Robert Todd Carroll
August 23, 2005
"Each of us is ... infected by about 1014 bacteria even as we are sitting here reading this....each of us can make 1012 or more individual T lymphocytes with receptors that can distinguish among 1012 or more things that threaten us...." Gerald N. Callahan, Ph.D., Faith, Madness, and Spontaneous Human Combustion
In this issue:
There are three new dictionary entries: Mary Toft hoax, Kevin Trudeau, and e-meter. The entry on Trudeau prompted a response from a reader. An ad in Newsweek for Trudeau's Natural Cures book prompted a response from me. The book has been taken off the shelves at Walgreen's, thanks to a campaign led by James Randi. Now let's work on getting it removed from Costco. Costco's corporate mailing address is: PO Box 34331 Seattle, WA 98124.
I sent off the following to Costco:
Randi tells me he is going to promote the Costco campaign in his next newsletter. Trudeau's book is becoming a bestseller and has the potential to do a great deal of harm to many people. At the very least, businesses that sell pharmaceuticals should be willing to listen to our complaints. What kind of agency is the FTC if it would fine this guy millions for making false health claims, order him not advertise false health claims, but allow him to sell a book full of false health claims? Is this an example of faith-based regulation and enforcement?
I revised several entries, including the intelligent design entry. President Bush gave a major boost to the propaganda campaign of the ID folks by putting in his two cents on whether ID should be taught in public schools. Ted Koppel (with a report from Chris Bury) on Nightline had an excellent program on ID on August 10, 2005. The only weak part of the program was the interview with Cal Thomas. The only thing Thomas contributed to the discussion was to express his view that many right-wing conservative Christians feel marginalized by living in a secular state where their religious views aren't professed in every courtroom, classroom, and barroom. (Those were not his exact words. I'm paraphrasing here.) George Will did a good job of arguing that ID is a matter of faith, not science. The report from Chris Bury was excellent. It focused on the successful propaganda campaign of the Discovery Institute to convince American politicians, school board members, and citizens to "teach the controversy" even though there is no controversy to teach. For those of you who haven't had time to read my revised ID entry, the new conclusion reads:
Teachers might even remind their students that if bacteria could talk, they could make a very good case for intelligent design by considering how the universe was clearly designed to favor their eternal existence. T cells might disagree and think the universe was designed to favor their eternal existence, but the bacteria were here billions of years before most other life forms arrived and they'll be here for billions of years after most other living things have ceased to exist.
The retrospective falsification entry was revised.
I updated the alien abductions entry to include a link to a New York Times review of a new book on the subject, Abducted: How People Come to Believe They Were Kidnapped by Aliens by Susan Clancy.
Finally, I posted comments about several news items:
On my feedback page I say that I am especially grateful to those careful readers who notify me of my errors. I mean it, but some readers take this as an invitation to lecture me on what they see as a requirement of anyone who would dare criticize the thoughts or actions of others. Here's a recent example:
This perspicuous reader is referring to my misuse of the verb in question in the last newsletter. I had Dr. Hoeller's patient laying when she should have been lying. I admit to the sin and have no excuses to offer. To some readers, such lapses must seem like gaps in the fossil record that prove evolution is false. However, I question whether the occasional grammatical lapse disqualifies me from criticizing the thoughts and actions of others. Don't get me wrong; I'm grateful for the correction. It's the lecture that is grating. I can't see the value in comparing a careless grammatical error with believing that cracking one's wrists over another person's neck adjusts the atlas, which in turn alleviates neck, back, or leg pain.
For those who would like a refresher lesson on the lie/lay issue, here is what our reader has to say on the subject:
Had Bob Dylan been more concerned with grammar than Grammies he wouldn't have written Lay, Lady, Lay. He would have written Lie, Lady, Lie or You Lay Yourself, Lady, You Lay Yourself.
