Friday, October 31, 2014

Woo and lament: Woofest 2014 – The Beginning

By Rayne, via Insufferable Intolerance
For reasons only known to the small dark arsehole-like part of my brain, I decided that going to the Mind, Body, Spirit festival (AKA Woofest) was a fantastic idea.

Because a skeptic among people who believe aura photography isn’t a scam, is a brilliant idea. Search for #woofest on Twitter to find my tweets from the day.

The idea spawned a few months ago when I was looking for things to do for my birthday and I wondered whether pseudoscientists have conventions.

Turns out they do.

Continue reading here

Alternative medicine is not medicine

By Joel Gottsegen, via The Stanford Daily

Deepak Chopra is living large. With an estimated net worth of $80 million, the New Age author could be forgiven for being a bit defensive about his affluence. In a 2012 interview, he declared: “Spiritual people should not be ashamed of being wealthy.”

Chopra should not be put on trial for simply having a fortune. Whether he should be taken to task for how he made that fortune, however, is an entirely different question. Chopra is a leader of the so-called ‘holistic medicine’ movement, a type of healing that claims to treat the whole person, rather than just the disease. In practice, this type of medicine often involves treatments and methods that the mainstream medical community disavows, like homeopathy and Ayurvedic medicine.

It is fair to say that Chopra lives within this scientific fringe. His medical theories are drawn from a strange mix of Eastern philosophy and contemporary science, the buzzwords of which he has been known to appropriate and apply completely out of context. In his book “Quantum Healing,” Chopra claims that because quantum entanglement links everything in the universe, it must be responsible for creating consciousness. He also introduced the concept of quantum healing, which he defines as the ability of one mode of consciousness to spontaneously correct the mistakes in another mode of consciousness. Chopra refers to such a correction — physicists, prepare to wince — as a quantum leap.

Continue reading here

Doctors learn to push back, gently, against anti-vaccination movement

By Eryn Brown, via Los Angeles Times
Nursing supervisor Caitlin Canelli gives a shot to 2-month-old Olive McCaffrey of Santa Monica. (Rick Loomis)
The doctors shifted nervously in their seats as the sharp-tongued questioner scanned the room.

Dr. Paul Offit, a University of Pennsylvania pediatrician and the nation's most outspoken childhood vaccine proponent, had come to the UCLA lecture hall to subject several dozen physicians to a faux parental grilling.

He wanted to give them the kind of pushback doctors have come to expect in affluent parts of Los Angeles and California, where increasing numbers of parents are refusing to inoculate their kids against contagious, even life-threatening diseases for fear of complications.

Continue reading here

The Creationist Freak Out Over The Pope's Evolution Speech Has Begun

By Mark Strauss, via io9
In a speech earlier this week, Pope Francis declared evolution and the Big Bang theory to be real. His comments, while not completely unprecedented for the Catholic Church, go against the "pseudo theory" of intelligent design encouraged by his predecessor, Benedict XVI. So, how are creationists responding? Not well.

The emerging theme among commentators is that Pope Francis is denying God's divinity and is "selling out" Christian doctrine to make the Catholic Church seem more in tune with the modern, secular world and attract more adherents.

Today, John Ransom, a political writer and finance editor at the popular conservative site, Townhall, published a column with the provocative title, "Can the Pope Shut Up, Too?"

Continue reading here

Psychology: The truth about the paranormal

By David Robson, via BBC
(Rachel Adams/Flickr/CC BY-ND-2.0)
In the 21st Century, why do so many people still believe in the paranormal? David Robson discovers that there’s good reason we hold superstitions – and a few surprising benefits.

Soon after World War II, Winston Churchill was visiting the White House when he is said to have had an uncanny experience. Having had a long bath with a Scotch and cigar, he reportedly walked into the adjoining bedroom – only to be met by the ghost of Abraham Lincoln. Unflappable, even while completely naked, Churchill apparently announced: “Good evening, Mr President. You seem to have me at a disadvantage.” The spirit smiled and vanished.

His supposed contact with the supernatural puts Churchill in illustrious company. Arthur Conan Doyle spoke to ghosts through mediums, while Alan Turing believed in telepathy. Three men who were all known for their razor-sharp thinking, yet couldn’t stop themselves from believing in the impossible. You may well join them. According to recent surveys, as many as three quarters of Americans believe in the paranormal, in some form, while nearly one in five claim to have actually seen a ghost.

Continue reading here

Former residents of Brentwood 'demon' house dispute book's claims

By Sean D. Hamill, via Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Grand Oaks Manor, the historic home in Brentwood owned by Bob Cranmer. Cranmer has written a book about the home, which he believes was haunted until it underwent an exorcism several years ago. Bob Donaldson/Post-Gazette
In his recently released book “The Demon of Brownsville Road,” former Allegheny County Commissioner Bob Cranmer said he and his family lived for 18 years in a haunted house in Brentwood before an exorcism chased out the demonic infestation in 2006.

They said they’ve seen blood running down the walls and heard pounding on the walls and mysterious footsteps in the hallways. Family members have awakened with mysterious scratches on their legs or said they’ve been tripped or pushed by the demon.

The book has become popular with people of faith — who see it as a testament to Mr. Cranmer’s devotion to Christianity — and those who are intrigued by the paranormal, boosted by a 2011 Discovery Channel documentary detailing the exorcism.

Continue reading here

Do skeptics kill Halloween fun? Ask ‘The Shining’ hotel paranormal investigators

By Chris Stedman, via RNS

Temple Hill Graveyard, Cork, Ireland. Photo by user
Guliolopez, via Wikimedia Commons.
Does skepticism take the fun out of Halloween?

When it comes to paranormal beliefs, skeptics are in the minority. In 2005, Gallup found that around three in four Americans believe in things like haunted houses, ghosts, or possession. (They also found in 2001 that belief in the paranormal had increased since 1990.)

This is evident in popular culture, where stories of supernatural encounter are widespread. Paranormal Activity is regarded as the most profitable film ever—its fifth sequel is due out early next year—and this week television network SyFy announced the tenth season renewal of Ghost Hunters, making it their longest-running “reality series.”

Continue reading here