Episode 121: “Dreams from My Real Father”

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Gem, and Laura talk about yet another conspiracy film, and Gem closes out the episode with an Alex Jones–themed quiz.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a podcast that delves into issues of science, critical thinking, and secular humanism.

Links: No more religious exemptions: Montreal is taxing churches (CTV Montreal News ) | Montreal churches fear stricter taxation after visits from inspectors (Montreal Gazette) | Dreams from My Real Father (Wikipedia) | Barack Obama (Wikipedia) | Frank Marshall Davis (Wikipedia) | Alex Jones (radio host) (Wikipedia)

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Episode 117: Trump

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Gem, Ashlyn, Laura, Lauren, and Brendan discuss a few of the many myths and conspiracy theories endorsed by Donald Trump, and Brendan points out that a simple fact check isn’t enough.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Note: For further context on Trump, fact-checking, border control, and claims of journalistic objectivity, Gem recommends these excellent episodes of On the Media: The Game Has Changed (On the Media) | The Ties That Bind (On the Media) | What We Know About the Border (On the Media)

Links: Episode 110: Science & Race (LUEE) | Non-Muslims Carried Out More than 90% of All Terrorist Attacks in America (Global Research) | New Research Shows That More Immigration Means Higher Wages for All Workers in Cities (CityLab) | 3 Ways to Immigrate to USA (uscitizenship) | Immigration and the Economic Status of African-American Men (SSRN) | Unskilled Workers Lose Out to Immigrants (NYTimes.com) | An Aging U.S. is Revitalized by Immigrants (NYTimes.com) | Immigrants Are Replacing, Not Displacing, Workers (NYTimes.com) | Immigration Doesn’t Hurt Native Jobs or Wages in the U.S., Report Finds (Time) | Immigrant Employment by State and Industry (Pew) | Does Illegal Immigration Disadvantage American Workers? (ProCon.org) | Immigrants Aren’t Stealing American Jobs (The Atlantic) | Barack Obama citizenship conspiracy theories (Wikipedia) | Central Park jogger case (Wikipedia) | COINTELPRO (Wikipedia) | What an Uncensored Letter to M.L.K. Reveals (The New York Times) | Episode 101: “Trace Amounts” (LUEE) | 10 facts on immunization (WHO) | About Vaccines (Manitoba Health) | The GOP’s dangerous “debate” on vaccines and autism (The Washington Post) | Trump team denies skeptic Robert F. Kennedy Jr. was asked to head vaccine commission (CNNPolitics.com) | Gregg Phillips: Trump’s Favorite Voter-Fraud Activist (The Atlantic) | 25% of Voters Believe President Trump’s Unfounded Voter Fraud Claim (Time) | President Trump’s Voter-Fraud Expert Was Registered to Vote in Three States (Time) | President Trump Vowed to Investigate Voter Fraud. Then Lawmakers Voted to Eliminate an Election Commission (Time) | Arguments from Global Warming Skeptics and what the science really says (Skeptical Science) | Fact Check: Trump’s Cabinet Picks on Human-Caused Global Warming | Ice-albedo feedback (Wikipedia) | Yes, Donald Trump did call climate change a Chinese hoax (PolitiFact) | 2012 Benghazi attack (Wikipedia) | A Comprehensive Guide To Benghazi Myths And Facts | Hillary Clinton emails – what’s it all about? (BBC News) | Essays: To Profile or Not to Profile? (Schneier on Security) | Protestors call on mayor to make Winnipeg a sanctuary city (Winnipeg Free Press)

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Episode 114: Ray Comfort’s “Atheist Delusion”

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Lauren, Gem, and Laura review Ray Comfort’s new “documentary” with special guests Ash Burkowski and David Bonwick, and the panel bids farewell to evangelical cartoonist Jack Chick with a game of Jack or Fiction.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Links: Bad Science Watch | NHP Monograph Consultations (Bad Science Watch) | TRC #420: Origin of 420 + Gem Newman of Bad Science Watch + History Of Halloween (The Reality Check) | The Atheist Delusion (YouTube) | Checkmate, Atheists! (YouTube) | Jack Chick (RationalWiki) | Leonard Nimoy Gallery (NSFW)

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Episode 113: “Unsealed: Conspiracy Files”

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, we’re trying something completely different! Are rich people harvesting organs from clones? Did Hitler fake his own death (six times)? Are CIA remote viewers peering inside your mind? Join Ashlyn and Lauren as they watch “Unsealed: Conspiracy Files” to find out!

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics.

Correction: While it has been widely reported that the Mars Curiosity Rover sings itself “Happy Birthday” every year, and this did indeed occur in 2013, it seems to have been a one-time event (but this has been frustratingly difficult to verify).

Links: Unsealed: Conspiracy Files (IMDb)

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Or you could just eat them…

Crossposted from Dietitian at Home.


Food fads are one of my pet peeves. I fully admit I get my back up when I hear about most new “health” food trends, probably sooner and more often than I should. Each one comes in like a saviour on a steed claiming to cure us of our unhealthy ways, then slowly fades away, only to be resurrected the following decade.

Public domain image of orange juice via Wikimedia Commons.
Public domain image of orange juice via Wikimedia Commons.
Juicing is the trend du jour, purporting to provide mega doses of vitamins and to enable said nutrients to be absorbed more effectively than through the traditional chew-and-swallow method. This article did some great investigation and discusses the truths and fallacies of these claims. In a nut shell, higher doses of vitamins, be it through juice or supplements, are only effective if you’re deficient. Once you’ve got enough, you pee out the rest. To put it another way, if your body’s stores of vitamin C are at 100%, it doesn’t matter whether your orange-cucumber-kale-beet-arugula juice has 100%, 200%, or 1000% of the DRI (daily recommended intake) of vitamin C, you will pee it all out. So, for the people privileged enough to have a huge supply of vegetables and a juicer, nutrient deficiency is incredibly unlikely and juicing couldn’t plausibly realize the claims made in its favour.

