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Rebecca Watson

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    You know you’re a good person, right? You adopted a dog from the shelter! You check in on your grandmother in the old folks’ home once a mon […]

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    Naomi Wu is a Cantonese programmer and “maker,” better known in the US as “Sexy Cyborg.” I first learned about her a few years back when so […]

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    I’d like to talk a little about science and data, for those of you out there who really want to believe that they are objective measures of r […]

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    Gay conversion therapy is a bullshit religious practice in which people who hate gay people utilize various “techniques” with no basis in sci […]

    • Rebecca Watson,

      Prosecuting gay conversion “therapy” as fraud everywhere would be a good thing.

    • Well, you know how it is, call a fraudulent therapy or some bizarre medical belief (e.g., contraceptives cause abortions) “part of muh religion” and everyone suddenly thinks it needs constitutional protection. See also Scientology.

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    Tiffany Haddish is a successful comedian and actor who was recently profiled in GQ. In the interview, she suggests that everyone should take […]

    • Of course, before 1900 or so, NOT getting medical care wasn’t such a terrible thing.

      When Tuskegee started, the only treatment for syphilis was Salvarsan, or other arsenic compounds. They were so toxic that only about 15% of patients were able to complete the treatment, which often had ghastly side-effects. The real crime starts when sulfa drugs, and especially penicillin, became available and the pox could be treated fairly safely and easily.

      (Hmm. realizing that I’m quoting that 15% figure from memory, which adds a few grains of salt. I suspect that the use of arsenicals did improve over the decades that treatment was used.)

      • Another common treatment was mercury, which actually dates back to the 11th century. (So, yeah, no one blame us for syphilis. Actually, Galen describes a disease very similar to syphilis, so, yeah, LONG history before Columbus.) Again, highly toxic, not something I would recommend.

        Actually, medicine was very much tied to alchemy back then, so they used mercury for practically everything. And yes, that is as toxic as it sounds. (Then again, I’m sure people in the year 3000 will call us barbarians.)

        • You neglected to mention how the mercury was administered for syphilis. You fill a thin glass tube, and slid it up the urethra. Then you tap it with a hammer to shatter the glass. And this would only give temporary relief, so would have to be given periodically.

          In any case, the Tuskegee experiment (crime) took place after modern treatments were available.

      • That cutoff time depends on the disease. I would argue that medical science remains in an extremely primitive state in some areas even today

        . Look at treatment of back pain, or any chronic pain for that matter – overuse of opioids is a big problem and we need to fast track development of the many promising alternatives on the horizon.

    • Rebecca Watson,

      Also slaves weren’t healthy not because they didn’t have access to turpentine, but because they had to work ridiculously long hours, usually for ever single day of their lives, and it was legal to beat them for simply not working fast enough, which often happened, even if they couldn’t work fast enough.

    • Europeans used to use tansy as the traditional cure for intestinal worms.

      6 Benefits of Tansy and the Dangers

      It was used during Lent to knock off parasites from all the fish they ate in that season.

      Again, same problem, the active principle thujone is toxic to liver and brain, but they usually got away with it because levels were low in the plant during that season.

      I would not blame anybody poor and uneducated in an unequal society resorting to traditional methods in desperation.

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    Recently Derren Brown signed a deal with Netflix to produce three specials, which is very exciting for me because he’s pretty much the only m […]

    • Regarding mob mentality, I have noticed that groups tend to allow for more suspension of disbelief. Once you’re in an echo chamber, your perception of reality suffers.

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    If you were born in the 1980s, like me, there’s a very good chance that like me you saw the film My Girl starring Macaulay Culkin and Anna C […]

    • Yep. For those of us not allergic, bee stings are a nuisance. But then again, we usually don’t get stung by hundreds of them in quick succession, and we certainly don’t do so repeatedly as a form of therapy.

      Sometimes I think celebrities’ weird beliefs are a game of Can You Top This.

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    Prestigious science journals don’t only publish great, peer-reviewed research. They also publish opinion pieces, and despite their quality s […]

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    In the wake of yet another school shooting — and I mean Parkland but I could mean any of the other school shooting that have happened since […]

    • >Real guns are fine…

      Not that I agree with the sentient Cheeto occupying the White House about video game violence, but the sale and possession of real guns IS regulated. I would prefer the government practice enforcing the current laws restricting the sale and possession of firearms before we add more laws.

