stay warm overcomes my cat’s innate violent tendencies, although only just, and I get to enjoy what so many other cat owners do: cuddles without the fang marks.)

I’d get my DNA activated, but if it’s anything like a cell phone activation, it means I’m stuck in a two-year contract with a large early termination fee.  No thanks, I’ll pass.  Unless, of course, a bunch of us can get together for a discussion about how we can use words like “quantum entanglement” to convince Mr. Alexander that we’ve fused our collective activated etheric DNA and shall hold his chakras hostage until he pays us

Stretching Credulity

If you read only one cartoon this week, read this one (h/t).  Warning: reading while eating or drinking may cause serious problems when you get to the end of the strip, so make sure to swallow any and all foodstuffs well before the final panel.

Thank you, Chris, for pointing this one out!

Newsflash: Sticking Burning Candles in Your Ear Could Be Hazardous to Your Health

Back in the late 1990s, someone babbled at me about ear candling for a great many minutes.  They waxed poetic over the health benefits of stuffing a candle in your ear and lighting it up.  I can’t remember why.  All I can remember is staring at them with my jaw hanging open and thinking, “Are you nuts?”

Needless to say, though I wasn’t a Certified Skeptic back then, and hadn’t even heard of science-based medicine, I gave ear candling a pass.  It sounded like the height of folly.

Over a decade later, the FDA’s caught on.  I ended up on their MedWatch page page after reading a post at Terra Sigillata about yet more prescription drugs being sneaked into yet more supplements. (Yes, manufacturers do this so that their “wholesome and natural” products will actually work.)   Just for S&G, I decided to see what other nefarious nonsense the altmed world’s been up to, and I came across an alert entitled “Ear Candles: Serious Risk of Injuries.”  I laughed and laughed and howled, “Well, no shit, Sherlock!”

The first paragraph is morbidly hilarious:

FDA is notifying consumers and healthcare providers of its warning not to use ear candles - a hollow cone about 10 inches long made from a fabric tube soaked in beeswax, paraffin or a mixture of the two - because they can cause serious injuries, even when used according to the manufacturer’s directions. According to advertised claims, a burning ear candle draws ear wax and “impurities” or “toxins” out of the ear canal. Other claims for ear candles include relief from sinus and ear infections, headache and earache, as well as improved hearing, “blood purification,” improvements in brain function, and cure cancer. FDA has found no valid scientific evidence to support the safety or effectiveness of these devices for any medical claims or benefits. FDA has received reports of burns, perforated eardrums and blockage of the ear canal which required outpatient surgery from the use of ear candles.

Anyone stupid enough to believe that sticking a candle in their ear and lighting it will cure them of cancer almost deserves a little blockage of the ear canal as an object lesson, except I can mostly forgive them – they’re desperate and scared and willing to try anything to survive.  The real stupidity comes from the dumbshits purveying this as a cure.  They’re either moronic or greedy or both.

And don’t even get me started on the parents taking their kids in for this treatment.  Really, don’t.  Let’s just say I have definite opinions regarding their fitness as parents, and those opinions aren’t flattering.

While we’re on the subject of “miracle” cures, there’s another great one at Terra Sigillata that’s really not to be missed:

FDA Warns Consumers of Serious Harm from Drinking Miracle Mineral Solution (MMS)
Product contains industrial strength bleach

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is warning consumers not to take Miracle Mineral Solution, an oral liquid also known as “Miracle Mineral Supplement” or “MMS.”  The product, when used as directed, produces an industrial bleach that can cause serious harm to health.

The next time some fluffy-bunny altmed worshiper asks me “what’s the harm?”, I shall be more than happy to inform them.

In Defense of Demerol; or, Why Woomeisters Shouldn’t Jump the Gun

Michael Jackson dies, and the next thing you know, everybody’s speculating that Demerol did the deed. Which leads whackjobs to froth at the mouth over Big Pharma’s complicity in his death, and Orac to deliver a spanking:

Actually, it’s nowhere near certain that this is what happened. In fact, it’s highly unlikely, and, as we all know, Jackson’s doctor ultimately did turn up and cooperate with authorities. Still, I myself did wonder about reports that Michael Jackson was being injected with intramuscular Demerol. It’s something we used to do for pain commonly when I was a resident, but Demerol went out of favor, at least in surgical patients, a long time ago, mainly because it has a lot of side effects, including hallucinations, seizures, and arrhythmias, among others. It’s possible that a mixture of prescription drugs could have triggered Jackson’s cardiac arrest. However, even if Demerol were the cause of Jackson’s death, it would be nothing more than an indication how easily some physicians can enable celebrity drug addicts, not that the pharmaceutical industry caused Jackson’s death.

