Skeptic's Dictionary Newsletter
August 7, 2004
"The unexamined life is not worth living."
"For modern Americans, only the unexamined life is worth living."
Michael Dirda *
In this issue: Five new easy pieces and a few
revisions; Pravda online is just as truthful as Pravda
offline; Target pulls the string on Kabbalah red string;
some feedback on cancer treatments;
sign up for a trip to meet the Hollow Earth people;
traditional Chinese medicine catching up with modern science?
Changes in the Skeptic's Dictionary
Since the last newsletter I have added several new entries:
I also revised the
ganzfeld and PEAR
(Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research) entries.
I updated the infrasound
entry to include information provided by Vic Tandy, one of the first to
connect infrasound to paranormal experiences. And I updated the
Amway entry to include
information on Team of Destiny, Amway's latest venture, including a link to
a very good site that examines the
Team of Destiny program.
Most people of my generation (Gen XY) know Pravda means "truth" and is
the name of the state-controlled newspaper of Russia. Now comes
the website. If you read it here, it must be true. For example, there is
a story about Henry Silanov, a Russian geologist who claims he has invented
a camera that can take pictures of the past. He says he has a collection of
80 photographs of aliens, paranormal activities, dinosaurs, and people from
the past whose pictures were taken many years after they died. How is this
possible? Silanov believes that the dead are trying to say that they have
not vanished, that they live somewhere in a parallel world, and are watching
over us. According to the article, however, "Henry is a skeptic person." I
like skeptic persons, so Henry must be okay.
Pravda also has stories about
Christ being born in the Ukraine,
boy from Mars,
sexual contact with aliens, an
extraterrestrial visit to Russia, and a story that proclaims
Fidel Castro: "Bush couldn't debate a Cuban
ninth-grader"--stories that would make The National
Enquirer blush with envy.
Target pulls its Kabbalah red string ad
If you went to the Target website looking for
Kabbalah red string and
couldn't find the ad, you probably weren't alone. The item, hot with
celebrities like Madonna, has been removed from the online shopping list of
hot items. This may have been because of
consumer complaints. However, Target online still offers Kabbalah:
The Red String Book: Technology for the Soul by
Richard Gunther of New Zealand writes:
Dear Bob, thanks once again for an interesting read.
I was particularly drawn to the comments about cancer therapy, having had
to stay by my mother for about two years while she died of cancer. After
three major operations and a lot of chemotherapy she finally succumbed, but
every day there were friends and helpers with her, and many times this
constant love and support made a huge difference. She also tried
'wheatgrass', which she said she thought contributed to her general health as
she died--a strange expression admittedly. Personally, I think the
wheatgrass therapy was of very minor help. What I saw as the most important
contribution was the compassion, prayers, and love shown to her every day--there was even a married couple who saw it as their calling in life to visit
and help cancer patients, and their visits were most welcome.
As I see it, cancer can be cured at times by 'conventional' medicine, and
I myself would choose this line of defense long before I tried anything
else. The pain killers are also superb. I saw them in action in my father's
final days as he too died of cancer, but he went without pain, and even in
the last day of his life he was able to sit up in bed and converse with his
As I see it, old age, sickness, and death are all part and parcel of this
world and happy is the man who maintains good health, but when cancer comes,
the tried and tested methods of cure are far superior to the alternatives
that rest on anecdotes and untested claims.
As Richard and most of my readers know, even though conventional cancer
treatment has been very successful, we expect miracles and this opens the
door to quacks--some criminal and some well meaning--who take advantage of
Paul Mulshine writes:
As a journalist who does much debunking of health idiocies, I was very
interested in your piece on the Gerson cure. I had a friend who was dying of
cancer whose wife inflicted it on him. I had just researched a piece on
coffee and the liver citing two peer-reviewed reports showing that coffee
has a remarkably protective effect in protecting the liver against alcohol
consumption. It stimulates the production of an enzyme that causes the liver
to better absorb alcohol. This of course got me thinking about the coffee
enemas that my unfortunate friend was getting at the time. The quack in
question had informed her, to her amazement, that the large intestine is
directly connected to the liver. The proper answer to this observation is to
say: Of course it is; that's how we digest food. But she was led to believe
that this is a magical pathway through which coffee taken up the anus can
get to the liver. A moment's reflection, however, shows that the coffee will
also get to the liver if it arrives in the other direction. In other words,
you could simply drink it and it would go into the large intestine and
thence into the liver. This is so obvious that it is barely worth
mentioning, but if one of these quacks simply told the patient, "Drink a lot
of coffee; it's good for your liver," the patient would realize he could get
the same treatment at Starbuck's.
