Article Archive for April 2007

The dualism delusion
By What the hell is this?
Posted in on 30 April 2007
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Professor Lord Mr. Dr. Robert Winston has attacked Richard Dawkins’s “”patronising” and “insulting” attitude to religious faith,” according to the Guardian.

I’ve only read Dawkins’s first three books,1, 2, 3 although I’ve seen his recent TV programs (I don’t think it was really fair of him to open his discussion with Pastor Ted “I am a deceiver and a liar” Haggard by comparing his service to the Nuremberg Rally). I understand how his tone can be considered a bit too confrontational but I have the feeling that ever since he wrote, in The Selfish Gene, that evolution was the first explanation of the existence of man (see the “save your stamp” endnote) which made any sense whatsoever he’s been getting mail from christians and he’s fed up of it. I don’t really know any of Daniel C. Dennett’s work either but I’ve read all of Steven Pinker’s stuff and his attitude appears to be “if it makes you feel better I don’t really mind you being religious”. If any of them appear to adopt an arrogant anti-religious tone I think it’s an unfortunate reaction against the arrogant pro-religious “you’re going to hell, unlike me” tone they sometimes get confronted with. Look at the comments here: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/debate/letters/article1368831.ece.

However, where Lord Winston says “there is a body of scientific opinion from my scientific colleagues who seem to believe that science is the absolute truth and that religious and spiritual values are to be discounted,” I think he’s missing the point: religious and spiritual values are something created by the human mind within the framework of evolutionary psychology. As such they are valid (in the sense that they need to be taken seriously) because they are part of what makes us human. (It’s too hard to study the whole mind from a reductionist physics point of view though.) Religious types would have us believe that these things are valid because they “come from God” in some unspecified way. He’s a bit close to the “atheists don’t have morality” line of argument, as if morality was invented by God rather than the other way around.

It doesn’t look so good for the morality of religion anyway: Church accused of abuse cover-up; Sexual Abuse in Christian Homes and Churches; Deuteronomy 21:18-21. So give it a rest with your atheists are evil (clip of Dawkins on the Bill O’Reilly show) argument, please.

Acupuncture Versus Voodoo
By andrew
Posted in on 22 April 2007
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Fly-tipped christmas tree
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 22 April 2007
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As far as I can tell, it’s April. There’s longer days, sunshine and the garden is full of flowers and bees.Why is it then, that someone has taken the opportunity to dump a very brown conifer wrapped in red tinsel on the green of our estate? As fly tipp…

Brownian motion and homeopaths
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 21 April 2007
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Yer average random walk of the particles inside a liquid must cause homeopaths all ends of bother. Even at 300C, there must be a chance that one, two or even three particles of API could find their way into a single vial dose of liquid. Does this make …

And today’s health scare is…
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 21 April 2007
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Every morning on the Breakfast News, there’s a new health story. They tend to be based on the sort of one-off clinical trials which say things like “Needs further study” in the summary of the report.This doesn’t fit in with the BBC’s all new sensationa…

History today
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 21 April 2007
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Memories, eh?

Those clever Danes
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 21 April 2007
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Ah, Denmark.Land of my fathersLand of LegoLand of Emile Christian Hansen, discoverer of Saccharomyces carlsbergensisLand of social democracy, butter and bacon.As of last weekend, I’ve discovered it’s also a land of astonishingly clever, funky and aston…

People are stupid
By What the hell is this?
Posted in on 11 April 2007
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Striscia la Notizia are currently occupying themselves with something called Oberon (see also biolaz.com and Oberon-Italia ) which purports to be an incredible medical diagnostic tool which connects to a laptop by USB (it seems) and to a human by headphones and was used (according to hidden camera footage) to discover that a woman had polystyrene in her bones and then to remove same. This thing (and the “doctor” who was operating it) however failed to spot that she had MS and was blind in one eye. And for this she was charged a couple of hundred Euros. In went Max Laudadio to ask them what they were playing at and their explanations went from the incomprehensible (the frequency for Italia Uno is in this room, right…) to the offensive (you’re ignorant and the testimony you have from those doctors and health professionals is just useless paper) and the true but useless (“it’s certified Class 1,” which just means that the case is earthed properly, and no I don’t happen to have the medical certification from Russia on me.)

Clearly enough people are gullible enough that this scam built up sufficient momentum to appear on Striscia’s radar. However we’re dealing with a population who are taught that a little round biscuit turns into the body of Jesus Christ when someone rings a little bell (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transubstantiation :“the Roman Catholic Church believes that, in accordance with what Jesus said, the underlying reality was changed: the “substance” of the bread was converted to that of his body. In other words, it actually was his body, while all the appearances open to the senses or to scientific investigation were still those of bread, exactly as before.”) and that Jesus died and than came back to life and then went to heaven just like you do when you die but is still alive or something so it’s no wonder that they can’t tell what’s real and what’s lies.

Yes, I went to Mass on Sunday. It was a joke. A church which was ugly inside and out, a nun who couldn’t stay in key, a 12-year-old with a mullet and an acoustic guitar, and bored three-year-olds messing about. Lord, save these people from themselves.

Homeopathic Hospital in trouble
By DC's IMPROBABLE SCIENCE
Posted in on 8 April 2007
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Twenty-five hospitals from London and southern and eastern England have already either stopped sending any patients to the Royal London Homeopathic Hospital or agreed to fund only a handful A campaign has started o save it, but the arguments are far from convincing.

Chondroitin doesn’t work
By DC's IMPROBABLE SCIENCE
Posted in on 8 April 2007
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A new meta-analysis shows that chondroitin is useless for the treatment of osteoarthritis. Recent well-designed and large trials show essentially no benefit at all.

THES, and Westminster round 2
By DC's IMPROBABLE SCIENCE
Posted in on 7 April 2007
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The Times Higher Education Supplement (THES) published another bash at BSc degrees in anti-science. This one was accompanied by a defence from Brian Isbell, head of the department of complementary therapies at Westminster University. Isbell’s defence was different from Westminster’s first defence, but every bit as unsatisfactory, in my view.

Big old cat
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 6 April 2007
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Fucking enormous scary bastardThere’s a ginger tom lives on our estate. If Zak is my Superman, he’s Lex Luther - a proper nemesis to the lad.Zak chases cats, it’s the whippet in him, however this lad doesn’t play by the rules and run away. We’ve had Wo…

Green Warrior
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 3 April 2007
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As well as my day job as general dogsbody and labmonkey at thebigtent, Cambridge; I’ve been made Site Environmental Champion and put in charge of all the environmental stuff on the site. I don’t get any more money, which is a bit of a pain in the arse,…

A billion tiny grains
By Labmonkey
Posted in on 1 April 2007
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Pollen grains: Tiny, beautiful and going up my hooter by the bucketloadSpring has sprung with all its bountiful glory. It’s gorgeous outside, the garden’s a mess and the dog needs walking. I’m stuck to the sofa, surrounded by tissues, eyes streaming an…