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August 1, 2009

Rabid idiotic fringe dwellers (1/8/2009)
Yes, those words were used by Meryl Dorey, president of the Australian Vaccination Network, when describing the public perception of her organisation. I rarely agree with Ms Dorey on anything, but this time I think she is absolutely correct. In fact, during the week she published some material on her blog endorsing some lunatic who claims that swine flu is just an excuse to get people ready to be vaccinated and the real reason for the vaccines will be actually to insert microchips into everyone so that the Rothschilds, Bilderbergs and the Illuminati can track our every movement before the great cull comes to reduce the world's population to a fraction of what it now is. (The lunatic in question stole the piece verbatim and in its entirety without credit from the web site of noted loon David Icke, famous for his claims that the British Royal Family are all lizards. Ms Dorey therefore not only promotes a truly insane conspiracy theory but endorses theft and plagiarism. Nice work.) Cody The Religion Hating DogCody The Religion Hating Dog posted a message to the AVN's Facebook page saying that he was already microchipped and it wasn't doing him any harm. He also pointed out that as he is a dog he is allowed to be barking mad but what was Ms Dorey's excuse? He was banned shortly afterwards.

To give you the flavour of the material endorsed by AVN, here is a quote from the web page offered by Ms Dorey as evidence of the conspiracy behind swine flu:

A cabal of interbreeding families is seeking to impose a global fascist dictatorship of total human control.

Those on the inner levels of this structure are collectively known as the 'Illuminati'.

This is how they coordinate between apparently unconnected governments, corporations, media groups etc. The Rothschild and Rockefeller dynasties (the same bloodline) are fundamentally involved in this, as I have long exposed, and they dominate pharmaceutical medicine and government 'health' policy worldwide.

The web controls governments, the pharmaceutical industry, or 'Big Pharma', the World Health Organisation and public heath 'protection' agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States. In short, they control the entire medical system.

The Illuminati cabal established global bodies like the World Heath Organisation, World Bank and World Trade Organisation to transfer power from the many to the few. Their goal is a world government, world central bank, world currency and world army.

The Illuminati plan for the world includes a mass cull of the population and the microchipping of every man, woman and child. Microchips would allow everyone to be tracked 24/7, but it goes much further than that.

Computer technology communicating with the chips has the potential to manipulate people mentally, emotionally and physically. This could be done en masse or individually through the chip's unique transmitter-receiver signal. Killing someone from a distance would be a synch. (sic).

In a major victory for common sense, the AVN closed their Facebook page, removed all discussion and messages, and severely restricted who could post to it. This was done in response to an invasion of sensible people asking sensible questions and providing sensible information about vaccine safety and effectiveness. The sensible people responded to claims that vaccine safety had never been tested by offering the 7,648 papers in PubMed which suggest otherwise, and responded to claims that vaccine efficacy had never been tested by offering the 13,726 papers from the same source which seemed to say different. Needless to say much fun was had with the extremely kooky conspiracy theory mentioned above. The suddenly it was all over. Doors closed, with us on the outside.

In the meantime, I found that I am banned from following Ms Dorey on Twitter.

Banned from Twitter

I sent the following email to Meryl Dorey, and I eagerly await her reply.

On the AVN web site it says:

"1.Both sides of every health issue should be freely available for anyone who is trying to make a decision".

I cannot comment on entries in the AVN blog.

I cannot follow AVN on Twitter.

I am banned from the AVN mailing list.

I have been removed from the AVN's Facebook page, as have many other people, and everything I wrote there has been deleted.

These actions seem to be in direct conflict with the AVN policy reproduced above, and could even be construed as examples of hypocrisy.

You are free to read my web site at any time you like and if you send me comments I will publish them. You are free to join any public mailing list that I manage and post whatever you like to the list and you will not be moderated in any way (unless your messages expose me or anyone else to legal action). You have my permission to follow me on Twitter. You can be a fan or member of any Facebook page or group (or any other online forum) of which I am an administrator and any comments you post there will be left untouched (again unless they expose me or anyone else to legal action).

I have nothing to hide and I am not ashamed of what I say or do. It appears that you can say neither. Prove me wrong.

The idea of AVN claiming that all points of view should be heard blew up my irony meter. Luckily I have a circuit diagram so I can build another one.

Irony Meter

Would a creationist tell lies? (1/8/2009)
Theologian Ned Flanders tells us that lies make Baby Jesus cry, so there is no way that a Christian Creationist would ever tell a lie, is there? Consider the following statement from the Institute for Creation Research:

The recent discovery of dinosaur soft parts ... has spawned much interest among scientists. The deposit in which the Tyrannosaurus rex fossil was found is dated at 70 million years. Not only were blood cells found, but soft and pliable tissue as well, including flexible blood vessels. Paleontologist Mary Schweitzer, who made the discovery in Montana, exclaimed: "Finding these tissues in dinosaurs changes the way we think about fossilization, because our theories of how fossils are preserved don't allow for this."  (Link here)

Now look at what Paleontologist Mary Schweitzer had to say about the same fossil find:

Clearly these structures are not functional cells. However, one possibility is that they represent diagenetic alteration of original blood remnants, such as complexes of hemoglobin breakdown products, a possibility supported by other data that demonstrate that organic components remain in these dinosaur tissues.


Although they are not consistent with pyrite framboids, they may indeed be geological in origin, derived from some process as yet undefined; they may have their origin as colonies of iron-concentrating bacteria or fungal spores, or they may be the result of cellular debris, which clumped upon death, became desiccated, and then through diagenetic processes such as anion exchange or others not yet elucidated, became complexed with other, secondary degradation products. [Schweitzer, Mary Higby, John R. Horner 1999 Intrasvascular microstructures in trabecular bone tissues of Tyrannosaurus rex, Annales de Paléontologie Volume 85, Issue 3, July-September , pg.179-192]

In that same article on the ICR web site they mention a conference which brought together young earth creationists and religious people who took a more scientific view of the universe. In 2005 after I had wasted some time debating creationists I asked the following question: "Please tell me what evidence it would take to prove your beliefs wrong?" The following paragraph from the ICR's conference report gives an answer. And these people have the hide to say they do research and want to glamorise their idiocy by calling it "creation science".

Two days of presenting viewpoints was followed by a summary session in which each participant was asked to state his or her perspective and identify what they would require to change that perspective. Each creationist felt the scientific evidence for the young earth was persuasive, but they would change if convinced that Scripture clearly taught long ages. To them, Scripture provides the framework in which scientific data is interpreted, not the other way around.

Creationist University
The Freethunk web site disappeared in January 2020.
It went to Facebook and then disappeared from there also.