Better advice to the cancer patient might be to just cut out the alcohol!
Voyage to the Center of the Hollow Earth
Emily Oren writes: "People will believe any kind of gobbledygook, but
it's sometimes shocking how much effort and money they'll put into it."
Emily notes that
Currey's Expedition Company of Provo, Utah, has chartered a Russian
Nuclear Icebreaker from Adventure Associates and is signing up people for a
trip to inner earth via the alleged North Polar Opening. Currey believes
that the people there are the legendary Lost Tribes of Israel and are highly
advanced and friendly.
Departure is scheduled for
June 26, 2006. A deposit of $18,950 to $20,950 is required. In a
footnote, Currey writes "Please note that if we are unable to find the Polar
opening, we will be returning via the New Siberian Islands to visit skeleton
remains of exotic animals thought to originate from Inner Earth." For more
information on the hollow Earth people, click
Modern Medical Science Catching Up with the Ancients?
Guy Shrimptom of the UK writes:
It's all very well being skeptical of everything, after all each man
has the right to believe or not to believe, but how do YOU then
rationalize the existence of a soul, in addition to the body? Maybe you
don't; maybe all you have left is bitterness and cynicism. If that is
true, it's a shame, because you clearly have a sharp mind--it's a shame
that it's bent on destruction rather than creation.
Guy, I don't rationalize the existence of the soul
because, in my view, there is no such thing as a
if by soul you mean a non-physical entity capable of perception and
self-awareness. On the other hand, bitterness and cynicism characterize many
believers in the soul. And many of those believers have been great
destroyers of the beautiful creations of Nature and of other people.
As a single counter for all your arguments in your dictionary, let me
just point to the fact that "modern" science is still catching up with,
and proving correct ancient Chinese and other alternative (natural
product) medicines. Science is proving that ancient theories about the
development of the earth, the age of the earth, the age of Humanity itself
are more correct than not, whilst debunking previous "facts" of western
I asked Guy what evidence he had that science is
proving the theories of the ancients. He replied:
Evidence? Well I can roll out no evidence as such--only that so many
alternative medicine products are being scientifically proven to have
benefits to the returning to balance of the human body. Many medicines
that were being prescribed thousands of years ago, and even just hundreds
of years ago, back to the middle ages, are now being rediscovered--the
difference is that science is just trying to find out why rather than
Supplements can be given for things that science cannot yet understand,
such as Chronic Fatigue that have proved to have great benefits--over time
science analyses them, breaks them down, highlights the specific chemical
or combination and tries to re-create it but without much success.
Not being one to be contrary for the sake of being
contrary, I thought I would provide some evidence for Guy's position.
Recently, a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine, who is an acquaintance
of my wife, brought her some Chinese tea and herbs to cure her cold. I can
attest that this tea and these herbs worked miracles. Within two weeks, my
wife's cold was gone and I managed to avoid the cold altogether.
The miracle is that all we had to do was touch the boxes of tea and
herbs. We didn't even have to open them, much less use them to release their
magic healing powers. We put them in a cupboard, thinking they'd be useless,
but boy did we get a surprise when we realized how effective they were.
note: For some reason,
The Register-Guard, which has Dirda's essay online, omitted the
paragraph that reads: "Instead of reading Toqueville or Henry Adams, we just
check out the latest blogs. We turn toward the bright and shiny, the
meretricious tinsel, the strings of eye-catching beads for which we exchange
our intellectual birthright as for a mess of pottage. For modern Americans,
only the unexamined life is worth living."
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