The TAM 7 buzz is finally dying down, but I've received this detailed report from one of a large contingent of Candian Skeptics that I had to share with you. If you've not been to TAM, this narrative might give you an idea of what you're missing. - Jeff Wagg
Tuesday, July 7, 2009 5:15 PM, Edmonton International Airport (curiously located in Nisku)-After months of waiting, it's finally time for TAM. The Edmonton contingent consists of Skeptically Speaking host Desiree Schell, Skeptically Speaking producer Sean Ouimette, Skepchick Jill Powell, Marion Kilgour of the Skeptographers, atheists-and-skeptics-about-town Rodrigo de la Jara and Nathan Hinman, and of course, myself. Jill has never flown before, so I chivalrously suggest she take the window seat, opting instead for the seat between her and Desiree. We taxi halfway to Calgary. Nathan, ever positive, makes a joke about people looking like ants-you may have had to be there. Hey, poker's on the little in-seat TV! We're headed to Vegas.
7:15 PM, McCarran International Airport, Las Vegas-Three hours and one time zone later we touch down. Another joke by Nathan about people looking like ants-where does he get his material?-and we are suddenly surrounded by slot machines. I feel a great disturbance, as if millions of bank accounts cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced. Nope, it's just Desiree, tugging at my arm. I'm dawdling, and the South Point bus is about to leave. That's why she's the host.
Before I fling immature epithets at the world of alternative medicine, I need to give a brief overview of the regulations imposed on those who make real medicine. The medicines that do everything from saving lives to preventing gas. In America, these regulations are known as "Current Good Manufacturing Practices", or cGMPs for short. The best way to illustrate the thoroughness and complexity of these regulations is to use a narrative. The narrative won‘t even scratch the surface, but it will give you a general idea:
Let's say a company wants to make a new drug. What are some of the things it must it do?
In the current issue of Harper's Magazine, you'll find a long article by Rachel Aviv entitled "Like I Was Jesus," subtitled "How to bring a nine-year-old to Christ."
In it, Aviv writes of infiltrating - and that's an ugly word, but apropos - a chapter of a group called the Child Evangelism Fellowship during the summer of 2008. The chapter comprised 40 young missionaries who "roamed the housing projects of Connecticut," accosting unsupervised young children and pressuring them to accept Jesus into their hearts.
According to Aviv: "The goal was salvation, but the missionaries rarely used that long word. They employed monosyllabic language and avoided abstract concepts and homonyms. ‘Holy' was a problem, the missionaries said, as children thought it meant ‘full of holes.' ‘Christ rose from the dead' was also tricky because children mistook the verb for a flower."
Readers will know that I've been expressing my objections to National Institutes of Health/National Cancer Institute [NIH/NCI] suggestions that acupuncture can/may/might offer relief of cancer treatment side-effects. I'll begin this entry by providing some explanatory background. I'm personally involved because I'm well into the process of chemotherapy, a "clean-up" procedure following a successful operation to remove a tumor. I prepared myself by reading up on the literature, and I must say that I'm doing very well - due to very recent improvements in the process, and new medications. I've experienced none of the possible nausea, though I'm weakened physically due to a decrease in red blood cells, and I have to avoid possible infection because of a lessened resistance. This, I hope, explains my considerable reaction to the irresponsible NIH/NCI comments on the efficacy of acupuncture for the relief of chemotherapy.