Big BangWhat's he reading this week? (1/8/2009)
When I went to see Simon Singh speak in Sydney recently there was a stand in the theatre foyer run by the excellent Gleebooks selling his books. I bought the only one that I didn't have, . Singh is an excellent history writer as anyone who has read Fermat's Last Theorem or The Code Book will know and this maintains the tradition. I thoroughly recommend this book to anyone with even the faintest interest in astronomy or cosmology. Which should be everyone.

Speaking of Fermat's Last Theorem, there is an explanation in one of the appendices of something that caused me great grief at school. (Euclid's proof that √2 is irrational.) I was absent sick when the maths teacher gave the lesson about this, and he based several subsequent lessons on it. He refused to explain it to me so I had to go away and learn about it myself in order to keep up with the rest of the class (and, no, there was no Google back in the period just after the Enlightenment). The appendix in Simon's book shows how quickly it could have been explained to me if the teacher had bothered to take five minutes out of his busy schedule. Or had taken his job as a teacher seriously. Or both.

Don't forget (1/8/2009)
I'll be giving two talks in Melbourne in the middle of August. Both will be on the topic of vaccination and its detractors, but I have a lot to say on this matter so it will be safe to come to both presentations without the risk of hearing the same thing twice.

Nude but not too lewd (1/8/2009)
When life gets tough and work mounts up, some people have been heard to say "Life isn't just beer and skittles". This is probably just as well, because the two don't really go together and I know this from experience.

About a year after I left high school a group of friends and I went on what used to be quaintly called a surfin' safari, heading north to the fleshpots of the Queensland Gold Coast. As the biggest waves we saw in two weeks were about 25 centimetres high we had to find other things to do in the somewhat inaccurately named Surfers Paradise. On one memorable occasion we spent a considerable part of the day consuming refreshments in a hotel beer garden. As we were leaving we found that there was a tenpin bowling alley in the basement of the pub, and as this was our other sport we decided to shoot a few frames. As you might imagine, we did not perform at our best, for as Shakespeare reminded us in Macbeth, speaking of much drink, "it provokes the desire, but it takes away the performance". Another group of bowlers noticed our apparent ineptitude and challenged us to a match. We slurred some excuses and they agreed to meet us the next day to take some money off us.

Australasian ScienceWe turned up the next day bright eyed and steady of hand and proceeded to put down our usual low-to-mid-200s games. We were accused of cheating, sandbagging and pretending the day before that we couldn't play. It took all our negotiating skills to convince them that you should not assume that someone lacks the ability to curve a ball neatly into the gap between the number one and three pins just because they are suffering from a temporary condition which causes them to singe their eyebrows when trying to light a cigarette. As nobody from either side ended up in prison or hospital we must have reached an amicable resolution of the matter.

Which brings me back to work mounting up. Suddenly this week it became deadline time again for my Naked Skeptic column in Australasian Science magazine, so I got appropriately undressed, ignoring my wife's giggles and the startled look on the face of Cody The Religion Hating Dog, and whipped up the required number of words. As the edition won't be in the newsstands for a few weeks I will hold off publishing it here for a while, but in the meantime you can read the current month's effort here.

Administrivia (1/8/2009)
There's been a bit of behind-the-scenes work going on around here over the last week to tune up some technical matters which should make the site even more consistent when viewed with different browsers. It's not hard work, because I have a rather efficient site management system and the process is largely automated, but it takes some time to spread each change across the more than 800 pages in the site and while a pass is happening I can't make any manual changes. All rather tedious, but it only has to be done once.

Just for interest, here are the browser versions I currently use to check the site. Checks are done using Windows XP Pro SP3 or Vista SP2 and I just have to rely on people with Macs and Linux to let me know of any problems they see.

  • Firefox – 3.5.1
  • Google Chrome –
  • Internet Explorer 7 – 7.0.5730.13
  • Internet Explorer 8 – 8.0.6001.18813
  • Opera – 9.64
  • Safari – 4.0.2

The graphs show the percentages of visitors using various browsers and operating systems during the first seven months of 2009. Again, up-to-date statistics appear on the About the Site page.

Browsers used by visitors
IE 40.2%
Internet Explorer 7
Internet Explorer 6
Internet Explorer 8
Internet Explorer 5
Netscape (various)
Operating systems used by visitors
Windows XP
Windows Vista
Mac OS

What happens when you ask people about the Bible? (1/8/2009)

August 3, 2009

Perhaps someone will take some notice (3/8/2009)
On HCCCAugust 3, 2009, a complaint was lodged with the New South Wales Health Care Complaints Commission about the activities of the Australian Vaccination Network. You can see the officially recorded complaint here. Much whining is expected from the AVN over the next few weeks as they try to convince everyone that they don't offer education (despite saying on their web site that they do) and they don't offer medical advice.

August 15, 2009

Two for the price of one (15/8/2009)
I was all set to update this site last week and even had a couple of articles written when real life intervened. Actually, some of it was skeptical life, but that's as real as it gets sometimes. Then I had to drive 1000km to Melbourne to give my two talks and the day before I was about to set out the radiator header tank on my car developed a leak. Luckily the mechanic had both the time to do the repair and the contacts to get a cheap replacement tank in a short period of time. The trip itself was uneventful until I arrived on the outskirts of Australia's second largest city. Then I discovered that the little lady who lives inside my GPS device and tells me where to go had picked up the wrong street directory. Instead of sending me on the expressway that bypasses Melbourne and goes right to where I had to be she directed me in the opposite direction for a while and then dropped me right into the centre of the city so I could join the countless other motorists enjoying the peak-hour car park experience. I have since bought a piece of large-scale origami called a "map". Apparently back in the olden days before technology made us more efficient and improved our lives people used to use these things to find out how to get to places.

But the news is not all bad. I managed to break two teeth. Well, that probably is bad news, but the good news is that it meant that I could have two of those dreadful "mercury amalgams" removed from my mouth, thus reducing the level of mercury poisoning in my body. I expect the autism to start receding any day now. The table below shows how I am much better off now.

Chemical ingredients of deadly "mercury amalgams" which are not durable and only last for 40 yearsSafe components of chemical-free composite fillings.

Mercury (one of the five most deadly chemicals in the world*)
Perhaps some copper or tin

* – As any alternaut will tell you, the other four of the five most deadly chemicals are aspartame, fluoride, Ritalin and Prozac.

