Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Pointless Fun Zero

Found a nice little game thanks to Scott Roomisair of VG Cats: Eversion.

You play as the cute glove critter thing, jumping through the cheerful land, collecting gems. You also have the power of 'eversion' in certain locations to change the terrain. For example, one change will make clouds solid so you can jump on them and reach gems you couldn't before.
Behind you!
It's a short game with 7 worlds, but it's worth a quick play through. I got all 240 gems, but didn't see any change in the ending, so you can probably just blaze on through. There's an eversion point at the start of World 7 that'll let you reach world 8 if you've got all the gems.
It's full of stars!
Do have some complaint of frequent game crashes, but it saves regularly, and you can select the world from the starting screen, so it's not too bad.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Old Memory

Working my way through God Delusion. I just read the section in chapter 9 about the kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara the Catholic church did because someone baptized him without anyone's consent. I'm remembering one of my first negative experiences with fundies of the "born again" variety. I think it was something like "Family Faith Church" or something like that. They rented/bought a spot that would have been more fitting for a grocery store. Not sure what to call those sorts of places: They're usually a line of small businesses with a large collective parking lot. Anyway, over the years, the church section kept growing additions like an enormous tumor. This story takes place before the tumor grew and became malignant to the surrounding businesses. I was about 12.

I went there with my then-designated best friend who I've heard has grown more and more religious. The event was these American Gladiator-looking guys calling themselves the "Power Team." They broke bricks, ripped phone books, and performed a number of similar acts that involve being tough and/or having a decent grasp of some physics tricks. It was actually pretty good.

Then the host came up and asked how many of us were baptized as children. His response, "You got wet" and went on to say the symbolic act of welcoming a child into the world was meaningless if the child hadn't made the conscious decision to convert. He goes on about Satan appearing as an angel of light saying "you don't need to rush, there's time" and offering "real" baptisms, implying that we'd go to Hell if we didn't get one. My friend was convinced, but I complained about how petty that speech implied God to be: That he's perfectly content to torture a person for not having some appointed witchdoctor sprinkle water on him and make a few invocations. I didn't use those exact words, but it didn't get through to him how small and primitive that host was making a supposedly wise, compassionate, and powerful being.

Needless to say, I never went to that place again and grew steadily more disgusted as the tumor grew.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Suggested Meme For 2009

"Why does Bill O'Reilly hate Christmas?"

I'm getting rather sick of the Grinch trying to steal Christmas from the people. For a couple years, his efforts to attach theocratic bigotry to what's supposed to be a sincere holiday greeting discouraged me from saying "Merry Christmas" for fear of being misunderstood.

So, ideas for spreading the meme: When the 2009 season comes around, put up a post or something with the title, "Why does Bill O'Reilly hate Christmas?" and have something about how Bill tries to put a ceiling on your holiday feeling. One thing I recommend is a cartoon of an atheist and a Christian enjoying the holiday with Bill trying to ruin it.

Just what the hell is wrong with that guy?

Pointless Question #46

Why does Bill O'Reilly hate Christmas?

Outside the Woos' Ivory Tower OR Bronze Dog's Being Anvilicious

SETTING: Just outside an enormous tower of ivory surrounded by elephant bones and a crowd of people all wearing dull gray robes.

DRONES: (marching in place, slowly rotating) Lock. Step. Lock. Step.

ENTER BRONZE DOG, STAGE LEFT, dancing.

DRONES: No dancing! So sayeth The Authorities! Lock. Step.

BRONZE DOG: What? Some doctors did a study and found that this dance exercises nearly every muscle in the body and, when done regularly, increases cardiopulminary efficiency. And I think it looks cool.

DRONES: The Authorities dictated a thousand years ago that dancing is bad for you. Lock. Step.

BD: You're relying on the word of some people who lived before the scientific method took off? People who didn't have access to the technology or data we do today?

DRONES: Well, you're just going on the word of the DDR Pad and Wii Fit manufacturers! Lock. Step.

BD: Hardly. These studies were overseen and replicated by an international community of people with competing interests and biases under numerous countermeasures designed to enforce objectivity.

DRONES: They're all working together in a global money-making conspiracy! Lock. Step.

BD: You seriously believe that? Talk about cynical. They don't even make that much money off this stuff. Certainly not enough to bribe or silence the potential whistle blowers and fake all the tests.

DRONES: The DDR Pad and Wii Fit manufacturers say that all people are alike.

