Following some interesting debates on my Facebook page (www.facebook.com/rationalmystic) I thought I would devote tonight’s show to a couple of key questions.

The first question is around the issue of Paranormal Research and is prompted by Keith who made a point about ‘experts’ in the field of paranormal investigations.

Now I don’t wish to tread on the toes of Haunted Cornwall FM here, as investigations are part and parcel of what we talk about there. However, perhaps a few points can be discussed here in view to promoting further discussion on Haunted Cornwall FM.

First I guess I need to make a clear statement, from a Rational Mystics perspective.

Personal Experience of a thing, of an event and the subsequent personal understanding of it is not something that can or should be dismissed.

We understand our experiences against the backdrop of our beliefs, previous experience, expectations and culture.

If an individual has an out of the body experience, or reports personal insight, enlightenment or contact with ‘other worldly beings’ then perhaps it is more interesting to explore the personal meaning and relevance derived from that experience rather than question its concrete objective reality.

If, however, that experience is offered as ‘evidence’ of a world view that invites others to experience then, perhaps, we can move into the area of rational exploration and question.

The fact of the matter is, it seems to me, that many paranormal experiences are of a personally subjective nature and hence lack any claim that can be easily evidenced.

When investigation teams, many of which are comprised of enthusiastic amateurs, attempt to undertake paranormal research there are some real issues to be considered…

In the show we will explore briefly some of these issues and attempt to define the individual skills any serious ‘investigation team’ may need to draw upon…

(listen to the show to see what discussion ensued)

In the second part of the show we explore the idea of Opinion vs Evidence and in particular the role of celebrities in making, shaping and promoting specific views of the world.

Celebrities and Science

Mariah Carey called her recent album ‘E=MC2’, but rather than reference the famous equation, she declared the tile stood for “emancipation equals Mariah Carey times two

“The ‘two’ in the equation means C squared, not MC multiplied by two,” he explained. “The correct reading of the equation is E=MCC, so perhaps Mariah‘s re-interpretation should have been ’emancipation equals Mariah Carey Carey‘?

Deliah Smith said obesity could be “cured” if people “cut down sugar addiction”, but scientists said this was impossible

Smith said “addiction” caused obesity, adding: “After six weeks [without sugar] everything will taste sweet… because you will have got your palate back to what nature created.

“We could cure the nation if we cut down sugar addiction.”

But Lisa Miles, who is the senior nutrition scientist at the British Nutrition Foundation, responded by saying: “You’ll never get rid of sugar from the diet, nor would you want to.

“You consume sugars naturally in many foods, such as fruit and milk, which provide us with important nutrients.

“Also, the causes of obesity are much more complex.

Actress Demi Moore was criticised for misunderstanding blood toxicity and saying she had been using “highly-trained medical leeches” to “detoxify her blood”.

“They have a little enzyme.. and when they are biting down on you, it gets released in your blood,” she said.

“Generally you bleed for quite a bit – and your health is optimised. It detoxifies your blood.”

But biophysicist Dr Daniella Muallem said: “For something to be detoxifying, it should remove toxin. Even if your blood does contain toxins, simply removing a little bit of it isn’t going to do any good.”

Heather Mills, the animal rights activist and former wife to Paul McCartney, claimed that when you eat meat “[it] sits in your colon for 40 years and putrefies, and eventually gives you the illness you die of. And that is a fact.”

Actress Suzanne Somers has been quoted as saying that the contraceptive pill must be unsafe “because is it safe to take a chemical every day, and how would it be safe to take something that prevents ovulation?”

This is the same Susan Somers who on the Oprah Winfrey show shared her secrets for staying young…

Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina. The idea is to use these unregulated “bio-identical” hormones to restore her levels back to what they were when she was in her 30s, thus fooling her body into thinking she’s a younger woman. According to Somers, the hormones, which are synthesized from plants instead of the usual mare’s urine (disgusting but true), are all natural and, unlike conventional hormones, virtually risk-free (not even close to true, but we’ll get to that in a minute).

