Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Ideas for the Papal Visit

It been 30 years since the UK has been graced with a Papal visit. Should the Pope decide to grace the UK with his presence next year, we should ensure that we pull out all of the stops to ensure we have organised some suitable events to celebrate this auspicious occasion. I had a quick think about what we could organise and came up with the following 3 suggestions, but feel free to come up with some more.

Condom Parade

Rather like an American Ticker Tape parade, but with condoms instead of ticker tape. The Condom parade could be arranged for the Pope’s arrival, after his plane has landed and he’s given the tarmac a quick snog, he could be whipped to central London driven by Ariane Sherine in a “There’s Probably No God” Popemobile whereupon he will be showered with condoms. Perhaps one condom for every preventable death would be appropriate.


Celebrity Tag Team Wrestling

Debates where scientific knowledge is pitted against theological viewpoints are always doomed to failure. If scientific evidence, facts and reality can be simply trumped by the God card whenever those facts do not suitably align with the chosen texts and creeds of a given theology, there is little value in holding the debate. Therefore such matters should be settled by tag team wrestling. I think a really good crowd puller would be The Pope and Osama Bin Laden versus Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens at the Royal Albert, who wouldn’t want to come and see the “Papal Brawl in the Hall”. The existence or non-existence of God could be settled once and for all by two pin falls, two submissions or a knock out.


The inaugural “UK’s Credulous Tit of the Year” award

Following the popularity of annual award ceremonies for films, TV, sports and music, The “Credulous Tit of the Year” will be an annual celebration of those individuals who have made a significant contribution to public misinformation. Those individuals who, through rigorous irrationality and uncritical thinking, have shamelessly and successfully aided and abetted the spread dangerous and inaccurate information, superstition and pseudoscience will be honoured in a lavished ceremony and presented with a prestigious Golden Gobshite award. Although Jeni Barnett started the year as the bookies firm favourite with her absurd regurgitated anti vaccination bile, Noel Edmonds and Adrian Pengelly seem to be making a late run for the title. Derren Brown also seems to be rather keen on throwing his hat in to the proceedings. Anyway, who better to host the ceremony than Pope Benedict XVI.


Any more ideas?

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Skeptic Park 2 with Derren Brown

Last week the pointed bearded trickster, Derren Brown, generated a bit of a media storm with a few "Events". The centre piece of this was his prediction of the UK's National Lottery. There has been much speculation in the media and the blogsphere as to how he accomplished this feat, and so to set the record straight once and for all, Derren has agreed to talk to the Skeptic Park kids.


Part 1 Available here.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Can I Get a Homeopathic Remedy Instead of a Malaria Inoculation?

I passed a nice little shop at lunch-time that just happened to sell homeopathic remedies, so I popped in for a nose around and a chat. I expect we’ve all heard stories of how some homeopaths may be willing to sell homeopathic remedies as a prevention or a cure for malaria as an alternative to conventional, proven and clinically tested anti malaria drugs.

I thought that Simon Singh’s recent book “Trick or Treatment” might have made alternative therapists a little wary and therefore unwilling to talk to random strangers in detail and certainly be on guard against making claims that homeopathy can be effective against malaria.

So the question I was wondering was, would a homeopathic retailer be prepared to write a prescription for a homeopathic anti malaria remedy to a random customer who came in off the street wanting to use the remedy in place of conventional science based medicine.

Well here’s a transcript of my conversion:


Crispian: Hiya

Homeopath: Can we help you with anything in particular?

Crispian: Um, I Don’t know. A friend of mine was on Safari last summer, well this summer, and he was talking about it and I looked it up on the web today as I quite fancied it. It was talking about the vaccinations I would need for malaria and stuff like that and I was reading the side effects and there seemed to be quite a long list of the side effects so I thought I’d just wonder around and see if there’s any alternatives basically.

Homeopath: Well we don’t sort of claim… you have to make your own decision um, but in terms of homeopathic remedies as vaccination I mean you have to read up on it, but you can get malaria in potency, you can get.. would you need yellow fever I imagine?

Crispian: I don’t know, it said malaria and there was a few other things on there, Tetanus

Homeopath: Yellow fever, Tetanus, Cholera, Typhoid, you’d need all of those probably

Crispian: So I’d need those from a conventional doctor?