Gary Schwartz isn't the only quack to hide behind the shield of Veritas, the motto for his Human Energy Systems Laboratory. It is there that he conducts his research into the "survival of consciousness." Dr. David Hawkins, a trained medical doctor and psychiatrist who gave it all up a few years ago to follow a more spiritual path based on Eastern religion and philosophy, founded Veritas publishing house to publish his own books. Hawkins has found that applied kinesiology (AK) is the perfect adjunct to spirituality. On his website he boldly asserts: "David Hawkins conclusively proves the ability of kinesiological testing to distinguish truth or falsehood in any statement...." Hawkins seems to be genuinely convinced of this claim. Until seeing how the FTC's rulings are ignored by Kevin Trudeau, I had thought of suggesting that instead of simply laughing off another quack moment, we band together and complain in large numbers to the FTC about the false and misleading advertising Hawkins is engaging in. But what good would it do?
I've posted the form letter I received from the FTC regarding Trudeau's disregard for both the law and for sanctions by the FTC. The bottom line is that the FTC has entered my complaint into their "shared law enforcement data system." My guess is that unless thousands of other similar complaints are filed, mine will be buried in their computer without ceremony.
Here is Hawkins's description of how AK works (taken from the work of Dr. John Diamond, another fallen-away psychiatrist in love with Eastern mysticism):
Yes, that's it. That's the magical technique of AK that can unlock the door to many truths. The only thing missing is the direction to face east and wear tin foil under your cap.
Hawkins, by the way, is not only an M.D. but a Ph.D. The latter was earned from Columbia Pacific University, an unaccredited diploma mill that was shut down by court order. However, he has a B.S. from Marquette University (1950) and an M.D. from the Medical College of Wisconsin (1953), two schools with fine reputations. One of my correspondents has been studying Hawkins's works for several years and has spent some real money ($400) on seminars taught by the good Dr. Doctor. My correspondent became "a dissatisfied customer," however. He wrote to Dr. Hawkins and not only asked him for a refund but he inquired into his Ph.D. from Columbia Pacific University. "Pat" in the Veritas office replied: "We did not know it was unaccredited. At the time that Dr Hawkins got his PhD it was a credited [sic] university. This was in 1995." Newspaper reports assert that California's Council for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, which approves the operation of all private, post-secondary schools in California, denied the school permission to operate as a degree-granting institution in December 1995. This was after a period of review and response that began with Columbia Pacific's application in 1994. The school was closed by court order in 1999, though it operated in its last years without accreditation and without state permission.
Even though Hawkins may not have been aware of the school's accreditation problems, he knew it was a correspondence school and that the standards were not very high.
In any case, the dissatisfied customer complained to the FTC that Hawkins was misrepresenting himself by not letting people know where he got his Ph.D. from and for promoting a pseudoscience:
Hawkins took time from his busy schedule to personally correspond with this dissatisfied customer. About his study at Columbia Pacific University, Hawkins wrote:
On that site one may find out, among other things, how quantum physics validates applied kinesiology. (What New Age quackery doesn't quantum physics validate?) In any case, Dr. Doctor Hawkins not only sent the dissatisfied customer a refund, he sent him a copy of his transcript from Columbia Pacific University, which seems to indicate that Hawkins only completed 59 of the required 60 units for the degree. This is a minor point, to be sure. Of more concern should be Hawkins's enchantment with applied kinesiology and how he has deceived himself and many others into believing that this pseudoscience is a major assist to spiritual awakening. He has convinced himself and many others that AK is a surefire way to determine how spiritually advanced a person, a corporation, or a nation is.
Not everybody is disenchanted with Hawkins, however. Another correspondent wrote:
I didn't look it up, but it wouldn't surprise me to find a physicist with several patents who has an affection for Eastern philosophy and the belief in non-physical consciousness and metaphysical energy. I suggest, however, that if you want to read something sensible about applied kinesiology (besides my SD entry on the topic!) read the section on Facilitated Communication, Applied Kinesiology, and TCM in Ray Hyman's article "How People Are Fooled by Ideomotor Action." Read also Dr. Stephen Barrett's article Muscle-Testing for "Allergies" and "Deficiencies". If, after reading both articles you are still convinced that applied kinesiology is a science, then you are beyond redemption but I'll pray for you anyway.
