|Posted by James Garrison on July 8, 2014 at 6:05 PM||comments (0)|
Hey folks, how have you been. Yes, I'm still alive, just been very busy with work, family, and the Oklahoma Skeptics Society. The list of things I want to talk about has grown to the point I'm having to cull a few items because everyone else has already covered them pretty thoroughly. I do have a topic today that falls under the banner of Project Bullshit! What I want to talk about today are the:
Tuning Element Bracelets TM (dun dun dunnnnn). (The story is a bit long, so if you want, skip down to the claims and background.)
During a local county fair, I saw this booth displaying a lot of bracelets. It had a very nice background, a pretty display case, and was manned by an elderly couple. I saw this booth for 3 days straight. (I'm not a fair junkie, I was helping my wife with her civic group booth.) By the last day of the fair, I had probably seen 50-75 people talk to these folks, and at least half of them bought things. I went over there and took one of their brochures and looked it over. (I'll go into the details of the pamphlet later) The older gentleman saw me walking around and actually called me over to him. Curious as always, I went to see what he was about. He looked me in the eye and asked if I occasionally have pain in my knees, mainly my left. I answered honestly and told him yes I do. In my head, I was thinking, "Great, he's going to cold read me. This could be fun." Full disclosure, about 2 years ago, I broke my kneecap and femur in a bovine related accident (not like that!), and I've had problems and pain since then with my left knee, including a mild to severe limp. I had been helping my wife with her booth, which was next to the "healing bracelets" booth, for the last 3 days, and my looks are a bit distinctive, so the people had plenty of opportunities to witness me limping around. The fellow that ran the booth sat me down in a surprisingly comfortable chair and began his sales pitch. He told me that both he and his wife suffered from arthritis pain for years until they discovered these bracelets. They were so impressed with them that they became salespeople for the company. I had noticed the woman wearing one, and I realized while talking to him that his watchband was actually one of these bracelets. (I'm not going to include any images because the manufacturer wouldn't give me permission by the time I published this.) These bracelets are "vibrationally harmonized with the Earth" to help with healing. When I asked him what the rate of vibration was, he looked at me and informed me that he wasn't completely sure (honesty right off the bat? Wow!) and even if he knew, it was proprietary information. I did try to find out what the Earths frequency is supposed to be, and most of what I was able to find comes from New Age sites, so they were full of word salad, so as of right now, I just have to saw I don't know. While I was sitting there and this purveyor of Woo was giving me anecdotes and testimonials, he had his wife open the case, pull out a rather attractive black metal bracelet, and he set it right above my knee. He informed me it would take about 10 minutes to begin to take effect. I was fine with this because, as I said, I'm a curious person, so we started talking about the properties of the bracelets. During this conversation, I noticed almost immediately that he was trying to get medical history from me by making statements like "Most people with knee problems have hip and back problems too." and "A lot of guys your age get muscle pain." I'm familiar enough with these tactics that I went along with them to see what he would do. And wouldn't you know it, he basically took the info I gave him and fed it back to me, saying this "scientifically balanced" bracelet could help with my problems. He also mentioned it could help with cancer, but because of the "damned" FDA, they can't actually say it will cure anything. (I'll discuss the actual claims in a bit.) I asked how the bracelets were harmonized with the Earth, how they stayed in this state, as well as asking if there was any documented evidence of efficacy. He informed me, once again that the entire process was proprietary, and the only evidence he could offer was more testimonials. I asked him what they were made from and he told me they were stainless steel. the ones that aren't silver are plated in other metals. I then asked about the prices. The cheap ones, the plain silver ones with no adornments cost about $75. The more elaborate ones, with the different coatings and laser engraved images, cost up to $300. I think I just blinked at him when he casually gave me the prices. About this time, he seemed to feel that the sales pitch wasn't working, so he went the friendly route. He began asking me about what I do for a living, if I have a wife and children, if I have any hobbies, etc. I told him I do animal control, as well as farm work for a living, yes, I have a wife and child, at which point he asked me if she worked. I said yes, she's a bio-chemical researcher. The look on his face at this statement was odd enough, I had a hard time not laughing. He then asked me about my hobbies. I said reading, writing a blog, outdoor activities, and I was involved with the Oklahoma Skeptics Society. As soon as I said this, the 10 minutes suddenly finished. (It was actually closer to 20) He removed the bracelet and asked if I had any pain. I told him honestly no at that moment. He then had me stand up. Upon doing so, my knee popped loudly enough to be heard from several feet away ( a normal occurrence if I've been sitting or standing for a while.) He told me that sometimes it takes a while for the effect to be noticeable, and I should go ahead and buy one. I told him I'd have to talk to my wife first, and I left thinking I need to write about this.
The overall claim of this particular type of product is that can help "bring our body back to it's natural frequency" The manufacturer states that electromagnetic radiation disrupts our bodies natural frequency, which in turn pulls the protons in our cells out of their natural alignment and causes cellular dysfunction. (Waiter, I'll have the word salad with the house dressing, thank you.) The brochure says that the bracelet will realign the protons so they spin or resonate in harmony. It also claims that our "electronic technology" (and I have no idea why they have that in quotation marks) has hidden "pollutants" (More quotation marks) and our bodies absorb these. Care to guess the pollutants that the maker of these bracelets is concerned about? EMF's(Electrical magnetic fields) and ELF's (Extremely low frequencies). According to the brochure, these are emitted from different tech, and when the body gets hit by these waves, to paraphrase them,it just completely fu!&s us up. The top of the paper has the words Got Pain? in 21/2 inch letters, with the following conditions:
Arthtitis Stress Back Pain ADD/ADHD
Carpal Tunnel Hip Pain Insomnia Joint Pain
Muscular Pain Knee Pain Colds/Sickness And Many More
Under this, it has Need help with? followed by:
Quality of Sleep Balance Coordination Strength
Range of Motion Flexibility Better Golf Average Energy
Better Athletic Abilities Less Snoring Faster Recovery Time And Much More
And of course at the bottom, it has the usual disclaimers about going to your doctor for health issues, this product has not been evaluated by the FDA, and results may vary. As someone with knee pain and ADHD, if one product could take care of these, I would be overjoyed. The problem is, to quote the Sawbones podcast, "If it sounds like a cure-all, it cures nothing". A lot of the various pains that they list have to do with joints or muscular damage, while balance is controlled by the inner ear, and ADHD is a neurological issue. No single thing can treat three very different systems.
How it works:
This product is supposed to work based on the principles of harmonic balance. According to their website,(and no, I'm not going to link to them) these ideas were created by Georges Lakhovsky and W.O Schumann. Lakhovsky created a machine called the Multi Wave Oscillator in the 30's and Schumann is know for Schumann Frequencies. Both of these men's ideas are popular in alternative medicine as a means to treat people of various problems. They both have too much history to go into here. The companies description of what their product does is overly vague and almost magical sounding. The problems it is supposed to treat, as well as their supposed initial causes are extremely similar to the T-28 3G/4G Whole House Protection device I wrote about a while back. It's supposed to protect you from EMF's and ELF's, which in turn are supposed to slowly damage every part of your body at the cellular level. Every description of how this item works is so vague I can't tell if they are talking about a bracelet or pasta salad. I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's supposed to work by magic and wishful thinking. And your money.
The main problem with this product, much like the infamous Power Band and the T-28 3G/4G Whole House Protection device, is that they just DO NOT WORK! No one item can have a beneficial effect on every system (skeletal, nervous, muscular, cardiovascular, respiratory, etc.) at once. If you look at actual medication, or medical therapies, while they have a beneficial effect on the given system that they treat, if you look at the possible side effects, they normally effect other systems. Wearing something on your wrist will not have a effect on ADHD, unless it's shiny and can actually help you keep your focus. The same product won't help with a cold and give you a better golf average. Another problem is how the hell do they know what frequency the human body is supposed to have, and who determined what is in harmony with the planet? Do things in nature have the same frequencies? Does pumice vibrate at the same rate as uranium, and does that vibrate at the same rate as wood?
Do I really need to say it? Okay, you asked for it, so I'm duty bound to do it. This bracelet, while it actually is good looking, and I wouldn't mind wearing one for aesthetic reasons, it doesn't treat anything except for a heavy wallet or purse. A piece of metal on any part of your body, unless it's a brace for a joint or back, won't treat a single medical issue, let alone everything under the sun. When you consider that in 3 days I saw 30-40 people buying these at a minimum of $75 each, and I found very similar looking items at Wal Mart for $10 the next day, someone made out like a bandit. Granted, I don't know the companies business model, and I'm not 100% positive what the markup is on these, but it's probably still a good chunk of money.
House keeping as usual here. You can follow me on Twitter @skepticalokie, join us on the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/OklahomaSkepticalSociety, or become a member here on the OKSS website. You can also leave a comment, or email me at [email protected] And if you're going to be in Oklahoma City on the second Monday of any month, come and join us at the OKSS Skeptics in the Pub events. Until next time, Be Good, Be Skeptical, and Be sure you turned the stove off before you leave.
The Skeptical Okie
|Posted by Tiffany on April 22, 2014 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 6:20 PM||comments (0)|
Hey kiddos, the Skeptical Okie is back with what I hope is a decent post. Finally starting to settle back into a regular work schedule, so hopefully I'll be able to start putting these out in a more timely manner. I noticed that I tend to average about 2 posts a month, and hopefully I'll be able to get up to at least one a week. And as I am at nearly 1500 views on the blog, I think it is time to celebrate. So time to do a topic that I have always been fascinated and entertained by. But first, just so you know, one of the reasons that it does take so long in between posts is mostly due to research, and the nausea and headaches that go along with it when you read some of the things that are involved with these topics. I hope that you folks are enjoying my little attempts to promote rational thought in the general community. If you do, or if you have suggestions for improvements, let me know in the comments section, or contact me at [email protected] .
This week, I'll be revisiting my discussion of the Bigfoot community, Bigfoot in general, and the show "Finding Bigfoot". I will admit my previous post was rather sub-par but I do have a defense, namely physical pain combined with minor case of insomnia. But I feel that I owe it to anyone that enjoys the blog to make the article as thorough and enjoyable as I can. The other reason I am re-visiting this topic is that the "Finding Bigfoot" crew was only a few miles from my house doing an investigation ( and yes, I do use the term loosely) in a place that I know very well. No, I didn't interfere with them, though it would have been tempting to do so. It is a longer than usual article, so I would suggest not trying to read it at work or while watching small children. I would also recommend having food and water nearby.