BD: Pfft. No they don't. This dance has to be varied in some manners for the people involved. My height, weight, and medical history had to be considered to calibrate it to match me. Not recommended if you are nursing or pregnant, or if you have a heart condition. That's why doctors maintain medical histories both for me and my family, while alties don't care about keeping records.

A BABY is heard crying from somewhere in the crowd.

DRONES: Number 7155477 has given birth. Her baby is unhealthy because of your dance. You cannot question her perceptions of this correlation because you are not a parent. Parents are ascended to the top of the ivory tower, where they are set above questioning. You will not criticize her observations. Lock. Step.

BD: Uh, I don't see her ascending the tower. She's still on the same ground as the rest of us. Having a baby doesn't raise someone into godhood. We're all mere, fallible mortals with observational biases. We need science to filter out our biases and reach objective knowledge.

DRONES: No we do not. We have common sense. We should trust our ancient biases instead of rigorously testing them. Lock. Step.

BD: Is that why you've been marching in small circles for all this time while science has been moving us forward in ways we couldn't even imagine a few generations ago?

[No conclusion.]

---

Some anvils need to be dropped.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Epistemological Relativism Shot Down

Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal gets it:

Awesome Poetry

Hat tip to PZ for showing me this:



Storm sure repeats a lot of doggerel. This Tim Minchin guy did a wonderful job, but I feel like typing up some of my thoughts on Storm's thought-stopping cliches:

"Knowledge is merely opinion."

Last I checked, opinion was stuff that you couldn't prove or disprove. Science may not get up to mathematics in certainty, but we can gather a lot of evidence and get extremely high confidence values.

"But the human body is a mystery..."

And getting less and less so, thanks to continual medical advances.

"Science just falls into a hole when it tries to explain the soul."

And it's been steadily filling the holes these woos call souls. Just like any anti-materialist screed, gaps are used to fill a petty need. (Great, now I'm doing it.)

"Pharmaceutical companies are the enemy..."

Far less than the alties. Real medicine has to go through a battery of tests before it's accepted and marketed. That's how it should be. Yes, they've got a profit motive to encourage them to cut corners, but that's why the FDA and similar organizations exist to police them. Alties are just complaining about their competition and generally turn to rants against the FDA because they want deregulation so they can sell anything without worrying about consumer protection measures.

"...They promote drug dependency..."

This is something I find really odd coming from an altie. I've often run into woos who try to convince me that I'm really sick, bombarded with vague toxins, dangerous electric fields from powerlines, miasmas, that I'm dehydrated from not drinking 8 glasses of pure water, or that I'm malnourished because I cook my food. So they try to get me to buy their juices, pills, and waves of their hands. And they want me to get regular sessions.

"...At the cost of natural remedies."

Someone doesn't know their medical history. Many medicines are derived from natural sources. Pharmaceutical companies just refine them to get rid of unnecessary (or even dangerous) other ingredients.

"...They're immoral and driven by greed..."

More reason to maintain consumer protection groups and not give in to altie propaganda. You know, I wonder just how big the profit margin on sCAM typically is. Probably much larger, especially for stuff like homeopathy.

"Why take drugs when herbs can solve it?"

If an herb can solve it, that pretty much makes it a drug. And many drugs are just the concentrated active ingredient of some herbs.

"Why do chemicals when homeopathic solvents can resolve it?"

Homeopathy is absolutely pure bunk.

"Shakespeare said it first: There are more things in Heaven and earth than exist in your philosophy."

Of course there are. Science is about finding them. When we find something new, our philosophy is designed to expand. We've been dreaming up and finding stuff for a long time. Unfortunately for the woos, they never dreamt of any of it at any time. All they have is bald assertion that it's something else.

"Science is just how we're trained to look at reality..."

Said by someone obviously not trained in science. Most people aren't. Besides, even if everyone got trained in scientific thought, what's wrong with that? Science is an inherently expansive, adaptive way of thought. Woo is reactionary.

"...It doesn't explain love or spirituality..."

Someone doesn't pay much attention to the world.

"How does science explain psychics..."

Trickery, confirmation bias, various other observation fallacies. Turns out there's always a simpler explanation than psychic powers. Which haven't contributed anything to our knowledge of the universe.

"auras"

Same set as psychics.

"the afterlife"

What afterlife? Evidence, please.

"or the power of prayer"

Prayer doesn't work.

"But you're just closed-minded, I think your FAITH in science and tests is just as blind as faith of any fundamentalist."

