Respectful Insolence

How can one know?

If there was one thing about going to TAM7 last week, it was the opportunity to contemplate among a thousand fellow skeptics just what critical thinking and reason mean. If there’s one thing about woo, pseudoscience, and conspiracy theories in all their forms, it’s not just a lack of critical thinking and a plethora of logical fallacies. More importantly, it’s the question, “How do we know what we know?” Certainly science is the primary means by which we explore the natural world and make conclusions about how it works, however imperfect they may be, but not everyone uses science, reason, and critical thinking. Arguments over what is and is not true can be cutthroat enough when it’s scientists arguing over science- and evidence-based viewpoints, but what happens when the arguments are not science- and evidence-based?

Hilarity, that’s what. PZ pointed me to this report that shows just how hilarious arguments between woo-meisters can be. What do I mean? Simple. The story is about a new editor of a New Age magazine who decided that he couldn’t abide by real woo, if you know what I mean. What? You don’t? Suffice it to say that he somehow thought he could impose some reason–such as it is–on the wild and wooly world of New Age as reported in his magazine:

As the editor, Miejan has become a New Age gatekeeper, deciding which legitimate beliefs get into the magazine and which are too far out to be included.

It’s not an easy job.

Chiropractors want out of the New Age movement. Channelers wonder if they belong at all, and pagans feel jilted. Organic farmers don’t want to be near pet psychics. And no one knows what to do with the witches.

For a movement based on peace, love and understanding, New Age looks like a battleground.

“I have customers who completely believe in fairies and will laugh at you if you believe in Bigfoot,” sighed Teisha Magee, owner of the Sacred Paths Center, which describes itself as an “organization celebrating earth-centered spirituality,” in St. Paul.


That’s right, because fairies are so much more reason- and science-based than Bigfoot. Or vice-versa. I have a hard time figuring it out.

So what happened when Miejan took over the New Age magazine? Well, Miejan, being a good New Age type, thinks that astrology is just hunky-dory. He even doesn’t have much of a trouble with “nature divas,” which is the term he uses for fairies. Life force or life energy? No problem, except that he calls it prana instead of qi. It’s all good. But even Miejan has his limits:

Channelers — people possessed by spirits of the dead — are out. So is the belief that reptile-like aliens have taken over the bodies of celebrities, including Queen Elizabeth and — according to one Web site — former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Bill Luther.

Paganism? Out.

“I am not saying that because paganism offends anyone,” Miejan said. “But it is a complete niche by itself.”

Oh, come on. Everyone knows that many world leaders are really lizard men here to rule over us and control what we do. After all, David Icke tells us so. And if Meijan has no problem with astrology and fairies, on what basis does he decide that lizard men aren’t secretly ruling over us all? Is there some sort of evidence that leads him to believe one and not the other? Inquiring minds want to know! Indeed, other New Agers are appalled and confused. They just don’t understand how Meijan’s newfound pseudo-critical thinking skills have lead him to reject even a single form of woo:

“He is excluding channeling? Yikes. Or pagans? He should not be doing that,” said Kathy McGee, editor of the Washington-state-based magazine New Age Retailer.

“New Age is an umbrella term encompassing anything on a spiritual path — Bigfoot, Jesus, Buddha. Even worshipping a frog is sort of OK,” McGee said.

She said New Age thinking is all-or-nothing — you either have an open mind to all beliefs, or you don’t. It is wrong for anyone to pick which beliefs are acceptable.

“You don’t want to say, ‘This is OK, and this is not,’ ” McGee said. “There is nothing we would exclude. We are about goodwill to men.”

As I said before, it’s all good. It doesn’t matter. Any form of woo will do. Once your mind is open to New Age woo, it’s got to be open enough that your brains fall out. Or at least so says Kathy McGee. Of course, even within New Age, skepticism seems to be without a basis. After all, if you accept astrology and fairies, really, on what possible basis can you reject channeling the dead? I can’t think of any rationale, but then, I’m one of those nasty, close-minded skeptics, aren’t I? What can I possibly know?