Before I really jump into the topic, let me just say that while I find it highly improbable that Bigfoot does exist, I am open to the possibility If someone actually produces a body or living creature, then I'll be there saying "Damn, they're real." Given the fact that you can not disprove a negative, then it will remain an open debate until either one walks into a Starbucks and orders a half caff double hazelnut espresso, or until there are no hiding places on the continent, whichever comes first.
Some of you may be saying "How is this guy any different from all the other skeptics out there that have given lectures and written books about Bigfoot and other mysterious monsters?" The major way I differ from many of the others that discuss unknown creatures in forums such as this, is that I have spent a large part of my life in the woods and countryside stalking everything from small birds and herbivorous mammals to the large predators. I have tracked wolves and coyotes through mud, snow, grass, open fields, and woodland. I have tracked animals from kill sites back to their hiding areas or dens. In my current occupations, I have had to determine what animal has made what track, what occurred and deduce why. I have even had to track emus that had been running loose long enough to have raised a clutch of chicks.(Not a fun day.) I have also had to investigate a Bigfoot running through a trailer park. (It was actually a large naked man on some illicit substance. Try seeing that and not needing brain bleach.) I am not, and I will emphasize this several times, a wildlife biologist, ecologist, botanist or any other "ist". I am simply a man with well over 20 years experience tracking and finding, and identifying animals and an ability to think logically.
Big foot is...?
Sorry, wrong picture
From the Patterson-Gimlin film
First off, exactly what the hell is a Bigfoot? Basically, it is supposed to be a large, hairy, humanoid creature. According to the BFRO website, they range from about 3 feet tall to over 10 feet. According to ourbigfoot.com, they weigh between 600-900 pounds, which is the weights I often hear. The hair color (and the BFRO (This group would be the Bigfoot Field Research Organization. You can find their website at http://bfro.net/ ) emphasizes hair, not fur, due to a lack of guard hairs) ranges in color from black to brown to gray or white. They are also supposed to be human in appearance with the head being proportionally smaller in size and the arms longer than they would be in a human. They are, depending on the reports you go off of, either purely animal in intelligence or else nearly human. They are supposed to live in forested areas, and like most animals, live near access to water and food. Some experts (and no, I'm not using the sarcastic quote marks. I'm afraid I'll wear the key out on my computer.) claim Bigfoot is an herbivore (plant eater). Others claim they are either omnivores (once again on the BFRO site) or carnivores. As far as I have been able to find, there is only 1 purely carnivorous primate, the tarsier, which is a kinda cute little guy.
Not quite a Bigfoot.
The Bigfoot has quite a few alias's that it goes by. Some of the ones in North America are :Sasquatch, Bigfoot, Skunk-Ape, Boggy Monster, Hairy Man, and about a hundred other names. Part of the reason for all these names, and this is just my hypothesis, is that cryptozoologists go through the local native stories, and any that mention a wild man, or a large hairy creature get added to the plethora of names in an attempt to demonstrate that the creatures have been around for centuries, not just since the Patterson-Gimlin film.
The history of the Bigfoot is a little unclear. There are numerous legends from Native American tribes that describe wild men or hairy men, but they also have stories that have talking foxes, ravens, and bears. There is some similarities to Bigfoot, but the same similarities could also be applied to other known creatures. Some of the languages that the stories originated in are no longer spoken, so it is unknown if there may be additions or omissions made in the translation that were made to make it easier for the English speaking audience to understand. Remember, these were oral traditions passed down from one generation to the next, so there may have been additions made with every telling, similar to the game "telephone". According to monstrous.com , one of the earliest reported sightings of Bigfoot was in 986 C.E. by Lief Erikson (yes, the Viking) and the first printed was in a California newspaper in 1870. According to Wikipedia, in the 1920's, a Canadian newspaperman named J.W. Burns compiled a bunch of legends from the local native tribes that described what he believed was a single type of animal. He was also the one that coined the phrase Sasquatch. There have been reported sightings of Bigfoot over the years, starting in the early 1920's. And yes, to the international readers, I know I'm not addressing the stories of the Yeti or other humanoid creatures in other countries. Mostly due to the fact that I am trying to keep my posts on a more singular topic and if I were to discuss all the humanoid stories, it would be too long to read comfortably in a single sitting. Back to the matter at hand. In 1924, there was a reported Bigfoot attack on a mining camp in Washington state at a place called Ape Canyon. The sightings were few and far between until about 1958 at Bluff Creek, California. The gist of the story is that they were building a road through the area, and they discovered some large foot prints. The story grew from there and began the entire cottage industry of "Bigfooting" In fact, this incident is the one that gave the creature the name Bigfoot. One problem with this episode is that the crew chief, Ray Wallace, was known to play practical jokes, and after his death in 2002, his family produced a pair of wooden "stompers" that may have been used to create the tracks. These are essentially large wooden bottom shoes with a mold of a footprint on the bottom, instead of shoe treads. I say may have, because unless the the person actually comes forward and admits and demonstrates that they did do it, then it is all supposition. (While doing the research for this piece of information, I ran into a very interesting problem. The pro-Bigfoot sites state that the stompers couldn't make the tracks and that the family is trying to discredit Mr. Wallace and even offer their own proof as to why. Cryptomundo claims to have a letter from the nephew of someone that was involved in the case, and that they had info that the public hadn't read. I did look through Cryptomundo for research. I think I should get some kind of award for that alone. The sites that mention this fact that are not crypto sites, simply mention it, state it appears it was a hoax, and that's the end of it.) After the Bluff Creek incident, there are a few quiet years and then it happened. Yep, the Patterson-Gimlin film. I'm not going to write much about it, mostly because there have been t.v. specials, books, and podcasts about just this topic alone. In the off chance that you don't know what it is, I have no idea where you've been for the last 40 years. You may not know the name of it, but odds are you've seen it. It is a shaky 8mm film of ...something walking along a river bank. You can watch it on Youtube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=Us6jo8bl2lk . Granted, it's a typical Youtube video, but finding a copy of the original proved to be rather problematic, with a lot of dead links, or video has been removed messages. People have been trying to debunk it pretty much since it was first shown. This one film has had almost as much analysis done as the J.F.K. assassination video. Since then, the number of Bigfoot sightings have been on an increase. I imagine that since "Finding Bigfoot" began airing, the number of sightings have increased even more.
I do have some graphics and maps, but after 2 months of digging through the interwebs, either my Google-Fu has failed me, or the map I was wanting really doesn't exist. I was able to find one that does come close, though. If you would look at the following map,it shows the general territories of the 5 North American Bear species, The Grizzly, Brown, Black, Kodiak, and Polar, (and remember the colors given that Bigfoots come in) as well as other bear species across the world.
General Bear Territory
One problem I have with the first map is that it seems to ignore some of the black bear populations in the U.S, such as those in Florida. This territory looks like this:
Now if you would compare those maps to this:
Notice a resemblance? I'm not saying that every sighting is a mistaken bear. But given how much overlap there is, there is a high probability that many of them are. In fact, I did find a study that uses bear populations to predict Bigfoot sightings. You can read the study here . It does appear that they are hypothesizing that many of the sightings are possibly cases of mis-identification. As I stated at the beginning, the experts state that they prefer wooded areas, with access to clean water and food. I know that the maps do not show the exact same areas, but you do need to consider 2 facts. The first is that I have never stated that every single sightings was actually a bear. Some could be other people, or large mammals seen at strange angles or difficult light conditions. Secondly, animals are mobile, they do move around, especially when looking for food, their own territory, and mates, which I know that the same argument can be made for Bigfoot.
Diet, habits, and other info
If you've seen any show on Bigfoots, then you've have probably heard them discuss the diets or habits of the creatures. What I want to know is, How the hell do they know this? I can understand making assumptions on say a T. Rex, or a giant squid. These assumptions can be based on looking at and analyzing either live specimens or their remains. They can look at an animals teeth and reasonably come to the conclusion that it was a meat eater, plant eater, or omnivore. Or they can compare it to similar known animals and unless there are major differences in structure, assume the diet is similar. They can also look at it's fecal matter, known as scat, (and no I don't mean the musical style) to determine the major type of material that has been consumed. They can watch the animal to learn their habits and nature. I do not know the exact process that paleontologists use to determine everything about fossils, but I can assume it is relatively the same thing. But with these animals, they at least having either living descendants or adequate fossil remains to observe. With the Bigfoot, so far, there have been no long term or comparative observations made. So most Bigfooters make assumptions regarding Bigfoots nature using information from witnesses. Going off of the most common beliefs concerning Bigfoot, they appear to mostly be omnivorous, eating everything from roots and berries to killing and eating deer. According to Matt Moneymaker and his crew from the BFRO, coyotes and wolves are a good indicator that there are Bigfoot in the area because apparently, they all hunt the same prey animals. (By the way, coyotes eat mice and other small animals more often than they eat large animals) Appropriately for a cryptid, they are elusive and avoid making contact with humans, though given the number of reports, they aren't really good at hide and seek. As I stated earlier, they appear to prefer heavily wooded areas, with access to water and hiding places. On the show "Finding Bigfoot", they have come upon structures made out of sticks, and Bobo has often proclaimed "A Squatch made this". Thing is, they normally find these in areas that are known to the locals as either hunting or camping areas. I've made several of these, which are called lean-tos or blinds, when I've been caught out close to dark and it looked like it was going to rain or when I was trying to avoid detection by the animal I was attempting to observe. I don't always take them down when I'm done, and several weeks or even a year later when I return, they are often still intact. I know that this section has probably been the worst, but it is also one of the hardest to research and put into a cohesive form, mostly because there are so many differing descriptions on the creatures nature and there is no hard evidence to support any of them.
There are numerous theories concerning the origins of Bigfoot out there. Some of them are pretty out there. The most commonly accepted one is that they are the descendants of an offshoot of the homo genus or they are surviving members of gigantopithecus, an extinct giant ape. Another one I've seen recently is that they are either aliens, escaped alien pets, escaped alien experiments, failed alien bio-weapons, or Earth is a penal colony, and Bigfoot are the inmates. There are so many sites stating this that it would be relatively impossible to list them all. The funniest one I've heard is that Bigfoot are aliens capable of phasing in and out of this plane of reality, and this is why we have never found a corpse. I believe these would be cases of special pleading. When skeptics ask a believer why haven't we ever stumbled on a dead Bigfoot, they claim a body doesn't last long in the wild or that we never find bear skeletons. Granted, a body will either decompose or be torn apart by scavengers pretty quickly, but there will still be signs that it existed. A small fragment of hair or bone, feces, a partial or sometimes intact skeleton. So far, there has been no conclusive evidence of a Bigfoot in these regards. They will also claim that Bigfoot bury their dead. Once again, this would leave obvious signs. Even if they buried them under a stone cairn, the odor of decomposition would be evident, let alone the obvious signs of stones being gathered and stacked. A grave site is normally fairly obvious, especially one out in the middle of the woods. If the creatures have an animal intelligence, why would they bother to bury their dead? If they have near human intelligence, where are the signs of burial? We can still find evidence of burial sites for the native tribes in America from hundreds of years ago.
