Category: Skepticism

Gwyneth Paltrow’s Goop Will Pay $145,000 to Settles Lawsuit Over Vaginal Eggs

By Hemant Mehta

When people make fun of Gwyneth Paltrow‘s pseudoscience-purveying company Goop, the first thing that probably comes to mind is the jade egg.

These were the eggs which women were told to stick up their vaginas in order to — ahem — “cultivate sexual energy, increase orgasm, balance the cycle, stimulate key reflexology around vaginal walls, tighten and tone, prevent uterine prolapse, increase control of the whole perineum and bladder, develop and clear chi pathways in the body, intensify feminine energy, and invigorate our life force.”

“Beauty guru” Shiva Rose, who endorsed the items on Goop’s website at the time, also said the eggs created “kidney strength.”

If you visit the same site today, however, Rose’s answers are very different. Portions of it have clearly been deleted. You will no longer see anything about how the eggs “increase orgasm, balance the cycle, stimulate key reflexology around vaginal walls, tighten and tone, prevent uterine prolapse, [and] increase control of the whole perineum and bladder.” Also gone is the bit about kidney strength.

Why? Maybe because all of that was unscientific bullshit that could cause serious health problems for any women who stick the eggs up their yoni.

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Why Creationists Are More Likely to Buy into Conspiracy Theories

By Kimberly Hickok

When something occurs that’s hard to explain, many people say that “everything happens for a reason” and that the event was “meant to be.”

The thought provides a purpose for what, in reality, was a random, accidental event.

This type of thinking, called teleological thinking, is what gives rise to creationism, which, in this case, refers to the belief that Earth was created by an all-powerful being less than 10,000 years ago. That same kind of reasoning also promotes a belief in conspiracy theories, a new study has found.

“I think the study is a valuable and interesting contribution to work on the ways that our gut intuitions can promote particular non-scientific world views,” said Deborah Kelemen, a developmental cognitive scientist at Boston University, who was not involved in the study.

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The truth about new study claiming ex-gay conversion therapy works

By Zack Ford

A newly published study that purports to show the benefits of ex-gay conversion therapy is exciting anti-LGBTQ groups like the Liberty Counsel that oppose attempts to ban the harmful and ineffective treatment. Unfortunately for those groups, the study’s scientific credentials are lacking and the research isn’t even new.

The study, “Effects of Therapy on Religious Men Who Have Unwanted Same-Sex Attraction,” was published last month in The Linacre Quarterly. According to the Liberty Counsel, it “confirms the overwhelming effectiveness of people receiving counseling to reduce or eliminate their unwanted same-sex attractions, behaviors, or identity.”

It doesn’t.

The researchers did not actually assess whether any particular treatment has any particular effect; they simply surveyed a group of 125 men who had undergone some form of sexual orientation change efforts (SOCE) to see whether they believed it helped. There was no before-and-after assessment. Instead, they simply asked participants to think back to how they believe they felt before they started conversion therapy.

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Physicists doubt bold superconductivity claim following social-media storm

By Davide Castelvecchi

It was an explosive claim: the discovery of a superconducting material that can carry electricity with virtually no resistance in normal, ambient conditions. The purported finding — announced by two Indian physicists in a preprint1 last month — sparked a rush of replication efforts. But independent researchers have grown increasingly sceptical as they have dissected the claim, in a process that played out mostly on social media.

“All these researchers who normally do not discuss on a single platform have come together and discussed this,” says Pratap Raychaudhuri, who studies low-temperature physics at the Tata Institute of Fundamental Research in Mumbai, India. He led a discussion of the results on Facebook. “I think the self-correcting mechanism of science — the ruthless scrutiny of the community — has worked extremely well,” he says.

Raychaudhuri also says that the episode is evidence of the value of posting preprints before publication and having an open discussion about them. “I think this is possibly going to set a very good precedent,” he says.

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Pseudoscience: Homeopathic hocus-pocus

By Jon Hauxwell, MD

The nonprofit Center for Inquiry has lodged a federal lawsuit against pharm giant CVS due to its deceptive marketing and sales of “homeopathic” nostrums.

CVS manufactures its own HP products, and sells other brands. CVS is charged with “deliberately fostering the impression through display and placement that they are effective to treat particular complaints, and that they are comparable in efficacy, and regulation to science-based medical products.”

HP is a “pseudoscience,” defined as “a system of theories, assumptions, and methods erroneously regarded as scientific.”

Samuel Hahnemann invented HP in the 1700s, when we hadn’t even discovered Germ Theory yet. Hahnemann knew nothing of today’s molecular chemistry.

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The Cognitive Biases Tricking Your Brain

By Ben Yagoda

I am staring at a photograph of myself that shows me 20 years older than I am now. I have not stepped into the twilight zone. Rather, I am trying to rid myself of some measure of my present bias, which is the tendency people have, when considering a trade-off between two future moments, to more heavily weight the one closer to the present. A great many academic studies have shown this bias—also known as hyperbolic discounting—to be robust and persistent.

