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Alternative Medicine Gimmick of the Week #1: Pen Power!…..

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Pen Power!!!

Pen Power!!!

 

According to the website for this product, a pen which represents a spine bent by chiropractic subluxations,

“the “Subluxated Pen” is a trusted and proven way to promote your practice. Your personalized information is imprinted on the bent part of the pen. The bend in the pen attracts attention in a unique, fun and powerful way. Using the Bent Pen is the inexpensive and professional method for building your patient community.”

 The manufacturers of this promotional product tout the results of a 2008 study performed by ASI (Advertising Specialty Institute) which appear to show that Bent Pens are “the most effective and least expensive form of advertising.” I noticed some shady business when comparing the provided information on the website and the actual report from ASI. Most importantly, the report only mentions writing instruments. It does not specifically look into the effectiveness of Bent Pens themselves. That may not be a distinction that matters, but it could be that people don’t like novelty writing instruments with caps, instead preferring conventional click-top pens. It is unfair to make claims about a specific product based on the data. Despite this fact, the graph used by H.W. Industries on the Bent Pen website, which compares the cost per impression of Bent Pens (using the data based on writing instruments in general) with such advertising entities as magazine ads, prime time television spots and billboards, is made to look as if it came directly from the study. It did not. There is a section which lists the cost per impression of various types of advertising, however. In it, one can easily see that writing instruments, while cheap compared to national magazine ads for example, are no better than caps or bags in this regard.  

In addition to the misleading graph, there is a section on the website which is cut and paste verbatim from the ASI study summary of conclusions. Well, almost verbatim. It curiously left out the part which revealed that of all the studied promotional products, wearable bags delivered the most impressions. The same wearable bags which had an equal cost per impression to writing instruments. Writing instruments provided only the fourth highest number of impressions per month. I guess Bent Bags are too difficult for even chiropractic technology to produce though. Of course a better form of advertising might be actually treating a legitimate medical problem.

To be entirely fair, H.W. Industries is not a chiropractic practice building company. They just seem to sell gimmicky crap, and they are apparantly no less concerned about twisting data to improve their profits than chiropractors are. But I probably shouldn’t be making fun of this at all considering I hand out fetus shaped keychain flashlights.

Written by skepticpedi

May 18, 2009 at 7:15 pm

Skeptical Pearls #2: Beware the Testimonial…..

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Faster than a speeding case report. More powerful than a double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Able to leap peer review in a single bound. Look! Up on the internet! It’s a story. It’s an anecdote. It’s a testimonial!

Every implausible and unproven quack therapy, from acupuncture to quantum healing, comes bearing testimonials of its effectiveness. These stories are typically brief, to the point, extremely powerful and, across the board, absolutely worthless. To anyone with a decent skeptical filter in place, the reliance on testimonials is an obvious sign of a complete lack of credible support for one’s claims. Yet to far too many people there is no introductory phrase more meaningful than “In my experience”. And no amount of published contradictory data or number of explanations from critically minded experts can match the effect from just one of the seemingly neverending supply of these uncontrolled, unblinded, and often tall, tales.

Sadly, even outright harm and suffering, or the complete lack of achieving the claimed benefit, are often unable to shake the faith of one who has stepped over the line that seperates credulity from a more critical approach to one’s health. It is far too easy to rationalize away these failures, placing the blame on themselves or the medical community, when the stranger whose gout was cured by taking goat urine supplements is trusted more than the family doctor. Perhaps the believer doesn’t realize that the near totality of the testimonials seen on television or on the internet are fabricated. Maybe they don’t realize that a significant number of them, as is often the case with fraudulent cancer cures, even when provided by real people are found to be the former words of the now deceased, victims of their disease process, their lack of critical thinking skills, and the bastards profiting off of them. It is more likely, however, that the undue influence of testimonials is hard-wired in the human brain, a remnant of something which at one point bestowed a survival advantage on our primitive ancestors.

There is a reason why quacks rely on testimonials. And that is because they don’t have science in their corner. Sure they will jump on poorly designed studies, usually coming out of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine and published in biased pseudojournals, and tout them as proof of their legitimacy. But they will just as quickly denigrate methodological naturalism and the methods of so-called “western science” when better studies come along revealing their pet delusion to be a charade. The testimonial circumvents this problem, rendering science irrelevant. This is a recipe for disaster, or at the very least a lighter wallet.

