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Apr 21 2014

I hate the HuffPo, too. I hate them all.

My complaint about Salon seemed to resonate with a lot of people…but then we acquired some wackaloon named Johny in the comments, raving about auras and magic energy sources and all kinds of idiocy, and then he reminds me that there is a site far worse than Salon: the Huffington Post. Ariana Huffington plunged deep into the worst aspects of tabloid journalism and, damn it, she was successful…and now every left-leaning news site seems to be diving in right after her.

Johny cited this article as some kind of touchstone of reason: 8 Ancient Beliefs Now Backed By Modern Science (yeah, notice the listicle click bait — I am now so conditioned by hatred of that format that I avoid any link that begins with a number, but here I go, linking to it.)

It’s an awful list.

There are things that are trivial in it, things that are ambiguous and misinterpreted, and things that are just plain wrong. Here’s what Huffington says has been confirmed by science:

Helping others can make you healthier.

She cites a single study that somehow confirmed that helping others improved your health and longevity on a genetic level. The study was done with phone interviews.

Acupuncture can restore balance to your body.

Again, she cites a single study, a meta-analysis of the whole dubious mess of acupuncture studies. It concludes, actually, that acupuncture is no better than placebo.

We need the support of a community in order to thrive.

Again, another meta-analysis that found that health is correlated with strong social networks. There is a big problem with these studies: they don’t know cause and effect. It is unfortunately true that one common consequence of serious illness is loss of mobility, loss of connection, and changes in social activity, so yes, if you study sick and dying people, you often find that they are isolated and alone. It doesn’t mean that being alone makes you sick.

Tai chi can help alleviate a variety of health conditions.

Same story. Physical activity and maintaining mobility are good for you. Tai chi is nothing special — get out and take a walk, go square dancing, swim.

Meditation can help you reduce stress and discover inner peace.

Right. Taking a break and focusing on something other than the stressors in your life helps you relax. You don’t need to babble about Tibetan Buddhism to know this.

Compassion is the key to a meaningful life.

Compassion is part of it. But I’ve found a little rigor, aggression, and pursuit of uncomfortable truths to be far more meaningful.

Accepting what you can’t change is key to reducing suffering.

Yay! Platitudes!

All you need is love.

Yay! Beatles lyrics!

Turns out you also need oxygen, food, water, shelter, good health, and security, but I’m happy to allow these loons to try to live on Tai chi, acupuncture, kumbayah, and love. And since it is the HuffPo, apparently you also need celebrity gossip, clickbait, and religious fluff.

So as all media descends into lowest-common-denominator Idiot America noise, where do we go for actual information? This is what worries me. All of the media, not just the obvious examples like the History and Discovery channels on TV, seem to be sinking into the abyss of patent misinformation. Don’t tell me about the New York Times, which publishes kooks like Douthat and Brooks; it used to be the national standard, but it’s long been crippled by an attitude that it can do no wrong, and by a pretense of false objectivity.

I’m a little happier with the BBC and Al Jazeera; if I want informed opinion, I turn to Maddow or Pierce. Who or what do you read to keep abreast of news and politics? Let me know; we’ve got to start ignoring the idiots like the HuffPo, and start corrupting a new set of opinionators with popularity.

112 comments

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  1. 1
    cervantes

    The Puffington Host has always been like that, it’s Arriana’s trademark. Al Jazeera, I second, also if you want deeper thoughts, Democracy, A Journal of Ideas, which is free on-line; and The Baffler. McClatchy News Service is still around, and good.

  2. 2
    Alan Boyle

    The BBC, while of course not infallible, has the distinct advantage of not having to rely on page views to make money. It gets funding if it fulfils certain criteria based around providing a service which is for the public good. While I think it’s perfectly reasonable to collect a tax (which is effectively what the TV Licence is) in order to fund a body dedicated to providing media that’s good for the people as a whole but won’t make money, I can’t see “socialized television” being a great hit in the US.

    That said, the BBC has been gutting its news staff as part of “cost cutting” in recent years, which doesn’t leave me completely optimistic.

  3. 3
    mx89

    I’ve found that the media is just not reliable. There’s the Murray Gell-Mann Amnesia Effect, but there’s also Chomsky’s Manufacturing Consent which is far more worrying.

    Because of this, I am forced to rely mainly on blogs from a variety of experts in their respective fields to learn about the world, backed up with occasional visits to the Guardian, Al Jazeera, Jacobin, The Intercept (although it’s still getting off the ground) etc. I also use Reddit with a small handful of subreddits to find information I might not have otherwise.

    A few of the blogs I read regularly, if anyone is interested:

    The Economist’s Babbage (technology), Erasmus (religious affairs), Democracy in America (occasionally good politics pieces)
    Ben Goldacre’s Bad Science blog (rarely updated these days, sadly)
    Dean Baker’s Beat the Press (economics)
    Bruce Schneier on Security (technology, security)
    Chris Hedges on Truthdig (a little apocalyptic for my taste, but at least he almost never goes on about religion and atheists)
    Crooked Timber (liberal blogger collective – Corey Robin in particular is great)
    Dispatches from the Culture Wars/Pharyngula
    Naked Capitalism (economics)
    Paul Krugman’s NYT blog (economics)
    Radley Balko’s The Watch at WaPo (civil liberties, crime and justice)
    The Monkey Cage (political science)

  4. 4
    rq

    Accepting what you can’t change is key to reducing suffering.

    Ha. I don’t see how that sentence makes sense. Whose suffering is being reduced? Where? So we just trundle along, not caring, because the job looks too big to be done? Ha.
    To that, I say this. I think that, in the long run, that’s a better strategy for reducing suffering.

  5. 5
    Alteredstory

    I turn to science daily for my science news, generally, with Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes for day-to-day stuff, and a combination of blogs that seem, upon vetting, to tally with reality pretty well – Pharyngula, Panda’s Thumb (for science education stuff), Climate Denial Crock of the Week, Think Progress, and then I just filter news sites like Huffpo, Motherjones, Grist, Salon, BBC, and so on.

  6. 6
    tuibguy

    Content is the filler between ads, they say.

    I have this notion that it is not the carrier that makes the difference between whether a network or an online source is reliable but the individual producer/editor/writer that makes the difference. So, while Aletrnet and Truthout deal in some pseudo-science and intellectual weirdness they also mix in a bit of good info and content.

    Grist, Mother Jones, and some local pubs help me fill in my slot.

  7. 7
    MatthewB

    Talking Points Memo has grown into a fantastic site for up-to-the-moment political news; it’s the first site I read.

  8. 8
    numerobis

    I’m surprised to see the BBC on the list — their science coverage is completely atrocious.

    I read a variety of local news, with varying quality but generally clear biases. Then I waste time on Al Jazeera / guardian / NYT / whatever — but it’s really a waste. Half the stories haven’t even been copy-edited, and with the time pressure of the web, it’s all garbage. Sometimes you can find a piece in those papers that isn’t last-minute, and I get some enlightenment.

    Once in a while I read a weekly, which has the luxury of being able to spend a few minutes thinking before they write, so their stories aren’t self-contradictory. NYRB, the Economist, Science; any other suggestions?

  9. 9
    Kristjan Wager

    I think Mother Jones is still doing a good job, even though they sometimes make clickbait on facebook.

  10. 10
    hoku

    I think the key point is that part at the end of the first paragraph. One of my favorite political blogs recently started sections on “entertainment” and “health”, and now includes a regular astrology update. When asked how it makes sense to harm their credibility by running astrology, they respond that it gets a lot of hits, and why do we hate the idea of them making money.

    I hate that the irrational left is destroying/piggybacking on the hard work of intelligent thinkers.

  11. 11
    mikeyb

    When I hear this from the right (radio, Faux, red state, drudge, etc.) patent misinformation and lies is totally expected. But when it comes in slightly different forms from supposedly liberal and progressive sources (usually with versions of Oprah/Chopra woo) it’s easy to throw up your hands and wonder are there any mainstream sources of information that aren’t about entertainment, or selling myths and lies particularly as it relates to science and history, or just as important the real state of the economy – it sucks, there are no jobs because the rich have actively worked for decades to successfully transform the country and the world for that matter into a corporatocracy either by cheating (banks) or hiring workers globally as cheaply as possible and with as little protections as possible to maximize profits over people, and this is celebrated as “the market,” but we barely hear a peep about this, even from the so called liberal progressive media. We don’t need big brother when the media is actively happily complicit in promoting misinformation.

  12. 12
    jacobbasson

    Glenn Greenwald and The Intercept. For more general news…Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert…

  13. 13
    SC (Salty Current), OM

    Democracy Now!

