Skepchick Quickies, 1.28


Jen is a writer and web designer/developer in Columbus, Ohio. She spends too much time on Twitter at @antiheroine.

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  1. Re: alternative therapies… Depends on what you mean by “really work”. The ones listed do something and I guess that qualifies as “really work” as long as you’re sufficiently vague about the intended result. Luckily, they don’t have to deal with all that messy FDA approval and clinical trial stuff. That would just spoil things by making them specify exactly what they do and back up the claims with documented results.

    Off on a tangent… I see a tweet on the left-hand side of the screen from jillus asking for suggestions on what to draw. Phil posted an item recently about a poster featuring scifi heroes of the 70s. I’d like to see a similar thing done for heroes of critical thinking (preferably with less-creepy smiles).

  2. @Jen: I’m not on Twitter. It’s blocked at work and I don’t currently have any mobile devices that would make use of it. I need to get with the program. Kinda waiting for Android phones with free wimax. Not holding my breath on that, though.

  3. The bit on Roy Bourgeois leaves me in knots. On the one hand, I have genuine sympathy for the women of the church and the way they’re treated by the hierarchy. On the other, I want to say to them…


  4. I think “Noah’s” flood is a remote tribal memory that has been passed along via oral means and later, written records. Historically and scientifically interesting, but theologically bunk. It’s not even Noah’s, as many historical records and legends exist of a massive flood that predate the Old Testament.

    Since I work on a military base, Twitter is barred from me there. We can’t even use thumb drives anymore. We were never allowed to have IM, either. :-( I do see the Army’s point, though saying what I work on needs to be kept secure is a bit of a stretch, IMHO.

  5. So, just to be clear, it’s OK to be a Holocaust-denying Nazi sympathizer and still be a Catholic BISHOP, but if a PRIEST advocates for woman in the priesthood then he gets excommunicated?

    The mind boggles.

  6. Re: Flood
    Why do they think they need some catastrophic ancient flood to implant the ‘tribal memory’ of a world-changing flood event in order to spawn the Noah’s Flood myth? First of all, in respect to the proposed Black Sea hypothesis, how many ‘cavemen’ would have a) survived and b) known the extent of the destruction?

    Small, local floods are already catastrophic for a bronze age, agrarian society. Hell, they’re catastrophic for a ‘silicon age’ society. Is it so implausible that these horrible, but local, events were the origin of the myth? I see no reason why not.

  7. Oh, and the idea of cats with opposable thumbs makes me tremble in fear.

    How many litters could that cat sire before 2012?

  8. One of our neighbors when I was growing up had a cat with double paws like the LOLkitty. He used to suck his thumbs and yes, it was the cutest thing ever.

  9. I gave up on the Parade story after reading the assertion that acupuncture “may be effective in increasing the odds of success in female conception” and “may help correct the breech position of babies”. The writer offers nothing to back up those assertions, both of which don’t make any sense to me.

    Anyone have any idea how acupuncture advocates could believe that?

  10. @DMS: Anyone have any idea how acupuncture advocates could believe that?

    If the needle is inserted in the correct spot, the female reproductive system is stimulated in such a way that a greater chance of reproductive success occurs. It is scientific- there have been studies done.

    You can’t prove that it doesn’t work.

    Ok- enough- Sorry.

  11. His standards are appallingly low for acupuncture, in the one thing I picked out to dig up. I could only find one JAMA article about acupuncture and pregnancy recently, and it was “Moxibustion for breech presentation.” I haven’t read it, yet, but I’m not looking forward to it already.

  12. As the father of twins (and a handful of other children) I kind of want to meet the couple with the octuplets and give them a hug. Maybe meet them a couple times a month for the next several years and let them cry.

    Also, after watching my ex-wife attempt to breast-feed twins, I applaud the woman’s efforts, but suggest that there just may be an upper limit to the amount of milk the human body can produce. Start cutting coupons, you’re going to need formula. My wife didn’t wear a shirt for a year (or six months, can’t remember) and that was with twins. It just wasn’t worth the effort putting on shirts just to have to lift it or take it off again. It was pretty much known that if you were going to visit our household, you were going to be exposed to naked, lactating breasts. If that made you squeamish, it was a good idea not to come around. Or, for that matter, be around us anywhere in public. Twins conspire to be hungry at different times.