How many would it take?
A common question that the skeptics ask the believers is "How many Bigfoot are there?" In order to maintain a healthy population, without having to resort to inbreeding, and given the wide territory that that are supposed to cover, there would, by necessity, have to be a large number of the creatures roaming all over the country. According to the BFRO website, their estimates are between 2000-6000 creatures, and they claim this is above the minimum threshold. The minimum viable population threshold is the point of no return for a species. According to Wikipedia, if you ignore inbreeding problems, then 500-1000 animals would ensure their survival. If you take into account the problems associated with inbreeding (and please, no redneck jokes, I'll make those) then the numbers dramatically increase. According to the same article the median population size would be 4, 169, with no conservation efforts. And remember, these animals would need to be in relatively close proximity to each other in order to maintain a breeding relationship. Now, given the number of sightings every year, the wide spread locations, and the numbers needed, if they do exist, then they are either highly migratory, almost nomadic, or highly inbred, if there are not a large number of the creatures. A major issue with a highly inbred population is that any genetic problems will be amplified because they will not be bred out of the species. Believers will often cite the rarity of Bigfoot for the reason they haven't been spotted more often by the general public. The thing is, there are numerous animals with incredibly small populations that we are still able to find on a regular basis. Aniamlinfo.org has a list of about 36 mammals that have fewer than 1000 individuals remaining. Some of them are fairly small in dense forest, while others live in aquatic environments. in both cases, they are difficult to find, but researchers are still able to observe and study them. Their list is:
Baiji (Yangtze River Dolphin)(*P)- ... maybe no more than a few tens of individuals...(Reeves et al. 2003)
Vancouver Island Marmot(*P)- ...29...(Vanc. Is. Marm. Recov. Found.2005)
Seychelles Sheath-tailed Bat(*P)- ...50 - 100 individuals...(IUCN 2004)
Javan Rhino(*P)- ...about 60...(Intl. Rhino Found. 2005)
Hispid Hare (Assam Rabbit)(*P)- ...110...(Kavitha 2001)
Northern Hairy-nosed Wombat(*P)- ...113...(Queensland Parks Wildl. Serv. 2003)
Tamaraw (Dwarf Water Buffalo)(*P)- ...the total population is thought to be about 30 - 200...(IUCN 2003a)
Iberian Lynx(*P)- ...As few as 120...(FFI Update 2006)
Red Wolf(*P)- ...less than 150 (re-introduced) ...(IUCN 2004)
Dwarf Blue Sheep(*P)- ...approximately 200...(Wang et al. 2000)
Yellow-tailed Woolly Monkey(*P)- ...fewer than 250 individuals...(IUCN 2003a)
Kouprey (Cambodian Forest Ox)(*P)- ...generally assumed to be less than 250...(IUCN 2003a)
Riverine Rabbit(*P)- ...About 250 adults...(Flux 2005)
Malabar Large Spotted Civet(*P)- ...fewer than 250 mature individuals are thought to survive...(Nowak 1999)
Saola (Vu Quang Ox)(*P)- ...estimated at less than 250 mature individuals...(IUCN 2006)
Tonkin Snub-nosed Monkey(*P)- ...less than 300...(IUCN 2003a)
Sumatran Rhino(*P)- ...about 300...(Intl. Rhino Found. 2005)
Northern Muriqui- ...less than 300...(IUCN 2003a)
Visayan Spotted Deer(*P)- ...a few hundred...(Heaney and Regalado 1998)
Hirola (Hunter's Hartebeest)(*P)- ...by 1995 numbers were down to 300...(Kingdon 1997)
Addax(*P)- ...may not exceed a few hundred individuals...(Mallon & Kingswood 2001)
North Atlantic Right Whale(*P)- ...around 350...(Focus 2004a)
Black-faced Lion Tamarin(*P)- ...as few as 400...(Natl. Zoo Cons. Sci. 2004)
Ethiopian Wolf(*P)- ...at least 442...(Sillero-Zubiri & Marino 2004)
Black-footed Ferret(*P)- ...about 500 in the wild...(Focus 2005a)
African Wild Ass(*P)- ...less than 570...(Moehlman 2002a)
Vaquita(*P)- ...less than 600...(Oryx 2004d)
Arabian Oryx(*P)- ...Approximately 886 (re-introduced)...(IUCN 2004)
Mediterranean Monk Seal(*P)- ...an estimated 500 individuals...(Karamanlidis et al. 2004)
Bactrian Camel(*P)- ...approximately 950...(IUCN 2003a)
Hairy-eared Dwarf Lemur(*P)- ...estimated to number between 100 - 1000...(IUCN 2002)
Southern Muriqui (Woolly Spider Monkey)(*P)- ...does not exceed 1000...(IUCN 2003a)
Golden Bamboo Lemur(*P)- ...about 1000 individuals...(IUCN 2002)
Golden-rumped Lion Tamarin(*P)- ...1000...(Natl. Zoo Cons. Sci. 2004)
Greater Bamboo Lemur(*P)- ...1000 individuals...(IUCN 2003a)
Indus River Dolphin(*P)- ...At least 1000...(Focus/WWF 2001)
And this brings to mind a question that I have never heard put to the believers. How is it no Bigfoot has ever been seen fleeing from a wildfire or been found in the aftermath? How come they don't start appearing during a drought? We have film of animals running from a forest during fires, and we find their bodies in the burnt out sections. During the drought here in Oklahoma, people were surprised to see large numbers of black bears suddenly start showing up everywhere looking for water. Severe ecological disasters normally cause animals to come out of hiding out of desperation to survive. Yet during all the California wildfires, no known Bigfoot remains have been found, and no Bigfoot has walked into someones backyard to drink from their swimming pool.
This is a rather confusing part of the Bigfoot story. Depending on how you look at it, every sighting could be a hoax. The ones that the Bigfoot community view as hoaxes are the one perpetuated against them. There have been several notorious ones that come to mind in recent years. The first is from August 2008 in Georgia. This is the one where a couple of men had basically a frozen rubber ape suit in an ice chest, claiming it was real. You can find this one everywhere. Just Google frozen Bigfoot. A tragic case is the man in Montana 4 years later in August 2012 that was wearing a ghillie suit trying to prank people. Unfortunately, he was killed during this prank after being hit by 2 cars. And the last one that immediately comes to mind can be viewed here. This was done by Penn and Teller, kind of as a jab at Matt Moneymaker and the BFRO.
If you've been a believer, or in the skeptical community, or even watched enough television, you seen someone holding up a plaster cast of a footprint. A question that I've often had is, why is there normally only one or two prints, even along a river bed. Also, how is it a track that is supposed to be several days old can leave a very distinct cast, complete with toe prints and lines, while one that is supposed to be relatively fresh will look like a clump of nothing. How do they know it's not just a natural depression or a human walking barefoot through the woods on a nature hike? I've done it quite often. Tracks will be sharp and crisp for a short while if the conditions are right. However, they quickly erode, loosing their features until they are indistinguishable from the rest of the terrain. Wind, rain, snow, other animals, even leaves moving across the surface will accelerate the process.
This has recently been in the news, and also n the "Finding Bigfoot" show. Today, on February 4th, 2012, I found an article that they had tested a D.N.A. sample taken in Russia that turned out to belong to a North American Black Bear. You can read the article here. Then there is Dr. Melba Ketchum. She claims to have sequenced Bigfoot D.N.A. from samples sent to her. The article from Sci-tech Today can be found here. There are a few issues with her claim. I want to see how many you can find. Leave your answers in the comments section, and we'll discuss them in a later article. For a hint, listen to the Monster Talk Podcast "Ketchum if you can"
Other possibilities for the evidence
Some of the other evidence that has been presented are hair and blood samples, which fall under the D.N.A. category, but I thought I would take a minute and deliver some possible alternative ideas as to the origins. There was one man that had set a board with nails on his cabins porch to deter anyone from ransacking the place. When he returned to prep the cabin for use, he found hair, and I believe a bit of flesh attached to the board and nails. Unfortunately, due to it being out in the weather for several months, the D.N.A. had been broken down to the point that it could no longer be tested. The show made it sound like Bigfoot was there, but using Occams Razor, the most likely circumstance is that a bear walked up on the porch and stepped on the nails. Lately the BFRO folks have been presenting hair as proof. they do this after a cursory visual inspection. Once again, using Occams razor, which is more likely, a possibly mythical creature leaving a piece of hair behind, or a bear, bovine, or even a wild pig leaving hair behind. For those that are unfamiliar with it, Occams Razor is a logic exercise that basically states when there are several competing hypotheses, the one with the fewest assumptions should be selected. It doesn't always work, but it is a good rule of thumb.
"Finding Bigfoot" and the BFRO
O.k., now for the cream of the crop in the Bigfoot movement, the BFRO (Bigfoot Field Research Organization) and the show "Finding Bigfoot" on Animal Planet. The BFRO is a non-profit organization founded in 1995 by a man named Matt Moneymaker that claims to use scientific methods to investigate Bigfoot reports. (If you were going to run a non-profit, wouldn't you change your name from Moneymaker to something else?) This is a group of believers that go out to investigate reported sightings of an unknown animal with the intention to prove that Bigfoot exists. This is so horribly wrong when doing research in a scientific manner. When doing scientific research, you don't go with the intention of definitively proving something exists. The intention of research is to see if something does or doesn't exist. Basically, you use science to answer a question, not reinforce your beliefs. This means you shouldn't let any bias that you have influence the way you conduct your research. Your results are your results, regardless of if they are the ones that you hoped they would be or not. Granted, all people have a bias, but the scientific method, when properly applied, is designed to reduce the effect of these preconceived notions. The show "Finding Bigfoot" has a main cast of 4 people. First and foremost is Matt Moneymaker, founder of the BFRO. Second is James "Bobo" Fay, who seems to be a small, shaved Bigfoot himself. His normal line is "If I like it, a Squatch will like it too." He's also the only one that goes by a nickname. Third is Cliff Barackman, the small guy with the goatee. That's about all I have on him. Finally, the token "skeptic" Ranae Holland, who is a research biologist.
