Skepticism, Religion Archive

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

TV Host Not Sure if Earth Is Round or Flat

Now, I don't use this blog much simply to post links to other sites or other people's blog entries. I mean, this blog isn't popular enough that a link from me would really increase traffic to another site at all, so I usually only link to other sites when I have something to add. But this topic strikes a chord with me, so I thought I'd include this link.

For years, I've been saying that rejecting evolution was about like rejecting that the Earth was round. I thought that doubting a roughly spherical earth was such a ludicrous position, that it would only be the craziest of the crazies that thought that way. Surely, in the United States, where everybody gets an education, any reasonably normal person would know the shape of our planet. Well apparently, my definition of "reasonably normal" doesn't include talk show hosts:

Sherri Shepherd, co-host of The View, stated that she isn't sure if the Earth is round or flat.

You can read more about it here.

To be fair, after watching the clip, from the way she's talking I get the feeling that she may have made a poorly worded statement just for the argument, and that she didn't really believe it, but she refused to back down from her point because she didn't want to admit that she was wrong. I'll admit, I've sort of done that before, but never with an arugment so stupid as that, and never one that was very far from my actual position. So, even if this woman's not dumb as a post or comletely ignorant, she was willing to say she wasn't sure what shape the earth was during a debate and not be completely embarrassed by that. So, even giving her the benefit of the doubt, she obviously doesn't have that much respect for knowledge.

I never watch The View, so I don't know what their show's all about. Maybe it's kind of like an upscale Howard Stern - have a moderator bring in a few crazies just for entertainment value. If that's the case, they certainly do a good job at it. I just hope that it's not a respected talk show, that people listen to for informed debate. On the other hand, I haven't heard much from the other hostesses, so I don't know if they all have views as weird as that Shepherd lady - maybe she's just the comic relief or the designated punching bag, to make the other three look good.

Anyway, I'm shocked a person with that mindset could get a job that pays that well, spouting off that type of nonsense, too. Where do I sign up?

added 2007-09-21: I just talked this over with a guy I know. He thinks I'm being too generous - he thinks she's just a moron. But, we both agreed, that even if she was doing it to defend a previous argument, unless it's some philosophical point about solipsism or a Matrix type universe, any argument that requires you to admit that you don't know if the earth is round or flat is a really, really bad argument.

Friday, September 7, 2007

My Hundredth Blog Entry & An Announcement

Foreword & Disclaimer Added 2007-09-14

Okay, in the feedback I've gotten to this (from a blog comment, e-mail, and a especially some real, live conversations), people seem to have a problem with the word, "atheist." Atheist has different shades of meaning depending on who you ask, and in the more popular usage, perhaps I'd be better described as agnostic. In the comments to this entry, I brought up the term, "freethinker," and I'm beginning to think that I might like that even better, since, as I point out in another comment, I think the thought processes we use to arrive at our conclusions are as important as the conclusions themselves. And by stressing the process, and not always the final destination, it allows you to find more commonality with people who came to different conclusions. My point is, if you're reading this entry, please don't get hung up on the term, "atheist." Please read what my actual position is.

I'd also add, that if you read this, and find it very objectionable, and also happen to know where I work, don't take it as a reflection of the others where I work or the company. As far as I know, I'm the only non-believer. Plus, every other week when we go out to eat as a group, somebody always says a prayer (never me, of course).


Doing some maintenance on my blog recently, I noticed that I had 99 entries so far. That makes this entry 100. So, for my hundredth entry, I wanted to make it something kind of special. So, I have an announcement:

I'm an atheist.

Okay, so it's not an earth shattering announcement, but it's something I've been wanting to get off my chest for a while now. It probably comes as no surprise to many people - indeed, my family and many of my friends already know. And anybody that reads this blog and the essays on my main website would have seen how I'd been moving away from Christianity (such as this essay, where I'd finally decided that the Bible isn't divinely inspired). And, I've been leaving comments on other blogs discussing my atheism, even though I wasn't open about it on my own blog. I'd even already received some e-mail from people accusing me of being an atheist long before I actually became one, simply because I accepted evolution.

