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Boobquake and "Skeptics"

Jen McCreight compares her Boobquake action to the homeopathy overdose by the Merseyside Skeptics Society.

First, taking an "overdose" of homeopathic remedies to protest their sale is like defiantly eating vegetables to protest PETA. It just doesn't make sense. Any homeopath will tell you that you can't overdose on homeopathic remedies, unless you are a diabetic.

Second, a "skeptic" is a person who has doubts. Someone who is certain is a fundamentalist. The Merseyside Skeptics Society are not skeptical about homeopathy, they are certain about it. They have the faith of fundamentalists.

I support the Boobquake because I support freedom against tyranny.

By demanding that women "dress modestly" to prevent earthquakes Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi wants to force his beliefs on others. By protesting the sale of homeopathic remedies the The Merseyside Skeptics Society are trying to force their beliefs on others. If you don't believe in homeopathy don't do it. No one is forcing you.

Comments

You are misguided, and my emotions on the matter are raised to the point where I cannot formulate a coherent rebuttal.

Before I believe in homeopathy, I wish to see evidence that it works better than a placebo. I have seen plenty of evidence that it doesn't.

I wish the law in the US to be changed such that homeopathic remedies were not exempt from the requirements of testing for efficacy and safety before being sold as drugs for the treatment of specific diseases or symptoms.

The point of view of the Merseyside Skeptics is that it is unethical for a licensed pharmacist to sell remedies which are known, through repeated study, to be no better than a placebo as if they were known effective drugs, or for Boots, a chain pharmacy similar to CVS, to put their name and logo on such remedies thus lending their reputation behind them. The head of Boots admitted to a Parliamentary committee that he knows there is no evidence they work, but sells them anyway because people buy them.

The point of view of the Merseyside Skeptics is that it is a waste of taxpayer money for the NHS to pay for homeopathic treatments which have been shown to be no better than a placebo.

If you think that the Merseyside Skeptics are trying to force their beliefs on others, how would you describe the actions of the homeopaths who are trying to sell their remedies? If you are only hearing the advertising of the homeopaths, reading the claims on the packages of homeopathic remedies, and seeing the pharmacists brand name on the package, why shouldn't you believe in the effectiveness of homeopathy? And what actions can someone who has looked at the studies that have shown the remedy to be no better than placebo take to disabuse you of that belief?

Skeptics in Australia have had a reasonable amount of success going into privately-owned pharmacists, explaining to the owner that the counter display of homeopathic remedies placed there by the vendor carried an implicit endorsement by the pharmacist and that there was no scientific evidence for the efficacy of homeopathy, and asking them to stop selling homeopathic remedies or at least remove the counter display. Many of the pharmacists they approached in this manner saw the problem of the implicit endorsement, admitted they hadn't considered the issue and didn't know much about homeopathy, and once shown the evidence, voluntarily removed the implicit endorsement.

Second, Are you allowed to define what a "witch" is, or by calling yourself a witch do you mean to state that you use magic to harm others? If the former, why can't the modern skeptical movement choose the definition of "skeptic" to use for their purposes?
I pretty much knew where you would be on this issue.
"Second, Are you allowed to define what a "witch" is, or by calling yourself a witch do you mean to state that you use magic to harm others? If the former, why can't the modern skeptical movement choose the definition of "skeptic" to use for their purposes?"

I'm really surprised you went this way.

First, the word "witch" was morally neutral before Protestant Christians re-framed it as demonic. And survived in that morally neutral way in such terms as "Water Witch" and "Wort Witch". So I'm just going back to the root usage.

Second, I have no problem with people defining their own terms as long as they are clear about it. If you want to use the word "skeptic" to mean "someone who is sure of the falsity of other people's beliefs" that is fine with me.
If you don't look to see how they define themselves and impose your own definition, then you don't get to complain when others do the same to you.
Their definition does fit their action.
Then what do you think their definition is? And for that matter, what actions are they allowed to take meeting that definition? Or are skeptics not allowed to be politically active?
They can be politically active and Muslim clerics can denounce immodest behavior. I just won't support them when they do.
I think I'm with blaisepascal on this one. This is not a matter of fundamentalism, because we're talking about something that can be scientifically tested.

Homeopathy has been scientifically tested repeatedly and it has routinely flunked miserably.
I'm not really arguing that homeopathy should be accepted by science. I'm arguing that you can't force your beliefs on others. Freedom of belief means the freedom to believe things that other people think are false.