In the show, these Bigfoot hunters go to various towns, talk to people that believe they have seen a Bigfoot, or had an experience with a creature they couldn't identify, pick several of them for further investigation, go to the sighting location, attempt to recreate it, one of them camps out and looks for the creature either overnight or for several days, and they do a group overnight investigation, all the while showing their bias that Bigfoots exist. O.K., let's break this down. Step 1, Talk to witnesses. This is fine. You need information to begin your research, so find it. Step 2, Pick witnesses to further investigate. Somewhat correct but the way they choose the one to is slightly skewed. Yes, you need to use the best evidence available, but to only use the ones that fit with an already formed hypothesis is called cherry-picking data. Basically they are finding the information that fits their preconceived notions the best instead of looking at all the data. They need to look at cases that have other possible explanations, which most do. Step 3 Go to the location. This one is rather hit and miss. I've seen several times when Ranae and Matt have had very different opinions concerning the "evidence" and eventually Matt will tell Ranae that she has no idea what she's looking at, especially concerning tracks. To be honest, I don't see it either, but given that I'm watching it on a television instead of actually being there, I can not make a definitive conclusion. Step 4, Recreate the incident. I'm actually fine with this. This can give the investigators a better idea of what the witness might have seen. The main problem I have is that someone invariably states something along the lines of "You definitely saw a Bigfoot. It can't be anything else." Rarely is another hypothesis given. But sometimes watching them do this is funny as hell. Bobo normally plays the role of Bigfoot, mostly because he's the largest member of the quartet. A problem with this is that witnesses are notoriously unreliable. When someone is scared or caught off guard, what they think they see and what is actually there may be two different things. Step 5, While further interviewing witnesses, 1 person camps out looking. This one is borderline proper. Yes, they are actually looking for evidence, but once again with the bias that the creature exists. Lastly, they do a group investigation in a predetermined area that they feel will give them the best results. In and of itself, this is fine. The problem is their methodology, which deserves it's own section.
"Finding Bigfoot" methodology
I will admit to watching the show on occasion. Most of the time, it's just for background noise, and sometimes I use it as my own version of MST3K. I do end up yelling at the screen an awful lot though. What I'm going to discuss in this section is the methods used on the show "Finding Bigfoot" during their night investigations and explain how they might or might not work.
Animal calls: Each member of the team has various calls and screams that they do in order to either attract a Bigfoot, or to solicit a response. Yes, this is used to attract animals such as deer and coyotes. With the deer, you use a deer call, with predators, you use the call of a wounded prey animal. The problem with using this method is, no one knows what a Bigfoot sounds like, or what their food sounds like.
Damsel in distress: Ranae goes out into the woods and pretends to be in trouble. The theory is that a Bigfoot will be curious about a human female by herself, and will come and investigate. The problem is that they are assuming the creature has either near human intelligence, or a poor survival instinct. Or needs a date.
Recorded children's voices: Once again, they make an assumption that the creature will be curious about humans and come and investigate. Same problems as the damsel in distress.
Sound Blasting: This is where they take a high powered stereo and play various animal calls at a high volume. The problem with this is that extremely loud sounds will normally drive any fauna in the immediate area away or into hiding. Even large predators like cougars and wolves will flee from a loud sudden sound.
The Rave: Exactly what it sounds like, a disco ball and loud music. The problem is the same as sound blasting, and they seem to be making the assumption that Bigfoot are stoners.
Loud campers: A large group of people around a campfire, singing, playing music, joking and laughing. The problems with this are that most wild animals will avoid a fire at all costs, unless they are nearly dieing of hunger and loud noises will drive them away.
Running with torches while yelling: Yep, they go running through a forest at night with lit torches (and to the British readers, I don't mean an electric torch) yelling at the top of their lungs. Once again, animals avoid fire and loud noises. And forests are flammable.
Children for bait: They had a small troop of Girl Scouts out in the woods at night around a campfire. the idea once again is that the creature would be curious about small kids, and I guess they combined it with the damsel in distress method and childrens voices. Again, fire = bad to animals, and loud noises aren't popular in the animal kingdom.
Roman candles: Bobo shot off some roman candle fireworks to attract a Bigfoot. And again, loud noises, fire and animals don't mix. And trees are flammable. (Does the forest service need to put warning labels on all the trees?)
Rabbit and glow sticks: A rabbit in a cage surrounded by glow sticks. I don't really have the foggiest what the hell they were thinking on this one. Weird enough to work? The problem is that while animals will investigate things that are out of the ordinary, they will do so at a distance, and be very alert to anything that might be a threat.
Fireworks: Bobo sets off a bunch of black cat fireworks. Urg.... everything is wrong on this one. I'm beginning to thing he might just be a pyromaniac. Or else just enjoys explosions. But then again,who doesn't enjoy a nice evening in the great outdoors, trying to set it all ablaze?
Normal Method: Their preferred method of trying to find a Bigfoot is to split up into 2 groups, and travel in opposite directions. They are wearing what looks like starlight cameras on large rigs attached to their bodies. They also use infrared cameras, which are difficult to determine an exact species with. All you can see are large blobs of various colors, based on body heat. They also use 2 way radios for communication. A major problem, at least the way the show portrays it, is that they spend a lot of time stomping through the area, and chatting back and forth on the radios. They also do their calls and what they call wood knock. They believe that Bigfoot communicate in part by hitting a tree with a branch, so they do the same to elicit a response. I think this is just a way for them to work out some aggression.
They've tried a couple of other things, but I think you've got the general idea of what they do and how they think.
Animal watcher: This is not a method I've seen them use on "Finding Bigfoot", but instead, it is the method I use, and most wildlife biologists that I know use. First, gather your evidence and talk to witnesses. Use this and environmental factors such as availability of food, water, and shelter to determine where the animal is likely to appear or travel. Look for animal trails, which are normally used by several species. Then determine if any of the tracks belong to the species you are trying to observe. Find an area that you can observe the site from without being seen, including putting up a blind, or even using a tree stand. Anything to remove yourself from the animals line of sight. Then you wait. And wait. And sometimes wait some more. It can take days or weeks of observation to finally see the animal. Then you can take your notes, attempt to capture, or even take samples.
I know that the show is edited to make it fit into the time slot and to make it as entertaining as possible. I also know that there are people out there that are looking for these creatures, and disprove their own ideas about its existence, but rarely do they make it on t.v. It's not as entertaining for someone to do the actual research and at the end of the show say "Well, after all of our observations and tests were made, we have come to the conclusion that the animal Mr. and Mrs X saw ransacking their house last April has in fact turned out to be a small Grizzly Bear." (Or maybe Bear Grylls?) To me, the evidence for a large, hairy humanoid creature is pretty thin, unless you count some people I know. As Carl Sagan stated "Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence". Aside from some poorly shot pictures, some very shaky films, badly cast or questionable prints, and uncertain testimonies, there is little real evidence for such a creature alive today. Given the number of animals needed to maintain a healthy breeding population, or even to maintain their numbers, the number of nature lovers, campers, and hikers, and the number of people with decent cameras in their phones, someone should have gotten a very clear picture, or even film, of one. Take into account the number of people that hunt, or carry a firearm for protection and someone should have shot one by now, especially in Texas, Georgia, and Louisiana Also, with the loss of available habitat, and encroachment by humans into the wilder parts of the country, someone should have found one, or at least the corpse of one that doesn't have a "Made in China" tag in it. I think it would be amazing if one were to actually turn up, but I'm not going to buying tickets to see one at a zoo any time soon.
I hope that you enjoyed the article as much as I enjoyed the research and writing of it. Remember, you can leave a comment here on the blog, or email me at [email protected] . You can also find me on FaceBook at the Oklahoma Skeptics Society page. I do try and post there as often as I can, so like us, and I'll keep you informed on all the goings on. Now that the shameless plugs are out of the way, if you have any suggestions for future topics, or questions feel free to get in touch with me. Thanks for reading, and remember, Be good, Be skeptical, and Be yourself.
The Skeptical Okie
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 5:50 PM||comments (0)|
Hello friends, and how has everyone been? Hopefully you all successfully survived the Mayan Apocalypse, Christmas, and New Years. It was a little tight here in the Skeptical Okie hidden bunker, but after evicting the conservatives and Rekai masters, there was plenty of turkey and Twinkies to last the end of the world. We survived, but our pants didn't make it. Just a couple of things to talk about this time. Actually, I've got several, but as each one will be fairly long, I decided to cover each one as an individual topic.
But first, some really cool science news!
Captured deep beneath the waves: 10ft squid filmed in natural habitat
That's right, they actually caught a giant squid on film. Granted, it was only 10 feet long, while they can possibly grow up to over 50 foot, but still, pretty cool! They basically had to film it in near blackness, mostly because they appear to avoid light sources. I really can't put into words how interesting this is, but I hope that more research on these animals is on the way.
The second topic I was wanting to write about is a good demonstration of why critical and rational thought is important. I recently saw on FaceBook a post that basically states that the Girl Scouts of America are funding abortions through Planned Parenthood. In an October 1, 2004 press release, Nina Boggia stated "Healthy living is a big part of Girl Scouting. We want to raise awareness about girls' health, so we're also partnering with local hospitals and the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation to promote cancer education." From what I can find on the official Girl Scouts website, found at www.girlscouts.org , they are no longer in a partnership with them. The Girl Scouts have quite a few partners across the corporate and governmental sectors.