Okay, first things first, let me get a few things out of the way (by quoting and paraphrasing from other essays I've written). I didn't become an atheist just because I didn't like going to church Sunday mornings, or because I didn't want to have to follow the rules anymore. I don't "hate God" (it's a little hard to hate an entity you don't believe in). I read the Bible. I studied science. I read up on philosophy. I became an atheist because that's the way I think the universe really is. And don't confuse atheism with Postmodernism or Nihilism. I still think there's an objective reality. I still worry about how to be a good person. I just no longer see a god as being part of that.

Second, don't confuse atheism with certainty - I'm not absolutely one-hundred percent certain about anything. However, I'm about as sure that the Earth is a globe that orbits the Sun as I am that the Bible was written by people, and that a God as presented in the Bible doesn't exist. I'm not as certain that no type of divine being exists at all. I don't see an absolute reason why there would have to be one, and I haven't seen any good positive evidence for such a being, so the default position is to doubt its existence. But, I still can't be positive that a god/gods doesn't exist. So, I leave open the slight possibility that gods could possibly exist, but I base my worldview on the idea that they probably don't.

Continue reading "My Hundredth Blog Entry & An Announcement" »

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Letter to Pharmacy about MBT Shoes

Sorry for not making a post last week, but I was on vacation with my family (who am I apologizing to? I don't have any regular readers). So, here's a short post to make up for not having one last week, and I'll try to write up something else before the end of the week.

Actually, this is just quick follow up to the post about Massai Barefoot Technology Shoes. I mentioned in the beginning of that post that it was in a pharmacy where I originally saw those shoes. To be exact, the pharmacy was Harvest Drug & Gift. I'd already intended contacting them about the shoes before visiting their website, but once I did actually visit the site this past Monday, I saw just how prominently they were displaying MBT shoes. So, I sat myself right down and wrote them an e-mail, copied below.

I recently visited your store and saw the MBT shoes you had on display. They piqued my interest, so I did a little research about them. Admittedly, I'm neither a doctor nor a scientist, but from the information I could find, I did have some concerns regarding these shoes. I would assume that as doctors, your primary concern is the well being of your patients, so I thought you might be interested in what I found.

I have a detailed write-up of what I found on my personal website at:
[link - I included the actual url in the letter, but it's so long it screws up the formatting on this page.]

Here are the major points:
  • MBT shoes do show promise, but the studies to date have only been preliminary - more follow up studies are needed to confirm their efficacy.
  • There haven't been enough clinical studies done with these shoes to identify possible negative side effects.
  • Anecdotal evidence suggests that there are serious side effects possible from long term use of these shoes.
  • One study which examined relieving knee pain in patients with knee osteoarthritis did not find a big difference between MBT shoes and "conventional" New Balance sneakers.

In light of the anecdotal evidence suggesting negative side effects, the lack of clinical studies addressing the issue, and considering that at least one study found significantly less expensive shoes accomplishing nearly the same results, I would suggest being very cautious in recommending these shoes to your customers, and possibly even recommending that they only use the shoes under the guidance of a physician or physical therapist (as was suggested by one therapist quoted in one of the articles I found). Perhaps you already do counsel your customers in such a way, or do have some warning signs posted that I missed, in which case this e-mail is completely unnecessary. Or perhaps you know of some studies which do address side effects, in which case I'd be grateful if you could pass them on to me so that I could update the article on my website.

Sincerely,
Jeff Lewis

If I hear anything back from the pharmacy, I'll post it on this blog. But seeing as how it's been a couple days already without even an acknowledgement of receipt, I'm not holding my breath. Maybe I'll try snail mail if I don't hear back from them within a couple weeks.


Added 2009-07-08 I realize that I mentioned my original MBT post at the beginning of this entry, but I just want to be sure that readers don't miss it. It contains a much more in depth look at the shoes, and has generated a good discussion in the comments section::
A Skeptical Look at Masai Barefoot Technology Shoes

Thursday, July 26, 2007

A Skeptical Look at Masai Barefoot Technology Shoes

MBT Sport GreyI was at the drug store the other day waiting on a prescription, when I noticed people trying on some funny shapped shoes that had curved soles. So, I walked over to the display and took a closer look. They were called MBT shoes, which stands for Masai Barefoot Technology, and are made by the company, Swiss Masai. They had hand-out brochures, so I took one to read while I was waiting. (Note that I will refer to the company as both MBT and Swiss Masai in this essay, as it appears that the company does the same on their website.)

