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Member since: 2002
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Study: Some Deepak Chopra Tweets Are Indistinguishable From Bullshit


"Deepak Chopra is known around the world for spouting pseudo-scientific garbage wrapped up in spiritual feel-goodery. A new paper in the journal Judgment and Decision Making even uses Chopra’s tweets to show how some people have trouble distinguishing profound statements from bullshit.

The paper, titled “On the reception and detection of pseudo-profound bullshit,” doesn’t pull any punches. But it carefully notes that, “None of this is intended to imply that every statement in Chopra’s tweet history is bullshit.” (Emphasis mine.)

Researchers took the Chopra tweet below, published in June of 2014, and presented it to study participants along with randomly generated statements that employed “profound” buzzwords. The statements made sense grammatically, but made absolutely no sense logically.


As Dr. Emily Willingham explains in a post over at Forbes, the researchers found that there were a variety of reasons that some people found Chopra’s bullshit to be profound. They looked at the participants’ analytical thinking skills and willingness to accept implausible ideas. Those who found Chopra to be profound tended to be less skeptical of the paranormal and scored lower on cognitive and reasoning ability tests.



Also, see why meaningless marketing terms work on some people.

Great Piece On The Male And Female Brains Study, Equality, Individuals, And Medical Ethics



What are we to make of the results of this study? To summarize my own approach, I think it is counter productive and not scientifically accurate to deny that there are real differences between identifiable categories of people.

At the same time it is important to recognize when those difference are only statistical with large overlap. What this means is that in such cases it is not scientifically justifiable to treat individuals as members of a group. Membership in a group does not predict what traits the individual will have. It is therefore best to treat people as individuals.

From an ethical point of view this also works. The basic principle of respect for everyone’s individual dignity demands that people be generally treated as individuals. It just so happens that science supports that position also.


Genetic heritage, for example, is used to predict the probability of certain diseases or even the response to certain treatments. We don’t ignore race or sex in medicine, because these categories have a statistical reality that informs our very important practical decisions. But we recognize that these categories don’t always predict individual traits. Patients – and all people – still need to be treated like individuals."


Dr. Novella hits it out of the park, yet again.

This fish utilizes fewer resources, so it's less expensive, with a smaller ecological footprint.

The demonization of this fish is not logical. Why are environmental groups screwing up their message with the constant, baseless attacks on GMOs? It is going to backfire, big time.


A genetically modified salmon is just a fish

Are Religious Children More Selfish? New Study Says, Yes, Perhaps.

A six-continent study of the foundations of generosity.


A new study from the University of Chicago claims to show that religion does not necessarily provide the foundation for more moral beings. For the study, published on Thursday in the journal Current Biology, researchers surveyed more than 1,000 kids across six countries. They found that those raised in religious households were actually more selfish than their nonreligious counterparts. These findings “contradict the common-sense and popular assumption that children from religious households are more altruistic and kind toward others,” the authors write. “More generally, they call into question whether religion is vital for moral development.”

The study took the form of a thought experiment. First, children aged 5 to 12 in the United States, Canada, South Africa, Turkey, Jordan, or China were each given 30 stickers and told to choose their 10 favorite ones. Those 10 were theirs to keep, they were told. Then, the children were given the option to give some of their stickers away to other children who had not been given any stickers. Regardless of the children’s country of origin, age, and other factors, researchers found that children raised in nonreligious households gave away more stickers to their stickerless peers. Religious children exhibited “significantly less sharing,” according to the paper. Those little misers.

The vast majority of religiously raised children in this study came from Christian or Muslim households; a smaller number grew up in households that were Jewish, Buddhist, Hindu, or another faith. The researchers found no difference in generosity between the children raised Christian and those raised Muslim. (There weren’t enough children of other faiths for a statistical comparison.)

Sharing stickers is a small thing, of course, but the researchers concluded that nonreligious households were better at fostering a sense of generosity and altruism in their kids. But why? It might be that nonreligious households encouraged children to use reason and logic to form moral conclusions, rather than laws and codes. “If you cannot rely on stories, tales and supernatural beings to teach and guide moral behavior, what’s left is rational reasoning,” says lead researcher Jean Decety, a professor in the department of psychology at the University of Chicago currently on sabbatical in South Africa.



It's the difficult to assess "soft science," so I'm not taking it very seriously, but I certainly don't need to be told to bring my kid to church, either.

