Sunday, February 28, 2010

Battlefield Acupuncture for US Troops

Yes, we are already down the road of crazy with the title. But go to this link, just so we can both believe that this is a true thing.

Ok, so now that you believe me, let's ask some questions. First, why is this just for wounded troops? Will acupuncture work on uninjured troops? Can you relieve the pain of getting shot by sticking a needle in your earlobe? Imagine the super soldier with no armor, but a crazed pincushion hedgehog look.

Speaking of hedgehogs (the mini British equivalent of a porcupine), couldn't you just strap a couple of hedgehogs to a pair of earmuffs and cure all your ills and stop all pain? Instead of sham-wow, why not a needle-wow?

Remember that post on placeboes or even chiropractors. You will find that I like being a pin cushion. It did help me with the pain I experienced from diabetes. Of course it never cured me. The acupuncturist never divined the fact that the pain was a symptom of diabetes.

Let me qualify something. The acupuncture I had was either smack dab into a nerve or it was placed around muscles that were then shocked to cause them to rhythmically contract. This is not pseudoscience, it is really doing something to my body. It did give relief, as does massage in similar places. Did the pain stop because I had a delay in diabetes? No, just unlocked a muscle or interrupted the pain via the nerve.

So, imagine my surprise when I see that the emergency battlefield acupuncture they are using is of the ear variety. Simply the ears are mapped to the rest of the body. You can poke a pin into an ear and heal the heart, lungs, legs, etc. There are schools of thought that there are similar areas on the feet and hands that also map to the rest of the body.

The only needles I had in my hand was to reduce pain in my hand. I am all right with that, though less so now that I have controlled the diabetes and most of the pain is now gone.

Back to needles in the ear. I am unsure how this all started, but my guess is that there were folks that had chronic pain but really couldn't be running around looking like a human pin cushion. Why not put pins in the ears and the placebo effect kicks in and we get a similar result? Ipso facto, as they say, ear-based acupuncture was born.

So, let's just say that acupuncture in the ear is indeed a placebo. But if that is true, are bullets perhaps a nocebo? It makes sense. If a placebo can't cure anything that we can't imagine away, then the primary illness should be purely mental illness. We are told that bullets will hurt us, we believe they would hurt us, thus we believe we can eliminate the pain of a bullet with a placebo. Circular logic is fun!

I really don't believe all this bunk about the pain of bullets being curable with needles in your ears. I have gone out to the woods to shoot big guns at furniture. Furniture is not sentient and not susceptible to the placebo effect. I also do not imagine that acupuncture could ever put a sleeper sofa back together after being hit by a dozen shotgun blasts and about sixty rounds of .223 slugs.

I don't want you to believe that I am against battlefield acupuncture. This is far from the truthiness of the underlying issues because placeboes do in fact work. That is why we have the placebo effect, duh! The only issue I have is that you need to do an intelligence or rather a gullibility test prior to treatment.  This  is not always going to be easy. The patient must also be couscous so that they believe they are being helped.

Imagine waking up in a field hospital with a hole in your chest and twenty needles in your ears!

So you see, I am all for soldiers as pincushions. We must be careful of how we do this and be ready with real painkillers the moment they figure out this is pseudoscience.

Here is a quote to give you an idea about the placebo effect : "Acupuncture doesn't work for all of her patients; however. About 15 percent do not respond to acupuncture, Major Simpson said..." As you can see, at least 85% of our military has a good imagination.

One last thought. Will putting pressure on a bleeding wound stop blood loss better when the patient is awake? Is this acupuncture's nephew, acupressure? Inquiring pseudoscientists want to know!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Thousands of skeptics dead from taking homeopathic overdose (Updated)

Well, nobody actually died. The only injury I expect was a few diabetics that forgot about the sugar in the homeopathic preparations that may have had a bit of a problem. A few too may have gotten drunk because other homeopathic recipes contain alcohol. There are many news articles on the event. Here is a good one.

I would not recommend this sort of thing to anyone trying to prove a point. There is some nasty stuff in homeopathic drugs. Worse, there is little regulation to ensure that they are safe. The only thing you should count on is that there should be little or no trace of what homeopathic cures claim to contain.

I found this all an interesting stunt. I am sure they did their homework. The question I have... Where was Oprah? Or Fox news? You would think either of these great entertainment icons would be on hand to see thousands die via a misinformed mass accidental suicide of skeptics.

Another missing face is the folks at from Zicam. You would think they would have sponsored the event. It turned out to be great press because it proved homeopathy is perfectly safe. Ineffective, but safe.

If you attended the event. please comment below. I'd like to see further reports from anyone that attended the event. For instance, did anyone get a nocebo effect and actually die or get sick because they believed they were overdosing? It is one thing to say you are a skeptic and another to have a skeptical subconscious.

UPDATE: According to the Society of Homeopaths, the only time their homeopathic medications work is if the patient has symptoms that the medicine is supposed to fix. So, I guess the only time you can overdose on homeopathic medicine is if you are sick. Guess that the skeptics are going to need to get the flu before they can have a proper mass suicide in protest of fake cures.

The society also says that the stunt is "in very poor taste".  We can only assume that homeopathic medicine is a very bitter pill.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Any Sufficiently Advanced Science is Pseudoscience

You see it everyday. It is the strongest of arguments. Debaters win every time. What is it? It is simple unashamed denial of logic.

Look at the global warning debate. A graph of CO2 as compared to the average global temperature, the world seems to be warming in lock step with CO2.

The first theories are that CO2, because of its ability to trap more heat as it builds in the atmosphere, it means that the world should indeed warm. End of the argument right?

Ok, here is a little science. CO2, although can cause warming, does not cause a lot of warming. Or at least that is one side of the argument. I can't find much evidence to it being global warmer or a dud.

Back to the data. The data has a correlation between average global temp and CO2. Add in other factors like the Sun and other factors and you still see just a correlation to CO2. So, does it matter that CO2 is a greenhouse gas? Not really, because it seems that CO2 makes the world warmer according to the data. How it does it at the specific rate is good science, but rather immaterial to an attempt to reduce atmospheric CO2.

Ok, boring stuff eh? Now the fun part. The facts are easily poked full of holes. Because you can't directly prove CO2 is a greenhouse gas at the current rate of global warming with  repeatable experiments to prove the data, then the global warming must be caused other causes than CO2.

Because we don't know the exact reason, we can say that any other change can cause the same rate of warming. Look at a few things that might also cause global warming at a similar rate to CO2:
1) Growth of lawyers
2) Consumption of dairy products
3) Farming
4) Incidence of nose picking

All of these have grown over time and could, by mathematical gymnastics, be said to cause global warming. Each has grown at a regular pace since the industrial revolution.

Can you disprove that any of these things has no impact on global warming? Of course the rates are not going to exactly follow the world's warming, but that seems a little picky. They grew and the world got hot. Some things we can't explain completely. Life is a mystery and that is no reason for me not to drive an SUV.

Feel better now? Wild speculation makes the science seem like pseudoscience. Of course if the anti-global warmers could argue and examine evidence logically, we would have little room for disagreement. Simply there is no fair argument because one side gets to make up the rules. That is cool and the pseudoscientist's greatest tools.

You don't need to be irrational to win an argument. Just be creative. Dismiss any argument with the fact that there is no 100% proof or undeniable evidence. There is always a margin for error (or margarine if you are buttering them up).

For extra credit, what logical fallacies am I employing? First person to write the correct answer in the comments gets a free copy of the book!