Proven treatments don’t need stories. In my line of work I often am faced with parents who refuse recommended practices such as vaccines and the administration of intramuscular vitamin K for newborns. When I am discussing the care of a child with parents, and presenting them with treatment options or evidence-based prophylaxis regimens, I don’t tell them about the time I used a particular treatment and how it cured the patient, or how I had this one kid who suffered a poor outcome because they didn’t get something I recommended. There are too many uncontrolled variables in most clinical situations to trust such anecdotes.  I have to rely on good data, which should not consist of anecdotes regardless of how many I might collect over my career. I would be no better than the quacks I often rant about were I to attempt to manipulate parents with emotional testimonials.

Written by skepticpedi

May 12, 2009 at 11:54 pm

Breaking it Down: How Americans are Special Pleading…..

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Taking a handicap spot

14%- “Of course doctors don’t think it works. You can’t expect to understand my healing powers with western science!”

21%- “God organized fossils that way to make it look like evolution is true…..as a test.”

25%- “My psychic abilities are always blocked whenever a skeptic is around.”

13%- “Recent high definition images of the surface of Mars don’t show any evidence of alien civilization because NASA is covering it all up!”

15%- “We haven’t found any physical remains of Bigfoot because it is an elusive creature and it is rare for fossils to form in the first place. So it is unreasonable to ask for that kind of proof that Bigfoot exists.”

12%- “Other researchers may be easily fooled but I have over thirty years experience in investigating ghostly visitations. I can tell the difference between a hoax and the real thing.”

Written by skepticpedi

May 8, 2009 at 6:22 pm

Posted in General Skepticism

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Opti-Wash Redemption Contact Solution…..

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Are you tired of protein deposits, irritated eyes, and wickedness?

Fear of corneal ulceration and eternal torment in a lake of fire got you down?

Redemption is finally at hand!

OPTI-WASH Redemption contact solution maintains a thin layer of righteous moisture on the surface of your lenses, so they feel fresh and moist for divine comfort throughout the day. And only new OPTI-WASH Redemption, with its complex blend of lubricants, moisturizers, preservatives, and holy water, washes away both lens debris and the day-to-day build up of sin.

When contact lenses are soaked in OPTI-WASH Redemption contact solution, the surface of the lens is reconditioned and blessed every night by adsorbing a proprietary reconditioning and sanctification system. This allows a layer of moisture from your natural tears to be formed on the lens surface, and for the accumulation of transgressions to easily rinse away .

OPTI-WASH Redemption incorporates new ingredients to a disinfection/purgation system that has been used for nearly 2,000 years. Alcon, in cooperation with the Catholic Church continues to develop biblically based technology to care for the new types of contact lenses available. This focus has allowed OPTI-WASH Redemption to continue to achieve a high level of disinfection against both bacteria, fungi, and iniquity.

Always use the contact solution prescribed by your eye doctor or priest. Ask your eye doctor or priest if OPTI-WASH Redemption is right for you. Remember, only your eye doctor or priest can determine the contact lens, solution, and reconciliation combination that is right for you.

Written by skepticpedi

May 6, 2009 at 9:30 am

Posted in Religion, Satire

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Little Tykes Playhouse Foreclosures Reach Record High…..

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Oshkosh, NE-According to an exhaustive survey of backyards and rumpus rooms across the country, the number of preschool aged children going into foreclosure on their Little Tikes Playhouses hit a record high this week, and playtime experts are predicting that the crisis will continue throughout the current year.

“All indications are pointing towards a worsening trend as more and more children ages 2 years and up with subprime loans are simply unable to make payments on their Classic Castles, Country Cottages, and Endless Adventures Patio Playhouses,” Timmy Duncan, senior analyst for the Federal National Mortgage Association’s Toddler Division, explained. “Their Piggy Banks are emptying fast and it is no wonder that many are turning to afternoons of crime.”