A More Thorough Look At Meningococcal Vaccines, Including The New B Vaccine


"Although there are only five different types of meningococcus that commonly cause disease (types A, B, C, Y and W-135), it has been very difficult to make a vaccine that includes type B, and meningococcus type B accounts for two-thirds of meningococcal infections in infants and one-third of meningococcal infections in adolescents and adults. (Of note, two vaccines to prevent meningococcus type B were submitted for licensure to the Food and Drug Administration in 2014. Both are likely to be licensed for use in adolescents in 2015.)"

The Long Road to an Effective Vaccine for Meningococcus Group B (MenB)

ACIP Supports Meningitis B Vaccine for Teens, Young Adults

Meningitis B Vaccine: Is It For You?

Why is the NHS vaccination for meningitis B not provided to everyone?


Recently, a DU OP offered a quick interview newspaper article that only offer opinions, sans offering any actual explanations for those opinions. That OP also offered a link to an anti-vaccine page, which tends to make such an OP's real purpose highly questionable, IMO. I acknowledge that these pieces only tell the start of the story, but they tell much more of the story than the other OP. I think these pieces are a better place to start for people who want to understand the vaccine better.

"Pro Lifers" Actually Celebrated The Act Of Terror In Colorado

“Pro-Lifers” Take to Twitter to Praise Planned Parenthood Shooter

"While the majority of the country is expressing sympathy to the victims of the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooting, there are those who are so despicable, they’re praising the acts of this domestic terrorist that left 3 dead and 9 injured.


Yes, pro-lifers have found the silver lining. You can call them utilitarians, but to assume they’re contemplative, rather than motivated by blood-thirst, may be giving them too much credit. According to a select group of Twitter-dwelling anti-abortionists, the violence carried out by a man wielding an AK-type gun at a women’s health facility yesterday actually did more good than harm if you’re counting the number of abortions he prevented while interrupting the day’s services.

According to Planned Parenthood, 3% of what they do is abortion services. The majority is contraception, STD screenings, and routine care. Statistically, it’s far more likely that someone will have to go a few more days wondering if that rash is something to worry about than being unable to obtain an abortion.

Robert Lewis Dear indiscriminately killed three people who were already established in the world — not knowing their stance on abortion, not caring if his victims had families, giving no consideration to life. He is anti-life no matter how you spin it. Tweeting support, or justification, for his actions makes you no less of a monster.



The autism “Holocaust”? Why antivaccine advocates are not autism advocates


"A typical response to a charge of being antivaccine coming from someone whose rhetoric is definitely antivaccine is to clutch her pearls mightily and retort, “I’m not ‘anti-vaccine.’ I’m pro-vaccine safety.” Similarly, a common retort of antivaccinationists who believe that vaccines cause autism, particularly those who believe that vaccines caused their children’s autism, is to declare themselves “autism advocates.” Indeed, the bloggers at one of the most wretched hives of scum and antivaccine quackery on the whole Internet, Age of Autism, routinely declare themselves an autism advocacy organization. They’re not anti-vaccine. Oh, no. How dare you call them that? Unfortunately, not infrequently they manage to pull off the act well enough to be taken seriously by government agencies as actual autism advocates.

These two claims of antivaccine groups (that they’re not antivaccine but that they are pro-vaccine safety and autism advocates) are easily falsified. Indeed, I’ve documented numerous examples over the years that antivaccinationists who claim the mantle of vaccine safety are, in fact, doing nothing of the sort, but what about the second claim, that they are advocates for autistic children? This claim, too, is belied by their words and behavior. In particular, I’ve pointed out over the years penchant such people have for comparing the “autism epidemic” (which was always there but disguised under different diagnoses) to a “Holocaust,” making vaccine manufacturers the Nazis because their products are blamed for causing this “Holocaust.” It’s an analogy that I’ve pointed out more times than I can remember over the years, one used by no less majors figure in the antivaccine movement than Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. and Dr. Bob Sears.

All of which serves as background for a particularly illuminating post by Dan Olmsted (although it illuminates in a manner not intended by its author), entitled, Is Autism a Holocaust? Riffing on a book with a typical antivaccine title, The Autistic Holocaust: The Reason Our Children Keep Getting Sick by Jon Mica. This led Olmsted to wonder “whether calling autism a holocaust, capital H or lower h, in a book title or anywhere else, is simply out of bounds.” Personally, from my perspective, if you ask that question in a manner in which the answer could go either way, yes or no, you are almsot certainly an antivaccine loon. Certainly Dan Olmsted is that. So are the people he posed this question to, Bob Krakow, Lou Conte and John Gilmore. They all more or less agreed that it’s probably not ever appropriate to call the “autism epidemic” a holocaust (either big-H or little-h), but the reasons they give for their answers are pure antivaccine pseudoscience.


