Tag Archives: Health

Where do I even start?

There are at least three types of foolishness in this picture.

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If I stare at it too long I get a headache.

So can you tell what is wrong with this picture?

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Michael Baisden is Leaving the Airwaves… Yay!

And this skeptic thinks that is a good  GREAT thing. I have sort of a love hate relationship with Michael Baisden. Okay, to be honest its mostly hate. I think much of his show is just overhyped nonsense but I respect the fact that. he often highlights issues of social justice that are often missed by mainstream media. I also respect the fact that he uses his fame to promote charitable giving and activism. And he’s really one of few black celebrities who isn’t afraid to express his non-belief (though he is not an atheist per se). That said, I haven’t been able to stomach listening to a full program for a long time. And while there are many aspect of his program that I dislike, one of my biggest beefs is with the pseudoscience he promotes via his “expert guests”.

When I say that  I dislike his “expert” guests, this is not to suggest that all of his guests are not reputable experts  but a lot of the recurring ones  often have dubious credentials  to match their dubious claims.

“Dr”. Baruch , for example, one of Baisden’s frequent guests, claims that he earned his ND from the School of Prophets, Louisiana Baptist University. This university is unaccredited college and as far as I can tell doesn’t offer ND’s ( per http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Louisiana_Baptist_University & http://www.lbu.edu/graduate.htm).

Here is an example of one of his lectures where he makes incorrect claims about vegetarian and omnivorous diets among other things. 

He also asserts that chickens urinate through their skin. which is what gives some chickens the yellowish color. This is absolutely untrue. One of the claims he makes in the video and I have heard him make on The Michael Baisden Show was that estrogen in chicken that we consume is making black males effeminate and  or gay. A causal relationship between impotence or sexuality and what one eats is not supported by scientific evidence. And it is clear that Baruch understand as much  about gender and sexuality as he does about a chicken’s ass. It is also clear that Baruch is a tofu-dashikiist and promotes various conspiracy theories. Note the part where he talks about “the enemy’s food’ and its supposed connection to impotence and homosexuality. This depopulation paranoia, mixed with misogynistic prioritization of procreation above all else, and obsession with hyper-sexual heterosexist masculinity is a hallmark of the tofu dashikiist.

Then there is “Dr.” Sunyatta Amen a.k.a. “The Belly Dancing Doctor”,  who claims to be a naturopathic physician but she never mentions where she attended school. And beyond her own claims there is nothing to verify that she has been trained  or licensed as a physician, naturopathic or otherwise. When George and Michael aren’t salivating over her, she promotes vegetarian or vegan diet as well as exercise in general but belly dance in particular for black women. I don’t see anything wrong with promoting healthier eating or even vegetarian or vegan diets or even exercise but where she goes beyond that is where the problems begin. She claims despite the lack of evidence to have healed black women from ovarian cysts, fibroids, etc. with naturopathic methods and belly dance. On one episode of the Michael Baisden show, she told listeners concerned about fibroids to cut dairy including eggs out of their diet even though scientific studies have shown that African American women who consumed dairy daily reduced their risk of fibroids. 

Other guests like Dr. Elaine George  have promoted  long discredited beliefs like the  supposed link between vaccines and autism along with a  host of other unsupported claims and misrepresentations concerning health.  He even had one guest. Dr. Julissa claiming that STDs and STIs can be cured “naturally”  with supplements like silver.  And whether or not Michael Baisden himself, believes in the things Baruch, Amen, and his other guests promote, their association with him legitimizes him in the minds of many of his listeners, who like Baisden tend to be less educated and vulnerable to misinformation. But considering his recent departure from the airwaves there is one guest appearance from earlier this year that I find particularly amusing: 

Strayhorn predicts using astrology and numerology (both of which are crap btw)  that this year will be a good year for ” people’s health, losing weight, going back to school, purchasing property, falling in love and out of love, as well as births, marriages and pregnancies…” or what I call life in general! But what kills me is with all those predictions he made he didn’t predict that Michael wouldn’t be able to come to an agreement with Cumulus Media. Unfortunately it looks like he is plotting a way to get back on the airwaves but at least he is gone for now.

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Environmental Justice as a Skeptical Platform

Within the skeptical community there are many who are comfortable with focusing on a narrow set of  issues which can be examined using empirical methods, while also promoting scientific literacy. And the issues typically focused upon are important like debunking pseudoscience, exposing con artists and psychics (sort of redundant, I know), and critically examining all sorts paranormal claims. But just as skeptics like Jamila Bey have proposed we need to consider tackling other issues with our skeptical toolbox.

So before we do that we have to first get a working definition of  what skepticism is. So borrowing from a prominent skeptic, DJ Grothe, skepticism is not simply about “rejecting others false beliefs” but it’s also a “method of finding out the truth by using reason and looking at evidence — should be widely applied, and not just be restricted to a limited set of spooky claims.” So, how could one disagree that our movement could benefit from applying our skeptical tools to  issues of social justice? Well, Grothe and many other atheists do just that. One of the reasons cited is that skeptics don’t all share the same beliefs but as skeptics shouldn’t we be interested in uncovering truth wherever we can.  By exploring and uncovering that truth we could not only encourage others to join our ranks but also make a real difference in many people’s lives. Just as people’s lives can be improved when we  expose con artists who prey on their beliefs and bank account we can make a similar impact on issues of sociopolitical concern. One of those areas is environmental justice.

