Archive for the ‘pseudoscience’ Tag

That Mitchell and Webb Look: Homeopathic A&E

Scientologists in France go on trial for fraud

Scientologists in France go on trial for fraud

PARIS (Reuters) – The Church of Scientology in France went on trial on Monday on charges of organised fraud.

Registered as a religion in the United States, with celebrity members such as actors Tom Cruise and John Travolta, Scientology enjoys no such legal protection in France and has faced repeated accusations of being a money-making cult.

The group’s Paris headquarters and bookshop are defendants in the case. If found guilty, they could be fined 5 million euros ($7 million) and ordered to halt their activities in France.

Seven leading French Scientology members are also in the dock. Some are charged with illegally practising as pharmacists and face up to 10 years in prison and hefty fines.

The case centres on a complaint made in 1998 by a woman who said she was enrolled into Scientology after members approached her in the street and persuaded her to do a personality test.

In the following months, she paid more than 21,000 euros for books, “purification packs” of vitamins, sauna sessions and an “e-meter” to measure her spiritual progress, she said.

Other complaints then surfaced. The five original plaintiffs — three of whom withdrew after reaching a financial settlement with the Church of Scientology — said they spent up to hundreds of thousands of euros on similar tests and cures.

They told investigators that Scientology members harassed them with phone calls and nightly visits to cajole them into paying their bills or taking out bank loans. The plaintiffs were described as “vulnerable” by psychological experts in the case.

BBC video report.

Psychic Patricia Putts to be tested today for the JREF prize

Psychic Patricia Putts to be tested today for the JREF prize

Patricia Putts, a woman who thinks that she can find out personal details about people by simply being near them and listening to their voices will do a preliminary test which may lead to her winning the coveted 1 million dollar JREF prize.

The idea for the JREF prize comes from the brain of world-renowned magician and paranormal investigator James Randi, a Toronto native who lives in Florida. This prize is awarded:

to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event.

The idea behind the prize is a simple one. A large number of people believe in paranormal powers. Scientists have tried to find these powers for decades now and they have all been disillusioned. Yet, many people continue to believe in them. By making the amount so high, these tests -which do usually not interest the general public- becoming more exciting, leading to more publicity and a larger audience. This ensures that more people will learn of the success or failure of these tests, leading to a better educated, wider public.

Patricia Putt, a well-known psychic, had contacted the James Randi Educational Foundation a while ago in order to be tested for the million dollar prize.

Texas board comes down on 2 sides of creationism debate

Texas board comes down on 2 sides of creationism debate

(CNN) — Dueling theories of how the universe was created got a split decision Friday night from the Texas Board of Education, which required examination of “all sides of scientific evidence” in new science standards, but rejected language requiring teachers to teach the “strengths and weaknesses” of scientific theories.

The debate pitted proponents of Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution against supporters of religion-based theories of intelligent design, or creationism.

“Science loses. Texas loses, and the kids lose because of this,” board chairman Don McLeroy, a creationist, told the Dallas Morning News.

A final 13-2 vote approved language that will be printed in textbooks beginning in 2011 and remain there for 10 years, CNN affiliate KPRC-TV in Houston reported:

“In all fields of science, analyze, evaluate, and critique scientific explanations by using empirical evidence, logical reasoning, and experimental observation and testing, including examining all sides of scientific evidence of those explanations so as to encourage critical thinking by the students.”

Earlier, the board rejected two sections written by McLeroy on identical 8-7 votes, the Dallas Morning News said.

One section required teachers to “analyze, review, and critique scientific explanations, including hypotheses and theories, as to their strengths and weaknesses using scientific evidence and information,” and the other required high school students to study the “sufficiency or insufficiency” of key principles of evolution.

Science: ur doin it wrong.

Texas Rep. Leo Berman: let the Institute for Creation Research grant masters degrees

Texas State Representative Leo Berman has proposed a bill which would allow the Institute for Creation Research – a creationist think tank – to issue academic qualifications:

A Texas legislator is waging a war of biblical proportions against the science and education communities in the Lone Star State as he fights for a bill that would allow a private school that teaches creationism to grant a Master of Science degree in the subject.

State Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) proposed House Bill 2800 when he learned that The Institute for Creation Research (ICR), a private institution that specializes in the education and research of biblical creationism, was not able to receive a certificate of authority from Texas’ Higher Education Coordinating Board to grant Master of Science degrees.

Berman’s bill would allow private, non-profit educational institutions to be exempt from the board’s authority.

“If you don’t take any federal funds, if you don’t take any state funds, you can do a lot more than some business that does take state funding or federal funding,” Berman says. “Why should you be regulated if you don’t take any state or federal funding?”

HB 2800 does not specifically name ICR; it would allow any institution that meets its criteria to be exempt from the board’s authority. But Berman says ICR was the inspiration for the bill because he feels creationism is as scientific as evolution and should be granted equal weight in the educational community.

“I don’t believe I came from a salamander that crawled out of a swamp millions of years ago,” Berman told FOXNews.com. “I do believe in creationism. I do believe there are gaps in evolution.

The bill in question can be found here.

See Bad Astronomy for more info.

Belfast museum faces legal battle over Darwin exhibition

Belfast museum faces legal battle over Darwin exhibition

The Ulster Museum in Belfast faces a legal challenge unless it stages a creationist exhibition as a counter to its forthcoming series on Charles Darwin, a Democratic Unionist member of the Northern Ireland assembly warned today.

Forty-eight hours after the DUP’s Northern Ireland environment minister, Sammy Wilson, railed against the idea that climate change is man-made, his party colleague Mervyn Storey has threatened legal action against the museum over its promotion of Darwin’s theory of evolution.

The North Antrim DUP assembly member called this morning for an “alternative exhibition” promoting creationism to be staged alongside one planned for the Ulster Museum in Belfast this year.

Storey, a born-again Christian advocate of creationism and so-called intelligent design, said that as the museum in Belfast’s university district was publicly funded it should be subject to the province’s equality legislation.

MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism

MMR doctor Andrew Wakefield fixed data on autism

THE doctor who sparked the scare over the safety of the MMR vaccine for children changed and misreported results in his research, creating the appearance of a possible link with autism, a Sunday Times investigation has found.

Confidential medical documents and interviews with witnesses have established that Andrew Wakefield manipulated patients’ data, which triggered fears that the MMR triple vaccine to protect against measles, mumps and rubella was linked to the condition.

The research was published in February 1998 in an article in The Lancet medical journal. It claimed that the families of eight out of 12 children attending a routine clinic at the hospital had blamed MMR for their autism, and said that problems came on within days of the jab. The team also claimed to have discovered a new inflammatory bowel disease underlying the children’s conditions.

However, our investigation, confirmed by evidence presented to the General Medical Council (GMC), reveals that: In most of the 12 cases, the children’s ailments as described in The Lancet were different from their hospital and GP records. Although the research paper claimed that problems came on within days of the jab, in only one case did medical records suggest this was true, and in many of the cases medical concerns had been raised before the children were vaccinated. Hospital pathologists, looking for inflammatory bowel disease, reported in the majority of cases that the gut was normal. This was then reviewed and the Lancet paper showed them as abnormal.

Ben Goldacre targetted by MMR conspiracy theorists

Ben Goldacre, Guardian journalist, blogger and science commentator, has a habit of getting on the wrong side of certain people. His Bad Science column and website counter a variety of pseudoscientific and inaccurate claims. He has now become target of target of MMR vaccine conspiracy theorists:

LBC have instructed their lawyers to contact me.

Two days ago I posted about a broadcast in which their presenter Jeni Barnett exemplified some of the most irresponsible, ill-informed, and ignorant anti-vaccination campaigning that I have ever heard on the public airwaves. This is important because it can cost lives, and you can read about the media’s MMR hoax here.

To illustrate my grave concerns, I posted the relevant segment about MMR from her show, 44 minutes, which a reader kindly excerpted for me from the rest of the three hour programme. It is my view that Jeni Barnett torpedoes her reputation in that audio excerpt so effectively that little explanation is needed.

