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					The

Mystic Holistic Mirage
Toward a Delusion-Free Society

Gary Lee

The Mystic Holistic Mirage: Toward a Delusion-Free Society
Copyright 2008 by Gary Lee All rights reserved. Cover and Drawings by Gary Lee No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without permission of the author.

About the Author

Gary Lee

"Dealing for years with mystic holistic characters (like I did) would motivate many people to write, at the very least, an interesting diary." Gary Lee is a recovered mystic and former acupuncturist, who knows his subject well. He wrote The Mystic Holistic Mirage: Toward a Delusion-Free Society as a consequence of what he learned from Dr. Dean Edell, highlighted by the fact that, at the same time, he worked directly with clients who had the same attitudes that Dr. Edell described. That is, he was a holistic practitioner whose work attracted mystic holistic enthusiasts. In examining the alternative perspective, he links the all-natural mindset with supernatural faith.

About DR. DEAN EDELL

Dr. Dean Edell with the author

The penetrating views and learned advice of Dr. Dean Edell—easily the most brilliant person in broadcasting—have helped millions. He tackles the uncommon, the seldom explored, and the contentious, through his legendary ability to break difficult subjects down into plain words. Dr. Edell uses radio, television, and books to educate, shatter medical myths, fight the spread of pseudoscience and assorted irrational beliefs in a politically correct era. The fact he has been able to function freely for so long is a tribute to his daring, knowledge, and passion for the truth— particularly in light of the forces seeking to silence him. The arrival of Dr. Dean Edell in the media signaled the coming of an intelligence that is renowned among the unworthy—a level of intelligence that before had not been available to such a vast audience. Beginning his broadcasting career in 1978, Dr. Edell is currently the host of one of the most popular talk shows in syndicated radio; heard in more than 400 markets, The Dr. Dean Edell Show has informed us, entertained us, answered our questions, and guided us through an assortment of mystic holistic frauds.

Dr. Edell has received an abundance of recognition over the years for his on-air work: the American Cancer Society recognition award, the American Heart Association award, the C. Everett Koop Media Awards competition, the Edward R. Murrow Award, and a national Emmy. His books, (Eat, Drink, & Be Merry: America's Doctor Tells You Why the Health Experts Are Wrong and Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Healthiness: Dr. Dean's Commonsense Guide for Anything That Ails You), are milestones in making scientific medicine comprehensible. Persons of a mystic and holistic bent deeply despise the message of Dr. Edell. However, they could hardly prevail over him in a rational debate. Mystic holistic purveyors would lead even more people down the garden path without his efforts, and this book would not be.

The

Mystic Holistic Mirage
Toward a Delusion-Free Society

Foreword
By Dr. Dean Edell
“Are you willing to fly in an alternative airplane?” We live in the strangest of times. We seem to be drifting in spite of our technological prowess. Today, we are still haunted by a world of superstition, demons, and countless other delusions, just as our forebears were hundreds of years ago. Otherwise intelligent and educated people fall for the most far-fetched ideas, in the areas of superstition and health. More than ever, the public is unable to distinguish the real from the unreal, and informing them of the facts has little effect— people do not care about facts anymore. , An assortment of ridiculous mystical and holistic schemes is on the march—hazards to both body and mind —fueled by an unholy alliance of promoters and scam artists. Their desire to bilk us is easy to understand, but how hard should we come down on them? The most important concern is their motivation. For example, if someone opens a faith healing clinic in the knowledge that they are bilking the many naïve and poorly educated people, then they are guilty of fraud, and must be punished. If they themselves are naïve and poorly educated, but believe that faith healing is helpful, are they as culpable as an outright scam artist? This is a tough question. In any case, our laws do little to protect us—they allow almost anything mystical that humans can conjure up—just as they allow the peddling of health products, which neither work nor are safe. Just as belief in a flat earth is alternative, anything called “alternative” sways people, even though the term is used in contrived way. More specifically, when science does not accept something, people may consider it alternative—but when something proves itself to work, science and medicine may adopt it, and no more regard it as alternative.

Health beliefs have become matters of faith. Believers spew forth misinformation with religious zeal—and the public gobbles it up. Many of us regard vitamins, herbal medicine, organic food, and acupuncture as religions—that’s all—religions. Why else would we have faith in something that is not objectively real? Romantic fantasies enamor some folks to such an extent that they put their life on the line. Study after study finds that the best selling health products, such as echinacea, saw palmetto, glucosamine, St. John’s Wort, chondroitin sulfate, and ginkgo biloba work largely as placebos, of which many can be harmful. Nonetheless, sales of these products boom. We have come so far. We have conquered many of humanity’s most dreadful scourges. All the goodies we love so much—our computers, TV’s, cars and airplanes—were borne of the scientific method. We are where we are because of the sweat and genius of those great thinkers who came before us—they who rose to the challenge, and gave us an intellectual heritage. Why would we allow this heritage to erode? Why would we abandon ship halfway through such a decisive crossing? Once we abandon the objective structure of our world, we float free—our rudders flapping aimlessly. So where do we go from here? How can we help the public wend their way through this miasma of snake oil and delusion? Remember: facts do not work anymore. Many, including myself, have tried. None of this has dampened the enthusiasm of Gary Lee, a former alternative medicine practitioner, and a man who can make a difference. Being a holistic whistleblower is one thing; it is another to communicate critical ideas in a unique and persuasive fashion, drawing on the wisdom and insight gained from such a conversion. In The Mystic Holistic Mirage, Gary weaves a seductive web. Perhaps his wit is the most disarming and believable of his talents. By absorbing his words, the way you view the world will change forever, no matter what your beliefs and habits. Still, you will need a truly objective mind to appreciate and absorb his tome, but I

promise that the effort will be well worth it. Be ready to laugh at yourself, and the folly of your fellow humans. Above all, be ready for logic that is direct and eye opening. Read this book… I dare you.

Dean Edell, M.D.

Contents
1 Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities.........1 2 Health Swingers International.......................................... 17 3 Delusion-Free Living................................................................................ 63 4 Supernal ....................................................................................................................127 5 The collapse of reason ...................................................................175 6 The Righteous Mental Giant....................................................215 7 "Shut Up and Fix Me!" ..............................................................................237 8 The Passion of Science ......................................................................257

The

Mystic Holistic Mirage
Toward a Delusion-Free Society

1
Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities
“When examining the subject of alternative medicine, we will be met with tales of alternative realities before long.”

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Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

We board a vessel assigned to an elite crew, in our journey to a land beyond the horizon. Our course is sure, because of the many eminent minds have gone before us. In time, we reach an island fortress few have seen—a realm of vast intelligence, having navigated with a sure compass, essential in traversing tempestuous seas. Now we have the chance to reflect deeply, and with new vistas in sight.

elcome friends and citizens of the great, delusion-free society; our subject is the dense haze that shrouds our world, and how we can understand its true nature. Many encounters with mystic holistic adherents have inspired the creation of this work. Because they dream that great purity and rapture will be theirs, if we dare to question the soundness of these dreams, we are sure to meet with their contempt. Our purpose is not to portray all mystic holistic adherents in a bad light, although certain traits are common to most. We respect anyone whenever virtue prevails, for whatever genuine values they possess, while ignoring the rest. Many adherents demonstrate endearing qualities, but suffer from a famine of facts. Devotion to mystic holistic views seems to make sense to many otherwise smart, well-intentioned, and loving people. In addition, we may sometimes excuse the more amicable adherent in their formative years. In youth, we believe we know the challenges of life, and wiser adults that struggle with them cannot reach us. In due course, our youthful beliefs may give way to wiser years—then again, maybe not. Nonetheless, we take issue with the mystic holistic diehard, who tries to enforce their faith. The goal of achieving a delusion-free society is all the more difficult without people who embody the delusion-free mindset, skilled in dealing with mystic holistic passions. They make living in a world rampant with mystic holistic* fantasies bearable, due to their readiness

The word mystic is used broadly to encompass religion, New Age beliefs, the paranormal, the supernatural, , and so on. The word holistic, although older, is much less wieldy than words like complimentary, integrative, or even wholistic.
*

Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

3

to do what they can to part the dark clouds of unreality. People who work directly with the public have the chance to become objective students of the human condition. They enter the arena with hardly a clue of the events before them, like an inspired piece of fiction or novella. They can learn a great deal about the workings of the human world when exposed to diverse backgrounds. Years of up close work with wonderful people, reasonable people, dense people, and dreadful people, can build knowledge of the basic choices that make or break lives. The unfounded concerns of the mystic holistic crowd go on and on—chemicals, karma, vaccines, demons, pesticides, the inherent evils of the modern world, etc. They deliver their lines in rote fashion, as if reading from a script: "Chemical farming has made our food toxic." “The importance of faith is being ignored in our society.” "The sky is falling." Many sit at home worrying, "My chiropuncturist says I'm not getting the right _______.” “I don’t feel I’m praying hard enough." "Judgment Day is coming." "The environment is going to kill us." “Our standards of morality are going downhill.” "Our food is less nutritious." Is our food is really less nutritious? Prove it. Many studies show that our food is just as nutritious, and in many cases, more so. But all we can do is complain and buy into the same old myths. The mystic holistic visions of most people are inconsequential, affecting their personal lives only—that is, until they come together in great numbers to empower a persuasive abuser. They deal with unfounded concerns in confounded ways, turning to holistic authorities for help, and to the fairy tale dealer for words of hope. Food supplement companies sell us on the idea that Nature is stupid, and it designed our bodies poorly. Therefore, we need their products to remain healthy. Equally, religion sells us on the idea that, because we somehow chose separation from God, our souls are now corrupted, and we need a particular brand of faith to find salvation. However, by this time next year, more people will be free from religious delusion, and live longer than any time in history, and with lower rates of heart disease. Could someone please address this? Just why we trust what religion and the supplement industries peddle to us is beyond reason. We are such wary consumers when purchasing expensive items, until it comes to our health—or the

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absurdities we wish to believe. In most cases, people charmed by mysticism have irrational notions about medicine and health: “By examining the faithful, a holistic health enthusiast will soon emerge!” And the reverse holds true—most holistic health enthusiasts are interested in some form of mysticism. This is because of a range of related delusions, which makes both alternative medicine and alternative realities easier to accept. “When was the last time you wore alternative eyeglasses or took your car to an alternative repair shop?” Alternative realities either exist, or they do not. Likewise, a medicine either works or it does not—labels for different kinds of medical traditions such as, Traditional Chinese Medicine, integrative medicine, Tibetan Medicine, Western medicine, complementary medicine, Ayurvedic medicine, natural medicine” mean little. The former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, suggests that the time has come to disregard such labels, and stick with what science shows to work. By doing this, we avoid isolating ourselves into groups that simply hurl epithets at one another.
"Either it is true that a medicine works or it isn't. It cannot be false in the ordinary sense but true in some 'alternative' sense. If a therapy or treatment is anything more than a placebo, properly conducted double-blind trials, statistically analyzed, will eventually bring it through with flying colours. Many candidates for recognition as 'orthodox' medicines fail the test and are summarily dropped. The 'alternative' label should not (though, alas, it does) provide immunity from the same fate*." Professor Richard Dawkins

A Devil's Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love, Richard Dawkins, Mariner Books; Reprint edition (October 27, 2004)
*

Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

5

Freedom from alternative absurdities require a willingness to revise set ways of thinking, as sound reasons compel us to do so. Sadly, few of us are up to this. Being more interested in something to believe in, we prefer to grab hold of an idea, and hang on for dear life. Delusion-free people have spoken out about all-natural* and supernatural proponents for years. These proponents were—and still are— determined to tell the world about their glories, while posing as if they are above reproach. Now, due to a growing mass of liberated minds speaking out in the Internet Age, that trend is changing. This work honors the courage of such minds. Mystic holistic proponents consider even the most tactful challenge to their claims as an affront to their faith. But as delusion-free voices grow more strident, mystic holistic objections do little to censor them. In addition, more and more people dismiss all-natural and supernatural statements: “It’s been around for thousands of years.” “Do not judge others.” “You can’t deny faith. Faith is what gives people hope.” “If it’s natural, it’s safe and effective.” “Don’t go to medical doctors. Modern medicine is completely misguided.” “Get out of your head, and get into your heart.” “By using this product, you’ll be changed in extraordinary ways—and by the way, all other brands are inferior.”