Vinyl triethoxysilane
2,2-bis [4-(2-hydroxy-3-methacryloyloxypropoxy)]phenylpropane)
2,2-bis 4-methacryloyloxyphenyl propane
2,2-bis 4-(2-methacryloyloxyethoxy)phenyl propane
2,2-bis 4-(3-methacryloyloxypropoxy)phenyl propane
Triethyleneglycol dimethacrylate
Ethyleneglycol dimethacrylate
Diethyleneglycol dimethacrylate
Tetraethyleneglycol dimethacrylate
Butylated hydroxytoluene
Pendant methacrylate groups
Isomers of bis(methacryloylmethyl)tricyclodecane p-tolydiethanolamine
Di(urethanophenyl)methane groups
Hexamethylenediurethane groups
Quinoid groups 1,6-hexamethylenediisocyanate
Benzoyl peroxide
Benzoine methyl ether
N,N-dimethylaminoethyl methacrylate
Quartz filler particles
Glass filler particles containing barium, strontium and zinc
Lithium aluminosilicate filler particles
Opacifiers, chemical modifiers and pigments

They just can't stop lying (15/8/2009)
There was much rejoicing in anti-vaccination liar circles this week because a court had ordered the US government to stop the practice of mandatory vaccination. The injunction would have had the effect of preventing any mass vaccination campaign in the face of a possible epidemic or biological threat from a terrorist or foreign hostile power, and would presumably have extended to preventing the military from vaccinating servicemen and health authorities from insisting that doctors and nurses were fully vaccinated.

The victory was announced on many anti-vaccination liar web sites, but I became aware of it when the Australian Vaccination Network issued a media release. You can read the full item in glorious colour here, but the first paragraph gives the flavour:

After more than 30 years
US District Court issues injunction to stop compulsory vaccination

Wednesday, August 12th, 2009 – For Immediate Release:

30 years after compulsory vaccination became US Law:
US Court issues an injunction to stop it and to hold the the government and drug companies responsible for reactions.

A Preliminary Injunction to stop mandatory vaccinations has been issued in the United States District Court of New Jersey. This comes after a federal lawsuit opposing forced vaccines was filed in that court by Tim Vawter, pro se attorney, on July 31st with the federal government as defendant. When the judge signs the Preliminary Injunction, it will stop the federal government from forcing anyone in any state to take flu vaccine against their will. It will also prevent a state or local government from forcibly vaccinating anyone, and forbid any person who is not vaccinated from being denied any services or constitutional rights. Vawter's filings included a Complaint, and several pages of evidentiary Exhibits.

You will notice the specific statements – the matter was filed in the United States District Court of New Jersey, it was filed on July 31, and the lawyer was Tim Vawter whose "filings included a Complaint, and several pages of evidentiary Exhibits". What it doesn't say is the name of the judge or the case identification number so I thought I would see what I could find in the US court PACER system, which is a record of all matters before federal courts. I thought that the best way to find it would be to start with the lawyer's name, and here is what PACER told me:

The lawyer named Vawter

Well, I have to say I was a little surprised to find that no lawyer with the name Tim Vawter had ever appeared in any matter before the United States District Court of New Jersey. Perhaps someone had made a mistake. To clarify matters, I sent the following email to Meryl Dorey at the AVN:

In a media release today you state that the US District Court of New Jersey has issued an injunction stopping vaccination.

A search of the court records for matters filed by any attorney named Vawter produced no results (see attached search results). Please provide a reference for the case so I can read the ruling on an official court site.

Thank you.

I haven't received a reply yet, but the following notice has replaced the story on the infamous Natural News web site: (In May 2010 I found that this page had been removed from the NaturalNews site. The most likely reason is that Mike Adams did not want any evidence left behind that he might have been wrong about something when he he was spreading lies about medicine. Unfortunately, the Web Archive hadn't managed to grab a copy of the backdown before it was deleted.)

Preliminary Injunction to Halt Mandatory Flu Vaccination in the U.S. Has Been Issued (correction)
Tuesday, August 11, 2009 by: Former Contributing Writer, citizen journalist

(NaturalNews) Editor's Note: It has come to our attention that the following article is factually incorrect. It was written by a contributing writer, then approved by an in-house editor who did not catch the significant errors in this article. As a result of these significant errors, and due to our commitment to publishing only true and accurate information to the best of our ability, we have made an editorial decision to reject further articles from this author.

NaturalNews deeply regrets this unintentional error, and we are brainstorming new ways to put in place tighter fact-checking oversight so that the same mistake does not happen again in the future. We thank all those who have brought this important matter to our attention, and we pledge to increase our efforts to reject stories that contain factual inaccuracies.

For the record, what was factually incorrect about the story (which we confirmed by phone with a clerk of United States District Court of Trenton, New Jersey) is that no such injunction has been filed. Thus, the entire premise of the story was factually incorrect.

Here at NaturalNews, we strive to bring you accurate, honest information on these topics, and we deeply regret the unintentional publishing of the inaccurate information that previously appeared in this article space.

Do you see that: "no such injunction has been filed". The story was a fabrication. It was made up. It was a lie.

A lie. A lie. A lie.

It took me about ten minutes to demonstrate that the story was false. I have sent the following email to Meryl Dorey:

It now turns out that as I expected the story about the US District Court banning mandatory vaccination was a fabrication. You could even call it a lie.

Are you planning to issue a media release apologising to all the media outlets who received your initial distribution for misleading them with something which could have been proved to be incorrect with about ten minutes effort?

And what is that they say about having the final laugh?

Ha! Ha! Ha! Ha!

See more of Matt Bors here

Vaccines – the battle continues (15/8/2009)
The complaint filed with the NSW Health Care Complaints Commission wasn't the only thing that upset the creatures of the Australian Vaccination Network this week. On Thursday, August 6, Australian Skeptics ran an advertisement in the national newspaper The Australian which took the form of an open letter to Australian parents about the danger of the anti-vaccine lobby. The Australian Broadcasting Corporation ran a short news item out of their Lismore office based on the content of the advertisement. Lismore just happens to be the closest ABC office to the headquarters of the AVN, which explains why the story originated there and why they sought out Meryl Dorey from AVN for a comment.

The story appearing on the ABC site now is slightly different to what was originally published. The first edition concluded with the following paragraph, quoting Ms Dorey:

Peter Bowditch, from the Skeptics, even said on his website that he didn't think that this was actually a complaint that was going to go forward, but it was good because it would take up time and harass us and that's actually what the Skeptics have been doing for a very long time

I couldn't let this pass, so I sent the following email to the ABC:

In the news story "Sceptics take aim at vaccination doubters", Meryl Dorey from the Australian Vaccination Network is quoted as saying "Peter Bowditch, from the Skeptics, even said on his website that he didn't think that this was actually a complaint that was going to go forward, but it was good because it would take up time and harass us and that's actually what the Skeptics have been doing for a very long time".

