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Signs of Faith PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Friday, 02 October 2009 00:00

churchsignTo my view, blind faith is the opposite of critical thought. It is believing in something without evidence—or worse, believing in something despite evidence to the contrary. This is not an endeavor to which I aspire in any circumstances, but it seems a great deal of effort has been expended trying to convince people to do just that.

On Twitter, I have the account "SkeptiQuote" which I use solely to tweet a single skeptical quote each day. While I'm searching for appropriate quotes, I come across quotes that just appall me. I'll share some with you here:

"Reason is the enemy of faith"
Martin Luther, father of the Protestant Reformation

That about sums it up right there, and while skeptics agree with this sentiment, they've chosen the opposite side of the battle.

"Faith is a knowledge within the heart, beyond the reach of proof."
Kahlil Gibran an early 20th century Lebanese-American philosopher

I guess the heart has immutable gray matter that I'm unaware of.

"Faith, to my mind, is a stiffening process, a sort of mental starch."
E.M. Forster, English Author

I believe Forster intended this to be a criticism, but I found it on a site of "inspirational quotes."

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Jet Woo? PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Thursday, 01 October 2009 00:00

jetwooI've been flying a lot this month. In total, I took something like 20 flights, mostly to speak for skeptic groups around the country. (Hello Boston, Syracuse, Houston, Atlanta, New Hampshire and Phoenix!) I stare at things during that uncomfortable time when I'm separated from life-giving electronics (such as this Mac), and a thought occurred to me... this plane is woo-free.

There are any number of strange (to me) objects on a plane, and over time I've learned to identify a few of them. There's a tiny vertical strip of metal on the wing that's used for safety lines so maintenance workers don't fall off. The fins at the tips of the wings are there to reduce drag and thus increase fuel efficiency. And yes, the arm rests on the aisle-side of the seats go up if you can find the latch-a handy trick for getting out of your seat without putting the tray up.

But I don't see anything that I could find in a New Age shop. No crystals, amulets, sigils, or red string. Heck, we didn't even start with a prayer service.

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No Vaccine Against Greed PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Wednesday, 30 September 2009 00:00

One of the things that's always puzzled me about the anti-vax movement is why people are motivated to rail against something with so much supportive evidence. Sure, there are legions of misinformed parents who think they're helping society by decrying the vaccination conspiracy, and there are certainly those that have experienced personal loss due to the very very rare negative side effects of vaccination. But Chiropractor Dr. Chad Rohlfsen illustrates in abundance what I think might be the primary motive for anti-vaccine rhetoric, and that is pure, simple, banal greed.

At the top of his vaccine911.com web site, Dr. Rohlfsen has the phrase "Because the right choice is the well informed choice." And I realize I'm Godwinning this article, but that phrase found on that site calls to mind the words Arbeit macht frei, which ironically graced the Nazi concentration camps. The fact that that statement is correct does not imply that reading Dr. Koren's material will lead to being well informed.

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Huffington Post promotes alt med nonsense PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Phil Plait   
Tuesday, 29 September 2009 12:00

I used to write for the Huffington Post, an online news and blog collective. It was started by Arianna Huffington during the Bush Era as a response to all the far-right online media. I didn't agree with a lot of what was on there—I am more centrist—but at the time I thought it was necessary.

Then they started to promote far-left New Age nonsense, and when it came to vaccinations, HuffPo started posting all kinds of opinions that amounted to nothing more than out-and-out health threats. While they do sometimes post a counter-argument, it's still almost all alt-med, all the time.

Here's the latest: a doctor named Frank Lipman is telling people not to get vaccinated against Swine Flu. Instead he says you should wash your hands a lot, eat well, and take homeopathic medicine.

Yes, seriously.

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Enemy Territory PDF Print E-mail
Swift
Written by Jeff Wagg   
Monday, 28 September 2009 23:16

crystalsOn a recent trip to Sedona, I decided to feign naiveté and enter a few shops in the guise of an open-minded seeker of knowledge. (Wait, I really do try to be that! Guise not needed!) I was prepared to have my worldview changed completely based on what I was told and what happened. I simply would keep my opinion to myself.

I have a friend who has a serious heart condition. It is as yet undiagnosed, and it causes considerable discomfort. Many of the shops in Sedona sell crystals which are supposed to solve health problems such as these, so I presented my case to the shop owners and asked for help. It went like this:

ME: Hello, can you help me? I have a friend who's suffering from a heart condition, and I'd like to see if crystals could help.

CRYSTAL MERCHANT: Oh yes, they're excellent for that. Crystals are very powerful, and don't have the side effects of pharmaceuticals.

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