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Apology to the world (2/12/2006)
No, not for anything I have done, have not done or am about to do or not do in the near future. I am apologising on behalf of all sane Australians for inflicting Viera Scheibner on the world. Dr Scheibner (she has a real PhD in micropaleontology) is one of the leading lights of the anti-vaccination movement, and is often called on as an expert. The following quote from Dr Scheibner indicates both the quality of her expertise and why an apology is needed to the rest of the world for the actions of this Australian resident.
It is well known that measles is an important development milestone in the life and maturing processes in children. Why would anybody want to stop or delay the maturation processes of children and of their immune systems?
Isn't it amazing that millions of children in Australia, the USA, Britain and other places manage to survive infancy and grow up without experiencing this "important development milestone"? In the rest of the world, the death toll of only a few hundred thousand dead children so far this year must be a small price to pay for the benefits accruing to other unvaccinated children. What would a few deaths matter, or millions of blind kids or kids with meningitis, when we are talking about preventing "delay [in] the maturation processes of children and of their immune systems"? And people still ask me why I call anti-vaccination liars "liars".
Something new (2/12/2006)
I have added a new category to the bookshop. I felt that the subject of Critical Thinking needed to be teased out from the other categories, because there are books which address this general area as well as being relevant to specific Millenium Project categories. You can see the new listing here.
A book I won't be selling (2/12/2006)
I almost didn't believe it when I was told that Understanding Autism for Dummies contains advice about how chelation might be a useful treatment for autism, so I used Amazon's "search inside the book" feature and there it was. Perhaps the authors could get a testimonial for the next edition from Abubakar Tariq Nadama. Oh that's right, Abubakar can't give testimonials because he's dead.
books ... (2/12/2006)
I have just finished reading Unintelligent Design by Robyn Williams (host of The Science Show on Australian Broadcasting Corporation radio stations) and I have almost finished The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. Everybody and his dog is writing reviews of the Dawkins book so I will leave my effort until everything has quietened down and review both books at the same time. Doing them together will be useful because they both address a problem with religion, although the main targets are different and the approaches are many degrees apart. We have been lucky in Australia to have escaped the mad political push to have ID taught in place of science as has been happening in the US so Williams is able to be a bit more dispassionate about IDiocy, but he is well aware of the threat it presents to good education. (The word "good" is of course redundant there. ID is a threat to education.)
When I wrote my review of The End of Faith by Sam Harris I said that Harris made Dawkins look like a wimp when it came to hating religion. The God Delusion is Dawkins' attempt to regain the position of alpha male in the atheist pack, and he makes no allowances for the other side. It seems to actually be material for several books, but obviously Dawkins felt that a major effort was needed to regain his position at the top of the pile. I just wish he wouldn't give the opposition ammunition by continually using the word "Darwinist", though. More in a couple of weeks when I have had time to finish it and reflect on it.
Speaking of religion
On November 5, 6 and 7 there was a conference held at the Salk Institute in California. The conference had the brilliant title Beyond Belief and featured just about the most stellar batch of speakers about the problems of religion that you could ever think to put together. When one of the speakers expressed his disappointment that somebody wasn't there the MC said that that particular person had been invited but was ill. It was that sort of show - if someone wasn't there it wasn't because they weren't invited. One of the staff at Ratbag Castle was heard to remark sotto voce something like "Forget broken glass! I would crawl over Paris Hilton to get to a conference like that". What a hotel had to do with it is a mystery, but I can agree that I would have loved to have been there. You can download all nineteen hours of talks from the conference web site, so move your screen so the boss can't see what you are doing when you are supposed to be working, put on the headphones, and get downloading.
And speaking of the ABC ... (2/12/2006)
Well over half of my consumption of radio and a good proportion of my television watching is done with the Australian Broadcasting Corporation. (I would watch a lot more if they managed to get the rights to the various Law & Order shows and NCIS, but at least they now have The West Wing. On radio, the only real competition for me is a local community station which almost exclusively programs smooth jazz. One day I plan to have a beer with the other listener.) The ABC networks are almost the only outlet for anything like science in our electronic media, and, particularly on radio, the ABC provides an enormous variety of content and points of view. The ABC has for many years had the most extensive news gathering network, both nationally and internationally, of any Australian media organisation, and the incumbent federal government is always complaining of bias (no matter which party is in power) so they must be doing something right. (Or left, according to the present government.)
