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Robert Todd Carroll


 

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logo.gif (2126 bytes)the Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter 45

August 7, 2004

"The unexamined life is not worth living." --Socrates
"For modern Americans, only the unexamined life is worth living." Michael Dirda *

In this issue: Five new easy pieces and a few revisions; Pravda online is just as truthful as Pravda offline; Target pulls the string on Kabbalah red string; some feedback on cancer treatments; sign up for a trip to meet the Hollow Earth people; traditional Chinese medicine catching up with modern science?

Changes in the Skeptic's Dictionary

Since the last newsletter I have added several new entries:

I also revised the ganzfeld and PEAR (Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) entries.

I updated the infrasound entry to include information provided by Vic Tandy, one of the first to connect infrasound to paranormal experiences. And I updated the Amway entry to include information on Team of Destiny, Amway's latest venture, including a link to a very good site that examines the Team of Destiny program.

Pravda

Most people of my generation (Gen XY) know Pravda means "truth" and is the name of the state-controlled newspaper of Russia. Now comes Pravda the website. If you read it here, it must be true. For example, there is a story about Henry Silanov, a Russian geologist who claims he has invented a camera that can take pictures of the past. He says he has a collection of 80 photographs of aliens, paranormal activities, dinosaurs, and people from the past whose pictures were taken many years after they died. How is this possible? Silanov believes that the dead are trying to say that they have not vanished, that they live somewhere in a parallel world, and are watching over us. According to the article, however, "Henry is a skeptic person." I like skeptic persons, so Henry must be okay.

Pravda also has stories about Jesus Christ being born in the Ukraine, a boy from Mars, sexual contact with aliens, an extraterrestrial visit to Russia, and a story that proclaims Fidel Castro: "Bush couldn't debate a Cuban ninth-grader"--stories that would make The National Enquirer blush with envy.

Target pulls its Kabbalah red string ad

If you went to the Target website looking for Kabbalah red string and couldn't find the ad, you probably weren't alone. The item, hot with celebrities like Madonna, has been removed from the online shopping list of hot items. This may have been because of consumer complaints. However, Target online still offers Kabbalah: The Red String Book: Technology for the Soul by Yehuda Berg.

Cancer Treatments

Richard Gunther of New Zealand writes:

Dear Bob, thanks once again for an interesting read.

I was particularly drawn to the comments about cancer therapy, having had to stay by my mother for about two years while she died of cancer. After three major operations and a lot of chemotherapy she finally succumbed, but every day there were friends and helpers with her, and many times this constant love and support made a huge difference. She also tried 'wheatgrass', which she said she thought contributed to her general health as she died--a strange expression admittedly. Personally, I think the wheatgrass therapy was of very minor help. What I saw as the most important contribution was the compassion, prayers, and love shown to her every day--there was even a married couple who saw it as their calling in life to visit and help cancer patients, and their visits were most welcome.

As I see it, cancer can be cured at times by 'conventional' medicine, and I myself would choose this line of defense long before I tried anything else. The pain killers are also superb. I saw them in action in my father's final days as he too died of cancer, but he went without pain, and even in the last day of his life he was able to sit up in bed and converse with his friends.

As I see it, old age, sickness, and death are all part and parcel of this world and happy is the man who maintains good health, but when cancer comes, the tried and tested methods of cure are far superior to the alternatives that rest on anecdotes and untested claims.

As Richard and most of my readers know, even though conventional cancer treatment has been very successful, we expect miracles and this opens the door to quacks--some criminal and some well meaning--who take advantage of desperate people.

