Monday, November 03, 2014

Is anybody still out there?

Wow, been almost a year since I made that last post. I keep thinking of stuff I should post, but never getting around to writing anything. Should I bother? Is anyone paying attention?

Friday, November 08, 2013

Because I'm busy, that's why!

(Not really, I have a couple of things rolling around in my head that I might get around to blogifying, shortly.)

Meanwhile, Glock21 is blogging again. Go. Read.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Quackademic medicine comes to UIUC VetMed

A few weeks ago, I was dismayed to see this article, "UI group visits China to study veterinary acupuncture" in the News-Gazette. Two faculty and seventeen students took a 10-day trip to China to study veterinary acupuncture and learned about "'yin-yang theory,' 'five elements,' 'qi, blood and body fluid,' and the acupuncture points of the horse and dog." It's upsetting because veterinary acupuncture, like all acupuncture, doesn't work but, this time, it involves the suffering of pets and animals.
And what a waste of money this was! A ten day trip all the way to chine for nearly twenty people to study pseudoscience? The cost of the airfare alone was probably close to $20,000. God knows how much the courses to study nonexistent qi and pseudoscientific theories of disease like the five elements cost. This is irresponsible and wasteful. It's no different than a group from the Chemistry department traveling to Greece to learn about the Aristotelian four elements or students from the College of Medicine going to Italy to learn about the four humors theory of disease. 
Everything in the original article is completely credulous; no attention to a skeptical voice is given. That's not surprising considering that it is simply a word-for-word republication of a press release put out by UIUC's Office of Public Engagement. From the press release:

According to Dr. Clark-Price, acupuncture can be used on any species at any age. Dogs are his most common acupuncture patients, followed by horses and the occasional cow.

Well, yeah, it can be used on any species because it doesn't do anything. It's amusing that he mentions acupuncture on horses. The meridians (the invisible lines along which magical qi flows) for horses were drawn from those of humans, including the gallbladder meridian, even though horses don't have gallbladders.
I use the term "quackademic" in the title of this post (actually I'm stealing it from Orac, who apparently got it from someone else), because this kind of pseudoscience has been increasingly spreading throughout the medical community in recent years. I understand why; it's profitable, it poses no threat to the patient (because it does nothing), and they keep coming back for more of it (because it does nothing). But teaching pseudoscientific quackery as medicine is poisonous. Is this really the kind of education students get at VetMed? What's next, homeopathy and crystal healing?

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Crappy science denialist arguments from Illinois Review

I'm only now getting around to it, but a few weeks ago, there was a rather badly-argued climate change denialist post over at Illinois Review by Nancy Thorner. It comes after President Obama's ObamaHitler's speech where he referred to global warming denialists as "the flat-earth society." (Ironically, there actually is a Flat Earth Society and their President accepts climate change.) It always kind of pisses me off when science gets distorted for political means.

Thorner, who's primary qualification is apparently that she writes a lot of Letters to the Editor of local newspapers, can't even seem to come up with a coherent argument. First she quotes the Heritage Foundation quoting a denialist think tank:

But let's pretend we were able to stop emitting all carbon immediately... No talking. The Science and Public Policy Institute found that the global temperature would decrease by 0.17 degrees Celsius -- by 2100.

What she fails to mention is that the "we" in the above quote is the US only, not worldwide. It's not at all surprising that a global problem can not be fixed by the action of one country with a fraction of the world's population. This might be an argument that global warming is irreversible, but it's not a valid argument that it's not happening.

It should be a warning sign when your first go-to authorities on a scientific matter is a bunch of interlocking political think tanks, not scientists.

Next, she punts to a video, no longer available, put out by the Heartland Institute, another right-wing think tank.

Thirdly, she quotes Alan Caruba the founder of the National Anxiety Center, which sounds like it should be a medical organization, but is actually a right-wing think tank. Caruba is also a member of -- again -- the Heartland Institute. This has got to be the dumbest fucking argument I've ever heard for anything, anywhere:

Carbon dioxide (CO2) is not a pollutant. It is essential to all life on Earth insofar as it is vital for all plant life, from a blade of grass to a giant redwood, but most essential to the growth of the crops that are the basis of feeding humanity and the livestock it depends upon as a food source.

The Earth and of living things on it would benefit from more carbon dioxide, but the president is asserting the very opposite of this while vilifying CO2 and the business and industrial sectors that produce it in the process of manufacturing everything a society requires.

Seriously, because CO2 is used by plants, we can't possibly ever have too much of it. That's a mind-numbingly stupid as saying because sunlight is necessary for plant life, it can't cause skin cancer. Or that because we all need water, the flooding along the Missouri river the past couple of years couldn't possibly be bad for farms or homes.

And it's this next argument that really fucking pisses me off. Unfortunately, it's probably going to need a blog post of it's own because it will probably be long. But, no, NASA has not disproved global warming.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

I'm calling bullshit on the "government stole my bees" story

In the past few days, a story has been circulating about Terrence Ingram, an Illinois beekeeper that had his bees "illegally" taken by Department of Agriculture officials and destroyed. Furthermore, this destroyed his "decades of research" in breeding a "Roundup immune" strain of bees. I'm sorry, but everything I've read about this story just isn't credible.

