Monday, June 13, 2016

Facebook Pseudoscience

Did you see the news about Facebook manipulating our emotions? The horror!  It is surprising too because that means Facebook is the same as politicians, advertisers, narcissists, and your mother.

Here at the Boys Books offices, we all canceled out Facebook accounts. We re-activated our accounts a couple hours later because many of our friends thought we had been abducted by aliens.

The use of manipulation has a long tradition in science, especially in psychology. Psychology is both science and pseudoscience because our brains are messy. The pseudoscience is double trouble because psychologists have messy brains and think up messy experiments to prove their messy ideas.

What's the point? We are manipulating you by manipulating your belief in the manipulation of Facebook.

Experiment


Tell your friends that you are quitting Facebook because too many people are too many emoji. Sign it of course with a sad emoji of your choice.

Questions



  1. How many respond with a happy emoji?
  2. How many quit with you?
  3. Has your psychologist prescribed a higher dose of antidepressants and are you surprised that your psychologist has been monitoring your Facebook posts?






Interesting pseudoquestion


I got a question I was looking up at the moon it looked full for 3 days already like a change in its orbit are we pushing the earth all over going into space with flying trash cans I call rockets!

Might sound crazy is it posible we are causing our disasters by going up there?

Absolutely. Ever since ancient man chucked a stone at the Moon we have suffered plague, earthquakes, storms because we got slightly closer to the Moon's influence. Before that we couldn't blame it on anything because we were not smart enough to chuck a rock at the Moon.
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Homeopathy Explained: it's a slapping good time!

Homeopathic Medicine - Slap happy Pseudoscience 

How to make a Homeopathic medicine:
  1. Add one part poison to 100 parts water.
  2. Slap the container ten times with a stick wrapped with leather and stuffed with horse hair.
  3. Repeat this procedure by taking one part of the solution and adding to 100 parts water.
  4. Repeat 12 times to create a one in a trillion dilution.
  5. Price at the same or higher than a legitimate drug.


You are now a homeopath!

This is the same for almost any homeopathic remedy. The only differences are the poisons used, the dilution medium, which can be water, alcohol, or lactose (milk sugar). The only hard part is getting your slapping stick and a suitable poison.

If you are having a problem locating a suitable slapping stick, turn off 'safe search' on your Google browser and look for leather slappers. You'll find enough to start your own homeopathic drug company!

Poisons are a lot harder to find. Here at Boys Books, we frown on poisons. A big, sad, clown frown. Instead, try the experiment with food coloring and a flavoring like mint or vanilla. Another good ingrediant is sugar (classified as a very slow acting poison).  Try all three to test for color, taste, and effect. For example, if you use water, red food coloring, vanilla extract, and sugar, you should be able to create a homeopathic remidy that cures sunburns, tastes like chocolate cake, and will make you skinny as homeopathic remedies have the opposite effect of their ingredients.

Homeopathy is very modern. Here are a couple other important medical discoveries plus homeopathy so you will see how it relates to modern medicine:
  • 1897 Aspirin
  • 1862 Germ Theory
  • 1847 Hand Washing
  • 1796 Homeopathy
Homeopathy is obviously a superior medicine because it predates those modern discoveries like aspirin, germ theory and washing your hands to prevent the spread of disease. Yes, homeopathy was created before those money grubbing guys like Pasture, Bayer, or Soap (I assume that's who invented soap). That's right, homeopathy was invented to fight the high cost of healthcare before there was high-priced healthcare.

What Scientists Say

Real scientists have a lot of bad news for homeopaths (sounds like a type of serial killer, doesn't it). First is that diluting a substance never makes it stronger or more active. Less is less, not more. The only thing that diluting a poison does is make it less poisonous. In fact, that was sort of the point of homeopathy. At the time it was invented, doctors, snake oil salesmen, and the local chemist were experimenting with poisons as therapy.

Poison is a useful drug. Poisons, in the correct quantity can kill parasites or cancer. In the early world, there were a lot of parasites! So, a happy experimental result in a cure which is followed by a over reaction. If it cured one thing, why not try it in other places? Sadly in the early days before controlled experiments, any discovery could lead to irrational exuberance. The intend of the homeopath was to first find less of the poison that might cure, but not harm. Good intentions, but at a certain point, less is not less, but nonexistent. Now things get interesting.

The homeopaths kept getting good results. The homeopaths of course take a great deal of credit in making a discovery in chemistry, but it is really a discovery in human psychology. Homeopaths had discovered the placebo effect.

The Placebo Effect

If you give someone a medicine, they will react to it as medicine, even if it is fake medicine. Tell them a medicine will make their headache go away and indeed, it might. The brain can release a lot of chemicals in response to suggestion. If you switched out someone's aspirin for something that looked like aspirin, they might not notice. At least for a while. The brain eventually stops reacting like it is taking aspirin. 

Where does the placebo effect come from? There are a lot of theories, but the simplest is that we remember what certain medicines do to us and get into that same state of mind. Just like Pavlov's dogs, instead of salivating, we feel better. 

Ever notice that you feel better immediately after taking a drug? It is actually impossible for many drugs to act instantly. For example, standard aspirin takes 30 minutes or more to begin working, yet we feel relief right away because we are remembering how well it worked. If we are given a sugar pill and told it is twice as strong as aspirin, we feel even better in part because we imagine the effect of aspirin and our imagination boosts the memory.