***

Paul Mulshine writes:

As a journalist who does much debunking of health idiocies, I was very interested in your piece on the Gerson cure. I had a friend who was dying of cancer whose wife inflicted it on him. I had just researched a piece on coffee and the liver citing two peer-reviewed reports showing that coffee has a remarkably protective effect in protecting the liver against alcohol consumption. It stimulates the production of an enzyme that causes the liver to better absorb alcohol. This of course got me thinking about the coffee enemas that my unfortunate friend was getting at the time. The quack in question had informed her, to her amazement, that the large intestine is directly connected to the liver. The proper answer to this observation is to say: Of course it is; that's how we digest food. But she was led to believe that this is a magical pathway through which coffee taken up the anus can get to the liver. A moment's reflection, however, shows that the coffee will also get to the liver if it arrives in the other direction. In other words, you could simply drink it and it would go into the large intestine and thence into the liver. This is so obvious that it is barely worth mentioning, but if one of these quacks simply told the patient, "Drink a lot of coffee; it's good for your liver," the patient would realize he could get the same treatment at Starbuck's.

Better advice to the cancer patient might be to just cut out the alcohol!

Voyage to the Center of the Hollow Earth

Emily Oren writes: "People will believe any kind of gobbledygook, but it's sometimes shocking how much effort and money they'll put into it."  Emily notes that Steve Currey's Expedition Company of Provo, Utah, has chartered a Russian Nuclear Icebreaker from Adventure Associates and is signing up people for a trip to inner earth via the alleged North Polar Opening. Currey believes that the people there are the legendary Lost Tribes of Israel and are highly advanced and friendly.

Departure is scheduled for June 26, 2006. A deposit of $18,950 to $20,950 is required. In a footnote, Currey writes "Please note that if we are unable to find the Polar opening, we will be returning via the New Siberian Islands to visit skeleton remains of exotic animals thought to originate from Inner Earth." For more information on the hollow Earth people, click here.

Modern Medical Science Catching Up with the Ancients?

Guy Shrimptom of the UK writes:

It's all very well being skeptical of everything, after all each man has the right to believe or not to believe, but how do YOU then rationalize the existence of a soul, in addition to the body? Maybe you don't; maybe all you have left is bitterness and cynicism. If that is true, it's a shame, because you clearly have a sharp mind--it's a shame that it's bent on destruction rather than creation.

Guy, I don't rationalize the existence of the soul because, in my view, there is no such thing as a soul, if by soul you mean a non-physical entity capable of perception and self-awareness. On the other hand, bitterness and cynicism characterize many believers in the soul. And many of those believers have been great destroyers of the beautiful creations of Nature and of other people.

As a single counter for all your arguments in your dictionary, let me just point to the fact that "modern" science is still catching up with, and proving correct ancient Chinese and other alternative (natural product) medicines. Science is proving that ancient theories about the development of the earth, the age of the earth, the age of Humanity itself are more correct than not, whilst debunking previous "facts" of western science.

I asked Guy what evidence he had that science is proving the theories of the ancients. He replied:

Evidence? Well I can roll out no evidence as such--only that so many alternative medicine products are being scientifically proven to have benefits to the returning to balance of the human body. Many medicines that were being prescribed thousands of years ago, and even just hundreds of years ago, back to the middle ages, are now being rediscovered--the difference is that science is just trying to find out why rather than accepting it...

Supplements can be given for things that science cannot yet understand, such as Chronic Fatigue that have proved to have great benefits--over time science analyses them, breaks them down, highlights the specific chemical or combination and tries to re-create it but without much success.

Not being one to be contrary for the sake of being contrary, I thought I would provide some evidence for Guy's position. Recently, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, who is an acquaintance of my wife, brought her some Chinese tea and herbs to cure her cold. I can attest that this tea and these herbs worked miracles. Within two weeks, my wife's cold was gone and I managed to avoid the cold altogether. The miracle is that all we had to do was touch the boxes of tea and herbs. We didn't even have to open them, much less use them to release their magic healing powers. We put them in a cupboard, thinking they'd be useless, but boy did we get a surprise when we realized how effective they were.

***

note: For some reason, The Register-Guard, which has Dirda's essay online, omitted the paragraph that reads: "Instead of reading Toqueville or Henry Adams, we just check out the latest blogs. We turn toward the bright and shiny, the meretricious tinsel, the strings of eye-catching beads for which we exchange our intellectual birthright as for a mess of pottage. For modern Americans, only the unexamined life is worth living."

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