Episode 130: Nutritional Devices

On this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Laura, Ashlyn, and Lauren discuss three unusual nutritional devices: the Nima gluten sensor, the Vitastiq electroacupuncture vitamin sensor, and the SCiO pocket molecular scanner.

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

Links: Gluten Levels in Food: The 20 ppm Debate (Nima) | One Decision: A Limit of Gluten Detection (Nima) | Detecting Gluten in Food: The differences between Lateral Flow and ELISA tests (Adventures of a Gluten Free Mom) | Nima Chemistry vs. R-Biopharm (Nima) | The Nima Sensor: A Portable Gluten Testing Device (BeyondCeliac.org) | SCiO Pocket Molecular Scanner (Amazon Customer Reviews) | SCiO (Facebook) | Consumer Physics, Maker of Controversial SCiO Food Sensor, Pursues A ‘SCiO-Inside’ Strategy (The Spoon) | SCiO (Consumer Physics) | SCiO Spectrometer Review (Google Scholar) | Electroacupuncture (Wikipedia) | Vitastiq (Your Daily Vitamin Tracker) | Vitastiq 2 (Indiegogo) | Electroacupuncture: The bait and switch of alternative medicine (Respectful Insolence) | Quantified Health: Can Vitastiq measure body vitamin levels using a skin sensor? | Vitamin & Mineral Status Device (Amazon Customer Reviews)

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SkeptiCamp Winnipeg: Self-Proclaimed Diet Gurus and the Shams They Peddle

Image of Dr. Oz via CNN.
Image of Dr. Oz via CNN.
Embedded below is Laura Creek Newman’s talk from SkeptiCamp Winnipeg 2014. Laura is a Registered Dietitian and lover of all things edible. Her skeptical focus is on empowering patients and society to make healthy, informed choices and rid the world of dubious nutritional advice.

SkeptiCamp Winnipeg is a conference for the sharing of ideas. It is free and open to the public: anyone can attend and participate! Presentations and discussions focus on science and free inquiry, and the audience is encouraged to challenge presenters to defend their ideas. You can visit our SkeptiCamp page for information about upcoming events and links to past SkeptiCamp talks.

SkeptiCamp Winnipeg: Mediums

Image by Trish2 via DeviantArt, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
Image by Trish2 via DeviantArt, licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Embedded below is Sharene Gilchrist’s talk from SkeptiCamp Winnipeg 2014. Sharene likes to make things out of other things and she has cats. She likes to read and ride her bike. She has been a Christian, a Pagan, a vague New-Agey type and finally feels better not having any religion at all.

SkeptiCamp Winnipeg is a conference for the sharing of ideas. It is free and open to the public: anyone can attend and participate! Presentations and discussions focus on science and free inquiry, and the audience is encouraged to challenge presenters to defend their ideas. You can visit our SkeptiCamp page for information about upcoming events and links to past SkeptiCamp talks.

SkeptiCamp is on Saturday!

This marks the Winnipeg Skeptics’ fifth annual SkeptiCamp conference!

SkeptiCamp Winnipeg is all about sharing ideas. Anyone and everyone is welcome to attend and participate, and best of all, it’s free! Presentations and discussions focus on science and critical thinking, and the audience is encouraged to challenge presenters to defend their ideas.

SkeptiCamp Winnipeg 2013

Date: 27 September 2014
Time: 12:00–5:00 pm
Venue: St. Boniface Library, 100-131 Provencher Boulevard

No registration required. All are welcome!

SkeptiCamp Winnipeg 2013

In addition to our usual presentations, this year we will be recording a live episode of the Life, the Universe & Everything Else podcast. There will also be a bake sale and coffee and tea available. (All proceeds go to pay for Winnipeg Skeptics costs, such as website hosting, Meetup fees, and event bookings.)

Here are some of the presentations you can look forward to!