*

Something that is supposed to be100% natural

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Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

“By dedicating your life to this faith, you’ll be changed in miraculous ways—and by the way, all other religions are inferior.” We applaud citizens of a delusion-free society, ready to lift the narcoleptic veil of unreality, not driven by opinion or personal bent. They are primed to support their statements with evidence, when unmasking the mystic holistic mirage. An open mind is important to a degree, but we do not want our minds opened so wide that master manipulators can easily set up shop. However, the person of mystic holistic faith believes that, whoever uses a mental firewall to block their message must be biased, and incapable of changing their mind. Just the opposite is the case, though the philosophically sound mind forms its conclusions with care. The person of mystic holistic faith senses a great threat to their quest for easy, black and white answers, knowing that sound minds aim to drive a philosophical convoy through the gaping holes in their claims. Therefore, they indulge in the petty “skepticism is for narrow minds” myth, refusing to face facts. That is, they confuse skepticism with negative thought, pessimism, and close-mindedness. In reality, skepticism may now be one of the last great virtues that remain. This is why delusionfree people are skeptical, knowing that human beings earn trust, and uphold it with consistency and continuous reexamination*. Even when people claim to be skeptical, when examined closely, it often becomes clear they are not. The thinking skill of a clueless majority gradually evaporates, just as water stagnates in a dwindling stream—this makes understanding the complexities of the world more difficult than ever. And so we buy into the dream—a dream so preposterous, it is enough to make a truly skeptical person laugh until they cry, realizing that so many people believe it. The delusion-free mind knows that, in explaining elementary delu-

Derived from the Greek “skeptesthai,” meaning, “to examine,” with objectivity, the skeptic examines claims. Used throughout this work, the phrase “delusion-free,” as in a delusion-free society, simply means skeptical and free from false beliefs.
*

Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

7

sion-free principles, such as those found in this work, what is elementary to them may be an advanced study for someone else. In any case, the goal remains—to protect people from the muscular grip of mystic holistic promotion, such as people whose livelihood is through aromatherapy*, divine parasitism (the clergy), devotion to a Great Plan (religion and other mass movements), and in dismal cases, crystal healing**. "Nothing matters as much as your relationship with God.” “Nothing matters as much as your health.” The words health and God have commanded more assets than any others in history. Nonetheless, people are free to buy in to whatever they will; this is the way of free societies. “You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man's freedom. You can only be free if I am free.” Clarence Darrow Just as holistic healing poses danger to our bodies by deflecting real medical help, so mysticism poses to our minds. Sadly, many people look into a course of stupid pill therapy, and sign on, as their popularity continues to soar. And so we embrace a cluttered heap—a mixed bag of worthless beliefs. The self-styled religious leader, who poses as master of all that ails

* Aromatherapy is the alleged remedial application of a plant’s essential oils. Pleasant scents, whether added to bathwater, sprayed on garments, or applied during massage, can be relaxing, like a walk in a flower garden, and not much else. But the claims made by many aromatherapists (that certain aromas can cure AIDS, boost the immune system, and so on) are fraudulent. Aromas are not medicines, nor can they restore a sick person to health. In addition, people who are allergic to essential oils are at risk when breathing them in.

**

Many holistic healers believe that crystal healing works through “vibrational energy.” By using the “proper crystals,” the imagined energy system of the body is harmonized.

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Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

us, takes advantage of our sense of existential angst. They tell us how sorry we will be unless we support the Great Plan. They lead us to believe that the Great Plan will forever change the course of history by bring peace on Earth. Likewise, the smooth spokesperson for the latest miracle formula tells us how sorry we will be unless we buy it. In singing the praises of the formula, they lead us to believe it could change the state of public health. But in buying it, we are stuck with a worthless product. Wondrous cures and mythic legends are popular, although created by the primitive mind. Backed by ancient tongues, tradition and testimonial, the mystic holistic mentality is not about making sense. Seen as a virtue, such a mentality comes to us courtesy of our failure to discern the real from the fictitious—and so the fall of critical judgment begins, spreading to all cognitive faculties. We give in even when there is nothing to go on except our primitive urges or someone’s word. Enough of us are sold on the incredible to ensure that the people behind the incredible do well. So we join mystical groups, and buy holistic products. Because the people behind the incredible succeed so brilliantly in pitching us, they expand, provided they stay within the confines of our feeble laws. Religious minions and purveyors of health products are out to recruit us. They tie everything together into a slick package, aided by mass mailings, junk faxes, telemarketing and even knocks on our doors. The Judgment Day preacher speaks about the evils of science one minute, and then uses email to confirm our visit to their church. A talk show dictator speaks authoritatively on an issue one minute, and then pushes a trashy weight loss product the next. Their pitch is brazen enough to pierce the consciousness of the gullible, and deceptive enough to revolt the intelligent. The “give ‘em enough rope” principle comes into play for people who insist on mindless faith. Unfortunately, they impose their rituals and tinctures on helpless children, and the rope encircles their necks too. Children show signs of magical thinking by creating imaginary characters at play, at around 18 months of age. Most children can tell the difference between reality and imagination by 3 years of age, but will still believe in cultural myths, like the Easter Bunny, Santa Claus or

Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

9

various religious figures, especially with encouragement from adults. Children simply filter a slice of reality through the mythology they are taught. Children filter even larger slices of reality when they live in cultures heavy in mythology. Children embrace such mythology because their indoctrination starts early, which serves to keep them from critical judgment. Children can understand the idea of wishing to make things come true (prayer) by around 7 years of age and, without being programmed by mystic-minded adults, lose confidence in its value. Children may grow up to leave the old myths behind, as the advantages of science, technology and rational thinking become clear. But the evolutionary process has left vestiges of magical thinking in our brains, and even if we manage to shed our early indoctrination, it may persist despite our insistence on rational thinking. “I wish that idiot would get cancer or something!” Magical thinking is rooted in the little superstitions that most of us have. The belief that we have special powers can soothe our fears in threatening situations and make us feel better. But magical thinking can cripple us, especially when called on by force of habit. Religion is only one aspect of magical thinking, which involves a series of complex matters, including ethnicity, morality, social interactions, or cultural and historical feelings. “The day after I began praying for my father’s quick recovery after surgery, he began to feel better.” Magical thinking robs us of self-determination, and it is most evident when we feel powerless. Many studies show that, if we believe in things like Tarot cards, it is because we feel inadequate—uncertain of our abilities, and so we assume that handing it over to the supernatural makes life easier. “In order to be successful at work, I step out of the house with my right foot first.”

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Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

This means we disregard the many days when we were successful at work, but stepped out of the house with left foot first. Similarly, faith in astrology means that we disregard (or are ignorant of) research into astrology—how scientists have examined the astrological sun signs of thousands of people—their career choices, their likelihood of going through a divorce, etc. Calling astrology a form of superstition would be too kind, and it brings into question the character of people who live by astrology. The theory of astrology is full of gaping holes When, for instance, is the precise moment of birth? Most people have never been in a hospital delivery room to see how birth time is recorded. “What time was that baby born?” When the head came out? When the baby opened their eyes? When the baby started breathing? When the doctor slapped it on the buttocks and got it to breath? What about identical twins born at the same time by Cesarean section, at same latitude and longitude, etc? According to astrologers, the personalities of identical twins should be similar—and yet parents of twins know that they are like day and night. So, it is obvious; astrology is nonsense. People of conscience may finally choose to cut off contact with the “incredibly advanced” holistic mystic, especially when in prolonged, personal contact. Until then, people of conscience must be discreet. If they take the slightest stand, they may experience the rants and raves of the thin-skinned, as all the peace, love and harmony fades away. This can happen even when handling the holistic mystic with every measure of people-skill possible. People of conscience can only address mystic holistic beliefs in an oblique way at best, in order to avoid an emotional encounter, realizing that logic and evidence will seldom break through. The holistic mystic will not read delusion-free literature, view delusion-free video, or listen to delusion-free audio, as they resist any attempt to lift the shroud of dogma. Even if they do, such material will not retain its original meaning, as their mind wanders to other dimensions. More likely, the holistic mystic will deem such material unworthy, and avoid it altogether.

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The clairvoyant inversion therapist will snap out of their supernormal slumber, and come up smiling, only on rare occasions, unless brought to the upright position. Until then, the world of reason seems upside down. Evidence Inverted “My manicurist told me about an all-natural, anti-wrinkle cream that she wants to sell me. She says it’s a big breakthrough.” “Our friends are raving about this new herbal product that is supposed to miraculously ream the colon, and clear it of toxins.” “Doctors don’t want us to know about the amazing benefits of allnatural Rump Plumber. They would be out of business if word was to leak out.” “I got a tape in the mail last week that talked about a product that sounds fantastic. Listen to it, and tell me what you think.” “These Androwood Lozenges contain secret, herbal ingredients, but they’re guaranteed to work. It seems like doctors are ignorant of it. Androwood brought massive timber to my mine shaft in less than a week.” Our badminton coach swears that Psiology helped her play better, but before signing up for a course, we might reconsider that which sounds implausible. Likewise, testimonials that say eating too much avocado can lead to schizophrenia, or that many pounds of parasites infest the intestines of the average Westerner are far-fetched. A television show claims to present reenactments of real life Ghostbusters in action; it depicts the art and mystery of the paranormal, full of strange accounts and scientific-looking equipment, but nothing else to confirm it, except reenactments, and someone’s paid claim of extraordinary events. The rational person writes off such television shows. Mystic and holistic advocates lack supporting evidence for their claims, and so are forced to use testimonials to generate publicity. Unlike a scientist who writes abstracts for a peer-reviewed journal, people who reinforce claims with anecdotes declare miraculous effects. Whether by a

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Alternative Medicine, Alternative Realities

paid spokesperson or a deflated celebrity, the use of testimonials to hawk something predicts the advent of grand manure. Many years ago, scientists learned of the misleading nature of testimonials. However, they continue to be a favorite technique of manure peddlers everywhere. When several well-designed studies find something to be worthless, reason demands that we not waste our time and money. “Just as an alternative fire department would be an absurd and dangerous waste of city revenue, so are the claims of a Drug Location Machine, with no record of ever performing effectively in the field." We identify dung in a grand manure state of affairs, where testimonials are the rule, by using a principle fundamental to delusion-free thought—a concept that many rational people know well, although the public is not familiar with it: “Normal credit cannot be extended to abnormal claims.” The Principle of Laplace, in honor of the famous astronomer and mathematician, Pierre-Simon, Marquis de Laplace (1749-1827), affirms, "The weight of evidence for an extraordinary claim must be proportioned to its strangeness." We must be ready to offer some heavy evidence, something greater than testimonials, if we claim that aliens kidnapped our family, and whisked them off to Planet X-22, before rational people will accept it. Likewise, the great holistic hero must offer heavy evidence to bolster their claim of using hydrogen peroxide to cure cancer. Investigators rarely have the benefit of knowing whether the claims of the great holistic idol are real. Far from cooperating with investigators, the idol does not have, or will not surrender, any records, publish any results, or allow anyone to examine their methods. Absent in their appeal is the high-quality data needed to overturn everything known about hydrogen peroxide and the treatment of cancer. Then again, if we were to make an ordinary claim like, “I feel great,” it would be no big deal for other people to take us on our word:

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“Without further ado, ordinary claims can be accepted.” The money back guarantee, like the testimonial, is among the most common sales gimmicks in modern marketing. Advertisers learned that most people are too lazy, embarrassed, or consider the amount of money too small to ask for their money back, although such a guarantee is used by honest and sleazy companies alike. Even the wary consumer can yield under such an assurance—in all likelihood, it is because they have weak powers of critical thinking to begin with. A sleazy company creates a cheap knock-off on learning of the popularity of a legitimate drug, usually of inexpensive vitamins and a sprinkle of herbs. Such a company makes their cheap knock-off seem more safe and effective than the original; and its name plays off the original in order to confuse us. Viagra becomes Vigara, in anticipation of a wrong spelling when someone searches for it online. Among the most popular products are those that claim to make amazing things happen: we will lose fat, sprout hair, get thinner thighs, or enlarge a part of our anatomy, and people will be attracted to us. A spokesperson, paid to deliver clever warnings for the stuff, tells us: ”Be careful not to use too much of our powerful product.” “Vigara is not for every man—only those who need serious help should use it.” What a stroke of marketing genius, which surely pulls the gullible consumer in.

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The Unteachables “, Mr. Myers is again taking on a new class this year. He assumes that all the students are there to learn, but it soon becomes clear that a few rebellious students refuse to get with the program. They disrupt the class, and hold up the progress of the other students. Their constant mischief, both on and off campus, and refusal to learn, gets them expelled, and sent to a remedial school prepared to deal with them.” The arrival of a delusion-free world, at least in the near future, is possible only with a substantial shift in the mentality of human beings. Until then, the believer will not easily wither away, and will continue to find beauty in immovable faith. “You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep-seated need to believe.” Carl Sagan The blight of the determined believer is latching on to a particular worldview, however absurd, and refusing to let it go. Such a believer wears their convictions like a badge, which gives them a false sense of security. And so it is unthinkable for them to abandon their god. They gladly trade passage into the world of reason for castles in the sky, which seem to offer them so much safety and warmth. They are seldom intelligent enough to break out of their dogma, and make the leap into objectivity, preferring instead to walk in supernatural and all-natural paths. The simple act of warning people against mystic holistic traps, like a sign that says, “Caution: hole in road,” perturbs the believer to no end; it may even drive them to emotionalism, insults, and craziness. We can only implore them to calm down before things turn ugly, or we must depart from them altogether. If we stay and try to reason with them, we waste our time, determined, as they are, to give us their sermon.

