Our bold American future

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I head to Stockholm and Copenhagen today where on Wednesday I will be participating in a unique conference organized by the Danish Science Journalists Association. The focus is on many of the central themes discussed at this blog including framing, public engagement, the future of science…
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The pillow seems comfortable: But the router is warmer:
Small-clawed otters (Aonyx cinerea), photographed July 5th, 2008 at the Bronx zoo.

Hey! Leeches can actually be useful in medicine. Just search pubmed for leech. Good idea, poor execution.

Leeches have specific medical uses, like keeping down swelling and encouraging blood flow in reattached limbs. I am reasonably sure that they're not used for curing colds anymore.

I think that the cartoonist was hoping to show ID going 0 for 4, however the leech panel might give the ID'ers some hope since leeches are useful for re-establishing circulation to severed limbs that have been reattached.

The leech metaphor is appropriate as showing that ID is parasitizing science.

By natural cynic (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

Patrick is right, Wilfred. Leeches are sometimes used for keeping down swelling, encouraging bloodflow in re-attached limbs, etc. To be more specific, only a certain type of leech is used. In this link, Hirudo medicinalis.

As long as we're overanalyzing the cartoon, let's keep going. Yes, leeches have some very narrow, specific uses, as in controlling the accumulation of blood in amputations. Therefore, this is an illustration of a man who had an amputated thorax.

It's a medical miracle!

Um, isn't that geography pic accurate? I mean, it doesn't show The Great A'tuin or the elephants, but that may be due to the camera angle.

Leaches may be all well and fine; however, I am more worried by the fact that I (and the other 4 million people in New Zealand) appear to have fallen off the edge.

I guess the cartoonist decided depicting someone being deliberately "bled" for their health wouldn't make as big an impression. It is interesting that leeches have been found to actually have a medical use, though.

I still laugh at the old Steve Martin SNL skit "Medieval Doctor" -- "obviously, you have a small troll living in your stomach..."

Half of Australia does not exist. That must be the part that was Steve Irwin.

...Too soon?

If this is future America, then I'm surprised anything outside the US is depicted.

By Tukla in Iowa (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

Leeches have specific medical uses, like keeping down swelling and encouraging blood flow in reattached limbs. I am reasonably sure that they're not used for curing colds anymore.

What makes you think the person in the cartoon has a cold?

I think the panel would work better if there were a copy of "Astrological Judgement and Practice of Physick" (published 1677) in view.

By truth machine (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

The patient seems to have a few incisions in his body. Maybe, it was the artist's intention to depict the leeches being placed on the patient by the doctor so that they would enter the body through the incisions. I don't think leeches are used internally, medically. I could be wrong, though.

The Great A'tuin and the four elephants are what hold up Discworld.

An accurate depiction of Earth geography would, of course, show an infinite series of turtles.

A pity the cartoonist didn't have room to display Geo. Washington carrying that big cross across the Delaware.

By Pierce R. Butler (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

Hamish, if this is the future of the US, it may not be a bad thing for them to forget we exist.

Us, Sydney and Melbourne. Could be worse.

Obviously this cartoon is wrong. For a start, there are no elephants, turtles or corners on the world. Second, where is the bleeding apparatus? What do they teach in cartoonist school these days?

What makes you think the person in the cartoon has a cold?

Well, I'm fairly sure he's not recovering from just having had his chest reattached...

By Millimeter Wave (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

Phrenology, you forgot phrenology!!

Therefore, this is an illustration of a man who had an amputated thorax.

My money was on Getting a Tattoo Removed.

By Molly, NYC (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

What makes you think the person in the cartoon has a cold?

It was one example of the sort of thing they don't put leeches on people for anymore.

this reminds me of a summer program i attended in high school. it was some kind of "advanced mish-mash" including math, science, english, and music.

anyway, in ENGLISH section, one day teacher brings us in. she's put a series of pictures along the blackboards on the walls. we're supposed to write an essay about what it's about.

so, she starts out with a solar system as gaseous nebula picture. okay.

then she puts up an Earth as molten mass picture. okay.

then she puts up a picture of single celled organisms of some kind, a painting, not a photo. okay. kinda.

then she had a Cambrian looking lifeforms picture. again, painting. clearly depicting something old. okay.

then she has a trilobites picture, again a painting.

then she has a picture of a modern day moray eel. huh?

then she has a picture of dinosaurs. okay.

then she has a picture of mammoths and saber tooth tigers. alright.

then she has a picture of some primitive ape folk. question, but okay.

then she has a picture of a modern man guy. alright.

so, a number of the kids in the class write about the attempt to depict evolution, okay. yeah, it has people at the end, with the Bright White Spot on them.

but more than one kid, me included, writes "What the heck is that modern moray eel doing there? It's out of sequence."

teacher later fessed up, said she was using it to stand in for a fish.

meant well.

hey, it was English.

