Archive for September, 2013

Sep 10 2013

Arctic Ice Increasing

Published by under Pseudoscience

The worst lies are those that contain a kernel of truth. This might include all instances of lying with statistics, because they may contain true numbers, simply distorted to tell a deceptive story.

Such lying with numbers is rampant within the global warming debate, mostly on the side of the deniers. Their basic strategy is to cherry pick the duration of time over which they choose to view the data – they are mining large data sets to cherry pick streaks that tell the story they want. This can involve looking at trends over one to a few years, instead of decades, or looking at thousands of years to obscure what is happening over decades.

The hypothesis that man-made activity is warming the globe over the last century, however, occurs over decades. Too long or too short a focus misses or obscures the proper time-frame for this trend.

The latest example of this is the claim, virally spreading around the intertubes, that arctic sea ice has increased by 60% in the last year.  This fact this then used to argue that the Earth is not warming, and in fact we may be entering a cooling phase.

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Sep 09 2013

Another Sighting

Published by under Pseudoscience

You are driving down a dark road at 5:30 AM. Chances are, you’re a bit sleepy. Something suddenly runs across the road in front of your car. Your headlights catch it briefly as it dashes into the woods on the other side of the road. What was it?

That, apparently, was the question faced by a 15 year old Nebraska boy – why a 15 year old was driving was not addressed by the article. It seems his early morning brain processed the unexpected sensory input into – Bigfoot.

There is no credible evidence, after decades of search, that anything like Bigfoot exists anywhere, least of all Nebraska. The flat state does not contain the vast forests that would be necessary to conceal a breeding population of large primates. Despite that, there have been 14 reported sightings in Nebraska since 1957.

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Sep 05 2013

The Second Law of Thermodynamics – Again

Published by under Creationism/ID

Creationists will just not let go of an argument, no matter how many times it is pointed out to them that their argument is unsound. They simply find new twists of logic and distortions of science to resurrect their precious argument, clinging to it more tightly than Gollum held onto his ring.

Creationists are befuddled by the concept that life on earth can become spontaneously more complex over time – because they simply do not understand evolution. They therefore make an argument from personal incredulity: how can such a thing possibly occur? I cannot imagine it, therefore it is not possible.

Such statements may be persuasive to the masses, but not to scientists and intellectuals, so they upgraded this argument to make it sound more sciencey by stating it in terms of the second law of thermodynamics. This law states that in a closed system entropy can only increase, not decrease. Stated another way, closed systems tend toward disorder (more probable states) rather than order (less probable states).

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Sep 03 2013

The 1996 WHO Acupuncture Report

One interesting effects of social media is that news items can have a second life – someone posts an item from years ago on their Facebook page, for example, and it makes the rounds as if it’s something new. Those of us who spend time analyzing science news reports and correcting misreporting or misleading information often refers to such items as zombies. They keep rising from the dead and have to be staked all over again.

The World Health Organization (WHO) 1996 report on acupuncture has recently risen from the grave and is haunting online acupuncture discussions. The fact that the data on which this report is based is over 17 years out of date does not seem to be a problem for those referencing it. The allure seems to be the apparent authority of the WHO.

The WHO report is generally positive toward acupuncture, reviewing clinical evidence and listing many conditions for which acupuncture is apparently effective. The report, however, is also deeply flawed.

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Sep 02 2013

TCM for Flu

A recent new report exposes Chinese health officials for recommending worthless and unscientific remedies for the flu. Chinese doctors have been leveling the criticisms, pointing out that the recommended Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) treatments are not supported by evidence.

TCM has had a rocky road in China. By the first half of the 20th century it was on the wane, at least in the cities, where “western” scientific medicine was taking hold. It’s possible that if this trend had continued, then TCM would have gone the way of humoral medicine and blood letting in the West – replaced by modern medicine.

Mao Zedong had a huge role to play in history taking a different course. He was trying to modernize China under communist rule.  Part of his plan was to merge TCM with modern scientific medicine, thereby keeping the cultural roots of China, but meeting his agenda of modernizing.

The real boost to TCM, however, came from the barefoot doctor program. This program, which was actually a good idea, was designed to meet the medical needs of the hundreds of millions of citizens who did not live in the cities. They could not train enough doctors to meet this need, so they trained hundreds of thousands of farmers to be doctors and paramedics. They were given 6-9 months of training, then sent back to their villages and farms to provide needed medical care.

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