  14. 14
    gussnarp

    I basically just listen to NPR, with my bullshit filter set to maximum. They’re far from perfect, but they’ve got the least biased and least marketed to the LCD from a U.S. source that I’ve found. What I’ve found particularly interesting lately (I guess always, but I’ve been listening to the podcast and therefore listening more consistently lately) is This American Life. One has to recognize with that show that it’s telling a story and cannot be assumed to be completely objective, but if you want to hear things from different perspectives, told with sympathy and nuance, you can do no better, IMHO. I am beginning to agree with those who say Science Friday is complete rubbish. Sometimes I get some good and interesting information from it, but there’s so much crap filtering I have to do. Ira Flatow is also a crap interviewer and the good stuff usually also turns up in the SGU or some other science news source, so I don’t feel like I’m missing anything since I turned off Science Friday in my podcast subscriptions.

  15. 15
    davidnangle

    The Professional Left Podcast, once a week, on Friday. Driftglass and Blue Gal give their great and amusing views on the week’s events, often with strong historical context.

    It gives me a lift, even when the week has been depressing.

  16. 16
    atterdag

    I like the following sources, which have not been mentioned yet:

    Brad Friedman – bradblog.com
    Juan Cole – juancole.com
    Greg Palast – gregpalast.com

  17. 17
    nyarlathotep

    Citizen Radio has long been one of my go-to news sources. I used to check the Nation regularly, but holy fuck has it been a mess lately (though I still read Mychal Denzel Smith and Dave Zirin). Another of my favorites is Dissent Magazine, especially their Belabored podcast hosted by Sarah Jaffe. As others have said, Al Jazeera is pretty good.

  18. 18
    carlie

    I really like On The Media (from NPR). It isn’t the place to go for breaking news, but their whole thing is dissecting how stories get reported in the news and what’s wrong with it.

  19. 19
    Naked Bunny with a Whip

    Accepting what you can’t change is key to reducing suffering.

    “Hakuna Matata” is a catchy song, but it’s not an especially constructive philosophy (and wasn’t portrayed as one).

  20. 20
    aggressivePerfector

    Alan Boyle, #2

    The BBC news website has used and financially relied upon advertising for a few years. I notice a marked decline in quality shortly after the advertising was introduced, and completely stopped using the site. I don’t know if the quality has improved since. Probably it is still better than most of what is available.

  21. 21
    Infophile

    @4 rq: Love that linked quote. I was thinking along the lines of a similar quote I heard somewhere (and tweaked to remove genderedness): “The rational person adapts themself to fit the world they live in. The irrational person adapts the world they live in to fit themself. As such, all change in the world depends on these irrational people.” But honestly, I like the one you linked a bit more.

  22. 22
    walteramos

    Although it’s more a listen than a read, allow me to throw in a recommendation for Dan Carlin’s Podcast Common Sense. I wish it came out more often but generally starts from relevant news items (often citing some of the other references people here have already quoted) and providing a good deal of background. He has a big emphasis on the general topic of corruption (“dependency corruption” as Lawrence Lessig defines it, as opposed to the narrow “quid pro quo” corruption which is the only thing our Supreme Court tells us we need to worry about).

    Further he is very good at linking current events to past history, especially since his other podcast, Hardcore History (which is what I originally started listening to several years ago) provides a wonderful and engaging look at a everything from the Roman republic to the battle of Stalingrad.

  23. 23
    atterdag

    Another excellent news site:

    http://consortiumnews.com/

  24. 24
    brucegee1962

    I also want to complain about all the video news. If I wanted to waste brain cells on watching tv news, I wouldn’t be on the internet.

    Back when I was in college, I used to lay myself on a comfy sofa and spend an hour a day with the Washington Post. I don’t like the smaller sites nowadays so much because I want to go someplace where there are a dozen or so new articles of interest, every day. (That’s one of the things I like most about FTB.) I used to spend a lot of time on NBCNews online, but their latest format change utterly ruined it — it’s all pics, more video and fewer articles, but the biggest problem is that there are some kind of script problems that cause the whole thing to crash on every computer I’ve tried it on. You’d think they’d notice if their site kept crashing peoples’ computers and they stopped coming, but no…

    I’ll try some of the sources people are suggesting here.

  25. 25
    Douglas Henry

    Tai chi is nothing special — get out and take a walk, go square dancing, swim.

    Actually, completely incorrect.
    All these exercises employ completely different sets of muscles,
    Tai Chi is a mental as well as a physical discipline. It’s way more than a set of calisthenics. Unless of course you can defend yourself w/square dancing, swimming, or walking. And there’s more than one study about this.
    Having done this for more than 22 years, it’s irksome that people would relegate Tai Chi to a walk in the park. It has proven benefits: improved balance, lowered blood pressure, etc.
    (& don’t bother w/the ‘oh, you just want to believe that it works’ nonsense: reality is always my barometer, not wishful thinking.)
    Like it or not, some Eastern modalities work. Acupuncture has some limited functionality, but the New Age idiots have hyped it up. Same w/yoga, or Tai Chi. Some NA yahoo gloms onto some mystical manure to promote marketing.
    I would like to see someone equivocate this w/ a ‘walk in the park’ though.

  26. 26
    andrew

    “Who or what do you read to keep abreast of news and politics?”

    In no particular order:

    Friendly Atheist: atheist news, counterapologetics, tales of Christians misbehaving.
    Slacktivist: an evangelical, but a champion of progressive causes and equal rights for all. The multi-year Left Behind deconstruction is a thing of horror and beauty.
    Andrew Sullivan: I’m perfectly aware of his flaws, but it’s still a great source for a lot of news and commentary on contemporary politics and events from a lot of perspectives.
    Joe.My.God: gay news, gay rights, Broadway and pop.
    Pharyngula: we all know why we’re here.
    The Daily Show: *snrk*
    The Colbert Report: also *snrk*
    Dispatches from the Culture Wars: atheist news, legal news, political news, religious freedom.
    Why Evolution is True: Biology, cats, atheism.
    The Sensuous Curmudgeon: creationist antics.
    Balloon Juice: progressive political news/rants.
    Sean Carroll: physics and occasional counterapologetics.

  27. 27
    Lynna, OM

    Talking Points Memo and Rachel Maddow (blog and show) are good. I read all over the place, including local newspapers from wherever big news is happening. I used to read Matt Taibbi on Rolling Stone. He was in a class all by himself. Tabbi has since moved to Intercept (First Look Media). He also has a new book out, “Divide.”

    I read Krugman’s blog. I depend heavily on PZ Myers. The L.A. Times seems to be besting the NY Times frequently.

    Here are a couple of current Maddow Blog articles worth reading:
    Kochs, conservative allies align against solar. Remember the recent ruling in Oklahoma that would charge small businesses and home owners a surcharge (tax!) if they installed solar panels? That comes to you courtesy of the American Legislative Exchange Council which drafted model legislation. The Koch brothers finance Americans for Prosperity. AFP is now busy in Kansas.

    Conservatives’ exaggerated sense of contraception access. Steve Benen writes most of the entries on the Maddow Blog. Give him credit.

    Here’s a typical, in-depth report from Maddow herself: Threat of armed conflict subdues in Nevada.

    https://firstlook.org/theintercept/ This is worth keeping tabs on. It is growing. Adding new journalists all the time. Right now, everything you need to know about the NSA, including the Cuban Twitter scam, is on the front page.

    Matt Taibbi is not up to speed at the Intercept yet. He took a break to finish and market his book after leaving Rolling Stone. LA Times link.

    “For a country founded on the idea that rights are inalienable and inherent from birth,” Taibbi writes, “we’ve developed a high tolerance for conditional rights and conditional citizenship. And the one condition, it turns out, is money. If you have a lot of it, the legal road you get to travel is well lit and beautifully maintained. If you don’t, it’s a dark alley and most Americans would be shocked to find out what’s at the end of it.”

    I also read the “Recovery Board” on an ex-mormon forum. http://exmormon.org/phorum/list.php?2
    The commenters are mostly ex-mormons and they keep one apprised of all the sneaky, political, misogynist, racist, anti-gay, unethical dealings of mormons and of the LDS church.

  28. 28
    Nick Gotts

    Douglas Henry@25,

    And there’s more than one study about this.
    Having done this for more than 22 years, it’s irksome that people would relegate Tai Chi to a walk in the park. It has proven benefits: improved balance, lowered blood pressure, etc.

    Can you give us some citations, showing that tai chi has benefits other forms of exercise do not?

    I would like to see someone equivocate this w/ a ‘walk in the park’ though.

    Well to the uninitiated, there’s nothing particularly impressive about the video – just some guy waving his arms about and occasionally stamping his feet.

  29. 29
    chimera

    Lynna, I get a lot of my news from clinking the links you so generously provide.

  30. 30
    chigau (違う)

    Nick Gotts
    How about square dancing?