Their corporate partners are:
Alcoa Foundation AT&T The Coca-Cola Company Dell Dove The Goizueta Foundation Herford N. Elliott Trust Jessie Ball duPont Fund
Kappa Delta Sorority Lockheed Martin MetLife Foundation Motorola Solutions Foundation New York Life Foundation Trane USA
Their governmental partners are:
Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS) National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)
National Science Foundation (NSF) U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
U.S. Department of Education (DOE) U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
U.S. Department of the Interior (DOI) U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The Girl Scouts also have programs for minorities, girls with incarcerated mothers, rural communities, and an anti-violence campaign. So far, nothing to ruffle anyones feathers right? Not quite. According to an article on snopes.com, Indiana state rep Bob Morris issued a statement concerning the state recognizing the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts. What his statement boils down to is that the Girl Scouts are a radical group trying to push abortions on everyone, and promote female sexuality. He even stated that he did a little internet research and even though neither the Girl Scouts nor the Planned Parenthood websites said they were partners, and they even denied it, they had entered into a "strategic affiliation". What the hell this unholy union is supposed to accomplish, Representative Morris never quite makes clear. He goes on to make a lot of other claims and complaints. Most of them are patently false. For the entire article, which will not let me copy and paste, look here: http://www.snopes.com/politics/sexuality/girlscouts.asp There are also the rebuttals from both the Girl Scouts and Planned Parenthood. just for reference, the recognition passed unanimously. Part of this rumor stems from the fact that Girl Scouts did partner with the Susan G. Komen Foundation, who has donated money to Planned Parenthood. I guess it's a homeopathic donation. The conservatives tend to focus on Planned Parenthood and abortion. Yes, they do provide help with abortions, but they also give help on: Birth Control, general health, men's sexual health, the morning after pill, Pregnancy, Relationships, Sex and Sexuality, Sexual Orientation, STD's, and Womens Health. So yeah, they are a truly evil and morally reprehensible organization fully capable of bringing about the downfall of western civilization. (Yes, that was sarcasm.)
I have heard a lot of the conspiracies concerning the Girl Scouts use the words "radical" "feminist", and "liberal". I think these are the conservative code words for "intelligent", empowered", and "modern". Yes, the Scouts do promote women's health issues, including sexual health. Unfortunately for some of these girls, this may be the only way they get the information that can help them make informed decisions concerning their own sexual practices, from abstinence to contraceptives. I know that, as the father of a 16 year old girl, these are topics most parents really don't want to broach or think about. Yes, the Colorado Girl Scouts did allow a transgender boy (he lived his life as a girl, and identified himself as a girl as long as he could remember) to join which Fox News did make it sound much worse than it was. The Girl Scouts are inclusive, pretty much regardless of sexual orientation, and in some cases, physical gender. I myself am a male Girl Scout. I know how that sounds, and no, I only wear the sash and skirt at official events. I kid, at least about the sash and skirt. I actually am an adult member, and I am not the only male, even here in the buckle of the ultra conservative bible belt. But without the education some of the girls get from their troop leaders, they could easily make bad decisions that possibly affect them for the rest of their lives, especially as some of them have no other female role model that they can ask questions.
And finally, the coupe de resistance, the cookies and where the money goes. Some of them are especially addictive, (I'm partial to the peanut butter and chocolate Tag-a-longs) and some people do eat way to many at this time of year. I've been known to eat an entire box at 1 sitting. The cookie sales are the troops best known means of fund raising. They have to pay for their camps, outings, and any activities or philanthropy projects. A percentage goes to the troops, the councils, service units, and the bakeries get the rest. The sales aren't just about fund raising either. They help teach the girls to speak to people, how to be an entrepreneur, and how to manage money.
I know that I've put a lot of info out there, and I haven't covered nearly everything, but I still recommend whenever you hear someone spout off and they use the words "Conspiracy", "radical" "liberal" or "real truth" do some research on your own. Not only will you be better prepared the next time, but you might learn something you weren't expecting.
So until next time, I'll put the usual rigmarole here. feel free to leave any comments or questions here on the blog, and I will reply. Or if you want it to remain private, you can email me at [email protected] . And of course, just like the Justin Bieber fan club, you can find me on FaceBook. Just look for the Oklahoma Skeptics Society And always remember, be good. Next time, Bigfoot Hunters, Part 2!
The Skeptical Okie
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 5:45 PM||comments (0)|
Hey everyone, how's it going? Now that the elections are over, I've decided to emerge from my bunker in an undisclosed state in a hidden location. I'm assuming that because we aren't at war with Iran and the industries haven't been de-regulated, Obama must have won. Things have been hectic and interesting here at the Skeptical Okie secret base. To those that are from Oklahoma, this will make sense. To everyone else, I'll try and explain. Recently, I was at my local Wal Mart (yes I know, evil big corporation shutting out mom and pop stores, bad practices, etc, but it's the cheapest place for miles around, and the closest.) and I ran into someone that remembered my grandpa. My grandpa used to make a bit of extra pocket money by witching for water wells. Witching wells is called dousing by the rest of the world. I used to go with him on a few of these jobs, and he "taught" me how to do it. Basically, he put 2 willow rods (because willow is attracted to water) in my hands and told me to feel for the water. I watched what he did and noticed he was tensing his arms, so I did the same thing. He thought I had the gift. Remember, his daughter, my mother, thinks she can heal sunburns by touching them. Anyway, this gentleman at Wal Mart remembered me (I haven't changed much in appearance) and told me he had just bought a quarter section and needed to put in a well. He wanted to know if I would come out and witch it for him. As we are living on a single paycheck right now, there was a lot of temptation. I looked at him and told him no, I couldn't. I didn't go into an explanation of why, mostly because he would just tell me I'm wasting my "gift", and yes, I've heard it before. The major issue I really wanted to point out is that most of the state sits on top of the Ogallala aquifer, and if you drill down enough, you'll hit water. I've had a few run ins with our local ghost hunters too, but that story is for another day.
Okay, this story is one that can make you facepalm and hurt a rib at the same time. Basically, a 14 year old girl in New Zealand (to my NZ readers, is this attitude normal?) states that homosexuality will bring human development to a standstill, but she doesn't believe in evolution. Because ducks nest in pairs, they will be more evolved than humans. Quick, someone get her a biology book, STAT!!!!!!!!!! I guess someone forgot to tell her that often ducks do take a same sex partner. Sometimes, they'll try and breed an animal that's a different species. (Crocoduck anyone? Kirk Cameron may be trying this, though I don't imagine the coupling will be pleasant for either animal, unless a lot of alcohol is involved. Could you imagine the walk of shame the next morning after that?) The whole article is found at
I loved this one!!! In the state of Georgia, Charles Darwin, who has been dead for about 130 years at this point, received over 4000 write in votes against Sen.Paul "evolution is from hell" Broun. Just goes to show that anyone can run for office in this country. Granted, Broun still got 209,000, but it was a valid protest that got his attention. I've been hearing a lot of people saying that they wasted their votes, and a few people ask who Darwin is. This is one the the rare times that a write in vote like this wasn't a waste. Broun was running unopposed, so basically either you voted for him, or you didn't vote. A version of the story can be read at
Charles Darwin was the natural selection for 4,000 Georgia voters
I've heard of cruel and unusual punishment, but this one is a little odd. Judge sentences teen to 10 years of church Here in Oklahoma, we've got a long history of strange laws (such as you can go to jail for taking a bite out of someone elses hamburger or that sex is only legal in the missionary position. Who the hell enforces these?) There is a district court judge who has a habit of sentencing people to church. Basically it's deferred sentence where they have to attend a religious service instead of A.A. A 17 year old kid had a few drinks (legal age in the U.S. is 21) got into a wreck that killed his passenger and was charged with manslaughter. Judge Mike Norman in Muskogee sentenced him to church. When I was a kid, I know church felt like a punishment, by I always felt like I'd done something wrong BY going. As I am writing this, I found out that this isn't exactly legal, though the judge is defending his decision.
Okay, this one ties into the main thought of this post. I know I've brought up a lot of topics already, and I hope I've given everyone some fodder for conversations. I'll admit I do watch "Finding Bigfoot" on Animal Planet. It does spike the old blood pressure, but I like to make it into a poor mans version of MST 3000 ( I like to think I'm Tom Crow). Keep in mind I found this article first, then saw the fella on Finding Bigfoot. In Idaho, gold miner William Barnes and scientist Jeff Meldrum are launching a remote control blimp to try and track Bigfoot from the air. The article is at
I saw Meldrum on a recently aired episode of Finding Bigfoot (from here on referred to as FB to save my poor tired fingers and brain) and I realized that I had read an article about him a day or two before. The reason I'm bringing up FB is because watching the show, I have come to realize a few things, outside of that odds are bigfoot is highly unlikely to exist. The first is that the 3 guys, who are believers are always shooting down the solitary female whenever she puts her opinion out there. Keep in mind, 1 of the men has always been a bigfoot hunter (Bobo, gotta love that nickname), 1 was a computer programmer (goatee guy), I think, and the third guy is Matt Moneymaker. You would figure if you were running a "non-profit" organization, you would change your last name. The female is actually a biologist that specializes in wildlife. I once heard Moneymaker make the comment to her that "She doesn't know what it's like to be in the field". To earn her degree, she had to spend time in the field tracking and observing animals in their native environment. Another thought that occurred to me was the locations that they go for their research, and I'm not going to use quotes around the questionable designations for the rest of the article because I'm kinda afraid of wearing the key out. If you would be so kind as to look at the 2 maps below,
Not the best comparative maps, but they were the best I could find. When I can find better, I'll put them in. The majority of bigfoot sightings are clustered in areas that are also black bear habitat. I can see how a person could mistake a bear walking upright for a hairy humanoid creature. Another problem I have with their research techniques is how they actually look for these creatures. They have a variety of ways that they do this. One of the most common is sound blasting. I do have a friend that is a believer, and have discussed some of these with him to find out what the concept behind this was. Sound blasting, which is basically a boom box (o.k., I'm old, it's a large sound system) playing various animal calls including gorillas, chimps, and large N. American predators like wolves and coyotes. The idea is that bigfoot, being a primate, will respond to the ape calls, and bigfoot follows wolves and coyotes. (More on that in a minute) Bigfoot, anecdotally, according to my friend, is also very territorial and can be violent, so it's a good idea to let them know you're there. Another technique I've seen is the Rave, which is what it sounds like. Laser lights, loud music. It's supposed to make the animal curious, and draw them in to investigate. (Yep, you want to have a large, territorial, possibly violent humanoid come to you) There is also the, what I'm calling, "Damsel in distress". The female sits alone while the men go off and watch the terrain. She talks, calls out, and generally tries to entice one in. Poor gal if it ever happens. They also play recorded children's voices, claiming that bigfoot are curious about human children. (Is the plural bigfoot, bigfeet, bigfoots?) They have also basically had a large camp out, complete with a bonfire, people playing music, and singing. Another method that they've used is where they ran through the woods with torches (for my British readers, I don't mean an electric torch, I mean a flaming pitch type of torch) yelling and screaming. Who the fuck runs through the woods, at night, with a flaming torch? Have they never seen the Smokey the Bear commercials? They normal method is to wear large camera rigs, divide up into 2 teams, go a distance apart and "call" back and forth. These rigs have lights, and a lot of electronics on them, but they say that bigfoot is sensitive to electronics and avoid them. They also banter a lot back and forth and over the radios.