Most of them have focused on money. When asked whether they would prefer to have, say, $150 today or $180 in one month, people tend to choose the $150. Giving up a 20 percent return on investment is a bad move—which is easy to recognize when the question is thrust away from the present. Asked whether they would take $150 a year from now or $180 in 13 months, people are overwhelmingly willing to wait an extra month for the extra $30.

Present bias shows up not just in experiments, of course, but in the real world. Especially in the United States, people egregiously undersave for retirement—even when they make enough money to not spend their whole paycheck on expenses, and even when they work for a company that will kick in additional funds to retirement plans when they contribute.

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Of Course, Qanon

By Robert Blaskiewicz

The Qanon conspiracy theory is both an old and new conspiracy theory; the narrative elements of the conspiracy long predate this most recent assemblage. In the week since Qanon signs and supporters appeared at the President’s Tampa rally waving signs and wearing Q t-shirts, the press has focused on the bizarre beliefs promulgated by the online community developing and pushing this conspiracy theory. Numerous explainers have appeared over the past few months, but Will Sommer has been on top of the story since the beginning, so I recommend his version. In short, it’s a conspiracy theory that posits that things are really sort of going Donald Trump’s way. The Mueller investigation? Mueller is working for Trump, and together they are going to root out the pedophile murder-squads of the Deep State. It is, in the words of Ben Collins, “Pizzagate on bath salts.”

The evidence for this conspiracy theory supposedly comes from anonymous posts on 4chan and 8chan by someone close to the administration who is supposed to have top-level “Q clearance” and leaves what are known as “breadcrumbs,” or cryptic clues. These “QDrops” are so vague as to invite numerous interpretations, and as a result the beliefs spawned by intense scrutiny are varied and totalizing.

None of this is remotely new in America, however.

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Don’t pack your bags for Mars just yet

By Don Lincoln

Water is literally the elixir of life. Without it, no Earthly living organism can survive. It’s the reason that the Sahara and Atacama deserts are barren wastelands.

When humans began exploring our planet, each time they encountered a new island or valley, finding drinkable water was their first order of business. And as we turn our attention to the heavens, imagining a future in which intrepid explorers will search the solar system for places to live, the situation is pretty much the same. Celestial bodies with water will be the first places to be colonized.

Thus, the recent announcement that evidence of a lake of water was discovered on Mars has captured the imagination of anyone who has looked at our interplanetary neighbor and dreamed. If this discovery is verified, the possibility of successful human colonies on Mars has just taken a big step forward.

Media reports on the discovery are everywhere, occasionally with florid claims, prompting new speculation on the likelihood that we’ll discover life on Mars and renewing excitement about future manned missions to the Red Planet. So, which of these stories are reasonable and which are hype?

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Woman Tried to Treat Athlete’s Foot with Raw Garlic. It Burned Through Her Toe.

By Laura Geggel

A woman in England learned the hard way that it’s not safe to treat a foot fungus infection by covering it with slices of raw garlic, according to a new report of the woman’s case.

Instead of treating her athlete’s foot, the garlic severely burned and blistered the woman’s skin, ultimately landing her in a doctor’s office, the case report said. (Athlete’s foot is a skin infection caused by fungus.)

It’s not uncommon for people to turn to home remedies for medical treatment. Given that people have used garlic (Allium sativum) as a health treatment for thousands of years, it’s no wonder the 45-year-old woman decided to use raw garlic to try treating her fungal infection, which was affecting the nail on her left big toe and the skin around it, said case report senior author Dr. Kai Wong, a plastic surgeon at Oxford University Hospitals National Health Service Foundation Trust.

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Center For Inquiry Sues CVS for Defrauding Customers With Homeopathic “Medicine”

By Hemant Mehta

The Center For Inquiry has filed a lawsuit against CVS Health Corporation (which includes its nearly 10,000 pharmacies) for promoting and selling homeopathic remedies.

CVS is deceiving customers, CFI says, “through its misrepresentation of homeopathy’s safety and effectiveness, wasting customers’ money and putting their health at risk.”

Homeopathy is, of course the sham treatment that takes a trace amount of actual medicine, then dilutes it with water thousands of times over until no actual medicine remains. The resulting mixture of bullshit and nonsense is packaged and sold to customers who may not realize they’re being duped by nothing more than an expensive placebo.

“Homeopathy is a total sham, and CVS knows it. Yet the company persists in deceiving its customers about the effectiveness of homeopathic products,” said Nicholas Little, CFI’s Vice President and General Counsel. “Homeopathics are shelved right alongside scientifically-proven medicines, under the same signs for cold and flu, pain relief, sleep aids, and so on.”

“If you search for ‘flu treatment’ on their website, it even suggests homeopathics to you,” said Little. “CVS is making no distinction between those products that have been vetted and tested by science, and those that are nothing but snake oil.”

It’s not just a waste of time and money. Over the past couple of years, some homeopathic remedies meant for babies were found to harm them because the pills were manufactured improperly. (The makers found a way to screw up doing nothing.)

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