  31. 31
    robertfoster

    The Spiegel Online has a much different perspective on Germany’s feelings about NSA spying, among other things. They give a side of the NSA story that most Americans rarely hear. Boy, are the Germans ever pissed.

  32. 32
    razzlefrog

    PZ! Compile a list of dependable news sources for us and do a later post of it!

  33. 33
    Pierce R. Butler

    Nobody’s mentioned TomDispatch yet? Tom Engelhardt provides (his own and others’) lengthy analyses of US and world political/military events – he covers a lot of ground, and covers it very well.

    And I second atterdag’s motion @ # 23 for Consortium News.

    Common Dreams continues to provide an excellent aggregation of news and progressive opinion. Their principal counterpart, alternet.org, achieves this occasionally, but succumbs all too frequently to listicles and bubblehead pieces about sex ‘n’ drugs ‘n’ all that.

    As for the corruption of the corporate media, that’s nothing new:

    “There is no such thing, at this date of the world’s history, in America, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. The business of the Journalist is to destroy truth; To lie outright; To pervert; To vilify; To fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell his country and his race for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press? We are the tools and vassals for rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and or lives are all the property of other men. We are intellectual prostitutes.”

    (John Swinton, former Chief of Staff, The New York Times, 1953.)

    via http://www.truedemocracy.net/td-17/17.html

  34. 34
    Pierce R. Butler

    Also: digby!

    Just another blogger-team analyzing news originally reported elsewhere – but a damn good one.

  35. 35
    Duth Olec

    “lowest-common-denominator Idiot America noise”
    That’s America! Always heading for the lowest common denominator. But we’re the greatest lowest common denominator in the world.

  36. 36
    atheistblog

    Just BBC World, No maddow no nothing. I don’t need opinion of anything ‘democrats do is right’. Even though maddow is not mad as lawrence o’donnel, still it too much of ‘everything democrat does is right’ for me. And of course Jon Stewart is my fav, its more of comical and ridiculing, no ‘ anything democrats is right’ BS.
    So I am happy with BBC world and Jon Stewart, and sometimes Colbert.
    Anything else, just crap. Why do you need a frigging political opinion from MSNBC ? can’t you make up your own mind ? I still remember Jon Stewart condemned both MSNBC and Fox during 2010 election at the Mall, but PZ stomach couldn’t digest that.
    But Jon Stewart turned out to be so correct. Democrats support for women and Republicans support for redneck are all ends up finally into one thing ‘money’. It doesn’t matter democrats or republicans, money writes the law, money sign the law and money enacts the law, money money money money, just plutocracy.
    And stop complaining that ‘ oh look at all those southern state, how they make laws to restrict abortion’, its not republicans or democrats, its just outside control with money. Democrats are acting on principles are just total BS. Prime example is frigging Obama.

    And these democrat admirer like PZ have always excuse ‘ look at the republicans, it could be worse’, that’s the problem PZ, your yardstick to measure ‘just’ is republicans not the principles, that’s why you always end up supporting democrats, and telling others to hold their nose and vote obama. You didn’t vote for 2 green party female presidential candidates, so PZ you don’t have credibility to lecture others on this matter. BTW I did vote for very talented women for president, so I have more credibility than you, PZ. I couldn’t just give up my consciousness and vote for obama-biden, thinking what obama is doing all these 6 years.

  37. 37
    curdle

    #2 and #20 BBC coverage.

    Funny you posted this topic; I was nicely torn between depression and rage today after watching this evenings episode, “Advertising goes native” of Mediawatch (an Australian TV show on our version of the BBC).

    Its all about the blurring of real news, clickbait and corporate sponsorship. http://www.abc.net.au/mediawatch/

  38. 38
    Douglas Henry

    Gotts @ 28:

    Can you give us some citations, showing that tai chi has benefits other forms of exercise do not?

    There’s this new invention called Google – what studies would you accept anyways?

    Well to the uninitiated, there’s nothing particularly impressive about the video – just some guy waving his arms about and occasionally stamping his feet.

    So, quick glimpse, snap judgement?
    How very unscientific.

  39. 39
    miserybob

    Someone mentioned the Professional Left podcast – I’ll second, along with the Driftglass blog. Mike the Mad Biologist is great for science, education, and politics – I always find several great links in his daily Links Roundup.

    Also, Wonkette, for maximum snark. Doc Zoom’s “Sunday’s with the Christianists” series has been a hilarious and scary review of Christian homeschool history textbooks.

  40. 40
    Lynna, OM

    Bicarbonate @29

    Lynna, I get a lot of my news from clinking the links you so generously provide.

    Good to know. Always nice to be appreciated. For those unfamiliar with the continuous, non-contentious thread, I usual post the news tidbits in the Lounge. There’s a permanent link in the left column.

  41. 41
    irisvanderpluym

    I’m a big fan of RT.com, especially Breaking the Set. Overall I access very little American media for news. News is not what they do. Even so-called liberal icons like Krugman regularly carry water for corrupt Democrats.

    Seconding following various bloggers and writers for news as well as in-depth analysis on the issues on which they focus that interest me (e.g. PZ, RHRealityCheck, various Israeli divestment campaigns, Manboobz, The Pervocracy, prison reform activists, Shakesville, Gradient Lair, etc.). I follow people on Twitter for links to their own work, as well as the work of others they highlight in retweets. Even – especially – when they make me uncomfortable and challenge my views. See e.g. @RancidTarzie.

    atheistblog 36: PZ has written a lot of material critical of Democrats and the Democratic party, and hosted posts even more leftist/revolutionary than he tends to roll (including a few from yours truly). You and I would probably agree that “lesser-of-two-evilism” is precisely the reason right wing Democrats like Obama emerge triumphant. I too voted Green Party, in a New York City district where Republicans have exactly zero chance of being elected to anything. A person who votes in the state that gave us Michele Bachmann may quite understandably make a different tactical calculation.

  42. 42
    Frenzie

    I usually keep a half eye on the UN Wire. I don’t really know about the quality of their selection process.

  43. 43
    anteprepro

    Douglas Henry:

    There’s this new invention called Google – what studies would you accept anyways?

    Scientific ones? Peer reviewed? Ideally from groups that aren’t dedicated to proving alternative medicine? Like this , or this .

    So, quick glimpse, snap judgement?
    How very unscientific.

    Says the guy whose only source is a youtube video.

    The point was that it is just exercise, Doug. No need to get all Sophisticated Exercisologist on us.

  44. 44
    serena

    This is probably going to be an unpopular suggestion, but I like watching The Young Turks for daily news commentary. Part of what I like about them is that I don’t always agree with their take on a story but they are independent and seemingly unmotivated by advertisers.

  45. 45
    anteprepro

    atheistblog:

    I don’t need opinion of anything ‘democrats do is right’. Even though maddow is not mad as lawrence o’donnel, still it too much of ‘everything democrat does is right’ for me

    You are an ignorant tool.

    1
    2
    3

    can’t you make up your own mind ?

    Yes, because mindlessly trusting the normal “unbiased” news has proven so successful!

    I still remember Jon Stewart condemned both MSNBC and Fox during 2010 election at the Mall, but PZ stomach couldn’t digest that.

    You’re one of those staunch “Both Sides Are Just As Bad!” gibbering idiots, aren’t you?

    Democrats support for women and Republicans support for redneck are all ends up finally into one thing ‘money’. It doesn’t matter democrats or republicans, money writes the law, money sign the law and money enacts the law, money money money money, just plutocracy.

    And you believe that Democrats are JUST AS BAD when it comes to being motivated by corporate dollars as Republicans are? Happen to notice which party is supporting unfettered capitalism to allow businesses to do whatever they want? Denying science in order to defend the oil industry? Violently opposing any attempt to siphon money out of the deep pockets of our richest countrymen?

    You are blind but think you are a visionary.

    And these democrat admirer like PZ have always excuse ‘ look at the republicans, it could be worse’, that’s the problem PZ, your yardstick to measure ‘just’ is republicans not the principles, that’s why you always end up supporting democrats, and telling others to hold their nose and vote obama.

    Your problem is that you don’t see that PZ DOES criticize Democrats when they step out of line. And that you fail to see that even if Democrats do fail to be liberal enough or pure enough, even if they are only slightly better than Republicans on some issues, even if they are corrupt to a degree, even if they are corporatist to a degree: They are still MUCH better than Republicans on the whole. And voting against them in defiance of them not being even better is just playing a game of chicken where thousands of lives, here and abroad, are put on the line. The voting booth is not the place to whine about the two parties not being different enough. The one that is closer to what you feel is right is virtually your only choice and you need to voice your complaints about that side not being good enough before that time. Or after.

    Protest. Write or call your congressperson. Rally for changing our election system to make third party candidates viable. Support the candidates in the party that best represent what you think the party should be. Voting for someone who has no chance of winning is just a way to feel self-righteous, not a way to send a coherent message or actually effect the change you supposedly want.