  13. @DMS: There appears to be a (slight) correlation between high stress levels and a breech position. There also appears to be a correlation between high stress levels and sex selection favoring male offspring. If that correlation is actually a causal relationship, then any therapy that reduces stress (either directly or via a placebo effect) could affect both conditions. It’s a huge leap from that to a blanket statement saying that acupuncture may be effective in these cases, though. But the do seem to be quite a few Olympic-caliber conclusion jumpers in the alternative therapy community.

  14. @hanes:
    The reason I say that is because all of the flood myths tell essentially the same story and date to about the same time. They even have a “Noah figure” that builds some type of boat/raft/whatever to save the various “elects.”

    Your explanation is certainly possible, too. I’m not sure that all the evidence is in yet. We may never be certain in this case, given that much of the evidence was either orally transmitted or written on perishable materials.

  15. Re: Parade magazine
    For most of my adult life I never really noticed Parade Magazine in the middle of the newpaper. It just went into the recycling bin with the rest of the ads and inserts. Not long ago I believe someone of SkepChick mentioned it was the most widely read magazine in the world.
    Very little can match the horror one feels when one reads “the most widely read magazine in the world”.
    With the complete and utter trash they promote, what keeps our society from simply imploding from the mental vacuum it creates?

  16. Re: Women as priests
    I was raised Catholic. I’m not anymore. I still respect people who do good works and I’m not bothered that they say they are motivated/supported by their faith.
    How much can one cherry-pick their dogma before they are not actually members of the faith anymore? If Father Bourgeois is excommunicated, I think that will answer my question in his case.
    I’m not a particularly radical person but I have a very small tolerance for differnce when it comes to accepting religous dogman. I stopped thinking of myself as Catholic when I stopped thinking the ban on contraception made sense. That’s makes me a fairly mild contrarian and yet, because it was in oppostion to the official doctrine, I considered myself non-Catholic. My sister still thinks of herself as a good Catholic even though she disagrees with the ban on contraception. Her priest also thinks of her as a good Catholic.
    Is it really just a matter of believing you are part of a religion (regardless of your acceptance of the tenents of faith) to make you part of a religion.
    Will Father Bourgeois still think of himself as Catholic after the Pope says, “Hit the road, apostate!”

  17. @QuestionAuthority
    I hadn’t considered the possibilty that the missing mass of the universe might be discarded copies of Parade Magazine. I bet the math fits…

  18. I think that the current pope will be very good for skepticism and atheism. As he pushes a more conservative catholocism the more he will push people out of their churches. Some of them will examine what has happened and will give up religion. Today on NPR I heard the story about the holocaust denying priest who was excomunicated under the last pope and rehabilitated by the current pope. Now I see this story. It makes me hopeful. A cornered animal fights much harder than one that feels completly unthreatened.

  19. On the matter of the multiple births. I find it horrifying. We aren’t dogs, we aren’t designed to be parents to litters. Fertility doctors need to be restrained from implanting so many fertilized eggs into a womb. This is just ridiculus.

  20. @Gabrielbrawley:
    We are designed to be parents of litters in nearly exactly the same way that we are designed to travel to the moon, harness the power of nuclear fusion, write poetry, or make movies with thousands of actors and millions of special effects. Doctors are trying to meet a cost/benefit ratio for their patients. Educate the wimmen, that would be a good idea, but restraining the doctors because “we aren’t dogs” sets a dangerous precedent. Next thing you’ll outlaw is licking your own butt.

  21. @MarlowePI: They seem to be on the increase. More and more often it seems that there is a story of woman having 5 or more children at one time. This must be terrible damaging to the woman’s body and I can’t imagine the stress on the parents or their finances.

    @BubbaRich: I would never advocate outlawing the licking of your own butt. What you and your butt do is your business as long as your butt consents I don’t see the problem. However, we do regulate most aspects of medical science and I think that this is an area that need stricter regulation.