I felt that I had to respond to this.

First, while I am a member of the Committee of Australian Skeptics Inc I do not speak for the organisation, contrary to what is clearly suggested by Ms Dorey.

Second, I did not say anything like this on my web site ( I admit that the AVN has been a matter of some interest to me for many years and I have had a lot of things to say about them, but this wasn't one of them.

Third, what I did say elsewhere (and what Ms Dorey has misrepresented) is that I didn't think that the HCCC could actually shut the AVN down but the adverse publicity of the complaint might draw people's attentions to the dangerous activities and preachings of the AVN.

Thank you.

I appreciate the ABC's quick reaction but I didn't really care if the words were removed from their web site or not. I don't particularly care what people who don't know me think of me, and people who do know me would not be surprised to find Meryl Dorey dragging me into the conversation and might even expect that what she had to say about me could be politely described as "inaccurate". Three "inaccuracies" in 53 words, in this case.

Bad news about chiropractic (15/8/2009)
For some years a group of chiropractors called the National Association for Chiropractic Medicine has been trying to bring some science into the practice of chiropractic. It's members have been abused and reviled for the heresy of departing from the true faith. Vertebra of the cervical spine(Some of them apparently even believe in viruses and bacteria, and some have been rumoured to have encouraged vaccination!) Their objective was to limit chiropractic to the treatment of musculoskeletal conditions where benefits could be demonstrated and to leave the rest to doctors.

When I ran my regular link check on the Green Light site this week I found that the NACM's web site had disappeared. I hoped that this was some sort of temporary setback, and so I emailed a chiropractor who was involved with them for some time to see if he could illuminate me. Unfortunately the news was bad. The chiropractor who set up NACM has given up. Out of the tens of thousands of chiropractors in the USA he couldn't find enough who were interested in abandoning subluxations and other myths to make it worth his while to continue trying to reform the profession. The professional associations of chiropractors like to keep reminding us of the scientific research behind chiropractic (and they even sue people who suggest otherwise), yet when someone says "Let's be science-based chiropractors" silence from members of the profession is all that is heard.

My opinion is that chiropractic cannot be salvaged, but I can understand why conscientious people who have invested large amounts of money and a significant part of their lives in learning about something that they think can be beneficial to others would want to eliminate the woowoo and nonsense and get down to science. Unfortunately when all the woowoo and nonsense is taken out of chiropractic then what is left is not much more than manipulation for the relief of back pain, and that professional niche is already filled by physiotherapists and masseurs. Maybe the members of NACM have all gone back to honest work like driving taxis.

See more of Cectic here

In conversation (15/8/2009)
People often ask me how I can maintain my peaceful equanimity when I am having discussions with quacks and charlatans. I tell them it's easy – just be polite, listen to what they have to say, ask reasonable questions and give their answers diligent consideration. Then a conversation like the one below in an alternative medicine forum comes along.

Quack:Since Gulf War I, the military has been secretly putting an oil-based adjuvant called SQUALENE into certain experimental lots of military vaccines. Just like lab animals, thousands of soldiers given SQUALENE- laced vaccines have developed disabling auto-immune diseases. Independent researchers have found SQUALENE antibodies in these sick soldiers. In 2005, the military admitted that 1,200 military personnel who received anthrax vaccine before going to Iraq recently developed serious illnesses, including memory loss and chronic fatigue.
PB:I know you just forgot to include references, so I will have to remind you.
References, please.
Quack:like you care

I didn't think that you would have any. Thanks for confirming my suspicions

Quack:LOL. Great game isn't it

There you are. See how easy it is to have an intelligent, productive conversation with a true believer.

This week's reading (15/8/2009)
There'sBad Science nothing like spending a weekend away from home in a small motel with rain and cold winds outside for encouraging reading, so it's just as well I brought Ben Goldacre's with me. This is another one of those must-have books for anyone interested in the way that ignorance of or resistance to science can cause people to hold strange and sometimes dangerous ideas. As Goldacre is a medical doctor, much of it relates to medical quackery but the poor thinking that pervades this area seems to generalise to other intellectual domains. It is not unusual, for example, to find that an anti-vaxxer or quackery believer is also one or more of the list: creationist, holocaust denier, AIDS denier, religious bigot, racist, UFO believer, astrology follower, conspiracy nutter (for almost any conspiracy you can think of), ...

I seem to have this habit lately of picking up books written by people who have been sued for things they have written for UK newspapers. Simon Singh attracted the wrath of British chiropractors by suggesting, correctly, that there is little or no science behind their bogus treatments. Ben Goldacre was sued by AIDS denier Matthias Rath, a man whose influence on politicians made him directly responsible for many thousands of preventable deaths in South Africa. To give you an idea of how Rath and his ilk respond to criticism, here is what a lawyer associated with Rath suggested should be done to someone who opposed their idiocy. This was part of an approach to the International Court of Justice in The Hague attempting to have someone indicted for crimes against humanity. The crime was to challenge the AIDS deniers who were killing thousands. Remember – a lawyer wrote this.

In view of the scale and gravity of Achmat's crime and his direct personal criminal culpability for 'the deaths of thousands of people', to quote his own words, it is respectfully submitted that the International Criminal Court ought to impose on him the highest sentence provided by Article 77.1(b) of the Rome Statute, namely to permanent confinement in a small white steel and concrete cage, bright fluorescent light on all the time to keep an eye on him, his warders putting him out only to work every day in the prison garden to cultivate nutrient-rich vegetables, including when it's raining, in order for him to repay his debt to society, with the ARVs he claims to take administered daily under close medical watch at the full prescribed dose, morning, noon and night, without interruption, to prevent him faking that he's being treatment compliant, pushed if necessary down his forced-open gullet with a finger, or, if he bites, kicks and screams too much, dripped into his arm after he's been restrained on a gurney with cable ties around his ankles, wrists and neck, until he gives up the ghost on them, so as to eradicate this foulest, most loathsome, unscrupulous and malevolent blight on the human race, who has 59 plagued and poisoned the people of South Africa, mostly black, mostly poor, for nearly a decade now, since the day he and his TAC first hit the scene.

August 21, 2009

The WHO and homeopathy (21/8/2009)
A media release has gone out today from Sense About Science headed "WHO does not recommend the use of homeopathy for HIV, malaria, TB, influenza and infant diarrhoea".