LBC’s lawyers say that the clip I posted is a clear infringement of their copyright, that I must take it down immediately, that I must inform them when I have done so, and that they “reserve their rights”.

To me this raises several problemsThe segment in question can be heard on wikileaks – other sources are given in the article. Their actions, far from having the desired effect of damagte control, have resulted in the story being spread far more widely.

Will they never learn?

ASA rules against Christian Voice over HPV ad

Christian Voice is a conservative lobby group famous for, among other things, an unhealthy obsession with other peoples’ sexuality and protesting against Jerry Springer: The Opera. Last year they funded an advert in the New Statesman which included the following claim:

VIOLENT CRIME – SOWING AND REAPING
There is a Biblical principle that we reap what we sow. It applies to nations as well as to individuals. What politicians sow, the people reap. When politicians sow evil, the people reap misery, and the poorest reap it the worst.

The Divorce Reform Act 1969 and the Matrimonial Causes Act 1973 introduced divorce on demand and no-fault settlements. The ease with which Parliament said marriages could break up sowed the idea that the promises made in marriage did not matter. The people have reaped a covenant-breaking mentality in which being divorced against your will or any kind of justice is taken for granted and the sum of human misery is increased.

Around that time, the state began to encourage teenagers to have sex with the only moral message being to use a condom. That resulted in profits to manufacturers and an explosion of teenage pregnancy. Now we have the disaster of teenage infertility. Every government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase it, but as all the targets revolve around pregnancy, no-one in power cares about those young people they have made sterile.

Subsequently, a complaint was lodged with the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA), pointing out that the HPV vaccine has not been shown to cause infertility, and that as such, the advert was making a false claim. Christian Voice, for their part, responded to the complaint:

The officials demanded ‘robust, scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine caused infertility in teenagers’, missing the point that it is the encouragement of promiscuity in Government teen sex initiatives which spreads the infections which do the damage, not the vaccine itself.

Their draft ruling says: ‘the claim “Every government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase it [teenage infertility]” was a statement of fact that was capable of substantiation.’ Christian Voice say requiring the substantiation of a future prediction in an opinion piece is preposterous and an infringement of freedom of speech.

Apparently, being asked to back up a scientific claim is “preposterous” to these folks. Oh goody – just the people we want advising the world on reproductive health. Naturally.

The ASA has now ruled on the complaint, noting:

Assessment
Upheld

The ASA noted Christian Voice’s response. We considered, however, that the claim “Every government initiative, including the HPV vaccine, will increase it [teenage infertility]” was a statement of fact that was a matter open to substantiation. We noted the webpage submitted by Christian Voice, but we did not consider that that webpage in itself was sufficient to support the claim. Because we had not seen robust, scientific evidence that the HPV vaccine caused infertility in teenagers, we concluded that the claim had not been substantiated and was misleading.

The ad breached CAP Code clauses 2.2 (Principles), 3.1 (Substantiation) and 7.1 (Truthfulness).

Action
The ad must not appear again in its current form. We told Christian Voice not to repeat the implied claim that the HPV vaccine would result in teenage infertility.

pwned.

Kazakh prosecutors seeking liquidation of Scientology Church in Karaganda

Kazakh prosecutors seeking liquidation of Scientology Church in Karaganda

ASTANA. Feb 3 (Interfax) – The Karaganda Special Inter-District
Economic Court in Kazakhstan is hearing a suit by the prosecution
authorities seeking the liquidation of the religious group called the
Scientology Church of the City of Karaganda.
The prosecution authorities believe the church’s activity “runs
counter to principles of national security of the Republic of
Kazakhstan, as it is aimed at undermining Kazakh nation’s health through
inflicting harm on people’s psychic and physical health,” the Kazakh
Prosecutor General’s Office said in a statement posted on its website.
“The scientologists have been using elements of medical
technologies amending people’s conscience. This activity has been
pursued by people having no medical education outside medical
institutions,” it said.
In addition, the church’s activity did not meet its charter
provisions, it said.