As growing numbers of these houses are going into foreclosure, suburban police forces are adapting to the resulting increases in toddler crime. Many are installing child car seats within patrol car suspect transport enclosures and Fisher Price Corn Poppers are fast becoming standard-issue equipment. A race to develop profitable non-lethal methods of incapacitation and containment are being developed by both Lego and Play-Doh.

Written by skepticpedi

May 5, 2009 at 7:18 pm

Posted in Satire, the economy

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Facebook Group Secedes From the United States…..

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Cambridge, MA-In a suprising move earlier today, administrators of the Facebook social group, “1,000,000 People Who Love Kittens!!!”, officially declared their secession from the Unites States.

The group, started by New Jersey homemaker Jeannie Baker in August of last year, currently consists of Jeannie, Jeannie’s best friend Luanne Watkins, and a man listed only as Steve. Displayed in the group’s photo section are nearly three hundred pictures of Jeannie and Luanne’s cats, Monsieur Muffin and Señor Whiskers respectively, as well as a number of drawings of cats by Steve.

President Obama, upon learning of the secession, reacted by ordering an immediate review of the groups submitted secession paperwork. “I immediately put my best people on this,” Obama explained. “But after a thorough review, it’s all there and the administration’s hands are tied on this.”

Constitutional scholar Mort Fishbein agrees. “This isn’t the first time a small group of organized citizens has left the Union. Of course we all learned a powerful lesson from Reagan’s 1983 thermonuclear strike on the Greater Newark Dungeons & Dragons Club. Diplomacy is really the way to go here.”

When told of the groups secession, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg expressed regret but also understanding. “I can’t say I didn’t see this coming. My girlfriend told me that one day my free-access social networking website was going to end up tearing this nation apart.”

Written by skepticpedi

April 28, 2009 at 3:31 pm

Posted in Facebook, Satire

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Unintelligent Design…..

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If man was created in god’s image, then god has lower back pain and an enlarged prostate.

Written by skepticpedi

April 23, 2009 at 9:36 pm

Posted in Evolution, Religion

Tagged with ,

Starbucks to Offer Retail-Based Health Care Clinic…..

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Seattle, WA-Starbucks, the largest coffeehouse company in the world, announced earlier today that it would begin opening retail-based health care clinics in select locations as early as July.

According to Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, the decision to expand into medical care was inspired by the growing popularity of clinics in supermarkets and pharmacies. “Folks are hurting out there, and retail-based clinics are a more economical option in many circumstances,” Schultz explains. “Starbucks will offer convenience and reasonable prices for the treatment of common medical concerns just like we do for whole bean organic Mexican shade grown medium roast coffee.”

But Schultz adds that Starbucks won’t be unveiling just another version of the CVS MinuteClinic or Walgreens Take Care Clinic. “There is a growing mistrust of mainstream medical establishments, regardless of whether they are located in a doctor’s office, a hospital, or a Walmart. And this won’t be one of them.”

Schultz points to a 2008 survey of health care consumers from the Center for Responsible Application of Pseudoscience (CRAP), a Seattle based think tank coincidentally located in the basement of a Starbucks. Advanced statistical analysis of the survey of nearly eleventy thousand adults revealed that almost 80% of responders would prefer that their medical care be provided by practitioners open to drawing from the world of alternative medicine for more natural treatment options. In response to epidemiological data like this, and the mounting evidence in CRAP approved peer-reviewed journals supporting the safety and efficacy of alternative therapies, Starbucks will staff its clinics with acupuncturists, chiropractors, and energy healers instead of the typical nurse practitioner. These operations will be supervised by naturopathic physicians.

Written by skepticpedi

April 22, 2009 at 7:59 pm

Dan Aykroyd on UFOs…..

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While not having achieved nearly the same degree of irrational thinking as Jenny McCarthy and her anti-vaccine brigade, SNL alumnus Dan Aykroyd has in the past few years surfaced as a UFO conspiracy theorist. I stumbled on this video of Aykroyd taken from an April 9th promotion of his Crystal Head vodka in Morris County, New Jersey, home of a recent high profile UFO hoax. In it he commits a few errors in thinking.