If you don't support the right of people to disagree with you don't support freedom at all.

I don't care about homeopathy one way of the other. But I believe in the right of people to believe in it if they want to.
The idea, that something isn't fundamentalism because it is science, is basically flawed.

Belief in the Brain
Sacred and secular ideas engage identical areas
By Allison Bond, From the March 2010 Scientific American Mind
Religious belief may seem to be a unique psychological experience, but a growing body of research shows that thinking about religion is no different from thinking about secular things­—at least from the standpoint of the brain. In the first imaging study to compare religious and nonreligious thoughts, evaluating the truth of either type of statement was found to involve the same regions of the brain.

Researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles, used functional MRI to evaluate brain activity in 15 devout Christians and 15 nonbelievers as the volunteers assessed the truth or falsity of a series of statements, some of which were religious (“angels exist”) and others nonreligious (“Alexander the Great was a very famous military ruler”). They found that when a subject believed a statement—whether it was religious or not—activity appeared in an area called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, which is an area associated with emotions, rewards and self-representation.

And although the nonbelievers rejected about half of the statements the believers accepted, the brain scans of both groups were indistin­guishable, providing further proof that evaluating truth or falsity is independent of the content of the statement in question. “The fact that we found the same brain processing between believers and nonbelievers, despite the two groups’ completely different answers to the questions [about religion], is pretty surprising,” says Jonas Kaplan, a research psy­chologist at U.C.L.A. and co-author of the study. The finding adds to the mounting evidence against the notion, popular in the scientific community as well as among the general public, that religious faith is somehow different from other types of belief, explains co-author Sam Harris, also of U.C.L.A. In contrast to this assumption, he says, “Believing the sun is a star is rather the same as believing Jesus was born of a virgin.” [For more on the neuroscience of religion, see “Searching for God in the Brain,” by David Biello; Scientific American Mind, October/November 2007.]

The Merseyside Skeptics Society

Thanks for mentioning our protest, but I just thought I'd clear up a few issues you seem to have misunderstood:

- We at the Merseyside Skeptics Society are indeed expressing our doubts about homeopathy - doubts about the validity of the anecdotal evidence, about the implausibility of the modality of the treatment, and about the use of homeopathy as a substitute for proven treatments where people can really get hurt (need I mention Homeopaths Without Borders in Haiti, or poor Gloria Thomas?).

To say that we're showing the faith of fundamentalists is missing the point - it's like saying your belief in freedom against tyranny is belief based in 'fundamentalist faith'. Instead, like you, we doubt that a woman dressing how she chooses to dress is the cause of earthquakes. We also doubt that diluting a substance makes it stronger. In both cases, there's a strong case to have these doubts, and no evidence to satisfy those doubts.

Finally, I just thought I'd point out we're in no way forcing our beliefs on others - quite the opposite. We don't call for bans on homeopathy, and that's not what our protest was aiming for - we were merely highlighting to the average person what homeopathy actually is. Many people believe it has an active ingredient, and few people are aware that it's so immensely dilute (at least, before our protest at any rate). Now, more people are aware how homeopathic substances are made and what the theory behind them actually is.

For this, in a way, homeopaths should thank us for spreading information and awareness about their treatment theory - except, when scrutinised and examined, the theory doesn't hold up. Hence why we've been roundly attacked, with vague insinuations as to our fundamentalism, big pharma funding (really, I wish we had funding - thus far the 10:23 campaign has been funded entirely through volunteer work), and misunderstanding of homeopathy.

I'm glad you supported the 'boobquake', in the same way I'm glad Jen was such a fan of the 10:23 campaign. I'm also glad of the opportunity to set the record straight on some of your misunderstandings of our intentions.

Thanks, and kindest regards
Marsh
Merseyside Skeptics Society / 10:23

Re: The Merseyside Skeptics Society

That was very polite.

I still disagree. You don't have "doubts", you have certainty of the rightness of your position. Your going to great lengths to convince me that you are right does not convince me that you are uncertain.

Re: The Merseyside Skeptics Society

I see your point, but in that case do you admit to being uncertain about the connection between women's clothing and earthquakes?

I think it's OK to be *relatively* certain once the evidence is in - in fact, it's not just OK, it's essential to progress. We once had doubts about the shape of the earth, but now we're *relatively* certain the earth is round, we have evidence of it. We have similar evidence on the ineffectiveness of homeopathy.