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A Call to Mental Arms The dawn breaks, after floundering all through the long, dark night, in a vessel with a broken compass. The time has come to cease floating down wishful channels, and change course. Looking around, we see that the surest route is a demanding course upstream toward the source. Navigating the New Millennium River, we propel our craft to true horizons. We use charts laid out by the greatest navigators, which plot the best routes possible, and so we insure our safe passage. We discover the best routes to ply, and where it is best to hug the shore, while steering clear of those who would keelhaul us through rough waters. Navigators prone to being off-course must take a transport ship instead. Undercurrents catch passengers who, along for the ride only, ignore safety bulletins, which warn them against diving into dangerous waters. Our lookouts search for any serious challenge to our voyage with great vigilance—for the many mystic holistic marauders who aim to plunder us. Telepathic pirates have set mines meant to submerge us in deep misinformation, and bar us from life giving waters. In addition, all passengers must be alert to vindictive stewards, who aim to take them below deck, and make them theirs. Such stewards aim to bend them over to suit their fancy, and proceed to have their way with them. A call to mental arms thunders out: our point of power is at hand. No longer will the best and brightest sit by quietly. More and more of us are willing to speak out against those who would sell us out, in a world infested with liars, who have sullied so many lives.

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Health Swingers International
Health Swingers International is a movement devoted to the AllNatural Way, out to bare the gruesome mainstream.

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“Natural is good—man-made is bad. It’s just that simple.” The aim of HSI is to find the treatment or supplement that holds the key to natural health. We appeal to the Vitamin Gods to help us in our quest in tracking the fads that come and go. We encourage our members to embrace testimonials, folklore, the knowledge of early 20th century doctors, and anything considered “alternative,” even if it is questionable. We do our best to follow the suggestions of anyone who writes a book on holistic health. We are indebted to the tabloids, the chiropractors, and the talk shows, for keeping us abreast of the many amazing breakthroughs. We are proud to announce the Grand Opening of our Discount Buyer’s Club, which everyone is encouraged to visit. Each week, we feature products usually obtainable only from the clinics of holistic health practitioners. We aim to topple the medical establishment like guerrillas in a righteous war. We see doctors as hellhounds, who feel pleasure by seeing us half-dead. These hellhounds conspire with the drug companies to block natural cures, and poison everyone in order to make money and prevail, so threatened are they by alternative medicine. By challenging this unholy alliance of doctors and drug companies, we satisfy the psychological need to condemn those with power. We believe that supplement manufacturers and practitioners of holistic health are beyond reproach, although we demand that doctors take full responsibility for what they do. We at HSI join with health freedom fighters everywhere, and assist in ushering in a visionary, new age.

he fads come and go in the world of health swinging. The amazing cures of holistic health set rise and fall like a barometer —only to repeat. We can list the current health fads, and know that, before long, they too will vanish, just as in the past. They pass time and again until they are revived—yet little has changed. We are no better off even with

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each and every supplement and holistic treatment. The health swinger soars high on the great organic uprising, like majestic eagles, devoted to placebos*, each one adorned with stirring tales. Usually a likable person when unchallenged, they are looking for the latest thing in alternative medicine, particularly when alleged to help all that doctors do poorly with**. Even when they seem rational at first, and not fooled by Big Religion, they are fully caved. "Doctors and drug companies are suppressing natural cures!" Health swingers endorse the common “they’re suppressing natural cures!" theory, although the flaw in such thinking is clear: doctors and drug companies will jump on anything shown to be safe and effective. Helping sick people is good for business, and they go to great lengths in making valuable medicines and treatments available. “How is it that doctors offer drugs that only give temporary relief? Surely, they could give permanent relief if they wanted to. As usual, they offer only temporary relief because they are out to make money.” The widespread belief, that there exists a product so effective as to give permanent relief, drives food supplement companies to create more “amazing” products: It’s pricey, but just one course of Cannabuproxib, the amazing, allnatural, herbal breakthrough, brings relief that lasts and lasts. Pharmaceutical companies have searched far and wide for this holy grail of pain relief, fully aware of the potential reward. Now, Cannabuproxib has

Many of us are familiar the placebo—from the Latin “I shall please/.” The placebo is an inert therapy that works because we believe. Like a capsule full of sawdust, the placebo eases our symptoms only because we expect it to (“You came looking for help, and I shall please. Take this”).
* **

Despite the fact that many diseases have, as of yet, no effective treatment.

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arrived, and has proved itself to be a treasure trove for Stoner Labs Inc. of Wassenaar, Netherlands.” “Finally, my answer is here! Cannabuproxib stopped my pain for good!” Senator Olin Hatcher Consumers readily buy the products of a voracious industry, driven by the “shotgun” mentality (“if a little is good, more is better”), —an industry that lies about the safety, efficacy, and even the ingredients of its products. With zero evidence to support them, they relentlessly pitch their products to an unwary public. The health swinger believes that supplement shotgunning is a good thing, even though they are unwarranted—that is, shotgunning leads to costly urine and biologic chaos. The novice health swinger will rationalize their behavior, thinking that a bit of Therapeutic Touch* cannot hurt them. Before long, Therapeutic Touch no longer provides the buzz that it once did, even with repeated sessions. In need of a bigger kick, they seek out the more virulent forms of health swinging, such as chiropractic neck twists, ginkgo biloba**, dental amalgam removal, or natural foods store hormones. Ironically, they see their health in a more negative light because they obsess about it. The dietary supplement sections of natural foods stores offer a smattering of conditionally acceptable products alongside harmful ones. This adds to the confusion, as most people cannot tell the difference. When someone goes on about the glories of a dietary supplement or health fad, it is, as a rule, a lost cause for us to jump in with a rational

The practitioner of Therapeutic Touch believes that, by waving their hands over the body of a recipient, they harmonize “life force” and induce health. A prime example of the placebo effect, the practitioner maintains that we have an aura, or energy sphere, which surrounds our bodies, which Therapeutic Touch influences.
* **

Ginkgo biloba supplements raise the risk of stroke. Neurology. 2008 Feb 27

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perspective. If we were to interject at the outset, they might realize that they are in beyond their depth. In that case, a debate is incumbent on them. A person of integrity, who offers objective products or services, may want to hold on to a mystic holistic client, and not insist on rational views. Staying away from useless debates, such a businessperson may elect to remain tight-lipped around holistic mystics. The true triumph of reason is that it enables us to get along with those who do not possess it. Voltaire Deceptive Medicine “The Commission on Judicial Performance formally disbarred Judge Frederick Allen, due to the bizarre events that followed his angry outburst. Judge Allen was in the middle of a fuming tirade, when he violently slammed down his gavel, according to courtroom observers. A huge bolt of lightning struck outside, just 100 feet away from the courtroom at the exact moment that his gavel hit, to the astonishment of everyone. Instantly, that bolt killed a 25 year-old man, on trial for carrying a concealed weapon. David Klahr was on his way to court when he was cut down. News of the event spread, and people believed that the anger of Judge Allen had caused the bolt that killed Mr. Klahr. The ensuing public outrage sealed the fate of Judge Allen.” We bridge the gap whenever we wrongly link two or more events. We believe that everything has now come together to solve a puzzle, and, as a result, are unyielding. The false connections solidify, and become our experience. As official owners of the events, we brush aside all contrary evidence. In fact, this is reminiscent of the sweeping statements of made-to-order psychic readings. The belief that alliance implies cause adds fuel to massive amounts of holistic garbage and superstitious airs.

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“When I took that supplement, I got better!” “I think that spirit-writer was really on to something.” Our brains evolved to make spontaneous judgments about cause and effect as a means of survival—instantly linking two events before reason can be applied. But the world grew increasingly complex, and our brains were bogged down by the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy (from the Latin, “after this therefore because of this”). “We have been using more and more antiperspirant over the past 50 years, and breast cancer has gone up in that time. Therefore, they’re related.” ”I noticed a sore throat coming on. I bought some Vitamin C and took it. Instantly, I felt the soreness vanish! From now on, I’ll be sure to take Vitamin C at the first sign of a cold.” ”No wonder my breasts feel bigger; last week, my chiropractor sold me some homeopathic Nipaloon capsules, and I’ve been taking them for a week now.” The simple placebo effect is one of our most powerful healers, and has been so since the beginning of human history. Researchers continue to study its physiological effects, in the knowledge that the mind can affect the body to a degree. Under what circumstances and to whom the placebo acts is still a matter of investigation, but if we have enough faith that a placebo will heal us, it might—or at least we may believe so—even though it has no active ingredients. In addition, a significant proportion of us feel better just because someone is treating us, even if the treatment itself is inert. Many studies illustrate this, from depression to prostate medication. When subjects are told they were in the group that received placebo pills at the end of a study, many insist that, because of taking them, they are noticeably improved. Subjects may insist on a supply of the pills

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even in cases where tests showed that their conditions were worse. Many doctors say they are now willing to prescribe placebos because of instances like this. In fact, a large percentage of doctors already do, whether in the form of dummy pills, homeopathic medicines, saline infusions, B-12 injections, weak herbal extracts, and low, ineffective doses of medicine. Nonetheless, these inert preparations still prove useful for a wide variety of patients, even when doctors know they are prescribing them. That is, they work, even though they do not work— remarkable. In most cases, doctors who use placebo prescriptions do so to keep irritable patients quiet, or appease their demands for medication, but whose symptoms are not serious enough to warrant its use. For these reasons, some medical ethicists oppose the practice, especially when the patient is not informed, and does not give their consent*. In contrast, researchers put pharmaceutical drugs through exhaustive testing to prove they are better than placebos. What is wrong with placebos if they make people feel and believe they are better? Shouldn’t we allow manufacturers to sell us products that only work by means of our expectations? Should we drop all the rules that require drug manufacturers to sell us products proven to work better than placebo (even though it is, in large part, what modern medicine is about)? We do allow placebos on the market in cases when (1) we are not treating something life threatening, (2) we are not putting off rational treatment, (3) the product is harmless, and (4) it does not cost a lot of money. Unfortunately, we overlook these criteria too many times. When we turn to placebos, we often do put off rational treatment, and by the time we figure out that we have been taking placebos, our disease may have progressed to a point where our problems are now untreatable. In other words, we were ripped off all because we felt it was all right for companies to sell us placebos.

*

Journal of General Internal Medicine, January 2008

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Once we believe something will help, facts will not deter us—this is how scores of phony treatments and mystical practices perpetuate themselves. People think they are really doing something beneficial, and no amount of objective logic is going to convince them otherwise. Seeing people waste their time and money this way is sad, especially when it could be put to so much better use. Researchers find that the less effective a beauty treatment, spa treatment, wrinkle cream, etc., the more women will keep using them*. Women devote themselves to the products and treatments when they do not work more than when they do. Fear of looking old is a strong motivator for women to keep trying ineffective products or treatments, but they stop worrying once they achieve results. So if we want our company to do well in business, we must come up with a health or beauty product that acts as a placebo. We should be careful if our company has an effective health or beauty product, as people may stop using it—this applies to the diet industry too. Mending a broken leg overnight is beyond what a placebo can do, but if we tell a patient they are being given a powerful painkiller, the placebo effect has been known to temporarily stabilize them**. If told that a machine is reporting high blood flow to the pelvic area, women who lack orgasmic ability may respond. If a friend raves about a new fat loss supplement being hyped on the radio, claiming that “It works!” the real meaning of “It works!” may be revealed on further probing—a limited response from an inert product caused by intense belief. Placebos will not do for the rational person—only that which has been tested and proved effective will do—not beliefs. The placebo effect is the basis of religious faith and prayer, which is why trying to reconcile science and faith is fruitless. Faith is one thing— but it is quite another to expect rational people to accept religious childishness. We have the right to believe that the age of the earth is only

*

University of Bath, December 2007

** Neuropharmacological

Dissection of Placebo Analgesia: Expectation-Activated Opioid Systems versus Conditioning-Activated Specific Subsystems. Journal of Neuroscience, January 1, 1999, 19(1):484-494

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6,000 years if we want to, but science tells us it is far older. Having childish beliefs will limit us to a certain subset of society, and ostracize us from rational people, but it is our privilege. Many studies already lend support to the power of certain belief systems. However, proving the efficacy of the most common placebo, intercessory prayer, and its ability to heal—or replace a lost eye—would be the greatest discovery in the history of science, and nothing less. If we had major evidence that long-distance prayer could bring about world peace, people throughout the globe would celebrate. However, such evidence must be good enough to pass the standards of heavyweight, peer-reviewed journals. Spiritual groups throughout the world promise that they can turn the tide, just as peace on Earth is beginning to look hopeless. What a relief! They say that, by following their plan, a vision of world peace that will dawn in the heart of all human beings. In ceremony God brings various spiritual groups, from many different parts of the world to Sacred Places of Ascension. By bonding together with other Core groups around the world, they add to the Universal Network of Radiance. As Pilgrims of the Core link together in transcendental union, they add to the luminescence needed for world peace. In the meantime, warring factions continue to slaughter one another in the true spirit of vengeance and racial purity. “I was overcome when my father died young at age 58. Now that I too am turning 58, I am paralyzed with fear. I know that by linking my father’s death to my own fate, I am only torturing myself, but I can’t seem to shake it, even with medication.” A newer word, nocebo, from the Latin, “I shall harm,” implies that we are affected adversely only through belief. The perceived harm may be clear or subtle—chronic or brief. “People are in poor health because of X. But Y can help.”