The WHO has responded to a call from young medics and said that it DOES NOT recommend the use of homeopathy for treating HIV, TB, malaria, influenza and infant diarrhoea. In an open letter to the WHO in June this year, the group of early career medics and researchers from the UK and Africa asked the body to make clear that homeopathy cannot prevent or treat these serious diseases in the face of its growing promotion by manufacturers and practitioners. The Director General's office has confirmed that the responses from WHO departments (below) "clearly express the WHO's position". Today the Voice of Young Science network, who coordinated the letter, has written to the health ministers of all countries to publicise the WHO's position, asking them to combat the promotion of homeopathy for these dangerous diseases.

You can read the full article here.

August 22, 2009

Kook fight! (22/8/2009)
Nothing A cake with cream and a cherryelicits a feeling of Schadenfreude quite like watching a couple of people who disagree with you fight it out between themselves. It is even better when they do it in court and have to pay lawyers to do the kook fighting for them. Icing goes on the cake when the judge or magistrate calls them fools (without using those words, of course) and tells them to go away, sort it out themselves and stop wasting the court's time. A cherry and some of those little silver balls go on top when they don't take this advice and come back for more.

In 2004 the Australian Vaccination Network ran off to court to whine about Australia's other anti-vaccination liar outfit, the Vaccination Information Service. Here is the second last paragraph of the magistrate's decision:

  1. This is a most unfortunate case. It should never have been brought. There has been no loss established. The evidence is that once the entries were discovered to exist in 2003 they were removed for subsequent years. What possible point could there have been in pursuing the declarations sought or the damages based upon the evidence that I have described. When the proceedings came before me for directions I made the unusual step for me of ordering the parties to mediation because I believed that it was not a suitable case for the parties to expend costs upon. Regrettably, the mediation was unsuccessful.

You can read the whole amusing story here.

Cowardice (22/8/2009)
Yale The Cartoons That Shook the WorldUniversity Press is about to publish a book,  by Jytte Klausen, about the famous 2006 imbroglio over some Danish cartoons which offended some Muslims and resulted in the deaths of about 200 people. The publication of the book is the good news. The bad news is that the publisher has announced that the book will not feature the cartoons themselves because this might incite some lunatics to kill some more people and this would then be the publisher's fault. No, it would not. It would be the fault of the people who do the killing. Not only are YUP expurgating the cartoons from the book, but they also removed a reproduction of Gustave Doré's painting The Mutilated Shade of Mahomet, a work produced as an illustration to The Divine Comedy by Dante. If that picture is a problem then art galleries containing similar illustrations of The Divine Comedy produced by William Blake, Sandro Botticelli, Salvador Dalí, and Auguste Rodin might be in trouble, to name a few.

If YUP were honest cowards they would refuse to publish the book at all. Instead they took the path of the dishonest coward and censored the work. What a farce. How useful will the book be if readers can't see what the author is talking about?

Here is the Doré illustration which YUP is too gutless to print:

Gustave Doré : The Mutilated Shade of Mahomet

And to keep everyone happy, here are the cartoons:

It's deja vu all over again (22/8/2009)
I'm not one to complain, but the news about an allergy treatment scam that ignited the twitterverse this week is rather old. Several skeptics and anti-quackery campaigners breathlessly announced Babe Ruth – I will leave it up to you to decide why this picture is here.that a company named Advanced Allergy Elimination was the subject of legal action over their claims that they could cure allergies. The problem with this news is that the court action commenced in May of this year and was reported here at the time. I don't expect everybody to read or remember what I do here, but it is rather disappointing to find people breaking old news on their blogs a couple of days after I had told them that I had been following AAE since 2003 and that the story had been reported here when it was fresh.

This isn't just about people hurting my feelings, because if I worried about that I wouldn't publish my collection of hate mail. We rightly criticise medical quacks and pseudoscientists for citing and quoting each other, often without bothering to check the accuracy of what they quote, and then using all these circular references to "prove" that something is true because it has been said many times. We stand a chance of being accused of the same thing when we reflexively republish or cite material just because we happen to like the person who said it or because the originator is someone whom we see as being on our side.

I'm not about to get into a debate about climate change and its causes, but a recent example of this behaviour followed the publication of Professor Ian Plimer's book Heaven and Earth. While many scientists working in disciplines related to climate were severely critical of the book, many skeptics that I know were prepared to accept Professor Plimer's thesis on apparently no more evidence than that he is well known as a critic of creationism and is therefore one of us (a twisted version of the old Argument from Authority fallacy). Some supported him on the political basis that as there is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming and it will send us all broke to do anything about it, anybody who denies it must be right. I find it hard to differentiate this attitude from one which states that vaccine critics must be right because vaccines contain poisonous ingredients. Remember that in deductive reasoning the conclusion must be true if the premises are true. The important word is "if". Consider the following logical arguments:

PenguinsHere are some faulty syllogisms:

  1. There is no such thing as anthropogenic global warming.
  2. Professor Plimer says that humans have no effect on climate.
  3. Therefore we don't need carbon trading credits to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
  1. Vaccines contain antifreeze, mercury, formaldehyde and aborted foetuses.
  2. Vaccine critics warn us of the dangers of vaccines.
  3. Therefore vaccines are harmful.

And some arguments from authority, except they are really non sequiturs:

  1. Professor Plimer has fought a long and expensive fight against the idiocy of young earth creationism.
  2. Professor Plimer says that humans have no effect on climate.
  3. Therefore we don't need wind farms, which are ugly and chop up migrating birds.
  1. Robert F Kennedy's father was a famous crusader for civil rights and was murdered.
  2. Robert F Kennedy wrote an article about vaccine dangers for the esteemed medical journal Rolling Stone.
  3. Therefore vaccines cause autism and, as a bonus, resisting vaccination is a matter of civil rights.

Can you see what I am getting at? We need to be careful that we don't do what we accuse others of doing.

Speaking of logic ... (22/8/2009)
This email came in recently:

From: "Michael Cohen"
Subject: Coast to Coast, Richard Hoagland
Date: Fri, 14 Aug 2009 17:31:51 +1000

Some of your entries are just opinion really, not really ratbags, Hoagland is rather respected amongst Ufologists. Coat to coast a mainstream Radio Show-not really promoting paranormal events. Reality is Alien visitation is real and the world is on the threshold of open contact.

Thank you for the advice about Hoagland. Nothing reassures me about someone's veracity quite as much as endorsement by UFO believers.

M Cohen


I have of course added Michael's site to both the Pseudoscience and Buffoonery categories of this site.

And the connection with logic?

