Saturday 29 August 2009

Simpsons Skeptics Update

WARNING – This post contains no satirical comment

I posted my Simpsons Top Trumps – Skeptics Edition, last week just before buggering off on holiday. Since then they have received over 50,000 page views (According to Google Analytics), so I have been rather frustrated that I have not been able to correct a few problems with them until today.

The following updates have now been made:

  • The 2 spelling mistakes on Velma Dinkley’s card have been corrected
  • Adam Savage has had his special powers enhanced
  • The spelling of Penn Jillette’s twitter account has been corrected
  • David Colquhoun has been given his distinctive pipe
  • Changed Steven Novella's Arch Nemesis
  • Phil Plait now has a nice NASA logo on his cap

I have also just about decided on the next 26 skeptics that will make up the full deck of 52 cards. But I’m not telling you who they are yet. Check back in about a week to see if I’ve managed to get around to doing it.

Let me know if you have any more comments or suggestions for the next batch.

Also, does anyone know of the legal implications of printing and selling the cards at TAM London (proceeds to JREF)? If only I knew a sceptical lawyer.

Friday 21 August 2009

Simpsons Top Trumps: Skeptics Edition

This blog was prompted by a text message from Jack of Kent daring me to write it.

So, here’s another batch of top trumps, this time inspired by the Simpsons, but skeptically themed. You probably can’t read the text on the card so click each one to expand them.

You May Also like:

Skeptics Tarot Cards

Celebrity Quack Trumps Part 1 and Part 2


Thanks to Twitter, Wikipedia &

My original list had over 100 great names sceptics, which I whittled down to 52. However, to make the task a tad more manageable I have restricted myself to 26 cards. So apologies for those I’ve missed out, but if it proved popular, there will be no problem in knocking up another batch. Also, I suppose this goes without saying, so regardless of the content of the individual cards, I have massive respect for all the sceptics featured.

Tuesday 18 August 2009

How Weird is your Woo?

It seems to me that there’s a sliding scale of silliness for irrational beliefs. Those I personally find the daftest are the ones that contradict the most empirical evidence.

Before I arsed around with my blog format, I had a little poll on the side for you all to vote on which woo you all thought was the wackiest. Of course this small sample straw poll is utterly meaningless, but just for the heck of it, here are the results:

I was very pleased to see Creationism topping the chart as it is also my choice for the most ridiculously stupid pile of fetid dingo’s kidneys. You have to throw so much conventional biology, geology, physics, astronomy and palaeontology out of the window and embrace such a huge steaming shit-load of mumbo jumbo in order to even entertain the absurd notion of creationism.

Bruce Hood argues in his book, "Supersense", that creationism is the direction our natural instincts will draw us towards. Therefore “Lord of the Flies” children, much like early civilisations may lean towards this idea in the absence of the knowledge of the sheer towering stack of converging evidence from multiple disciplines all beautifully under pinning Darwin’s elegant theory. I agree with Bruce’s point, but if you have grown up in a developed country in a post enlightenment time, the only possible excuse I can see for retaining a belief in creationism is if you are a fully certified raving fruit loop.

At this point, you may be thinking, that is not an intelligent argument in favour of a scientific and rational theory, that’s just childish and bigoted name calling. And you’re quite right, that is exactly what it is. There are plenty of serious skeptical bloggers out there that critically examine these beliefs and intelligently dissect the arguments to reach the scientific truth. I, however am not one of those bloggers, I am merely the Jeremy Clarkson of skeptical blogging.

Oh by the way, delighted to see homeopaths in second place, they’re a deluded bunch of silly twats too.

And on that bombshell………

Monday 17 August 2009

How the Alpha Course turned me into an Atheist

Like everyone on this planet, I was born an atheist. I was also fortunate enough to have non religious, liberal and enlightened parents. However the religious beliefs that soak our culture drew me in during my teenage years due to a mixture of circumstance, chance and curiosity.

I made some of my longest-standing and dearest friends through the Church (Methodist in my case), and I become deeply involved with the Church during my late teenage years. I even briefly sat on my local Church council to give the youth perspective.

However, despite attending a Billy Graham rally, I never actually experienced the highly emotional blinding light on the road to Damascus that clearly denotes the conversion point of many born again Christians. But I wanted to believe, I wanted to fit in with my new friends, I could see the Church as a force for good and I even enjoyed many of the sermons from the very good minister that we had at the time. Anyway, not everyone undergoes the sudden life changing experience, for many, it’s a slow gradual process, and that’s how I expected it would be for me.

