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Monday, June 25, 2012

Cancer cure and ineptitude.

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."[31] Given the lack of evidence, laetrile has not been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.[15]
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.[23] For example, a 1982 trial of 175 patients found that tumor size had increased in all but one patient.[32] 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."[7]
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. 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


Thanks again
The Skeptical Okie


Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Short note on a creation museum

EDIT:  I have recently noticed that this seems to be my most popular topic to date.  I also noticed that my post seems to be the third most popular on Google for creation museum info, right between
Museum of Creation Truth | TravelOK.com   and Creation Truth , which I personally find sort of satisfying and kinda funny.  I know the reason that the topic interests me, but what is it about a creation museum that interests everyone else.  I am especially curious if this is occuring in any other country other than the United States.  If you  could leave a comment with your thoughts or experience concerning onee of these, for lack of a better phrase, propaganda structures, I would greatly appreciate it.  And now back to the story.



I've noticing billboards along I-40 in Oklahoma City advertising for a creation museum, I think in Cincinnati.  What are your thoughts on this.  Personally, as I've stated, I have no real gripe against religion as a source of community or for the feeling of fellowship.  When you claim religious fables are science using either mis-interpreted or blatantly false information, then that's where I draw the line.  First of all, the art work on these ads is atrocious.  Seriously, they look like something out of a 1950's comic book.  While I like the look of the golden age comics, I don't think the style lends itself to advertising for what is claimed to be a hard science museum.  Secondly, I personally can't remember an anklyosaur or triceratops in the bible, unless they were one of the plagues that I missed.  Or was there a pteradon in Sodom?  Point being, if you talk to someone that believes dinosaurs walked with humans and the Earth is only 6000 years old, they will tell you dinosaurs aren't mentioned in the bible because when it was written, the word wasn't invented.  I'll bite, but where does it say "And lo, the gigantic lizard did tempt the shepards to leave their charges in their fields and follow it unto Bethlehem."?  There is no description of anything even remotely similar to a T-Rex or a Brachiosaur in the bible.  And how did they fit on the Ark?  Did they bump the unicorns, manticores, centaurs, and dragons to make room?  And who was the poor bugger that had to clean up after the dinos on the boat.  The interesting aspect of this is you can see a clear division in religious thinking.  On one side, you have the people who go to creation museums that claim the mega fauna lived with humans.  The other side believes that the first is nuts, because everyone knows god placed the bones in the ground to make us think the world is older that 6000 years.  Guys got a wicked since of humor, especially to wait 6000 years for a practical joke to pay off. I know that there are some people that are religious, but do trust in science and know that evolution is the most likely explanation. I don't include them, because they aren't likely to visit a creation museum. Either way, my main point, outside of being perturbed by this (it's not too obvious, is it?) is that these people, who could all be lumped together as "young Earth creationists" (and I wish I had coined that term) are mis-using the scientific method or out and out corrupting it to prove their world views.  They go in with a preconceived notion and bend the data to make it fit, kinda like the anti-vaccers.  The Y.E.C. (a fitting acronyms) claim  carbon radio dating is faulty, that the only way to date a fossil is to issue a blanket statement that all the fossils date from the great flood 4,400 years ago.  They have a tendency to use a lot of logical fallacies including argument from authority, strawman argument, Argument from ignorance , Argument from scripture (Spider-man fallacy), (shifting the) Burden of proof, and I could keep going, but it's not worth the time right now.  Like I said this is a short one, and I'm really wanting to know what people think of these creation museums.  On the one hand, they are dishing out crap and calling it good science.  On the other hand, if a skeptic goes to one, they can get a good idea of Y.E.C.'s thought process.  I've also heard the suggestion that if you have friends that study paleontology, paleobotony, or anthropology, take them with you and turn 'em loose.  I like that one, and I'd even sell tickets.  Let me know your thoughts or feelings, or even if you feel that this is a completely over-blown reaction to a harmless little museum, and keep in mind folks, that there are several of these in the United States, and there may be more in other countries.  To my international readers, let me know if they have these things in your countries and where they are.  Better yet, if you've been to one, what was it like?  Until later.  And if I misspelled the names of the dinos, sorry, Latin isn't my first language, but I did try.



The Skeptical Okie

Monday, June 11, 2012

Outrageous Conspiracy Theory

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 and asks, 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 couldn'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,and a bit of a hippy, 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, she's 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