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Monday, April 9, 2012

Why is television an epic fail and raw milk.

Hello everyone, or at least the couple of people that have actually read the blog.  Once again, due to a rather hectic life, the writing schedule is rather sporadic.  But I digress (regress?)  Went on a short bike ride the other day with my wife and son.  As we went along, I noticed our son looking at people mowing their lawns, and I realized that he had never seen someone using a gas powered lawnmower before.  We have and use an electric mower and weedeater.  I hadn't realized that a regular lawnmower, like most of us grew up using, would be a rather foreign machine to him.  The look on his face while riding behind my wife was pretty funny, and I almost took out the mirror on an Acura from laughing.

While flipping the the channels the other night (Saturday and Easter Sunday to be precise), I noticed that History channel was showing either pawn stars or American restoration.  I can't remember what was on Discovery.  I'm used to them showing some pretty interesting programs concerning religion about this time of year.  History also used to have shows on ancient battles, presidents, and long dead cultures.  Now it's Pawn Stars, American Pickers, and American Restoration.  Discovery has Ice road Truckers, Deadliest Catch, and I think a couple of shows on people buying storage buildings.  What the Hell happened, People???  These channels , at one point, were some of the best programming on t.v., outside of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report.  Granted, I did watch Ancient Aliens and Monster Hunters, but mostly for the laugh factor inherently attached to these shows, and the fact that I would be hearing about the items the next day at work.  Now History and Discovery have gone the way of MTV (for the younglings out there, MTV used to stand for Music Television, now I think it stands for Mainly Teens Vaguely).  When I turn on History Channel, I expect to see something about George Washington, not someone in a pawn shop trying to hock his wooden teeth. 

Have you ever noticed that when you get an idea and work to develop it and,  especially now with the intertubes,  find out that not only has someone beaten you to it, they've done it in a big way.  I was going to start more or less, a skeptical dictionary, in order to help people turn into skeptical samurai and slice apart their opponents arguments.  Well not only is there a web site, found at naturally, but there is also a book by Robert Todd Carroll called The Skeptic's Dictionary.  I will still be putting interesting claims on the blog, and if I can, I'll dissect them and show which logical fallacies they fall under.  Normally, they contain several fallacies all tied up with a pretty bow that just screams  "This idea is nuts!"  Some of them appear to be reasonable, at least on the surface, but just like a clock, they come apart when you open them up to take a closer look.

A good example I heard on N.P.R. are the raw milk fanatics.  They state that drinking raw milk is healthier than pasteurized milk, mostly because in the process of heating and cooling the milk to kill the microbes, vitamins and minerals are destroyed.  Sounds reasonable, right?  And for the most part, it is true, that some are destroyed, but according to the F.D.A.  "Research shows no meaningful difference between the nutrient content of pasteurized and unpasteurized milk." They also have a theory that raw milk can cure allergies or illnesses.  Once again, according to the F.D.A., there is no scientific evidence showing this to be true.  According to the N.P.R. article, only 7% of the people that support raw milk trust what the Federal government says.  They seem to feel that pasteurization is a government conspiracy aimed at.... I have no idea.  If the government can do everything the conspiracy theorists says it can, then why the hell would they worry about drinking raw milk.  I found a lot of web sites promoting drinking raw milk, but I could not find a P.h.D. or M.D. after any of their names.  Mostly they seemed to be small farmers promoting "healthy, organic milk, as it was intended"  They all said that there was nothing wrong with drinking it, but I found a few things that the F.D.A. is worried about in raw milk, namely:

  • Enterotoxigenic Staphylococcus aureus
  • Campylobacter jejuni
  • Salmonella species
  • E. coli
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Mycobacterium tuberculosis
  • Mycobacterium bovis
  • Brucella species
  • Coxiella Burnetii
  • Yersinia enterocolitica

  • Sound yummy, don't they?  Yes, I'd like a burger, side of fries and an order of  Campylobacter jejuni.   Most of the pro side of the argument is based on some form of a conspiracy theory, which has been around for a while.  I've personally heard a lot of reasons for and against raw milk, but personally (and I know that this is an appeal to authority and I also know I use a lot of parenthesis) I would rather trust someone that has spent years studying a topic and has evidence to back it up than someone that only has a handful of anecdotes and a general mistrust of authority.

    I know this is a little long, and if you are still reading this, you get 15 cool points, which should be arriving in your mailbox soon.  If they aren't there by the end of the week, tackle your mail carrier and demand to know where they are.  I listen to a lot of podcasts, including Skeptics Guide, George Hrab, Skepticality, and others.  I also try to read some of the blogs that are out there.  My original intent was to be as broad as I could on the topics I try to cover, but know I've decided to narrow it down, most likely to science and education, with a little political stupidity thrown in for a good laugh.  Feel free to leave any suggestions in the comments, and I hope to talk to you (write at you?) soon. Thanks. 

    The Skeptical Okie

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