It's year end again, and about now I always get an extra annual load of junk mail. This particular batch is from companies who attempt to deceive small business owners into paying for unnecessary services that appear to be a legal requirement.
I received a typical solicitation today. Corporations are required to keep certain records, including the recorded minutes of shareholder meetings. In my case, once a quarter I type a sentence or two detailing any important decisions I made regarding my podcast, and I stick it in a file. This is a legal requirement, and it takes me ten minutes to comply.
Today's solicitation was from a company offering to store it for me, for $175, if I mail it to them. Nothing wrong with that. Probably not worth it, but certainly there's nothing wrong with offering such a service.
We frequently criticize the media for gullible reporting of pseudoscience and inaccurate reporting of real science. But sometimes they exceed our fondest hopes and get it spectacularly right. On December 25, 2008, the Wall Street Journal gave us all a Christmas present: they printed an article by Steve Salerno that was a refreshing blast of skepticism and critical thinking about alternative medicine.
Salerno points out that 38% of Americans use "complementary and alternative medicine" (CAM) and it is being increasingly accepted in hospitals and medical schools. He says this should be a laughing matter but isn't because of the huge amounts of money being spent on ineffective treatments. Not to speak of the huge amounts of money being wasted on implausible research at the NCCAM.
This strange man George Vithoulkas, in Greece, is still flailing about on the subject of a comprehensive, definitive, homeopathy test, which convinces me that he's honestly self-deluded - as so many naifs are - that homeopathy actually works. Certainly, any reasonable person looking at the many tests that have been conducted to test the weird claims made ever since Samuel Hahnemann came up with this idea back in 1792, would immediately see that the "art" is simply imaginary. The tests that I approved to be done by the Royal Society and broadcast on BBC-TV, offering the JREF million-dollar prize, demonstrated that fact very strongly, so it takes a totally delusional mind to still think that there's anything there to be found.
Vithoulkas is currently celebrating the fact that I blamed the Greek homeopaths for aborting the arrangements for a test, when I should have said that it was the Hungarians who were responsible; since they're all deluded, I can't manage to keep them sorted out... I also had a notice entered a week earlier than I'd said it would appear, and that provided Vithoulkas with a further source of glee.
On Xmas Day, "pastor" Rick Warren, the currently-celebrated evangelist who is on every TV screen and front page as the hand-picked preacher to deliver the invocation of divine magic at the Obama inauguration ceremony, gave an effusive, rambling account on the NBC Today Show that demonstrated his incredible naivety about rational thinking and how disconnected his brand of religion - at least - is from reality. He was gushing over a miracle that he said had "blessed" his family.
The facts: Warren said that his daughter-in-law Jaime gave birth to her first child six weeks prematurely, though he can't seem to remember whether it was five, six, or seven weeks, since he gave all three figures... The hospital, he said, performed a C-section to save the baby's life - and the mother's. In that procedure, Warren said, they discovered that it was a "breech baby," that the umbilical cord was wrapped around the baby's neck and it was not receiving oxygen.
Please watch this video from this 12/23/2008 episode of NBC's Today show. We, as skeptics, are specifically invited by NBC to reconsider our belief that angels are unproven in light of new evidence. In short, a woman sees an angel on a security camera monitor, and her daughter–who has just been taken off life support–recovers. What could explain this other than angels?
How about.. a poorly adjusted camera, medical science, and the natural ability of a body to heal itself?
I see no evidence of angels there. In fact, I don't even know what an angel is. Fortunately, NBC chose to ask that question, and the answer given by the post-modernist rabbi was ultimately "they can be anything." How nice. I think I'll stick with believing the only actual angels are ballplayers from Anaheim.