  46. 46
    Athywren

    @Douglas Henry, 25

    Tai chi is nothing special — get out and take a walk, go square dancing, swim.

    Actually, completely incorrect.
    All these exercises employ completely different sets of muscles,
    Tai Chi is a mental as well as a physical discipline. It’s way more than a set of calisthenics. Unless of course you can defend yourself w/square dancing, swimming, or walking. And there’s more than one study about this.
    Having done this for more than 22 years, it’s irksome that people would relegate Tai Chi to a walk in the park. It has proven benefits: improved balance, lowered blood pressure, etc.

    The point is that exercise in general can alleviate a variety of health conditions, which is the claim that was being made of Tai Chi specifically, as if it were unique in that. Maybe you can use the motions learned through Tai Chi at a greater speed in self defense, but being assaulted isn’t a health condition. Dancing improves your balance, swimming lowers your blood pressure, walking in the park etcs and does a fine job of etcing.
    I do yoga and it’s a fine way to increase and maintain flexibility and fitness, but it’s no more effective at alleviating health conditions than putting the equivalent effort into swimming or dancing or talking a walk.

    I would like to see someone equivocate this w/ a ‘walk in the park’ though.

    You’re right. That’s nothing at all like a park.

  47. 47
    coffeehound

    You pretty much nailed the four I spend most of my time with( Maddow, Pierce, Al Jazeera, BBC). Democracy Now with Amy Goodman is also often very good; Thom Hartmann is often interesting with regards to politics and economics, but the minute he slides into science or medicine I find myself reaching for an Advil and the dial, he tends to freely mix otherwise interesting science with some Grade A bullshit woo.

  48. 48
    unclefrogy

    I do not have a huge list of sources of info nor do I systematically way to get good info. I listen to some of the same sources already listed and have learned of some more no doubt good places to look. I usually never take what I hear or read without questioning it even though I know that my questions are not without bias’
    I would also suggest
    http://harryshearer.com/le-show/
    as place to checkout often insightful covers stories not often covered,always a smile at the least a practitioner of pointed funny satire.
    uncle frogy

  49. 49
    Nick Gotts

    Douglas Henry@38,

    Evidently tai chi does nothing for one’s intelligence or rationality, at any rate. I am quite prepared to accept evidence that tai chi has benefits other forms of exercise do not if there is good evidence for this – and it is entirely reasonable to ask someone who makes such a claim to support it with evidence of their choice. Surely, having made the claim, you know where the best evidence for it is to be found? What’s the problem with providing a link to it?

    Well to the uninitiated, there’s nothing particularly impressive about the video – just some guy waving his arms about and occasionally stamping his feet.

    So, quick glimpse, snap judgement?
    How very unscientific.

    Doesn’t seem to make people any less touchy, either. I was simply making the point – to repeat myself – that to the uninitiated there is nothing particularly impressive about the video you linked to, and that therefore, it is unlikely to have the effect you evidently think it should. I don’t doubt that you can see evidence of skill in it that I can’t. I was not making any further claim at all.

  50. 50
    Douglas Henry

    @ 43:

    Scientific ones? Peer reviewed? Ideally from groups that aren’t dedicated to proving alternative medicine? Like this , or this .

    I dunno say, Harvard? The Mayo Clinic? WebMD?

    Says the guy whose only source is a youtube video.

    That wasn’t a ‘source’ – it was a valid comparison of how TC is anything but a walk in the park. YouTube is the Nat’l Enquirer of the ‘interwebs’ – I’d never use it as a ‘source’ of any sort.

    The point was that it is just exercise, Doug. No need to get all Sophisticated Exercisologist on us.

    Well, for ‘just an exercise’, it sure is rich in content. Equating it w/calisthenics (or some other linear exercise) just doesn’t seem to fit.

    @49:

    Evidently tai chi does nothing for one’s intelligence or rationality, at any rate.

    You have no criterion to make that snap judgment.

    I am quite prepared to accept evidence that tai chi has benefits other forms of exercise do not if there is good evidence for this – and it is entirely reasonable to ask someone who makes such a claim to support it with evidence of their choice.

    Is it an extravagant claim? No? Then why not just Google it? Seriously. Surely you can’t be that thin-skinned, can you?

    What’s the problem with providing a link to it?

    See links in response to 43.

    @46:

    Maybe you can use the motions learned through Tai Chi at a greater speed in self defense, but being assaulted isn’t a health condition.

    Have you ever been hospitalized due to being assaulted? I’d call that a definite health condition.

    Dancing improves your balance, swimming lowers your blood pressure, walking in the park etcs and does a fine job of etcing.

    Maybe, but you get all of those combined in TC, plus a number of other items. Stress reduction, attaining an alpha state, improved reflexes, improved sensitivity. As a tool, it’s pretty much a Swiss army knife for exercise.

  51. 51
    Giliell, professional cynic -Ilk-

    attaining an alpha state

    Captain, Captain, I have a reading on the bull-shit-o-metre. We need a team down here with the heavy gloves.

  52. 52
    Athywren

    Have you ever been hospitalized due to being assaulted? I’d call that a definite health condition.

    Suuure, but a) that’s almost certainly not what they mean when they say it “can help alleviate a variety of health conditions” and b) that’s still on par with karate, boxing and shooting everyone who makes you feel threatened in the head.

    Maybe, but you get all of those combined in TC, plus a number of other items. Stress reduction, attaining an alpha state, improved reflexes, improved sensitivity. As a tool, it’s pretty much a Swiss army knife for exercise.

    ?
    They do more than just those single things, you know. Dancing is good for more than balance, swimming is good for more than blood pressure, and walking in good for waaaay more than etc (It’s also good for and so on and so forth, as well as ohh, that thing… you know… with the stuff? Yeah, that.)
    It’s a fine exercise, but it’s still just an exercise. No matter how alpha it makes you.

  53. 53
    aggressivePerfector

    Douglas Henry, # 25

    Unless of course you can defend yourself w/square dancing, swimming, or walking

    Do you think you can defend yourself with tai chi? Against what exactly? Some tai chi experts (not many) have achieved impressive levels of skill in unarmed combat, but (a) it’s not because of tai chi, but their personal attributes, and (b) in terms of efficacy in self defense, what a rare expert can achieve in 10 years with tai chi is comparable to what an average bloke (or girl) might achieve in a few months in a boxing gym. The boxer will also get better health benefits (“balance, blood pressure, etc.” + cardio-vascular training, improved muscle tone, flexibility, enhanced reflexes, mental toughness, cultivated diligence, etc.). I’m not a boxer. I could have picked out any of the several martial arts I’ve practiced, or just about any other form of exercise.

    The proposition that tai chi will defend you if you are attacked is dangerous. It won’t. The idea is as daft as your claim about acupuncture.

  54. 54
    zenlike

    “Alpha state” seems to only give hits on deeply woo-ist sites. Look, a can understand that certain types of exercise are better than others, but for some reason, their proponents, after hanging a thin veil of ‘science!’ over their pet-oriental-exercise, always stray at some crucial point, and prove that, yes, they are wooists.

  55. 55
    anuran

    Love your great turgid throbbing madon, PZ.

  56. 56
    anuran

    Seriously, if you can’t get enraged at content-free feelgood Sunday-supplement puff pieces how will you ever get your amygdala properly exercised?

  57. 57
    Al Dente

    Douglas Henry @50

    I’ve read the links you gave. All of them say that tai chi is decent aerobic exercise and is relaxing in a way similar to meditation. It apparently started as a martial art but is now primarily low impact exercise.

    If you had given those links when Nick Gotts asked for them then people would be more receptive to you. However your initial “how dare you question my word” response struck many of us as a woomeister sneering “there’s more to life than mere evidence.”

  58. 58
    porlob

    Maybe, but you get all of those combined in TC, plus a number of other items.

    Can TC transport you across space, such that you are many, many meters or perhaps even miles away from where you started?

    Because walking and swimming (and even certain kinds of dancing) can do that.

  59. 59
    Frenzie

    @57, Al Dente
    The responses since still strike me very much as a woomeister, some links notwithstanding — and surely I needn’t mention that the links don’t actually prove what Douglas Henry claimed in the first place: Unique Benefits™. Add in the fact that tai chi takes you to the Alpha State™, and I’m ready for my Snap Judgment™.

  60. 60
    David Marjanović

    a woomeister sneering “there’s more to life than mere evidence.”

    Day saved.

  61. 61
    RobertL

    I’m very glad that the Guardian started its Australian site. I know that it has a USA-specific site too but I’ve never looked at it.

    And I really like Lawyers Guns and Money.

  62. 62
    Douglas Henry

    @ 51:

    Captain, Captain, I have a reading on the bull-shit-o-metre. We need a team down here with the heavy gloves.