Another issue with these bigfoot hunters is the tracks. A lot of the time when they point out tracks, I don't see them, and the biologist doesn't seem to see them as tracks either. I think this may be more of a case of Pareidolia, which is when the brain finds patterns that don't actually exist. Some good examples are seeing a Philly cheese steak in the clouds. Some other examples are
Another problem I have with the tracks is that generally a biped will put most weight on the balls of its feet, making that part of the track slightly deeper. Every time the biologist says she doesn't see what the others do, they jump down her throat.
And my major peeve with the show. Every episode, they will cut in to one of the 3 men describing perfect bigfoot territory, foods, and body types. I like it when Bobo says "If I like it than a squatch will like it." I've begun to think he's actually a shaved bigfoot that is sent out into the human population to keep us away, or if he can't, warn the local bigfoot. I know, it's goofy, but it makes the show a little more entertaining. What I want to know, HOW THE HELL DO THEY KNOW THIS??? Without a living population, or at least several samples for observation and testing ,there is no way, except for anecdotes, to have this information. They say that bigfoot are apex predators and follow wolf packs. They have shown stick structures, kinds like a lean-to, and stated bigfoot must have made it. Thing is, I've built a lot of those when I've been camping and caught out in a storm. For the life of me, I can't understand how they can make these claims without proof and documentation.
The main reason that this bugs the shite out of me is watching these folks bumble through the woods. Don't get me wrong, I would love it if someone would actually bring in a live one, or at least a corpse that isn't a frozen costume. I have spent a lot of my life tracking animals, everything from lost pets and livestock to predators that have killed pets and livestock. You can't run through the woods making noise, talking on the radio, waving a torch, playing loud music, using laser lights, etc. When stalking an animal, firstly you need to understand their behavior, even if it is acting abnormally. Then you either find tracks or spoor, and follow the trail, or you find likely spots, and sit there quietly and see what comes along. There are a lot of other things about the show I want to talk about, but this post has gotten longer than I intended, and if your still reading it, your eyes are probably getting tired. So remember, you can find The Oklahoma Skeptics Society on FaceBook at http://www.facebook.com/OklahomaSkepticalSociety?ref=hl or you can contact me at [email protected] . Until next time, be good, be skeptical, and have fun.
The Skeptical Okie
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 5:40 PM||comments (0)|
To anyone that reads this blog on a regular basis, sorry that it has taken so long to get a new one out. I recently began teaching 8th grade science, and it's an experience that I won't soon forget. Things have been pretty damn chaotic. Hopefully, it'll calm down soon. But to the loyal folks, thank you for hanging in there.
The first topic I wanted to talk about is an example of bigfoots (bigfeet mayhaps?) and cars not being a good mix. The article can be found at http://news.blogs.cnn.com/2012/08/28/bigfoot-hoax-ends-in-death-authorities-say/?iref=allsearch . The basic gist of the story is that a guy was running around dressed as a bigfoot as was hit by a car, was killed. This does actually bring up the debate about killing any cryptids. Texas basically said that because they don't exist, it is legal to shoot a bigfoot. Kinda mind numbing logic on the surface, but if you think about it, it does make sense. Hunting regulations are designed to manage the populations of game animals and native wildlife. Texas said that because there is no definitive proof that bogfoots actually exist, there are no regulations or limits on them. Thats fine. Unfortunately, this statement has 2 immediate effects. The first is that it seems to send the message that there are bigfoots running around Texas. I will admit that I have seen some really tall guys down there, but unless some bigfoot group is using a lot of Nair or electrolysis treatments, I don't think they count. The second problem is that some people prefer to shoot first and to hell with the questions. On one episode of Monster Hunters on the chupacabra, a boy in Texas stated "I didn't know what it was, so I shot it." I am worried that this may lead to people being shot because they thought it would be funny to scare people by running around in the woods dressed in a gilly suit or a bigfoot costume. I don't feel that cryptids should recieve protective status like Nessie and several others have in recent years, but I do feel that Texas handled the question badly. They could have simply said that there is no proof that they exist, and odds are if you see one, it's probably a person in a suit, so use common sense and don't just shoot at it. I'll admit I was intrigued by the story at first, but as I thought about it more, I realized that aside from a perfectly good practical joke going horribly wrong, it was a waste of a human life.
If you listen to a lot of skeptic or believer podcasts, Monster Hunters, Monster Quest, or anything of that ilk, you've probably heard the terms cryptid, crypto, and cryptozoologist. I have met a lot of people that hear the terms and don't really know what they mean. Cryptid basically means a hidden animal, and therefore a cryptozoologist is a person that studies a hidden animal. Some people use the term crypto instead of cryptid, or they use it as a plural form. I will be the first to admit that I am fascinated by the stories around these "animals", but I don't think that it is likely they exist. Loch Ness for example is not a very likely site for a breeding population of plesiasaurs. First of all, it's too small to contain an animal of that size for a long period of time, let alone a breeding population. Secondly, it is too recently formed by about 30 million years. For the chupacabra, you can actually trace the story back to the first report in Puerto Rico in 1995. In the scant 17 years, it has undergone a major change from an alien like creature (for those of you old enough, think Species) to a hairless canine. Ben Radford from the Monster Talk podcast spent 5 years researching this case and has determined, as well as wildlife biologists, that it is normally a canine with mange that most people report as a chupacabra. And now for the big man on campus, Bigfoot. As populated as the country is, as many people that fly, walk, drive, ride horses, or otherwise travel the country, you think that we would have found definite, undeniable proof that these creatures exist. I personally find it highly unlikely that a large enough population needed to continue a species would remain undiscovered. I will admit that it would be really cool if they did, but I doubt it. There is a slight chance that they do, but the odds are better for navigating an asteroid field with Imperial TIE fighters right behind you. I have spent a lot of my life tracking animals in the woods and rural areas around here, and we do have stories of bigfoot in Oklahoma,. I have seen cougars, wolves, bobcats, coyotes, deer, elk, bears, and even a monkey one time. I have been to sites that bigfoot has been spotted, looked at the "tracks", spoor, and claw marks. I have yet to find any proof that to me would say Bigfoot was here! The tracks a lot of the time are where a rock has been turned over by a cow or a deer, or even a fisherman or even a natural depresson in the ground, the spoor a lot of times comes from coyotes or feral dogs, and the claw marks end up being deer rubs or bears clawing at the trees. And something about the show bigfoot hunters that really gets me, other than the head of a non-profit with the last name of "Moneymaker" is how in the hell do they "know" the habits, behaviors, and even sexual preferences of bigfoot(feets?) Someone clear this up for me. It has been bugging the hell out of me for a long time) There is no empirical evidence, no studies on living animals, not even a really bad documentary on animal planet. How can they say that bigfoot are omnivores, herbivores, or carnivores? How can they say that they build shelters, hunt, cross roads, or eat jerky?
The other story I wanted to talk about briefly is about "mutant" mosquitos. The article is titled
"Mutant mosquito' plan slammed" . Basically, it is an attempt to control mosquito populations in Florida by releasing a genetically modified male mosquito that is designed to die early. People are upset because they are claiming, and rightfully so, that they don't want to be a lab rat in a companies experiment. The mosquitos had already been through clinical trials, and were found to be safe for release. As of this writing, I have not found any more info on the plan, so if anyone out there in internetland has any, I would appreciate knowing what came of this. I know this article is a bit old, and it has been sitting in my to write about list, but this is the first chance I've had to write on it, let alone the bit of research I was able to do.
Like I said, thanks to anyone that kept checking the blog, and I hope the long wait didn't cause too many of you out there to lose hope. Like I said, hopefully, I hope to get back on a more regular schedule on these. Until next time, be good, be safe, a keep an open mind.
The Skeptical Okie
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 5:35 PM||comments (0)|
Alright folks, I know I had 3 posts out the week before, and then none last week. I'm trying to become more regular on writing these, but part of my problem is that I've got notebooks full of topics I want to talk about, but researching all of them takes a lot of time. That being said, I appreciate the comment on the creation museum post. And as always, if you have an opinion or a comment, feel free to leave on. I've got a couple of short items today, and one of them relates back to probably every post I'll ever make on here, unless they ruin more of my childhood with live action movies on cartoons from the 80's.
First of, I've seen a heading pop up on my facebook page lately. Basically it states "B17-Cancer Killer!" I read a bit of it and started thinking "Crap Kevin Trudeau is doing it again." Trudeau is a charlatan and huckster that has books out on "natural cures they don't want you to know about" and now a free money one. During his natural cure one, he implied he had been a medical professional, and the free money one he says he was a Wall Street insider. His health books have caused so many problems for people that he's been banned from appearing on television to hock his shit. I don't think he's been charged with anything, but he probably should be. (I'll probably talk more about him in the next post) B17 is being touted as a B vitamin that can cure cancer. First of all, it's actually derived from the bitter almond, apricots, and black cherrys. What it actually is is called an Amygdalin. This chemical substance, when ingested, is acted on by enzymes in the gut that produce cyanide. In large enough amounts, I guess it would cure cancer, because death tends to cure almost everything, up to and including the messy problem of living. There is a synthetic, non-lethal form used in food preservation, but the natural form is lethal. The idea of it treating cancer has been around since the 1840's, but in 1920, it was deemed too lethal in the U.S. and nearly 100 years later, to paraphrase the girl from poltergeist, "It's Baaack". In 2006, there were more clinical trials. In a brief synopsis, courtesy of Wikipedia,
A 2006 systematic review by the Cochrane Collaboration concluded: "The claim that [l]aetrile has beneficial effects for cancer patients is not supported by data from controlled clinical trials. This systematic review has clearly identified the need for randomized or controlled clinical trials assessing the effectiveness of [l]aetrile or amygdalin for cancer treatment." Given the lack of evidence, laetrile has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health evaluated the evidence separately and concluded that clinical trials of amgydalin showed little or no effect against cancer. For example, a 1982 trial of 175 patients found that tumor size had increased in all but one patient. The authors reported that "the hazards of amygdalin therapy were evidenced in several patients by symptoms of cyanide toxicity or by blood cyanide levels approaching the lethal range."
The study concluded "Patients exposed to this agent should be instructed about the danger of cyanide poisoning, and their blood cyanide levels should be carefully monitored. Amygdalin (Laetrile) is a toxic drug that is not effective as a cancer treatment".