Projection, thy name is woo. Science is designed to accomodate change and expansion. Anything can be challenged.

So, that's the last we hear of Storm in the thing. One of my favorite bits from Tim as a metaphor for this bizarre craving for the supernatural:
To gild refined gold,
To paint the lily,
To throw perfume on the violet,
Is just fucking silly.

Friday, December 26, 2008

New Year's Resolutions

Well, I'm not one for long lists, but here goes mine:

1. Don't let my blogs go through long absences. Had a couple months there that were sparse, and I've been posting more often in an effort to get it to average out to once a day.

2. I resolve to get some kind of start on my Untitled Platformer beyond plotting and worldbuilding. I'll see who I can get to help me develop the basic engine.

3. Start on a new game franchise. My standard series aren't paying off as much as they used to. Any suggestions?

4. Read more. I've got books to catch up on.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Civ Tips, Anyone?

Just thought I'd ask some advice from people with more experience at Civ4. Anyone know how to get a good running start at cultural victories? Advice on going military? Advice on keeping my finances in order? (So far, it's largely me and my bro versus AIs.)

Lately, I've ended up rushing Alphabet so that I can tech trade early.

Pointless Question #45

Why is it that allegedly super-smart, super-logical aliens have dizzyingly complex languages? Isn't "Hi!" more efficient than a paragraph-long greeting that has to be said at just the right tempo?

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Pointless Question #44

Every year, it seems like someone has it in for Santa. Why doesn't he get better security?

Some Reading

Well, I've got some new stuff to read. Brother got me Michael Shermer's Why People Believe Weird Things and The Last Hero Discworld book.

My brother enjoyed his red Swingline stapler and matching T-shirt.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Austin Weirdness

My brother caught this in Austin last week:

Conversions

Well, it seems the Raving Atheist has converted to Christianity of some sort. I never read any of his stuff, but hearing about the sorts of arguments he was presenting for "pro-life," I doubt he was anything like me or my skeptical friends. I not really surprised about the "conversion."

Overall, I'm not really impressed by conversion stories. Many seem completely fictional: Either they never were an atheist, or they were the stereotypical emo kid who labeled himself such to look controversial or rebellious. And don't get me started on all the alleged deathbed conversions described by people who were never there.

Aside from all that, there's a much better underlying reason for being underwhelmed: They never give good reasons for their conversions. It's always about emotional crutches, subjective experiences, and arguments from ignorance. I'm a scientifically minded person. Show me empirical data. Show me the evidence. Commence destroying a phone booth like in that movie.

New scientific theories can spread like wildfire across the scientific community when the evidence moves in its favor. Evidence leads to consensus far quicker than any religion. Of course, anything's faster than 'roughly never.' Religion has schisms that spreads it all over the place. There's no empirical evidence everyone can agree on. Simply put, religion diverges, science converges. If there's ever scientific evidence for the supernatural, you might see me convert, but you'd probably see a mass conversion in the scientific community first.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Fantasy Rants

Bumped into this over on TV Tropes. If you're doing some fantasy writing of any kind, it looks like generally good advice.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Minor Redirect

Seems a woo author's stopped by Doggerel #89: "I'm Going to Show You... In My Book!" Don't know if he'll stick around for replies. Just posting this so you can know, since my Recent Comments feed is on the fritz.

---Yup, he's replying.

Analogy Attempt

Wes apparently liked my use of "random" in my description of Creationism, and I got to thinking in the shower. Imagine you roll a die several times and it consistently comes up six. Three conjectures come to mind:

1) The die is heavily loaded so that it comes up six all the time.
2) The die just randomly came up six all those times.
3) The unknowable magic man in the sky wanted it to be six all those times.

The first idea is a testable hypothesis. It predicts that you'll find the die to be unbalanced if you examine it carefully. It predicts that the most likely result of further rolls will be more sixes.

The second idea is a null hypothesis. It predicts that there's a 5/6 chance you won't roll a six again. Technically, this one can explain any result, but each roll of a six makes it less and less likely to be true.

The third idea is unfalsifiable, since we can't make predictions from it. If you roll a six, you can say the magic man's in the same mood. If you roll a five, you could just as easily say he changed into a five-ish mood for that moment. Same with the other numbers.

I guess it shouldn't be hard to guess that #1 is pretty much every scientific theory ever and #3 is what Creationism boils down to: It's actually less predictive than randomness.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Friday, December 19, 2008

Settled on My Meds

I'm on Lexapro, third day. Experiencing a very mild bit of the nausea and drowsiness, well within my tolerances. First counseling session went well, too. Anyone know something I don't about the stuff?

