Skepchick Quickies 1.16


Amanda works in healthcare, is a loudmouthed feminist, and proud supporter of the Oxford comma.

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  1. If you search for “alternative medicine” on Change.gov you get quite a few more. I had some fun yesterday finding them all and voting them down.

  2. @Jen: I’m enjoying doing the very same thing. Weee! Minus 10’s!

    I swear, the comments on that “Health Freedom” poll make me feel like the sanest person on the planet by comparison. Mind control fluoride in our water? Oh noes! And divest the FDA of all food regulation? Yeah, that’s a good idea… sigh.

  3. I drink tons of coffee and I’ve never heard voices…”Eh, what’s that? Yes, I have?” :-D

  4. I actually like that fact that there proposal contains things like:
    -Access to raw milk, bitter almonds and other health aides (which is dangerous)
    -Access to high potency nutrients and supplements (which we already have)
    -Chemtrail spraying (no comment needed)
    -Coerced/mandatory surgical or other procedures such as infant circumcision or electroshock for children or adults (circumcision isn’t mandatory, and yet so beneficial to men, electroshock isn’t widely practiced)
    – Loss of our children because we choose not to vaccinate or drug them (who’s taking children away?, even if you are endangering the herd. Quit freeloading of my kids immunity you wackjobs!)

    There is so much more. Basically I like this because it groups things I disagree with but could potentially see happening (like labeling GMO foods, and receive insurance coverage for natural medicine), with non-issues and total conspiracy nutjobiery (technical term for believing in things a nut job would believe in).

  5. There are other issues worth checking out in this, Fluoride in water, 9/11 Conspiracy, alternative medicine, let’s go nuts and start voting down the ignorance.

  6. Rebecca,

    Please make sure to inform PZ of this issue, so we can add the Pharynguloid hordes to the Skepchickoid ones. He probably won’t read my e-mail if I contact him.

  7. NASA is getting very little love on this site, but at least all the “end funding for NASA” polls that I could find are in the negative.

    I had to smile when I saw a poll for bringing back airships. I support this idea. The more the future visually resembles a steampunk novel the happier I’ll be.

  8. @Imrryr: From the aviation community, I’m in favor of bringing back helium-lofted airships, too. For certain applications, they are unbeatable. If you have something very bulky and heavy to transport that you don’t need right away, for one example. Hovering over a building with construction equipment or building air conditioners (huge, unwieldy and heavy) is another application. GMBh Zeppelin is actually building new ones as we speak. :-D

    Besides, huge airships would be spectacular to watch! ;-)

  9. Some fun keywords to search on at change.gov: nasa, faith, god, cult, ufo, evolution, marriage, net neutrality, pledge of allegiance, church and state, ethanol, polywell, healthcare, abstinence, foca, constitution, hague, geneva, earmarks… you get the idea

    By the way, you can find the most contentious issues by searching on the word “the” and sorting your results by number of comments, descending. These tend to also have the most votes.

  10. Great fun at change.gov. The UFO disclosure stuff is too good to pass up. It does frighten me to know I share the planet with these people.

  11. 1 cup of coffee is about 1/30th the lethal dose of caffeine needed to kill your average schlub. Hallucinations after 7 cups in your average college student aren’t surprising.

    Look for personal injury law-dogs to start going after “Big Caffeine” next.

  12. @QuestionAuthority: I didn’t even think of the construction and lifting applications, but those would be big pluses as well. I still remember from my college days having to endure about 4 hours of constant helicopter noise while they were putting a new AC unit on some nearby tall building. The sound was intolerable, and that yellow helicopter was damn ugly.

    @Steve: Alternatively, after you click on a random category there is a tab that says “View All Ideas” which you can then sort by recent or popular. Marijuana legalization is currently leading… why am I not surprised :)

  13. Yeah, it’s kinda scary that the three most commented items are:
    1. Ending Marijuana Prohibition
    2. Boost America’s Economy with Legal Online Poker
    3. UFO Disclosure

    At least the new president will know what Americans really care about.

  14. *votes @ change.org*
    PZ sent me there yesterday, naturally I searched for more concerning pseudoscience, but somehow I missed this one.

    Also, the sex determination story is pure bullshit. There’s an easier explanation for there being more males, namely that sperm containing the y chromosome are lighter than sperm containing the x chromosome. It’s a small advantage, but sometimes that’s all it takes.

    Although, it would be nice if I could look at their actual numbers, I have a hard time believing that this data qualifies as significant after undergoing statistical tests.

  15. Wow, that change.gov piece made me really depressed; and the comments didn’t help.

    “Big Pharma” is repressing a tea that cures cancer?