Homeopath: Um. It’s up to you, I mean, you can ...there are homeo .. Um, do you know much about homeopathy? Basically, the homeopathic nosodes they’re called that are made from the actual vac… the germ, if you like. The understanding is that if you take them in potency they’re a very very high dilution it will create the necessary anti bodies in your blood

Crispian: OK

Homeopath: As opposed to taking the Jab. Some people say its good to do that preventatively before you go over, start a week before you go

Crispian: Yeah

Homeopath: Some people say there’s no point in doing it unless you get malaria and then you start taking it. um. My feeling is that you need to kinda educate yourself and take a look and see what you think you want to do. Um. Have you ever taken anti malaria drugs or anything like that?

Crispian: Well I’ve never had anything, it’s just that when I was reading all the side effects it sounded like ..

Homeopath: Where abouts would you be going?

Crispian: I wanted to do what my friend did, he started off in um Zambia and he went down through Tanzania and Botswana and down to South Africa.

Homeopath: Ok. Malaria. It’s a strong malaria zone I’d say

Crispian: Yeah, yeah

Homeopath: I don’t know about yellow fever, I don’t know if it’s a yellow fever zone, I don’t think so. Um, malaria, cholera and typhoid I would say

Crispian: OK

Homeopath: Um

Crispian: So if…

Homeopath: The other thing of course is I don’t think your… nowadays with the legislation in this country, you’re not able to purchase malaria and all these in potency without a prescription so I mean um, I could certainly write you a prescription. I’m quite happy to just write you a prescription if that’s what you need and then take it to a homeopathic pharmacy

Crispian: Oh OK, I couldn’t just pick one up here then

Homeopath: No

Crispian: Is it quite a common thing then or is it unusual?

Homeopath: There’s a huge, as you know, there’s a huge um backlash against homeopathy in this country so some people are… there are lots of sceptics in the pharmaceutical industry and general medicine who are trying to sort of root them out, root us out and um

Crispian: OK

Homeopath: The pharmacies have to have some statutory legislation that um, they’re not able to just sell it over the counter.

Crispian: OK, but I could get a prescription and then that would ..?

Homeopath: I could write you a prescription yeah

Crispian: So would you recommend that I would still need to visit my GP?

Homeopath: You’re GP’s not going to … Oh well, if you need to go for malarium or whatever quinine based drugs for the anti malaria you’ll have to educate yourself on that. I mean, um, it’s up to you. You’re not native to any of those countries so

Crispian: No. I’m from here

Homeopath: So I would suggest that you would be better off to do.. um, what’s your health like? General health?

Crispian: It’s good

Homeopath: It’s Good? Ok. I’d do some other things like um obviously take water sterilising tablets, maybe take some other remedies, take some B vitamins, that would be good. B1 and B12 are very good for malaria zones, its good to take those a couple of weeks before that, strengthen your immune system and um and increase your resistance to infection, things like that. Vitamin C is another thing that you should take. Um

Crispian: So …

Homeopath: I’d just take a good kit maybe and if you want to do homeopathy, then take a kit and learn about how to administer it, I mean I could do a 20 minute appointment with you and I could just take you through things that you need to do

Crispian: You said that it’s diluted, so what sort of level?

Homeopath: Homeopathy. Hundreds and thousands of dilutions. I mean I come from a malaria country and I, personally speaking I always just take the nosodes, and I don’t do inoculations and vaccinations anymore because I just don’t like what they put in them

Crispian: Yeah

Homeopath: And I’m not convinced that they work. That’s my own personal opinion, but you have to do what you feel is right. I’m not saying that vaccinations are bad, but some people, once they’ve taken the vaccination they get unwell for a few days

Crispian: Yeah, that’s what I heard

Homeopath: If you were to do the vaccinations, I’d go to the British Airways travel centre to get them done rather than with your GP because I don’t think GPs are well advised on things like that. I would go to the one on Regents Street, they have a travel centre there

Crispian: OK, but it sounds like I could avoid it altogether, I mean you mentioned the vitamins and the travel packs …

Homeopath: If you’re well educated and informed you could do, but its something you would need to make an informed decision on

Crispian: I’d have to look into it

Homeopath: Yeah I’d go to um, and how long would you be going for

Crispian: Well I fancied quite a while so probably 3 maybe 4 weeks

Homeopath: 3 or 4 weeks you’d be out there?

Crispian: Yeah

Homeopath: When would you be going?