  22. @Gabrielbrawley
    It may seem inhuman to point this out, but the parents of those eight kids could have chosen at any point in the first three months to terminate any number of the pregnancies to fit their financial and emotional limits.
    The article reads like a “news of the wierd” human interest piece but, in truth, we are reading about a tragedy. The eight children are all underweight preemies, their parents are unlikely to be able to provide them with individual love, attention, security, food, and medical care that will allow them to thrive and succeed. Simple things like swimming lessons or joining the golf team in high school – everything that enriches a child’s life will be beyond their financial reach. Prom? Eight kids all wanting to go to prom on the same night?
    The parents, however, made a choice rich with emotion, compromise, and, probably, a large dose of guilt and self-delusion.
    They probably wanted one child. They would gladly have accepted twins. If so, the two kids they had hoped to shower with love and attention will now be lost in the pile.
    I find the entire story horrible and sad.

  23. @Gabrielbrawley: Is it really any of your business, though? I mean, you certainly won’t be carrying any children. Isn’t it up to the mother to decide if the possible, rare risk of carrying 8 babies is worth it?

    Fertility treatments have the “risk” of triplets+, but as others have said, they really are not that common, and indeed, the fact that EVERY time it happens there is a huge hoopla, which just helps to show how uncommon it is.

    “Fertility doctors need to be restrained from implanting so many fertilized eggs into a womb. ”

    And fyi, that’s the only way they can make sure something will stick. Otherwise, there is a HUGE risk that the parent(s) will have wasted a ton of money for nothing. Sometimes, rarely, a woman becomes pregnant with triplets, and even rarer cases, 4 or more.

    And I’m sure there are many things you do on a daily basis that we aren’t “made” to do. I’m kind of surprised at your attitude regarding this! It’s a very non-skeptical, righty way to think.

  24. @SkepLit: And how do you know this? The Duggers seem to be doing just fine, and they have what, 17 or 18 kids? I mean, I certainly don’t find that kind of life something *I* want, but I am certainly not going to tell someone they can’t raise as many kids as they want.

    The parents, however, made a choice rich with emotion, compromise, and, probably, a large dose of guilt and self-delusion.
    They probably wanted one child. They would gladly have accepted twins. If so, the two kids they had hoped to shower with love and attention will now be lost in the pile.

    And what a load of assumptions you have there! You don’t know what they wanted. You certainly don’t know how they came to their decisions. And yet you *state* that they made their decisions rich with emotions, and imply they didn’t use logic.

    That’s jumping the gun a bit.

  25. They probably wanted one child. They would gladly have accepted twins. If so, the two kids they had hoped to shower with love and attention will now be lost in the pile.

    And THIS attitude I find very troubling! Plenty of parents with ONE child don’t provide enough love and attention to their ONE child.

    On a local radio station recently, they had callers with large families — 8 or more siblings — call in. The majority were fine, and felt they got enough attention … just like any other person in regards to their parents. I know kids who grew up with NO siblings who feel like they didn’t get enough attention and love.

    The parents have a lot of work ahead of them, but I think it’s hugely presumptuous to assume that they won’t provide their children with enough love and attention.

    And for the record, I don’t even want ONE kid, let alone 8.

  26. @marilove: I don’t think of it as righty thinking. I also don’t think that it is unskeptical. I think that questioning the efficacy of a particular treatment would be skeptical. I could always be wrong. I am wrong about many things an embarassingly large amount of the time. I could definently be wrong on this situation. I was working from general knowledge and pesonal experience. I am the father of three kids. Not triplets. It is hard to be the father of 1 kid, each kid makes it more difficult. I really can’t imagine the difficulty of being a parent to 8 children all the same age.

  27. Of course, different situations will have different decisions and differing levels of success, so it ultimately is up to individual parents. But while I don’t think there is anything necessarily wrong with fertility treatments and choosing to have many children, I also don’t think there’s anything wrong with raising valid questions of children’s quality of life. Far from being righty thinking, this supports a parent’s choice to choose whether or not to bring a pregnancy to term based on the situation the parent and child will be in. We shouldn’t shame parents who choose to birth multiple kids, but we should also be careful not to create the type of environment that would shame parents to who choose to selectively abort.