What is environmental justice?
Environmental justice is a field that concerns not just how environmental policy impacts the environment but how those policies also impact people based on race, gender, class, etc. It also focuses on how to involve communities in policy decisions and to protect them from unfair treatment and discrimination in the future.

Why does it matter? 

And there are countless other examples.

What makes this a good platform?

What makes this a good starting point for me is the fact that science is one of the principal things one has to consider when discussing environmental justice, and that as we all know is a major strength in the secular community. We get to discuss global warming, health, technology, and all the things we typically love. Being able to determine what is known about a particular environmental issue or process,  what risk it poses, and figuring out how to communicate that to a wide audience would allow us to capitalize on the tools and skills we acquire as skeptics. But communicating them to a wider audience is where becoming involved in environmental justice issues would help us the most. When communicating information to different groups it forces you to make some considerations, such as level of education or say the history of a particular community. Learning about a community and communicating effectively requires developing compassion. And compassion doesn’t necessarily mean buying into their beliefs or feelings, just like understanding why someone might be fooled into believing that someone can communicate with their dead loved one doesn’t make you buy into the concept of psychics and séances. It just helps us to know when to be more or less outspoken in critiquing their beliefs.

Talking about environmental justice will force us to have discussions about issues of class, race, gender, etc  that we sorely need. It will force us to address our concepts of race beyond the fact that it is unscientific. It will force us to discuss the concept of privilege and how blindness, whether color, gender, ability, or what have you often increases the likelihood that groups will be discriminated against. We can even discuss how these issues play out in the developing world.

It also gives our community another way to effect change that may be even more headline grabbing and would frankly be more interesting to many of the communities effected by this. Not many people in  the US, for instance know or care about what homeopathy is, but they know what a coal burning plant is, even if they don’t know what impact living in close proximity to one may have on their health.

Think about it, tackling this issue will make us so much more well rounded than we currently are as a community. I mean if we use our skepticism to help ourselves and others, that makes it a humanistic endeavor. And if it’s a humanistic endeavor then we don’t have to constrict our platform so narrowly. I think environmental justice is the most logical direction for our community to head in.

There are some aspects of field of environmental justice that are not so attractive to me as a skeptic, like the notion that the environment is sacred. It might seem like nitpicking to some people but I think there is an important difference between saying something is important and saying something is sacred. Saying something is sacred generally walls off a topic from being fully explored or critiqued because its associated with some sort of divine power or authority. And that to me is an area where we can help the environmental justice movement by helping some within it rely less  on spiritual/ divine arguments and focus more on science, ethics, health, sustainability, and risk assessment.

What do you think?

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NCCAM

So I had a conversation with a friend of mine about  NCCAM, the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. For those of you that keep up with the news you might recall hearing that name nearly two years ago when the Associated Press published an article that demonstrated that in its then ten-year existence and with over 2.5 billion dollars in tax money spent only one treatment proved to have any sort of efficacy. Your grandmother or an older relative might be familiar with it, the treatment is ginger for nausea.

However, granny’s ginger isn’t enough to justify continuing support for  this institute. An institute that is supposed to be devoted to science aimed at improving medicine and public health, spending money on attempting to validate what would otherwise be treated as unscientific by the larger scientific community. It’s led to many suggesting it be dismantled allowing those scientists who would like to continue to study CAM to continue, provided they can demonstrate scientifically the plausibility of what they are studying with evidence . Meaning studies like those recently reported in the press would go the way of the dinosaur. I am speaking of studies that examine whether smelling lavender and lemon can help heal wounds. Or studies which aim to determine if massages can help cancer patients feel better. Both are answerable with a simple “Duh”. Or maybe a, “Doh!”, would be more appropriate? I can’t decide.

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“Dr.” Sebi’s Pseudoscience

Welcome to Sebi’s Pseudoscience  101!  Here we will review Sebi’s teachings concerning the healing art of using herbs and related matters, that his educational background doesn’t qualify to discuss, because who needs books? According to Sebi

“I didn’t read any. I read my mama. My mama is the only person I listen to… I learned that which is natural…that which is complementary, that which didn’t come out of a book.” (Video entitled Dr. Sebi Cures A.I.D.S Diabetes, Cancer, etc pt 1)

Sounds like the wisdom of Bobby Boucher.

 Sorry Sebi, but mama is wrong. And so are you.

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Sebi, The Snake-oil Salesman

If you have grandparents or older relatives, you are probably familiar with all the old clichés and sayings in the book, like, “there is nothing new under the sun”. It’s actually an old idiom that isn’t true for a number of things but is so accurate when it comes to others, like con-men, quacks, and charlatans. From the dawn of time there have been people who have used our vulnerabilities and biases against us to turn a profit. You can find these types everywhere but one on the most sinister places they hide is in the business of health and wellbeing. A thoroughly documented history of this can be seen in the United States prior to the passage of the Pure Food and Drug Act of 1906 that led to the eventual formation of the FDA. Many”medicines” contained a number of ingredients from cocaine, to toxic compounds, and oftentimes compounds that caused little to no effect at all. These “medicines” claimed to cure joint pain, venereal disease, or tuberculosis,while some claimed to be panaceas- cure-alls for every type of ailment there was. The salesmen of these products employed a number of propaganda techniques to attract people to their products. Many even concocted stories to give their products an exotic flavor. A little more than a century later nothing much has changed.

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