  1. Richard Hoagland says that there is a big face on Mars, or at least there used to be before NASA blew it up to hide the evidence.
  2. People who fantasise about visitations from other planets think Hoagland talks sense.
  3. Therefore I should not think that Richard Hoagland is nuts.

See more of XKCD here

It's become an industry (22/8/2009)
Once upon a time the horror of not-a-medical-Dr Viera Scheibner's anti-vaccination campaign against the health of children was confined to the pages of kookery magazines like Nexus, where her association with UFO nuts, hollow Earth believers and assorted conspiracy theorists provided a context which allowed thinking people to evaluate her ideas. Now I find that she has not one but three web sites promoting her insane ideas about vaccination, each a little bit different to the others. Why she needs three is a mystery as most people manage to get by with one and just own different domain names to protect themselves against imposters. I am reminded of that old army marching song which contained the lines "Second verse, same as the first. A little bit louder and a little bit worse".

  • A link check at the start of 2019 showed that all of these sites have disappeared.
    The world's childfren are now much safer.

A new category (22/8/2009)
I have added a new category to the list of a thousand doubtful sites. It contains sites which promote conspiracy theories. It's early days yet and not everyone in the collection is there yet, but I have only a limited capacity for reviewing a thousand web sites. As it says on the Conspiracy page:

The range of conspiracy theories is almost limitless, but a really good one would have the Illuminati working through Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch to implement the policies of the Rothschilds, Jews and Bilderbergs designed to decimate the world's population through vaccination and aircraft contrails (and fluoride in the water) while simultaneously suppressing the cure for cancer so that pharmaceutical companies can continue to make disgusting profits (but not as much profit as the oil companies make from suppression of the water-powered car), and while this is going on governments are disarming the population so the citizens can't fight back when governments stop just blowing up New York office buildings and start using weapons developed from captured alien technology to enforce socialised medicine and atheism in schools. Some of these theories are also nuts.

August 29, 2009

Another shovelful of dirt in the AAE grave (29/8/2009)
The news just keeps getting better about Advanced Allergy Elimination. Now a judge has told them to stop the quackery. Here is the media release from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

Allergy treatment declared misleading

An allergy treatment provider has been found to have misled consumers about the efficacy of its treatments.

Allergy Pathway Pty Ltd, formerly known as Advanced Allergy Elimination Pty Ltd, was the subject of Australian Competition and Consumer Commission action in the Federal Court, Melbourne.

ACCC chairman, Graeme Samuel said an allergic reaction can be severe and in some cases may lead to death.

"With this in mind, claiming to be able to test for, identify and treat a person's allergies and underplaying the associated risks is fraught with danger," Mr Samuel said.

The court has made orders by consent and declared that the company engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct by representing that:

  • it could test for and identify an allergen for a person and/or a substance to which a person is allergic (the company could not do this)
  • it could cure or eliminate virtually all allergies or allergic reactions (the company could not cure or eliminate any allergies or any allergic reactions)
  • it could successfully treat a person's allergies or allergic reactions (the company could not do this)
  • and its treatment was safe and/or low risk and after treatment it was safe for a person to have contact with the substance or allergen to which the person had an adverse reaction (when there were risks associated with the treatment for persons with certain allergies including food allergies).

The notice that the company was ordered to place on its web site was a bit more detailed than the ACCC media release. Here is what that notice said:

The Court has declared that AAE's conduct contravened the TPA because the following representations it made were either not true or were misleading or deceptive:

  1. AAE can test for and identify an allergen for a person; (AAE cannot do this; immunologically mediated allergies such as coeliac disease or food allergies can only be diagnosed by skin prick testing or a special blood test and AAE does not perform these tests)
  2. AAE can cure or eliminate virtually all allergies or allergic reactions, or successfully treat a person's allergies or allergic reactions; (AAE cannot do this; many allergies, including food allergies, cannot be cured or successfully treated)
  3. AAE's treatment is safe and/or low risk, and following treatment it is safe for a person to have contact with an allergen; (as AAE cannot cure, eliminate or successfully treat allergies, it may be unsafe or even potentially life threatening to recommence contact with the allergen).

The court declared that the company's director, Mr Paul Keir, was knowingly concerned in or a party to the company's contraventions. The company and Mr Keir gave undertakings to the court not to engage in similar conduct for a period of three years.

The company also must send letters to current and former customers detailing the contravening conduct and the outcome of the ACCC's action.

The court also ordered the company to publish corrective advertising notices in newspapers, in its clinics and on its website (

In making this order, Justice Finkelstein considered publication of the corrective advertisements was particularly important.

Justice Finkelstein observed, "The impugned statements have the potential to cause real harm. Persons with allergies are best treated by medical practitioners. Further, clients suffering from allergies and taking the treatment provided by AAE may wrongly believe the treatment is effective when it is not. Some treatments may even be dangerous to a client. This state of affairs must be remedied and the provision of corrective advertising is an appropriate means to achieve that result."

Mr Samuel said traders making claims that can't be substantiated can jeopardise public health and safety and run a number of risks, not least of which may be rigorous enforcement action by the ACCC, which may in appropriate cases, involve a criminal prosecution.

This is the ACCC's second successful outcome this week in the area of health claims. Earlier this week the court found two website operators had engaged in misleading conduct in selling medical eBooks which claimed to cure a range of conditions.

Release # NR 210/09
Issued: 27th August 2009

Squealin' about squalene (29/8/2009)
Forget measles viruses tunnelling through gut walls. Forget mercury making red blood cells so heavy that they sink to the feet and draw oxygen away from the brain. The new deadliness in vaccines is the adjuvant, and you know by just looking at the word that you don't like it. You used to just have to worry about aluminium being an adjuvant (it might be the most widely distributed metal on Earth but we haven't evolved to tolerate it in our bodies) but now there is a new terror – squalene. This is an oil, and we all know that oils are bad for us (except essential oils, which are essential). The fact that this oil is being put into vaccines just confirms the link between Big Pharma and Big Oil that we have all known about since the Rockefellers gave medical schools the monopoly on teaching doctors.

Deadly squaleneOh, yes, we all know that doctors and scientists tell us that squalene occurs naturally in the body and we don't have to worry about injecting it directly into the bloodstream because it gets into the blood through the gut (just after they tell us that measles vaccines can't get through those gaping holes in the gut wall and make our e. coli autistic). They try to tell us that it is an essential chemical for one of the steps in the metabolism of cholesterol but who needs cholesterol? What would you expect from doctors anyway? Big Pharma gives them pens.

But wait. I have a dilemma. This is what I found on a web site selling alternative medicines, and we know it must be true because it hasn't been "approved" by the FDA:

Squalene helps strengthen the immune system. Squalene is already present in our bodies, primarily in the skin. As we age, the levels of Squalene decreases, that is why we need to replenish Squalene in our bodies.

