Sunday, November 02, 2008

What's the harm?

What is this site?

We are all confronted with new information daily. It comes to us via newspapers, radio, television, websites, conversation, advertising and so on. Sometimes it seems like a deluge.

Not all information is created equal. Some of it is correct. Some of it is incorrect. Some of it is carefully balanced. Some of it is heavily biased. Some of it is just plain crazy.

It is vital in the midst of this deluge that each of us be able to sort through all of this, keeping the useful information and discarding the rest. This requires the skill of critical thinking. Unfortunately, this is a skill that is often neglected in schools.....

Stop Sylvia Browne

Stop Sylvia Browne

Psychic tries to stop Stop Sylvia Browne


What's the harm?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Bad Science

Ben Goldacre seen here recently on The One Show, talks about Bad Science. is his website and Bad Science is his new book.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


As biologically and culturally evolved beings, humans seem to have certain epistemological proclivities. Perhaps asking "why questions" is one of these proclivities. Perhaps sometimes asking "why questions" is nonsensical. Tantamount to asking for a square circle.

I was thinking about infinite regression of explanations. People always end up asking why instead of how. What makes us think there is a why? The human search for meaning? Perhaps there is ultimately none. This might be the case even if it is unsatisfactory.

The search continues.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Philosopher 1 - 0 Abraham

And the Lord spake unto the philosopher, 'I am the Lord thy God, and I command thee to sacrifice thy only son.'

The philosopher replied, 'There's something not right here. Your commandments say, "Thou shalt not kill".'

'The Lord giveth the rules and the Lord taketh away.' replied God.

'But how do I know you are God?' insisted the philosopher. 'Perhaps you are the devil trying to fool me?'

'You must have faith,' replied God

'Faith - or insanity? Perhaps my mind is playing ricks? Or maybe you're testing me in a cunning way. You want to see if I have so little moral fibre that at the command of a deep voice booming through the clouds, I commit infanticide.'

'Me almighty!' exclaimed the Lord. 'What you're saying is that it is reasonable for you, a mere mortal, to refuse to do what I, thy Lord God, commands'

'I guess so,' said the philosopher,'and you've given me no good reason to change my mind.'

Fear and Trembling by Søren Kierkegaard (1843)

I think we can agree. The Philosopher 1, Abraham 0.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Stupid Design

I watched for the first time about two years ago. Neil deGrasse Tyson gives up some great examples of STUPID DESIGN.

Friday, April 18, 2008

The Pale Blue Dot by Carl Sagan

From this distant vantage point, the Earth might not seem of any particular interest.

But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, ever king and peasant, every young couple in love, every moth and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar,” every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there—on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.

The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.

It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

-Carl Sagan, Chapter 1, A Pale Blue Dot

Previous Pale Blue Dot Post

Monday, February 25, 2008

The anthropomorphic personification of retardation

This guy is a cognitive black hole from which no rational utterance can escape. He is one of the most deeply retarded individuals I have seen on YouTube. He almost makes me think there is a cosmic source of retardation that he has sole access too. Perhaps he is playing a character? The love child of The Riddler and Rainman?

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

The bunk that is alternative medicine.

As well as doing a module in Microbial genomes and Immunology I am also doing a Pharmacology module this semester and my shiny new pharmacology textbook arrived today. I was happy to see the following piece of text in the book.


Modern medicine relies heavily on drugs as the main tool of therapeutics. Other therapeutic procedures such as surgery, diet, exercise, etc, are also important of course, as is deliberate non-intervention, but none is so widely applied as drug based therapeutics.
Before the advent of science-based approaches, repeated attempts were made to construct systems of therapeutics, many of which produced even worse results than pure empiricism. One of these was allopathy, espoused by James Gregory (1735-1882). The favoured remedies included blood letting, emetics, purgatives, which were used until the dominant symptoms of the disease were suppressed. Many patients died from such treatment, and it was in reaction against it that Hahnemann introduced the practice of homœopathy in the early 19th century. The guiding principles of homœopathy are:

- like cures like
- activity can be enhanced by dilution.

The system rapidly drifted into absurdity: for example, Hahnemann recommended the use of drugs at dilutions of 1:10^60, equivalent to one molecule in a sphere the size of the orbit of Neptune.
Many other systems of therapeutics have come and gone, and the variety of dogmatic principles that they embodied have tended to hinder rather than advance scientific progress. Currently, therapeutic systems that have a basis which lies outside the domain of science are actually gaining ground under the general banner of ‘alternative’ or ‘complementary’ medicine. Mostly, they reject the ‘medical model’, which attributes disease to an underlying derangement of normal function that can be defined in biochemical or structural terms, detected by objective means, and influenced beneficially by appropriate chemical or physical interventions. They focus instead on mainly subjective malaise, which may be disease-associated or not. Abandoning objectivity in defining and measuring disease goes along with departure from scientific principles in assessing therapeutic efficacy and risk, with the result that principles and practices can gain acceptance without satisfying any of the criteria of validity that would convince a critical scientist, and that are required by law to be satisfied before a new drug can be introduced into therapy. Public acceptance, alas, has little to do with demonstrable efficacy.

- Excerpt from H.P. RANG, M.M. DALE, J.M RITTER, R.J. FLOWER - RANG and DALE’S Pharmacology Sixth Edition.