Crispian: Well I’ve not booked it. I’ve only just started looking today because I just happened to see it but well, next summer, I guess next August

Homeopath: Yeah. Well that gives you, you know a good bit of time to you know get fit

Crispian: I just started looking when I was at work and I though that looked quite fun

Homeopath: I’d also possibly try and loose a bit of weight before you go, simply because if you get sick, and if your system is a little bit over, I mean you just need to be fitter and take things like liver cleansing remedies with you as well so if you get, um. Most people just get diagraph or dysentery those are the major fears in that part of the world, diarrhoea and dysentery, so things like tinctures of wormwood, things like that to keep your liver healthy because your liver is your best defence that you have if you get a blood born disease, you want your liver to be on your side. I would get the world traveller’s manual, Colin Lessell, I’ll write it down for you…. It’s called um The World Travellers Homeopathy manual or something, something like that

Crispian: OK

Homeopath: You’ll find it

Crispian: I’ll find it online will I?

Homeopath: Yeah. Its good, it tells you all about the various weird and wonderful ticks and antigens and bacteria that you can come into contact with

Crispian: OK, that’s very helpful, so it sounds like with a bit of research and if I’m comfortable then ..

Homeopath: Yeah, if you want to know more about it then I think we’re obliged to do a 20 to 30 minute consultation before we write the prescription or whatever so you know exactly how to take it and what to do

Crispian: What about the children because I’ve got the family as well so..

Homeopath: Oh, you’re going to take everyone?

Crispian: Yeah

Homeopath: Um, yeah, then I would say that if you want to put them through that as well then I think you need to be very very wised up on how to deal with an emergency if that happens

Crispian: Ok, so I could bring the family, the children in with me as well?

Homeopath: You can certainly book up, and I can take you through the remedies, um it might be worth … this is the travellers kit. Helios, they’re very good. I rate them as a good gift. This is a traveller’s kit of the basic remedies that you might need.

Crispian: OK, so these are 30 C

Homeopath: 30 C

Crispian: What’s that?

Homeopath: That’s 30 dilutions so basically … OK.. So lets see .. think of a herb that you know.. Arnica? Yeah?

Crispian: OK

Homeopath: It’s a flower, it’s a healing herb. What they’ve done is taken the herb, mashed it about put it in some alcohol for various number of days, shaken it and stirred it, taken one drop of that and then put a hundred drops of alcohol with it and then shaken it and that’s become a 1 X. They’ve done that up to one hundred.. up to ten times and then they’ve made it a 1 C and then each time they’ve taken a drop put a hundred drops of alcohol, shaken it and whatever and each time they’ve taken it up step by step by step. So by the time it’s got to 30 C …

Crispian: There’s not going to be a lot left is there?

Homeopath: Well, the original substance has gone, its passed Avogadro’s number but the imprint in the cell is arnica still. Um

Crispian: OK

Homeopath: I mean, if you’ve never taken homeopathy before

Crispian: I haven’t no

Homeopath: I think its worth experiencing it just to see, because there’s no point me telling you and you believing it. Yeah. They say its got the cellular imprint of it and the beauty of it is that it's vibrational, it won’t harm your lungs or your organs in anyway at all like conventional medicine

Crispian: OK

Homeopath: It’s just very very powerful. I’d say that you need to experience it

Crispian: OK. Thank you, you’ve been very helpful. I’ll look that up

Homeopath: OK, What’s your name?

Crispian: Its Crispian.

Homeopath: Crispian, I’m xxxxx

Crispian: Nice to meet you, Ill look that up. Cheers

Homeopath: Yeah, Bye


As you can hear the lady I spoke to was very pleasant and helpful and obviously a firm believer in homeopathy. She was keen to explain how it worked and promote other alternative therapies.

Notes:
She was careful to state that it would be my own decision and that I need to make an educated an informed choice, and she was careful to disassociate her views from the shop she worked for. She did however:
  1. Clearly offer to write me a prescription for a malaria remedy to be used in place of a conventional vaccination
  2. She advised me not to consult my GP as they are ill advised on such things
  3. She mentioned that she would not personally recommend vaccines as she does not like what they put in them

Surely that’s fairly dangerous advice.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

TIM London

There’s only a week to go before the start of TAM London. Unfortunately many people may not be able to attend The Amazing Meeting in London as tickets for the event sold out within the first hour of going on sale. However, fear not, for those unable to attend TAM London, there’s plenty of spaces left at TIM London.

Click to enlarge screenshot of the TIM London website.


