In cooperation with the Science-Based Medicine blog, which is an invaluable source of expert information on all manner of medical topics, JREF is publishing a number of books on the topic. Led by executive editor Dr. Steven Novella, who heads JREF’s Science-Based Medicine Project, the blog’s team of writers regularly shine the light of good science on spurious health claims, and these new books anthologize their best writing on issues ranging from vaccines and naturopathy to homeopathy and nutritional supplements. Their science-based and skeptical treatment of these issues are of interest to skeptics, non-skeptics, and educated medical consumers alike.
Contributors to the book series include Dr. David Gorski, Dr. Harriet Hall, Dr. Mark Crislip, Dr. Kimball Atwood, Dr. Peter Lipson, Dr. Joseph Albietz, Dr. Scott Gavura, Dr. David Kroll, Dr. John M. Snyder, and Dr. Wallace Sampson, among many more science-based doctors and researchers.
The titles are available on Kindle, iBooks, and Nook for just $4.99. You can buy a whole library of books on science based medicine for the cost of dinner out.
Hollywood, CA. —The James Randi Educational Foundation (JREF) promotes critical thinking through grants for outstanding teachers, scholarships to inspire skeptical students, educational resources for the classroom and general public, and annual conferences showcasing the best of skeptical thought—but every April Fools’ Day, JREF “honors” the five worst offenders who are intentionally or unintentionally peddling harmful paranormal and pseudoscientific nonsense. Since 1997, the JREF’s annual Pigasus Awards have been bestowed on the most deserving charlatans, swindlers, psychics, pseudo-scientists, and faith healers—and on their credulous promoters, too. The awards are named for both the mythical flying horse Pegasus of Greek mythology, and the highly improbable flying pig of popular cliché. These are this year’s “winners.” The Pigasus Award in the Scientist Category goes to Houston biochemist and physician Stanislaw Burzynski, who sells expensive cancer cures by administering “antineoplastons,” costing his customers tens of thousands of dollars, and which have never been shown to be efficacious in controlled trials. His cancer therapy is not FDA approved. Despite his many customers to whom he sells his so-called “cancer cure,” he has never published the final results of a single clinical trial. The FDA has sent his clinic warning letters about their unsafe research methods and is currently investigating possible violations of rules meant to protect research subjects, including children. The Pigasus Award for Funder goes to Pumpkin Hollow Retreat Center for their funding and promotion of the spurious “contemporary healing modality which evolved from the process of laying-on of hands” called Therapeutic Touch. This practice is approved by a number of professional nursing associations for continuing nursing education, despite the fact that there is no compelling evidence that it works. Pumpkin Hollow is one of the major sources of training and promotion of this harmful and expensive pseudo-therapy. The JREF is conducting a One Million Dollar Challenge of Therapeutic Touch claims at the Franklin Institute this next month. The Pigasus Award in the Media Category goes to the cable television network SyFy for promoting unfounded paranormal fringe-belief through various shows on its network. While other networks, such as Spike TV, promote the paranormal (for example, Spike TV is to offer a Ten Million Dollar Prize to prove Bigfoot exists through its unscripted TV show 10 Million Dollar Bigfoot Bounty) the SyFy channel gives airtime to many more shows than others, including Ghosthunters, Ghost Hunters International, Destination Truth, Fact Or Faked: Paranormal Files, Haunted Collector, Deep South Paranormal, and many others. This is not to mention the network’s many failed attempts at paranormal-themes shows, including 2012’s School Spirits, Paranormal Highway, and Ghost Mine, or new paranormal-themed shows currently in development, including Buyer Beware, Ghost Town, USA and Deadfinder. The Pigasus Award in the Performer Category goes to entertaining radio host Alex Jones for his continued promotion of quack medicine and unfounded political conspiracy theories. One of the most popular and influential radio personalities in America today, Jones focuses primarily on promoting support for the “Truther” movement, the “Birther” movement, promotion of paranoia surrounding water fluoridation, denial of climate change, beliefs such as that the 2004 tsunami in South Asia and the 2012 Hurricane Sandy were man-made, and various political conspiracy theories, such as belief in a nefarious New World Order, that the Sandy Hook Massacre was a government “false flag” attack to generate public support for gun control, and that the U.S. government engineered the Oklahoma City bombing. His show is also one of the primary promoters of pseudoscientific quack therapies, giving valuable promotion to the complementary and alternative medicine website Natural News, and promoting such quackery like “Supernatural Silver,” a number of expensive water purifiers to remove “poisonous fluoride” from tap water, and dozens of untested herbal and alternative medicine remedies. The Pigasus Award for Refusal to Face Reality goes to Dr. Mehmet Oz, the Harvard-trained cardiologist who hosts The Dr. Oz Show on broadcast television, one of the most popular syndicated television shows in America. The only person to have won a Pigasus Award two years in a row, he wins a third time this year for his continued promotion of quack medical practices, paranormal belief and pseudoscience, including pseudoscientific Reparative Therapy to "cure" gay people, the “energy-healing practice” of Reiki as a way to cure disease, various TV psychics and mediums such as Theresa Caputo and John Edward, faith healers such as "John of God," GMO conspiracy theories, and any number of new quack diets, herbal remedies, anti-aging cures, and untested “wonder drugs,” among many other pseudoscientific and paranormal claims. # # # The James Randi Educational Foundation exposes charlatans and helps people defend themselves from paranormal and pseudoscientific claims. The JREF offers a still-unclaimed million-dollar reward for anyone who can produce evidence of paranormal abilities under controlled conditions. Through scholarships, workshops, and innovative resources for educators, the JREF works to inspire this investigative spirit in a new generation of critical thinkers. | www.randi.org
Frances Xavier Cabrini, better known as Mother Cabrini, was a Catholic religious sister whose name is still well known for her charitable career. Born in Italy in 1850, Mother Cabrini immigrated to the United States in 1889 to perform missionary work with Italian immigrants. She devoted her life to founding orphanages, schools and hospitals across the country, and in 1909 she became a U.S. citizen. Mother Cabrini died in 1917, and after performing a series of “miracles” she was canonized in 1946. She was the first American Catholic Saint, and became the Patron Saint of Immigrants. (Some extra information for the curious: Mother Cabrini’s body is believed to be partially incorruptible. Her head is now stored in Rome, while the remains of her body are kept in New York.)
Last October, at the invitation of the physicist and popular author Lawrence Krauss, I had the chance to take part in an interesting event, “The Great Debate,” part of the ASU Origins Project at Arizona State University in Phoenix (and for which Professor Krauss serves as Director). This most recent debate in the series was about the origins of deception, for which my friend Lawrence had assembled an interesting group of panelists with a diverse subset of interests and specialties. Here’s the description as it was promoted to the public:
Why is deception such an essential part of the human condition? What evolutionary purpose does it fulfill? How can we recognize it on an individual level, and overcome it on a societal level in a modern democracy?
Join an exciting panel of scientists and public intellectuals including influential evolutionary biologist Robert Trivers, noted social psychologist Carol Tavris, accomplished neurobiologists and laboratory directors at Barrow Neurological Institute Stephen Macknik and Susana Martinez-Conde, acclaimed magicians Jamy Ian Swiss and Joshua Jay, and Origins Project director and moderator Lawrence Krauss as they discuss the biological, behavioral, and political boundaries of this controversial issue.