Well. I would say that the teacher flunked English. Being in the humanities is no excuse for inaccuracies. I don't use it as an excuse.

I've said it before and I maintain it, creationism is not so much about the past as the future--a fascistic future. The cartoon forgot to depict the Rapture, a.k.a. the Reason for all the Wheezin'.

Sex ed! Now covering bestiality AND pedophilia at once!

(Yeah, so sue me.)

I love how intently the doctor is deciding where to put the leeches.

It was one example of the sort of thing they don't put leeches on people for anymore.

Non sequitur. Wilfred, to whom you responded, was referring specifically to this cartoon when he wrote "Good idea, poor execution."

By truth machine (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

Well, I'm fairly sure he's not recovering from just having had his chest reattached...

So am I, and I'm fairly sure that Wilfred, to whom the comment about colds was addressed, is also sure of that.

By truth machine (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

I love how intently the doctor is deciding where to put the leeches.

As a doctor would; leeches are used for their anticoagulant properties, so it matters where you put them.

BTW, on House the other night, they covered the guy's burns with maggots.

By truth machine (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

So am I, and I'm fairly sure that Wilfred, to whom the comment about colds was addressed, is also sure of that.

Likewise; my comment wasn't directed at Wilfred.

I think the intent of the cartoon was quite clear, specifically that medicine used to heavily revolve around the use of leeches and other treatments to control "excesses of humors".

By Millimeter Wave (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

I find the use of a generic Halloween witch to illustrate witch-burning far more curious.

By Pan Pan (anon) (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

Likewise; my comment wasn't directed at Wilfred.

Then it was off the mark, because it was directed at my response to Patrick's response to Wilfred. Do try to pay attention.

By truth machine (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

I find the use of a generic Halloween witch to illustrate witch-burning far more curious.

Well, it could be an illustration of mythology, just like the flat earth and the stork, and then the doctor panel is the odd man out. But apparently it is meant to illustrate a return to old practices (unlike the stork and flat earth panels), in which case it buys into the witch mythology. In regard to education, I doubt that many people know anything about the historical realities of witch hunting, and this doesn't really help.

By truth machine (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

We're already there, folks. "Homeopathy" is big in medicine these days - and here in the UK the government have allowed them to make any stupid unproven claim they like on their "medicines". "Qualitative research" has moved from being an (often appropriate) hypothesis-generating tool into being "another way of knowing", and that is way dangerous. The properly-conducted clinical trial is being marginalised as something non-"holistic" or uncaring or irrelevant to the patient as an "individual". Meantime, people are diverted from seeking appropriate proven treatments for serious illnesses until it's too late (a couple of recent breast cancer deaths, such as that of Caron Keating, exemplify that, tragically).

As for leeches, they're great!

Shush, Australia is ALL make believe! Just like AIDS and the Holocaust. You should know that, especially those of you who claim to come from there!

Erm....

WHAT CARTOON?

None showing here - is there a link or something?

By G. Tingey (not verified) on 04 Sep 2006 #permalink

Hey, that depiction of the earth IS inaccurate. All good flat-earthers know that the land bits of the earth look like a pie cut into halves, and one of the halves cut into quarters - the big bit being Africa, and the other two bits being Europe and Asia. And yes, I find the absence of elephants and turtles to be inexcusable.

As to the leeches, I'd say the cartoonist found those easier to depict than a guy drinking liquid mercury for his intestinal ailments.

I bought some homeopathic "remedy" pills the other day for my allergies, which are absolute hell right now. I made a point of asking the woman at the check-out counter if they worked, and she enthused about them. I suppose it's a bit mercenary to try to fool your own body into manifesting a placebo effect, and I'm not sure I'm capable of sustaining the cognitive dissonance necessary, but my allergies are so bad I'm willing to try anything.

