The Newsletter of The
Volume 24 Number 1
· Web news
We just finished a year celebrating the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth. It was a great year for outing the creationists, who take great issue with natural processes as an explanation for nature. We will now return to our regular programming and elevate some skeptical issues that languished in 2009.
Alternative medicine is a popular topic with skeptics. It’s replete with charlatans and true believers, and it’s often intriguing to determine when it’s driven by money and when it’s driven by stupidity. This issue includes a note about an encounter with a chiropractor. It’s from a reader, and it is very welcome. We enjoy receiving pertinent material from our readers, and we use it whenever we can.
We also have a short note about recent Challenge activity. The NTS Paranormal Challenge attracts a steady drip of respondents, some serious and some just nuts.
Creationism is not to be ignored, either. See the Skeptical News piece. Also we have another item with excerpts from Robert Park’s What’s New column.
Happy 2010 to all you skeptics out there and also to you true believers who happened to find a copy of this newsletter that somebody left at a bus stop.
Saturday 16 January 2010
NTS Board Meeting and Election
for Nonprofit Management
The NTS is run by people who show up.
If you want to have your say in how the NTS operates, be sure to show up in January. We will be electing members of the NTS board of directors.
Operating officers will be appointed by the newly-elected board. There will also be snacks, drinks and maybe some creationist videos.
Let us know if you are coming. These meeting dates are sometimes changed.
Future Meeting Dates
20 February 2010
No Social dinner in January
I received this e-mail from a long-time correspondent. We appreciate receiving comments from readers, but we cannot always verify these submissions. Readers should take this as an unsubstantiated report. Direct all inquiries to me—John Blanton.
I was alarmed one morning last month when I arrived at work and opened an e-mail from my employer. The monthly “lunch and learn” program, which educates employees on different subjects, was welcoming a local chiropractor.
The e-mail message explained that chiropractic “is a hands-on drug-free alternative medicine that restores your body’s ability to heal itself.” BS, of course, but clearly my employer believes.
I signed up for the class. I soon received notice that the presentation had been moved to a larger room. Interest was obviously high.
After years of reading about chiropractors and their wild claims, I was looking forward to hearing this stuff firsthand from the horse’s mouth. I resolved to go just for research and to keep my mouth shut no matter how much nonsense was presented as fact.
I sat down at a table and was soon joined by a co-worker. “Have you ever been to a chiropractor before?” I asked her.
Freebies from the chiropractor include a
water bottle, stress ball, ointment, literature,
and a magnetic business card.
“Oh, yeah,” she answered. “I go all the time. I have lots of problems.” That fit in exactly with my understanding of the business practices of chiropractors. The chiropractor identifies one or more problems and says you need to keep coming back.
Dr. B. arrived late and began his presentation immediately. He was slim and appeared healthy.
Dr. B. explained that people lose their mobility as they age. “We top out at 23 years old, and by age 50, we lose 50 percent of our maximum mobility.” Wow, life is worse than I thought.
But there’s hope! Dr. B. told us we are not “stuck with that. The goal of preventive chiropractic care is to extend vitality.”
Then, a biology lesson. “Life starts as a single cell,” Dr. B. explained. “It eventually becomes a human being. A force guides it. That force is going through our bodies right now. And the primary channel is the spine.”
Pinched nerves, Dr. B. explained, are like rusty hinges. “I call it joint rust. The medical term is arthritis.”
And then, he introduced his main theme: MDs are woefully inferior to chiropractors. “If you have a problem with a pinched nerve and see an MD, the MD can treat you, and the MD will say you’re OK,” Dr. B. said. “But years later, you develop ulcers. That can be because your spine is kinked up.”
Then the tall tales began. Dr. B. explained how his mother’s illness, or to be more precise, her healing, inspired him to become a chiropractor.
When Dr. B. was 19 years old, his mother developed epilepsy. MDs couldn’t help her. “We don’t know what is causing it,” they told her.
“Mom took the courageous step and went to a chiropractor,” Dr. B. explained. “The chiropractor found subluxations in her neck and he was able to free up her nervous system.”
