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.

Tuesday, March 2, 2021

Here comes the sun

If you needed further evidence of why we need sound science education -- and what happens when we don't -- look no further than "Sun Gazing: Why I Stare At the Sun," over at the site in5d Esoteric, Metaphysical, and Spiritual Database.

And in case you're thinking, "No... that headline can't really mean what it sounds like it means," unfortunately it does.

[Image is in the Public Domain courtesy of NASA]

Right out of the starting gate, we're told that all of the stuff we've been told about sunlight exposure causing skin cancer, skin damage, and sun blindness is wrong.  "All of these things," the author tells us, "have little to do really with the sun."

In fact, the opposite is true.  Sun exposure heals melanoma.

So then, what causes skin cancer and sun blindness?  Respectively, the answers are: toxins (of course), and...

... glasses.

Lest you think I'm making this up, here's the relevant passage:
Your skin is your largest eliminatory organ, whereby unprocessed toxins are released through the skin’s pores.  Interactions between the toxins and the sun’s rays, bring about what we know of, as skin cancer. 
Skin damage, such as leathering of the skin, is caused by lack of EFA’s in the diet.  Sun blindness or damage to the eyes, is caused by the use of corrective lenses.  Glasses, and contact lenses both, cause an unnatural glare on the eyes, when exposed to the sun.  This can cause serious damage to the eyes over time.
I just got a new pair of glasses, because (1) I found I was running into walls more than is recommended, and (2) my wife was tired of my handing her stuff with small print and saying, "Carol, is this actually writing?  Like, in English?  If so, what the hell does it say?"  Little did I know that it would cause me to experience "unnatural glare."  I thought all they did was help me see better.

Me, just asking for "serious eye damage"

The other thing I wondered about were "EFAs."  These are never defined in the article, but I found out that it stands for "essential fatty acids," i.e., linoleic acid and alpha-linoleic acid.  So apparently if you consume enough of those, sunburn isn't a problem.

We're also told that sunscreen causes cancer.  So use sesame oil instead.  Presumably that way you'll hear a nice crackling sound as you sit in the sun, similar to chicken wings hitting the oil in a deep fat fryer.

Then we get to the main gist of the article, which suggests that we spend up to fifteen minutes a day staring at the sun.  It has to be near sunrise or sunset, though:
The practice entails looking at the rising or setting sun one time per day only during the safe hours.  No harm will come to your eyes during the morning and evening safe hours.  The safe hours are anytime within 1-hour window after sunrise or anytime within the 1-hr window before sunset.  It is scientifically proven beyond a reasonable doubt that during these times, one is free from UV and IR rays exposure, which is harmful to your eyes.
Righty-o.  It is "scientifically proven" that the sun waits for an hour after rising to switch on its ultraviolet and infrared rays, probably after it's had its second cup of coffee.

Then we're given a variety of puzzling statements and directives:
  • Food makes us commit the maximum pain to others and exploit others.
  • You should walk barefoot for 45 minutes daily for the rest of your life.
  • The sun energy or the sunrays passing through the human eye are charging the hypothalamus tract, which is the pathway behind the retina leading to the human brain.  As the brain receives the power supply through this pathway, it is activated into a "brainutor."  [Nota bene: I am not making this word up.]  One of the software programs inherent in the brain will start running and we will begin to realize the changes since we will have no mental tension or worries.
  • 70 to 80% of the energy synthesized from food is taken by the brain and is used up in fueling tensions and worries.
  • The pineal gland has certain psychic and navigational functions.  Navigational means one can "fly like the birds."
  • After six months of sungazing you will start to "have the original form of micro food, which is our sun."  Whatever the fuck that means.  Additionally, this can avoid the toxic waste that you take into your body while you eat regular food.
  • Photosynthesis, which we misunderstand, does not in fact need chlorophyll.
So science be damned, apparently.  But that won't matter to you, because after nine months of staring at the sun, "you have become a solar cooker."

And no, I did not make that statement up, either.

It's kind of funny that despite the fact that the author is unequivocal about how wonderful sun gazing is, (s)he seems to be aware that this article is 100% unadulterated horseshit.  At the beginning of the article is the following disclaimer:
PLEASE NOTE: This sungazing information is for educational purposes only.  We do not recommend sungazing to anyone.  If you are considering sun gazing, please research this as much as possible.
I dunno, sure as hell sounded like you were recommending it to me.  But in case we were uncertain about that point, it's reiterated at the end:
Disclaimer: The information on this web site is presented for the purpose of educational and free exchange of ideas and speech in relation to health and awareness only.  It is not intended to diagnose any physical or mental condition.  It is not intended as a substitute for the advice and treatment of a licensed professional.  The author of this website is neither a legal counselor nor a health practitioner and makes no claims in this regard.
I'm no legal expert either, but what does the statement "After 3-6 months of sun gazing, physical diseases will start to be cured" sound like to you?

It's obvious that what they're trying to do is to avoid having some newly-blind person sue the shit out of them.  But as far as I understand, you can't just give people bogus medical advice and then get away with it by saying at the end, "Please note: This bogus medical advice is not actually medical advice!"

I'd like to think that no one is gullible enough to fall for this, but you just know that there will be people who are.  Right now there are probably people out there staring at the sun in order to activate the higher vibrations of their chakras, or some such nonsense, and will spend the rest of the day tripping over curbs because they've burned a hole directly through their retinas.

At this point in writing this blog, I'm beginning to lose my sympathy for the people who are getting suckered.  There are laws in place to protect people from being prey of fraudulent medical advice, but at some point you just have to learn enough science to protect yourself.  There will always be charlatans out there trying to sell the newest variety of snake oil, not to mention well-intentioned people who are (to put not too fine a point on it) insane.  So arming yourself with a little bit of science is really your best bet.

That, or a good pair of sunglasses.


The advancement of technology has opened up ethical questions we've never had to face before, and one of the most difficult is how to handle our sudden ability to edit the genome.

CRISPR-Cas9 is a system for doing what amounts to cut-and-paste editing of DNA, and since its discovery by Emmanuelle Charpentier and Jennifer Doudna, the technique has been refined and given pinpoint precision.  (Charpentier and Doudna won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry last year for their role in developing CRISPR.)

Of course, it generates a host of questions that can be summed up by Ian Malcolm's quote in Jurassic Park, "Your scientists were so preoccupied with whether they could, they didn't stop to think if they should."  If it became possible, should CRISPR be used to treat devastating diseases like cystic fibrosis and sickle-cell anemia?  Most people, I think, would say yes.  But what about disorders that are mere inconveniences -- like nearsightedness?  What about cosmetic traits like hair and eye color?

What about intelligence, behavior, personality?

None of that has been accomplished yet, but it bears keeping in mind that ten years ago, the whole CRISPR gene-editing protocol would have seemed like fringe-y science fiction.  We need to figure this stuff out now -- before it becomes reality.

This is the subject of bioethicist Henry Greely's new book, CRISPR People: The Science and Ethics of Editing Humans.  It considers the thorny questions surrounding not just what we can do, or what we might one day be able to do, but what we should do.

And given how fast science fiction has become reality, it's a book everyone should read... soon.

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

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