I'm confused. Squalene strengthens the immune system when we eat it and it gets into the blood from inside us but it wrecks the immune system when it gets into the blood from vaccines? I'm going to have to eat some gingko biloba to make my brain run faster so that I can understand this.

But let's get serious for a moment. Adjuvants make things work better, so it is possible to use less of other ingredients. (I lost some friends in the anti-vaccination movement by pointing out that salt is an adjuvant used in the manufacture of chicken soup.) Squalene is used in flu vaccines in Europe, where it has been injected into 40 million people without any problems, but will not be in the US swine flu vaccine. This is just another case of fear mongering by anti-vaccination liars, and in this case there can be no doubt that they know they are lying because the facts are so plain. By the way, when I asked some anti-squalene whiners to explain the quote above from a quackery site I received no answer at all, not even the expected non sequitur.

A couple of weeks ago I mentioned a rather irrational conversation I had about squalene with a quack. Here is another example of his debating skills:

Quack:James McCumiskey, author of "The Ultimate Conspiracy: The Biomedical Paradigm," is currently in search of scientific proof for the existence of this novel strain of swine flu virus that could cause a global pandemic and has sent the following email to public health officials and media outlets all over the world:
PB: It must exist, otherwise anti-vaccination liars wouldn't be accusing Baxter of patenting it.
Quack:that is hardly an argument for its existance (sic)

200C BS for H1N1 (29/8/2009)
There might not be a real existing swine flu virus, but there is no shortage of people making things to either prevent infection by it or treat the consequences of exposure. One of my local morning television shows attempted to reach a nadir of the genre by having a segment where they brought together a real doctor working for a vaccine manufacturer and a "recognised world leader in homeopathy" to discuss the possible dangers of any vaccine and the "safe" alternatives. This particular show usually puts videos of the segments up on their web site, and this was no exception. It is not there now, however, and a friend of mine who uploaded it to YouTube had his entire YouTube account closed for copyright violation following a complaint from the television station. Not just this video – his entire account. (By the way, he had so many popular videos at YouTube that he was invited to the launch party for the Australian subsidiary, where he got a t-shirt and a very nice video camera as presents. It's just as well he was highly regarded by YouTube or they might have done more than just dump his account.) Did I mention that when I did a search at YouTube for other violations of the show's copyright I received the message ""9am david kim" results 1 – 20 of about 203"? Someone used the word "hypocrisy" when discussing this on the show's online forum.

I'm not about to risk my YouTube account (they weren't so savage back when Benny Hinn lied about me violating his copyright), so I'll only put the video here. Note how the real doctor sometimes has a sign saying "Vaccine Warning". To be fair, the homeopath should have occasionally had to appear behind a sign saying "Magic Warning". Also notice how polite the doctor was.

I wrote to the television station for more information, but I haven't yet received a reply.

I missed the show on August 24 when Isaac Golden was again given time to promote homeopathy. I was, however, made aware of the video of his appearance on April 29 when he made some unsupported (and unchallenged) claims about the power of his particular from of magic. There is a current discussion on the 9am forum about this.

I can't find a video of the August 24 show segment with Isaac Golden and Dr Petrovsky. Is it available?

Thank you.

Here is Dr Golden's previous appearance on the show. My comments on the show's online forum are below the video. Supposedly, this forum is the way of engaging the producers of the show but the only responses came from some of my friends and a lone anti-vaccinator who just read from the usual script.

Surely alarm bells should have started ringing when Isaac Golden admitted that homeopathic preparations contain no active ingredients. The man might be an expert in his field, but you can be an expert on the flight patterns of tooth fairies without fairies actually existing.

Dr Golden also called on the World Health Organisation in an attempt to validate homeopathy with a form of the fallacy Argument From Authority. The WHO issued a statement condemning homeopathy just this week. You can read it here.

I was also less than impressed with Dr Golden's apparent support for real vaccination, as distinct from treatment with magic water. Dr Golden is a regular speaker at events organised by implacable opponents of vaccination such as the Australian Vaccination Network. Nobody gets into these functions unless they are a true believer in the evils of vaccination, so he seems to be flexible on this matter.

You can read some comments about homeopathy here and here, and an article in Australasian Science magazine here.

Speaking of tooth fairies ... (29/8/2009)
I had a tooth extracted last week. This very simple procedure took almost ninety minutes and involved four rounds of local anesthetic injected into various parts of my gum. My face still feels like I am the losing contender. When Christopher Hitchens comes to Sydney next month I'm going to make a point of telling him that waterboarding is child's play. By the third attempt to get the tooth out I was telling the dentist things I had been hiding from the tax office for years, and if the tooth hadn't come out when it did I would have soon been shouting out the location of the cash and bodies. Thank goodness the television show Big Brother isn't on any more or I would have been saying that I loved it.

CreationWiki! Wow! (29/8/2009)
I Creation Wikiwas doing a link check this week and when I went looking for the content of a dead creationist site (that's a dead site, not a site about a dead creationist) I found something wonderful. I found the CreationWiki, self-described as the "Encyclopedia of Creation Science". I felt an immediate urge to jump in and edit the entry for "oxymoron" as soon as I saw the words "creation" and "science" together, but I thought I should wait until I was familiar with the project. (Perhaps they apply the Wikipedia rules, where apparently you can't edit anything unless you have edited something else before. Perhaps I misunderstand the policy, but that would be consistent with the policy that had a friend of mine almost banned from editing because he was confining himself to matters where he actually had some expertise.)

I look forward to many useful hours spent perusing the content of this warehouse of knowledge. You might think that this would be a waste of time, but consider this – I have just spent several hours reading Simon Singh's book Big Bang, a history of the science that led us to our current understanding of the state of the universe. I could have saved all of those hours if I had just read the CreationWiki entry for cosmic chronology, where I could find "Creation scientists study astronomical processes and attempt to explain stellar phenomena from the presupposition that celestial bodies were created by God. Most creationists also draw from religious texts (such as the Bible) for insight. The Bible dates the universe as having the same age as that of the Earth or just over 6000 years. There is indeed much evidence to support the contention that our solar system, galaxies and even the entirety of the universe is very young". So there, take that Hoyle and Hubble – you were both wrong!

I love the smell of miracle cures in the morning (29/8/2009)
Noel Batten sells eBooks which purport to offer cures for some diseases, particularly Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. He was brought to my attention in the same week that by coincidence the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission had managed to shut down what appears to be an identical scam. To clear up any confusion, I emailed Mr Batten to see if I could get any further information.