    You have a “right” not to vaccinate your kids, but your neighbor doesn’t have the right to protect their kids against horrible diseases?

    “Big Medicine” (including hundreds of thousands of doctors, nurses, and technicians, of course) hates “natural medicine” because it isn’t profitable? Guess these people haven’t seen the houses that CAM practitioners build…

    All I can do is weep at how these people must view the world — as a huge place filled with people who hate everyone else and are only interested in making a buck.

    And I’m the one who’s bitter and cynical? So very frustrating.

  16. Am I the only one who thinks that caffeinated co-eds sounds incredibly sexy?

    I’m only bringing it up because I get too angry about people not caring if they kill my kid with polio because there’s not an organic vaccine to give THEIR kid.

    Pretending your kid might get autism is not a good enough reason to spread deadly infectious diseases.

  17. @mxracer652: I knew people who accidentally caffeinated themselves into hallucinating in high school. Apparently it’s not very fun, even if you’re the type to enjoy mind-altering substances.

    @pryce: COTW! Nearly caused a stereotypical nose-coffee-keyboard accident.

  18. I used to have auditory hallucinations in college. They were pretty clearly from lack of sleep rather than coffee intake, though. Most likely, this is one of those classic cases of correlation not implying causation where a third factor (lack of sleep) explains the correlation of the other two.

  19. @skepticalhippie: What benefits are there to circumcision? I don’t have the time to look them up to site them (for which I appologize) but the studies I’ve read, my pediatrician, my wife’s OBGYN all said there was no benefit. I know that’s not a strong argument and I will site my sources when I get a chance, I was just curious what your thoughts were.

  20. Reading the comments on health freedom on Change dot gov was truly depressing.

    Health Freedom:

    Silly walks:

  21. I never had hallucinations from too much coffee but I did have a caffeine induced panic attack.

    If the Obama administration is going to make any decisions based on the results from that site we are all doomed.

  22. Also, Steve and Skepticalhippie have got my vote.

    Skepticalhippie’s idea would result in a lot of spontaneous moments where a person can say, “Walk this way!”, then proceed to walk in a silly manner, forcing his followers to emulate his walk. Just like in “Robin Hood: Men in Tights”. And I heartily approve of such things.

  23. @Augustus:
    Two words, Penis Cancer

    if that’s not enough you can google “uncircumcised elderly men” and find all sorts of interesting information

    Also it lowers the risk of getting and transmitting HIV and other STD’s. While other forms of protection do exist this is another layer of protection.

    Also it lowers the rate of UTI’s, this can also be avoided IF the care taker folds back and cleans underneath the infant/toddlers foreskin regularly, but most don’t, either forgetting or feel uncomfortable about it, so uncircumcised males have a higher rate of infection.

  24. sorry, that last paragraph should have said: it lowers the rates of UTI’s in infants/toddlers.

  25. Does anyone have link to a pro scince based medicine on the change . gov site? I would like to vote that up also.

  26. What’s so great about GMOs? Given the choice, I’d rather eat the food my ancestors evolved to eat, not something scientifically improved for me to eat. Maybe that’s a fallacy. But monocropping and designer fertilizers aren’t doing so well now that we can see what effect they have in the long run. Can anyone link to some studies or resources on this topic?

  27. @James Fox: Thanks for the link. It pretty much echoes the information I’ve heard/read: that any benefit to circumcision could be attained through proper hygene.

    One alleged benefit that can’t be obtained through hygene is aesthetic. But I’ve always been curious about that. In my experience as an uncircumsised male I’ve never come across an adverse reaction. True, most people would be too polite to say anything so I may be deluded.

    So what say you Skepchicks/Skepchick Readers?

  28. @Gabrielbrawley: The best I could do was find a poll to “Defund the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine (NCCAM)” (Currently up by 9940 points). But to be honest, I don’t know much about that program. I found the poll by typing “pseudoscience” into the search box.

  29. @Augustus:

    You’re about to start an angry my penis is better than yours thread.

    I’m the only skepchick with a son. I did not circumcise him. There are no real benefits to western males. The increased risk of UTI is minimal and is easily handled through proper hygiene. Circumcision does not lower HIV risk enough to warrant not using a condom… with a condom, the risks are identical.. without a condom, y0u’ve still got a pretty decent shot of getting it.

    For us, the risks of putting our son through a surgery did not outweigh the risks of UTI.

    Our son did end up getting an infection on his penis when he was 5 months old. According to our urologist, cirumcising him would not have changed a thing and she didn’t recommend doing it unless he was having chronic recurrent infections.

    Moose is pretty happy with his penis. At least, from what I can tell since I can’t get him to keep his damn diaper on.