Do leeches work for allergies? I heard tapeworms are beneficial, but leeches would be easier to handle on a daily basis.

Fun fact: Did you know that the Medicinal Leech, Hirudo medicinalis, has become extremely rare due to overharvesting for its anticougulant saliva?

Great cartoon! Ridicule is the best medicine for absurd ideas.

By oldhippie (not verified) on 05 Sep 2006 #permalink

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Ths s pr rvw qlty mtrl.

PZ shld pblsh ths strff.

Hs tctcs, ppld t pltcs, wll nsr lbrl vctry.

Kp p th gd wrk!

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By Little Dick (not verified) on 05 Sep 2006 #permalink

Try an education, Ronald.

By truth machine (not verified) on 05 Sep 2006 #permalink

Try the, oh so scientific, "Big Bang".

It's been done. Fred Hoyle was a proponent of the opposing Steady State Theory and while making fun of it he called it the Big Bang. Before that it was just the inflationary model. Of course, science progressed as it always does, and Steady Freddy turned out to come in last, with the Big Bang standing in the winner's circle, and creationism left far behind, not even on the starting line but back in the locker room trying to tie its shoes with prayer.

raindogzilla beat me to it. Seriously, Little *ahem* Dick, it's a blog. If you want peer review, go to Nature, PubMed, or something similiar. This is akin to bar room or coffee shop conversation.

"Little Dick" is yet another pseudonym for the disgruntled kook who calls himself Goldstein, among many other names. Ignore him. He's going to get hacked up every time he posts here.

"It's been done. Fred Hoyle was a proponent of the opposing Steady State Theory and while making fun of it he called it the Big Bang. Before that it was just the inflationary model. Of course, science progressed as it always does, and Steady Freddy turned out to come in last, with the Big Bang standing in the winner's circle, and creationism left far behind, not even on the starting line but back in the locker room trying to tie its shoes with prayer."
My memory of it was a little different. At the time Big Bang started to look like it worked much better than steady state, there were many newspaper reports about how this supported the religious creation idea (no, not the time line). The beginning singularity is lot more favorable to spinning religious tales than steady state. It is quite a good example of how science does change even if the results are not totally compfortable.

By oldhippie (not verified) on 05 Sep 2006 #permalink

OK, with what could the leeches in the 'Medicine' panel be replaced, so the message is still obvious?

I wondered about the mercuric compounds so popular in the 19th century, but the retort might be that most people won't associate mercury with the, er, retort that Lavoisier used in his experiments... hmm, scrub that one.

How about trepanation? Nice and obvious in caricature. Ah, but neurosurgeons still drill holes in people's skulls to gain access to the cranial cavity. That one won't hold water...

Crystal power? No, I can't imagine many cr**t**n*sts going for remedies recommended by New-Agers (and my apologies to the New-Agers for even mentioning them in the same sentence).

I suppose one could portray someone being left to die of some disease because it's Gunderscored's will. But hang on, that'll never do. Surely that's survival of the fittest?

Actually, I think the leeches will do nicely! :-D

PS. I was a bit slow on the uptake there - I was staring at Like a Penis, Only Smaller's comment, wondering whether I'd imagined the vowels I saw previously. *light dawns*

Peter: Wet cupping would make a good visual.

And dry cupping is all the rage right now -- can wet cupping be far behind?

(It's interesting to me that all the pro-cupping sites I found on Google only mention its use in Chinese traditional medicine, Ayurveda, etc. It's straight out of the 18th c. phlebotomist's handbook.)

"Ignore him. He's going to get hacked up every time he posts here."

Oh no PZ! you have to feed the trolls! The site wouldn't be as amusing without them!

By demallien (not verified) on 05 Sep 2006 #permalink

Atheist spells eatshit

I am SHOCKED and OFFENDED by this cartoon's gratuitious debasement of MEDICINAL LEECHES.

If this is meant to suggest that leeches were used, since the time of Hippocrates, to bleed patients in order to remove "an excess of blood" and thus "balance" the "humors" - and by doing so suggest that HUMORISM is not scientific - then it is in POOR TASTE and should be REMOVED immediately!

Don't diss the LEECHES!

I know this is really boring and you are skipping to the next comment, but I just wanted to throw you a big thanks - you cleared up some things for me!