Special thanks to Derren Brown for auditioning for TIM London last week.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

The Pod Delusion

The Pod Delusion is a new podcast about interesting things from a sort of Guardianista world view. The pilot episode is now available and features articles on the following:


Gordon Brown's use of language by Dr Simon Howard
Product Placement on TV by Duncan Stephen
Conspiracy Theories on TV by the shows creator and host, James O'Malley
School Academies by Misty
The New Darwin Centre by me
and Derren Brown's recent TV mind-fuckery by Will Howells

future episodes will no doubt feature more stuff by some people





Or click here and select the iTunes link to download to your iPod.

Friday, 18 September 2009

#SciDebate

On the 16th September 2009 I attended a debate at the Royal Institute in London with Dr Ben Goldacre and the current science minister, Lord Paul Drayson.

Drayson argued that since the MMR and BSE science reporting debacles, the UK has improved its reporting of science issues to the general public and we should therefore praise our high quality science writers and reporters. Goldacre took the stance that the media still often makes a shoddy job of reporting many pieces of science news and suggested that the media frequently prefer attention grabbing headlines to accurate scientific content.

Both Drayson & Goldacre presented good examples to back up their viewpoints. However after looking at several of Goldacre's examples of bad science in the media, I couldn’t help but notice a pattern. As an IT consultant I can generally spot recursive trends and algorithms and so my suspicion was raised. As many of these articles seemed to emanate from the Daily Mail, I secretly hacked into the Daily Mail’s computer system, and after a little searching around I located what I suspected to be the source of the problem.

I can now exclusively reveal that the Daily Mail is using a sophisticated software application to automatically generate its science articles. Journalists simply complete a form and tweak a few options and values before automatically generating the required story. Click the following screenshot to enlarge...

Sunday, 13 September 2009

If homeopathy works ... I'll drink my own piss



Update:
As this post has had so many hits I thought I really ought to correct some of the inaccuracies in the video. Rather than removing or re-filming the video, here’s a list of corrections:
  1. I keep incorrectly pronouncing succussion as succession. It should be “sus-sussion”
  2. To make the 1C dilution I should have added my 1ml of piss to 99ml of water, not 100 ml
  3. Although I rinsed the pipette after the first succession, I should really have used a clean pipette each time

Other than that, I think it’s about right, it really is that silly

Friday, 11 September 2009

God Was Never On Your Side

Regardless of your particular religous persuasion, I'll wager that god was never on your side ...

video
PLAY IT LOUD

Music used WITHOUT kind permission

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Skeptic Park

Just as I got bored of playing with the Simpsonizer, I noticed the South Parkerizor. So I thought I’d arse about with that for the evening. As blogger is a bit crap you might need to click the image to appreciate the full wisdom of the four Skeptic Park boys.



Part 2 Now Available

Skeptics in the Pub

I believe "Skeptics in the PubLondon", was the original and the first SitP and is now well into its 10th year. It is also apparently the world’s largest pub meeting. The bulging attendance suggests that London could easily support a second event so I am very much looking forward to the first Skeptics in the Pub – Westminster, next month.

Hence, I thought this might be a good time to reflect upon how I came to be involved with the Skeptics in the Pub. As luck would have it, I happened to transcribe my first meeting with Sid Rodrigues, Norman Hansen, Tracy King and Chris French…


CRISPIAN: Are you the Skeptics in the Pub Westminster?

SID: Fuck off!

CRISPIAN: What?

SID: Skeptics in the Pub Westminster. We're the Skeptics in the Pub London! Skeptics in the Pub Westminster. Cawk.

NORMAN: Wankers.

CRISPIAN: Can I... join your group?

SID: No. Piss off.

CRISPIAN: I didn't want to be an IT Consultant. It's only a job. I hate the Believers as much as anybody.

SITP: Shhhh. Shhhh. Shhh. Shh. Shhhh.

SID: Schtum.

TRACY: Are you sure?

CRISPIAN: Oh, dead sure. I hate the Believers already.

SID: Listen. If you really wanted to join the S.i.t.P. you'd have to really hate the Believers.

CRISPIAN: I do!

SID: Oh, yeah? How much?

CRISPIAN: A lot!

SID: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Believers are the fucking Skeptics in the Pub Westminster.

SITP: Yeah...

TRACY: Splitters.

SITP: Splitters...

NORMAN: And the Skeptics in the Pub Oxford.

SITP: Yeah. Oh, yeah. Splitters. Splitters...

CHRIS: And the Skeptics in the Pub London.