    You must be joking. I (almost) never bullshit. Surely you’ve heard of the Alpha Wave? Bring your team. I welcome them.
    @54:

    “Alpha state” seems to only give hits on deeply woo-ist sites. Look, a can understand that certain types of exercise are better than others, but for some reason, their proponents, after hanging a thin veil of ‘science!’ over their pet-oriental-exercise, always stray at some crucial point, and prove that, yes, they are wooists.

    LMAO! Dude, I’ve been a hardcore atheist for years not – I don’t do ‘woo’, baby.
    @ 57:

    If you had given those links when Nick Gotts asked for them then people would be more receptive to you. However your initial “how dare you question my word” response struck many of us as a woomeister sneering “there’s more to life than mere evidence.”

    Yeah, never you mind I never said any of that nonsense. So ‘scuse me while I spit out the words you put in my mouth…PTUI!
    Really? Seriously? What are we, 12 year olds?
    (oh, oops, lemmee put in an emoticon, in case somebody’s feelings get hurt — BIG SMILEY FACE)

    @59:

    and surely I needn’t mention that the links don’t actually prove what Douglas Henry claimed in the first place:

    & surely I have to provide documentation, since you can’t check for yourself. Hmmm.
    Well, let’s lay this to rest:
    I will be happy to host a free Tai Chi class for any of the posters here, on the proviso that they live in the SF Bay area (I live in Silicon Valley, BTW).
    1 hour w/me, and I GUARANTEE not only will you agree TC no ‘walk in the park’, you’ll be drenched in sweat w/rubbery legs. Likelihood is the participants will also agree it’s way harder than any set of calisthenics, due to the mental discipline.
    & I gar-ON-tee I’m no ‘woomeister’.
    I’ll put my money where my mouth is. Who’s up?

  63. 63
    zenlike

    62 Douglas Henry

    You must be joking. I (almost) never bullshit. Surely you’ve heard of the Alpha Wave? Bring your team. I welcome them.

    The fact that the brain has alpha waves does not mean that there is some sort of alpha state.

    LMAO! Dude, I’ve been a hardcore atheist for years not – I don’t do ‘woo’, baby.

    Atheist doesn’t mean “doesn’t believe in woo”. Actually, there are quite a lot of peoplewho don’t believe in gods, but happily accept the existence of a whole bunch of idiocy like ghosts, and vaguely-oriental sounding mystical crap.

    Dude.

  64. 64
    nnoxks

    Better Tai Chi demo:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C3Qex7QFLss

    Note the throw at around :30. That is not accomplished with magical powers, but neither is it accomplished with “ordinary” use of the musculature. It is a different way of organizing and using the body’s physical structures and connections that allows a seemingly impossible ratio of power generated to size of movement made. Unfortunately the chi-woo does infect many practitioners, but that is in large part a misunderstanding of what is meant when people who actually have the body skills (like the aforementioned Chen XiaoWang) say “chi.” It ain’t mystical, it’s just reshaping the physical structure of the body through years of hard practice. Like juggling, acrobatics, or any other type of high level physical skill, the end result of all that practice can look pretty magical, though.

  65. 65
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    Equating it w/calisthenics (or some other linear exercise) just doesn’t seem to fit.

    Why? Why physical evidence can you provide for any “spiritual” fuckwittery that is significant?

  66. 66
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    1 hour w/me, and I GUARANTEE not only will you agree TC no ‘walk in the park’, you’ll be drenched in sweat w/rubbery legs. Li

    Just like boot camp training. And you point is what? It is heavy controlled exercise?

  67. 67
    Douglas Henry

    The fact that the brain has alpha waves does not mean that there is some sort of alpha state.

    From the Wiki:
    Alpha waves are neural oscillations in the frequency range of 7.5-12.5 Hz[1] arising from synchronous and coherent (in phase or constructive) electrical activity of thalamic pacemaker cells in humans. They are also called Berger’s wave in memory of the founder of EEG.

    Alpha waves are one type of brain waves detected either by electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG) and predominantly originate from the occipital lobe during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes. Alpha waves are reduced with open eyes, drowsiness and sleep. Historically, they were thought to represent the activity of the visual cortex in an idle state. More recent papers have argued that they inhibit areas of the cortex not in use, or alternatively that they play an active role in network coordination and communication. Occipital alpha waves during periods of eyes closed are the strongest EEG brain signals.

    An alpha-like variant called mu can be found over the motor cortex (central scalp) that is reduced with movement, or the intention to move. Alpha waves do not start to appear until three years of age.
    Please be so kind as to explain how this isn’t a ‘state’.

    Atheist doesn’t mean “doesn’t believe in woo”. Actually, there are quite a lot of people who don’t believe in gods, but happily accept the existence of a whole bunch of idiocy like ghosts, and vaguely-oriental sounding mystical crap.

    Being the resident skeptic among my classmates, I tend to lay into those people (verbally). They set my teeth on edge sometimes. Be assured, I am not in any way, woo-affiliated.

    @64:

    Unfortunately the chi-woo does infect many practitioners, but that is in large part a misunderstanding of what is meant when people who actually have the body skills (like the aforementioned Chen XiaoWang) say “chi.” It ain’t mystical, it’s just reshaping the physical structure of the body through years of hard practice. Like juggling, acrobatics, or any other type of high level physical skill, the end result of all that practice can look pretty magical, though.

    Thank you.
    “Sokath, his eyes uncovered!” (spontaneous nerd alert)
    Bear in mind, that in no way is TC a one-size-fits-all panacea or a silver bullet: that’s just woo marketing tactics. While not all-encompassing, it actually covers a variety of exercise needs, & combines mental discipline w/them.
    But a walk in the park? Uh-uh. It’s 1 of the hardest physical/mental disciplines (IMHO) that someone can do.

  68. 68
    Douglas Henry

    Why? Why physical evidence can you provide for any “spiritual” fuckwittery that is significant?

    I also don’t do fuckwittery. Did I even mention it? No.

    Just like boot camp training. And you point is what? It is heavy controlled exercise?

    Like any martial art, you compete w/yourself.
    I thought you only danced w/trolls? Trolls usually don’t provide their full names, & invite anyone interested in a meeting.
    I’m offering free classes. No strings attached. Find out for yourselves. Talk is cheap.

  69. 69
    garybic

    Quick question: Are you guys smarter than all Americans; or just American Christians? Thanks.

  70. 70
    anteprepro

    garybic:

    Quick question: Are you guys smarter than all Americans; or just American Christians? Thanks.

    Relevance?

  71. 71
    garybic

    Just curious. I was warned to not be negative in my comments; tho I haven’t heard many positive things about a) Americans; or b) Christians. The term “fuckwhitterty” (sp?) seems to pass muster as an intelligent response to a comment, tho . . . Just wondering what the “rules” are for those who evidently bristle at the Ten Commandments. Wouldn’t want to be shunned from your little enlightened enclave here.

  72. 72
    chigau (違う)

    Douglas Henry
    I see Tai Chi had done alot for your spiritual development.

  73. 73
    anteprepro

    So basically you are going off of hearsay then, huh?

    Feel free to be negative, we will just be negative back even harder if you are wrong. The rules are here . The basic idea is you are allowed to be rude and swear and be mean, but listen to PZ if he tells you to do something, don’t use slurs, and don’t just cause pointless noise.

    Anyway: I take it you are a bold Patriotic American and devout Bible-beliebin’ Christian, coming here to oppose the godless Fox News hatin’ heathens, huh? Is that the jist?

    (It would be probably be spelled “fuckwittery”)

  74. 74
    omnicrom

    Just curious. I was warned to not be negative in my comments;

    By whom were you warned? What did they tell you about Pharyngula?

    tho I haven’t heard many positive things about a) Americans; or b) Christians.

    So?

    The term “fuckwhitterty” (sp?) seems to pass muster as an intelligent response to a comment,

    It doesn’t. It passes as an insult. Often calling someone a “Fuckwit” or calling something “Fuckwittery” is usually combined with an explanation for the label of Fuckwit or Fuckwittery.

    tho . . . Just wondering what the “rules” are for those who evidently bristle at the Ten Commandments.

    Who brought up the (first) Ten Commandments (of two)? What relevance is that particular jab in this post about the quackery on the Huffpost? If you have a bone to pick with the Pharyngula community’s stance on religion I suggest you take it to Thunderdome

    Wouldn’t want to be shunned from your little enlightened enclave here.

    Yeah, if you’re coming in here with an attitude like that I’m guessing we’re going to have problems.

  75. 75
    chigau (違う)

    anteprepro #73
    hmmm
    I kinda like “fuckwhitterty”.

  76. 76
    chimera

    I second Chigau’s like.