Dear Mr Batten,

I notice on your web site that you sell eBooks with cures for Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. I wonder if the recent successful action by the ACCC against two publishers of eBooks offering miracle cures might have any application to your activities. In case you haven't seen it, the media release from the ACCC says:

International cooperation closes internet health cure scam

International cooperation between Australian and American agencies has shut down an internet medical eBook scam.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has obtained final orders, by consent, in the Federal Court of Australia against two individuals, Leanne Rita Vassallo and Aaron David Smith of Cecil Hills, New South Wales, for false, misleading and deceptive conduct in relation to a health cure scam.

The scam was brought to the ACCC's attention by the Washington State Attorney General's Department and our investigation was carried out in conjunction with them. They have also filed their own proceedings against Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith in the King County Court, Washington State, US.

The ACCC has also been working with the NSW Police.

The ACCC's court action alleged that over two years Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith operated a large number of websites selling eBooks containing claimed cures for a wide range of health conditions including acne, asthma, multiple sclerosis, fibromyalgia, menopause and prostate cancer.

The court was satisfied that Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith sold the eBooks to more than 60,000 consumers internationally.

The websites were similar as each was dedicated to a particular medical condition. They featured a person who had supposedly suffered from the condition and had purportedly discovered an effective home remedy. Across a number of different websites the photograph of the author was the same, but with different names. The websites also contained testimonials from happy users of the eBooks. The testimonials were from the same people across numerous different websites. The ACCC's expert evidence was to the effect that the treatments would not have any therapeutic benefits for, or medical efficacy in the treatment of the health conditions.

On 30 July 2009 before Justice Moore, the ACCC obtained interlocutory injunctions, by consent, restraining Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith from engaging in the conduct on any website pending final hearing. The injunctions also required the respondents to take down the websites.

At the final hearing on Thursday 20 August 2009, Justice Graham, in an ex tempore judgment, found that Ms Vassallo and Mr Smith had engaged in false, misleading and deceptive conduct.

He described them as "purveyors of quack medical advice and of quack medicine."

He reached the conclusion that the testimonials were plainly contrived. He noted that the evidence showed that the respondents had received more than $US 1 million from the sale of the eBooks.

Justice Graham also made injunctions on a final basis preventing the respondents from making these or similar representations in the future. The respondents were also ordered to pay the ACCC's costs.

AACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said: "This is a warning to all internet scammers. It is becoming more and more common for agencies such as the ACCC to work with international agencies to bring about the demise of international scams like this."

Release # NR 205/09
Issued: 25th August 2009

I don't know whether the ACCC is aware of your activities, but they are probably the best people to decide whether the Vassallo and Smith ruling applies to you. In order to speedily resolve any doubt I have contacted the ACCC with the following message:

I refer to the ACCC media release # NR 205/09 "International cooperation closes internet health cure scam".

Noel Batten appears to be offering the same sort of eBooks as did Vassallo and Smith. In particular, he has two web sites offering books that claim to contain cures for Parkinson's Disease and Multiple Sclerosis. – Parkinsons Disease Cure – eBook – The Greatest Medical Blunder – Multiple Sclerosis Cure – eBook – The greatest medical mistake

As both the page titles and the domain names contain the word "cure" it would be hard for Mr Batten to make a credible case that he was not offering cures for these conditions. Although neither domain name has a ".au" and Mr Batten seems to spend a lot of time overseas, both sites display Australian telephone numbers.

The claims of cures, the promulgation of these "cures" through eBooks and the reliance on unsubstantiated anecdotes make it apparent that Mr Batten is doing what Vassallo and Smith were doing and I encourage the ACCC to take the same action against him as was taken against them.

Thank you

I look forward to receiving your comments about this matter. As is my usual policy, this email and any responses will be published on my web site at

Thank you.

Mr Batten was not pleased and tried to lie his way out of it. I was not impressed. Read his email and my reply here.

Somewhere else for the time to go (29/8/2009)
I'm Yahoo!7 Newsthe first contributor to a blog at the Yahoo!7 News web site. It's an outlet for Australian Skeptics and the first article is an introduction to skepticism. I don't know if I will be writing the story every week, but I'm sure I can find some provocative material somewhere whenever I need to. As the thing only started a few days ago it needs some publicity and some readers (and commenters) if it is going to be worth continuing, so get yourself over to the Yahoo!7 News site and get involved.

Guest columnist (29/8/2009)
I can't write all this stuff myself, so occasionally I have to call on a guest columnist. This week it's Robert Ingersoll with an essay titled "Which Way?"

Robert IngersollI occasionally get asked if I am related to Nathaniel Bowditch, the famous mathematician, and there are a couple of musicians and sportspeople with the same name as well. My reply is always that if there are genes for ability at sport, music or mathematics then I am probably not related to any of these people as I am spectacularly deficient in all these skills. Ingersoll is also somewhat of a rare name, and it so happens that Nathaniel married Mary Ingersoll. Perhaps my atheist genes came from that side of the family. (Nathaniel and Mary's granddaughter, Fanny, married Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr, another of my heroes. Holmes' father and Henry Bowditch were significant contributors to the invention of modern medicine. I really, really want to be related to these people.)

Which Way?

There are two ways, -- the natural and the supernatural.

One way is to live for the world we are in, to develop the brain by study and investigation, to take, by invention, advantage of the forces of nature, to the end that we may have good houses, raiment and food, to the end that the hunger of the mind may be fed through art and science.

The other way is to live for another world that we expect, to sacrifice this life that we have for another that we know not of. The other way is by prayer and ceremony to obtain the assistance, the protection of some phantom above the clouds.

One way is to think -- to investigate, to observe, and follow, the light, of reason. The other way is to believe, to accept, to follow, to deny the authority of your own senses, your own reason, and bow down to those who are impudent enough to declare that they know.

One way is to live for the benefit of your fellowmen -- for your wife and children -- to make those you love happy and to shield them from the sorrows of life.

The other way is to live for ghosts, goblins, phantoms and gods with the hope that they will reward you in another world.

One way is to enthrone reason and rely on facts, the other to crown credulity and live on faith.

One way is to walk by the light within -- by the flame that illumines the brain, verifying all by the senses -- by touch and sight and sound.

The other way is to extinguish the sacred light and follow blindly the steps of another.

One way is to be an honest man, giving to others your thought, standing erect, intrepid, careless of phantoms and hells.

The other way is to cringe and crawl, to betray your nobler self and to deprive others of the liberty that you have not the courage to enjoy.

Read the rest here.


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