It's either the Lexapro or I went to bed wearing medium or heavy armor. 'Cuz I woke up fatigued today (Saturday). Little surprised at how hard this bit hit me.

An Inversion of an Argument

One of the great strengths of the theory of evolution is its explanatory power. Heredity with variation explains the distribution of similarities between different species over time. It explains the results of many, many experiments. Of course, Creationism, with an unfalsifiable, unknowable, all powerful magic man can explain it as that deity's random whims. That is, of course, one of many fatal weaknesses of Creationism, because it has a lot of things it can't explain. It boils down to this:

Why is the world NOT something else? Evolution explains quite well why we have nested hierarchies indicative of branching processes. Anything else would be a violation of heredity or require a new phenomenon to explain. Creationism, thanks to the unknowability and omnipotence of the deity, seems to suggest anything was possible and it was just random chance that he happened to be in the mood for making a universe that looked like it produced a diversity of life through evolution. As they would probably say, humans and chimps have common ERV sequences, not because they had a common ancestor with them, but because their deity randomly decided to give them the same sequences in the same locations. They'd probably leave off the "randomly" part, though.

Move the topic to cosmology. The Big Bang theory explains why we see the expansion of the universe and predicted things like the microwave background radiation of the universe. Creationism essentially "explains" this by random chance again with the unknowable whims. It could have made the universe any other way, but randomly chose to make it look like a Big Bang universe.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Pointless Question #43

Why is it that so many aliens have resolved enough issues to have planetwide governments but are still ruled by hereditary monarchies?

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

YouTube Propaganda Concept

I'm thinking about making a YouTube video that reverses a lot of Creationist/Fundie accusations about us scientifically minded people. Think I might do it as a piece of propaganda in the form of one of those educational slide projectors with the beeps to signal slide changes. Anyway, some of the accusations I'm thinking of reversing:

1. Moral relativism. Some of you may have noticed this is a favorite of mine. I'd probably use the "saved by faith, not works" sort of thing as the basis: Morality, in that view, is just a mortal pastime. You can do whatever you want, so long as you luck out in believing in the right stone idol.

2. Epistemological relativism/instability/whatever. The truth is one thing one day, and then another thing the next. Whichever is convenient. One example that comes to mind is the archaeopteryx: Some Creationists say it's all bird, and others say it's all reptile with faked feathers.

3. Newage Retro Hippies. Do everything I can to associate them with "modern" forms of woo, like alternative medicine, psychics, flying saucer cults, etcetera and suggest Creationism is a gateway to these things. Might compare belief in Reiki to faith healing, for example.

4. Godwin like crazy. Quote Hitler:
"The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger." - Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, vol. ii, ch. xi
Include a bit on Sarah Palin mocking fruit fly research and compare it to Trofim Lysenko's description of biologists as "fly-lovers and people-haters."

Any other ideas I could use? Sound clips and captured images would be nice, too.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Halifax! Wiki, Wiki!

Well, I've signed onto Akusai's starting up wiki, about foundational assumptions behind different sorts of woo. One foundational assumption I'm thinking about (and Tom's got a somewhat relevant post on that): "The perfect conspiracy," which is the idea that million-man conspiracies where no one tattles or slips up are possible.

(Link removed, since Akusai's not going public, yet. Still got details to work out.)

My Blogaversary!

Well, it's been three years. That's 21 in dog years, if you buy that system that doesn't account for the much shortened childhood of canines. It's been a lot of fun. Imagine in 2009, I'll break 200 with the Doggerel entries. It's getting trickier since I've covered so much, but let's not underestimate the variety of woo cliches.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

GDL Activity

Just mentioning that I'm getting more active at GDL, again. MWChase and KoF have been at it as well.

Just a Fun Video

Iraqi journalist throws his shoes at Bush. Nicely done.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Doggerel #173: "You Think We're All Just Molecules!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

One metaphor I've chosen to describe my attitude about this bit of doggerel: "Do rainbows cease to be pretty once you find out they're cased by light refracting through water droplets?"

Yes, everything we know so far suggests people could be described as a very complicated set of particles interacting in a sophisticated manner. Love, joy, aesthetics, and so forth are a bunch of unpronounceable chemicals bouncing around in our heads. But how exactly does that make those things valueless? They still make me feel warm and fuzzy inside. A person is a person, regardless of what processes add up to giving them those characteristics we value.