For some of the research for this entry, I used MBT's website. It's an annoying, flash laden site that doesn't let you just sit and read about the technology, without having some java script decide you've spent enough time on that section and then brings up something else. Also, I couldn't find some of the statements on the website that first caught my eye on that brochure - so if you go to visit the site looking for them, you may not find them, either.

Anyway, there are a couple issues I want to discuss in this entry - briefly, whether or not these shoes have anything to do with "barefoot technology," and then in more depth, whether or not these shoes might actually have some therepeutic value.

I realize now as I'm getting ready to post this entry, that it's grown longer than I'd originally anticipated, so I'll get right to the point up front, before addressing the details. MBT shoes do show promise for treating certain conditions. However, there is anecdotal evidence that they can cause significant negative side effects. Additionally, there are not enough clinical studies addressing their efficacy or possible side effects.

Continue reading "A Skeptical Look at Masai Barefoot Technology Shoes" »

Thursday, May 31, 2007

NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin, Doesn't Think Global Climate Change Is a Problem

On the ride in to work this morning, I was listening to NPR as normal, and they were interviewing a couple people about NASA funding, Greg Easterbrook and NASA Administrator, Michael Griffin. Michael Griffin made a few comments that were so stupid, I had a hard time believing I'd caught his name right. After all, it's always a little tough to catch who they're interviewing when you pick up in mid stream, and when you're driving and have to pay attention to the other cars on the road more than the radio, but I checked the NPR website, and sure enough, I got it right.

Now the interview was about a lot more than just global warming, but it was one of the topics they brought up. Here's part of the transcript from NPR's website, with the interviewr's questions in bold, and Griffin's responses following.

It has been mentioned that NASA is not spending as much money as it could to study climate change — global warming — from space. Are you concerned about global warming?

I'm aware that global warming exists. I understand that the bulk of scientific evidence accumulated supports the claim that we've had about a one degree centigrade rise in temperature over the last century to within an accuracy of 20 percent. I'm also aware of recent findings that appear to have nailed down — pretty well nailed down the conclusion that much of that is manmade. Whether that is a longterm concern or not, I can't say.

So, he acknowledges that this is a real phenomenon, that people are responsible for it, and that it's already had a measurable effect. But then in the next breath says he's not sure if it's a longterm concern. Whaaaa?

Do you have any doubt that this is a problem that mankind has to wrestle with?

I have no doubt that … a trend of global warming exists. I am not sure that it is fair to say that it is a problem we must wrestle with. To assume that it is a problem is to assume that the state of Earth's climate today is the optimal climate, the best climate that we could have or ever have had and that we need to take steps to make sure that it doesn't change. First of all, I don't think it's within the power of human beings to assure that the climate does not change, as millions of years of history have shown. And second of all, I guess I would ask which human beings — where and when — are to be accorded the privilege of deciding that this particular climate that we have right here today, right now is the best climate for all other human beings. I think that's a rather arrogant position for people to take.

Whoah, I'm dizzy from that change in direction. In that first section I quoted, he admits that the current climate change is caused by people, and then here, one question later, he says we don't have the power to keep the climate from changing. And then he has the gall to say that people that want to stop human induced climate change are being arrogant! That's like someone going around and intentionally starting forest fires, and then when the firefighters show up, he calls them arrogant for assuming that potential future residents might not want trees in their back yard.

Look - it's not like the current situation is a natural phenomenon that we want to stop. Noone's suggesting something like stopping plate tectonics because we happen to like geography the way it is. The fact of the matter is that this is a human caused phenomenon, and the rates of change are going to be much higher than most times in that "millions of years of history" Griffin referred to. Sure, life on this planet will continue, and humanity will most likely make it through, too, but unless we start taking some drastic action now, it's going to be one hell of a ride before things settle out.

This was good timing. When I checked Pharyngula today, there was an entry about a new site devoted to answering climate skeptics. Go check it out to see some responses to common arguments. And don't forget to check out RealClimate, either, which has much more actual data.

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