Episode 119: Chiropractic

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn, Laura, Gem, and Lauren talk about the history and practice of chiropractic medicine, then Ashlyn hosts a game of -ology A–Z!

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

Links: Chiropractic (Wikipedia) | Vertebral subluxation (Wikipedia) | Daniel David Palmer (Wikipedia) | History of chiropractic (Wikipedia) | Chiropractic controversy and criticism (Wikipedia) | Osteopathy (Wikipedia) | Chiropractic (RationalWiki) | Chiropractic (The Skeptic’s Dictionary) | Chiropractic care for reducing body weight (Edzard Ernst) | Advertising by some Manitoba chiropractors undermines public health (CBC Manitoba) | Patient Care (Canadian Memorial Chiropractic College) | Efficacy of spinal manipulation and mobilization for low back pain and neck pain (The Spine Journal) | Chiropractic Controversies (Pain Science) | Spinal manipulative therapy for acute low-back pain (Wiley Online Library) | Twenty Things Most Chiropractors Won’t Tell You (Edzard Ernst) | Chiropractic Care: Attempting a Risk–Benefit Analysis (American Journal of Public Health) | Chiropractic Manipulation and Stroke (American Health Association) | Craniocervical arterial dissections as sequelae of chiropractic manipulation: patterns of injury and management (Journal of Neurosurgery) | Chiropractic treatment of the neck can be a risk factor for stroke (UC San Francisco) | When a chiropractor teaches us about homeopathy, we are in for comedy gold (Edzard Ernst) | List of unproven and disproven cancer treatments (Wikipedia)

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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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Natural Remedies Never Kill?

Cross-posted from Startled Disbelief.

"Medicine" Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.
“Medicine”
Public domain image from Wikimedia Commons.

Hey, look! Another completely absurd and almost fact-free article from syndicated columnist Dr. Ken Walker (who writes under the name W. Gifford-Jones):

“Health Canada has been raiding health-food stores, terrorizing proprietors and confiscating natural food supplements,” Dr. Zoltan Rona, an expert on natural remedies, recently told me.

Walker’s article is alt-med propaganda at its most pedestrian. He presents those who peddle “natural remedies” as embattled heroes who are being bullied by Health Canada, which is in the pocket of corporate interests. I find this especially amusing, given that Health Canada has recently been censured for its decision to loosen the licensing requirements for natural health products while bypassing important safety and efficacy checks. (A decision that heavily favours corporate interests, yes: the corporate interests of the multinational corporations who manufacture and distribute natural health products.)

It’s been a while since I’ve played Name That Logical Fallacy, but let’s see… The reader is presented with a false dichotomy in the form of a choice between corporate-controlled pharmaceutical medicine and feel-good “natural” remedies; the deaths resulting from the use of pharmaceutical interventions hint at the fallacy of the perfect solution (the government shouldn’t approve drugs that aren’t perfectly safe and perfectly effective); there’s at least one appeal to antiquity (Nattokinase “has been used for centuries” in Japan); and finally there’s Walker’s completely dishonest (or unforgivably ignorant) claim that “prescription drugs can kill, natural remedies never”: while this isn’t a fallacy, it is the false premise that lies at the very heart of the article.

Walker’s point seems to be that Health Canada should just get out of the way: if the remedy is “natural” (whatever that means) and/or has been used for a long time, its safety and efficacy are unimpeachable. Walker seems to be advocating for some sort of medical free market paradise, a deregulated Wild West of frontier medicine in which the government gives any old snake oil a free pass—snake oil, of course, being completely natural.

“Alternative” medicines can and do kill, directly and indirectly. Natural remedies often lack proper controls to prevent contamination or adulteration; herbal remedies are drugs, and their use in concert with pharmaceuticals can result in unexpected drug interactions; the dose of the active ingredient in herbal remedies is often inconsistent or highly variable (while it is precisely controlled in pharmaceuticals; that’s sort of the point); and when presented with a “natural alternative”, some patients may eschew science-based interventions (that are actually effective). If you’re looking for heart-wrenching stories of people killed as a result of so-called “natural” medicine, here are a couple hundred of them. “Alternative medicine” is most often simply an alternative to medicine.