Presentations

Time Talk Speaker
12:00 Life, the Universe & Everything Else Live!
Logical Fallacies Round Table
Ashlyn Noble, Gem Newman, Lauren Bailey
1:30 Short Break
1:40 Did 9/11 Change Everything?
A Brief History of Terrorism
Brendan Curran-Johnson
2:10 Mediums Sharene Gilchrist
2:40 Species and Speciation:
Fun with Fish and Other Animals
Erin Spice
3:10 Victim Blaming Gaz Black
3:40 The Politics of Ebola Lauren Bailey
4:10 Self-proclaimed Diet Gurus and the Shams They Peddle Laura Creek Newman

Please note that our Community Guidelines and Anti-Harassment Policy are in effect at every Winnipeg Skeptics event.

Episode 71: A Tribute to Sylvia Browne

Episode 71: A Tribute to Sylvia Browne

In this episode of Life, the Universe & Everything Else, Ashlyn Noble discusses the life and times of recently deceased “psychic medium” Sylvia Browne with Donna Harris and Gem Newman, and Gem hosts a game of Psychic Fact or Psychic Fiction!

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: Sylvia Browne | Stop Sylvia Browne | Robert Lancaster | The Kidnapping of Shawn Hornbeck | Video of the Shawn Hornbeck Predictions | The Kidnapping of Amanda Berry | Forer Effect | Psychic Defective: Sylvia Browne’s History of Failure | Goodbye Sylvia Browne | Sylvia Browne: A Post-Mortem | On Sylvia Browne and The Death of an Awful Person | Demiurge (Wikipedia, Gnostic Society Library) | Popularity of the Name “Michael” (Baby Center, Wikipedia)

Psychic Fact or Psychic Fiction! Sources: Sylvia Browne: The Next 100 Years | Sylvia Browne’s Predictions for 2008 & 2009 (from the Internet Archive; the current version at Spirit Now has removed some predictions, including the “Aura Scanner” prediction)

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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.

Announcing Bad Science Watch!

Reprinted from Bad Science Watch.

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

New watchdog targets bad science in policy and regulation nationwide

Toronto, ON – Monday, July 9th, 2012 – Bad Science Watch, a new Canadian science advocacy group, has issued a challenge to the Canadian government: stick to the science in the development and implementation of important policy decisions. This group will work diligently to ensure Canadians are protected from exploitation by unscrupulous organizations peddling useless and potentially harmful products and services.

Bad Science Watch strives to serve as a key Canadian lobbying organisation, dedicated to challenging lax consumer protection measures and fighting for the rights of Canadians to accurate information when making decisions which affect their health, prosperity and well-being.

“The Canadian public has been poorly-served by a government which displays little respect for objectivity and science,” said Bad Science Watch Executive Director, Jamie Williams. “Consequently, weak consumer protection regulations allow the sale of products and services that don’t work, and Canadians are exploited by the unscrupulous or misinformed.”

Bad Science Watch will announce details of its first projects in the coming weeks. Among them: targeting bogus food-intolerance testing in Canadian drugstores, and an intensive investigation into the state of the Canadian anti-WiFi lobby.

“Bad Science Watch will fill a unique role as the only national organization in Canada with a focus on strengthening consumer protection against bad science,” explained Chair of the Board of Directors, Michael Kruse. “With a strong commitment to the most professional and transparent non-profit practices, our experienced Board of Directors, Steering Committee, and Executive are striving to create the most effective and consistently successful force countering bad science in Canada.”

Canadians interested in volunteering and donating to Bad Science Watch can find more information at www.badsciencewatch.ca. Bad Science Watch can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

For media enquiries, or additional information, please contact:

Jamie Williams
Executive Director
Bad Science Watch
jwilliams@badsciencewatch.ca
1-888-742-3299 x 102

Bad Science Watch
180 Danforth Avenue
Toronto, ON M3K 3P5
Tel: 1-888-742-3299
Fax: 1-888-813-3569
Email: info@badsciencewatch.ca


Bad Science Watch is an independent non-profit activist organization that provides analysis of dubious scientific claims to Canadians, our government, and the media, promotes objective critical thinking and advocates for the enforcement and strengthening of consumer protection regulation.

Bad Science Watch is funded by individual donations, and is committed to organizational transparency.