MSG-fussing about nothing

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In science, there is nothing more annoying than a pseudoscientific myth that is propagated to the point where everyone believes it’s a fact.  For some odd reason, foods are the center of the pseudoscience universe.  Eat organic.  Avoid GMO (genetically modified) crops.  High fructose corn syrup will kill you.  Keep salt off of your food.  Don’t eat this. Don’t eat that.  Drink this.  Don’t drink that.  Yet, where is the science?  Are organic foods really healthier for you?  Will GMO foods harm you? 

Of all the annoying myths, there’s one that is the most bothersome.  MSG, or monosodium glutamate, gets the most exposure as an evil additive to foods.  Yet, what is the evidence?  Does it really do anything? Continue reading “MSG-fussing about nothing”


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Tennessee’s “Monkey Bill”–still no news

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Tennessee’s so-called “Monkey Bill”, House Bill 368, which allows teachers to discuss the non-existent “scientific controversies” over evolution and global warming, has still not been vetoed or signed into law by Governor Bill Haslam.  He has been bombarded with petitions, editorials, and letters to veto the bill.  Haslam has indicated, in the past, that teaching requirements should be set by the Board of Education and not the legislature.  

Well, stay tuned.  Haslam says he will make a decision tomorrow.  

via Continued calls for “monkey bill” veto | NCSE.


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Study about causes of autism–no vaccines involved

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[pullquote]That’s the difference between real research and the whining anti-vaccine lunatics who base their claims on nonsense and logical fallacies, which does nothing for understanding the causal factors of autism.[/pullquote]

The Los Angeles Times reports in “Study finds link between autism and obesity during pregnancy” that data from University of California-Davis MIND Institute’s CHARGE (CHildhood Autism Risks from Genetics and the Environment) research study shows a link between risk of autism and Metabolic Conditions, such as maternal obesity and diabetes.  The study found that women who had diabetes or hypertension, or were obese had 1.61 times greater risk to have children with autism spectrum disorders than healthy women. These women with metabolic conditions (MC) also had a 2.35 greater risk to having children with developmental delays. Continue reading “Study about causes of autism–no vaccines involved”


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Supporting a fellow blogger who is being attacked by a homeopath

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I follow some Australian skeptics’ blogs, mainly because of Meryl Dorey, the lunatic who runs the Anti-Vaccination movement in Australia.  One of the better ones is Dan’s Journal of Skepticism, run by Dan Buzzard.  He writes on a lot of issues with regards to pseudoscience, mostly in medicine.  Earlier this year, he wrote about how a homeopath, Francine Scrayen, treated her “patient”,  Penelope Dingle, who was suffering from rectal cancer, with homeopathic potions and lotions.  

In the report on Ms. Dingle’s death, the Coroner for Perth (Australia) reported the following:  

In my view the deceased’s rectal cancer was present and causing bleeding and other symptoms from at least 31 October 2001.  During the period 31 October 2001 until at least the end of November 2002, the deceased regularly described the symptoms of her rectal cancer to a homeopath, Francine Scrayen.  It was not until November 2002 that Mrs Scrayen and the deceased discussed the possibility of reporting her rectal bleeding to a medical practitioner and it was not until 5 December 2002 that she first reported those problems to a doctor.

I accept that Mrs Scrayen  believed that the deceased had suffered from haemorrhoids years earlier and the bleeding and pain was “an old symptom coming back”, but a competent health professional would have been alarmed by the developing symptoms and would have strongly advised that appropriate medical investigations be conducted without delay.

Mrs Scrayen was not a competent health professional. I accept that Mrs Scrayen had minimal understanding of relevant health issues, unfortunately that did not prevent her from treating the deceased as a patient.

This case has highlighted the importance of patients suffering from cancer making  informed, sound decisions in relation to their treatment.  In this case the deceased paid a terrible price for poor decision making. 

Unfortunately the deceased was surrounded by misinformation and poor science.  Although her treating surgeon and mainstream general practitioner provided clear and reliable information, she received mixed messages from a number of different sources which caused her to initially delay necessary surgery and ultimately decide not to have surgery until it was too late.

Continue reading “Supporting a fellow blogger who is being attacked by a homeopath”


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How pseudoscience makes its case-Part 2. Revised and repost.