But as I say, we're not trying to convince people we're right, we're trying to convince them to look at the evidence, and read up on what homeopathy actually is. Based on the evidence, most people agree that homeopathy is bunk - it's the equivalent of sending people up to space in order to have them decide if the earth is round or not. Give people access to the information and the evidence, and most people will side with the science.

Cheers
Marsh

Re: The Merseyside Skeptics Society

"I see your point, but in that case do you admit to being uncertain about the connection between women's clothing and earthquakes?"

No. I'm certain there is no connection between women's clothing and earthquakes. Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi is certain there is. I have no problem with that.

Re: The Merseyside Skeptics Society

So, in that case, in what way is it OK to be certain about the lack of causal link between clothing and earthquakes, but certainty about homeopathy (based on over-whelming evidence) is fundamentalist faith? I think both cases are skeptical positions - scrutinise the evidence, and neither the claims of homeopaths nor mad Iranian clerics stand up. If certainty in one is OK, then the other has to be too, I think.

(And by certainty, just to clarify, I mean based on current evidence - if someone produced reliable evidence that clothing and earthquakes were linked, or that homeopathy worked, I'd change my mind on either or both. That's the skeptical position - follow the evidence).

Re: The Merseyside Skeptics Society

Skepticism is doubt. Certainty is not doubt. I have no problem with you being certain, I just think you should be honest about it. You aren't a skeptic. Or you have changed the word skeptic to mean something other than "someone who has doubts"

Re: The Merseyside Skeptics Society

Ah, OK, I see what's happening here - we're actually employing scientific or philosophical skepticism:

"Scientific skepticism or rational skepticism (also spelled scepticism), sometimes referred to as skeptical inquiry, is a practical, epistemological position in which one questions the veracity of claims lacking empirical evidence."
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Scientific_skepticism

Doubt is often a good thing, but where a claim is factual in nature ('the world is flat', 'water has memory') then continued doubt is irrational. I still have doubt as to whether life exists elsewhere in the universe - we don't have the evidence to come to a reliable conclusion on that one. But with homeopathy, the evidence is in, so continual doubt would be irrational at this point.

Re: The Merseyside Skeptics Society

It would be less confusing with the popular definition of the term if you would not use words like "question" and "doubt" when your definition of "skeptic" really isn't about questioning or doubting.

implications

"By demanding that women "dress modestly" to prevent earthquakes Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi wants to force his beliefs on others. By protesting the sale of homeopathic remedies the The Merseyside Skeptics Society are trying to force their beliefs on others."

The way I see it, the MSS are raising awareness of a case of large scale deception - the stuff has no use and yet people are still allowed to sell it under the guise of a treatment for medical ailments...... the Muslim cleric is telling lies in the same way as the homoeopathic industry for the benefit of his belief...... I don't think a woman's cleavage could cause an earthquake, that's just plain stupid but ultimately harmless apart from the issue of women's rights and extremist interpretations. I don't think medicine should rely on any kind of belief for it to work, that's also just plain stupid and also potentially very harmful. Common sense seems to spur the majority into action regarding the former, but seems sadly lacking regarding the latter.

I also think that supporting these belief based phenomenon has much wider implications. Its is belief in witch-craft that gets humans to burn other humans alive in Kenya, graphic footage is available. Belief in homoeopathy also got a 9 month old baby killed by its parents for a relatively minor and treatable eczema. They are currently serving jail terms. I can provide a link to the Sydney Morning Herald's story.

I know of nothing more abhorrent than to push another living human being into a raging fire pit, or to think of a small child, unable to harbour her parents beliefs yet, dying in the way she did.

To compare what the MSS and 10-23 are trying to do with the Muslim clerics actions is nothing short of ridiculous. Some peoples beliefs get suspected Kenyan "witches" and some unfortunate Australian babies killed......not the same thing? Well, its that belief in something that isn't there that's done it for the both of them at the end of the day. Is one of them wrong or are both of them wrong?

Re: implications

"ultimately harmless apart from the issue of women's rights and extremist interpretations."

I can see you are not a woman.

"I don't think medicine should rely on any kind of belief for it to work"

And yet it does.

"Its is belief in witch-craft that gets humans to burn other humans alive in Kenya, graphic footage is available"

Your use of Witchcraft as an example to convince me is more ironic than you could possibly know.