Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Fighting visual malware with water

One of the things that baffles me about woo-woos is how they never, ever give up.

When I'm proven wrong, I usually (1) feel extremely embarrassed about it, and (2) retreat in disarray.  Oh, and (3) do everything I can to make sure I don't make the same error the next time.  I mean, everyone makes mistakes, so I probably shouldn't overreact to it the way I do; but I like to think that as a writer on science and skepticism, I'm conscientious enough to check my facts and sources.  Otherwise, I'm really no better than the people I rail against on a daily basis.

So getting caught out hits me where it hurts, you know?

Not so, apparently, in the woo-woo world.  You can be laughed into oblivion, and you just keep on moseying on ahead as if nothing was wrong.

As an especially good example of this, remember Dr. Charlene Werner?  She was the star of a viral YouTube video a few years back called "Crazy Homeopathy Lady," the title of which you'd think would be devastating enough.  In this video, she attempts to explain homeopathy thusly:
  • The mass in the universe is "infinitesimal."  Since mass is the "m" in E = mc2 , she says that because the mass is so small this crosses the "m" out, which means that "energy = light."  (The whole effect is accentuated by the fact that she pronounces the word "infant-esimal," which sounds like a descriptor for a really little baby.)
  • Something about "Stephen Hawkings" and vibrations and quantum.
  • Fascinating discourse on string theory, starting with the fact that strings are "little u-ies."
  • A bizarre analogy wherein she compares homeopathy's effects to a neighbor's dog pooping on your lawn, causing you to throw a bomb at your neighbor's house.
If you've never seen this video, I highly recommend it.  I can say from experience that it's even more fun to watch while drunk, although I won't be held responsible if you laugh so hard you fall out of your chair and spill scotch all over your carpet.

[Image is in the Public Domain]

So anyhow.  This video has received millions of views, and tens of thousands of comments, most of which were of the "Holy shit, this woman is insane" variety.  So you'd think that any normal human being who got this kind of feedback would sort of vanish from the public eye.  Most of us, in fact, would probably want to crawl under a rock.

Not so Charlene Werner.  She's baaaaaack, on a website called "Simply Healthy Self," wherein she makes statements that very nearly exceed the wackiness of the ones she made in the video.  Here's a sampler:
Imagine your vision system has qualities similar to a computer.  The photoreceptors are like your keys on your keyboard.  There are approximately 1.2 million of them in each eye.  When clicked or activated with light, the data from your 'visual keyboard' relays to your brain.  Your brain has characteristics similar to a hard drive with an operating system that runs all the 'software programs' or functions in your body, such as moving your eye muscles, tracking, focusing, and visual memory.  Even your heart, kidney, lungs, and all your bodily functions depend on accurate key strokes from your photoreceptors and other sensory input, access to your brain (hard drive), a powerful operating system, and efficient use of software programs.
Yup.  Your kidneys depend on information from your eyes.  Which explains why blind people never have to pee.
Homeopathy then scans your system to eliminate 'viruses' or 'malware', which are often belief systems or programmed patterns that interrupt your system's smooth functioning.
So a bottle of water with no active ingredients is the medical equivalent of Norton AntiVirus?  If only we'd realized sooner that these "remedies" can fix faulty belief systems, we might have avoided having our government turned into Corruption "R" Us by a man whose chief claim to fame seems to be embodying all Seven Deadly Sins in one individual.
When we consider the whole of man we can even make a further leap……that mass in the universe by definition is matter, matter is substance, the substance of man is cells, and cells can be broken down into compounds, compounds into elements, and elements into tiny particles of energy called electrons, protons, neutrons, and sub-atomic particles held together by an “invisible” force such that what may look like a physical body is merely energy.
An explanation which is to physics what "The foot-bone's connected to the shin-bone, the shin-bone's connected to the knee-bone" is to medical science.

Then we get bunches of testimonials about how Dr. Werner's treatments have cured everything from rheumatoid arthritis to bad eyesight to being lousy at sports.

Which is pretty impressive, because homeopathy has failed to show measurable results in every controlled study ever done.  Ever.  Clear enough?  What she's proposing is unscientific horse waste, and her "success stories" are the result of the placebo effect at best.

None of which, of course, is going to change a thing.  If the reception her bizarre YouTube video received didn't make her reconsider her position, nothing will.  Unfortunately, there are still people who buy what she's selling (literally and figuratively), although it's to be hoped that the support for such completely disproven modalities as homeopathy is waning.

The chance of convincing Dr. Werner, however, is "infant-esimal."


This week's Skeptophilia book recommendation of the week should be in everyone's personal library.  It's the parting gift we received from the brilliant astrophysicist Stephen Hawking, who died two years ago after beating the odds against ALS's death sentence for over fifty years.

In Brief Answers to the Big Questions, Hawking looks at our future -- our chances at stopping anthropogenic climate change, preventing nuclear war, curbing overpopulation -- as well as addressing a number of the "big questions" he references in the title.  Does God exist?  Should we colonize space?  What would happen if the aliens came here?  Is it a good idea to develop artificial intelligence?

And finally, what is humanity's chance of surviving?

In a fascinating, engaging, and ultimately optimistic book, Hawking gives us his answers to the questions that occupy the minds of every intelligent human.  Published posthumously -- Hawking died in March of 2018, and Brief Answers hit the bookshelves in October of that year -- it's a final missive from one of the finest brains our species ever produced.  Anyone with more than a passing interest in science or philosophy should put this book on the to-read list.

[Note: if you purchase this book using the image/link below, part of the proceeds goes to support Skeptophilia!]

No comments:

Post a Comment