Of course, being so open-minded has other consequences. No matter how hard people try, they just can’t buy into everything. Organic farmers aren’t so keen on being lumped in with pet psychics and bigfoot mavens. Even more amusingly, chiropractors aren’t interested in being associated with New Age woo. Never mind that some of them are into serious, serious woo, like subluxations and the redirection of “life energy” by spinal manipulation. Bigfoot and channeling are just one woo too far.

Unfortunately, this is a completely predictable result. When one leaves science, rationality, and reason behind, there is no reliable way to differentiate one woo from another, one pseudoscience from another, one faith-based belief from another. When anything goes, nothing goes, and nothing can be included or excluded based on evidence. Everything is fair game.

That’s what happens when critical thinking and science are left behind.

Comments

  1. #1 Travis
    July 16, 2009

    There is a lot of good woo in that article from both sides. I have often wondered how woo pushers pick and choose what they believe, and it is interesting that some of them really do seem to just accept it all, at least as being pretty equally valid.
    Now if only there was more detailed information about how this other editor decided some things were bunk. Sadly this does not really help much that way.

  2. #2 JohnV
    July 16, 2009

    It was with great trepidation that I followed the link to David Icke’s site. I was unaware that such a plethora of insanity would reside in one place. Thanks Orac!

  3. #3 iain
    July 16, 2009

    Bigfoot is on a spiritual path?

  4. #4 Shay
    July 16, 2009

    “So is the belief that reptile-like aliens have taken over the bodies of celebrities, including Queen Elizabeth and — according to one Web site — former Minnesota U.S. Rep. Bill Luther.”

    Not Rep. Luther! (Rep Bachmann, maybe. It could explain what happens almost every time she opens her mouth).

  5. #5 Jojo
    July 16, 2009

    @iain – I’ve been told that Bigfoot is a native American spiritual belief. The woman who told me this said that big foot watches over the people. I guess sort of like a guardian angel. I have no idea if this is a true native American belief or not, but the woman I was speaking with sure believed it.

  6. #6 Ranson
    July 16, 2009

    @ Jojo

    It’s almost certainly a sane person/woo translation problem:

    “That lady asked about the ‘wood spirits’ in the forest. I told her she should be more concerned by the big, hairy bears; we all know that they can tear you up with their big feet. She got all giddy and ran off.”

  7. #7 DLC
    July 16, 2009

    Great, so the Reptilians have taken over the Queen ?
    Are you sure ? I mean, I could see Charles. when he threw over Diana for Camilla . . . Obviously Diana found out why (Camilla is his Reptillian-Hybrid control agent!) and then she had to be Got out of the way. . . It’s all So Clear to me now! (!!+E11)
    And of course, the only way to protect yourself from being taken over is aluminum foil placed over the head! Ah ha! That’s why Elizabeth always wears a hat!

  8. #8 Jim Lippard
    July 16, 2009

    I wish Miejan the best of success in inserting a semi-skeptical wedge into New Age. A little divide-and-conquer, or at least internal debate, couldn’t hurt.

    There are other forms of belief-selection that are effective in promoting rejection of woo besides critical thinking–such as fundamentalist religion. That’s actually probably *more* effective at causing rejection of most kinds of woo than scientific skepticism, because it treats them as evil things that cannot even be permissibly examined. There have been a number of studies in the _Skeptical Inquirer_ that show fundamentalists have lower beliefs in things like astrology than the nonreligious, for example. (Though no doubt a lot of those “nonreligious” are those who call themselves “spiritual but nonreligious.”)

  9. #9 LovleAnjel
    July 16, 2009

    @Jojo

    If the person professing a Native American belief is not actually a Native American, you can be pretty sure they’re full of it.

  10. #10 Rich
    July 16, 2009

    I think everyone should know that another of the Reptoid dopplegangers is Boxcar Willie – seriously – at least according to the people that are into the whole Reptoid thing.

  11. #11 LovleAnjel
    July 16, 2009

    Not Boxcar Willie!

  12. #12 wfjag
    July 16, 2009

    But, who can doubt testimonials?