I recently met a commenter on YouTube who tried to say us skeptics dehumanize people that way. Quite frankly, I fear the opposite if we ever end up with genuinely intelligent AIs (unlikely in my lifetime) or aliens (far more unlikely): Those who assign personhood by alleged supernatural characteristics, rather than actual characteristics could easily de"human"ize whoever they feel like. We know fundies have done it to humans with different pigmentation. Nothing stopping them from doing it again except secular efforts at shaming anyone who does.

Playstation@Home

They finally got something out. Beta version. You might see me dinking about today on that Saucer Pop game, though not terribly often. Not much to do on there yet, but if you feel like chatting, I can do that.

...And at 12:28, I've already heard my first racist comment from someone's Bluetooth. Just noticed some chess tables in the mall, and someone commented, "Why them n-----s playing chess? To make 'em feel smarter?" Ick.

Friday, December 12, 2008

What Decemberween Means to Me

Well, there's been a lot of crap slung about on the topic of the season, mostly thanks to wingnuts like Bill O'Reilly. Personally, I think there's better things to celebrate than the birth of a magic zombie who tortures people for not loving him more than their family and friends.

First, one thing I hope to enjoy is my brother's laughter when I give him a pop culture reference as a present. We started out our interests in very different directions, but we've found a lot more in common as we grew up. He's not so much a geek, but we do have crossover and nostalgia.

Second, it's nice to have the family under one roof. I get to socialize with my brother as we play games, and we get to share some stories. Family dynamics change with him around, and we have an excuse to have dinner at nice restaurants.

Third, when Bill O'Reilly shuts up, I can enjoy TV shows about the togetherness and love (when they don't get too saccharine) and a fat guy who just wants to give out gifts, if not for some greedy or just plain mean guy trying to ruin the whole thing... Oh, wait, that'd be Bill.

Anyway, Decemberween's just a nice secular holiday for me.

Drama Bomb Alert!

You can just skip this post if you don't feel like learning about some of my neuroses.

I think I need to get on Paxil. For those of you in my section of the blogosphere, you're about the only people I don't feel anxious about socializing with right now. I've been on accutane to knock out my acne, which is supposed to have side effects with depression, but if it did anything at all, I imagine it might have amplified some problems.

Been working on a master's degree, and I've been getting more more and more nervous about talking with professors, and declined going to a party without my dad, who has some similarities in his background and could help cover me in conversations. It's a mix of knowing enough to know that I still have a lot to learn, as well as a bit of being in the self esteem craze where everyone praised their kids for being smart. I don't like to people to watch me work because working implies that I didn't just naturally figure everything out in my head or know it already.

Was taking it light this semester, since I'm nearing the end, with only one course to cover some background. I'm a big ball of nerves about my grade right now, though thankfully spilling all this out to my mother at midnight helped. Especially since she stated her commitment to us all having a nice Decemberween, regardless of grades. I haven't been doing much, since my job's out of work for me, and I haven't had a regular schedule for a while.

Anyway, going to meet with a counselor of ours who's been doing some useful stuff with medication. Pretty much my turn to have a crisis and resolve it.

So anyway, I figure I've got some readers who might know a thing or two about good science about these sorts of medications, as opposed to woos who seem to like saying all pills are evil. Anything I should know about Paxil and other social anxiety medications?

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Upcoming Attraction

Been dueling a YEC by the name of answerme33 on YouTube, and he's gotten around to sending a personal message. There's a fair chance I might post the exchange here if it happens.

Jon Stewart is Awesome

Versus Mike Huckabee:

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Gaming Thread: Remake-o-Rama

One thing that I sometimes find disconcerting is that a lot of the games I've been buying are remakes of old games. Now, there's nothing wrong with resurrecting great games so that the next generation can enjoy them, or to fix old problems brought on by old system limitations. It just makes me feel like I should find some way of expanding into new material without relying on old franchises to continue forever. But for now, I can feel nostalgic.

So, any remakes you enjoy? Here's a list of some of mine:

Final Fantasy IV DS: It had been a long time since I played FF4 when I decided it was time to try it again, with better script writers. I was not disappointed, and they had some good voice acting for the dramatic scenes. I was glad they decided to consistently pronounce the lead character's name "Seh-sul" instead of "See-sill." I probably would have had a harder time taking it seriously otherwise.

Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions (PSP): Another well-done remake with a much improved translation. I love how they handled the movie scenes with the faux-drawn effect. My primary complaint, however, is the slowdown for a number of attack animations. It doesn't help that it can cause the sound to go out of sync. But for the sake of being able to follow the plot better, it's worth the minor annoyance.

Mega Man Maverick Hunter X (PSP): Not a completely straight remake, which adds a bit of variety. One thing I found that changes the nature of the game is that your X-buster doesn't penetrate walls. That little detail makes the obstacles feel much more solid than before. Being able to play as Vile is a nice touch for replay value. He gets a larger variety of weapons, but he can only equip one of each type (Hand, Shoulder cannon, Knee) for a level. Do like the added story scenes.

Mega Man 9 (Wii/PS3/Xbox360): Not a remake, but a new old school Mega Man game. Eight robot masters, no charged shots, no sliding. Back to the fundamentals and what made the game great. One minor complaint is the variety of gimmick platforms. It ends up making the levels feel a bit more MM4-5-6ish, which contrasts the MM1-2 control feel. I like that they have accomplishments you can work for. I've gotten the basic speed runs covered.

I Get Email

Nope, not incoherent hate mail like PZ so often gets and posts with that title. It's a Washington Post article on quackery someone was kind enough to send me.

It starts off with bad news:
More than one-third of U.S. adults and nearly 12 percent of children use alternatives to traditional medicine, according to a large federal survey released today that documents how entrenched acupuncture, herbal remedies and other once-exotic therapies have become.
I warned you.
"It's clear that millions of American every year are turning to complementary and alternative medicine," said Richard L. Nahin of the National Institutes of Health's National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which released the survey. "The use of complementary and alternative medicine seems to have stabilized in the United States."
I'd like to hear more about NCCAM testing the remedies, rather than surveying their popularity. That's what they're supposed to be there for, right? ...I don't recall ever hearing much of that, though, aside from some negative studies that don't ever do anything for policy.
The most commonly used are dietary supplements and herbal products such as echinacea, flax seed oil and ginseng, followed by deep breathing exercises, meditation, chiropractors, massage and yoga. While fewer Americans were using certain diets and trying herbal remedies such as echinacea to cure colds, the popularity of acupuncture, meditation, yoga and massage all grew.
Those of you who watched my second YouTube video may have seen a little image of mine:

"I think it's fair to say we can conclude that this is part of the steady state of medical care in the United States," said David Eisenberg, director of the Harvard Medical School division for research and education in complementary and integrative medical therapies. "I think the news is complementary and alternative medicine use by the U.S. public is here to stay."
NOOOOO!
Others said the findings were disturbing because most alternative treatments have not been scientifically validated and those that have been rigorously tested have been overwhelmingly been found to be ineffective.

"They are either unproven or disproven," said Wallace Sampson, founding editor of the journal the Scientific Review of Alternative Medicine. "Acupuncture is a placebo. Homeopathy is one step above fraud. It goes on and on. The fact that they are so widely used is evidence for how gullible large segments of our society are."
Now we get to sensible people. That one step homeopathy is above fraud: The practitioners are often just as gullible about it as the people they sell to.
Some went further, noting that some studies have found some dietary supplements might increase that risk of some serious health problems, including cancer. Parents could be putting their children at risk if they deny them proven mainstream treatments, they said.
If I recall correctly, vitamin B12 is carcinogenic in megadoses. And of course, many parents are indeed putting their children at risk.
"In addition to the fact that these things are unproven and potentially dangerous, they also feed the mentality that you can forgo proven treatments in favor of these magic potions," said Seth Asser, a pediatrician and consultant to Children's Health Care is a Legal Duty (CHILD), a non-profit group that opposes faith healing and other non-traditional medical practices.
Sounds like a group I should look into.
The survey comes soon after a flurry of large studies failed to validate the suspected benefits of many "antioxidants" widely used to try to stave off cancer and other diseases. Just this week, two large studies found no evidence taking vitamins E and C and selenium reduces the risk of prostate and other cancers.
I hope those get some people thinking. But I doubt it.
Adults were most likely to use alternative therapies for pain, including back pain, neck pain or joint pain. Women were more likely than men to use them, as were those who are more educated and more affluent.
I know us atheists like to brag that statistically, we tend to cover much of the educated sector, but this goes to show that having degrees doesn't necessarily prevent someone from being stupid at times.
"There are hundreds if not thousands of therapies that the public is using. The National Institutes of Health is slowly going through that cornucopia to study them and provide information to the public," Nahin said.