For many thinking Australians it has been a weekly ritual to settle down in front of the television at 8pm on a Thursday to see a program on the ABC about science, with Quantum and Catalyst occupying the time slot over the last few years. On Thursday November 30, 2006, viewers were treated to the first part of a series named Psychic Investigators. People with long memories or good book collections would remember that there was a television show with a similar name made many years ago starring James Randi, and they might have expected this new show to be an updated version or at least something similar. They would have been disappointed.
What went to air was an uncritical look at how police forces are supposed to be using psychics to solve crimes. If the first episode is representative of the entire series we are going to see policemen solving crimes using good solid detective work and psychics hovering around trying to claim some credit. In this case the police continually denied any use of psychics, and through very competent investigation managed to do something very rare in British legal history - get a murder conviction without a body. The show was not only offensive to the intelligence of the viewers but it belittled the fine work of the police. And what did the psychic come up with? Celtic crosses in a Welsh cemetery and a broken branch in a forest. It would have been funny if it wasn't so pathetic.
There are many more episodes of this rubbish to be shown over the summer, so I guess I will just have to clean off the barbeque grille, thank the politicians for daylight saving, and have outdoor meals on Thursday instead of Saturday. It will be better for my blood pressure, no matter how much salt I put on the steak.
I mentioned the ABC's reputation for news. At the same time as this travesty was going to air, journalists from the ABC were being presented with awards for journalism excellence at the annual Walkley Awards ceremony. In fact, the staff of an ABC show took out the top award for the year, the Gold Walkley. This made the comparison between what is expected from the ABC and Psychic Investigators even more stark. Politicians are always calling out for the ABC to be more "balanced", but I don't thing that this should be taken to mean that excellence has to be balanced by rubbish. And if you think that the staff of the ABC don't care, listen to what Robyn Williams had to say on The Science Show about this.
Hear the opinion of the ABC's top science journalist
This week's emails (2/12/2006)
I have received some emails which are a little surprising. I am not sure whether I should take up the offers.
Dear blog author:
We recently came across your site, milleniumproject.blogspot.com, while searching for fellow christian bloggers.
A small group of us have started a new site called Christian Bloggers. Our prayer and intent is to bring Christians closer together, and make a positive contribution to the Internet community. While many of us have different "theologies", we all share one true saviour.
Would you be interested in joining Christian Bloggers? Please take a few minutes to have a look at what we are trying to do, and if you are interested, there is a sign up page to get the ball rolling. We would greatly appreciate your support in this endeavour.
May God Bless you and your blogging efforts. We look forward to hearing from you.
I've visited your website www.ratbags.com today, and really like it.
I was wondering if you would like your site to be listed in my PR 4 directory http://www.wonder-directory.com/
If interested please provide a link on your site for my below given websites and in return I will provide link from my directory in your appropriate category.
Please send me the Title, URL and Description of
your website or the HTML code, so that I can put them on my
Directory. Below given are the site you have to link:
Site Title: Hemorrhoid Cure URL: http://methodsofhealing.com/Hemorrhoid_Cure.html
Desc: Natural product for Hemorrhoid cure. Tried, tested and proven Hemorrhoid treatment.
Upon receiving the response, I will promptly provide link back from my directory Please let me know if you have any questions or comments.
Looking forward for a positive response
Thanks and Regards,
There was this Scientology E-meter for sale on eBay. It was a genuine historical relic from the 1960s when the cult was at full strength, so it was something I really wanted to add to my collection of quack medical devices and other evidence of human gullibility. I was the top bidder and its appearance on a shelf in my office was in sight. Then I logged on to eBay to check the price and availability of some useful item like a guitar amplifier or a sour mash whiskey still and I received this message:
Please be aware that the following listing:
Item Number - 270063005658
Item Title - SCIENTOLOGY E-METER - 60'S
has been removed by eBay for violating of one or more of our policies. Any offers or bids placed on this listing are now null and void. Because the auction was ended, you as a bidder are not required to complete the transaction.
Perhaps it was just a coincidence that the listing was pulled off eBay on the anniversary of the death of Lisa McPherson, or perhaps eBay chose that date on purpose. I would like to think that this was the case, rather than that the cult objected and eBay folded.
to take him away, ha ha (9/12/2006)
Unfortunately, they're not. Have you ever wondered why there is fluoride in the water? Here's the reason, as provided by an anonymous apoligist for alternative medicine. (When you look at that crystal structure at the right you can see why you should stay away from this stuff. It would make your teeth go square.)
The same reason that they forced Aspartame onto the market to poison milllions, , the same reason they suppress all new disease cures, energy technologies, etc. Same reason they create fake terrorism, start phony wars, support murderous tyrants, create and sustain deliberate famines worldwide, and promote drug addiction, abortion, homosexuality etc. They are Malthusians, elitists, and satanists.