Now, Demerol’s no daisy. It’s a dangerous drug that must be used wisely. But I’ll tell you something: it’s my favorite painkiller on the entire planet, and so I feel I have to say a word in its defense. Administered sparingly by competent doctors for the treatment of agonizing pain, it’s great stuff. Demerol is a delight when you’re suffering a kidney stone. I know this from experience. One minute, wanting to reach for the nearest scalpel to forcibly remove the offending kidney, but too sick and twisted up with intolerable pain to reach one: the next, sitting up in bed happily reading a book while said kidney stone finishes passing. And for me, it didn’t have the side effects that morphine does.

So look, it’s like any drug: it won’t be a cakewalk for everybody, and abuse is a really bad idea. But used in the right setting for the right reasons with the right patient, it’s damned helpful.

Besides, before demonizing Demerol, it might be a good idea to wait for the autopsy results. For all we know, MJ might’ve been taking some super-spiffy herbal remedy that causes cardiac arrest, and my, won’t the woomeisters’ faces be red then?

Actually, probably not:

Remember one of “Orac’s laws”? Specifically, I’m referring to the observation that, whenever a believer in alternative medicine uses both scientific medicine and alt-med and gets better, inevitably she will attibute her good fortune to the alt-med, not the science-based medicine? There’s a corollary to that law, namely the reverse: If a patient using both alt-med and scientific medicine dies, it’s always the fault of the scientific medicine, particularly if chemotherapy was involved.

Because, you know, herbal remedies can never ever be harmful. Just ask these 100,508 people.

Of course, you’ll have to consult a medium to get in touch with most of them…

PalMD Gets Mail

It turns out chiropractors are no better than creationists when it comes to intellectual honesty:

A long while back, at the original wordpress incarnation of this blog, I wrote a piece on the reasons that chiropractic is unscientific nonsense. Because it was popular, I moved it over here. Well, a chiropractor has come to bravely defend his field and left us a comment.

A study in the May 2007 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics reports health plans that use Chiropractors as Primary Care Providers (PCPs) reduce their health care utilization costs significantly.

The study covers the seven-year period from 1999 to 2005. Researchers compared costs and utilization data from an Independent Physicians Association (IPA) that uses Chiropractors as PCPs and a traditional HMO that doesn’t.

[snip]

Study co-author James Winterstein, D.C. says that patients using Chiropractic PCP health care groups “experienced fewer hospitalizations, underwent fewer surgeries and used considerably fewer pharmaceuticals than HMO patients who received traditional medical care.”

I know what you’re thinking. You don’t even need to read PalMD’s delicious dissection of the study to know where the problem lies, do you? It wouldn’t really even matter if the study had been written up in a respectable medical journal rather than the Journal of Manipulative and Physiological Therapeutics, which hasn’t the most stellar reputation. No, all you’d have to look at is the fact that patients using chiropractors as their Primary Care Physicians obviously didn’t use as much traditional medical care because their PCP is an alt-med fucktard. Duh-huh.

Read PalMD’s smackdown anyway, as it is absolutely delectable. I’ll give you a morsel. Now, keep in mind, this poor schmuck emailed PalMD this study to try to defend chiropractic against charges that it’s complete and utter bullshit, full of pseudoscience, and has no place in medicine outside the treatment of minor lower back pain.

Now savor this:

The goal of the study is quite clearly set out:
In this article, we are not taking a position on the efficacy of any CAM treatment. Rather, we are interested in the current use of CAM modalities and cost effects of such use, regardless of treatment outcome. These clinical utilization and cost outcomes are compared with previously published results.

In other words, they are looking at alternative medicine vs. real medicine to see which is cheaper, not whether it actually works.

Ha ha ha ha FAIL.