    NY AG: Facelift firm placed bogus online reviews
    By Jennifer Peltz, ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITER
    Seattle Post Intellingeniser
    (Tues. July 14, 2009)
    http://www.seattlepi.com/business/1310ap_us_online_product_reviews.html

    I mean, what’s a little “astroturf marketing” among friends?

  13. #13 AZSkeptic
    July 16, 2009

    It reminds me of my kid arguing with his friends about which Pokemon is better than another. These people are exactly that–children arguing over which fairy tale is better/”more real” than the next. The problem is that most of them will never grow out of it.

  14. #14 Karl_Withakay
    July 16, 2009

    I’ve said it before. Most forms of woo are mutually exclusive and incompatible with each other; the only common element among them is that they are woo and outside the mainstream.

    You’d see similar infighting if all the various CAM modalities were actually integrated into legitimate medical practice.

  15. #15 sophia8
    July 16, 2009

    Actually, quite a lot of pagans would be offended if you called them New Agers, at least, here in the UK. It’s on a par with calling them “fluff-bunnies” – it implies they’re peace’n'light airheads with no grasp of reality.
    But that’s just the UK view – we grow some pretty tough-nut pagans here.

  16. #16 James Sweet
    July 16, 2009

    My wife has pointed out to me that this phenomenon of “opening your mind so far that your brain falls out” is a handy indictment of anti-vaxers that anyone can understand even without any science background:

    Among scientists, when people disagree about facts, they actually discuss it and try to figure out who is right (even if it gets nasty at times). They never just shrug and say, “Oh well, what I am saying is completely contradictory with what you are saying, but we’re on the same team, so we must both be right!”

    On the contrary, among anti-vaxers there is an incredible variation in what they actually think is true… but nobody seems to be bothered by this fact. Many of them say completely different things about what harms vaccines cause and how they happen, or why or whether they are not effective at preventing disease. There is no consensus truth, nor is there any attempt to arrive at one. As long as the conclusions you reach is anti-vaccine, it makes no difference whatsoever how you arrive at that conclusion.

    It’s kind of difficult to take them seriously after you come to that realization.

    @sophia8: I’m not too surprised about that. I don’t really have a problem with pagans, at least no more so than any other religion. Actually, probably less than other religions, because AFAIK the pagans don’t have a holy book that recommends the best way to cure depression is to crush the heads of infants with rocks… As long as pagans don’t start lobbying to have their creation stories told in schools or what-have-you, more power to ‘em, eh?

  17. #17 JThompson
    July 16, 2009

    It’s all fun and games until someone’s eye gets poked out with a healing crystal.

    I always wondered why there was never a “Spirituality-Con” where all the New Agers and other assorted navel gazing spiritualists got together to share silly.
    Now I know it’s because they’ll freaking kill each other.

    @James: Yeah, I’ve noticed that about the anti-vaxxers too. Then there are the ones that throw absolutely everything they’ve ever heard around in the hope something will sound convincing. (Seriously, I’m not anti Jenny McCarthy. I’m just anti stupid. If she’d stop being stupid, I swear I’d stop hating her. I shouldn’t be forced to choose between stupid and a bimboless life.)

  18. #18 Todd
    July 16, 2009

    I remember my first time coming across David Icke. Talk about a lost weekend.

  19. #19 Phil Collins
    July 16, 2009

    Orac – “That’s what happens when critical thinking and science are left behind.”

    Let’s talk about real life Orac. The critical thinking and science you are bragging about ruined the life of the man in the news story below.

    “Phil Collins, 61, quit his job, planned his own funeral and blew £18,000 from a pension pay-out after being told he had inoperable gallbladder and liver cancer.

    He fulfilled a lifelong dream of buying a Triumph motorbike, bought wife Isabel a car and made financial arrangements to ensure she was secure after his death.

    But when the six month deadline passed he went back to hospital – where further checks revealed the growth on his liver was in fact an abscess.”

  20. #20 Rev Matt
    July 16, 2009

    @LovleAnjel Just because they are Native American doesn’t mean the spiritual/supernatural beliefs they are promoting have any relation to traditional NA culture.

