Thursday, November 23, 2006

An Atheist Thanksgiving Grace

I was sitting in a mall food court of all places a couple days ago and this thinking is there a proper grace for atheists to say over a meal. This is what came to me:

We give thanks to the sun and the ashes of stars. The sunlight for growing the food the nourishes us or that fed the animals that nourished us. The ashes of stars that provided the matter of the solar system and ultimately us. In the act of eating we reconnect with the universe and billions of years of history. We also give thanks for a brain that is conscious of this connection. Perhaps one of the rarest things in the universe.

From the stars we come and the stars we return from now until the end of time.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Guerrilla Skepticism

The forces of evil are all around me even at work. In this case it is what could be laughably called the company health fair. This is what happens when you have a crediphile who is a pilates instructor and a believer in too much new age B.S. help organize. And it clearly shows how much critical thinking skills the HR department has.

OK, so what exactly happened. First the good, you get some represenatatitves from some local gyms come out to try and drum up membership, and even have a few give aways. Some pampheletes from the American Cancer Society and some recipe books from Whole Foods Market and some fruits, juices, and nuts.

Now the bad, we get the other type of nut out there, or more accurately the quacks. The hit of the fair was this guy with this machine from Pharmanex. The machine is called a biophotonic scanner and it is supposed to measure the levels of cartinoids in your system to determine the levels of anti-oxidants in your system. Basically this is to see if the vitamins you are taking are working. Of course, if the scan is low these wonderful people will have all the wonderful vitamins you can take to boost your anti-oxidant levels.

I asked the other person workin with this machine, an acupuncturist, if there were any double-blinded studies on this machine. He said that there were plenty on the website. I looked. I couldn't find anything other than marketing type puff pieces.

Looking through about 5 pages worth of Google searches, I still couldn't find anything other than a clue that this seemed to be another MLM company. Then I found more here. So the most impressive presentation at the fair is from the person using a machine of which I have not seen any evidence of giving any useful date. Even better from their literature I see the following paragraph:
The SCS [Skin Cartenoid Score] will help you determine where you are consuming an adaquate amount of antioxidant containing nutrients. Unlike other biomarkers that you may be familiar with, it does not predict or diagnose disease.

Interesting. Let us now procede to translate bullshit into english:

The SCS score aparently has no validation by the FDA or any legitimate studies so we are not going to make any specific medical claims lest we get busted by the FDA.

Oh, I did get tested by the magic machine. Normal, which they claim is low is 19,000 by their apparently unvalidated numbers and probably no peer reviewed "research." What did I score? 32,000. This is good but the goal should be somewhere above 40,000. Now to be honest they didn't really push any vitamins while I was there, but I do see I can purchase their great LifePak vitamins directly billed for only $52.10 a month. Wow, and I get a pretty good score by trying to eat more fruits and vegtables and taking a CVS housebrand multivitamin that at a cost of $15 that should last me untl 2007.

Now where does the guerrilla skepticism come in. Simple when I saw the fair's A-list was going to be a bunch of quacks I went out to Steven Barrett's Quackwatch site. And printed out a few things quickly made 20 or 50 flyers on the office copier and tossed them on the table with a bunch of the other "literature." You might try this at work as well.

So what is some of the good bits of info I found. You might check these out:

To combat the acupuncturist I set out this:

Acupuncture, Qigong, and "Chinese Medicine"

And for the vitamin pushers this was good:

Dietary Supplements: Appropriate Use

Antioxidants and Other Phytochemicals: Current Scientific Perspective

Until next time, Non illigitamus carborundum. I know I'm trying.