  30. @Elyse:
    I know the science, I was more concerned wth the art (for lack of a better term) Have all the women I’ve been with snickered behind my back or is the issue of aesthetics overblown?

  31. @Augustus:

    Honestly, I never had a single conversation with any girls about their partners’ circumcisions (or lack thereof) until I was pregnant and found out I was having a boy. Then it was just a matter of a few girls mentioning that the one guy they were with who was uncut was… you know… let’s just say he was good at economizing time.

    But really, it’s not that big of an issue. I think guys are more concerned about it than girls are.

  32. notreallyalice:
    Following on from Vene’s point, most crops grown today (including organic ones) were produced by bombarding plants with ionising radiation, and cross-breeding the mutated plants that result.

    Recombinant DNA techniques are just a matter of switching from a chainsaw to a scalpel.

    Genetic modification may also reduce the need for nitrate fertilisers.

  33. pryceNo Gravatar // Jan 16, 2009 at 10:33 am

    “Can a pregnant woman’s diet affect a baby’s sex?”

    Like which sperm she eats with her vagina?


  34. @Elyse:
    So I wrote this whole long rebuttal to what you had written but deleted it in favor of this:

    If anyone wants to hear the proponents side to circumcision visit http://www.circinfo.net/.

    To me, most of the evidence seems to be behind the pro-circumcision camp, to the extent that I, and most of the medical community, believes that it does reduce the relative risk of penile problems significantly. Though it should be noted that the absolute risk isn’t very high.

    To me, again my opinion, the anti-circumcision (like the anti-vaccination) camp is less driven by science and medicine, but rather by a misguided concern for children. It’s hard to watch an infant get strapped to a table and have his foreskin cut off, sans anesthesia (as that can kill an infant). While objectively it’s not that bad or risky, it’s hard to get people to overcome that and see the potential benefit 6 months, 15-20 years (when they may engage in sexually irresponsible behavior), or 70 years down the road (when they may require a caretaker or nurse to clean behind there foreskin, or forgoing that have a drastically increased risk of infections).

    Ultimately it’s the parent’s decision, absolute risk is low but if I have sons I still plan to have them circumcised as it will cut their chances of having penile problems significantly.

    I’m not touching that with a 6 inch pole

  35. @skepticalhippie:

    Any supposed benefits are not worth the risk of surgery, IMO. And as for the medical community, I discussed this issue with several doctors while pregnant. Not a single one of them said that there were any significant benefits to doing it. None of them recommended it… not even after having a penile infection.

    We were told that we could do it, that it was more of a person preference than anything. Moose’s doctor recommended that if we don’t have strong feelings about it, it’s not worth doing.

    It’s something Moose can certainly decide to do later, but after doing my homework my husband and I decided that it’s not our genitalia to mess with.

    If, after doing your homework, you decide that it’s what you want to do for your kids, go for it.

    But I can’t help but be a little insulted that you would compare choosing to not to circumcise to choosing not to vaccinate. There is a huge difference. Not circumcising puts one child at minimal (if any) risk and the decision is reversible. Not vaccinating puts everyone at risk and kills people.

  36. I just reread my post and thought I should qualify my remark comparing anti-circumcision to anti-vaccination.

    I only meant to compare them in terms of parents not vaccinating and not circumcising out of a misguided fear that it might hurt their child, and comparing that to the absolute risk of having penile problems/ getting measles in the future, both of which are low.

    I understand in the western world there is a difference between the two in that if not enough people are vaccinated you can have an outbreak through no fault of the person vaccinated, were as with HIV the conduct of a person plays a large role in whether or not a person gets HIV (such as wearing a condom or abstaining from engaging in risky behavior.)

    The World Health Organization has recommended widespread circumcision in AIDS ravaged Africa as it cuts the chances of being infected by AIDS in by half. In the western world we mostly have HIV under control (except in the gay Hispanic community were it is sharply on the rise). We have HIV under control, largely because of condom use, but only after we suffered through a horrendous AIDS epidemic of our own. Had we had widespread male circumcision at the time it would have been less severe. Had the people who were circumcised, not been circumcised, it would have been a lot worse.

  37. “through no fault of the person vaccinated,” should have read “through no fault of the child not vaccinated (indicating that it’s not the childs fault he/she wasn’t vaccinated)”

  38. @pryce: There is plenty of evidence for cryptic sexual selection in other animals that the female can determine the sex of the offspring. Silly things like changing their acidity to favour the XY or XX chromosome sperm. Why is it so ludicrous that humans do it too?

  39. Woooaah.

    Is that first one actually a real website and those particular concerns are actually going to be voted on by people who can change rules? If so, one big WTF to that. In the comments I found lots of people who think that, well it seems that they don’t want any kind of scientific testing of medicine or something.