Next come the pills. She swallows 60 vitamins and other preparations every day. “I take about 40 supplements in the morning,” she told Oprah, “and then, before I go to bed, I try to remember … to start taking the last 20.”

Somers “is simply repackaging the old, discredited idea that menopause is some kind of hormone-deficiency disease, and that restoring them will bring back youth,” says Dr. Nanette Santoro, director of reproductive endocrinology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine and head of the Reproductive Medicine Clinic at Montefiore Medical Center.

They just don’t need as much once they get past their childbearing years. Unless a woman has significant discomfort from hot flashes—and most women don’t—there is little reason to prescribe them. Most women never use them. Hormone therapy can increase a woman’s risk of heart attacks, strokes, blood clots and cancer. And despite Somers’s claim that her specially made, non-FDA-approved bioidenticals are “natural” and safer, they are actually synthetic, just like conventional hormones and FDA-approved bioidenticals from pharmacies—and there are no conclusive clinical studies showing they are less risky. That’s why endocrinologists advise that women take the smallest dose that alleviates symptoms, and use them only as long as they’re needed.

BUT…

Somers says it’s mainstream doctors who need to get their facts straight. “The problem is that our medical schools do not teach this,” she said in a February interview with NEWSWEEK. She believes doctors, scientists and the media are all in the pocket of the pharmaceutical industry. “Billions are spent on marketing drugs, and these companies also support academic research.” Free from these entanglements, Somers can see things clearly. “I have spent thousands of hours on this. I’ve written 18 books on health. I know my stuff.”

In 2007, Oprah invited Jenny McCarthy, the Playboy model and actress, to describe her struggle to find help for her young son. When he was 2½, Evan suffered a series of seizures. A neurologist told McCarthy he was autistic. “So what do you think triggered the autism?” Oprah asked McCarthy. “I know you have a theory.”

McCarthy is certain that her son contracted autism from the measles, mumps and rubella (MMR) vaccination he received as a baby. She told Oprah that the morning he went in for his checkup, her instincts told her not to allow the doctor to give him the vaccine. “I said to the doctor, I have a very bad feeling about this shot. This is the autism shot, isn’t it? And he said no, that is ridiculous; it is a mother’s desperate attempt to blame something on autism. And he swore at me.” The nurse gave Evan the shot. “And not soon thereafter,” McCarthy said, “boom, soul gone from his eyes.”

But back on the Oprah show, McCarthy’s charges went virtually unchallenged. Oprah praised McCarthy’s bravery and plugged her book, but did not invite a physician or scientist to explain to her audience the many studies that contradict the vaccines-autism link.

McCarthy is now the most prominent voice in a small but vocal movement of parents with autistic children who are demanding action from the government.

They believe that chemicals once used to preserve vaccines, combined with the increase in the number of shots kids get today, have created an epidemic of autism; and that doctors, the government, the media and drug companies are hiding or ignoring the truth.

McCarthy declined an interview, but in a statement she said, “I understand that vaccines are an important part of keeping us alive today.

My problem is with the ingredients in some vaccines that can become toxic when introduced to children with vulnerable immune systems. I want those children to be able to delay vaccines that could cause them harm.”

It is easy to see why parents like McCarthy have latched onto vaccines as the culprit. They want answers, and sadly there are few. Studies have found some genetic and environmental links that may increase the risk of autism, but its causes are still unknown. The baffling rise in the number of autism cases has loosely coincided with an increase in the number of childhood immunizations. Yet researchers have not found a link between the vaccines and autism. Here is what we do know: before vaccinations, thousands of children died or got sick each year from measles, mumps and rubella.

One viewer went online to ask McCarthy what she would do if she could do it all over again. “If I had another child,” McCarthy answered, “I would not vaccinate.” A mother wrote in to say that she had decided not to give her child the MMR vaccine because of fears of autism. McCarthy was delighted. “I’m so proud you followed your mommy instinct,” she wrote. A year later, McCarthy was back on the show for an episode about “Warrior Moms,” which gave her another opportunity to expand on her claims about vaccines and autism. Oprah must have liked what she heard. McCarthy became a semiregular guest on the show, and in May, Oprah announced that her production company had signed McCarthy for a talk show of her own.