First of all, there are no sources. Or as Wikipedia would put it, no reliable sources. I've seen a couple of people post links to this article at GlobalResearch, also a 9/11 troofer site. There is exactly one hit on this in Google News, which turns out to be a blog post at SouthMilwaukeeNOW.com, which cites as its original source this article at Packalert Press, which also thinks the recent OK tornado was artificially created by Obama to distract from the IRS scandal. The site that seems to have written the most about it is Prairie Advocate, which could have published a press release written by Ingram and it probably wouldn't have looked any different.

This whole story stinks. This guy claims to have been performing "research" on the effect of Roundup on bees for decades. There's nothing in Google Scholar by this guy; not a single paper. After having done over 10 years of research, no one suddenly comes out with groundbreaking results having published nothing in the meantime. Ingram claims he was about to reveal proof(!) that Roundup, everyone's favorite bugaboo, causes colony collapse disorder. Well, I'm sorry, but it's not like that hasn't occurred to anyone before. The exact cause of colony collapse disorder is unknown, but it's likely a combination of a number of factors, including parasites, viruses, and environmental toxins like pesticides.

What's a lot more likely is that this guy's hives were infected with American foulbrood, a highly contagious and incurable disease that can spread from hive to hive. In fact, that's exactly what the Department of Agriculture found when they inspected his hives and sent samples to a lab. They notified him multiple times of the fact that foulbrood had been detected in his hives and he was ordered to burn them. He continued to refuse and months later, the DoA came in, seized the hives, and (presumably) destroyed them, as they are legally allowed to do.

Ingram is outraged (outraged, I say!) that the DoA even inspected his hives. The Prairie Advocate story quotes Ingram as saying, "The State Department of Agriculture came in and inspected our hives 4 times, 3 times when we were not home, and without due process. I have never received or found a Search Warrant." Furthermore, several of the articles and blog posts on this around the Web claim that these bees were seized "illegally."

Did you know that Illinois has a Bees and Apiaries Act? Neither did I, but yes, Illinois has an entire section of the law on the keeping of bees. 510 ILCS 20/2-4 says, "The Department shall have the power to inspect ... any bees, colonies, items of bee equipment or apiary. For the purpose of inspection, the Director is authorized during reasonable business hours to enter into or upon any property used for the purpose of beekeeping." So the DoA did not need to serve Ingram with a warrant to inspect his bee hives.

Furthermore, they were entirely within their rights to seize and destroy the infected hives. After Ingram had refused multiple times to deal with the infected hives, the DoA has the authority to do it for him (and send him a bill, at that). From 510 ILCS 20/2c, "In carrying out the provisions of this Section or any quarantine, the Director may, at the expense of the owner, when an infestation, infection or nuisance is located, seize or abate bees, colonies, or items of used bee equipment."

So there simply is no story here. There was no violation of the law. There was no illegal seizure of bees or bee hives. But the fact that this guy claims to have been doing "research" into Roundup means this story is going to be flogged by Monsanto-hating activists from one end of the Internet to the other.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Don Gerard: Vindicated

There's been a lot of speculation online about this whole kerfluffle between Mayor Don Gerard and Jim "Jammin" Bean, what caused it, who started the argument at Boneyard Creek Community Day a few weeks ago, etc. I can now say I have seen one of the social media postings involved and that, yes, Bean was talking smack about Mayor Gerard's underage daughter.

I also want to say that Mayor Gerard is under no obligation to make the details about this whole affair public. He's been taking some heat in the News-Gazette and elsewhere about it. If he is doing so because his daughter doesn't want to make a big deal about it or is just embarrassed by the attention, I commend him for putting her interests above his own defense.

Again, in this matter, I'm 110% behind Mayor Gerard.

Screenshots are forever, bitches.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Illinois Review is lying about sex education

Illinois Review is lying about the new sexual health education policy the Chicago Board of Education adopted last month. They write (emphasis mine):

It's never too young to teach your children about sex. At least that's what the Chicago Public Schools (CPS) has determined. Despite what parents might decide is best for their individual child, CPS will be teaching all 5-year olds the physiology, vocabulary, and methodology of sex rather than reading, writing and arithmetic.

This is flatly, blatantly untrue. Thanks to the wonder of the Internet, you can read the new policy for yourself. First of all, the policy explicitly allows parents to opt their children out of these lessons. So much for not allowing parents to "decide what is best" for their children.

Secondly, the policy basically just says Chicago public schools will follow the National Sexuality Education Standards, put out jointly by four national health and education organizations. Again, the Internet is a wonderful thing and you can read the standards for yourself.

The standards say nothing about teaching the "methodology of sex" to kindergartners  The entirety of the section on reproduction for grades K-2 is that students will be able to "explain that all living things reproduce." That's it. No field trips to the local adult novelties store. No in-class readings of Hustler.

In other words, the policy the Chicago Board of Education adopted means that kindergartners will be able to make sense of this pornographic photo (via Flickr):


Much of the standards for the K-2 section involve teaching children how to recognize and how to respond to bad touching. It tells children that they can "tell others not to touch their body when they do not want to be touched." It also says children should know they can tell parents and other trusted adults they can tell about someone touching them.