As a younger child, I had, as I do now, an interest in science. Although I accept that many scientists have a meaningful faith, I now find the two viewpoints massively contradictory. I handled this at the time by simply ignoring science. My Church certainly never instructed that conventional science was wrong, they just focussed my attentions on more spiritual matters. So I was confirmed and I continued regularly and enthusiastically attending church, while putting any contradictory scientific notions to the back of my mind.

Over many years however my faith wasn’t growing, although fully supporting the Church, I was finding more and more sermons harder to swallow. And so my local Church, suggested, nay insisted, that I attended their next Alpha course.

I turned up at the first meeting naively expecting answers to be revealed, wisdom to be bestowed upon me and my faith to be reignited. Instead, I found myself simply unable to accept the theologies when they were laid out in front of me in all their irrational detail.

During the alpha sessions I came to realise that those with stronger faith than me, hadn’t understood something that I couldn’t grasp, they hadn’t gained extra knowledge or wisdom that I was still seeking, they had just made a blind leap of faith.

Whilst at the Alpha course, I realised that I was not going to get the intellectually satisfying answers that I sought. I was standing at the edge of a precipice while others encouraged me to make that leap of faith. But to make that leap I would have to accept things I knew to be irrational and contradictory to empirical evidence. Yes there were nice things on offer on the other side, but I decided that I would be being dishonest to myself and deliberately deluding myself if I were to make that leap.

Looking back at the Alpha course now, it seems that focusing my mind on the questions that I had been putting to the back of mind in order to retain some semblance of faith is what caused the fragile foundation of that faith to simply collapse.

Despite actively seeking a faith, I do not now mourn the loss of the little faith I had. I have worked my way through countless popular science books, and while I don’t claim that science has all the answers, or that I fully understand it all, I have nonetheless gained a rational and natural understanding of the world that gives for me more satisfaction, awe and pleasure than my spiritual journey brought me.

Apologies for the lack of satirical content, normal service will be resumed in the next post.

Saturday 15 August 2009

Celebrity Quack Trumps – Part 2

A few weeks ago I unapologetically plagiarised the New Humanist magazines God Trumps, with my first batch of Celebrity Quack Trumps.

This second batch of Celebrity Quack trumps, whilst admittedly scraping the barrel, does now give you enough ammunition to actually play the game. For anyone unfamiliar with how to play Top Trumps, the rules are here.

You may notice that I have included my good self in the above cards as I have previously devised a number of bogus alternative therapies that I happily promote. More details of these therapies can be found here and here.

NB If Melinda Messenger is interested in my Mammary balancing therapy I will be happy to offer her a free session.

Friday 14 August 2009

Legal Loop Hole in the Singh V BCA trial

I have found a legal loop hole in the Singh V BCA Case that even Jack of ("WHAT SORT OF LAWYER ARE YOU, MORON??") Kent, has missed.

I shall layout my analysis in true Jack of Kent Style.

Firstly, once again, here is the passage the BCA complained of in Simon Singh's original article published in the Guardian:

"The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments."

Just read it again slowly, and try and think what is missing from the paragraph, and why it therefore clearly does not demonstrate that Singh was claiming that the BCA were deliberately and knowingly promoting ineffective treatments as inferred by Justice Eady.

Now do you see?


OK, there are two very important words missing at the start of the statement that Eady has clearly overlooked. Eady has incorrectly assumed that the statement read as follows:

Simon says "The British Chiropractic Association claims that their members can help treat children with colic, sleeping and feeding problems, frequent ear infections, asthma and prolonged crying, even though there is not a jot of evidence. This organisation is the respectable face of the chiropractic profession and yet it happily promotes bogus treatments."

But he never said “Simon Says”, so it doesn’t count.

Ha! In your face Eady.

I thank you.

More importantly Tenacious Singh will soldier on. Public Hearing at the Court of Appeal on 14th October 2009.

Thursday 13 August 2009

The National Ch’i Transfusion Service

Many alternative therapies predate modern medical science and often centre around a life force or energy.

Acupuncture, Reiki, Shiatsu and Chiropractic treatments all have origins in the belief that some energy force flows through the body. These therapies arose from the basic philosophy of managing, controlling or balancing the Ch’i, Qi, innate life force, energy or whatever that particular therapy likes to call it.

However, if healing is simply a matter of balancing or restoring these forces, why have I never seen one of these?

Do something amazing today, give Qi.
My arse

Wednesday 12 August 2009

Chiropractors, Nudge Nudge

I was reading this blog on the involvement that the Trading Standards have with the General Chiropractic Council, and it occurred to me that CAM practitioners might need to start being a little less candid with their claims.

Therefore those serious CAM believers seeking well wacky woo-woo therapies might have to fish a little a bit more to see how far their practitioners are willing to go.

Once again, this put me in mind of a python sketch….

