Skepchick Quickies 3.31

  • Second Annual Upchucky Awards announced! – “The award honors that creationist “whose efforts in the preceding year would inspire Darwin (or any rational person) to ‘drive the porcelain bus’.” Who was nominated? Who won? How nauseated were we?”
  • Boy recovers from H1N1 after 2 year stay in hospital -Wonderful that he’s recovered but just check out the picture of the banner the doctors put up. From scribe999.
  • The scientific case against craterism -“Having observed the chicanery of creationists, we feel that their style of argument can be applied to virtually anything. Behold, our refutation of the theory of meteor craters — Craterism.” From Mark.
  • Consumer group urges ban or warning on food dyes – “The color dyes used to brighten cereals, snacks and drinks help make some children hyperactive and should be banned or at least carry a warning, critics told U.S. government advisers on Wednesday.” From Stephanie.


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

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  1. Re: H1N1 kid

    Yikes. But I was heartened to read the following…

    His parents believe his recovery is miraculous and the doctors state his recovery is statistically rare.

  2. You know who’s even more favored by God? People who never get H1N1 and therefore never spend two years in the hospital in the first place. Sadly, my banner was rejected by the hospital for being too depressing.

    And in the comments to the craterism article, Longshadow’s addition was bloody brilliant:

    16. If craters come from meteors, why are there still meteors?

  3. I was wondering what flavor god uses on kids. I suppose myrrh and frankincense are pretty obvious. I prefer oregano but maybe the older children require a different marinade.

    Does the hologram in the Power Bracelet let us know when dinner is ready?

  4. I’m going to urge the FDA to ban tomatoes. I don’t have any evidence that they are dangerous or anything, but I get sick eating tomatoes because I can’t stand the taste, so clearly they should be banned.

  5. Re: food coloring.

    Something has to cause the increase in ADD. Or the autism, or asthma, or that seemingly every generation gets unhealthier and unhealthier. I know right now it’s anecdotal, but there should be more independent testing.

    Sure, each chemical or food color gets individually tested as safe, but do we absolutely KNOW that combinations of food additives and household cleaners and everything else we’ve added chemicals to isn’t causing long-term damage?

    Almost every person I know takes medication for one thing or another. Were humans like that say, 50 years ago? 100? Is this the direction we want humans to adapt/evolve?

    Not believing that everything we ingest or inhale is as safe as we’re told is being skeptical, too.

  6. I once colored ramen noodles green with food dye. They tasted normal, but the green stayed green all the way through, if you know what I mean.

    Umm… so yeah. End of anecdote.

  7. @spellwight:
    Almost every person I know takes medication for one thing or another. Were humans like that say, 50 years ago? 100?

    Well, they would have but the people who needed those drugs would have been dead already, thus making the administration of said drugs infinitely harder.

    Re the H1N1 patient:
    I’m glad to see he recovered and it’s ok if God flavors him just as long as he doesn’t use any artificial colors.

  8. @Mark Hall: Yeah, I had scrubbed that from my memory too, but was recently reminded by a friend. Sentences that start with “Hey, remember that time you….” rarely end well for me.

  9. Some day that highly flavored kid will be a seasoned veteran … thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week. Enjoy the veal.

  10. One of my daughters is allergic to Red #40. Not some vague unmeasurable behavioral issue, I’m talking big red itchy hives hives. She does not have any problem with any other food additives I know of. And of course, every red kid food out there is colored with huge quantitied of Red #40, so that severely limits her intake of jello, popsicles and lollipops.

    So although I have no objection to food dyes in general, I’d still be glad to see them go.

  11. Haven’t food dyes been around for awhile? I remember the brightly colored cereals from when I was a kid and I’m (gulp) 40ish.

    I tend to think kids have the same amount of energy as they ever did, but they have less outlets to burn it off. So it gets all pent up and *poof* they have ADD (I know, I know, but that was a very scientific *poof*).

    And does staying in the hospital for 2 years increase a kids flavor?

  12. @spellwight: The increase in diagnoses is largely contributed to vast improvements in medicine and diagnostics (i.e., being able to detect these kinds of problems earlier and along a spectrum of intensity).