  77. 77
    anteprepro

    It does have its charm. Based on my impressions, Fuckwhitterty could be the name of small town, or a food product. Anyone else get a different gut feeling there?

  78. 78
    Douglas Henry

    I see Tai Chi had done alot for your spiritual development.

    It’s done wonders for my already jovial disposition ;) Nobody here sees my friendly grin. What comes off as temperament is actually style (what little I have, that is).
    Anyways, I’ve said my peace. My offer stands open, free of worry or rancor.
    P.S:
    I found a huge list of URL’s that would’ve hijacked this entire thread w/interpretations & semantics -but I’ll only dole out a couple:
    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2950830/
    http://www.fletcherallen.org/upload/photos/4822taichi.pdf
    http://www.med.nyu.edu/content?ChunkIID=21725
    http://naturalmedicinejournal.com/journal/201
    (trying to piece out the woo & the obvious confirmation was…daunting)

  79. 79
    chimera

    I don’t think many towns would like to be called Fuckwhitterty, bit Phoquewhitterty might do or Folkwhitterty.

  80. 80
    chigau (違う)

    re: food
    fuckwhitterty sounds deepfried

  81. 81
    garybic

    Wow, good stuff guys (and girls, sorry. Sexist right-winger, ya know). I’m “gonna have a problem”? What is this – 8th grade gym class? “Bible-belieben”? Really? Nice to know you don’t pre-judge anyone like those mean, uptight, intolerant, Bible-beliebers. “Do what PZ says?” Seriously? Who the hell is he? Do this, don’t do that: sounds like religious talk to me. Not only that, but isn’t a man giving orders a little sexist? What else ya got? This is fun.

  82. 82
    garybic

    Oh, and uh, anteprepro (whatever the hell that means)? I think the word you’re looking for is “gist”. Looks like you dun been out-thunked by a knuckle-draggin Bible-belieber. Think I’m a-gunna put that on my bidness cards um-hmm…

  83. 83
    chigau (違う)

    garybic
    You are wasting our time.
    Make a point or go away.

  84. 84
    garybic

    Wasting your time? Don’t flatter yourself – you’re on a website that nobody reads @ 11:00 at night just like me.

  85. 85
    chigau (違う)

    garybic
    It’s not 11:00 at night.

  86. 86
    garybic

    It is where I am. You’re boring me.

  87. 87
    garybic

    That said, it’s curious that that’s the part of my post you had a quarrel with. I thought incredibly brilliant scientific types were supposed to be interesting. Ya’ll ain’t nuthin’ like those funny folks on the Big Bang Theory. I just luuuuv that Sheldin. Bazinga!!

  88. 88
    PZ Myers

    garybic:

    I am PZ. This is my blog.

    If you ever see red text directed at you, it means you’re being an ass and are being told to stop acting like one. For instance, stop whining and actually write something. If you’re bored, you can’t imagine how bored I am at yet another entitled Christian twit blowing through to make empty complaints and contribute exactly nothing to the discussion.

    Grow up or get out. Now.

  89. 89
    anteprepro

    So I think it’s pretty garybic has got nothing then and is just here to troll us over nothing in particular. Glad to have that confirmed.

  90. 90
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    nnoxkx #64

    It is a different way of organizing and using the body’s physical structures and connections that allows a seemingly impossible ratio of power generated to size of movement made.

    No, it really isn’t. It’s a perfectly ordinary application of leverage and muscle power, the like of which can be learned in any type of martial art that includes grapples, from Tai Chi to Jujustu to Aikido to Olympic wrestling, and dozens of others.

  91. 91
    ck

    Al Dente wrote:

    However your initial “how dare you question my word” response struck many of us as a woomeister sneering “there’s more to life than mere evidence.”

    Of course, the only acceptable response to “there’s more to life than mere evidence” is “Get in the feckin’ sack!”

  92. 92
    Nick Gotts

    Douglas Henry@62,

    surely I have to provide documentation, since you can’t check for yourself.

    You made the claim, so it’s your responsibility to provide the evidence for it, not ours to go searching for it. That you don’t grasp this extremely simple point says a great deal about you.

    Hmmm.
    Well, let’s lay this to rest:
    I will be happy to host a free Tai Chi class for any of the posters here, on the proviso that they live in the SF Bay area (I live in Silicon Valley, BTW

    Which would give precisely zero evidence for any benefits beyond those of any form of exercise.

    Douglas Henry@78,
    Well, your links are deeply unimpressive.
    The first looks at the immediate effects of combining yoga and tai chi – nothing whatever about health benefits.
    The second is described as a pilot study, and describes only short-term differences with a control group in time off work.
    The third says:

    The alternative therapies Hatha yoga , Qigong , and Tai Chi have shown a hint of potential benefit for high blood pressure, the mechanism of action probably being similar for each. A recent review of multiple studies investigating the effectiveness self-practiced Qigong, for example, concluded that it was more effective at lowering blood pressure than no treatment controls. However, it was no more effective than standard treatments for hypertension: antihypertensive medications or conventional exercise.

    The fourth is a dud link.

    Presumably those are the best you could find. So you have nothing that in any way contradicts the hypothesis that tai chi does no more than any other form of exercise.

  93. 93
    Frenzie

    @62, Douglas Henry

    & surely I have to provide documentation, since you can’t check for yourself. Hmmm.

    Yes. Yes you do.

    I will be happy to host a free Tai Chi class for any of the posters here, on the proviso that they live in the SF Bay area (I live in Silicon Valley, BTW).
    1 hour w/me, and I GUARANTEE not only will you agree TC no ‘walk in the park’, you’ll be drenched in sweat w/rubbery legs. Likelihood is the participants will also agree it’s way harder than any set of calisthenics, due to the mental discipline.

    You could also go rowing for one hour. You’ll be drenched in sweat with rubbery legs. Rowing Uniquely™ does not stress your joints like many other sports do, you Uniquely™ have to pay the utmost attention to form and balance, and you Uniquely™ have to clear your mind. And — oh wait, this is actually unique — it puts you right on top of water instead of on land.

  94. 94
    Athywren

    @Douglas Henry, 62 & 67

    Alpha waves are one type of brain waves detected either by electroencephalography (EEG) or magnetoencephalography (MEG) and predominantly originate from the occipital lobe during wakeful relaxation with closed eyes.

    An alpha-like variant called mu can be found over the motor cortex (central scalp) that is reduced with movement, or the intention to move. Alpha waves do not start to appear until three years of age.

    Please be so kind as to explain how this isn’t a ‘state’.

    So the incredible thing that Tai Chi does is get you into a state that you can reach while resting with your eyes closed? Wow.
    Does it achieve this throughout the activity, or is it concentrated around more restful periods when you might find that your eyes close? (I’m assuming there have been readings throughout Tai Chi sessions to demonstrate that this is truly occurring?)
    Maybe this is a failure on my part to understand what you’re talking about, but it seems like you’re just using impressive technical terms to tell us that it’s just a relaxing exercise, which is fine, but your original comment was that it was completely incorrect to say that it’s just exercise (and yes, that is what it means to say it’s nothing special, and then suggest other forms of exercise that have the same benefits) there appears to be a contradiction there.

    Being the resident skeptic among my classmates, I tend to lay into those people (verbally). They set my teeth on edge sometimes. Be assured, I am not in any way, woo-affiliated.

    In much the same way that being an atheist doesn’t make you a skeptic, being a skeptic, especially being rare enough in your peer group in being skeptical that you might be considered the resident skeptic, doesn’t make you immune to unskeptical thoughts. Skepticism is like the body armour power-ups that you used to find in games like Doom, it’s not god mode. You need to keep replenishing it, and even when you’re careful about doing so, stuff can still get through.

    There’s more to woo than magic and fairies. Believing that it takes a higher state of consciousness to walk on embers is woo. Believing that unregulated corporations will behave in ways that benefit their customers because of market forces alone is woo. And believing that Tai Chi is special or superior to other forms of exercise because it makes your brain do what it does anyway in certain circumstances, and calling that achievement “the alpha state” certainly seems to be woo.

    I will be happy to host a free Tai Chi class for any of the posters here, on the proviso that they live in the SF Bay area

    I don’t, but thanks for the offer. What would it prove beyond the fact that it’s exercise?

    1 hour w/me, and I GUARANTEE not only will you agree TC no ‘walk in the park’, you’ll be drenched in sweat w/rubbery legs.