      • Basically, yeah.

        Here’s the funny part: All these school massacres (though still statistically pretty rare), people are trying to figure out what causes kids to snap and no one looks at the elephant in the room: Every last one of these murderers had exposure to white supremacist or other far-right (e.g., MRA, pickup artist) subculture. (Just so we’re aware: When I’m talking “far-right”, I don’t just mean “idiots who think supply-side economics will work this time”. I mean the idiots who think there’s a secret plot to commit genocide against whites. Whole different animal, though the two are codependent on each other.)

        There’s your X factor, ladies and gentlemen. Not exposure to guns, not exposure to video games or violent movies, not even exposure to icosahedral dice. Exposure to Nazis.

    • I should mention something else: I know some people who actually voted for Bush because Gore was known for censoring music, and Lieberman for censoring video games. (Another onanistic “unity ticket” in the style of Clinton/Kaine.)

      Keep in mind that before the NRA took this line, we’d experienced it in the 90s with the Clintons and their sycophants.

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    I really didn’t want to talk about this, but the BBC has forced my hand by posting an inane video promoting the claims of Johann Hari and h […]

    • I’m actually OK with death as being essential for renewal, regeneration and evolution.

      I mean things are bad enough today with the whole place being dominated by people whose formative years were half a century ago.

      How bad would it be (think patriarchy) if we were run by people from Victorian times, or medieval times, or 10,000 years ago?

      If you take this to the extreme, the world would consist of patriarchal microbes!

      Accordingly I have big reservations about the idea of extending human life beyond a certain point. At least, FFS we need to learn to live sustainably first.

    • Thank you, Rebecca. – Bob Curtis, MD

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    Women report getting more rude comments from coworkers than men do, so a University of Arizona study set out to figure out who was making the […]

    • >I do expect that to be the conclusion drawn by Redditors and YouTube commenters.

      For sure. It’s common to make sense of subtle findings by leaning on your biases and ideology … like speculating that this meanness is a result of the bully adopting male practices or blaming it on the patriarchy.

    • Excellent! I listened raptly, until the last minute, when I was chuckling too forcefully to catch every word. (So I played it back, of course.) I strongly suspect, with absolutely no evidence, that further studies will show a narrowing of difference between male and female behavior, once confounders are eliminated. We are far more alike than we are different.

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    An article in the New York Times announced that a new study shows “The Key to Weight Loss Is Diet Quality, Not Quantity,” which caught my eye […]

    • You know, the point about the title being out of whack with the article has come up in these pages many times before.

      The point I want to make is, that title may not be the author’s fault, at least not entirely.

      Several times in my life, something I have written has had the title changed by somebody else, be it a coauthor, a professor or somebody who I have trusted and ought to know better – in this case, perhaps an editor.

      I had gone along with it at the time and lived to cop the fallout because the article was NOT written to that title and the context had changed.

      For instance what had been a secondary point now becomes the main point and there may not be enough data to support that conclusively – or something along those lines, let’s keep it vague.

      The point being, I feel sorry for the author in that scenario because I have been there and done that and I bet it happens all the time.

      For this reason if I were to write an article these days I would always insist on my own original title.

    • That being said, New York Times shits me to tears sometimes.

      A couple of weeks ago they had an article up with the title
      “Wall Street Falls…” with quite a dismal, negative and almost hysterical story.

      There was even a live chart attached – showing not a decrease but a 0.4% increase!

      Turns out there was a fall of just 0.3% 15 minutes before, which must have triggered the article.

      Wall Street was in fact up on that day and on following days.

      Said article has now been removed but it was up long enough to cause confusion and panic if you failed to read the actual data and make your own conclusions.

      All this made me think back fondly to Bad Chart Thursdays.

    • Your point is good, that it’s a lot EASIER to restrict calorie intake with a high fibre diet. Calorie restriction is still necessary though.

      In actual fact I have done something similar to Rebecca’s Twinkie diet, though not for weight loss but to try and heal after a botched surgical procedure.

      The diet was 100% carbohydrate, 2 liters of lemonade per day for two weeks (125 ml/hour, on the hour, 800 calories/day). I lost 4-5 kg; strangely I was not affected by hunger at all, though I did have a powerful incentive.