  28. @marilove
    Your points are valid. And I will admit that I am projecting the problem of “unplanned IVF babies” onto this case when, as you point out, the article doesn’t support that assumption.
    You and I also completely agree that the number of children in a family does not directly lead to happiness or unhappiness. I was 1 of 5 and we all thought we didn’t get enough attention and, yet, we are all happy functioning adults. I have a friend who was an adopted, only child who got all the attention in the world from parents who very much wanted a child. She’s miserable.
    I will defend my view, however, to this extent: I believe there is a difference between a large family with children born years apart and an “instant family” of eight kids. The parenting burden comes all at once.
    I believe Gabrielbrawley and I are more concerned about the sheer logistical problems the family faces than their choice to pursue the pregnancy. As you pointed out, for all we can tell from the article, the parents may have conceived naturally and were thrilled by the news they were having these kids.
    I remain worried, however, that the ‘instant family’ they’ve chosen may outstrip their capabilities.
    And for the record – no kids.

  29. Okay, I read the abstracts and responses on those “acupunture and breech presentation” articles in JAMA. He didn’t cite his source, though, which would make it easier to see if I was looking at the right articles.

    The articles came up under a search for acupuncture, since it uses acupuncture points on the skin, but the procedure is actually moxibustion, which is burning of herbs and touching the acupuncture point with them. They give tips on how to avoid blisters. The study was uncontrolled and unblinded. It was in a special JAMA issue about “alternative medicine.” I hope there was something better for Parade Magazine to base its findings on.

  30. @BubbaRich
    The only mechanism I can come up with to explain how acupuncture is used to treat breech babies relies on the baby moving to avoid being stabbed. Alternately, the baby could shift in the womb as the mother flees to avoid being stabbed. I guess that would work, too.

  31. @marilove: A choice rich with emotion is certainly what I would expect in this situation, and there are no cut-and-dried “logical” answers to any of these questions. Well, not many. And I didn’t read him as ruling out logic at all. I study the brain, and I never oppose logic and emotion, as they often work together or are the same thing. Maybe you should let go of your imagination of “logic” as cold, calculating reasoning. :)

  32. @SkepLit: “The parenting burden comes all at once.”

    But you don’t know how they will react to this situation. They may be the best parents ever. They may have a huge support of family and friends to help them.

    Even ONE child can ‘outstrip the abilities’ of a parent or parents.

  33. @Gabrielbrawley: Ah, but some people find parenting easy and rewarding, while others find it difficult to parent even one child. Of cousre having 8 kids at once is going to be a huge deal, but they may very well succeed at it better than some who have just one kid.

    I just really, really don’t like the assumptions flying around, and your saying, “It’s ridiculous!” and comparing their children to a litter of dogs was, indeed, unskeptical. There was no speculation. It was just “ridiculous”.

  34. @marilove: While all of those things may be true it is very unlikely. Most people fall into the average because most of us are average.

  35. @QuestionAuthority: “all of the flood myths tell essentially the same story and date to about the same time.”

    Above is a list of cultural flood myths.

    Obviously you don’t think all flood myths tell the same story at the same time (globally), though those were your words. If you’re talking about local to the Middle East, then you’re really only talking about one flood myth, that of Gilgamesh that has been retold through several cultures. So does that Gilgamesh flood myth derive explicitly from the Black Sea deluge (which may or may not have been catastrophic: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_Sea_deluge_theory )? I think not because, again, how many ‘cavemen’ would have survived to tell the story, and to those that survived, what would make that flood any different from smaller, more local floods? They can only see as far as the horizon.

    So this one possible flood really has no ‘advantage’ over more normal floods, except it requires several additional hypotheses. 1) That it happened and was catastrophic. 2) That it left people alive that saw it. 3) That this flood, alone out of all the other floods, inspired a story of a worldwide flood.

    I don’t buy it.