“Well I’ve seen two of them. They were flying end to end, wing to wing, at about 100,ooo feet doing about 20,oo0 miles per hour, zig zagging through the sky and meteoric bolides don’t do that. I’ve had unsolicited in seven states that I’ve been through at least twenty people come up and privately tell me their experiences. And they didn’t seem crazy to me.”

Aykroyd considers his own personal anecdotal experience to be valid evidence. Sometimes personal observances of unusual phenomena are helpful, but rarely in cases of unusual occurences such as UFO sightings. They invariably prove to be innaccurate. Steve Novella sums this up well:

“Sometimes people do report details, like windows or fins. They also report objects moving at fantastic speeds or carrying out seemingly impossible maneuvers. However, when viewing an object against the sky, without a clear background for reference, it is impossible to estimate size, distance, and speed, and we are subject to optical illusions. Such details are therefore not reliable, and there are numerous cases when they are demonstrably wrong.”

Meteoric bolides don’t do that, as Aykroyd correctly points out, but because of the weaknesses inherent in human neurology, he can’t really say for certain that what claims to remember is what really happened. We would have to know more to the story but I think that if there were a series of pictures or a video of the sighting it would have made the rounds by now. At best, all Aykroyd can claim is that he saw something which he could not identify. In reality, this could have been any of a large number of objects, including an alien piloted spacecraft, but it is a rather closed-minded argument from ignorance to assume that it is a visitor from another galaxy.

Many people who would not be deemed crazy, to use Aykroyd’s word, by most folks have reported UFO sightings. But even if these reports numbered in the millions it would still not serve as proof that alien beings are making pitstops here on earth. The plural of anecdote, as they say, is anecdotes not evidence. Even the most skilled observers have been fooled by ordinary objects. And all of us have had even so-called flashbulb memories become warped over time.

I hope Aykroyd does well in the vodka business, at least better than in his movie career since the 80′s. Regardless, as one woman in the video exclaims, proving there are some decent skeptics in New Jersey, “I’d physically have to see the little guys running around in front of me before I’d believe it.” While not completely accurate, as I’d settle for less than that, such as a few unambiguous photo series or videos that don’t fall apart under scientific investigation, her statement exemplify the classic skeptical adage that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

Written by skepticpedi

April 12, 2009 at 9:35 pm

Acupuncture for Chronic Itching?…..

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The following gem was included in an Australian Broadcasting Corporation report on the recent identification by University of Minnesota researchers of specific spinothalamic tract neurons implicated in the sensation of itching and shut down by the act of scratching. The researchers, whose study is published as a Brief Communication in the April issue of Nature Neuroscience, express hope that now that this pathway has been discovered, it may eventually pave the way for treatments, pharmaceutical or involving electrical stimulation, that replicate the phenomenon and render scratching obsolete. For folks with certain conditions associated with chronic itching, which can be debilitating for some, this would be a welcome advance.

“Professor Marcello Costa, a neuroscientist at Adelaide’s Flinders University, says a pain treatment like acupuncture could be developed for itching.

“The acupuncture is not damaging, it’s a little bit invasive but it works very well because it activates much better than just rubbing,” Professor Costa said.

“So we all discovered rubbing by ourselves, just like we discovered scratching; we have a scientific rubbing which is called acupuncture but we don’t have a scientific scratching. So I expect this paper will generate interest in developing such a scientific scratcher.””

In the article, it is implied that Costa was one of the scientists or doctors in Australia excited by the team’s findings, and he appears to have no connection with the research. In reading the full text of the paper, I can find no mention of acupuncture so it would seem that Costa came completely out of left field with this comment, which makes not a lick of sense. How does one develop a new acupuncture treatment? Does a new acupuncture point, where there exists yet another mysterious blockage of “energy” as it courses along its equally enigmatic meridian, need to be discovered? One that impacts this specific spinothalamic tract pathway?

Clearly Costa already knows that acupuncture “works very well” for itching because it “activates much better than rubbing”. But activates what? Regardless, I’m sure we will soon be reading about a landmark study proving that acupuncture cures itching. It will involve a small number of unblinded subjects with no control group naturally but that won’t matter to the people that already know it works.

Written by skepticpedi

April 10, 2009 at 10:07 pm

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