They want to kill as many people as possible, and get rich doing it.
Education update (9/12/2006)
Followers of fundamentalist fun may be aware that Dr Kent Hovind, the famous "Dr Dino", was recently sentenced to (almost) eternity in the slammer for various crimes against bureaucracy, such as not having bothered with the niceties of getting planning approval for his dinosaur museum (which was designed to demonstrate the fallacy of evolution) and not paying income taxes. One of his claims to fame was that he held a PhD from an institution named Patriot University. (Another was that he was offering a reward of $250,000 for anyone who could prove that evolution by natural selection was the only possible way that humans could have got from primeval slime to where we are today.) When I first came across Mr Hovind photographs of Patriot University indicated that the campus consisted of a modest private home. I have to thank reader Bill Butler for sending me some photographs of the way the place looks in 2006.
The logic of quackery (9/12/2006)
I really should have put the word "logic" in scare quotes. Here are a couple of examples.
A classic (9/12/2006)
I was doing some tidying up around the site and I came across one of my most favourite ever emails. I was then and am still now impressed with the succinctness of the message. I have a mental image of the writer robbing a bank by handing the teller a piece of cardboard with "armed holdup" written on it in crayon.
Date: Fri, 22 Mar 2002 04:11:56 +0100
From: "Gov. Cristal White"
holiday time! (16/12/2006)
I would like to wish all the visitors to this site, both regulars and occasional drop-ins, a very Merry Christmas and an extremely Happy New Year. Every year more people take the time to come here to read my thoughts and opinions, and the number of visitors so far in 2006 has been well in excess of a million. I have to keep pinching myself to remind me that this started off as a site to amuse me only, and I never dreamed that it would turn into what it has. I want to thank all of you very much for making the effort I put into this worthwhile. Every year I also promise to answer more emails, but every year the volume gets bigger while the time available stays the same. I appreciate all of the correspondence I receive (even the hate mail and criticism, because at least these people have been interested enough to write), but nobody should feel offended or ignored just because I don't answer immediately (or even at all). I read everything that comes in and I try to correct any errors as soon as they are pointed out, but there simply isn't enough time to write back to everyone. Sorry!
The Millenium Project will be taking a short break over the holiday season so that I can do family and friend things, and I encourage every one of you to do the same. I will be back on January 6 with the 2006 Millenium Awards, and I look forward to another year of successfully annoying those who need annoying. As I say every year, drink moderately, drive safely, do them on different days, and come back next year for more.
to think about (16/12/2006)
This advertisement for Richard Dawkins' book The God Delusion has to be one of the most impressive uses of imagery that I have seen for a very long time. What more needs to be said?
Except this, of course. Thanks, John
|Imagine there's no Heaven
It's easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today
Imagine there's no
You may say that I'm a dreamer
Imagine no possessions
You may say that I'm a dreamer
appreciates what I do (16/12/2006)
I am not sure what I did to deserve this, but I am glad I could help. It was personally addressed, so the writer obviously meant for me to get it.
Thank you for changing my life. Since I was in High School I knew I had an extremely small penis. I could never keep a girlfriend, and I lacked the confidence to talk with girls. In fact sometimes I would simply need to be satisfied with porn. I followed your advice and now I feel like a man.
Scientology in action (16/12/2006)
There used to be an organisation named the Cult Awareness Network which assisted people who had been entrapped by cults. There is still a CAN, but now it is a Scientology front. See a short history in the video.
In typical cult fashion, the Scientologists whined to YouTube and had the video removed before I could download a copy. Sorry about that, but it isn't me stopping you from watching it.
Someone doesn't appreciate
what I do (16/12/2006)
Here's a nice piece of cogent, specific criticism of my work. I take criticism seriously when it is expressed politely, so I really would like to fix the problems identified by the writer.
From: "Mark + Katrina Schonell"
Date: Sat, 16 Dec 2006 22:28:31 +1100
I have just stumbled across your site and read some of your comments and now I feel very sad for you. You must have a very unhappy and bitter life. It sounds like you think you are doing good by complaining about other people who actually are doing good. I hope you can stand back and have a look at yourself one day and realise how much of your life you've wasted hiding behind a keyboard and complaining when you could be out there actually helping disadvantaged people to have a better life. Could you possibly think of someone other than yourself ?
Thank you for your comments. I am always open to suggestions about how I can improve my life and help others. How do you suggest I do this? Please don't advise me to join a multi-level marketing scheme. If I feel the need to take money from people without giving anything in return I will use a sawn-off shotgun and a ski mask. This is quicker, the victims know exactly what is happening to them, and they don't feel a loss of self-respect afterwards.