  36. Re: Followup on the octuplet story
    MSNBC carried an article today about the health and ethics implications of having multiple births. Paraphrasing from the article: eight kids born at once increases risk to the babies.
    Marilove pointed out yesterday that women will sometimes choose to have multiple IVF fetuses implanted at once because of the costs involved and the risk of not carrying the baby to term.
    The MSNBC article points out that hormone therapy was probably responsible for the octuplets (not IVF) but notes that hormone therapy is much less expensive than IVF and many couple go that route even though it carries a greater risk of multiple babies.
    Europe, the article goes on to say, has insurance pay for the IVF but on the condition that the doctors only implant one fetus at a time.
    That sure sounds like a sensible way to look after both the health of the mother and the children while still fulfilling a couple’s desire to have kids without going bankrupt.

  37. What is the risk of a multiple birth with two fetuses implanted? I’m not sure I could force a woman to go through that procedure and experience twice just to avoid twins, especially since there is SOME risk of that every time you have sex.

  38. @BubbaRich
    The MSNBC article did not quote statistics. There were just general comments. The point they made was that insurance in the US typically does not cover IVF. This creates an incentive to implant multiple fetuses to save money. The European system takes away the financial incentive to risk multiple births and, one supposes, the financial burden complications of multiple births puts on the insurance company.
    While I agree that making the mother go through multiple sessions of IVF would be harder on the mother than “one stop shopping”, a single implant is safer for the child-to-be (according to the MSNBC article). Hopefully the mother would be willing to endure the procedure multiple times to up the odds of a healthy baby when the procedure is successful.

  39. @SkepLit: I think that decision sounds like one that justifies why we have any democracy in the world. Individual people can make independent decisions based on their own personal moral and financial calculations. We get lots of good societal decisions that way, and I don’t see any reason to think that this particular situation is one that anybody but Certain Christians(tm) would think there is an absolute, obvious solution to in all cases.

  40. I find SkepLit’s use of the term “parenting burden” to be very telling. At 50 years of age it’s become a sure bet that I’ll never have kids, but it’s a *burden* I would have borne gladly.
    My nephew has triplet boys (born the natural way – he and his wife decided to have “just one more child,” IOW) who will be 3 in March and they could not be more loved, along with their older sister. No one is standing on the outside of the family circle while Daddy complains that he just doesn’t have *any* more love to give. To assume that there are so many kids (the octuplets, I’m talking) that some must lose out is a ridiculous starting point. My Dad’s family had 14 kids, and my Mom’s had 8, and nobody did without.

  41. Well, THIS should help restart the too-many-babies firestorm: heard this morning that the parents of the octuplets already had *6* kids before starting hormonal therapy to have more. That’s something that should have been reported in the original story. I find myself being just a little bit less in their corner than I was. Still not saying they shouldn’t have been allowed, though. I’ll have to think about it some more.

  42. @Reverend Kel
    I could have said “parenting cost” but that has financial connotations and parenting is (had better be) more than just spending money.
    Even if one is happy to bear the “cost” of parenting (so happy, in fact, that one does not even notice the cost), it still has cost. The “cost” to a chocoholic of choosing chocolate ice cream over vanilla ice cream is that he/she does not get vanilla.
    I wasn’t (conciously) trying to impart a value judgement on the families decision by talking about “parenting burden”; only stating the obvious: parenting takes time/money/effort. As marilove and you point out, the family may be thrilled at the prospect and the kids may turn out happy and productive.
    I am also not suggesting that the parents should not have been allowed to carry the eight kids to term. Let ’em choose.
    I am suggesting the octuplets never would have been conceived under the European insurance model and that would have protected the health of the mother and the child.
    The article from today points out that the parent’s original intention was to have one child and that the fertility treatment led to the unintended consequence of eight. Now that more facts are available to support the assumptions I put my earlier posts, I am back to thinking it is sad that the parent’s intentions were not met.
    Ironically, I am happier knowing there are six older siblings around to help out.

  43. I’m a bit confused as to why someone with 6 kids ranging from 2 to 7 years old would think that fertility treatments were necessary to conceive another.

  44. Perhaps all of her children were the result of fertility treatment and this last one just got went out of control.

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