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Recently, we discussed how science works. It’s not a belief. It’s not a random set of rules. It is a rational and logical process to determine cause and effect in the natural world. Pseudoscience, by its very nature, ignores the scientific process; instead, it claims to come to conclusions through science, usually by using scientific sounding words, but actually avoids the scientific process.  They tend to use logical fallacies to make their case.  Just to be clear, logical fallacy is essentially an error of reasoning. When a pseudoscientist  makes a claim, or attempts to persuade the public of this claim, and it is based on a bad piece of reasoning, they commit a fallacy. Continue reading “How pseudoscience makes its case-Part 2. Revised and repost.”


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How pseudoscience makes its case-Part 1. Revised and repost.

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This is a two-part article that partially describes how the science-denialist makes their case, not necessarily why humans accept it so easily.  I’m not a psychiatrist, and I certainly don’t play one on TV.  I thought we should start with the scientific method, or how real science works.

I always get suspicious when someone makes an argument with the statement of “it’s been proven to work”, “the link is proven”, or, alternatively, they state some negative about scientifically supported therapies. Typically, I hear these kinds of statements from the pseudoscience pushing crowd. For example, real science has debunked the “there is a proven link between vaccines and autism,” a common and popular pseudoscientific belief.  Or that most alternative medicine (CAM) therapies work based on numerous logical fallacies that suspends reason, and accepts “belief” in the therapy, something that evidence-based medicine just doesn’t do. Continue reading “How pseudoscience makes its case-Part 1. Revised and repost.”


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State of Washington declares whooping cough epidemic

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The Washington State Department of Health has declared a statewide epidemic for whooping cough (Bordetella pertussis).  For the first three months of 2012, there have been 640 reported cases of the disease, mostly babies and infants. Continue reading “State of Washington declares whooping cough epidemic”


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Creationism legislation–Tennessee Monkey Bill (update 6)

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According to the Nashville News, Governor Bill Haslam told reporters that he will probably sign antievolution bill, which allows teachers to discuss the scientific “controversies” regarding the fact of evolution and the fact of climate change.  Not to be overly pedantic, there is no scientific controversy over either theory; however, there is a political one.  Another problem with the bill is how will a teacher discuss everything there is to know about evolution in a few hours.  How can you critically analyze evolution or global warming denialism in just a few minutes?  That would be like teaching someone to be a surgeon in a couple of days.  It’s almost impossible.

Stay tuned.  We’ll see if Governor Haslam actually signs the bill.  Republicans rarely keep their word, so who knows what will actually happen.


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Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 4

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There’s good news, modified with a bit of bad news, out of Oklahoma regarding the ongoing Republican legislative push for evolution and climate change denialist opinion to taught instead of real science.  Oklahoma House Bill 1551, which passed the House, died in the Oklahoma Senate, since they were unable to report out of committee in time.  Similarly, Senate Bill 1742 also died in the Oklahoma Senate. Both bills essentially required Oklahoma public schools to teach their students about the “debate” between creation and evolution, and about global warming.   Continue reading “Creationism legislation–Oklahoma update 4”


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Creationism legislation–Tennessee Monkey Bill (Update 5)

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There’s really not much more to report, except that House Bill 368 is still sitting on Tennessee Governor Bill Haslam’s desk, awaiting his signature or veto. Actually, there’s a third way, he can just ignore it, and it will become law after a set period of time.  

The Los Angeles Times, in an editorial, Tennessee’s attack on the teaching of evolution, makes a few more points that were intended for the eyes of Gov. Haslam, if only we could be sure that he read the LA Times.

In deciding whether the bill advances a religious agenda, the governor needs to look at context and history as well as the text. A useful reference work would be a 2005 decision by a federal judge in Pennsylvania striking down a school board policy requiring that students be made aware of “gaps/problems in Darwin’s theory and of other theories of evolution including, but not limited to, intelligent design.” In that case, Judge John E. Jones concluded that intelligent design and teaching about “gaps” and “problems” in evolutionary theory are “creationist, religious strategies that evolved from earlier forms of creationism.” Continue reading “Creationism legislation–Tennessee Monkey Bill (Update 5)”


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