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The Argument Against Arguing Against Homeopathy

In Canada, folks are getting angry about homeopathy. Follow the link to read a rebuttal of a letter to the editor which is a rebuttal of another opinion piece against homeopathy. In the letter, responding to the letter, responding to the article, a Mr Marc Carrier,  makes hay about the psuedoscience of homeopathy. The content is of course, like most anti-pseudoscience retoric, falls upon deaf ears (as does most writing unless someone reads it aloud). More specifically. the author makes many mistakes and does not take into account basic tenants of pseudoscience that would effectively persuade their audience to abandon their ways.

The staff at Boys Books is always surprised by anti-homeopathy rhetoric on several fronts. First, arguments against pseudoscience would be more effective if diluted. The entire response would convince the homeopaths to abandon their ways if you had just one comma. However, since homeopathy is based on diluting poisons that create similar symptoms as the disease, the argument would need to be 'for' the suspension of rational thought, rather than 'against' it. In other words, the context of the comma is important to the cure.

Next is that the best arguments are anecdotal. There is no science behind the homeopathic cures, of course not! Grandma took homeopathic remedies, and it did not work for her! No reason why it would definitely work for you now.  Why, because grandma didn't believe in homeopathy and you do! That's just science! We know it is because we used the exclamation points!

The next step is to explain homeopathy in the context of history. Did you know that Homeopathy was invented because doctors at the time were prescribing poisons? Poisons including lead and strychnine  were used. We don't really know why, maybe because poisons could kill parasites or a dead patient is a cured patient? In fact, doctors of that day did not know about germ theory, surgeons didn't even wash their hands.

Finally is that most anti-homeopathic arguments summarize the homeopathic process. Instead, they should be much more descriptive to allow their readers to fully understand how utterly modern the drug preparation process is compared to even today's chemistry intensive process of modern medicine. Here is a quick summary of what the proper homeopathic label should look like:

  1. Find a poison that duplicates symptoms of a disease or something that cures the disease or even sound like it might cure the disease or just a cool name (basically anything, there are no rules).
  2. Dilute one part poison to 100 parts of mixing medium (water, alcohol, or milk sugar).
  3. Strike the mixing container with a leather strap stuffed with horse hair 5 times.
  4. Dilute one part of mixture to 100 parts of of the mixture medium.
  5. Repeat steps 3 and 4 until there is no possibility of a biological effect from the poison.
  6. Price marked up for a lot of money because it has been scientifically proven that when you have a higher price.
The next step is challenge the homeopathic hatters to an experiment. If homeopathy works, prove it! Start with a beer colored with a few drops of green food coloring. Then, using the technique described above, create homeopathic green beer. If by definition a dilution of a poison, and alcohol is a poison, can cure a symptom (in this case intoxication, then a homeopathic beer should make you sober. Because of the green food coloring, it should also make you drunk as an Irishman kissing the Blarney Stone.

There you go! All done. Everyone will know that Homeopathy will soon surpass real medicine and nobody will be under-hydrated again!


I still believe in pseudoscience!


I still believe in pseudoscience! My horoscope still seems right, even when I read Taurus instead of Aries. My holistic medicines work wonderfully because the placebo effect is much stronger than not taking any fake medication. My back is in better shape because I got out of my comfy chair and did the long walk across the parking lot to my chiropractor who has furniture that clicks and snaps so that the sound of my back cracking is a simulation and won't really hurt me or heal me. I feel more calm after my acupuncturist because of the 45 minutes of deep meditation that is only possible when you can't move because you have more needles than porcupine and my acupuncturist gives me extra strong homeopathic medicines at only twice the cost of Whole Foods, which makes them much more effective placebos. 

I believe in ghosts because I don't know any personally, but I am sure they are nice people. I also know that heaven and hell are real because I have not visited either one, but plan on visiting heaven and Antartica because I have heard they are both cool places. Just because you have not been to a place or know a person or gone to a Lock Ness petting zoo, doesn't mean they don't exist.

I draw the line at vaccines as the rumors are that every shot puts a government tracked GPS radio in your blood stream so that big brother can track my every move. I line up for every flu shot because I want to be found when the aliens shoot another plane out of the sky. Same with using credit cards instead of cash. If I bump my head and start wondering around, the police can find me by my trail of Starbucks receipts (I hear $20 dollar bills have GPS trackers, but that's a lot of $20s to cary just for a head injury.

I also believe that climate change is totally fake. I know global warming is fake because why would my dental hygienist lie? In fact, I believe most things I hear. Everyone that is branded as a conspiracy theorist, political fear monger and more because they have no agenda or malice in their hearts. Conflict of interest is a myth and more power to the people that fight science because there is no university degree in pseudoscience.

Yes, I still believe in pseudoscience. Use all the logical fallacies you want to attack my opinions, I will still believe. The one thing I can say for certain, if I change my blind belief in the great pillars of pseudoscience, I'll feel stupid. I'll feel ashamed that I could believe in those things. Unless its funny that I do. Unless I can laugh at myself. Then, maybe I can chicle at the CVS that no longer sells cigarets, but still sells homeopathic medicine and untested herbs. Then I'll take a sip of tea in my back yard, no longer in fear of poisoned contrails. Maybe I'll spend more time reading the funnies instead of checking my horoscope. Then, maybe...

This blog is in reponse to Why I Stopped Believing in Pseudoscience How a tarot-card-reading, candle-burning teen became a total skeptic.