  21. #21 Sigivald
    July 16, 2009

    “Frogs! Frogs in my beautiful city!”

  22. #22 Hypocee
    July 16, 2009

    The link “this report” has trouble. It works if you take off the CGI parameter nclick_check like so.

  23. #23 Jon H
    July 16, 2009

    ” It doesn’t matter. Any form of woo will do. Once your mind is open to New Age woo, it’s got to be open enough that your brains fall out. Or at least so says Kathy McGee.”

    To be fair, she runs a magazine for New Age retailers.

    Excluding the frog-worshippers would just be excluding potential customers. If you’re going to sign a lease and take on the inventory, it makes sense to include as many niche markets as possible, given that they’re not mutually exclusive. The reptoid believer might well fancy a frog idol.

  24. #24 Sastra
    July 16, 2009

    No, the New Agers wouldn’t kill each other — that’s why this editor stands out. He’s saying someone else is wrong!! That’s oppression! As James Sweet points out, there really isn’t a lot of concern about coming to a consensus. Everyone is allowed to have “their own truth.” Which means there isn’t a lot of concern for truth, either. Debate = attack.

    In science, the emphasis is placed on the means: the ends, or conclusion, is only justified if you got there honestly. People who reject astrology because “it’s against my religion” don’t get props for getting it right anyway, from the scientific viewpoint. They didn’t really get it right. Their correct conclusion was a matter of chance; someone else, who believes astrology because it’s part of their religion, has used the same method to come up with the opposite result.

    Religion and pseudoscience care far more about the ends, than the means. Like the anti-vaxxers, if you get the basic answer right, then it doesn’t matter how you got there, and nobody cares about the details. A person who is Christian because they were spoonfed dogma from birth and have lived in an isolated community is just as ‘saved’ as a theologian who studies constantly.

    And with New Agers, the end result is not just belief in anything supernatural, but being “tolerant” of all views. They apparently confuse accepting people with different views as your friends and neighbors with accepting the views themselves.

  25. #25 A. Noyd
    July 16, 2009

    Jim Lippard (#8)

    There are other forms of belief-selection that are effective in promoting rejection of woo besides critical thinking–such as fundamentalist religion. …studies in the _Skeptical Inquirer_ that show fundamentalists have lower beliefs in things like astrology than the nonreligious…

    Sort of. I’ve found that the term “believing in” can have different meaning to fundamentalists. I had a conversation once with a Jehova’s Witness coworker about psychic mediums and we both professed not to believe in them, but it soon became clear that she believed channelling the dead was possible but morally wrong. Thus she didn’t “believe in” it the same way I don’t “believe in” beating children.

    The latest study on this topic in SI seemed not to separate whether choosing to read one’s horoscope was a question of religious-guided morality or actual skepticism about astrology.    

  26. #26 A. Noyd
    July 16, 2009

    Whoops, it cut off the last bit: Given how varied the meaning of belief can be, I’d like to see a little more care applied to such studies. I gave no problem thinking that fundamentalist might be better skeptics than average when it comes to claims outside their religion, but I’d prefer less ambiguity

  27. #27 Alison Cummins
    July 16, 2009

    “Of course, being so open-minded has other consequences. No matter how hard people try, they just can’t buy into everything. Organic farmers aren’t so keen on being lumped in with pet psychics and bigfoot mavens.”

    Um, why *would* they be lumped in? What is the woo-iness in organic farming? I don’t get your point. (Unless you believe that organic food is better for you or something. But organic farming is better for the soil and surrounding ecosystems.)

  28. #28 Jon H
    July 16, 2009

    “What is the woo-iness in organic farming”

    It probably started with New Agers / aging hippies.