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The effects of the nocebo may linger, even though negative reports seem to be out of mind. If we listen to an astrologer, who declares that the alignment of planets in our chart bodes ill, it may unconsciously influence our impression of future events. Our beliefs are powerful enough to briefly hold off death or hasten it, and they may be at least as strong as any potion, time on the treadmill, or special diet. The placebo and nocebo are at work like phantoms, in the thousand things happening all around us. They affect things like the stock exchange, and the quality of our lives. The mystic holistic believer focuses on hope, faith, positive thought (all placebos) and false fear (the nocebo), rather than focusing on reality. Nonetheless, they tell us “Believe what I say,” without a shred of real evidence. If a mystic holistic parent believes that their diabetic child must not take insulin because it is toxic (nocebo), and the child simply needs homeopathy and prayer to get better (placebos), they have crossed the line. Now, that parent has bought a ticket to prison. Few people have single bullet solutions to complex problems—least of all the mystic holistic devotee. And so the Hyperorganic Tabernacle offers only placebos and nocebos. Before committing to a supplement, a drug, a practice, or a treatment, the rational person investigates: “First, I want to exhaust the things that offer statistical outcomes, trying only the things most likely to help me. If something does not work, I can move on to something else, with knowledge of what is real, and what is placebo.”

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Hyphulduras In 1981, craniosacral therapist Arnold Gregory created a new tincture he called “hyphulduras,” after years of testing. In time, thousands in the health freedom movement used it, and were sure he had at last found the cure for all diseases. Today, millions know the magnitude of his creation, and its role in boosting the immune system. Arnold Gregory had no idea of the hornet's nest he was about to stir. Hyphulduras was a significant threat to the medical establishment. The multinational pharmaceutical companies were not able to patent it, so they fiercely attacked the claim that it was a cure-all. But it took billions of dollars to bury the legend of hyphulduras, and slow the cause of health freedom. This story is one of many that show how a criminal money machine, willing to conceal the truth, runs modern medicine.

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Ear Candles We must be used to learning about bizarre health fads by now, and ear candling is among them. This is the practice of inserting the tip of a foot-long hollow fabric cone impregnated with bee's wax, and lighting the distal end, which is alleged to draw out toxic earwax, purify the soul, eliminate negative energy, clear the mind, etc. This cone is supposed to create a vacuum or chimney effect. After it has burnt down close to the ear, it is withdrawn. When the cone is sliced open, "toxic earwax " is seen. But when an ear candle is burned inside of a simple glass jar, and sliced open afterwards, the same amount of "toxic earwax" is inside—as much as one burned near the ear. Clearly, this is melted wax from the candle itself*.

*

Ear candles: a triumph of ignorance over science. The Journal of Laryngology & Otology, 2004

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If we follow the plan of a health guru, and consume their enchanted tinctures, or take their bizarre treatments, can we really fine-tune our health and make it last? Many marketers of placebos claim that their product boosts the immune system. They get away with this because most of us have a naive view of the immune system, which has several functions, only one of which is to attack germs. If we could truly “boost” our immune systems, we would wind up with arthritis, allergies, lupus, colitis, scleroderma, and so on—all the diseases caused by a “boosted” immune system. And let’s be clear: people with normal immune systems get sick, probably because having something for our immune systems to do on occasion may be important. We turn to vaccines if we want to build up our immunity, which work by building up antibodies to fight germs. However, there is no way to build up our immune systems to fight every germ in the world. If we walk into a health food store, we see offers of all kinds of garbage claiming to boost our immune systems—they are simply preying upon our uninformed view of what the immune system is. We seldom hear a health guru say much about our distinctive physical makeup, capacity for fitness, and how they congeal the day we were conceived. Maybe we can add a few months to our allotted time, but the design has already been set when the sperm and egg of our parents met. They rolled the genetic dice, and everything was set into motion—we became the people we are. After this, we can try to enhance the quality of our health only within certain inherited limits—our upbringing, our contact with noxious agents, our past and present illnesses, and anything else that might have harmful effects on our health and prolonged existence. Certainly, a few health gurus will pass away prematurely from morbid disease, while well-known entertainers, notorious for their health habits, survive to see their centennial—and sometimes, this is the other way around. Then, there are other health gurus who look unwholesome and overweight, even though they lecture us on proper eating habits. They brag about the ultimate pathways to glowing fitness, while they themselves look unfit. Many health gurus claim to know the

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secret of Super Health, yet they die prematurely, leaving behind volumes of their work, and a contingency of devotees still under the spell of their great-sounding rhetoric.

Appealing to Galileo

Countless claims exist, and the wise use of limited research money demands that we investigate only the most promising first. However, the mystic holistic believer insists that even the most unlikely claims merit thorough scrutiny. Many leap to the example of Galileo, concluding that every new idea is a worthy one, though seldom submitting anything worthwhile. Countless theories have come and gone since the time of Galileo. Most proved erroneous, and never saw the light of day. “But the fact that some geniuses were laughed at does not imply that all who are laughed at are geniuses. They laughed at Columbus, they laughed at Fulton, they laughed at the Wright Brothers. But they also laughed at Bozo the Clown.” Carl Sagan Many of the countless holistic theories coming down the pike are laughable, and doctors too find them funny. But doctors laugh at stand up comedians as well. In fact, the theories put forward by practitioners of alternative medicine rank among the silliest in the world.

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“It’s been Around Thousands of Years” One reason why so many people value old mystical practices, like those of Asian medicine, and mistake them as superior, is that they have survived the centuries. “According to the ancient masters of Traditional Chinese Medicine, Kidney Essence nourishes the Brain (the Sea of Marrow), which in turn gives rise to the ears.” A key concept in holistic romance is that the ancients knew things that scientists cannot grasp. Bronze Age folk healers held the key to living a long life in harmony with nature, so they say, long before modern physiology and microbiology. The evidence-based person will reject anything if its only support is its age. The same goes for other ancient practices, like divination by reading animal entrails, or human sacrifice to please the gods. The Great Supplement Wars Ominously, the clouds of dust particles clear—we scan the quadrant, and to our surprise, we find little to fear from the Federation. Ahead, legions of health commanders fight each other for the chance to prey on naive denizens, locked in a colossal battle. Now is our chance. We must act decisively in order to cash in on the status of alternative medicine. Otherwise, we will lose the time to strike, be forced to abandon ship and just sit by and watch the melee. Therefore, we will toss the Code of Honor overboard in order to avoid such a fate. Veterans of the NPT wars launch the first assault against the mainstream medicine infidels. The Veterans minister to the fallen, though they are unqualified to treat them. We take our positions upon sounding the alarm, and distribute nostrums at warp rate—it looks like we may have a slaughter on our hands as the denizens rush to acquire the latest ones. Ethical people have no desire to peddle holistic health products.

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However, they could further the cause of health freedom if they would only lower their principles. The health freedom movement (the freedom to waste money on worthless or harmful holistic rot) seeks to punish anyone who interferes with the business of Non-Proven Therapy (NPT). But the health freedom movement has little regard for evidence, unlike scientists who look for evidence of safety and efficacy. But the public has at no time been accountable to health freedom. When adverse outcomes occur, they demand justice. The Godfather of Flakes

“…the whole world knows only one Kellogg, me, John Harvey Kellogg, surgeon-inventor, author and crusader for biological living. I do not seek monetary reward for I am called to a greater glory. Here at the Battle Creek Sanitarium, the spirits soar, the mind is educated, and the bowels, the bowels are born again.” T.C. Boyle The Road to Wellvile Flake promoter and son of a broom maker, John Harvey Kellogg (1852-1943) believed enemas could bring about health by sweeping the colon clean (a practice that may have sexually aroused him). Besides this, the bombastic Kellogg insisted on plenty of exercise, water, a strict vegetarian diet, yogurt (inserted in the rectum after each enema), and so on. The aides at his Battle Creek, Michigan sanitarium hovered over the guests to assure their compliance. Kellogg was not the originator of every one of his principles. but many of these late 19th and early 20th century medical theories endure to

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this day. Firmly planted in the mind of the modern person, the autointoxication or toxin theory*, routine circumcision of boys (he claimed that it stopped masturbation—just the opposite is the case), the idea that sexual fluids are filled with life energy (“An erection is a flagpole on your grave”), and inflated claims about breathing exercises—all were popularized in America by Kellogg. In time, many other health gurus learned that plenty of people readily open their pocketbooks for products and therapies said to detoxify the colon …

*

The buzzword toxin is, in effect, responsible for deceiving millions of people. Toxins do exist, but holistic types often use the word erroneously. Countless phony therapies blame nearly every health problem on toxins. And flushing toxins is just one of the many different ways an unrestrained food supplement industry perpetuates itself.

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Supreme Detox Gel

We sense the toxins within, and ask for the help of the Fourth Spirit of purification in our time of need. We see before us the lunar orb in all its magnificence, among an assembly of stars. We cry out for the help of our spirit guides, “O spirit of the sacred way, we beseech you! Help us in our quest for bodily cleansing, and rid us of all that impedes our growth!” With this, we summon the courage to cross into that twilight intestinal grotto, and apply the new and improved, Deep Intestinal Sweeping Rite Formula®. Our desire for purging looms, and we reach for the wondrous gel–like a living thing—A LIVING THING! We feel the healing warmth inside on infusing the all-natural, Supreme Detox Gel®. We praise the sacred spirit in a blissful cry, “The reek of our soul is freed!” The toxins, amassed from many lifetimes, disperse and leave our body, and the power of molecular spirituality envelops us.

***
Supreme Detox Gel® and Deep Intestinal Sweeping Rite Formula® are products of Psiologist and Chiropractor, R. Don Robards, owner of Fractional Foods Market and inventor of the Colon Squeegee.

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A World Made of Chemicals Evidently, the holistic mystic, a self-appointed expert on organic living, did poorly in organic chemistry class. They confuse both synthetic and naturally occurring chemicals. Toxicologists tell us how preposterous it is to regard all chemicals as synthetic, or regard each one as toxic. Our bodies are in a constant battle against the onslaught of harmful molecules, which are mostly the normal byproducts of internal chemical processes necessary for life. In fact, this battle is a major source of the aging process. The danger posed by synthetic pesticides and pollutants is minute relative to the internal byproducts of the body, at least for people in the developed world. Synthetic pesticides and pollutants make up only a tiny portion of the chemicals we are exposed to daily— usually less than .01 percent. For years, Professor of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology Bruce Ames* has maintained that most synthetic chemicals have little effect on our bodies, especially if we eat lots of antioxidants in the form of vegetables and fruits**. The idea that food supplements are beneficial, and not detrimental, stems from the wish of many people to get the advantages of a healthy diet in a pill. This is one reason why the food supplement industry offers all kinds of products that supposedly have antioxidant effects. The problem is that taking antioxidant supplements will not cut the risk of cancer***. In fact, beta-carotene and vitamin E supplements raise the risk of cancer. Even so, food supplements are as popular as ever; nothing has changed because so few of us seem to care.

Professor Ames is the inventor of the Ames test, an inexpensive way to measure the rate of cell mutation caused by various compounds.
*

**

The Free Radical Theory of Aging Matures. Kenneth Beckman, Bruce Ames. Physiol. Rev. 78: 547-581, 1998; 0031-9333/98 Mayo Clinic Proceedings, January 2008.