      So with discipline, an all carb diet can work for a short period, but highly not recommended, do not try this at home kids!

      • I meant to add, the best quote I have ever heard on this subject:-

        “Eat food. Not too much, mostly vegetables”.

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    Look, we all know YouTube is a disgusting cesspit. Case in point, if this video has been live for more than an hour, take a look at the […]

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    A few months ago, a reporter for Buzzfeed got in touch with me asking if I would talk to them about an investigation they were doing on […]

    • According to the Personnel List on their site, Lindsay is Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Inquiry. I finally dumped CFI after my local chapter sponsored a showing of “The Red Pill” last May and everyone loved it. Awful people from top to bottom.

      Interesting that the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism invited Krauss to speak in 2014. Difficult to believe that they did not know about the accusations against Krauss, but maybe they just wanted to sell tickets instead of believing the women.They present themselves as “good guys.” They are not.

    • These same people think it’s more likely that all the accusations against Sandusky are made for money than that there is any truth to them.
      Some skeptics are awfully unskeptical.

    • Even without the toxic bro-dom, how can we speak of an ‘atheist community’ if it would have to include red-diaper Stalinists and Randroids under the same tent?

      Not believing in any deities doesn’t even preclude devotion to other superstitions, e.g. all the idiotic evo-psych MRA/PUA horseshit.

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    A few weeks ago, I published a video about how a Republican representative in Arizona was too grossed out about periods to do his job, which […]

    • I applaud particularly your penultimate paragraph regarding “inclusion of those usually left out” because I was thinking exactly the same the other night while watching Q&A on the ABC where Catherine McGregor was on the panel.

      I thought it was really tragic that after all the angst she undoubtedly went through to get to where she is now, a large number of people would not even recognise her present status as a woman. She was well aware of this and wisely refused to be drawn on questions relating to women’s issues.

      I do not know much about her but though her politics may be conservative clearly she has a razor sharp intellect and was worth listening to on the subjects of geopolitics, Putin and hacking, topical in Australia now as much as in the US.

      (I use “She” above rather than “They” or whatever because she clearly identifies as such and I will not deny her that respect)

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    Iceland is considering becoming the first country in the world to ban infant circumcision, the practice of removing a newborn’s foreskin f […]

    • Thank you, Rebecca! When I was doing my Family Practice residency, we were told we had to learn the techniques of circumcision, even if we did not intend to perform the practice after graduation. “Well”, I said, “How on Earth can I learn the technique without doing it?” You can’t, I was told. “Forget it”, I said. There was a stink, policy was changed, and to this day I have not performed one (and never will, unless medically necessary).

    • Did routine male circumcision ever catch on in Iceland? The US situation had nothing to do with Judaism or Islam, rather with frantic anti-masturbation crusades by John Harvey Kellog etc.

      Jewish circumcision is outside medical control, and is demanded in the first few days or weeks of a boy’s life. I believe there are active Jewish anti-circ groups around already. It shouldn’t be such a huge issue for people who want real reform. My stepson’s mother kept him intact, and his, at least cultural, Judaism has never been in doubt.

      And, how did you cover this topic without mentioning Islam? There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of Muslim boys getting cut for every Jewish boy. Though not with the pressure to do it on any particular schedule.

    • Tangent: occasionally well known sci if authors will have a character go off on a quick screed about some moral issue.
      In 3001: A space Odyssey, the main character hooks up with a woman, and she goes off on how they can’t actually have sex because he is mutilated.
      Always amused me, and less offensive than the random gay guy talking about how glad he was he married a woman and had kids in one of the Bean sequels to Enders Game.

    • What I have trouble getting my head around is the fact that somewhere, several thousands of years ago some twisted thinking person did this for the first time …

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    Bots are hot news these days, which interests me because I’ve spent many years talking about the role of algorithms on social networks used t […]

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    Sometimes, very lucrative jobs are extremely dangerous. For instance, you can make a lot of money on fishing boats or oil rigs, working long, […]

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    How do we convince people to accept basic facts that seem to be at odds with their belief systems? That’s a question I t […]

    • In other news, anyone in Tennessee want to help Gayle Jordan? She’s getting all kinds of hate for being an atheist while running for Congress.

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    Imagine there are state-run prisons in which prisoners get 10 squares of toilet paper a week. Single ply. If they want any […]

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