  29. #29 jj
    July 16, 2009

    I never really though of organic farming as “New Age”. I’m a science and evidence based guy myself, and maybe it’s ’cause i live in a new-age loving leftist hippie town, but I thought that there was good science based evidence for using organic procedures. Thing like, Organic farming uses less water, nitrogen eutrophication of our oceans due to the over abundance of synthetic fertilizers leading algae blooms, dead zones (Gulf of Mexico), fleeting zoothanthellae from coral reefs, domoic acid poising of marine mammals. Not to mention pesticides (although these days the whole USDA organic certification is crap). Anyway, my 2 cents

  30. #30 jj
    July 16, 2009

    It probably started with New Agers / aging hippies.

    Hmm didn’t know hippies existed in the 1930′s…

    Sir Albert Howard (1873-1947) was a British botanist, an organic farming pioneer, and a principal figure in the early organic movement. He is often referred to as the father of modern organic agriculture.

  31. #31 Anonymous
    July 16, 2009

    “Um, why *would* they be lumped in? What is the woo-iness in organic farming?”

    Well, it can get woo-ish. It can be like naturopathy for plants. Many people claim that because a chemical (or rather, natural whatever. Natural things aren’t called chemicals) used in agriculture has a natural origin, than it is better than anything else simply on the basis of being natural, and that organics are always and forever better in every way than anything else (taste, production, environmentally, ect.), again on the appeal to nature reasoning, which is rather woo-like. Then there’s the belief that many hardcore organic proponents have that Big Whoever and their army of kitten eating food scientists and super evil geneticists are out to get them and silence their vastly superior natural ways, and starve the world with disease resistant crops for their random nefarious purposes. Then there’s the lot that claims switching to a diet of organic only produce will cure what ails you, which of course leads to the real woowoo. And I’ve noticed some proponents like cherry picking and playing hard and fast with some facts.

    Its not always woo, and certainly not the worst of the woo, but it can take on that likeness, IMO. And it is an area where it can be genuinely difficult to separate the science from the woo in this area, so it might actually have strong merit (although I personally would doubt that). I’m waiting to see the Penn & Teller episode on it this month. Should be funny at the least.

  32. #32 Kate
    July 16, 2009

    Most likely what they’re referring to is biodynamic farming:

    Biodynamic agriculture is a method of organic farming that treats farms as unified and individual organisms, emphasizing balancing the holistic development and interrelationship of the soil, plants, animals as a closed, self-nourishing system. This belief is different from what is usually meant by a closed system, since a farm will produce and export food, which results in a constant loss of matter and nutrients from the system.

    Regarded by some as the first modern ecological farming system, biodynamic farming has much in common with other organic approaches, such as emphasizing the use of manures and composts and excluding of the use of artificial chemicals on soil and plants. Methods unique to the biodynamic approach include the use of fermented herbal and mineral preparations as compost additives and field sprays and the use of an astronomical sowing and planting calendar. Biodynamics has been descried as a occult belief system, as it is based in anthroposophy, a spiritual world-view propounded by Rudolf Steiner. (That’s from Wikipedia)

    Basically…it’s homeopathy for your dirt.

  33. #33 Kate
    July 16, 2009

    Sorry guys… italics fail.

    ‘course I’ve been at this frickin’ desk since 6:30 this morning, so you’re lucky I’m coherent at all.

  34. #34 Liz Ditz
    July 16, 2009

    I vote for new law, “LovieAnjel’s Law” which can be paraphrased as:

    If a person professing a “Native American” belief is not actually a member of one or more Native American tribes, the bovine fecalometer should read “full of it.”

  35. #35 D. C. Sessions
    July 16, 2009

    Kate:

    you’re lucky I’m coherent at all.

    Or not — some of your incoherencies are quite entertaining.

  36. #36 katydid13
    July 16, 2009

    Congressman Luther? If I were to name congresscritters who have been taken over by alien reptiles, that’s not where I would start.

  37. #37 Knight of L-sama
    July 16, 2009

    AZSceptic @ 13

    Now, now that’s not actually fair to Pokemon. They may be fictional but given the nature of the games they do have set, quantifiable statistics that can be compared. As such one can perform an proper, objective analysis about which one is better.