***

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Our bodies have incredible wisdom built into them, and they know how to defend themselves against an assortment of chemical insults. In general, our cells do a good job in repairing themselves—if not, our average life spans would not be as long as they are. Many people imply that nature is benign and only synthetic things are dangerous to our health. In fact, most synthetic chemicals are not toxic; and if the dose is sufficient, countless naturally occurring chemicals are toxic. Overlooked by the mastermind of organic living is the fact that we have always lived in a world made of chemicals. This is fortunate for us, because chemicals are the stuff of life. For instance, we need regular amounts of dihydrogen monoxide (water) to live. Most people ingest over a gram of plant-native pesticides a day, and many different ones each year—and in quantities greater than the synthetic pesticide residue found on produce**. Every plant species has its own set of pesticides, and when attacked by rodents, insects, or fungi, many increase their output, sometimes in concentrations toxic to humans. Many plants have a high density of native pesticides, and are edible only after extensive preparation. One such plant is cassava root, a chief food source in much of the developing world. Cassava can generate cyanide when eaten without processing. Cassava is hardy even in bad weather, and the work to make it edible has led people to create clever ways to eliminate its hydrocyanic acid. The self-proclaimed guardian of the environment, (distinct from a scientist dealing with genuine environmental problems), opposes any pesticide use, while paying scant attention to the subject of plant-native pesticides. The guardian maintains that, when and wherever they are used, pesticides are a significant hazard to our health. Scientists have looked into the pesticide issue, and by now know

** Dietary

Pesticides (99.99% All Natural). BN Ames, M Profet, LS Gold - Proc Natl Acad Sci USA, 1990

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their effects well: modern pesticides quickly break down after they do their work, and act only on the physiology of insects. Multiyear studies, involving thousands of farmers exposed to high amounts of pesticides, find that they do not contract cancer any more than the general population, and most farmers in the studies spent 10 or more years applying pesticides*. The self-proclaimed guardian of the environment seldom talks about how modern pesticides made possible incredible gains in life expectancy. Pesticides help farmers grow reasonably priced vegetables and fruits, and make them accessible to a wider range of people. The quality of runoff from agricultural sites would improve without the use of pesticides, but cancer rates would not, and the shortage of food would pose a significant threat to humanity. The intelligent person is mindful of the risks posed by dangerous chemicals. Drinking a highly toxic pesticide is lethal, but people in developed countries seldom need to be concerned about synthetic pesticide contaminates in their food. We cannot check every tomato to insure it is organic, but when scientists do examine organic food, they usually find pesticide traces. In fact, organic produce cannot be 100 percent pesticide free because of drift from nearby fields, or the shipment of organic produce with conventionally grown produce. In addition, farmers will sometimes cheat. And so we allow certain amounts of pesticides in organic farming, in the knowledge that arriving at zero is difficult. If we feel like we must buy organic food (some researchers would say waste our money on organic food), we ought to at least buy the group of vegetables and fruits that, when conventionally-grown, usually have the highest amount of pesticide residues (which is still insignificant), such as bell peppers, imported grapes, lettuce, peaches, spinach, carrots, strawberries, potatoes, and apples. We waste our money most when we buy organic asparagus, onions, oranges, avocados, broccoli, bananas,

*

Annals of epidemiology, 2005, vol. 15, no4, pp. 279-285

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corn, or sweet peas, because, when conventionally grown, the pesticide residues are infinitesimal, or nonexistent. The real issue is, since anything in excess is bad, which chemicals are permissible, and in what amounts? In order to stay alive we need a steady supply of dihydrogen monoxide. If we do not get it, we die. And if we have too much, as in a flood— the same result. Other chemicals in our bodies are the same; we need a certain amount, but too much or too little can be bad. Lots of things determine the nutritional value of food, such as the way it is stored or prepared. Many people make a big deal about the alleged superiority of organic food, but the differences are minor, if they are there at all. A few studies find conventionally grown produce nutritionally inferior to organic, and vice versa—still others find no differences at all. In reality, eating lots of vegetables and fruits benefits us greatly no matter how they are grown. We can buy organic food grown by a mega-agricultural company, shipped across the country for thousands of miles, and by the time we get it, its nutritional content may be less. Then again, we can buy fresh, conventionally grown produce, and the nutritional content may be great. “While many studies demonstrate qualitative differences between organic and conventional foods, it is premature to conclude that either food system is superior to the other with respect to safety or nutritional composition. Pesticide residues, naturally occurring toxins, nitrates, and polyphenolic compounds exert their health risks or benefits on a doserelated basis, and data do not yet exist to ascertain whether the differences in the levels of such chemicals between organic foods and conventional foods are of biological significance.*”

*

Carl K. Winter, Sarah F. Davis (2006), Organic Foods. Journal of Food Science 71 (9), R117–R124. doi:10.1111/j.1750-3841.2006.00196.x

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Advocates claim that organic food is richer in vitamin C, lycopenes, and resveratrol. In fact, organically grown foods may be deficient in certain beneficial compounds, and conventionally grown foods often contain more polyphenols. However, organic plots hold onto much more soil in comparison to conventionally tilled plots, and so are better for the environment. Organic farmers must rely on resistant plant varieties because they do not use pesticides, and so organic food has higher amounts of plantnative pesticides. Therefore, health department workers must, at times, remove insect resistant organic food from the market, because it is too high in undesirable compounds. Organic produce often tastes garden-fresh, because it must arrive at market soon after picking. Such a taste may also come from the particular plant species grown. However, the added energy needed to grow and transport organic food sometimes puts it out of the reach of people with lesser economic means. Nonetheless, more markets are now ready to meet the demand. In a hungry world, the quality and wealth of foods found in the modern supermarket is glorious, despite the presence of easily avoidable, heavily processed foods, which are nonetheless fine to eat in an overall healthy diet. A steady diet of organic food will not make us a model of ultravitality, nor will it enable us to live to a greater age. The persnickety attitude that sometimes goes along with the organic lifestyle makes it hallowed ground for millions of people, but if it makes them feel better, and it keeps them busy, such a lifestyle is fine, especially if it makes them eat more vegetables and fruits. Orthorexia “What’s that; you like to eat what? Ugh! Don't eat it, man! Go to the natural foods store, and get something organic instead!” Many natural foods enthusiasts suffer from the eating disorder orthorexia nervosa—an obsession with “eating the right way.” The

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orthorexic has faith that organic foods, natural remedies, dietary supplements*, herbal foods, extracts and decoctions will render them disease-free**. The orthorexic, possessed by the all-natural way of eating as a mark of identity, can drive us mad with their meticulous rules. This natural foods extremist is reminiscent of the thin-skinned mystic—easily slighted and inspired to burden us with their doctrines. Their theories of moral eating are as thick as a tofu smoothie, and can sometimes make for an invidious vegan or affronted fruitarian. They may insist that we too defer to their program, so determined are they to make us better people in their eyes. The orthorexic is willing to spend lots of time and money to insure that the “right foods” are on hand. They subscribe to the erroneous belief that certain foods are bad, no matter how infrequently we eat them, not realizing that it is not only what we eat, but also how much we eat that matters. However, the orthorexic, choking on a meal of Fringe Fries, feels guilty if giving in to “forbidden foods.” The behavior of the most extreme orthorexic, who tries to control the habits of other people, is sure to be unpopular. Nonetheless, they run on autopilot, and so are unconcerned with the feelings of other people. Germphobia and other neuroses are common to the extreme orthorexic, and they are so consumed that better behavior is not an option. The fact that the world is largely beyond their control is a constant thorn in orthorexic’s side. At the furthest point, orthorexia gives way to the monodiet—the raw chicken-only diet, the bok choy-only diet, macrobiotic diet #7 (brown rice and bancha tea only), and so on. The orthorexic has lost sight of the fact that life is to be enjoyed, and so they are usually not much fun to be around—it is all about denying themselves the “bad things” they read about on a website, or what they

*

Many people loosen their eating standards in the hours after taking dietary supplements, justifying it in the spirit of, “Well, I took my vitamins.” In defending healthy cells, many culinary herbs are superior to the herbs that people believe to have medicinal properties.

**

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believe will make them live longer. However, the goal of living a long time, like a tree, is a poor excuse for their behavior. The orthorexic wants to beat the system and outlive the great grandpappy of Methuselah, through the blessings of Jack's Magic Capsules. Going grocery shopping with them is a way to peer into the orthorexic mind—that is, if we are ready to spend a while in a natural foods store, looking at all the supplements and organic fare. Zest and good flavor are unimportant when consumed by an allnatural diet. Therefore, the everyday eater, not adhering to the specific diet subscribed to by the champion of organic eating, is the subject of deep-seated contempt: “Like pigs at the trough, they are reduced to eating non-organic, cooked foods, and animal foods.” Chances are that someone with whom we are familiar suffers from orthorexia. The afflicted are usually well intentioned, but have simply gone too far, and feel they must now stand up for the natural, organic way of life. The orthorexic mistakenly believes that, just because someone is opposed to extreme diets, they must be opposed to wholesome foods. On the contrary—foods like vegetables, fruits, beans, and nuts, etc., are optimal. Beyond Orthorexia We ascend to the breatharian plane by living solely on air and light. As a result, we transcend the limits of vegetarianism, fruitarianism, veganism, and even fasting. Breatharians claim to nourish themselves by extracting the life force from sunlight, and through the use of breathing techniques—they claim to not need food or even water. Living breatharians spout some of the most crackpot, New Age garbage ever known, besides their light-eating theory. We may find it hard to believe that people who practice this obscure no-food/no-water path are still alive. In fact, many light-eating advocates, liberated from food, water and intelligence, are, to be sure,

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liberated from the living. But their deaths can be seen as a good thing, since it removes particularly gullible people from the gene pool, and so improves our species. Breatharians quickly succumb to dehydration when submitting to medical testing. Skeptics once tailed a breatharian, and spotted them going into a fast-food restaurant for a soft drink and hamburger. They found a pastrami sandwich under the bed of another. Breatharians have even gone so far as to claim that starving people in poor countries attain great spirituality from their hunger. Undoubtedly, starving people would not be glad to hear this—unless it was by way of announcing that food is on the way. The Herbal Food Craze Few people could foresee the orthorexic penchant adding nonculinary herbs to food. We have enriched food with vitamins for years, but herbal foods go far beyond enriched milk, bread or even ginger ale. Now we can buy items like kava kava coffee, calamus soup, pasta laced with chaparral, comfrey corn chips, and bouillon spiked with ma huang. In addition, the makers of herbal foods claim that they cut the risk of Alzheimer’s disease, cure the common cold, prevent erectile dysfunction, etc. An ardent supplier of Grandeur Herbal Foods, Bill Riney believes his products are unmatched: 1. Herpnomor is a delicious, sugar-free pastry that fights genital herpes; while easing breakouts, it also builds sexual stamina. 2. When baked as a piecrust, Dandruff Defense Dough is helpful in warding off those embarrassing flakes—it is also great for slimming down and removing blackheads. 3. Brilliant Eyes is an outstanding ocular health

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snack, especially effective for deepening the color of an infant’s eyes. Bill knows how to meet the needs of the orthorexic consumer, by offering wormwood wine and snakeroot beer. The distinction between food and foul blurs, as he in stocks up on poke salad mix and pennyroyal cookies. We can cut our risk of morbid disease without the need of orthorexic airs, by choosing a wide variety of less fatty and greasy foods, especially those of plant origin. The best meals use whole proteins, by combining grains, cereals and breads with vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds. Meat eating is fine in moderation, but developed countries are passionate about meat consumption to their detriment, both in health and in energy costs required to produce meat. Overindulgence in meat, excess protein and saturated fat may lead to heart disease, calcium loss, osteoporosis and a shortened life span. “It’s All-Natural!” "When it's natural, it has to be good." We all want to live long, healthy lives, and do so in comfort, with the fewest problems possible; and so we turn to natural things, which, on the surface, seem wonderful. We may eat natural foods, take natural supplements, and retreat from unnatural, modern medicine, which can be harmful, as can many other modern and natural things. However, a natural lifestyle means we must disconnect the phone, turn off the computer, give up our cars and start walking. A natural way of treating disease, which is safe and without side effects, would be nice, but modern medicine would not have emerged if the old, natural ways worked. Therefore, we must challenge proponents of natural medicine: back up your claims with research. Hollow in meaning, the buzzword all-natural is repeated here often to make a point: the idea that natural or all-natural is always superior must be purged from our thinking.

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Gravity can cause us to fall to our deaths, although it is natural. Tobacco, which leads to many diseases, is a natural plant. The direct rays of the sun are natural, but too much can give us skin cancer. Floods, opium, and deep, cold water are natural, but smart people know that natural is not always safe. The word natural is used rationally when discussing natural selection, the natural sciences, the natural world (distinct from fantasies of the supernatural world), and so on. A short list of natural things: • Tornadoes, hurricanes, and other kinds of extreme weather Fire ants Hemlock Crude oil Volcanoes Ebola Hepatitis Poor eyesight Castor oil Fluoridated water (Nature created it alright: high amounts of fluoride can occur naturally in certain water tables the world over) Fleas, ticks, lice, mice, and worms

• • • • • • • • •

•

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•

A hungry grizzly bear chasing us through the woods Slobbery kisses from a relative Death (“by natural causes”)

• •

Hundreds of urban rumors pass through cyberspace—from the dangers of tampons and shampoos, to sugar substitutes and toothpaste. Anyone with a computer can circulate these rumors, which remind us to be suspicious of the modern world. Urban rumors warn us against using antiperspirants, because they are unnatural. Antiperspirants contain a form of aluminum, which rumor has it can get into our systems, and harm our lymph nodes, possibly leading to cancer. But if antiperspirants caused cancer, we would read about it everywhere, and governments would bar or at least limit their sales. We would hear about lawsuits against manufacturers of antiperspirants, because lawyers, consumer groups and the media just love issues like this. But all we have are the alternative medicine websites, the alarming emails (send this to everyone you know!), the natural living magazines, and stories of someone claiming that antiperspirants harmed them—complete with no solid evidence to backup the claim. Aluminum is the third most common ingredient in earth’s crust (8 percent), below oxygen (46 percent) and silicon (28 percent). The chief concern with aluminum salts in antiperspirants has to do with Alzheimer’s disease. However, evidence points to excess copper as the culprit, from sources like multi-vitamins, and corroded copper pipes (acidic water that dissolves copper into it)*. In all likelihood, aluminum deposits secondarily in the brains of people with Alzheimer’s disease, but the primary process something else. People on kidney dialysis can deposit aluminum in their brains,