    Also, the report said food dyes may increase hyperactivity in children who already had ADHD. It did not claim to increase the incidence of ADHD.

    Dr. Novella has a great series of blogs and essays about the topic of mental illness and ADHD. He discusses diagnoses here and the issue of overdiagnosing here. (The rest of the series can be found here, here, here, here, and here.)

    “Not believing that everything we ingest or inhale is as safe as we’re told is being skeptical, too.”
    That depends. Are you considering who is telling you? One “expert” may not be enough, but if it’s a consensus among many experts in the field in question, it is better to rely on them than your own lack of expertise. Also, if repeated evidence is given, denying that evidence is not skeptical.


    I’m with Ubi. Sugar alone will be enough to get our kids begging for that stuff. I understand the marketing departments’ desire for color, but I think in the long run, it’s rather useless.

  13. “And does staying in the hospital for 2 years increase a kids flavor?”

    Maybe he was marinading?

    have the parents considered that maybe he was there for two years because god and the bracelet magic were fighting each other? It seems bad to conjur contradictory spirits to heal your loved ones. Pick a ghost and go with it, I say.

  14. “Maybe he was marinading?”

    “Blessed Highly Flavored by God” Marinade Sauce TM

    The magic bracelet actually acts as a tenderizer; it tenderizes the brain…


  15. @spellwight: So if we don’t ABSOLUTELY know something, we should just accept whatever hypothesis people come up with as reasonable? What do we mean by absolute? Sounds pretty similar to anti-vax rhetoric to me.

    You also make a lot of assertions without evidence. What do you mean “every generation gets unhealthier and unhealthier”? What is your metric for this? There are many reasons more people might be on medication. One major one is that medication is a business and drugs are advertised. People ask their doctors for drugs and either get them, or find a doctor that will give the drugs to them.

    Another is that people like to believe in simple solutions. They want to believe that they can take a pill that will cure their non-specific problems.Combine this with widespread scientific illiteracy, and you’ve got a market ripe for overprescription of pharmaceuticals. If I was less scientifically literate, for example, I would probably seek out medication for my mild-moderate depression and anxiety. As it is, I am able to read the literature (or at least analysis thereof) and see the actual effect size for people in that group and realize that it would most likely not be of great benefit to me.

    While I agree that it is skeptical to question the things we put in our bodies, chemical-phobia is not the skeptical response.

  16. @Mark Hall: Thanks, I needed that.

    Random thoughts about food dyes and ADHD:

    How do they know that ADHD increases in susceptible kids? Is it purely subjective, or do they have an ADHD meter, a set of accelerometers to continuously compute the kid’s velocity in 3 dimensions, and then derive the RMS speed, much like measuring the temperature of a gas by analyzing the velocity of the molecules.

    A whole roomful of such kids, literally bouncing off the walls, should produce measurable pressure. Do they obey Boyle’s Law?

    How do you distinguish random (thermal) motion from bulk motion, i.e. a bunch of kids running cross-country? (My brother tried that technique on his daughters – had them run around the house until they got tired. It didn’t work. Instead of getting tired, they just got faster. On the plus side, the younger one is currently being recruited by the MIT soccer coach, but she hasn’t heard from the admissions committee yet. Any day now.)

    We could tag the kids in the room with food coloring to track them more easily.

    Is there a market in ADHD meters? Maybe we could buy up the stock of the company that made the magic bomb detectors and change the packaging?

  17. @mikerattlesnake: I’m not chemical phobic, and you should see the tub of medications I need for controlling my asthma. And I did mention my thoughts were anecdotal.

    What I see around me is not really evidence. My grandparents needed fewer medications than my parents and my parents need fewer medications than I do, for everything from high-bp and heart disease to asthma and pain. Though as far as I know nobody in my family is on any mental illness medication. I’m just saying that with all the various chemicals we mix in our daily lives it APPEARS that people in general are not as overall healthy as they used to be. Geesh, I’m not a anti-anything nut.