  38. #38 articulett
    July 16, 2009

    I like to ask those who proffer woo to tell me why I should take their claims more seriously than they take a conflicting woo. When I can pin them down on a claims (hard to do with all the goal post shifting), I ask them to explain to me why I should take that claim more seriously than, Scientology’s “reactive mind” teachings, for example.

    I like to pit the woo against the woo. There’s lots of stories and competing explanations about the world, but there really is only one truth, and so far, the scientific method is the only proven method for uncovering it.

  39. #39 Cary
    July 16, 2009

    Wow, I can see how one could lose some time exploring the woo spewing out of Icke’s site… A quick look at the “Latest Headlines” led to this gem: Getting the Kids Ready for Soft Kill Vaccinations: “Mission Set: Immuno”

  40. #40 alison
    July 16, 2009

    Kate @ 31 – you beat me to it :-) A few years ago we had a NZ biodynamics proponent suggesting (quite seriously, unfortunately) that the best way to get rid of possums from an area was to burn one or two (actually, I think it was just the testes that were to be burned) & then spread the ashes around the place… Woo, indeed.

  41. #41 Nils Ross
    July 16, 2009

    I think you’ll find, if you look at a little history, that there is one reliable way to distinguish between various faith-based ‘woo’ ideologies. Violence. Good, old-fashioned, spasm, insensate violence. Preferably lasting hundreds of years and resulting in innumerable atrocities.

  42. #42 strech
    July 17, 2009

    Okay, I’m having a hard time believing some of the stuff linked to on Icke’s site isn’t a parody. Like:

    The art at the DIA is NOT an aggregation of odd choices made by people with poor taste, like many people think. It is a cohesive collection of symbolic pieces that reflect the philosphy, the beliefs and the goals of the global elite

    I mean, it’s like they’re pointing out their whole screed is ridiculous before starting it.

    Then again, they’re citing Dino Sqaud as an obvious part of the Reptilian Conspiracy.

  43. #43 Paul Murray
    July 17, 2009

    “For a movement based on peace, love and understanding”

    A common misconception. Hippies are prickly, prejudiced folk, who tend to judge you based on the clothes you wear.

  44. #44 LovleAnjel
    July 17, 2009

    @Rev Matt

    True, but the probability of BS is much lower with people of NA ancestry.

    I’ve always hated how Native Americans get lumped into a single group, as if the different cultures & beliefs are homogeneous. Then to top it off, newagers just make stuff up and call it “Native American” to give it the weight of “ancient wisdom”.

  45. #45 James Sweet
    July 17, 2009

    “Of course, being so open-minded has other consequences. No matter how hard people try, they just can’t buy into everything. Organic farmers aren’t so keen on being lumped in with pet psychics and bigfoot mavens.”

    Um, why *would* they be lumped in? What is the woo-iness in organic farming? I don’t get your point. (Unless you believe that organic food is better for you or something. But organic farming is better for the soil and surrounding ecosystems.)

    I think that’s exactly why organic farmers aren’t keen in being lumped in with woomeisters.

    Unfortunately, anecdotally I have noticed a correlation between the likelihood of someone to be interested in organic/sustainable farming and the likelihood of someone being into various forms of woo. Which is a bitch for sustainable farming, because it’s generally legit(*).

    My theory to explain the phenomenon is something I call “indiscriminate dissent”. Basically, once one is finding themselves outside the mainstream on a few issues, avoiding the mainstream can suddenly become compulsive. The mainstream kinda sucks about certain things — food, arguably music and television, awareness of science — so you start to get into a habit of dissent, a posture of resentment towards the mainstream… to the point where when the mainstream is demonstrably correct, you are blinded to it or just don’t care.

    I’m sure all of us know people like that. Hell, I was a little bit like that myself in college, though I never went completely over to the woo side.

    (*) Granted, though,, as others have pointed out, organic farming can get woo-y at times.. and while this is not exactly woo, I usually steer away from organic produce that has been shipped to NYS from massive “organic” monocultures in California… who gives a shit if it’s organic if they are still depleting the soil and if they burned all those fossil fuels to get it here? If I have to choose one or the other, I’ll take local over organic any day of the week!