Walker should be ashamed of himself for promoting such absurdities. But that’s nothing new.

Episode 47: News Update

Episode 47: News Update

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Richelle McCullough, Gem Newman, and Donna Harris discuss local and international news of interest to skeptics, including an investigation of anti-WiFi activism in Canada, a new study examining the negative impact that personhood amendments have on women, a governmental report in Québec endorsing the right to euthanasia, and more.

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

Links: Bad Science Watch’s Investigation of Anti-WiFi Activism in Canada | How Long Does a Cough Last? Comparing Patients’ Expectations with Data from a Systematic Review of the Literature | New Study Shows Anti-Choice Policies Leading to Widespread Arrests of and Forced Interventions on Pregnant Women | SkeptiCamp Winnipeg 2012 Videos | Québec to Proceed with ‘Dying with Dignity’ Legislation | Spot the Station | Thought Experiment (Outtakes)

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Episode 45: News Update

Episode 45: News Update

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn Noble, Gem Newman, Greg Christensen, and Mark Forkheim discuss local and international news of interest to skeptics, including electronic devices powered by your ear, a young Icelandic woman who is not allowed to use her name because it isn’t on the government’s approved list, a mosque arsonist who implicates FOX News in his hate crime, and more.

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

Links: Arrest Warrant Issued for TV Presenter after Magician’s Face Set on Fire in Botched Stunt | Chemical Analysis Reveals First Cheese Making in Northern Europe in the 6th Millennium BC | Scientists Use an Electrical Gradient in the Ear to Power a Tiny Device | Mosque Arsonist Pleads Guilty, Implicates Fox News in Fueling Hate | LUEE Episode 23: Justice and Hate Crimes | Icelandic Girl Fights Government Over Right to Use Her Name | NZ Judge Orders “Odd” Name Change | 3-year-old Hitler Can’t Get Name on Cake | True “River Monster” Fossils Discovered by Team with Alberta Paleontologist

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Episode 43: News Update

Episode 43: News Update

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn Noble, Donna Harris, and Mark Forkheim discuss local and international news of interest to skeptics, including Palestine’s admission to the United Nations, a study demonstrating the benefits of flax, the Pope’s new Twitter account, and more.

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

Links: Apocalypse 2012: The End of the World Party (Facebook Event, Meetup Event) | Flaxtastic! | The Palestinian UN Bid: What Happened and What Changed | Everyone Can Benefit from Naturopathic Care (apparently) | Pope Gets More Than Half a Million Twitter Followers Without Sending a Single Tweet | Cambridge University to Open Centre Studying the Risks of Technology to Humans | What If? The Robot Apocalypse

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Episode 41: News Update

Episode 41: News Update

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Jeffrey Olsson, Donna Harris, and Greg Christensen discuss local and international news of interest to skeptics, including blasphemy cases in Pakistan and India and reproductive health issues abroad, and Greg reviews some exoplanet-related news items from the last few years.

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

Links: Sanal Edamaruku | Pakistani Sentenced to Death for Blasphemy May Appeal | High Court Rejects Case Against Girl in Pakistan | Astronomers Spot “Super Jupiter” | Astronomers Directly Image Massive Star’s “Super-Jupiter” | Oprah Tweets Her Love For Microsoft Surface Using An iPad | Exoplanet Gliese 581g Makes the Top 5 | United Nations Declares Access to Contraception a “Universal Human Right” | What Happens to Women Who Are Denied Abortions? | The UCSF Global Turnaway Study | Record Nine-Planet Star System Discovered? | Saudi Arabian Women Tracked with System That Texts Their Husbands | Puffy Planet Poses Pretty Puzzle | World Toilet Day

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