Monday, January 28, 2008

Have you read this thing you say is inerrant?

Right now on the Colbert Report is some nutjob who claims that every word of the Bible is inerrant. Okay, let's put aside all the provable contradictions in it for the moment. Here's the problem I'm seeing: This guy has a Van Dyke (which is what most people call a goatee). The Bible makes it clear in Leviticus 19:27 that you aren't to mar your beard at all. I can see stretching this to make it okay to shave it all off, but something like a Van Dyke is clean out. This leaves two possibilities: This man hasn't really read the Bible closely, or he doesn't really believe it should be taken literally (I lump in being willing to reinterpret it in this category). Personally, I'm betting on the former, but I could be wrong here.

Proceed with your information binge...

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Streisand Effect Redux

When will people learn? Trying to censor information on the internet has the opposite effect. First it was the Society of Homeopaths, now it's some nutjob named Dr. Joseph Chikelue Obi (who's done less work to actually earn a doctorate than your average undergrad). Well, you asked for it. Below the fold are copies of both of Le Canard Noir's censored posts.

Right Royal College of Pompous Quackery - Dublin, Thursday, September 28, 2006

I had to share this with you. Following on from my recent Quack Word 'Doctor' blog, I came across the Royal College of Alternative Medicine (RCAM) , a Dublin based - well, I'm not sure quite what it is...

What caught my eye was just the shameless aggrandisement of the site. It is quite hilarious, if not a little repetitive at times. Calling yourself 'Doctor' is somewhat pompous when all you have done is paid for some international postage. However, the man behind RCAM has absolutely no shame and titles himself as the:

Distinguished Provost of RCAM (Royal College of Alternative Medicine) Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK)

Wow! Probably, just Joe to his mates. Naturally, when you Google the qualification FRCAM(Dublin), there is only person who appears to revel in this achievement. I'll leave the rest as an excercise for the reader.

The distinguished provost looks like he is just another pseudoscientific nutritionist, his spin being "Nutritional Immunomodulation". This is obviously a lot more clever than Patrick Holfords mere 'Optimum Nutrition', but having only one 'omnipill' is probably a poorer commercial decision that Patrick's vast range of supplements.

Obviously, Professor Obi has had a few problems with what probably amount to bewildering comments about his site as the legal threats and press releases concerning his 'ethical' responses to criticisms cover more space than anything else. 'Ethical' is a favourite word on the site.

The most recent press release states,

7th September 2006 : The Distinguished RCAM Provost, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi FRCAM(Dublin) FRIPH(UK) FACAM(USA) MICR(UK) has formally accepted appointment as Chief Professorial Examiner for the Doctor of Science (DSc) programme in Evidence Based, Alternative Medicine (EBAM) of a highly respected International University in one of the British Commonwealth Protectorates.

This new qualification is primarily aimed at Medical Graduates, Physicians, Surgeons, Pharmacists, Dentists, Osteopaths, Chiropractors, Opticians, Wellness Consultants, Herbalists, Acupuncturists, Naturopaths , Healers, Podiatrists , Chiropodists , Scientists , Healers ,Therapists, Homeopaths, Chinese Medicine Practitioners and Nurses wishing to ethically upgrade their current Qualifications in Alternative Medicine over an exceedingly intensive 12 - 36 month period of study.

British Commonwealth Protectorates? Could that be Dublin?

I really have no idea what this organisation is all about. But it looks like it could be getting quite big soon...

RCAM currently has International Vacancies for One Million (1,000,000) 'Foundation Fellows' ('Movers and Shakers') ; who will independently play a highly pivotal role in diligently mentoring (and regulating) it's future Global Membership.

So if you really think that you seriously have what it takes to become a 'Leader' in Alternative Medicine , then (perhaps) RCAM may definitely be exactly what the Doctor ordered for you.

One million. That's a lot of quacks! And they are just to mentor (and regulate) the wider quack membership! This man has ambition.

The Big J really hates real doctors. This is his most recent press release...