CAM Patient: 'Evening, squire!

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: (stiffly) Good evening.

CAM Patient: Does, uh,... Does your chiropractor treat colic, eh? Know whatahmean, know whatahmean, nudge nudge, know whatahmean, say no more?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: I, uh, I beg your pardon?

CAM Patient: Your, uh, your chiropractor, does she treat, eh, does she treat infant colic, eh?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: (flustered) Well, you may see improvements in some types of infant colic, yes.

CAM Patient: Aaaaaaaah I bet you do, I bet you do, say no more, say no more, know whatahmean, nudge nudge?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: (confused) Are you, uh,... are you from the Trading Standards?

CAM Patient: Trading Standards. Trading Standards. That's good, that's good! An anecdote is as good as a clinical trial to a desperate patient!

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Would you like to arrange a session?

CAM Patient: Session! Very good, very good! Ay? Ay? Ay?(pause) Oooh! Ya alternative Ay! alternative Ay! Oooh hooh! Say No MORE!

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Well, I, uh....

CAM Patient: Does, your uh, does your chiropractor believe that partial displacements of the vertebrae cause a perturbation of the distribution of nervous impulses to tissues and cells, ay?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Um, she believes in subluxations, yes!

CAM Patient: I bet she does, I bet she does!

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: As a matter of fact she believes in the innate life force.

CAM Patient: 'Oo doesn't? Believe in the innate life force, eh? Knew she would. Likes energy, eh? She's done a bit of complementary medicine eh, a bit of complementary medicine?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: She is a CAM practioner, yes. She studied homeopathy.


CAM Patient: SAY NO MORE!! Homeopathy, saynomore, saynomore, saynomore, squire!

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: I wasn't going to!

CAM Patient: Oh! Well, never mind. Dib dib? Is your uh, is your chiropractor interested in... acupuncture, ay? meridians, ay', he asked him knowingly?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Acupuncture?

CAM Patient: Prick, prick, grin grin, wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: For pain relief, eh?

CAM Patient: Could be, could be for pain relief. Or other illnesses casused by blockages or imbalances in Qi?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: No, no I'm afraid we don't have any needles.

CAM Patient: Oh.(leeringly) Still, mooooooh, ay? Mwoohohohohoo, ay? Hohohohohoho, ay?

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Look... do you want alternative therapy?

CAM Patient: Oh, no, no, no... yes.

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Well?

CAM Patient: Well, you're a man of the world, squire.

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Yes...

CAM Patient: I mean, you've been around a bit, you know, like, you've, uh... You've 'done it'...

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: What do you mean?

CAM Patient: Well, I mean like,... you've been treated by a chiropractor...

Chiropractor’s Receptionist: Yes...

CAM Patient: Does it actually work?

Tuesday 4 August 2009

Correlation, Causation, Pseudo-Medicine, God & Lucozade

Like all kids, I occasionally caught a cold or mild flu that laid me up for a while and secured me a few precious days off school. After lounging around in bed for a bit, I was invariably back to my usual self. However whilst lying in bed moaning and feeling sick, I always used to ask my mum for a glass of Lucozade.

In those days you only got Lucozade when you were sick, so it was a bit of a treat and I was especially fond of the stuff. Other than being high in glucose and presumably therefore being relatively good at replacing energy, there is no scientific evidence that I am aware of, to make me believe that Lucozade has any active ingredients that combat the symptoms of cold and flu. Furthermore, I don’t think the company that makes it, claims that it does. It’s just a nice energy drink.

However in my 7 year old mind the correlation between having Lucozade when I was sick and getting better soon after, strayed somewhat from correlation to causation. I would therefore demand that my mother brought me some Lucozade when I was ill in the belief that it contributed a positive effect in curing my ails.

The logical fallacy of confusing correlation for causation is, I suspect, an easy trap for children to fall into. I also suspect this is the fallacy at the root of many superstitions and irrational beliefs in pseudo medicines, paranormal phenomenon and even, in a more complex way, religions. I think my faith in Lucozade when I was a kid was harmless and benign enough. However it must have had a single point of origin that is now lost in the mysts of time. Some sympathetic adult must have given me some Lucozade at some point to initiate the first correlation.

But what if my parents had other beliefs? To demonstrate the randomness of an arbitrary parental belief passed onto their children I have created the following die:

When a child is sick, rolling the die to determine a suitable action is no less random than the arbitrary methods adopted by that particular child’s parents. As an adult I now know that Lucozade, whilst being a delicious energy drink, is not an effective medicine. However, that doesn’t stop me sending the wife off to Sainsbury’s for a bottle of the stuff whenever I’m suffering from the dreaded man-flu. There must be some deep seated irrational belief buried deep in my unconscious that still provides me a little comfort when I follow this ritual.