*

Copper, b-Amyloid, and Alzheimer's Disease: Tapping a Sensitive Connection. Ashley I. Bush, Colin L. Masters, Rudolph E. Tanzi. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, Vol. 100, No. 20 (Sep. 30, 2003), pp. 11193-11194

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which can lead to dementia, but researchers discount this as a link to Alzheimer’s disease. The anti-perspirant/breast cancer link is among the weakest of all the rumors about the causes of breast cancer. This alleges that aluminum seeps through the skin, dissolves into the blood and lymph circulation, and then into the breast. But besides blood, the lymphatic system circulates a clear fluid, lymph, which flows from the breasts to the armpits, and then into the bloodstream. When aluminum salts are introduced into the lymph nodes under the arm, they travel away from the breast. If we explain this to a friend who buys in to the antiperspirant/breast cancer rumor, our efforts will backfire, as in most cases, they will not let facts interfere with a good scare. Network Marketing “At night, I dream of being in a talent contest. On stage I see a long line of woefully inept contestants who believe they are talented. So too, I see many people in businesses run from the quiet of their homes, with piles of money rolling in from the lucrative sales of supplements. And they believe the sick can be restored to health with their products, through the strength of alternative medicine.” A shift has taken place in the way vendors sell goods*. Multilevel marketing companies (MLMs) recruit distributors, through an appeal to their sense of independence, who then coax other people into becoming distributors themselves. New distributors spend time learning the finer points of network marketing, and how to sell dietary supplements, weights loss products, etc., with the aid of company materials. Even doctors, dentists and lawyers join the all-natural sales force, together with the unemployed. The company holds pep rallies (sales meetings), in which they re-

* The Mirage of Multilevel Marketing. S Barrett - Quackwatch, revised Aug, 2001 quackwatch.org

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mind people they of vast amounts of money ready to be made. In reality, the upstream distributors wind up with most of the money—all generated by the new distributors. A detailed analysis of the sales pitches MLM companies use to scam people, and persuade them to join them, found that over 99 percent of new distributors lose money. In fact, the odds of new distributors making a profit are near zero. Of course, the MLM industry does not tell potential distributors this. The MLM industry, armed with well-paid politicians, is unrelenting in its fight against any proposed laws to force it to disclose the actual income potential*. The new distributors fail to explore the worth of the products they sell, although they put their reputation on the line. Nasty disputes with customers (and fellow multilevel marketers) often torment the new distributors, when their businesses—as anticipated—topple. In the end, a huge, all-natural black eye is all that remains from their efforts—and boatloads of product. Rebirthing Rebirthing therapy, typical of many natural methods, claims to release us from the psychic shock of birth etched deeply into our soul. Rebirthing is supposed to be the greatest thing since dehydrated water in a can. Rebirthing involves guided imagery and deep breathing to “release negative energy” (big words in mystic holistic circles). However, like other kinds of pseudotherapy, reliving our birth can get ugly: Mystic holistic hukes** wrapped up an ill-fated young girl in blankets, preparing her for rebirthing therapy, in order to simulate the process of labor and birth. They squeezed the girl, but she repeatedly cried out that she could not breathe. The hukes told the girl to try harder to break out and be reborn. Instead, the desperate child passed out, and in due course expired. The mother of the poor girl was at the scene to witness the

*

Consumer Awareness Institute, 2008 Huke: a person so horrendous, they make us want to puke.

**

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incident. Why do we need to suffer through a “natural” therapy like rebirthing, while “experts” counter our attempts to get free? Why do we need to pretend to relive our births in the first place? Going through one real birth is enough of a laborious event. This heartrending tale shows where extreme mystic holistic urges can lead us. The mystic holistic believer will make unoriginal comments when hearing of a crime committed in the practice of natural healing: “Doctors are worse; they kill millions of people.” However, doctors treat serious cases guided by strict protocols, although this means little to the mystic holistic believer. The Bronze Age medicine acupuncturist and the “everyone-needs-adjustments” chiropractor can address only minor problems at best. Fortunately, many of the parties harmed by holistic practitioners have begun to take large-scale action. The Holistic Health Gouger “You need to come in 3 times a week for the next few months. If you can manage that, I will have Sylvia cut your fee from $105 to $95 per treatment. Also, I want you start on a homeopathic liver cleanser. Tell your mother that I think it will help her too." “By the way, for every person that you refer to my clinic, I will give you a $10 rebate toward more product.” The therapist that uses their power over clients to spring last minute sales pitch does so in the belief that they are on the path to lucrative sales. Such a therapist must aggressively peddle products to compensate for worse than worthless services.

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“What we obtain too cheap we esteem too lightly.” Thomas Paine In most cases, we get what we pay for, but in other cases, it is all hype. For instance, we tend to value treatments that are expensive. We assume that if we are spending more, it must be better. Red placebos work better than blue, but $3 pills control pain better than 30-cent pills, even though the medicine in them is identical. Then again, if something is free, we tend to respect it less. This thinking started the co-pay system used by the medical and insurance industries. The heads-up consumer reporter exposes gougers in every business, because people are often unable to distinguish between businesses motivated only by profit, and businesses that offer real value. Finding a holistic health gouger is easy; finding a holistic therapist that curbs the hard sell can be difficult—finding a reliable landscaper may be much easier. The holistic health gouger plays to people who love to hear holistic fairy stories in an attempt to recover their losses, trusting that they will overlook the salesmanship, and line up for the magic—if it is well presented. The holistic health gouger has, more often than not, good rapport with their charge. They give them plenty of praise and attention, and are equipped with phony machines that make an impression. The gouger may even wear a nice white coat in order to look the part, like a real doctor. Most doctors are ethical, and refuse to be a retailer with good reason: with few exceptions, modern medicine condemns the practice of selling products from a clinic, affirming that a health care provider must be objective. Medical ethicists take a dim view of salesdoctors*. If our doctor is intent on turning their clinic into a retail outlet, we must seek help elsewhere. Only under strict protocols is the sale of Girl Scout cookies, eye-

*

AMA Council on Ethical and Judicial Affairs. Sale of health-related products from physicians' offices. CEJA Opinion 8.063, June 1999.

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glasses, hospital charity coupons, and the like, considered acceptable.

Holistic Scam Resistance President, Rosemary Jacobs
Too many people are outraged when learning how much a chiropractor charged them for muscle testing*. They are irate when realizing that colloidal silver has permanently dyed their skin. They are beside themselves when finding that dangerous herbs have destroyed their kidneys. Their wrath spurs them to action. Holistic Scam Resistance (HSR) is a bold response to the many people exploited or harmed by holistic medicine. Founded in 1998, HSR exposes those practitioners who urge people to do things like avoid doctors, use colloidal silver, stop vaccinating their children, or take health food store hormones. HSR advocates for people who are sold dietary supplements by an iridologist**, who claimed that they could effectively treat their cancer. HSR is clear: when people have a new symptom, and are concerned, they must get it checked by a doctor, and not a holistic practitioner. Medical doctors are far more likely to spot a significant illness due to their extensive training. In contrast, the holistic practitioner is far less likely to spot something significant, due to their lack of real-world

*

Muscle testing (Applied Kinesiology), not to be confused with legitimate kinesiology, the study of human movement, is another in the long line of notorious diagnostic methods. Typically, the person to be muscle tested stretches out an arm, and points to a body area, such as the liver, or has a substance placed under their tongue. Then, as a practitioner applies force to his or her arm, the subject is told to resist. Strong resistance implies health, while weak resistance implies a problem with that body area, or that the substance is unfavorable.

**

Iridology is a thoroughly discredited diagnostic method in which fibers of the iris are examined; it purports to identify health problems.

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medical education; even if they happen to, they will use only NonProven Therapy to treat it. Millions of people deal with serious health problems, and take prescribed medicines that help them survive. But millions of people also swallow that which they do not need, does not work, and that harms them. This is because we live in a take-a-drug-supplement-antibioticvitamin-herb-pill world. We cannot expect the holistic health set to offer unbiased opinions on the products they sell. A clear example of caveat emptor, they merely parrot the alternative health party line, and pose as reliable sources for health information. HSR warns people away from the practitioner who puts them through a battery of phony tests, and diagnoses them as having any one of the Emperor’s New Diseases: environmental illness, multiple chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia, sick building syndrome, toxic mold syndrome*, chronic fatigue syndrome, yeast syndrome, and other pseudo-illnesses popular with the holistic health set. If we dare challenge the existence of these syndromes to people that claim to have them, we will only get ourselves in a heap of trouble, because once they hear this, it will be difficult for them to back out. Too many of us are cavalier with our health; we waste valuable time with badly chosen and untrained people. By avoiding doctors, and thanking a reflexologist with our presence, they will examine only our feet and toes, while ignoring other areas. If we consult an iridologist, they will examine only the irises of our eyes. In the meantime, they ignore other signs, ones that a doctor would investigate in a routine exam. Even if we do decide to later consult a doctor, it might be too late. Our heartburn, headache, or back pain may, in rare instances, turn out to have serious causes while we are wasting our time with pseudotherapy, which may appear to solve the problem because of the placebo effect. In reality, we may be getting worse.

* “Years of intensive study have failed to establish the exposure in home, school, or office environments as the cause of adverse human health effects.”

Adverse Human Health Effects Associated with Molds in the Indoor Environment. Journal of Occupational & Environmental Medicine. 45(5):470-478, May 2003.

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HSR declares that we must turn our backs on unqualified diagnoses, whether from…
• • • • • • • • Personal trainers Manicurists Supermarket checkers Health hicks (“Wha dontcha jest put these leaves on yer head?”) Fearmongers Massage technicians Health food store clerks People in paid commercials (commercial that often are made to seem like a talk show) The person who sells magnets* in their spare time

•

The preceding are examples of people who practice medicine with no business doing so, who do not know what is appropriate in diagnosis and treatment, and throw us into orthorexic rumination. For every person that HSR warns, scores of people will submit to flaky health advice. Nonetheless, we finally have a voice, a platform from which to launch a broad-based challenge. HSR investigates, and if necessary exposes the dangerous, the untested, the bizarre—the holistic scammers—for all to see.

*

The application of low frequency, static magnets, unlike electrically powered magnets, or the giant magnets used in MRI machines, is said to expose the body to therapeutic “magnetic energy." Static magnets are often recommended by holistic practitioners to treat chronic fatigue, the pain of arthritis, and so on. In reality, such static magnets have no significant physiological effect, and work only as a placebo, as they are too weak for their fields to penetrate the skin. Magnetic straps, insoles, mattresses, and other magnet therapy products are trendy nonetheless. Besides, if magnetic fields could treat disease, MRI technicians, who work around immense fields, would be in remarkable condition (they are no healthier than the general population).

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Hospital Errors Consider how the militant Islamist rejoices on hearing of the mass murder of infidels. So too do certain events incite malicious health swingers to revelry. Now and then, a report comes out saying that, every year numerous people die due to hospital and laboratory errors. However, the report fails to mention the numbers of lives saved by hospitals and laboratories, and so the public is sure to misconstrue it. Even so, carefully following up on such a report is crucial. News of the report prompts investigators to action, but with closer inspection, it sometimes turns out that the report includes adverse events that no one could predict. For instance, doing every costly test is not practical in an emergency. In addition, the problems that patients suffer from prior to admission are the cause of most hospital deaths, even though doctors and nurses work hard to save their lives. In spite of the most skilled care, if a person is seriously ill, or has multiple diseases, bad outcomes can and do occur, and not always the result an incompetent hospital staff. “Being in a hospital is a major source of staph infection; therefore, hospitals, not bacteria, are the cause of staph infections.” Journalists have symbolized the number of hospital-caused deaths with the image of airliners falling out of the sky, but they do not use the image of doves released into the sky, to symbolize the many lives saved in hospitals. This is sad, because most people are unaware of major medical advances, such as in the use of anesthesia. More and more people are electing to not go into medicine, as it is often a thankless job. Therefore, the failure to rescue rate (failure to spot postoperative infections, bedsores, and other complications) goes up in the face of low staff-to-patient ratios. Even so, hospital staff rescues nearly all patients that develop serious complications after admission. Even if the airlines check suitcases correctly 99 percent of the time,

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they will still lose hundreds of suitcases a day. Being cavalier with patient well-being is never all right. However, because doctors, nurses and pharmacists are people, and medicine is an art based on a science, highlighting errors is tricky stuff. In lieu of an impartial depiction of medical errors, doctors, nurses, and labs must always strive to make medicine safer. “If modern medicine is so incompetent, to whom do we turn when we need critical help?” In reality, many people highlight medical errors in an effort to call our attention to the champions of holistic healing. Holistic health practitioners and their admirers will at all times detest conventional authority—many will be overcome with spasms of contempt. Maligning the medical profession, and drinking the heady wine of anti-doctor impudence, makes them feel good. Asian Health Superstition “Our neighbor down the street is taking a Chinese herb, and says that her liver cancer symptoms are now better.” The rational person, who finds many parts of Asian culture irresistible, does not retreat from discussing its superstitions. They realize that, except for anthropologists, historians and others, its ancient superstitions are of minor interest to Westerners. Nonetheless, most Westerners are superstitious just as most Asians are, only in a different way. Asian medicine took its first steps in the Early Bronze Age, at a time in which the workings of the human body were a mystery. The Asian people of old simply applied their unique blend of philosophy, mysticism and cosmology to then unknown physiological processes. Throughout the ages, Asian people thought highly of this system, which gave rise to a medicine that evolved for several thousand years. In the West, during the Hippie heyday, the popularity of Asian mysticism gathered steam. Today, Asian medicine is more popular than

