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Skeptic Summary

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Skeptic Summary #239

By The Staff
Posted on: 6/6/2009

Twits, suckiness, love, your best life and more!

Week ending June 06, 2009 (Vol 6, #21)

Welcome to the Skeptic Summary, a quick week-in-review guide to the Skeptic Friends Network and the rest of the skeptical world.

Forum Highlights:
Calling all twits! Calling all twits! - Wiseman finds an actual use for Twitter.

Well, this sucks… - George Tiller’s murder and the rebirth of the abortion debate.

Editor’s Choice: IloveitIloveitIloveitIloveitIloveitIloveit - So do I.

Kil’s Evil Pick:
Live Your Best Life Ever!
Wish Away Cancer! Get A Lunchtime Face-Lift! Eradicate Autism! Turn Back The Clock! Thin Your Thighs! Cure Menopause! Harness Positive Energy! Erase Wrinkles! Banish Obesity! Live Your Best Life Ever!
By Weston Kosova and Pat Wingert for Newseek Magazine.

What struck me while reading this article (which discusses the quackery on which Oprah Winfrey places her stamp of approval) is that she is easily more dangerous than Kevin Trudeau or any of the wee-hour infomercial hucksters who are much more interested in parting you from your money than they are in helping you in any way. She is more dangerous because she is bringing the purveyors of very bad ideas on to her TV show and in to her magazine, and even though she is not actually selling any of the products, books, devices, methods or medical advice that she clearly endorses (and more scarily actually believes in herself), she is featuring really bad ideas to a huge audience that hangs on her every word. An audience willing to try just about anything Oprah smiles on. What Oprah likes, sells. And what Oprah likes is very often bad medicine.

The article opens:
In January, Oprah Winfrey invited Suzanne Somers on her show to share her unusual secrets to staying young. Each morning, the 62-year-old actress and self-help author rubs a potent estrogen cream into the skin on her arm. She smears progesterone on her other arm two weeks a month. And once a day, she uses a syringe to inject estrogen directly into her vagina. The idea is to use these unregulated “bio-identical” hormones to restore her levels back to what they were when she was in her 30s, thus fooling her body into thinking she’s a younger woman. According to Somers, the hormones, which are synthesized from plants instead of the usual mare’s urine (disgusting but true), are all natural and, unlike conventional hormones, virtually risk-free (not even close to true, but we’ll get to that in a minute).

Next come the pills. She swallows 60 vitamins and other preparations every day. “I take about 40 supplements in the morning,” she told Oprah, “and then, before I go to bed, I try to remember… to start taking the last 20.” She didn’t go into it on the show, but in her books she says that she also starts each day by giving herself injections of human growth hormone, vitamin B12 and vitamin B complex. In addition, she wears “nanotechnology patches” to help her sleep, lose weight and promote “overall detoxification.” If she drinks wine, she goes to her doctor to rejuvenate her liver with an intravenous drip of vitamin C. If she’s exposed to cigarette smoke, she has her blood chemically cleaned with chelation therapy. In the time that’s left over, she eats right and exercises, and relieves stress by standing on her head. Somers makes astounding claims about the ability of hormones to treat almost anything that ails the female body. She believes they block disease and will double her life span. “I know I look like some kind of freak and fanatic,” she said. “But I want to be there until I’m 110, and I’m going to do what I have to do to get there.”

That was apparently good enough for Oprah. “Many people write Suzanne off as a quackadoo,” she said. “But she just might be a pioneer.” Oprah acknowledged that Somers’s claims “have been met with relentless criticism” from doctors. Several times during the show she gave physicians an opportunity to dispute what Somers was saying. But it wasn’t quite a fair fight. The doctors who raised these concerns were seated down in the audience and had to wait to be called on. Somers sat onstage next to Oprah, who defended her from attack. “Suzanne swears by bioidenticals and refuses to keep quiet. She’ll take on anyone, including any doctor who questions her.”
Read on…

Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.
— Philip K. Dick

Chat Highlights:
Wednesday: This week’s chat was rather slow, as far as chats go. The planets must be in some weird alignment. Or perhaps it’s just summer and there are other things to do, such as going outside. Ricky (our chat host) didn’t help things by showing up over an hour late. Conversation was mostly small talk, some politics and famous mathematicians. Ah well, there is always next week…

Come chat with us.

New Members This Week:

(Not a member? Become one today!)

Elsewhere in the World:
Adverse Effects of Chiropractic

Are Spiritual Encounters All In Your Head?