I have several e-mails in my archives regarding Dr. Doctor Hawkins:
The mind can't tell truth from falsity, but AK can. It's too bad that AK can't be used on oneself to determine when one is deluded and self-deceived.
If the reader is still not convinced of the quackery being sold by Dr. Hawkins, consider the reading list he has posted on Amazon.com, where he identifies himself as Honest Truthfinder. Number one on his list is A Course in Miracles. In addition to his own books, he recommends a hodgepodge of spiritual tomes and books supporting AK. Check out his Yahoo Group to find out what his followers have to say. Finally, read a testimonial by another M.D. who is a devout follower of Dr. Hawkins. David Gersten, M.D., explains how Hawkins uses AK to quantify consciousness on a scale of 0-1,000. 'Consciousness' refers to some sort of developing spiritual entity. When you score between 700-1,000 you have reached "enlightenment."
Skepticism will get you a calibration of about 140. George W. Bush calibrates at 460, according to Hawkins, which is in the range of intellectual genius. According to Dr. Gersten: "Below 200 an individual or society are at very high risk. Up until 1986, the world CS calibrated in the low 190's, but there was a sudden shift in 1986, taking the world CS to 207, which is a safe place to be. The reason for this positive shift is unknown." Are you kidding? That was the year Argentina won the World Cup! (In case you are wondering, CS is the scientific symbol for consciousness in AK-babbletalk.)
One would think that a trained psychiatrist would give more credit to the power of the unconscious mind to cause muscles to tense or relax (ideomotor action) and would not be buffaloed by the applied kinesiology quackery. One would also think that a trained M.D. and Ph.D. would know that you can't do a proper controlled experiment with an audience of paying customers who are given envelops containing either Nutrasweet® (bad, bad, bad!) or vitamin C (good! good! good!), a popular technique used by Dr. Hawkins. He and Dr. David Gerston, another psychiatrist, refer to these public exhibitions as double-blind controlled studies. Maybe Dr. Hawkin's skipped that lesson in correspondence school.
Maybe Toby should look at this primer on DNA. Anyway, Toby continues:
Alexander seems to be following the lead of the inediate, Ellen Greve (a.k.a. Jasmuheen), who claims her “DNA is changing to take up more hydrogen and is developing from 2 to 12 strands.” With help from the likes of Ellen Greve, Toby Alexander, and David Hawkins, the world's CS may soon dip into negative numbers.
Podcast Interview and Review of The Skeptic's Dictionary
If you have an iPod and want to listen to an interview with James Randi, Michael Shermer, Phil Plait, Ben Radford, and others click here to sign up for the Skepticality podcast. I was interviewed on July 25th and the interview is posted here.
Skeptic magazine reviews The Skeptic's Dictionary in the latest issue.
James Randi has announced the line-up for next January's meeting of the minds in Las Vegas. Last year it was Richard Dawkins. This year it is Daniel Dennett, among many other notables. Wow!
The theme of TAMIV is "Science in Politics and the Politics of Science." In preparation, then, perhaps we should all read Chris Mooney's latest from Basic Books: The Republican War on Science.
For centuries, Scriptural scholars thought Jesus had said "turn the other cheek." He really said "Burn the other's cheek," according to Christian evangelist Pat Robertson, who has called for the assassination of Venezuela's president Hugo Chávez. What about the repercussions? Not to worry, says Robertson. "I don't think any oil shipments will stop." In the end, isn't that all the really matters?
Pat's not a true Christian, you say? What would a true Christian say about this: http://www.save-allan.org/ ??
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