After multiple trials, this has been shown not to work. Much like homeopathy, acupuncture, chiropractic, and bi-partisan politics, people continue to believe in this. The most commonly given reason is "Big pharma doesn't want us to know about it because they would lose money." This is basically a conspiracy theory with industry behind it instead of a shadowy government. The other problem is that cancer is not 1 single disease. There are dozens of different types of cancer, some caused by viruses, some by genetics, and some by environmental issues. Just because of the many causes, it is highly improbable (remember, nothing is impossible, just extremely unlikely) that there will ever be a single cure for anything, short of Death.
The other topic I wanted to touch on, like I said relates to all the other posts, except the one about the failure of The History and Discovery channels. I am a certified teacher currently seeking employment as a teacher in either Agriculture or Biology. I have several friends that are currently teachers. One of these people was recently let go so that the school could hire someone that was also a coach. He received excellent evaluations and commendations, yet they let him go. This is becoming a more common problem in Education. I understand that most schools are under financial pressures and high school sports programs are the primary source of income, outside of the federal government. As a (hopefully) science teacher, I do believe that science is the future of our ability to compete with other countries as global competition continues to escalate. When schools put a higher priority on sports and decrease funding for the arts and science, it seems to be a precursor to the direction that our country is heading. Couple this with the whole "teach the controversy" line of thought with climate change and evolution, our future scientists are going to be sorely lacking in the next decade. And just for the record, there is no controversy on these. There is a solid consensus concerning evolution and climate change, it is primarily the religious right that is pushing this as a controversy.
If the spelling isn't up to my usual standards, it's because the spell-check either isn't working, or I kinda killed it on the last couple of posts. I'm still working on getting the Oklahoma Skeptics Society off the ground. You can contact me on FaceBook on the Oklahoma Skeptics page, or e-mail me at [email protected] Until next time, thank you for reading, and remember, every time you respond in the comments, and tell your friends if you like it, you get double cool points for the next month. These are non-transferable, non-negotiable, and not valid as legal tender in any state that has a vowel in the continental U.S. I'll leave you with a quote that I feel is pretty relevant.
"Science is the thing that's going to save us!" ---George Hrab
The Skeptical Okie
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 5:25 PM||comments (0)|
I love it when someone leaves a firebomb in a public park. Yeah, someone blew up a tree in the park about a block from the house. What a sight to wake up to. I personally think people that are going to do shit like that should test them in their own house first, provided there isn't anyone else living there. Safety first. I mean really, who the hell does crap like that? Especially where kids and people normally congregate. Yeah it's been a fun week, especially the part where I got smashed around by horses at work.
Anyway, the main point of this posting is an interesting theory I heard from someone at work. Keep in mind, part of my job involves dealing with animals that could be carrying diseases ranging from ringworm to parvo to rabies. We try to remind people not to touch the animals to lessen the risk of transmission. Anyway, as I was going through my spiel with a couple, the guy looks at me as says, completely out of the blue, "are you smart? What do you know about the zombie attacks?" For those that don't know, in Miami Florida, one naked man attacked another naked man and was biting his face off. The police ended up having to use lethal force in order to stop him. The news outlets touted it as a zombie attack, and with the C.D.C.'s "zombie preparedness kits", it caused some people to think that the zombie apocalypse had final happened, so naturally, some people at work started to ask me a lot of questions, including wanting to know how big my house was. I seem to be on everyones zombie survival team. First off, the zombie kit recommended by the C.D.C. is a basic emergency kit for any kind of disaster,be it a tornado, flood, earthquake, Bieber movie, you name it. Secondly, the attack was by someone who had apparently had a psychotic breakdown, though the drug known as bath salts were initially blamed for his actions. Back to the main story, when I informed him of what I knew at the time, being that he wasn't really a zombie (which actually seemed to disappoint both the guy and the girl), and that bath salts were being blamed, the guy looked at me and said "Did you know that there is only 1 chemical difference between bath salts and the H1.... the flu thing." I looked at him as I felt the aneurysm coming on and asked him "Do you mean H1N1,?" He basically said yeah, that's it. At this point, my super power, impromptu skeptic education, kicked in. Kinda like the Hulk, only with glasses and a tweed blazer, rather Sagan-like. What I told him was that H1N1 is a flu virus, which is an infectious agent, not manufactured, and naturally occurring. And yes, I know that viruses can be modified in a lab, but I left that out of the conversation due to time constraints and the steadily increasing noise levels. I also told him that Bath salts are similar to meth or cocaine, meaning that they are made in a lab, or someones kitchen. Also they are believed to cause "zombie-like symptoms" in the people that use them. The girl that was with him had a look on her face that made me think "My work here is done" ,but all my hopes were dashed when the guy informed me that it was a government conspiracy to create zombie super soldiers. I think I said "Wha????" but I was so dumb struck I just kinda stared at him. I got my bearings and said I don't think the government wants a bunch of uncontrollable, flesh eating killing machines. He looked a little saddened and walked off. I have debated people on the black helicopters, men in black, ghosts, aliens, cryptids (which is a personal favorite of mine), ancient astronauts, Bear Grylls, vaccines, acupuncture, homeopathy, and holistic medicine. Granted, I don't always earn points with them, but rarely am I taken aback as much as I was on this. I think the girl was on the fence to begin with, but the guy unfortunately was fully in the other camp, right behind the latrines. And as skeptics, we have to realize that these are the people that we will never reach. they will use every logical fallacy to maintain their beliefs, and this guy used quite a few. I do however pride myself on the fact that I didn't just go completely skeptical commando on him and end up looking like an arrogant fool.
A side note on these bath salts. You can actually buy this crap in mini-marts and convenience stores. The manufacturers have found that if they slap a "Not suited for human consumption" label on the package, then it's legal to sell them. According to the NIDA (National Institute of Drug Abuse) " these products often contain various amphetamine-like chemicals, such as methylenedioxypyrovalerone (MPDV), mephedrone and pyrovalerone. These drugs are typically administered orally, by inhalation, or by injection, with the worst outcomes apparently associated with snorting or intravenous administration. Mephedrone is of particular concern because, according to the United Kingdom experience, it presents a high risk for overdose. These chemicals act in the brain like stimulant drugs (indeed they are sometimes touted as cocaine substitutes); thus they present a high abuse and addiction liability. Consistent with this notion, these products have been reported to trigger intense cravings not unlike those experienced by methamphetamine users, and clinical reports from other countries appear to corroborate their addictiveness. They can also confer a high risk for other medical adverse effects. Some of these may be linked to the fact that, beyond their known psychoactive ingredients, the contents of "bath salts" are largely unknown, which makes the practice of abusing them, by any route, that much more dangerous." Basically, this crap is dangerous and the makers know it. Some of the names it's sold under are :"Ivory Wave," "Purple Wave," "Red Dove," "Blue Silk," "Zoom," "Bloom," "Cloud Nine," "Ocean Snow," "Lunar Wave," "Vanilla Sky," "White Lightning," "Scarface," and "Hurricane Charlie." .
Another item that came up, and one of the main reasons that this post is a day later than I had hoped, is a friend of mine had her dog attacked by a pack of coyotes. Nothing paranormal about the canines, no glowing eyes, special abilities, just an attack on a domestic dog. A big dog, granted, but normal behavior in pack of hungry animals. No, it was something she said about her vet. I was looking at pictures of injuries (I can't look at the actual injuries on the dog as it really doesn't like anyone but its owner) and she was telling me about the vet she took it to. She said on top of the stitches and flushing of the injuries, the dog got acupuncture and homeopathic medicine. I have known her for years, and I know that she is deeply religious, but I was unaware of the fact that she bought into the whole alternative medicine rigmarole. She asked me if I knew about holistic and homeopathic medicine, (the dog owner and I had talked several times about homeopathy and holistic medicine in the past) and I said I was familiar with the concept behind it, and I knew the vet that she was using. (I had had a run-in with this individual a few years ago at work, and it made for a rather stressful environment.) I made no mention of efficacy trials or any testing on alt med. She just nodded her head and asked if the vet was any good. I had to admit, she is good, up to the alternative "treatments". Sutures, spay and neutering, diagnostics, yeah, shes good, but I can not in good conscience give her any more credit than that. The dog was in good health (the injuries were fairly minor), and both the owner and the dog seemed to be in good spirits, so I let the matter be. I know that it seems hypocritical, but you have to know where to draw the lines. If she (the owner) was suffering from cancer and was going to an alt med professional as her only source of treatment, yes, I would probably try to convince either her or her family to at least try conventional western medicine as well.
There were other items that came up, but I haven't decided whether to discuss them here or not, due to the person that said them. I have to wonder if they found this blog and learned who writes it and wants to see what I have to say, even though I'm not really known for keeping my opinions to my self in the real world, or if they actually believe it. On some of it, I lean towards the latter, especially when prefaced with "I have a pet theory" which makes me want to look at them and go "Do you mean hypothesis?" Anyway, I am actually taking some vacation time this week, partly for medical reasons and partly for my own sanity. That and on Sunday, I will have been married for 12 years to one of the loveliest, smartest, sweetest women on the planet. And I'm not just saying that because she reads this and knows where I sleep. Until next time, be good, and keep an open mind.
The Skeptical Okie
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 5:20 PM||comments (0)|
Ok everyone, I know I've been on a bit of a hiatus, but as usual, things have been a little hectic, and are probably going to stay that way for a while, so the posts are going to be a little sporadic, but I might go with a slightly shorter format when I hear of something interesting, just to whet your skeptical whistle, which oddly enough, sounds alot like an old slide whistle. Go figure. There has been some science based events in the news, the main one being the failure to launch of the SpaceX Dragon capsule to rendezvous with the International Space Station. By the time this posts, hopefully they will have fixed the problem and have launched. Otherwise been a quiet couple of weeks.
