Several people have emailed me to ask if I’m still here, if I’ve given up blogging, or what. Of course, I’m touched that you all noticed. The truth is, I’ve just been having trouble recently finding the motivation to write anything new. I seem to have covered all the major topics I wanted to cover when I started this blog, plus many more (What The Bleep!? / The Secret) that I never even envisioned back in February 2005. And now, when I see some more nonsense by, say, Bill Maher or Deepak Chopra, it looks like the same old crap I’ve debunked before, and that others (I’m looking at you Orac) have already done an excellent job of taking down already. So I decided to take a break for a while. I’ve not gone away (as you can tell from the comments) and in fact I do have another brief post planned on astrology, as well as year 2 of The Golden Woos to consider. But it is true that I won’t be posting as often as before, at least for a while.
In the mean time I’ve decided to catch up on some reading, notably Why Evolution Is True and The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution – both excellent by the way. And I also have a book by Chris Hallquist - UFOs, Ghosts, and a Rising God: Debunking the Resurrection of Jesus - to read (and review Chris. I know).
I’ve also been reading a lot of blogs. For example, TechSkeptic just posted the latest Skeptics’ Circle. Here are a couple of others I found interesting recently – some of which you have probably read but a couple perhaps you haven’t.
First, check out Whirled Musings on the sweat lodge deaths at James Arthur Ray’s Sedona retreat: Sweat lodge deaths: is the heat on Secret star? I’ve had differences with Whirled Musings’ Connie before, but I have to say that few are more persistent than she in debunking New Wage cults such as The Secret and its fellow travelers. This post is very long, with many additions as new information came in, but it is really worth a read. A couple of snippets:
While investigators are still sorting out all of the factors that led to the deaths of two participants [now three; see Oct. 18 addendum below ~CLS], and the injuries of numerous others, at James Ray's recent Sedona disaster, it seems abundantly clear by now (at least to me) that the very nature of the retreat – and the manipulative techniques James Ray used – were factors in those deaths and injuries. Numerous accounts I have read said that even though participants were told they could leave whenever they wanted, those who recognized their limitations and tried to exit the sweat lodge were, in some cases, chided by James (he called one guy a "wimp") and they were encouraged to stay and experience the event "full-on."
Also, quoting the San Francisco Examiner:
People are flailing in seizures; others are vomiting violently, or foaming at the mouth. Bodies are lined up unconscious, some are blue from lack of oxygen, but for some it is too late, they are already dead. Survivors that are barely able to stand struggle to help the others, they have had almost no food or water for nearly three days, even longer without sleep. It looks like a war zone, but for the incongruent figure of James Arthur Ray (a contributing author to The Secret) who exits the sweat lodge and stands tall with a big smile, the only one able to stand on his own volition. He is not concerned with the medical emergency going on full swing around him. He is not worried about the health and well-being of his followers who have paid $10,000.00 (tack on an additional 5,000.00 or so if you include flights, room and board, and camping supplies) to attend his retreat. In fact, he and his team urge people to stop taking care of others and focus on their own journey, assuring them they are fine and only “purging”. Someone finally realizes James Ray is not in control of the situation and calls 911.
A new blog about genetic engineering that I have been reading is Biofortified. There is certainly a lot of nonsense talked about genetic engineering, but the writers of Biofortified are refreshingly evidence based. Check out Terminator 2: My Mission is to Protect You – on the subject of “terminator” technology and why it is not the evil bogeyman that the anti-GE people like to claim it is. In fact, although terminator technology is not actually in any commercially available GE crops, it is a part of some non GE crops including some organics:
There is a very widely used and accepted conventional analog of Terminator GURTs that most of us have eaten – they’re called Seedless Watermelons. These are generated by manipulating the number of chromosomes in watermelon cells to give them three copies of each chromosome instead of two. (For more on how this works, you can watch a video I made about it here.) The resulting “Triploid” Watermelons sponteneously abort their seeds, leaving a juicy, seedless fruit. The seeds have to be regenerated year after year from other plants, and farmers and consumers obviously cannot replant seeds that don’t even exist!
Ironically, while genetic engineering is not allowed in organic agriculture, Seedless watermelons are. Nevermind the fact that the chromosome numbers are artificially manipulated using chemicals – it appears that this early form of direct genetic manipulation has been grandfathered in.
My point in bringing up the seedless watermelon is this: It results in exactly the same thing as genetically engineered GURTs – and that is it effectively prevents the plant from generating fertile seeds. The argument is often made, most vociferously by Shiva, that GURTs are immoral because they interrupt the traditional practice of seed saving. Shiva and others must therefore agree that seedless watermelons are also immoral for the same reason. Why is there no call for a moratorium on seedless watermelons? Well, that would be the pits.
Keeping with the GE theme, Scienceblogs recently added Tomorrow’s Table, written by Pamela Ronald, Professor of Plant Pathology at the University of California, Davis.
And just so as you know I haven’t gone soft, I’ll link to Orac’s takedown of two wooful posts in (where else) The Huffington Post. First, Bill Maher’s attempt to distance himself from the criticisms that he’s anti vaccine (where on Earth could we have ever gotten that idea?): Vaccination: A Conversation Worth Having. I’m not going into that post paragraph by paragraph (Orac has already done it – see Bill Maher flames out in a pyre of stupidity over vaccines—again), but I just wanted to highlight one line:
In addition, my audience is bright, they wouldn't refuse a flu shot because they heard me talk about it…
Oh no – the Oprah defense: I may be talking crap or I may not – it doesn’t matter because my readers will decide. Come on Bill. Man up – either engage your critics with evidence and facts or shut the hell up, but quit hiding behind the skirts of your readers with this lame argument.
Finally, trust Deepak Chopra to chime in with more drivel just when we need it. Orac responds with Deepak Chopra and his Choprawoo translated: "Skeptics, take my ill-informed speculations seriously!" Sheesh, I may have to break my rule and award Chopra a Golden Woo after all.