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ever, whether in the form of acupuncture needles inserted in the ears for back pain, capsules filled with deer antler velvet (which allegedly boosts athletic performance), or Feng Shui (Chinese geomancy) to arrange furniture for good fortune. Traditional Chinese Medicine and other forms of Asian medicine are now are sanctified in the West. Embraced worldwide, millions of people consider Asian herbal medicine safe and effective. Asian companies have been known to intentionally spike patent (ready-made) herbal products with prescription drugs. They may use antihistamines, steroids, anticonvulsants, codeine, antibiotics, aspirin, theophylline, or drugs for erectile dysfunction to make the products seem effective. In addition, factories in Asia often have poor quality control, and heavy metals from nearby industrial units (such as cadmium, lead, and arsenic) seep in the soil in which herbs are grown. The world over, people use Asian herbal medicine believing it will enhance sexual potency, memory, energy, and hormonal balance, often in an attempt to avoid, supersede, or substitute established treatments. An ancient tonic, whether decocted, powdered, put into creams or pills, becomes a modern poison when it leads to high blood pressure, bleeding, kidney failure, cancers of the urinary tract, hepatitis, liver failure, or when it interacts with prescription drugs. Traditional Chinese Medicine wreaks havoc on endangered species, because it uses animal parts*. The Chinese believe that, if they eat the penis of an animal, they will be virile. Therefore, if we travel to China, we will see a variety of penis-based products. If a Chinese person needs to heal their liver, they will eat the liver of an animal. The Chinese are not the only people who believe that penis-based and bear gallbladderbased products (whether the real things or cheap substitutes) are effective medicines. However, the disappearance of the rhinoceros is largely due to them (the Saudi Arabians love to hunt rhinoceros, too, because they love to make their knife handles from its horn), and their belief that rhinoceros horn is an aphrodisiac.

*

WorldWildLife.org, Wildlife Trade, Traditional Chinese Medicine

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This does not mean that the Chinese are less intelligent than other people. In fact, each country has its own set of bizarre beliefs. Is it any less ridiculous to believe in astrology, ghosts or television shows that feature people talking to their dead relatives? Pregnant American women have been know to drink more cow’s milk in the belief that they will produce more breast milk. Bodybuilders believe that, by eating the muscle tissue of an animal, they will have bigger muscles. When drugs to treat erectile dysfunction first came on the market, there were positive accolades from the environmental community. They figured that, at last, here was something that could really help a man, and so all the traditional medicines using animal parts would disappear. Well, not only did they keep using animal parts, Asian people simply added the drugs to the mix. In India, Africa, and other countries, where people hunt endangered animals to eat or sell, anti-poaching forces are on in the field. However, the animals are so valuable that stopping poachers is difficult. Asian medicine clashes with the most basic rules of science, but because of the placebo effect, people fool themselves into believing it works. And Western media features it with no evidence to support its safety or efficacy. Incredible tales of chi (pronounced chee—alternate spellings ch’i or qi), the universal energy of life, rooted in Asian mythology), are presented as real by often-tacky programs and articles, and draw thousands of people to study acupuncture or the martial arts. Ironically, Asian people demand Western drugs and medical technology, whereas Westerners travel to Asia to study traditional medicine. Asian medical doctors travel to Western countries, to study cardiology, neurosurgery, and other disciplines in modern medicine. In Western countries, the tradition healer steps in, acting as a white knight, as if brief training in Asian medicine prepares them for realworld diseases. A Westerner can claim to be a celestial emperor of Feng Shui, and command outlandish fees, just by reading a book or taking a few classes. The celestial emperor claims to focus positive chi, whether through interior design, or ordering where and how buildings are constructed. But the Feng Shui master, fails to deliver on their claims, seeing that, when examined objectively, each master comes up with an entirely different arrangement for the same place. Nonetheless, a few

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Western companies have bought in to it, desperate to find a winning edge, and looking for increased profits through Feng Shui, I Ching (Chinese divination), and other derivatives of Asian culture. By submitting so easily to such superstition, they show their willingness to do nearly anything, however absurd, in order to succeed. Too few of us have learned the distinction between ancient vision and modern reality. And so, a master of chi can with ease peddle us a mirror arrangement for prosperity in our homes, or an herbal formula to treat our high blood pressure. The energy therapist slogs along with the same weak claim that imbalanced or blocked chi causes disease. We must walk out on any therapist that claims to work with chi. Investigators were hardly surprised to find the most well known practice claiming to balance chi, acupuncture, could not address disease processes at all*. Needle treatment for tennis elbow, knee arthritis, and other kinds common, mild to moderate musculo-skeletal pain, finds conflicting (mostly negative) support in the medical literature, while drug addiction, obesity, and delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), fail to respond in any way (apart from the placebo effect). So far, studies that “prove” the efficacy of acupuncture (mostly done in Asia) fail to bring in controls to guard against cheating, and so are not worthy of serious consideration. In well-diagnosed pain syndromes, where a doctor has failed to help, needling as a form of physical therapy may be reasonable in lieu of drugs. Needles with an electric current applied, used without reference to the traditional acupuncture points (that is, inserted only in or adjacent to affected areas), might interrupt pain signals, and produce mild to moderate pain relief. Nearly all acupuncturists lack a basic understanding of the usual course of disease. The fact that many symptoms may only go so far before stopping, or get better with no treatment at all, is a phenomenon of which the acupuncturist takes advantage. Seeing that they labor in vain with archaic medical concepts (i.e., undetectable cosmic energy

*

Acupuncture. NIH Consensus Statement, November 3-5, 1997.

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flowing through undetectable meridians), legitimate training becomes irrelevant. "Chi is a reality, and I defy you to prove it is not." The believer in chi may defy us to show that chi does not exist, but critical thinking demands that, whoever makes a claim is required to prove it. A human being is not like an all-powerful Oz behind the curtain, and they cannot always able to prove a claim true or false. And so it is with the idea of imperceptible life force traversing the body in imperceptible meridians. Eccentrics may claim that tiny, imperceptible elves are inside of our bodies, creating chi, but this is just another example of the innumerable claims resistant to testing. We can show only that, at best, the claims are highly unlikely*. “Everyone Needs a Chiropractic Checkup” What researchers say about chiropractic misalignment will only serve to aggravate the straight chiropractor. The science-based chiropractor is here to stay, and their treatments have physical therapy value for garden-variety back problems (those back problems that have previously been examined by a medical doctor). Even so, the science-based chiropractor is hard to find. Most chiropractors cling to the absurd belief that spinal misalignment is the cause of all illness. The straight chiropractic theory, rooted in 19th Century thinking, states that because a vertebra deviates from its normal position, spinal nerve communication is blocked. The chiropractor examines the spine of the client by using X-rays, and any number of techniques. Then, in the

*

Traditional Medicine and Pseudoscience in China: Traditional Medicine and Pseudoscience in China: A Report of the First and Second CSICOP Delegations. Skeptical Inquirer magazine : July/August 1997

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belief that adjusting deviant vertebra returns a patient to health, they supposedly make corrections based on the findings. Many chiropractors, if not most, try to sell holistic health products to the client following treatment, claiming they will help the alleged condition. For years, doctors have known just what pinching a nerve does and does not do. Simply put, pinched nerves do not cause diseases like diabetes, allergies, multiple sclerosis, heart disease, asthma, skin problems, etc. One researcher took spines from cadavers, put them on a drill press, and attempted to misalign vertebrae. In measuring the force needed to do the job, he found that only by complete failure would a vertebra shift*. The actual cause of popping, heard in many chiropractic treatments, or by stretching the knuckles, is not caused by one bone moving over the other, but from a rupture of gas confined in fluid-filled, joint capsules. A gas bubble forms rapidly, by stretching a joint, and a sudden burst is heard. “If we crack our knuckles, are they than realigned? Were they out of alignment to begin with?” The same thing happens in many joints; by elongating the joint capsules, they pop, and the sudden release of pressure feels good to some people. ”My back is out again!” People who say, “I’m out” are merely putting words to a sensation. In reality, their spine is not “out,” or misaligned. However they feel pressure and inflammation, which has built up in their spines. A typical

*

Crelin E. A Scientific Test of Chiropractic’s Subluxation Theory. American Scientist 61:574-580, 1973.

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location of which is the fibrous capsules over the facet joints (places that connect one vertebra to the next). Can chiropractic manipulation cure all backaches? This is preposterous, seeing that the cause varies, such as lumbar muscle strain or spasm, ruptured discs, spinal stenosis, arthritis, strained or torn ligaments, kidney disease, disc disease without herniation, osteoporosis, cancer, etc. A spinal adjustment cannot possibly be appropriate for all these kinds of back pain. Even worse is a neck adjustment, which is risky for many people. The sufferer of chronic back pain is wise to first consult an orthopedist, who will check for serious causes. Surely, the few chiropractors that concur with the preceding are an eminent group*. The Weird Massage Legitimate massage therapists are hard to find, but the weird massage therapist is everywhere. Many massage therapists are inclined toward the usual silly convictions of holistic therapists. Among their claims are massage balances the life force, improves overall health, strengthens the immune system, aids in weight loss, enhances circulation**, has lasting effects, and so on. Massage books and schools perpetuate the insidious belief that nameless toxins (and toxic emotions) build up in the body. They maintain that massage flushes out these toxins, and we must then drink lots of water. The acupressurist or shiatsu therapist (also known as a finger pressure acupuncturist) is steeped in the supernatural theories of Asian medicine. They stress the importance of finding the right pressure points, imagined to be the size of a grain of sand.

*

See Chirobase.org

**

While peripheral circulation is temporarily roused, massage does not influence deep circulation in any significant way.

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The reflexologist purports to diagnose and treat an array of maladies through zones in the feet, which are supposed to have conduits that lead to every part of the body. But these conduits have no anatomical reality. Nonetheless, the reflexologist says that palpating the feet identifies health problems, and pressure on particular foot regions is supposed to heal them. However, only people ignorant of the basic structure of the body would accept this. The craniosacral therapist is even more outlandish. They claim to shift our skull bones, which frees blocked life energy, improves cerebrospinal fluid flow, and treats a host of health problems. In reality, adult skull bones are solid, having fused together in infancy. Only the most ingenuous person would embrace an energy therapy like Non-Contact Therapeutic Touch or Reiki. Both are forms of spiritual healing, where practitioners either wave or lay their hands on a recipient, in the belief that they conduct healing energy. As for men seeking a sensual massage, or a massage with a “happy ending,” the best choice is a prostitute. Rational massage therapy has little in common with these weird practices. Stripped of silliness and carnality, the standard massage (also called “bodywork”) deserves our respect. Such therapy may provide the human connection that helps solitary people feel better, which can have a pain relieving effect equivalent to a 1-milligram dose of morphine*. Even so, massage cannot address disease in any way, other than those helped by the relaxation response. Nor is massage meant to “maintain health.” If a massage therapist renders a medical diagnosis, they are practicing medicine without a license. Besides, the diagnostic techniques of the weird massage therapist match no accepted medical model. Typically, the person relaxed by “fluff” or stroking massage has not experienced the more profound kinds of massage, the effects of which involve a brief release of tension and feeling of elation. Distinct from the weird massage, and even standard massage, is the Power Session.

*

Journal of the American College of Surgeons, February 2008

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The Power Session The person who loves great massage, music, humor and wisdom can now release tension in the most powerful ever devised. Power Sessions are performed in an acoustically enhanced room, with futons placed atop a thick mat. Two skilled massage therapists tend to a single recipient. Music is played throughout the session, and a quick audio clip plays between each song, featuring bits from such great minds as Dr. Dean Edell, James Randi, Richard Dawkins, Michael Shermer, Penn and Teller, George Carlin, Joe Nickell and others. Massage tables are strictly avoided because they limit the application of many key massage techniques. Power Sessions appeal primarily to lifelong learners. People, who are uptight, easily offended, fragile, or sensitive to touch will not appreciate Power Sessions. Nor will dullards, people inert in the presence of great values, or self-proclaimed guardians of morality. During breaks, light conversation, feedback, and questions are appreciated, while people who are talkative are not. However, anyone who does well in trial sessions is suitable. The effects of Power Sessions are tremendous, and the few practitioners who offer them have rewarding jobs.

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With findings far more persuasive than that promoted by the holistic health posse, we are reminded not to seek something magical to rescue us from otherwise bad habits.