RCAM would like to warmly commend the various Chieftans of the National Health Service of the United Kingdom for ethically and appropriately ignoring utterly misguided calls (from a rather amusing Group of thirteen Clinical Yestermen) to compel Hard-Working (and Tax-Paying) British Citizens to additionally pay for Life Enhancing Alternative Medicine Interventions out of their very own pockets - rather than get such treatments free via the NHS. RCAM would like to also categorically state that such exceedingly flawed 'G-13′ demands that the National Health Service of the United Kingdom expediently abandon Alternative Medicine altogether (in total favour of Conventional Medicine) be diplomatically treated with the very utmost contempt which such unguarded verbal flippance duly deserves ; as none of these 13 'Eminent UK Scientists' behind such calls has professionally attained Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications in Alternative Medicine and as such cannot be deemed competent enough to make such sweeping 'Shilly-Shally' statements about the noble independent specialty of Alternative Medicine.

RCAM therefore publicly advises the General Public to lawfully go about their normal Wellness-Seeking Behaviour as usual - without any unwarranted prejudice or fear resulting from such highly self-serving, morally unethical , abjectly crude , totally unprofessional, utterly unstatesmanly, morbidly barbaric, wantonly uncivilized, profanely undemocratic and unspeakably sacrilegious perpetual affronts on the therapeutically formidable institution of Alternative Medicine.

Now, I do not have 'Globally Acceptable Fellowship Qualifications' in Santa Clause Studies to know he does not exist. But hey. I must be a morbidly barbaric and profanely undemocratic, unethical duck.

So, struggling around the acres of pomposity I find one place where Prof Joe might be making some money. You can call him to seek his wisdom, after pre-booking an hour's slot (and handing over your credit card) for a mere 300 Euros. Alternatively, you can pay by the minute on the contact line for a trifling $10 per minute.

Its going to cost you $20 just for Joe to say Hello and to read out his numerous titles, qualifications and names. Not bad 'ethical' work.

Ethical Quackery, the Monarchy and Kate Moss - Thursday, October 12, 2006

No, this is not about our Defender of Quackery, our Quack-in-Chief His Royal Quackiness, Prince Charles, but about the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Joseph Chikelue Obi. And yes, it is just a rather lame story written solely to get a picture of Kate on my blog.

I've written a rather lazy blog on the distinguished professor before that was just a bit of a gawp at his quacktastic website and what looks like a health phone-line scam.

Well, I've done a little more digging with Google and it has revealed a few quack gems. It has been pretty hard work, since Google returns some 6,000 pages, the vast majority just appears to be Prof Obi's self-promotion. However, if you persist in digging a few interesting facts turn up.

So, what has the little black duck found out about the "most Controversial Retired Physician and 'A-List' Medical Celebrity, Dr Joseph Chikelue Obi"?

Here we go...

1. The Irish Independent reports that his college does not exist at the Dublin address given on the web site. There's a surprise! It's just a front.

2. The Independent goes on. "In January 2003, he was suspended by for serious professional misconduct at South Tyneside District Hospital. Among the allegations made were that he failed to attend to patients, wrote strange notes about colleagues and at one point gave a dating agency phone number to a psychiatric patient."

3. He was being investigated by the police for taking thousands of pounds of a 58 year old woman to in order to cure a long standing illness.

4. The GMC strike Dr Obi off their register for "serious professional misconduct". So much for him being retired.

5. On another tack, Dr Obi has been involved in a little cyber-squatting. This looks as if it took place while he was a doctor - always after a few quid!

6. Since then, now self-titled Prof Obi, a few new avenues have been opened, including trying to entice Kate Moss away to one of his 'safe-houses' in Ireland. Hat's off!

He is quoted as saying:

Under the European Convention on Human Rights, Miss Moss still has fundamental rights, just like anyone else out there, and as far as I am concerned, she is not guilty of anything until an Ethical Jury says so.

(I mentioned before that 'ethical' was one of his favourite words.)

7. Prof Obi has been developing a Penis Enlarger (watch out Kate) that his own Royal College has now endorsed.

8. At least one person (out of the targeted million) has paid Prof Obi the fees for his college to accredit them. Dr Michael Keet (8 Canards) of the Central London College of Reflexology handed over 'hundreds'. Do we feel sorry for out-quacked quacks? I guess we ought to.

9. For those of you wanting to see behind the grand titles and see the real human being, Joseph lists his interests as Comedy in London, Whole Food Nutrition and Christian Music. On this 'Meetup' site, he describes himself as "Just a very ordinary guy . . .". That's nice.

10. His name appears very often on the blog Abolish The General Medical Council (GMC), often reporting something he has got up to. The blog describes itself as:

An ethical blog for those who publicly feel that the General Medical Council (GMC) should be Statutorily Abolished in favour of a Medical Licensing Commission (MLC) to solely register and revalidate Doctors who practise Conventional Medicine in the UK. The Blog also recommends that the GMC/MLC hands all disciplinary functions over to an Independent Clinical Tribunal (ICT) in keeping with the EU Convention on Human Rights ; to avoid (both) Institutional Bias and Multiple Jeopardy.