Critics charged that the survey was being used to justify continued government spending on research into such treatments.
I'm torn on the issue, sometimes. You don't want tax money wasted on stuff the promoters won't even try to research properly, but having a supposedly independent institution debunk them would be nice.
"There's a tremendous amount of money being wasted on this," said Stephen Barrett, who runs quackwatch.org, which monitors false medical claims. "That money could be used to do research on something that has been waiting in line to get money."

Nahin acknowledged there are legitimate concerns about many alternative therapies. Dietary supplements are not regulated as closely as standard medication, leaving them more likely to be contaminated, for example. And some products can also interfere with prescription drugs.

But Nahin said government-funded research into such therapies was useful, citing a federal study that concluded that St. John's Wort was ineffective. After the results were released, use the herbal remedy dropped sharply, he said.

"The research is working," he said. "It's doing what it's supposed to do, which is provide reliable information to the public so they can make decisions."
So, I guess that's why I haven't been seeing as many ads for St. John's Wort. Maybe there's some worth in this.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

What the Hell's Up With Nisbet?

Well, you know this guy stirs up a lot of commentary when he's mentioned. I generally don't bother to follow his blog, so no recent complaints beyond that bit on "denialism." What annoys me about the guy is that for all his talk of framing, he's doing what looks like a damn poor job of it. One fundamental error I remember someone mentioning that summed it up well: Not everyone responds to the same frame well.

In Nisbet threads, I usually get a compulsion to mention that I was deconverted by the fire breathers. The inoffensive types didn't really do anything to shake me out of generic spirituality. It was harsh-worded skeptics who relentlessly and unapologetically pointed out fallacies, contradictions, and mundane explanations in the face of eternally evasive woos who got me on their side. In my eyes, they succeeded in claiming the moral high ground, and as defenders of spiritualism continued to fail at explaining and answering honest questions, I eventually figured they didn't have any.

Yeah, there's probably a fair number of people out there who need a more gentle approach, but that doesn't mean people who need a firm verbal slap once in a while don't exist. All too often, I find the real target of skeptical talk are not the thin-skinned woos, but the apathetic shruggies. They're people who need to be awoken out of complacency so that they can know woo really is harmful, or that big questions can be answered, not just contemplated in a shallow manner.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Pointless Question #42

Why is it that young heroes and rebellious princesses keep breaking out into song about wanting "freedom" and "more out of life"? Isn't adventure and status enough?

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Pointless Question #41

Why does every single individual English dub ever of every anime ever suck? Ever.

Song of the Time Being #1

I just couldn't pass this up.




Posted in a Pharyngula comment thread:

Jesus the Magic Zombie
On the cross and comatose
And if you ever saw him
You would even say "He's toast!"
All of the Roman soldiers
Used to laugh and call him names
They wouldn't let poor Jesus
Undermine the Roman state
Then one sultry Pass-over
Judas came to say:
"Jesus with your halo bright,
I will fuck you up tonight"
Then all the soldiers grabbed him
They all shouted out with glee:
"Jesus the Magic Zombie
We're gonna nail you to a tree!"

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Doggerel #172: "NEEEEERRRRRD!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

I think it was said best by a troll named Boney. The topic was What the Bleep? He more or less pulled the "square" doggerel, and to provide evidence I had a creative side, I mentioned I played D&D. His reply:
"i can't believe i spent time discussing ANYTHING with someone sitting at home in their chainmail and cloak, concerned over their diminishing hit points..."
Yeah. Because I have a geeky hobby, my comments about quantum mechanics, his logical fallacies, and the scientific method are invalid.

As you can probably guess, a lot of my friends are also nerds, geeks, and weirdos. We've all got our hobbies of varying levels of social stigma... But seriously, what does that have to do with anything? I don't see how playing football instead of Mega Man would make my points more valid. I mean really. The woos who use this doggerel must be really desperate.

No matter how stigmatized a hobby is, or how big a fanboy a person is of such a hobby, two plus two will always equal four, like EM charges will repel, Batman will be awesome, and a closed-minded, cynical woo will remain a closed-minded cynical woo. I don't know how else to put it. It doesn't matter how geeky someone is. If they've got a sound logical point, it's still a sound logical point.

101st Skeptics' Circle

Well, we're moving onto starting the next hundred Skeptics' Circles. Number One-Oh-One is up at Ionian Enchantment.

Open thread as usual, but reminding me of Cruella De Vil is FORBIDDEN! ...Uh oh. Too late. JIBBLIE JIBBLIE JIBBLIE!