Dr. Christiane Northrup, a physician and one of Oprah’s regular experts, took questions from the audience. One woman asked about the HPV vaccine, which protects women against a sexually transmitted virus that can cause cervical cancer. Northrup advised against getting the shot. “I’m a little against my own profession,” she said. “My own profession feels that everyone should be vaccinated.” But Northrup cautioned, “There have been some deaths from the vaccine.” She suggested a different approach. “Where I’d put my money is getting everybody on a dietary program that would enhance their immunity, and then they would be able to resist that sort of thing. All right?”

It is true that of the millions of women who have received the vaccine, 32 have died in the days or weeks afterward. But in each case, the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration investigated the deaths and found that they were coincidental and were not related to the shot. “This is a very safe vaccine,” says Susan Wood, a research professor in the School of Public Health at George Washington University and the former head of the FDA’s Office of Women’s Health.

The Oprah Legacy.

After more than two decades on the air, the Oprah franchise continues to expand. Forty million people tune in to watch her television show each week. O magazine, which features her picture on every cover, sells more than 2 million copies each month.

She has her own satellite radio channel and a very popular Web site. Forbes puts Oprah’s personal fortune at $2.7 billion. Her empire is about to get bigger. Oprah has made a deal to launch her own cable television channel that will reach 70 million homes. It will be called, of course, the Oprah Winfrey Network and will include Oprah-approved programming on health and living well. In announcing the deal, Oprah said, “I will now have the opportunity to do this 24 hours a day on a platform that goes on forever.”

“Stop the Clock on Aging!” Hear about “The Latest Age-Defying Breakthroughs!” Get the skinny on the miracle “Lunchtime Face-Lift Which Means No Cutting and No Down Time!” These are all teaser lines Oprah has recited on her show.

Logical Fallacy of the Week

Post Hoc ergo Propter Hoc

“after this, therefore because of this”

The way we can link two items in some form of temporal sequence and claim that one caused the other.

Similar to the idea of finding a correlation between two things and making the assumption that there is a causal link between them.

For example, it may be possible to correlate the number of  babies born with the population of storks. This correlation may be close to +1 – a perfect positive correlation.

To infer that one is related to, or has a causal connection with the other is a bit of a stretch!

What WAS THAT!!

The sound of SATURN

http://www-pw.physics.uiowa.edu/space-audio/cassini/SKR1/SKR-03-324.wav

Saturn is a source of intense radio emissions. The radio waves are closely related to the auroras near the poles of the planet. These auroras are similar to Earth’s northern and southern lights. The Cassini spacecraft began detecting these radio emissions in April 2002 when Cassini was 2.5 astronomical units from the planet using the Cassini Radio and Plasma Wave Science (RPWS) instrument. The RPWS has now provided the first high resolution observations of these emissions that show an amazing array of variations in frequency and time. The complex radio spectrum with rising and falling tones is very similar to Earth’s auroral radio emissions. These structures indicate that there are numerous small radio sources moving along magnetic field lines threading the auroral region.

Music on tonight’s show:

All available from Aardvark Music

Raising Days  :  I Confess

The Is  :  Mother Gaia

Everette Young  :  The Ground

Little Spitfire  :  If I look I see you

References & Resources

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/7801219.stm

http://www.newsweek.com/2009/05/29/live-your-best-life-ever.html

http://www.senseaboutscience.org.uk

http://therationalmystic.co.uk/2009/07/celebrities-and-their-opinions-no1_10.html

Penn & Teller on Vaccinations

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfdZTZQvuCo&feature=related

Ben Goldacre on London Tonight

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jfheO9H8CD4&feature=related

Interesting Websites:

Skeptoid

The Skeptics Guide to the Universe

Science Based Medicine

Association for the Scientific Study of Anomalous Phenomena

Quackwatch

Bad Science

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