    I have walked for an hour in the past, many times actually, and on many occasions it has resulted in me being drenched in sweat with rubbery legs. I think you’re mistaking the idea of taking a walk with the idiomatic statement about easy things. Not all walks involve parks, and not all walks that involve parks are idiomatic walks in the park.
    I’ve also danced for an hour in the past, also many times, and most times that has also resulting in me being drenched in sweat with rubbery legs. Painful neck and messy hair, too.
    Other things that I’ve done for an hour which have resulted in being drenched in sweat with rubbery legs are cycling, yoga, judo, sex, gardening, queueing in a hot room when I haven’t eaten recently… I’ve also lifted weights and gone swimming for an hour, but they result in rubbery arms, not legs, and so might not count. Oh, and I’m generally not drenched in sweat after swimming, only water. Maybe swimming is the superior form of exercise?
    So, yeah, I’m not really sure how it’s special in relation to other forms of exercise, except for the way that they’re all special – that it’s not identical.

  95. 95
    Frenzie

    @Athywren

    I have walked for an hour in the past, many times actually, and on many occasions it has resulted in me being drenched in sweat with rubbery legs. I think you’re mistaking the idea of taking a walk with the idiomatic statement about easy things. Not all walks involve parks, and not all walks that involve parks are idiomatic walks in the park.

    Thank you. I was going to say something about how a brisk walk is nothing like stroll earlier, but I guess I forgot about it.

  96. 96
    nnoxks

    Dalillama @90

    “It’s a perfectly ordinary application of leverage and muscle power”

    No, it isn’t. That is simply incorrect. But no need to re-hash the past ten years of debate on E-Budo, Aikiweb, etc. Although it would certainly be fun to see the Pharyngulites go at it over internal strength parameters, there are probably not enough obsessive martial artists here to join in. Note, however, that the past ten years of debate on internet forums has slowly but decisively tilted in favor of the “no, it is not ordinary application of leverage and muscle” crowd. What has settled the debate? Well, it was people from the forums getting out and experiencing first hand what folks like Dan Harden, Minoru Akuzawa, and Sam Chin are doing. It’s kinda fascinating, and gratifying as a skeptic, actually, to read back through the years and watch people’s minds change through testing and empirical experience.

  97. 97
    Athywren

    @Frenzie, 95
    I was also going to mention something about rowing, but you already had and I only have experience with rowing machines, no oars with water resistance, and it felt like it would be cheating to pretend. :P

    @nnoxks, 96
    Out of curiosity, are these Tai Chi masters able to perform the same astonishing feats of strength when they’re not sparring with their own students and/or fellow practitioners?
    If I were to sign a waiver and ask him to perform the same feat on me (and I know how to fall, so it wouldn’t be extremely dangerous) would he be willing and able to do so in the name of skepticism?

  98. 98
    Frenzie

    *grabs popcorn*

  99. 99
    anteprepro

    It’s kinda fascinating, and gratifying as a skeptic, actually, to read back through the years and watch people’s minds change through testing and empirical experience.

    Mmmm, yes all that empirical evidence of tai chi being magic. Just practically buried in all that empiricism and data. Drowning in it.

    (As if we needed yet another data point confirming that “skeptics” aren’t necessarily good at skepticism!)

  100. 100
    Frenzie

    @97, Athywren
    Rowing machines aren’t nearly as much fun, but they’re useful enough in winter. One important thing you might not realize, besides the skill required in properly getting the oar in and out of the water, is that you can kick* significantly too hard on a rowing machine. Basically your kicking force needs to look like a kind of bell curve (now that is actually something rowing machines can visualize nicely), so that you don’t break the water. That way you’ll have a nice, fairly consistent pressure applied throughout the kick, while on a rowing machine you can achieve the same final force by just exploding at the beginning. I’m sure a knowledgeable person would be able to tell you how to use a machine properly, but if you do those things in the water — well, you’ll know it’s wrong.

    * I don’t have an English rowing vocabulary. It may not be the proper term.

  101. 101
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    nnoxks:

    Well, it was people from the forums getting out and experiencing first hand what folks like Dan Harden, Minoru Akuzawa, and Sam Chin are doing. It’s kinda fascinating, and gratifying as a skeptic, actually, to read back through the years and watch people’s minds change through testing and empirical experience.

    You’ve asserted that Tai Chi reshapes the physical structure of the body through years of practice.
    As evidence, you’ve cited the personal experiences of 3 people.

    You don’t see the problem with that do you?

  102. 102
    nnoxks

    Athywren @97 – Yes, the three people I mentioned are well-known, in particular, for their abilities in the face of non-cooperative opponents. However, none of them are actually Tai Chi guys, they just use the same essential body mechanics as “internal” arts. All three are now giving open seminars worldwide, and everyone is welcome. No waivers necessary – these guys can deliver a lot of power in an unusual way and will be happy to show you without hurting you. Being able to take a fall does help though!

    Antiprepro @99 – Sorry, I missed the part where I said Tai Chi was magic. Can you quote me back to me on that point? Because I am pretty sure I said the opposite.

    Tony! @101 – You misread. I did not cite the personal experiences of 3 people. I cited the change in reputation of those 3 people from (circa 2005) “I don’t believe you can do what you claim” to (circa 2014) “the most powerful martial artist I’ve ever met” among the many competent and experienced martial artists inhabiting the various internet forums.

    Please, please note: I am not talking about magical no-touch throws or Jedi powers. I am talking about an entirely physical phenomenon involving muscles, tendons, ligaments, etc., that can be felt in the same way you can feel your jaw clenching when you chew. My claim is only that there is, in fact, a different way of training and using those physical structures than the “ordinary” way of moving, and that different way is more effective for generating force and maintaining balance – which is pretty damn useful if you are a martial artist!

  103. 103
    Tony! The Queer Shoop

    nnoxks:

    Tony! @101 – You misread. I did not cite the personal experiences of 3 people. I cited the change in reputation of those 3 people from (circa 2005) “I don’t believe you can do what you claim” to (circa 2014) “the most powerful martial artist I’ve ever met” among the many competent and experienced martial artists inhabiting the various internet forums.

    Apologies for misreading.
    That said, you’ve mentioned those 3 people in the context of a discussion about Tai Chi and how peoples’ minds have changed thanks to empirical evidence and testing. That their reputation has changed among people online (none of whom you link to, so I guess we’ll have to take you at your word that anyone’s mind has been changed) does not mean that there exists empirical evidence that “Tai Chi reshapes the physical structure of the body through years of practice.”
    All I can gather from the limited information you’ve given is that some group of people online changed their opinions on 3 martial arts masters. Why did they change their minds? What evidence was presented? What testing was done and how rigorous was it? If there is empirical evidence to support your claim, where is it?

    Put another way–I’m skeptical of your claim. What is your evidence to support it?

  104. 104
    nnoxks

    Well, it’s a fair question, and a fair point. I already said that I am not looking to rehash the last decade of online debate in the martial arts community, but if you really want to fill yourself in, you could start here: http://www.aikiweb.com/forums/showthread.php?t=11178. But pretty much, yeah, my evidence adds up to “some group of people online changed their opinions on 3 martial arts masters.” (Actually, more like 2, since Sam Chin never really came up in the early days of the debate.) The evidence presented was that people started meeting up with these guys and feeling them hands-on. How else do you test the truth of someone’s claim that “you can’t push me over”? The testing was and is pretty rigorous – ever been to a BJJ class? ;-) Scientifically rigorous, no, we’re not talking about double-blind studies here.

    Of course, getting one’s ass handed to one is not necessarily evidence for the proposition that the ass-hander is using their body differently. But that is what the experts who are out there teaching this stuff and doing the ass-kicking claim. And it feels different to those martial artists who put their hands on them. And those who put in the time and effort to learn do start to see results and develop new physical connections they were previously unaware of.

    Anyway, I don’t see why it is such an outlandish position to say that high-level martial artists use their bodies differently. Hard physical training changes your body – not exactly a claim on par with telepathy or dowsing. As to how it changes one’s body, it is interesting to note the musculature common in both Chinese and Japanese “guardian statues.” http://japan-australia.blogspot.com/2011/09/picture-of-week-nio-guardians-at-nandai.html. Looks a little different than the modern idea of a toned body, eh? Weird lines across the chest, weird muscles under the ribs, undefined stomach. Here’s another: http://muza-chan.net/japan/index.php/blog/japanese-traditional-architecture-kongougaki.

  105. 105
    Dalillama, Schmott Guy

    nnoxks #96
    The opinions of a bunch of martial-arts enthusiasts on some web fora are not terribly convincing evidence, particularly given the level of bullshido posturing and woo those types of fora abound with. If you could cite, say, a study by some physiologists showing that ‘it is not ordinary application of leverage and muscle’, that would be something to look at. You can’t do this, of course, because there is, in fact, nothing special beyond applied leverage and muscular exertion.

    Well, it was people from the forums getting out and experiencing first hand what folks like Dan Harden, Minoru Akuzawa, and Sam Chin are doing

    Did you miss the part where I said that you can pick up equivalent tricks in any grappling form? I’ve had it done to me by several instructors and numerous senior students. Hell, I’ve done similar stunts myself, although I’m not practiced enough, skilled enough, or strong enough to get the kind of visually impressive results in the video.
    Athywren 97

    Out of curiosity, are these Tai Chi masters able to perform the same astonishing feats of strength when they’re not sparring with their own students and/or fellow practitioners?