SITP: Yeah. Splitters. Splitters...

SID: What?

CHRIS: The Skeptics in the Pub London. Splitters.

SID: We're the Skeptics in the Pub London!

CHRIS: Oh. I thought we were Westminster.

SID: London! C-huh.

NORMAN: Whatever happened to the Westminster Skeptics, Sid?

SID: He's on sabbatical while he writes his book.

SITP: Splitter!

Monday, 7 September 2009

Interactive version of new Dawkins book to be featured at the Darwin Centre

On September 15th the Natural History Museum in Kensington will open the doors to its New Darwin Centre. The facility will give unprecedented access to the museums huge collection of stuff. Exhibits will include tat brought back from the Galapagos Islands' gift shops by Darwin himself on his epic journey on the Beagle. The opening of the new facility coincides with the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of his ground breaking work: “On the Origin of Species”.

Richard Dawkins, the media proclaimed “King of the Atheists”, has also decided to cash in on this auspicious anniversary by releasing a new book providing undisputable evidence for Darwin’s theory. It is expected however that dim-witted creationists will nonetheless dispute Dawkins’ undisputable evidence. With this in mind, the rosy cheeked prof has pre-empted the issue. For those unreceptive of the logic and reason contained within the book, Dawkins has ensured that the tome is sufficiently large, blunt and weighty in order for it to be used to bludgeon some sense into the heads of the credulous.

The Darwin Centre has adopted Dawkins’ cunning ploy to create a new interactive feature to encourage children to participate in the creation/evolution debate. By using Dawkins’ new book to continually twat a never-ending procession of crazed creationists; children will learn a valuable lesson in the futility of arguing with the deluded. The senior curator for the new facility is delighted with the new exhibit and stated: “It’s like well cool, you smack them fings and they keep coming back innit.”

Camp Quest UK director Samantha Stein will be bussing in a multitude of children to try out the new attraction. At a recent press release, Samantha told our reporter: “I appreciate the futility of arguing with creationists, but I’m keen to give the children their own opportunity to twat the shit out of these nut jobs”.

Friday, 4 September 2009

A Full Deck of Simpsonised Skeptics

It was awfully nice of so many of you to stop by my blog to read Simpsons Top Trumps: Skeptics Edition.

My wife informs me however that you were all just patronising me and that I really shouldn’t be humoured, as it just encourages me to repeat my childish behaviour. Anyway, if I’d have known I was going to get so much traffic, I might have actually done a bit of qu
ality control to try and weed out a few of my more glaring spelling mistakes and deviations from the English Language in the initial post.

So this time around I have taken a bit more time. I’ve fannied around in Photoshop a lot more to try and improve on the limited configurability offered by the Simpsonizer machine, and I’ve got the wife to proof read the cards. Feel free to point and laugh at her if there are any spelling mistakes left, she’ll be delighted.

In the event that there is still an interest in viewing some more Simpsonised skeptics now that I have lost the element of originality, here's the second batch to make up the full deck of 52 cards ...


Notes: Thanks for the many suggestions I received for whom to do in this set, and special thanks to Adam Savage who was sad enough to actually email me a list of suggestions. You will notice that I have only included living skeptics, otherwise there are a lot of additional great names I would have had to include and I was already struggling to whittle the list down to a manageable size. Therefore apologies to all those great skeptics I have missed out, I shan't name you for fear of missing some more out again and getting stuck in an infinite loop of apologies. I will however be working on another post to pay homage to the skeptics who have shuffled off this mortal coil.

Finally

They do say the imitation is the greatest form of flattery so I was tres chuffed to read these 2 recent blog posts:

1. Dale Williams posted my very own Simposinized Top Trump card in lieu of my modesty preventing me from simpsonising myself. I was planning to include it in the above list, but there were no skeptics I was willing to substitute. Thanks Dale.

2. Some of you may remember that back in June, following the initial hearing in the Simon Singh versus BCA trial, I posted my pythonised version of the court transcript. I also followed this post up with a pythonised update to the subsequent quacklash. I had intended to post a 3rd update on the unfolding story of Simon Singh versus the BCA using the “Black Knight” sketch from the Holy Grail. I played around with it for a while but just couldn’t make it fit so I abandoned it. Then I noticed that Alice Sheppard (AKA PenguinGalaxy) had done an absolutely superb job of it here.



As usual thoughts, suggestions, spelling corrections, remarks and general abuse are all most welcome in the comments section