Keeping homeopathy safe (16/12/2006)
During the week I came across someone asking how to protect homeopathic remedies from electromagnetic radiation. Apparently EM destroys the effectiveness of the potions. I found this quite encouraging as infra-red is a form of EM and is emitted by all live humans, and I thought that keeping homeopathic preparations away from living people was a very good idea. My suggestion was not received well. Neither was my suggestion of encasing all homeopathic medicines in concrete, wrapping the block in lead, dropping the whole thing in the deepest part of the ocean and then simply recovering the relevant bottles whenever some disease came along which could be cured by homeopathy.
Something I won't mention on my site (16/12/2006)
In April this year I was challenged by an anti-Ritalin loon who claimed that I would not publish a newspaper story on my site about the "dangers" of Ritalin and other ADHD drugs. Of course I rose to the challenge and exposed the nonsense in the newspaper story. The follow-up was that the original newspaper article had been planted by the Citizens' Commission on Human Rights, a well-known anti-psychiatry front organisation of the Cult of Scientology. I wasn't the only person to point this out, and the deception was also revealed on the ABC's Media Watch program.
I have been challenged again about a new article, this time in The Age newspaper. You can read the article here, but I will reproduce the words below to make my comments more clear. The challenge took the form of "It will be interesting to see if Peter puts this on his website". I hope that the challenger's interest is suitably aroused.
TGA assessing ADHD drug Strattera
A drug used to treat children for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, or ADHD, has had some serious psychiatric side-effects, a study shows.
The federal government's Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has been assessing the drug Strattera, which will be available widely under the Pharmaceutical Benefits Scheme, Fairfax reports.
Strattera was the probable cause of one child's explosive mood swings and erratic behaviour, including an attempt to open the door of a moving car, according to the TGA.
It also implicated the drug in aggressive outbursts by a 12-year-old, in which she ripped out her fingernails.
The TGA has identified 23 cases of probable or possible side-effects from Strattera. They include suicidal thoughts, agitation, and serious physical problems such as growth retardation, weight loss, chest pains and swollen testicles.
Strattera is to be added to the PBS, reducing its price from more than $140 at present for a month's supply to $29.50, or $4.70 for those receiving a concession.
About 2,000 Australians had taken Strattera, 1,400 of them children, since its launch in 2004.
The first thing I noticed was that the link to the newspaper page did not work. When I asked for a working link I was asked "What did you do to get it taken down, Pete?", to which I jocularly replied "I rang the CEO of Fairfax and complained". Most people would immediately detect the absurdity of the idea of my being able to ring the CEO of one of the two largest media companies in the country (especially in a week when the company ownership had dramatically changed), but in this case my humour-impaired correspondent took it seriously and came back with "Right. I figured as much". I should have given up right there.
The second things I noticed were the vagueness of the statements in the article and that it had no by-line, making it almost impossible to quiz the journalist for further information. The stench of CCHR could be detected on the breeze. I checked but could find nothing about the matter on either the TGA site or the Adverse Drug Reactions Advisory Committee site, where Strattera has been listed for many months as a "Drug of Current Interest", meaning that doctors should report all adverse reactions. Nothing about a study or 23 cases of side-effects or kids jumping out of cars or pulling their fingernails out. Quite reasonably, I asked where I could read the study and where on the TGA site I could read the horror stories. I didn't expect a meaningful answer (the article is obviously a fabrication), and I was not disappointed. I was referred to a web site which told the terrible tales of Strattera and the fingernails and the car door, but what it didn't mention was the TGA. I won't provide the link here, but the fact that the title of the web site is "Death from Ritalin - The truth behind ADHD" should give an indication of its reliability.
When I questioned these sites and asked what they had to do with the TGA or Strattera I was informed that Strattera is a drug for ADHD and therefore it was perfectly permissible to discuss other drugs in other countries because the heading said "TGA assessing ADHD drug Strattera". The running clocks had now grown beetle wings and the unicorns had exchanged the stilts for roller blades and penny-farthing cycles. Just as I was about to give up, the original poster dealt what she obviously thought would be the killer blow, the final argument that would crush me completely. She reposted the original message in its entirety (including the non-working link to The Age), with the following comment: "Then as is his nasty habit, Peter Bowditch played a part in getting the site taken down. Because he cannot stand the truth, and with all he has posted, it would make him look like a fool". I'm such a fool that I have reproduced the words of the site that I have had "taken down" above, have provided a link to it here, and even have a copy of it on this site in case the original gets moved again on The Age site.
Now, do you see why I need a holiday?