With regular visits to the chiropractor, Dr. B.’s mom was cured of epilepsy in one year. “A chiropractor saved my mother’s life,” Dr. B. announced proudly.
hold onto your hats — his father’s story was even more dramatic. Three years
ago, Dr. B.’s father was thrown while riding a horse.
According to Dr. B., he landed on his head and almost broke his neck. His
father was paralyzed from the neck down and spent three weeks in ICU. He was
then sent to the
Then, of course, his dad went to a chiropractor. After four months, his father was 90 percent better. Today, he is totally cured. “Dad would be in a wheelchair without chiropractors,” Dr. B. said. I resisted the urge to ask why he or one of his colleagues neglected to cure actor Christopher Reeve.
Then Dr. B. told us about his own healing touch. Ethan, seven years old, suffered from asthma. Dr. B. examined the boy and found Ethan’s vertebrae were “twisted out of place” and were affecting “the same nerves that go into the lungs.” Thanks to chiropractic and Dr. B., Ethan is now 90 percent better and no longer needs drugs or nebulizers.
Asthma appears to be a specialty. Dr. B.’s assistant, Becky, used to suffer from an asthma attack every week. Now, after regular treatments by Dr. B., her attacks are down to about two a month “It’s been one and a half weeks since I used an inhaler!” Becky proudly announced.
Like all chiropractors, Dr. B.’s arch-rivals are MDs and medications. “The media says, ‘Something wrong? Take a pill!’ he complained. “It is important to find a drug-free approach. There are alternative medications for everything, and they won’t harm your organs.”
B. is not only a healer, but he is a giver, too. He has given clinics in the
east African country
And now the good news.
Though Dr. B.’s practice is not part of my employer’s network coverage, Dr. B. will treat us for the network co-pay price now and in the future. And the news got better. The following week was designated appreciation week of my employer. During appreciation week, full exams and consultations are no charge. That’s a $200-$300 value!
Dr. B. was done, and said he would welcome questions privately, one-on-one, to maintain medical privacy. Then his assistants leapt into action.
Cheana gave each of us a goody bag, which included a water bottle with the chiropractor’s logo, a brochure about neck pain, two samples of BioFreeze pain relieving gel, a stress ball, and two of his business cards, one affixed to a magnet.
With calendar in hand, his other assistant Becky, still showing no signs of asthma, worked her way through the room, visiting every table to schedule office appointments with Dr. B. It had been a fruitful hour for him.
In this report, details such as the author’s name and employer have been omitted. The writer appreciates being employed and would like to remain so.
My fault. I received a number of
contacts in 2009 regarding the NTS Paranormal Challenge. However, last year I was continually on the
road from February to December, and I could not engage any of the respondents
on our home turf in
As a reminder, a few of us have underwritten a $12,000 prize for anybody who can demonstrate the paranormal. We have complete details on our Web site.1
Here are some inquires of note:
Matthew Smith wrote to us:
I write this email on the behalf of a friend in regards to your paranormal challenge, as he offers to prove the paranormal on a reliable and repeatable basis. What he is able to prove, is that all humans are Spirit Beings, or Living Ghosts, that are capable of spiritually interacting within each other and making a real and measurable difference.
Ultimately, Matthew wanted me to watch a boxing match on TV and to notice that he was able to influence the moment-by-moment activities of the contestants. This seemed a little far-fetched to me and not a very good scientific test. I pointed out to Matthew that any reasonable test needs to be repeatable, and this test did not seem easy to repeat. No way was I prepared to watch 20 or more boxing matches on TV.
We have heard nothing from Matthew since November 2009.
Daniel Soto phoned me, and we picked up the correspondence by e-mail. Just as an aside, all communication regarding the Paranormal Challenge needs to go through e-mail. Daniel wrote:
You probably want to know a little about (so-called ability), so ok here we go. I don’t know the term to describe this ability, but a number of voices come out of no where. Anyone one in the room would be able to here them, and engage in simple word exchange. It usually starts out as a humming sound, gets louder, and eventually voices come out( childlike with a little echo to them). I found the best set up for the voices to be most vivid is in a room with great acoustics(movie theatre, or studio).