    Probably. As I noted, similar tricks are pretty common in grappling forms. It won’t come off perfectly every time if the other party isn’t cooperating, but it usually works well enough to put them on the ground somewhere, which is really the point. Also, it helps to practice a whole lot and be in really good shape. There’s counters too, of course, which vary in effectiveness depending on how good you are vs whoever’s throwing you.

  106. 106
    chigau (違う)

    nnoxks
    People who have trained in anything for 40 years use their bodies “differently” from people who have not trained.
    Duh.
    What they do NOT do is grow extra muscles.
    And, really.
    Artistic convention is not evidence of anatomy.
    (check out his belly button)

  107. 107
    nnoxks

    Dalillama @105: Well, it’s a bit of a quandary, isn’t it? Not everyone on internet forums is worth listening to. But the martial arts community is not that large – people know who is who. And this stuff is spreading. Even the BJJ and MMA folks are picking up on it. Look whose names are being mentioned here – not coincidence, I assure you: http://www.mixedmartialarts.com/thread/2175285/Ricksons-connection-theory/?page=1. You say it’s no different than ordinary movement; those who teach it and those who have met up with them say it is different. As for physiological studies, it will be interesting to see what emerges in the next ten years or so. Very exciting times in the martial arts.

    Chigau @106: Yes, that is exactly the point. People who train hard physically use their bodies differently depending on how they train. And who said anything about “extra” muscles? You have plenty of muscles that you can use in ways you might not imagine, no need for anything extra. Your entire torso is one contiguous sheet of muscle: http://www.free-anatomy-quiz.com/torso-pic2.html. The statue pictures are just for fun, really, but I don’t think there are any extra muscles to be seen there. I do suspect that they represent a body trained to use its muscles differently. One aspect of the kind of “Tai Chi” strength I am talking about, for example, concerns the ability to expand the abdomen into a ball shape and move it around with the surrounding muscles while keeping it expanded. You could probably do that a little bit yourself just from that description. If you are having trouble visualizing, here is someone working on that particular aspect of this training (see from about 12:40): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ji4mLkwfFJs. Can you see how such exercises might result in something like the musculature represented by the statues?

  108. 108
    chigau (違う)

    nnoxks
    Your entire torso is one contiguous sheet of muscle
    No. It is not.

  109. 109
    chigau (違う)

    nnoxks
    That youtube video…
    you must be joking

  110. 110
    nnoxks

    Um, yes, it is: http://josephagu.files.wordpress.com/2012/10/ja_muscular-torso.jpg. Actually, your entire body is (mostly) covered in muscle. Of course, there are individual muscles there, but they are all overlapping or very close together – which is why I used the word “contiguous” (sharing a common border; touching) as opposed to “continuous” (forming an unbroken whole; without interruption). Do you think, when you turn at the waist, for example, that you are engaging particular abdominal muscles in isolation? Or are a whole bunch of contiguous and overlapping muscles firing? Good grief, this is not controversial. See also here, explaining the interconnections of the abdominal muscles with other parts of the body, including the ribs, pelvis, sternum, back, and spine: http://www.humankinetics.com/excerpts/excerpts/abdominal-training-for-soccer.

    That youtube video – must be joking about what? Does it not look like he is trying to expand his abdomen and move it around with the surrounding muscles while keeping it expanded? Or is your objection that it looks silly, or that the guy doing it looks silly? To me it looks exactly like I described it.

  111. 111
    Douglas Henry

    Seems like my last post got lost in the shuffle.

    It seems that the discussion goes on – but the message is getting garbled in a semantic shooting match.
    My apologies to anyone offended by my off-hand style (I talk to people like that in realtime too).
    Suggesting that people do their own research is not a refusal to share – my motto (1 amongst many) is, don’t listen to me, find out for yourself. I could share piles more links, but I was hoping to avoid the ‘gee that doesn’t fit this or that criterion‘. & since some people here are on ‘auto-irritate’ (observation not criticism), it’s easy to get caught up in context quibbling.
    Here’s some more (apologies to PZ if this is irksome):
    http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2318/13/114
    http://www.angra.uac.pt/pessoais/docentes/lsouto/Public/temp/older.pdf
    http://ganesha.uoregon.edu/images/9/92/Hawkes_Diss_Final_Corrected.pdf
    http://www.indiana.edu/~librcsd/nt/db.cgi?db=meditation&do=search_results&mh=100&sb=SortOrder&keyword=*
    http://ejmas.com/pt/ptart_shin_0400.htm
    http://www.magazinehealth.com/what-meditation
    http://europepmc.org/articles/PMC3730281/reload=0;jsessionid=TYF9qpLzr3gjxzWI91WH.20
    Sadly, w/Tai Chi being associated w/a bunch of woomeisters, all the New Age dipshits start mixing in their astrology, tarot cards, & booga-booga nonsense. So strict scientific studies are hard to come by.
    Here then (& I probably should’ve done this in the 1st place), are multiple excellent reasons to at least try Tai Chi:
    1. Improves relaxed awareness (no, there aren’t too many sports outside of MA that train this anyways). *Kudos to the guy who can relax by closing his eyes!* Must be nice ;)
    2. Improves overall muscle use efficiency (for me this is mostly anecdotal: I’m 55 yo, I’m stronger physically than I was 20 years ago). It doesn’t grow extra muscles, it maximizes efficiency, & the more relaxed you are, the better the reflexes.
    3. Stress reduction. Along w/#1, it is a form of moving meditation.
    4. Mental discipline: along w/’playing the form’, you have to train a number of mental principles – this is way harder than it sounds.
    5. Self-defense. Now before anyone says ‘Codswallop!’ – the TC I do is Chen style which far more brisk than what you see regularly in the parks & WAY more martial. While 1 of the drawbacks is that it does take a while (I was able to fight w/it w/in a year, but I’d had street fighting & martial arts experience prior), for most folks it takes a spell. But once you get to that level – YIPPEE!
    6. It trains composure & precision.

    As to ‘does it work on NON-believers?’ – well, yes it does. Sadly, there are a proliferation of charlatans in the MA (as evidenced by that yahoo on YouTube). My criterion is, if someone has to believe in something for it to work, then it doesn’t. (& yes, I don’t need a lesson on how to be a True Skeptic™, thanks much.) When I get bounced by some expert, they actually have to work for it.

    Much as I hate saying this, but there are some concepts that are difficult to convey to non-martial artists. This is simple fact, not tribalism. Try explaining complex computer concepts to the average layperson is a good example: some people just want the damn thing to work, not get a lecture on the Windows registry (or UNIX inodes).

    As for the other responses, i.e. ‘You get that from this exercise! You get this from that exercise’ – well, why do 10 (or 14) different kinds of exercise when you can just do this 1, which (w/training) you can do anywhere, anytime, no gym required, no swimming pool, no extra equipment etc., it just seems a more reasonable use of resources.

    I personally am always up for any demonstration, testing, etc. To the people who say, ‘Show me!’, I am more than happy to oblige. But some things simply have to be hands on, because YouTube videos are kinda sketchy, & anyone can dissect any link & find fault w/it, & hands-on is always the best way to show anyone anything. ‘Proof’s in the pudding’ I always say.

  112. 112
    Child D

    Well, I’ll refrain from addressing anyone other than the author after this length of time. But, I do concur Myers. If you are looking for another point of view as far as websites go, you have to be more creative than in the past. First and foremost – you must be anonymous. In the day of NSA and others that appears to be impossible. Its not and it doesn’t take a geek degree to get there. Except when I agree to advertise my presence (like when I logged in here), I’m always invisible. I come from the Netherlands, from Rwanda, from Russia, etc. I use the TOR network – they bounce me around the globe for free and I don’t even have a clue how it works – it does. I boot from a DVD that never mounts my or my friends hard drive, leaves no trace and I am invisible. Check out TAILS 1.1 or later. I’m sure you can google and make a DVD and if not or can’t follow simple instructions on the web – well, good luck for you are a sitting duck. The rest who know better are invisilbe.

    The biggest bennefit to being invisible – “they” – the “gods” of tech (google, Apple, Microsoft, Yahoo, Oracle, Cisco, etc.) can’t track you. Therefore, if you pop out into the net from Russia and look for news.google.com, you will find its in Russia until you change your language. Even then, as soon as you click on a link, you may be switched to Sweden and have to again choose English instead of Swedish. Not a big deal and you get the local point of view from all over the world if you want to stay on one topic. You will not get manufactured consent and can tell propaganda almost on its face. In truth, most people don’t lie just as most people do who have something to gain. Something to consider – good article.

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