    I can’t believe that there are people out there who think that it would be best if we all just didn’t vaccinate against those pesky, quaint, old-timey maladies. Maybe because they never had to see an iron lung? Wow.

    Oh, and chemtrails. Is there really going to be a vote on chemtrails? You know, maybe iodized salt is what causes cancer and autism, and Big Salt is advertising it right on the package because they’ve brainwashed us to think that it’s beneficial, while the whole time it’s toxic…Big Salt wants to keep you sick so that you require loads of chicken soup, and you know how much salt goes into that. Like a couple of tablespoons maybe for a whole pot. That’s a lot of profit. Big Salt is out to get you.

    Demand non-iodized salt from the dead sea – it is also very old and has memories of Jesus himself, and by now those memories are so old that the memory-dilution makes it pretty much the cure for anything. Demand Jesus Water.

  40. @skepticalhippie: “Had we had widespread male circumcision at the time it would have been less severe. ”

    I thought that the USA has had widespread circumcision rates since the ’50’s (at least compared with Europe). Are Europe’s ’80’s rates of HIV comparable to ours (sorry if you’re not USaian..)?

    I’m not necessarily anti-circumcision (although I haven’t had a son yet)…and to answer Augustus’ question: It’s all great as long as it’s clean. And in my experience, cut guys have a huge head start (ha!). Sorry. But yeah, natural guys just need to be more vigilant about hygiene is all. Aesthetically, whatever.

  41. About the circumcision thing; why does it have to be done in infancy? If the issue is STDs why should it be done to an infant without consent? Let the child grow older and make the choice what to do with his body.

    The scientific data isn’t that clear at this point. There are studies pointing to circumcision being beneficial, yes, but I can easily find studies saying it has no significant effect.

  42. @Vene:

    After a boy is a few months old, it’s no longer a minor surgery with local anesthetic. It later becomes a major surgery. If you’re 100% sure your kid is going to want to have it done, then yeah, you’re better off getting it done as a newborn.

    I agree with you. I’m not for or against circumcision. I have no problem with someone wanting to have it done. My issue is exactly what you said: that it’s done without his consent.

    Certain issues, sure Moose doesn’t get a say. I don’t care if he doesn’t like getting shots. He’s getting vaccinated. But the benefits of circumcision are questionable, and it’s more of a question of aesthetics than anything. I’m not having what is essentially cosmetic surgery done on my son’s penis without his permission.

  43. @Elyse:
    “After a boy is a few months old, it’s no longer a minor surgery with local anesthetic. It later becomes a major surgery.”
    Good point, thanks.

  44. @Elyse: though we seem to disagree I think that we do agree mostly on the core issue. Parents should do research and talk to their doctors. If they think there is health benefits then they should do it. If you think there is no health benefits than don’t do it.
    I think we also agree that it shouldn’t be done for cosmetic purposes, (though I hear there’s a new wrinkle cream which contains ground up foreskin mixed with ground placenta). As far as the consent issue goes, it’s a really a non-issue, and should not be a factor in deciding wether or not to have it done to your son. For whatever reason circumcision seems has been known to come up at parties I’ve attended. When it does, it seems like a good time to conduct an informal survey of cut-men, and the answers have always ranged from indifference to pride. Just at the very nature of the situation, how can your son be angry at you for removing a vestigial appendage when he was an infant, and has no memory of every having it.

    Though again the core of the issue. If, after doing research and talking to your doctor, you think there is benefit, then do it. If not, then don’t do it.

  45. I just went to the Change.gov site. How incredibly frustrating the comment were! I have always believed that people should be able to do what they want to do as long as they are not harming others and there is mutual consent, but I think I have to get a better handle on what I define as harm and how significant the inital event is as it causes other dominos to tumble. Alas, Jenny McCarthy and others have caused too many fallen dominos – and that mass effect, if it continues, could be horrific one day.

    My two cents worth on the circumcision is this – the literature on circumcision has during my 17 year career ebbed and flowed, but essentially the thought is if taken care of properly there is no sinificant different. Stdies have revealed that there are higher rates of penile cancer in the uncircumcised and higher rates of infection and studies have revealed no difference. In my practice , excluding STDs and simple fungal irritation, the only penile infections I have seen have been those on uncircumsided penises. And there’s been a bunch. Why? Because people often DON’T properly care for the foreskin hygenically. My advise as a physician remains that there is no difference if taken care for properly ( I have NEVER, EVER, EVER seen or read about psychological damage resulting from the event even if the child was older and HAD to be circumcized – not that that isn’t possible ). But personally, knowing what I know about human behavior, I think cirumcision is the more hygenic approach.

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