This actually brings up a few bigger issues I have with the juicing trend. The first is that for each serving of juice made, frequently 5 or more whole vegetables and/or fruits are used, with some recommendations as high as several pounds of juiced vegetables daily. By most standards, that is a LOT of vegetables. Look, I’m all for encouraging fruit and vegetable intake since fewer than half of Canadians meet the recommended minimum intake. We should fill our plates and fill up on vegetables, but we still don’t need to over consume. This also makes juicing a costly endeavour, making it effectively inaccessible to the large number of people who struggle to afford enough food on a regular basis.

The next issue I have with juicing is the claim that putting all the nutrients in liquid form is somehow needed due to poor digestion (N.B. not likely a real phenomenon for most healthy people) and that this liquid form allows for super-fast absorption for nutrients. Let’s be clear, unless you are seriously dehydrated or have literally swallowed a whole cucumber, standard vegetables WILL be liquid once they reach your small intestines as they have been chewed, mixed with saliva, churned, and mixed with stomach acid. This is basic ingestion and digestion. The real issue with turning solid food into juice is the assumption that we only need vegetables for the vitamins within (like a leafy, green vitamin pill), but this is simply not the case. Health benefits come from eating WHOLE vegetables, including the fibrous parts. The interactions or nutrients within our foods and within our bodies is incredibly complex, and there are undoubtedly many compounds within our veggies and fruits with beneficial effects we have yet to discover. Removing a large fraction of these foods may actually result in us losing nutrients.

My last issue with the juicing trend is that it turns fibre-rich plants into fibre-less juice. Given that most North Americans need more fibre, this seems like a poor nutritional strategy. Luckily (and hilariously) it seems that others have picked up on this and offer suggestions on how to deal with all that vegetable pulp. So this food trend is effectively take all the fibre out and then find ways to put it back in. Which is better than nothing, I suppose.

This whole scenario begs the question: given all the work and expense it takes to make juice, then the additional work to manipulate vegetable pulp into your regular recipes, wouldn’t it just be simpler (and cheaper, and faster) to just eat your vegetables?

Unsexy Nutrition Advice

Crossposted from Dieitian at Home.


Green Tea
Green tea image CC BY 3.0 by user USAGI-WRP from Wikimedia Commons.

In my professional practice I try hard to avoid hyped-up buzz words and phrases like “loaded”, “super-food”, “tonnes of”, “packed with”, “breakthough”, “incredible powers”, etc. These are attention-getters, they draw in the audience. They try to make healthy eating sexy and exciting. The thing is, I don’t feel they have much of a place in the world of nutrition.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the science of health and nutrition is fascinating, and I love teaching people about it. There is always something new and interesting being tested and everyday we learn new things about how our bodies interact with the foods we consume. The problem is that nutrition science is relatively new (we only discovered the first vitamin about 100 years ago) and it is notoriously hard to study accurately and in a way that is meaningful outside of a tightly controlled laboratory setting. These factors necessitate additional scrutiny when new or controversial findings arise and slow, cautious adoption of new guidelines for healthy eating.

Miracle Fruit
Public domain image of miracle fruit image by Hamale Lyman via Wikimedia Commons.

The best nutrition advice you’ll hear is probably the same old things we’ve all be hearing for years: eat lots of plants, drink water, avoid eating out too often, limit or avoid processed foods, get lots of fibre, eat less sugar. There’s really nothing sexy about this, but these are the principles of healthy eating that have stood the test of time and research reproducibility. Stories and claims of “miracle” foods (not to be confused with miracle fruit) generally don’t hold up, and it’s unfair to promote these ideas without sufficient evidence or science-based rationale.

Similarly, labelling foods as being “loaded” with specific nutrients implies that they are automatically healthier than other foods. Foods with less of a specific nutrient are not always worse, and more is not always better; it all depends on the context and an individual’s specific needs. This type of information should be interpreted and dispensed by a qualified professional (aka someone with an accredited education who has done more than just read the wikipedia entry for vitamin X).

We fall in love with nutrition trends quickly. We want a fast, passionate, lust-filled romance with every new bit of nutrition advice and research: a spring fling that has us head over heels for each new way of eating. But, just as in love, the passion fades, the whirlwind of desire ends, and what we often need is a steady, stable companion that has proven it’s worth.

Episode 93: Skeptics and Social Media

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn sits down with Lauren, Gem, and Laura to talk about some red flags to look out for when evaluating claims on social media and how nuance is impossible on the Internet.

Life, the Universe & Everything Else is a program promoting secular humanism and scientific skepticism that is produced by the Winnipeg Skeptics and the Humanists, Atheists & Agnostics of Manitoba.

Links: Don’t be evil (Wikipedia) | What everyone gets wrong about Charlie Hebdo and racism (Vox) | Vox got no threats for posting Charlie Hebdo cartoons, dozens for covering Islamophobia (Vox) | Answering 16 of the Worst #JeSuisCharlie #CharlieHebdo Memes | Episode 69: Québec’s Charter of Values (LUEE) | Thoughts from the Edge (YouTube) | H.I. #7: Sorry, Language Teachers (Hello Internet) | H.I. #30: Fibonacci Dog Years (Hello Internet) | If You Don't Have Anything Nice to Say, SAY IT IN ALL CAPS (This American Life) | snopes.com: Sweaters for Penguins | Australian wildlife group says stop knitting koala mittens and start making kangaroo pouches (Telegraph)

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