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Quote of the Time Being #21

"God isn't only shrinking (or learning to squeeze into tight corners), he is also becoming more and more bland. He's gone from a gutsy meat and veg buttkicker to being a wimpy Divine Oneness one-size-fits-all insipid new age bootlicker." -yakaru

Gaming Thread: Controls

One of the quickest ways to ruin a game is crappy controls. If you're struggling to get your character from one side of the screen to the other for reasons other than copious obstacles, no one's going to care how good the graphics are or how deep the story is. So, this is an open gaming thread about what sort of control schemes you love or hate for various genres, though I'm mostly interested in platforming at this particular moment.

Platforming no-nos:
Up as jump: It can work if you get used to it, but I find it irritating, especially since you can accidentally push it while you're moving left and right during frantic two-sided moments. It also gets annoying to jump upwards when you're trying to do some form of interaction, like going through doors or looking at signs.

Dash as A/Circle: To use SNES terms, I tend to see the configuration of Y=Attack, B=Jump, and A=Dash. I hate that, because while I'm running all over the place, I need to be able to keep both jumping and attacking as options, and I can't do that on the typical diamond button formation. One time I left that configuration on for Mega Man X3, and compensated by twisting my index finger around to press A to double air dash while I used my thumb to hold my X-Buster charge and jump. One of my friends was quite impressed by the uncomfortable trick. Since then, I always move Dash to an R button.

Platformers that did well:
Most Mega Man games I've played. Early games had it simple with just the two buttons. One for jump, down and jump for a slide. Other button fires and hold for charged shots. The X series added some complexity with the dashing that dipped into one of those no-nos, but they did let you reconfigure.

Bionic Commando: I loved how they handled the bionic arm. Moving around with that thing was tight once you got the hang of it. At times, I forgot about the concept of jumping, since I didn't need it.

Mario, most of the time: Having run and attack be the same button in these games generally works fine: Mario's more about jumping than shooting, especially since jumping on things is a favored attack.

Shmup Yes-Yeses:
Slow button: I don't play too many Bullet Hell shmups, but I found this extremely useful for rRootage. When you need to thread the eye of the needle, it comes in handy for aiding precision.

Variable speeds: For other shooters, I love the option of increasing/decreasing speed at will. For the open areas, you can max it out or lower it for tight squeezing through obstacle-intensive spots.

FPS games: ...Don't have that many preferences, since I don't play these very often. Does get really annoying when you have the occasional FPS that hasn't gotten the memo about being able to strafe and turn at the same time.

So, anything you'd like to add?

Doggerel #171: "You're Not an Expert, You Can't Comment!"

Welcome back to "Doggerel," where I ramble on about words and phrases that are misused, abused, or just plain meaningless.

Being an expert on a topic is a wonderful thing: If knowing about something is a part of your job, there's a fair chance what you have to say about the matter is worth listening to. Not always, but often. But just because you're not one of those people, that doesn't mean what you have to say is inherently worthless.

On many topics that I come across, I like to think of myself as an intelligent layman. For example, I've got an intuitive grasp of the general principles of evolution, but when I hear Sonic Hedgehog, I think of a certain thing other than a signaling pathway (well, almost). In most online arguments, however, I don't have to deal with those sorts of fine details: My adversaries typically make much more basic errors than the details the experts have to handle. Against IDiots, I more often have to point out that evolution is NOT random, or that "irreducible complexity" is a cakewalk for evolution. If I run into one complaining about protein-protein binding, I may need some help, but I seldom do.

That's why many of us non-expert skeptics can so easily deal with a lot of woos out there: The mistakes they make are often so basic and fundamental that anyone with a grasp of logic can catch them, sometimes even if they don't know anything at all about the topic. Logic and the principles of the scientific method are still the foundation of knowledge. I don't read medical journals, but I can still spot an anti-vaxxer equivocating "mercury" when they mean thimerosal.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Another Amusing Geek

The Nostalgia Critic. He remembers stuff so you don't have to.

Ended up reminding me of why I loved Animaniacs, and some other fine shows. And some not-so-good shows.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Pointless Question #40

Why don't more heroes take swimming lessons?

The Foulest Mouthed Nerd I've Ever Seen

I probably dip closer to casual gamer than I'd like to, so I don't completely eat and breathe videogame related stuff. But I've been enjoying this guy: The Angry Video Game Nerd. He recently did a thing on one of those CD-i Zelda games everyone recoils in fear about. Two more coming up.