  46. #46 James Sweet
    July 17, 2009

    . Then there’s the belief that many hardcore organic proponents have that Big Whoever and their army of kitten eating food scientists and super evil geneticists are out to get them and silence their vastly superior natural ways, and starve the world with disease resistant crops for their random nefarious purposes.

    In fairness, “Big Agro” as a standard practice likes to have the plants that grow from their seeds be sterile, so they can keep selling people seeds. So there’s a grain of truth in that last bit.

    Just like there’s a grain of truth in some of the anti-”Big Pharma” folks’ propaganda, in the sense that life-saving drugs are being sold at artificially high costs to Third World countries, which they can get away with because they hold the patent. Which is not to say that drug companies shouldn’t be compensated for the money they expend on research; they should of course — but it’s not woo to observe that the present system for ensuring that compensation is at times keeping life-saving drugs out of the hands of the poor.

    Of course, I don’t generally blame the “Big Evil Corporations” (except when they explicitly break the law) because after all, a corporation is just a profit-generating entity and the whole point of social capitalism is to craft the rules so that in order to consistently generate profit, a corporation also has to benefit society. That said, the rules governing our food supply in the US are pretty broken right now. It’s not so much pesticides (although reducing pesticide use is probably a good thing), but the bigger problems are massive monocultures that deplete the soil, so-called factory farming that leads to all sorts of nastiness e.g. “pig bogs” (reservoirs of really really toxic shit that occasionally overflow into the groundwater wreaking all kinds of havoc with the local water supply), artificially cheap high-fat meat contributing to obesity, artificially cheap corn that makes it economically feasible to feed a grass-eater with corn and then maintain their metabolism with medicine rather than just feeding them grass, etc., one could go on…

    The difference between what I’ve said above and woomeisters is that I’m definitely not alleging this is any kind of conspiracy. It’s all there happening in broad daylight, and given the rules that are in place right now it even makes good (short-term) economic sense. (And as the current economic downturn has proven, one thing corporations are not good at is prioritizing long-term profits over short-term profits…) There’s no malice or nefarious conspiracy, just a system that has allowed the industry to become unsustainable and environmentally damaging.

  47. #47 Kristie
    July 17, 2009

    “Okay, I’m having a hard time believing some of the stuff linked to on Icke’s site isn’t a parody. Like:

    The art at the DIA is NOT an aggregation of odd choices made by people with poor taste, like many people think. It is a cohesive collection of symbolic pieces that reflect the philosphy, the beliefs and the goals of the global elite”

    Have you been to DIA…? The art in certain areas is beyond disturbing. Gas masks, dead people. Bizarre. It’s a conspiracy nutter’s dream ;)

  48. #48 Marcus Ranum
    July 17, 2009

    Unless one wants to be dogmatic, ontological skepticism is a serious problem. “How do you claim to know anything?” is a very very difficult question that lots of philosophers have spilled a lot of ink over. Mostly, because “knowing” something in the absence of evidence is critical to all religious belief. The scientific method doesn’t address ontology because it doesn’t have to; it’s a selectivist approach to dealing with reality: we try something over and over again and as it appears to be more connected in terms of cause and effect, we figure we’re able to use that repeatability. It’s not necessary, in scientific terms, to know how something works in order to use it – which is why the CAM proponents’ claims that “scientists are narrow-minded” is so silly.

    Skepticism (one might say the phyrronian skeptics were perhaps “unhealthily skeptical”) of the healthy sort allows science to progress without having to have certainty. We’re content to be pretty confident that the sun will rise tomorrow, but that’s just because it always has, as far as we can tell, and we see no reason to expect it not to. But do we “know”? Not really. That’s why science is ready to absorb and consider contradictory evidence pertaining to anything, at any time. (Besides, based on how things appear to work, we can be pretty confident that some ‘day’ – the term loses its meaning – the sun won’t rise)

    Ontology is a huge problem for the woo-woos and religious, though – you can almost always attack them based on “How do you know what you claim?” (To which they usually cite bogus studies or the bible) And “how do you know you’re not being deceived?”