A bit more hope for Texas kids

From a crypt in Berlin, it returns to decimate the anti-vaccine movement

Having your Ford Pinto and Crashing it Too

Illegal downloads and dodgy figures

The Roots of ID

Skeptic’s Circle 112: Skeptic Party

Skepticality #102 — The Great Psychic Detective Challenge

Uncovering “Ida”

Got some skeptic news items? Send them to us, and we’ll think about adding them.

Book of the Week:
Quantum Gods: Creation, Chaos, and the Search for Cosmic Consciousness, by Victor J. Stenger.

“Does quantum mechanics show a connection between the human mind and the cosmos? Are our brains tuned into a ‘cosmic consciousness’ that pervades the universe enabling us to make our own reality? Do quantum mechanics and chaos theory provide a place for God to act in the world without violating natural laws?

Many popular books make such claims and argue that key developments in twentieth-century physics, such as the uncertainty principle and the butterfly effect, support the notion that God or a universal mind acts upon material reality.

Physicist Victor J. Stenger examines these contentions in this carefully reasoned and incisive analysis of popular theories that seek to link spirituality to physics. Throughout the book Stenger alternates his discussions of popular spirituality with a survey of what the findings of twentieth-century physics actually mean. Thus he offers the reader a useful synopsis of contemporary religious ideas as well as basic but sophisticated physics presented in layperson’s terms (without equations).

Of particular interest in this book is Stenger’s discussion of a new kind of deism, which proposes a God who creates a universe with many possible pathways determined by chance, but otherwise does not interfere with the physical world or the lives of humans. Although it is possible, says Stenger, to conceive of such a God who plays dice with the universe and leaves no trace of his role as prime mover, such a God is a far cry from traditional religious ideas of God and, in effect, may as well not exist.

Like his bestselling book, God, The Failed Hypothesis, this new work presents a rigorously argued challenge to many popular notions of God and spirituality.”

— Product Description

This Week’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  3. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  4. New World Order happening right now!
  5. Well, this sucks…
  6. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  7. Possum on the half shell
  8. The Mask of Nostradamus
  9. I wear boys underwear
  10. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  1. Evolving a Venom or Two
  2. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  3. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  4. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  5. Skeptic Summary #152
  6. Scientific Truth
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray
  8. Mesmer, Casino Monkey, and Video Sex
  9. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  10. Cold Reading
There were 14,901 daily visitors this week.
Last Month’s Most-Viewed Pages:
Forum Topics:
  1. The Supper
  2. PZ expelled from Expelled — Dawkins slips in!
  3. Stop laughing, dammit! This is serious shit!
  4. Possum on the half shell
  5. We’d invite Hitler to speak, says Columbia dean
  6. The shallow end of the gene pool…
  7. Quote Mine warning propaganda poster
  8. Beelzebufo ampinga
  9. Same-sex marriage thoughts
  10. Is the NCSE too accommodating to religion?
  11. Dracorex hogwartsia
  12. Spider bite cures paralyzed man?
  13. A half of a wing & a piece of a prayer
  14. Art or oxygen theft?
  15. Souter retires!
  16. New World Order happening right now!
  17. Darwinius masillae
  18. Funny FAILS
  19. Moon-walker claims alien contact cover-up
  20. VenomFangX defanged
  1. Fundamentalists Hate Noah’s Ark
  2. Evolving a Venom or Two
  3. Skeptic Summary #152
  4. Miracle Thaw — The Bogus Miracle
  5. The Bible’s Bad Fruits
  6. Scientific Truth
  7. Miracle Thaw Tray
  8. Come & Receive your Miracle: A Sunday Afternoon at a Robert Tilton Crusade
  9. Cold Reading
  10. Is the Speed of Light Slowing Down?
  11. Mesmer, Casino Monkey, and Video Sex
  12. N. 6, January 2001: Split brains, paradigm shifts, and why it is so difficult to be a skeptic
  13. SkeptiCamp Atlanta: A Personal Overview
  14. Evolution is a Lie
  15. Kent Hovind is a Big Phony!
  16. Ms Christel
  17. Astrology
  18. Preaching that Anti-Evolution Propaganda
  19. The Bible Answer Man
  20. Skeptic Summary #234
There were 70,164 daily visitors in May, 2009.

More issues of the Skeptic Summary can be found in our archive.

The Skeptic Summary is produced by the staff of the Skeptic Friends Network, copyright 2008, all rights reserved.

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