So, whenever you see antivaccinationists try to co-opt the language of advocacy for autistic children and of drug and vaccine safety, remember this. There is a large contingent of antivaccine activists who truly and honestly believe that describing the results of the vaccine program, the most prominent of which to them is an “autism epidemic,” are quite properly described as a holocaust and that comparing these results to the actual Jewish Holocaust is not beyond the pale. And if autism and vaccines are the equivalent of a big-H or little-h holocaust, what, then, does that make pharmaceutical companies and pro-science advocates like us? Nazis.

That’s all you need to know about what many antivaccinationists think about autism and why their donning the mantle of “vaccine safety” and “autism advocacy” is a sham."



A good read though...

An Appleless Apple Pie, Brought to You by Science


"Nearly every great chef will say that cooking is an artform. But many fail to mention the craft also relies on some pretty well-established hard science. Few know this better than Jeff Potter, author of Cooking for Geeks, a book for those looking to improve their culinary skills through a richer understanding of exactly how stuff works in the kitchen.

This is why Potter, a self-proclaimed food and science geek, will be the first to report that a pie isn’t just a pie. The dessert you’re about to eat is chock-full of lessons in chemistry, physics and neurobiology. And whether or not your holiday guests ask for second slice depends on how well you master the basics of science.


The only thing better than a slice of warm pie is one accompanied by ice cream. “Ice cream is actually really complicated,” says Potter. “You could teach an entire lesson on ice cream.” One thing to know about the sweet creamy stuff, says Potter, is the role of colloidal dispersion, when a compound of certain substances, in this case individual ingredients, are evenly distributed as fine particles. “Colloids are a combination of different types of matter,” says Potter. “Foods are almost never one state of matter. There's usually something in them that causes them to be multiple states of matter—solid, liquid and gas.” To the naked eye and your mouth, that ice cream may seem like a perfectly blended mixture, but it’s not. “Ice cream is a complex colloid—multiples types of colloids at once—being water-based liquid containing pockets of air (foam), chunks of ice crystals (suspensions) and fats (emulsions) all at the same time,” Potter wrote in his book.


Once you understand how science plays on the palate, you can work all sorts of magic. Take one of Potter’s favorites: A mock apple pie doesn’t contain any apples. Instead, it uses crackers—and a keen sense of science—to manipulate the mind of anyone who reaches for a slice.



This story wins the Internet today, at least it gets my award!

Scientific Consensus and Corporate Influence


"A new study published in PNAS explores the messaging of organizations commenting on climate change and their relationship to corporate funding. The sole author, Justin Farrell, finds that those organizations who received corporate funding were likely to network their messaging together, and to engage in a campaign of casting doubt on the scientific consensus. There was no such network among those organizations not receiving corporate funding.


Those who are at odds with a particular scientific consensus will often argue that the scientific consensus can be comfortably ignored. Reasons given are often: the scientific consensus has been wrong in the past, the current consensus is the result of external or internal ideological, political, or financial influence, or there isn’t really a scientific consensus.

Ironically, these campaigns of denial demonstrate that it is not easy to manipulate the scientific consensus.


Despite their motivation, influence, and resources they were unable to affect the scientific consensus on climate change. They could not manufacture a consensus. All they could do is sow doubt in the real scientific consensus, and even then only among those ideologically aligned, not with the public at large, and not within scientific circles.



A good piece that covers the notion that even big money has a hard time changing the reality of the scientific consensus on a variety of issues.

Three Hospital Systems Settle Cases Alleging Pressure on Docs to Refer Patients Within the System

The Corporate Physicians' Dilemma - Three Hospital Systems Settle Cases Alleging Pressure on Employed Physicians to Refer Patients Within the System

"Physicians are sworn to provide the best possible care to each individual patient. Yet in the US, physicians increasingly practice as employees of large organizations, sometime for-profit corporations. Physicians may be in a bind when their bosses pressure them to make patient level decisions so as to increase revenue, regardless of their effects on the patients.

In particular, physicians' oaths may suggest that patients who require referrals for consultation, diagnosis or treatment should go to the professionals and facilities best suited to their particular problems. However, physicians bosses may want physicians to refer patients within their organizations.

Three recent cases illustrate this sort of bind for corporate physicians. All cases involved large monetary settlements by hospital systems of allegations that they paid physicians incentives to refer patients within the system, apparently without regard to patients' needs. They are discussed in roughly chronological order of media coverage.



A good read, but, of course, it's only part of the picture.
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