But what if the die had landed on another side when I was a child? Would I now have an unexplained allegiance to a random religion or an ineffective pseudo medicine that I was unable to shake off due to my own false anecdotal evidence?

Monday 3 August 2009

British Chiropractic Association HQ #SinghBCA

I recently came across this photograph of the BCA HQ taken shortly after they had the brilliant idea of throwing stones at Simon Singh.

I think there might be a moral to this story if dig deep enough.

Sunday 2 August 2009

The 4 Yorkshire Ex Believers

The Players:
Michael Palin - Ex Catholic Yorkshireman
Graham Chapman - Ex Muslim Yorkshireman
Terry Jones - Ex Jewish Yorkshireman
Eric Idle – Ex Hindu Yorkshireman

The Scene:
Four well-dressed men are sitting together at a vacation resort.
'Farewell to Thee' is played in the background on Hawaiian guitar.

Aye, very passable, that, very passable book on gene centric evolution.

Nothing like a good rational book advancing scientific theory, eh, Josiah?

You're right there, Obadiah.

Who'd have thought thirty year ago we'd all be sittin' here reading Richard Dawkins, eh?

In them days we was glad to have a piece of ancient scripture.

A piece of credulous ancient scripture.

Without rationality or logic.

Or reason.

With an invisible God an ‘all.

Oh we were never able to even attempt to visualize Allāh.

The best we could manage was to rehash a bunch of Jewish and Egyptian myths based on the Sun

But you know, we were deluded in those days, though we were uncritical.

Because we were uncritical. My old Dad used to say to me, "Faith doesn't buy you truth, son".

Aye, 'e was right.

Aye, 'e was.

I was more deluded and bigoted then when I vigorously denied the existence of thousands of gods claimed by other religions, but felt outraged when someone denied the existence of my one true God.

Bigoted! ‘E You wo’ moderate, I used to believe that when a person dies they re-live another life as someone else, and if they have bad karma they will be reborn into a lower caste or animal.

Eh, you were lucky to believe in reincarnation. I used to believe that the entire population of this planet with the exception of those who share my beliefs would spend eternity in an infinite hell of suffering. And yet I considered my religion to be the most tolerant and loving. In spite of abusing children with threats of hell and eternal suffering.

Oh, we used physically abuse our children as well as mentally. Despite believing that God created humans, we used to think that God's creation was morally imperfect and had to be corrected by manually and painfully lopping off end o’ boys cocks.

Well I say one God, but I actually believed in 3 Gods according to the Christian doctrine of the trinity. So I believed that my God knocked up a young Jewish minx by appearing as a holy spirit so he could be born as a man an then get himsen killed on cross in our holy land in order to save us all from sin, but we’re all a bit fuzzy on how that actually works.

We were evicted from our holy land, had to go live in a desert and plan a jihad.

You were lucky to have a desert. We used to worship a river. We personified the river Ganges as our Goddess, Ganga

Benevolent Goddess


You were lucky. We had a jealous God who wasted the first 4 of his 10 commandments stating that he is god, that we should have no other gods, or make idols or do stuff on the Sabbath in preference to saying ought about rape, child abuse, slavery or equal rights.

Well, of course we had it irrational. We were told by the Pope to believe in the transubstantiation. So we believed that the bread and wine used in the Eucharist was converted to the actual body and blood of Christ which was then followed by the cannibalistic eating of the flesh and corporal drinking of the blood of Christ. Furthermore we believed that Christ was really, truly, and substantially present during the whole act.

Sane. On the eve of Yom Kippur, we used to have to grab a live chicken by the shoulder blades an’ move it round our ‘ead three times whilst reciting “This is my exchange, this is my substitute, this is my atonement. This rooster will go to its death, while I will enter and proceed to a good long life and to peace.” Then we used to believe our sins were transformed unto the chicken, and then we killed it.

Right, we have a cleric who urged an audience including children and teenage boys to adopt a "jihad mentality" and undergo military training to fulfil their responsibility to kill Jews, Hindus and Westerners. He said that: "Even if you are hit by a cruise missile, the pain will feel like that of a mosquito bite." The compensation for death would be the right to "eat from the fruits of paradise" and the company of 72 virgins.

That’s nothing compared to the papal approved brutality and injustice we were able to dish out in the pre enlightened days when we could get away with it. We use to burn women as witches if they showed any signs of intelligence or rebellion against the Church. We used to force heretics to confess by using the most barbaric torture devices imaginable, including the heretics fork which did not penetrate any vital points, and thus suffering was prolonged and death was always nearly avoided.

And you try and tell the rational people of today that ..... they won't believe you.

They won't!