Experience wise, when just going to a movie and trying to watch, the humming starts as I get relaxed then the voices come out. The other people in the theatre talk amongst themselves. Where’s that coming from, who is that talking. then they engage in simple exchange such as who are you, what are you? The funniest part is they answer back either in an insulting way or ignore them. My proof is digital recording of this, I know for your point of view easy to say, but it would with you in the room as well. I am sure a simple, but very effective test could be conducted to satisfy everybody included.
One more thing I also possess a form of telepathy to project thought or words and other people can repeat them back. however, I can only send , not receive the other person’s thoughts. This to can easily be tested, and to throw my voice without moving lips (not [ventriloquist]) but voice from nowhere a number of feet away, on the other side of a wall. A witness could stand and witness my mouth shut, and the projected sound on the other side. Please let me know if any of this interests you.
told Daniel we could possibly devise a test for his abilities, and we will try
to get something set up to test him in
Powell is in
Underdown heads up the Center for Inquiry West in
Last summer I had a phone conversation with Tommy Cook. We got together on e-mail.
John, my name is Tommy Cook and my daughter Holly has been talking to you about our ability to walk a table. This is something that our family has been involved in for years and I would like to have the opportunity to demonstrate this ability to you. Please contact me at xxx-xxx-xxxx so we can talk about this. I look forward to hearing from you.
Over the years we have had many such inquires regarding testing for the Paranormal Challenge. Some respondents have actually gotten to the point of giving us a demonstration. Most pointedly, nobody who has given a demonstration has had anything to demonstrate. As we remind people, what they propose to demonstrate is the impossible. What is it they expect us to see?
Editor’s note: Since the newsletter went to press we have received e-mail from Tommy Cook and Raymond Powell. We report new developments in a future issue.
1 See details on the NTS Web site at the following URL: http://www.ntskeptics.org/challenge/challenge.htm
The World Wide Web is a wonderful source of information and news. Some of it is true, and some of it is not.
Ten Evolution Creationism Stories
of the Year
InfoZine has published a list of the top ten stories about creationism
from the year 2009. The source is the
Evolution fared well in 2009.
The top ten are:
1. 200th Anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth
in Scientific American”
2. 150th anniversary of the publication of On the Origin of Species
Origin sesquicentennial approaches”
3. Ray Comfort is Bananas!
mixed result in
6. Antievolution bills go down in flames
of “Academic Freedom” Bills
7. How is evolution treated in your state’s science standards?
8. The Evolution of Evolution (and Creationism)
in Scientific American”
9. A KiloSteve and Beyond!
The Project Steve list continues to grow. For the latest count and more, see our FAQ page.
Steve: n > 1000"
And finally, from infoZine:
10. The envelope, please
A bit of horn tooting. Among all the ups and downs in the creationism/evolution controversy during the year, one bright spot (at least for us) was the recognition received by Dr. Eugenie C. Scott, NCSE’s executive director for the last 25 years. Some of the more notable 2009 awards include: the Fellows Medal (California Academy of Sciences), the Stephen Jay Gould Prize (Society for the Study of Evolution), Scientific American 10 Honor Roll (which she shares with Barack Obama and Bill Gates), and a seat on Scientific American‘s revamped and expanded Board of Advisers.
Scientific American 10
Scientific American board
[Robert Park publishes the What’s New column at http://www.bobpark.org/. Following are some clippings of interest.]
Faith: do we need to have another talk?
On Wednesday in the NY Times an op-ed by Nicholas Kristof remarked on a new crop of books dealing with the war between science and religion. He describes this latest crop as “less combative and more thoughtful” than those by Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris and the like. He hopes this “marks an armistice in the religious wars.” I hope not. Kristof is particularly taken by Robert Wright’s The Evolution of God. I like it too. Wright is smart, and a really good writer, but he needs to be more like Dawkins, Hitchens and Harris. In his latest book he explores how religion has gotten “better” over time. People are no longer burned at the stake in the name of religion. No, now they are now blown to pieces with improvised explosive devices or flown into the side of public buildings. Different religion — same God.
Creationism: need a little help in spreading the word?