  49. #49 Marcus Ranum
    July 17, 2009

    the best way to get rid of possums from an area

    …is hire a dog.

  50. #50 Scarlet
    July 18, 2009

    I do believe that not all “alternative medicine” is created equal. And not all alternative medicine “practitioneers” are created equal. I have seen some amazing results from alternative medicine that no one needs to convince me are real. And I have also chased my tail countless times on numerous deadend protocols. You guys think you have seen woooo??? You ain’t ever seen woo. Get a load of this guy. He has written the wooo Bible..

    http://www.truecures.com/

    Not many people get thrown off of the Curezone, but this guy was not only thrown off but his whole identity was practically erased. Been tossed off of numerous other sites. Not only is he arrogant, but, let’s say, he has yet to deliver the goods, so to speak. If Orac gives out any type of wooo trophy, no need for nominations or voting. Please just hand it to him right now and get it over with…

  51. #51 Brian X
    July 20, 2009

    Organic farming is in this weird middle ground between sensible and looney. In and of itself, it’s not a bad thing, though it has a long way to go before being able to come close to the yields of the Green Revolution’s hybrid crops and synthetic fertilizers; in fact, I’d say its main benefits have less to do with fertilizers and more with pest management, to reduce the amount of pesticides used on crops. (Fertilizer is actually a red herring. Or at least a bottle of fermented red herring guts.)

    The problem is that the people who first put organic gardening forth were people like Jerry Rodale, who was a 24 karat woo-barker who believed that synthetics suck all the life out of something. When you get to that level of “logic”, the truth is that you’re straying into vitalism and other related forms of pseudoscience, of which biodynamics (which actually preceded organic farming, in name at least) is the logical extreme. Organic agriculture is great if you’re looking towards growing with an eye to sustainability, but a lot of people prefer organic for its own sake and manage to thoroughly and completely miss the point in the process. My opinion, at least, is what we’ve got now is a good start, but substantial research is needed, and in all likelihood many of the Hard Greens are likely to obstruct such research the same way they do with GMO crops, since it would take away from the purity of the organic ideal or some such horseshit like that.

    If you want to know more, some time ago I read The Truth About Organic Gardening by Jeff Gillman (ISBN 9780881928624) — Gillman is an ag professor at the University of Minnesota (PZ or Greg might know him personally; I wouldn’t know) who takes a guardedly positive but solidly scientific view of organic agriculture as a whole, and his opinion in general is that organic farming is a good idea, but that it needs to be done with a critical eye, since many organic techniques are not as well-tested as conventional agriculture, and some (hellebore as a pesticide for example) are actually quite a bit more dangerous.

  52. #52 True Cures
    January 5, 2010

    I’m addressing comment 50 by Scarlet aka BnG from the CureZone and PE from Hubpages.

    I take pride in being banned from CureZone. I also take pride in the fact that the moderator who banned me who post under different handles on different forums and blogs tracks me down to tell everyone how she banned me from the CureZone.

    The CureZone is a business that survives by donations from people selling products with no guarantee. I came along and let the CureZone members in on the secret. Cures are not medicine. A cure will only happen if you allow them to happen. For a product to work you must allow it to work by believing in it, and I am sorry to say it will be short lived relief, which is why you will not find any guarantees with the products sold on the CureZone.

    I got banned when members of the CureZone started posting their success with True Cures. Guess what, they got whipped out too.

    True Cures is about taking the gimmicks out of medicine and focusing on what is really happens whenever anyone heals through any method. Alternative doctors do not use tools, gadgets and products to heal, they are strictly for business and sales. If a doctor does not give you the treatment with his or her intent for the treatment to work the treatment will not work and CURES suffer.

    Your only cure is when you cure yourself unless medicine decides to do a 180 and focus on cures instead of treatment. And YOU ALL must be aware that western medicine is now head of alternative medicine. The days where alternative medicine contradicted western medicine is long gone. Now the two have merged. MDs prescribe homeopathic remedies and homeopaths can prescribe Valtrex.