  18. I encounter so much misunderstanding of ADD/ADHD that it sometimes makes me want to scream.

    From those who border on denialistic attitudes (no, these kids don’t actually have a real condition, we just are so structured that we think natural energy is unhealthy) to those who want to blame a single modern cause instead of the likely array of factors that lead to development of the disorder to those that abhor actually giving kids a chance by treating them with medication (along with teaching mental coping techniques). And the lack of education and misunderstandings have and will continue to harm people like me.

    I was a late diagnosis (middle school) and encountered a system of education that requires normalized teaching that simply didn’t work with the way I learned (pre-diagnosis). Without the amount of parental involvement and independent learning I experienced, I can’t imagine how my academic achievement would have suffered. Once I was finally diagnosed and got treatment, it was like night and day. I was amazed at how I no longer struggled to finish the easy work, didn’t lose things, had less trouble pacing my time and finishing tasks. I was also angry that no one had supported my mother when she noticed early signs; I resented that I suffered needlessly for years to no purpose but to avoid labeling me as “abnormal.” My mother was told over and over again that I was too smart to have ADD, and she let it drop because there was no parity in proactively dealing with mental health issues.

    Even after treatment, I would try to ensure people wouldn’t misunderstand by telling them about my condition. (It goes a long way toward making a teacher not resent you if you explain that you may not appear to be listening, but actually are.) But I’ve had more than my share of accusations of laziness or rudeness as well.

    I can’t explain how much dismissal I’ve received over the years. Last year, I had a college professor make one of the most inappropriate “jokes” about those with ADD I had ever heard. Horrified, I stayed after class to explain why I was offended and how I felt what she had said was harmful to those with disabilities (in a very non-confrontational way; I wanted to build understanding not resentment). I wanted her to understand that she needed to show greater sensitivity and refrain from bashing those with learning disabilities as undeserving/stupid. For my trouble, I received the wonderful non-pology “I’m sorry you feel that way” after which she bundled out of the classroom. I was stunned at first and I weighed just letting it go. I decided to spend my afternoon pursuing a complaint through the school’s disability resource center as well as the department head.

    I sometimes despair at people ever getting educated about learning disabilities because I encounter so much misinformation, speculative articles with little scientific or clinical data, etc. I would love for training on learning disabilities to be common practice in education everywhere, not just in special needs programs (which wouldn’t help students like I was anyway). I would love for pediatricians and family practice doctors to have greater knowledge so they can help support children and families. Instead I read new articles on how this chemical or that may cause hyperactivity, as if this is the hallmark of all ADHD cases and inattention was nothing.

    I’m starting to see a few more articles on ADHD and in particular adult ADHD, which is to the good. I can only hope we get more articles on how the disorder actually affects people and can be treated rather than additional speculation about the newest scapegoat for damaging our kids.

  19. @spellwight: Take a class on human anatomy and physiology. You will never look at medications or “chemicals” the same way again.

    @slignot: Thank you so much for sharing this, and I’m glad to hear more articles are springing up about adult ADD/ADHD. These “adult” versions are not supported (in terms of finance and diagnosis) by most non-profit or government-sanctioned organizations, and those who suspect they have it, but were never presented an opportunity to be diagnosed as children have no place to get help and support they need. Currently, the only way to get a diagnosis as an adult is to see a psychiatrist who specializes in adult ADD/ADHD who will want to delve into your behavioral history and observe you for six months (which becomes a very long and expensive diagnostic process). I think better awareness of ADD/ADHD in the general public will provide a better platform for those calling for grants.

  20. @Buzz Parsec: If it wasn’t clear (and it wasn’t particularly clear to me re-reading it later), I was attempting to make fun of the purveyors of woo-laden “cures” and “treatments” for ADHD and other learning or behavioral problems that are certain to follow studies like these.

    Googling “adhd detox” leads directly to Dr. Janet Starr Hull. PhD, a graduate of the late, lamented Clayton College of Natural Health. There’s lots more out there.

    If I offended anyone with ADHD or other learning disabilities or their parents or teachers or friends, I’m very sorry. That wasn’t my intent.

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