Thanks, but we’ll take it from here. An evangelical Christian, Ray Comfort, is busy distributing more than 100,000 free copies of his personal edition of Charles Darwin’s seminal work, On the Origin of Species, on college campuses. That’s nice of him; I asked my students to pick me up a copy if they get a chance. Eugenie Scott, of NCSE, the National Center of Science Education, dealt with Comfort in US News. Nevertheless, I thought Comfort’s argument that all species are fully involved was truly original: “Nothing we have in creation is half evolved,” he wrote. “We don’t find a half-evolved cow.” You don’t get that kind of thinking every day.
Malthus: a hero before his time.
in 1776 in
Divining: this time, it’s a bomb detector.
it was, on the front page of the New York Times; the Iraqi government has
purchased more than 1500 devices known as the ADE 651 to use at checkpoints.
That stands for Advanced Detection of Explosives. The 651 is the latest
detection device marketed by ATSC (UK) Ltd. It consists of a thin rod mounted
on a swivel held by pistol grip, and is said to point to explosives. That’s all
it is, there are no sensors. According to Rod Nordland
who wrote the article, a retired USAF officer said the device is nothing more
than an explosives divining rod,. The stupid Iraqis
don’t know this and paid $16,500-$60,000 each for them, even though American
officers told them the devices are worthless. Boy, are they dumb! Wait, the NYT
failed mention that the US Department of Defense was sold on these devices back
in the 90s Although it was classified, they tipped off
their favorite novelist, Tom Clancy, that the incredible device could detect
people through thick walls by sensing their heartbeats. It was the basis of
Rainbow Six, http://bobpark.physics.umd.edu
/WN98/wn092598.html . It was a scam. Thousands of similar devices are still in use by local police around the country to satisfy “probable cause” requirements for a property search. ATSC also sells a narcotic detector, but it’s exactly the same device with a different number.
Memory: why is it necessary to keep debunking this stuff?
there no memory? Where I grew up in
Magnets: never pay another electric bill.
first time I heard that promise it was made by Joseph W. Newman on the CBS
Evening News with Dan Rather in 1987. A
Naturally: alternative medicine is in the health reform bill.
Tom Harkin, the Iowa Democrat also known as Senator Bee Pollen, could not let
the Health Reform Bill go through without a provision mandating that insurers
reimburse alternative medicine providers. It was Harkin, you will recall, who
was responsible for creation of the
Prayer: should prayer treatments be covered?
Some powerful members of the Senate propose language in the healthcare bill would prohibit discrimination against “religious and spiritual health care.” The unstated purpose is to cover the cost of Christian Science prayer treatments in the healthcare bill. This shouldn’t be a problem. The church, says the treatments are effective; if so these people will not need real medical care. If, on the other hand, prayer treatments are not effective, they are a subsidy to the Church of Christ, Scientist and the program should be reimbursed by that amount.
Warmer: the trend shows no sign of ending.
Climate change: APS tells deniers to cool off.
Two years ago the elected council of the American Physical Society adopted a strongly worded statement calling for reduction in the emission of greenhouse gases. The statement called the evidence for global warming “incontrovertible,” which is about as far as you can go in that direction. There are, however, eminent physicists who do not agree. They petitioned the Council for a reconsideration of its statement. APS president Cherry Murray appointed an ad hoc committee, chaired by Dan Kleppner, to consider whether the statement needed to be revisited. The council overwhelmingly rejected a proposal to replace the statement with one favored by those who deny anthropogenic climate change, but the society’s Panel On Public Affairs will review it for “possible improvements.”
Fuel : the most important book you haven’t read.
When the ClimateGate story broke I immediately began digging through piles of paper on my desk to find my copy of Doubt Is Their Product: How Industry’s Assault on Science Threatens Your Health, a 2008 book by David Michaels, an epidemiologist at the George Washington University School of Public Health. When scientific evidence of a threat to public health becomes overwhelming, government intervention can still be delayed for years by simply manufacturing uncertainty. That’s where the global warming debate is right now. The fossil fuel industry is doing a job on us.
Bob Park can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Free, non-commercial reuse permitted.