Todays post is about a couple of fad health "lifestyles" that have made headlines lately. The first one is of course the Breatharians. This one seriously should be a no brainer. The basic tenants behind this cult, and I do mean it is a cult, is that with proper meditation, a human being can live off of prana, a Hindu life energy, or sunlight. Food and water are not necessary to function. One of the main practitioners, Prhlad Jani, claims to have lived without food or water for 70 years.Think about this for a minute. O.K., times up. Did these people consider the fact that, as a large mammalian animal with a relatively high metabolic requirement, and no chloroplasts anywhere in the human cell structure, that it is biologically highly improbable to the point of being impossible that we are able to survive off of the energy from the sun or good thoughts? Any organism that is 1) multi-cellular, and 2) mobile, is pretty much incapable of processing enough energy from the sun to fulfill even the most basic requirements. Now I will admit that as a child, I read a neat little book in school, I forget the title, about a kid that somehow ends up turning himself into a "plant person" and I thought that it would be cool to not have to eat or drink. I was also 8 years old. People have died from trying this steaming load of sloth shit. For some reason, the sloth seemed the best animal for a comparative fecal measure, I don't know why. Anyway, recently a Swiss woman essentially starved herself to death trying to follow the "example" of these nutballs. If she had just done a little research, she would have found that all the people that claim to live without actually taking any food or water have been caught multiple times eating food while maintaining their claims that they don't eat. Wiley Brooks, the head of the Breatharian Institute of America, (yeah, there is an American branch of the plant people) have been photographed consuming a slurpie, hotdog and chips. He claims that when surrounded by the "Junk food Culture", he will eat some to restore his balance. Basically, that is a logical fallacy called "Moving the Bar" which allows the purveyors of woo to change the rules to match or change the conditions. It could also be considered loosely a form of "Special Pleading" where the purveyor of woo basically asks for special considerations in order for their claim to work. As I said before, this one should be a no brainer. Literally, you shouldn't have to put much thought into this to work out why it's a bad idea. Even plants have to absorb nutrients in order to grow and thrive. This is one of the more dangerous fads I have come across in a while, and the disturbing thing is that it seems to be becoming more popular. Please, eat the last piece of pizza, in the long run, it's safer.
The other topic that has caught my eye lately is several ads that I've seen in the Daily Oklahoman, our wonderful, non-biased, fair coverage state paper. Basically, the ad is for a chiropractor clinic. It states that they can treat lower back pain (fine, I'll buy that), arthritis (o.k?), shingles (WTF?), and other various health problems. As a little back story, when I was young, my folks used to take me to a chiropractor all the time. Nice guy, but seemed obsessed with popping my neck, and he would put me in the same hold that you see on Rambo movies when John Rambo breaks the Viet-congs neck. Really creeped me out. They also hooked me up to what I called a shock box, which just sends a low voltage electrical pulse through your body. When I asked him about it, he stated it was to help my muscles loosen up to make the realignment of the vertebrae easier. This is purely anecdotal, but I never felt better after a treatment, and felt even worse for a couple of days afterwards, and when you figure I was going 2-3 times a month, yeah football and wrestling practice sucked. I think the only reason that my parents took me, personally, was that the chiropractor was a friend of theirs, so the "sessions" were free, where as a real medical doctor cost money. Back to the point. I do think that the practice of Chiropractic can help some what with lower back pain, but even that has not been sufficiently proven in clinical testing. But there is no bloody flamin' way that popping someones back can help with arthritis, shingles, or a fun one I saw while researching this article, autism, which thanks to Jenny McCarthy and the anti-vaccers, has become a catch word in the medical quackery circles. Arthritis is an inflammation of the joints, caused by trauma, cysts, age, weight, genetics, or infection. What these have to do with vertebral joint misalignments is beyond me. As for helping cure shingles, shingles are caused by the same virus that causes chickenpox. How does a realignment therapy session help with a virus? Does putting your spine in place cause the virus to get confused and leave? No, it doesn't, plain and simple. As for helping with autism, now they're just reaching for anything to show up in google searches. Don't get me wrong, not all of the practitioners are misguided or just trying to fleece the public (and I don't know which of these is worse). Some of them are actually very good at what they do, and they will work hand in hand with a modern medical provider, some even refuse to see people if their problem is something other than lower back problems, or serious enough that surgery may be required. I have yet to meet one of these personally, but I have been told that they exist. The funny thing is that the people that have told me about them were upset that they were referred to a primary care giver instead of getting what a lot of times adds up to the Placebo effect.
According to wikipedia, " The American Medical Association called chiropractic an "unscientific cult" and boycotted it until losing an antitrust case in 1987". Another problem with the practice, is that it it primarily self regulated, meaning that the AMA has very little authority over what they do. It is also a little difficult to find studies regarding the efficacy of chiropractic that aren't done in-house, meaning un-biased. As far as harmful medical procedures go, it is fairly innocuous, unless a person forgoes all modern medical treatments and only uses a chiropractor.
That's about it for this rant against the woo machine, other wise my fingers may start to cramp up and then the spelling and grammatical errors will really start to pile up. Thanks for reading, remember, the cool points have been sent out, and if you haven't gotten them yet, contact your local state rep and find out if they took them. If you have any topics you'd like me to try and detangle, tackle, rip apart, explain, or just serve with a nice Earl Grey and some biscotti, let me know in the comments section, and I'll do my impersonation of a bloodhound, which is something to watch I've been told. until next time, Be good, Be yourself, and as the song says, Think for Yourself!
The Skeptical Okie.
|Posted by James Garrison on February 25, 2014 at 5:15 PM||comments (0)|
It's been an interesting week folks, and I don't know where to start. Actually I do. Yesterday, while the family and I were eating lunch at a nice mexican place, I kept over-hearing snippets of the conversation at the booth behind us. Mostly it dealt with when certain churches were founded and why. I also overheard bits about "the laying of hands" and so and so's cancer was completely cured. I tried to ignore her at this point. Then I heard her say "I went and saw Richard Hoagland talk, and suddenly everything made sense!" I looked at my wife and I think I might have almost yelled "Did she just say Hoagland?" Apparently I had a look on my face that had my wife start telling me "No, don't do it, don't do it!" For those that don't know who he is, and without being too judgemental and critical of his work, Richard Hoagland is bat-shit crazy. He has numerous conspiracy theories, mostly concerning NASA, that have been disproven on every occasion. A good example is one he had concerning a space shuttle launch. there was a sensor that was malfunctioning, and according to Hoagland, it would never be fixed with conventional engineering. Well, to make an long blog a little shorter, the NASA engineers fixed it with conventional engineering (duct tape and baling wire?) and the shuttle was launched without a problem. Hoagland also states that the Mars rovers are terminating life on Mars by heating the samples they are collecting, and we are descendants of Martian refugees that fled the planet during a calamity that made it uninhabitable. He has numerous other theories and books out there, and I mean WAY out there, but if you want a good idea of what Hoagland is about, he is a regular guest on Coast to Coast AM, hosted by George Noory, and Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer himself, has called Hoagland a pseudoscientist with ridiculous claims. The reason for the rant was the fact that this woman seemed to buy all the wild claims that poured out of her mouth.
This leads to another topic that has been discussed heatedly at several skeptic meetings and on a lot of the skeptic forums. When it comes to correcting misinformation, should you be polite, calm, and reasonable, or should you be as loud and emotional as the supporters of Woo are? Some people say do one, some say the other. Me, I say do both. If you're in a debate in front of an audience with someone denouncing vaccinations, and they are yelling, screaming, and trying to win the audiences sympathy for being "misrepresented by the mainstream media" and talking about "the dangerous side effects on children", it is best if you show the intellectual side of the argument, and try to impress the group with facts, but it would be fine to show your emotions over the numbers of sick and dying that didn't get immunized. If you are talking to a family member about their deciding to use homeopathy and naturopathy to treat their cancer, by all means, get loud and try and make them see sense, almost like an intervention, and who hasn't been there? An even more balanced approach is to gauge what the opposition is doing, and how their information is being presented, and nearly match them. I know that it is difficult to make numbers and facts come across as emotionally provoking as some of the "facts" that conspiracy theorists, anti-vaccers, anti-evolutionists, and "natural healers" use, but with a little work, and a lot of good P.R., we can do it, and show the world that we aren't just "liberal minded, cold-hearted science types", but caring responsible science types.
And now for a few definitions that are often confused for real science. And yes there will be a test, but don't worry, it'll be open book, or is that open internet? this was spawned during a dinner conversation with a good friend of ours, and it brought back a topic I had been wanting to discuss for a while.
Astrology is the study of the signs of your birth i.e. "Cancer is in the house of Pisces".
Astronomy (astrophysics) is the study of the universe and how it works i.e. "Proxima Centauri is the nearest star to Earth at 4.2 light years.
With these, unless you are using astrology to make important decisions, such as "The stars say to avoid anyone wearing a white coat, so I shouldn't go to the doctor to have this strange bleeding from my ears looked at." (and yes, it happens. insert facepalm here), the confusion doesn't cause much harm, unless you say it to Neil Degrasse Tyson, then, there may be some harm.
Homeopathy is an alternative form of medicine (and I mean alternative) that uses "a highly diluted toxin to cure a disease". Basically, you're taking a sugar pill, but I will grant that the placebo effect can do some amazing things. Currently however, there is NO proof that homeopathy actually works and relying solely on it can be harmful.
Holistic medicine is an approach that takes the entire person into account as to why they are ill, which so far, isn't a bad idea. But it also deals with imbalances in a persons spirit or Chi. Some of the ways that a holistic healer will attempt to cure something is :
natural diet and herbal remedies
massage therapy (Taken from Wikipedia)
For the most part, fine and dandy. And who doesn't like a nice massage, but outside of exercise, most of these have at best a placebo effect, and if they are used in place of western medicine for a serious problem, they can lead to death.
Naturopathy is basically using plants and herbs to treat problems in the body, and the normal argument is "It comes from nature, so it must be good for you." This is also called the Natural Fallacy. Another point that naturopaths make is "Native Americans and the Chinese have used these cures for centuries." This logical fallacy is called an Argument from Antiquity. Concerning the "comes from nature" argument, I hate to be the one to point it out, but Arsenic, Cyanide, comets, radiation, scorpions, and Bobcat Goldthwaite are all naturally occurring, but I wouldn't exactly call any of them good for you, especially in large amounts.
And the last definition is Medicine which is, according to dictionary.com
1. any substance or substances used in treating disease or illness; medicament; remedy.
2. the art or science of restoring or preserving health or due physical condition, as by means of drugs, surgical operations or appliances, or manipulations: often divided into medicine proper, surgery, and obstetrics.
3. the art or science of treating disease with drugs or curative substances, as distinguished from surgery and obstetrics.
4. the medical profession.
5. (among North American Indians) any object or practice regarded as having magical powers.
I personally don't feel that the last definition should have been included, but eh, what can I do. Once again, the post is longer than anticipated, but I hope that you found something useful in it, and please feel free to leave a comment or question in the box. I do read everything(so far 1 comment) and remember to check out The Oklahoma Skeptics Society on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @skepticalokie. If you have any topics you would like me to discuss, let me know. Thanks for reading, and for those that earned the cool points last time, they should have arrived by now, so you should be an even cooler person than before.
Have a good week folks!
The Skeptical Okie