Oooh. There is that word 'ethical' again. And 'European Human Rights'. No name is given for the blog author but the avatar is a portrait of the queen. Another apparent obsession of Prof Obi - royalty. Could the author be none other than the Professor himself, a little agrieved for his ticking off? I hope you all click through to the blog. Maybe we will show up in his stats and whoever the writer is can get in contact and confirm one way or another.

I rather hope it is, as the final thing I turned up would just be fantastic...

11. Is the Distinguished Provost of the Royal College of Alternative Medicine, Professor Obi now selling ethical ring-tones? I do hope so.

Watch out Crazy Frog! Here comes the Crazy Provost...

Proceed with your information binge...

Monday, January 07, 2008

Goose Report '08

January 6th. Fucking January, fucking 6th, in fucking Canada. The snow's already melting, and the geese are already back, and yet we're not even halfway through what winter is supposed to be yet.

You might remember that last year I clocked the geese returning on March 16. I then went on a bit about Global Warming. Most of my comments there are still valid, so go and read that and the follow-up post if you haven't already. Today, my mind being a little bit blown by seeing the geese back this early, excuse me if I rant a little.

Okay, how the hell can so many seemingly thinking, rational people still doubt Global Warming? I can understand doubt coming from those who have a vested interest in it not being true, along with those who get all of their information form such sources. That's just confirmation bias (or lying) and Garbage In, Garbage Out respectively at work. I don't like it, but it's no surprise.

Particularly on my mind right now is the issue of South Park creators, Matt Stone and Trey Parker, thanks to an episode I saw a couple days ago. They seem to really have it in for Global Warming. Now, they seem to go out of their way to attack any and everything, so an episode or two on it wouldn't be surprising or anything to worry about. I'm not going to pretend her that there aren't some people who go a bit overboard in their zeal and deserve a little mockery for it, but that apparently isn't the extent of Matt and Trey's attacks.

From my count, it seems that South Park has, directly or indirectly, addressed Global Warming in five separate episodes: "Spontaneous Combustion," "Two Days Before the Day After Tomorrow," "ManBearPig," "Terrance and Phillip: Behind the Blow," and "Imaginationland" (episodes II and III). So, it's clear that Matt and Trey really have it in for Global Warming, and it's probably a safe bet they doubt the validity of Anthropogenic Global Warming and/or the possible consequences.

The question then is: Why? The two of them have shown remarkable skepticism in the past, taking down the likes of John Edwards ("The Biggest Douche in the Universe"), psychic detectives ("Carman's Incredible Gift"), and too many aspects of religion to mention. So what's different here?

Getting the obvious possibility out of the way: They're right, we're wrong. I don't really buy this one, of course. Personally, I don't know enough about climate science to study everything and come up with my own, independant conclusion (to any degree of confidence that I could challenge people who study it for a living), so I'm left trusting the experts. And the conclusion among them is that AGW is real and a problem. There are, of course, dissenters, but many of them have corporate ties you'd expect to introduce a bias or are so obviously cranky that I can debunk their claims myself.

So why don't Matt and Trey simply trust the experts here? Well, I'm guessing it's simply because they think the experts are wrong. I'm not going to hazard a guess right now as to why this is, as there are many possible ways they could have come to this conclusion, and I have no evidence for any particular one of them.

What I will bring up here is why they stick to this belief. For this, the chapter from the paperback edition of Michael Sheremer's Why People Believe Weird Things, "Why Smart People Believe Weird Things" gives us a very good answer. If you haven't read that, I'd recommend checking it out for the full story, but to sum it up: Smart people are very good at defending beliefs they arrived at through irrational reasoning.

This raises the issue of how important it is to be willing to change your mind. Personally, I've probably got a ton of beliefs I arrived at for bad reasons. I could well be wrong about many of them, and the issue at stake here, Global Warming, could easily be one.

So I'm opening this up to the commenters. A couple issues here you could address, depending on your own beliefs: 1) Why do you think so many smart people don't believe in AGW? What led them to their initial beliefs? or 2) Try to convince me why I shouldn't trust the expert opinion on this issue. Go for it.

Proceed with your information binge...