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ne of the most important things we can do for ourselves, in living free from delusion, is to throw away the nonsense about eat or do this and live to be120 years of age. Magic foods, exercises, vitamins, and herbs, like the supernatural power of silver bullets, are fantasies. The holistic way become meaningless, as is anything based on anecdotes, in a world that relies more and more on science. We must know that, if there were a product that could help us with important physical or mental functions, professional journals would discuss it—and not just the daytime television talk shows. The holistic way largely discounts the fact that our genes, the diet of our mothers when we were in the womb, and how we were cared for as infants, are among the most important elements in our health profile. These elements supersede handfuls of supplements, the finest organic nourishment, impeccable habits, a sunny attitude, and plenty of physical activity. Alone, none of the following will spell the difference between health, and the lack thereof, in any individual. In an effort to highlight technical analysis over romance, the following are brief examples of delusion-free living…

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Delusion-Free Nutrition

Scientists have discovered why beans, chock full of compounds that ease the advance of years and protect against chronic disease, are among the finest foods. The skins of beans are rich in protein, high in fiber, and contain various healthful nutrients. Low in fat, a serving of beans has an abundance of folic acid, iron, potassium and zinc. We enhance our nutrition by eating salads made with dark leafy greens. If we incorporate into our menu the most nutritious vegetables, collard greens and spinach, we heighten our brainpower. These foods, rich in an array of healthy compounds, fiber, calcium and lutein, can cut our risk of cancer. In addition, we may cut the threat of macular degeneration and cataracts. This is not to imply that other vegetables are not healthful. Cabbage, cauliflower, soybeans, and broccoli, for instance, promote the repair of DNA in cells. The strong odor of onion, both a vegetable and condiment, brings tears to the eye, and lends flavor to a meal—little wonder why it has found its way into so many recipes. The easy-to-store onion, common to most cultures, is rich in trace minerals and vitamin C. Onion contains compounds that may lower blood pressure, protect the lungs from noxious substances, cut allergic inflammation, and the risk of colon cancer. Purple onion is among the most potent varieties.

Salsa is one of the finest gastronomical creations, being low in fat and high in nutrition. Salsa energizes any bean or lentil-based recipe, and ought to be heaped onto plates and into recipes, rather than just

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being used as a dip. Researchers have found cilantro-laden salsa a bactericide, among its many other wholesome properties*. When we cook tomatoes in the creation of soup, paste, sauce or salsa, we break down their cell walls and carotene attachments. As a result, more nutrients and cancer-fighting lycopene are available than in raw tomatoes alone. More lycopene (which gives tomatoes their red color) is absorbed, when eaten in a dish with olive oil, or any source of fat. Lycopene supplements cannot provide the benefits of cooked tomatoes, as important helper nutrients are found only in food. The same is true for any supplement, except one made with freeze-dried food—a preposterous idea.

Slow cookers are a great way to create hearty meals, which can be refrigerated for days. Filling the house with appetizing smells, a slow cooker stews and steams food by means of low heat. Ideal for the inexperienced cook, enjoyable meals can be made with a minimum of skill. Great nutrition is assured when using foods like beans, lentils, tomatoes, green chilies, salsa, bell peppers, oregano, etc. Vegetables and fruits are often harvested when hard, unripe, or before reaching top quality. If not, they will lose quality during handling, shipping, or even be overripe upon reaching the market. In addition, fresh produce may not be in season when it is sought, although fresh is generally more desirable. However, many frozen vegetables and fruits are more nutritious than their fresh equivalents, being picked at the peak of their nutrition, and locked in by flash freezing.

Minimal processing for healthy traditional foods. Research Group on Quality, Safety and Bioactivity of Plant Foods. Trends in Food Science & Technology, Volume 17, Issue 9, September 2006, Pages 513-519
*

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Many people discount their value of frozen foods. Nonetheless, their quality has improved greatly, as have the quality of frozen meals since Clarence Birdseye first founded the industry in the early 20th Century. In fact, healthful frozen meals free of hydrogenated oils are common. Additionally, canned vegetables and fruits can be as nutritious as those that are fresh or frozen. Despite the fact that some of the nutrition dissipates into the water, broth or whatever liquid surrounds the canned vegetables and fruits, in cases where all the contents are consumed, this is of no consequence. Even if the surrounding liquid is not consumed, the differences between fresh, frozen and canned vegetables and fruits are negligible.

Many people, in their belief that medicinal herbs are holistic wonders, overlook the value of herbs added to food. However, meals are more nourishing when spices and herbs* are added tastefully to a recipe. One culinary herb sets atop a mountain of nutritional joy—oregano, which has 42 times the cell-protecting compounds of apples, 12 times more than an orange, and 4 times more than a serving of blueberries. This is significant, considering that blueberries are among the most powerful foods on Earth. Fresh, whole culinary herbs are more nutritious than their canned, dried, or prepared equivalents, and superior to salt or artificial flavorings in taste.

*

Spices are from the bark, stem, or seeds of a plant, while herbs are from the leaves.

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Smart consumers use only whole oregano, and ignore supplement peddlers who offer oil of oregano, claiming it can treat a variety of ailments. Culinary herbs may have more cell-protecting compounds** than those found in certain vegetables and fruits, even though they cannot replace a diet rich in vegetables and fruits.

Booze culture is widespread throughout the world, and many countries are alcoholic countries. Alcohol is the preferred drug of many, if not most people; it is pushed, promoted, and advertised, with little regard for people who do not drink or are trying to quit. We celebrate great events and happiness in our family by raising the glass, and yet we seem unable to figure out why we have so many alcoholics. Alcohol is the greatest societal scourge of any drug, but light alcohol consumption is healthy, and can improve cardiac blood flow. Red wine, particularly the cabernets, may fight heart disease and dementia* better than other kinds of alcoholic drinks. We must drink sparingly; as little as 4 or 5 times a year is sufficient to get the benefits. As far as the upper limit, around 2 drinks a day for men, and 1 for women, are rough guidelines**. However, the amount that we drink does not indicate a problem so much as the effect, and the desire for more. For instance,

** Antioxidant Activity and Phenolic Compounds in Selected Herbs. Wei Zheng and Shiow Y. Wang. J Agric Food Chem, 2001

Mechanism of cardioprotection by resveratrol, a phenolic antioxidant present in red wine. Int J Mol Med. 2001 Jul;8(1):3-17.
*

Alcohol Beverages and Incidence of Dementia: 34-Year Follow-up of the Prospective Population Study of Women in Göteborg. American Journal of Epidemiology ., 2008
**

An alcoholic drink is defined as 1.5 ounces of hard liquor, 12 ounces of beer, or five ounces of wine.

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problem drinkers can drink a lot with little effect. Advising people who do not drink alcohol to start is not our purpose; we merely point out that automatic good and bad judgments are often without merit. We all inherit our ability to tolerate alcohol, at least to some extent. For instance, many alcoholics can, despite the image of a falling down drunk, keep to their routines, hold a job, and so on. Then again, many cannot. Lots of people get sick easily, while others never even get a hangover (these people may carry an alcoholic gene). To put it another way, when the sons of alcoholics, who are not drinkers themselves, are given alcohol, they are much more able to tolerate it, compared to the sons of fathers that did not drink, who will feel more inebriated, dizzy, nauseous, and hung-over. Women are, on average, twice as sensitive to alcohol as men because (1) their body weight is less, and (2) their enzymes metabolize alcohol differently. When a woman drinks lots of alcohol, they get more of an inebriated feeling, and greater potential for liver damage. This happens at much lower doses, and much more quickly than men. Soup-Up the Juice Colorful plant foods are loaded with compounds that fight free radical* damage. Therefore, people who eat colorful plant foods lower their risk of arthritis, heart disease, cancer, and other morbid diseases. When scientists added a source of ethanol (distilled spirits like rum and vodka) to the juice of colorful fruit (raspberries, strawberries, grapes, etc.), to their surprise, the juice had higher amounts of free radical fighters. The ethanol augmented the cell protecting capacity of the juice by damaging its structure, and so making more antioxidants

*

In biology, free radicals are byproducts of oxidation. These highly reactive organic compounds play roles necessary for life, but can also take part in damaging chemical reactions during metabolism.

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available to the body **.

Purple grape juice is a great option for people who avoid alcohol entirely; it has many of the compounds found in red wine, such as resveratrol, a substance that may have life-prolonging effects. Various plants produce resveratrol as a defense against fungi. People with coronary artery disease, who make drinking purple grape juice a habit (the genuine item—check the label), may inhibit the buildup of fatty plaques in their arteries, lessen the stickiness of platelets, lower the risk of blood clots, making the arteries supple and more able to respond to increased blood flow.

Berries are among the most powerful foods on Earth, and blackberries may be the most potent among berries, brimming with compounds like resveratrol*. As expected, these compounds exist only in real berries, and not pills. Animal studies sometimes apply to humans, and sometimes they do not. Nonetheless, when aged rats are given the equivalent of a half-cup of blueberries daily for 8 weeks, researchers noted improvements in balance, coordination, and short-term memory. In addition, blueberries

**

Effect of Natural Volatile Compounds on Antioxidant Capacity and Antioxidant Enzymes in Raspberries. Postharvest Biology and Technology. 40:106-115, 2006

*

Berry Phenolics and Their Antioxidant Activity, Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2001

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seemed to slow the aging process**. The compounds found in blueberries are nearly as effective as statin drugs for healthy people with mild hypercholesterolemia (high blood cholesterol). However, in people with known heart disease, blueberries cannot replace statin drugs, even though they may be helpful in preventing arterial blockage. Also, eating blueberries may not be effective alongside a lifetime of damage. Kiwi fruit is among the most nutritious fruit on Earth. Formerly known as Chinese gooseberry, it was brought from China to New Zealand in the early 20th Century. Kiwi fruit is rich in vitamins C and E, and it has compounds that may cut the risk of macular degeneration, cataracts, or life-threatening diseases *. Cherries are acknowledged champions of nutrition, and among the most potent anti-cancer foods around—their potency may surpass even that of berries. A diet that includes plenty of cherries, in many forms, such as fresh or dried, may postpone aging, protect the lungs against noxious agents, cut the inflammation linked with allergies, inhibit pain, reduce the formation of gallstones, and prevent some of the deadliest diseases known to man **. Papaya and mango are tropical in origin, but are found on tables throughout the world. They are more than worthy of a mention, as both are, wholesome and sweet tasting, among the most nutritious fruits on Earth. When eaten regularly, they may slow the aging process, reduce the risk of cancer, improve lung function, and reduce diabetic complications. Smoothies are a great way to get liberal servings of fruit. We can, by using a blender, combine kiwi, berries, papaya, mango, cantaloupe, banana, yogurt, non-fat milk, or soymilk, and produce a delectable,

**

Antioxidant-rich diets improve cerebellar physiology and motor learning in aged rats. Brain research 2000, vol. 866, no1-2, pp. 211-217

*

Kiwifruit Protects Against Oxidative DNA Damage in Human Cells and In Vitro, Nutrition and Cancer, 2001 Constituents and Antioxidant Activity of Sweet Cherry at Different Ripening Stages, J. Agric. Food Chem., 53 (7), 2741 -2745, 2005. 10.1021/jf0479160 S00218561(04)07916-6

** Chemical

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nutritional powerhouse. A well-made smoothie makes dietary supplements seem meager*. In fact, we can donate our supplements to the local health nut, while sipping on a smoothie.

The positive effects of vitamins are seen only in the deficient, or those with specific ailments—significant negative effects of vitamins are seen in healthy people if taken over time.
*

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Fruit Smoothie Gourmet Magazine

Fruit smoothie lovers, from the novice enthusiast widening their palate, to the seasoned connoisseur experimenting with new blends, deserve a voice. Now that voice is here. Fruit Smoothie Gourmet Magazine, which features reports from freelance writers, authors, Registered Dieticians, and others expert in the art of smoothie creation, is the most respected source to be found. The devoted connoisseur takes great pleasure in fine smoothies, no matter what fruit forms their base—whether a glass of Grand Kiwi, Blueberry Bouquet, Royal Apple, or Cherry Sangiovese. FSG considers the best smoothies fresh, homemade, and with all the fiber of the fruit left intact–not filtered, strained, or thinned out with ice. We can freeze some or all of the fruit ahead of time for an ice-cold smoothie. The most common ingredients are fruit, fruit juice, non-fat milk (or soymilk), or yogurt. The smoothie lover drinks a smoothie as a meal, or as the major part of a meal, because it can impart a great deal of food energy. Each smoothie is made more satisfying with the helpful hints of our experts—from the selection of the finest conventionally or organically grown fruit, to recipes, equipment, precise methods of storage, or which smoothie is best suited to which occasion. Fruit Smoothie Gourmet Magazine is a bumper crop of pertinent information in support of the smoothie connoisseur lifestyle.

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Chocolate can be part of a healthy diet, depending on how dark it is, and how much of it we eat (yes, a box a day is too much) *. Fine, dark chocolate is high in compounds similar to those found in red wine and tea. Fine, dark chocolate may encourage supple arteries, and less sticky platelets, helping to prevent strokes and heart attacks. In addition, it inhibits the growth of bacteria that form plaques, possibly preventing cavities and gum disease. However, milk chocolate is less potent, as milk blocks many of the healthful compounds found in chocolate. Chocolate contains oxalate, which binds with calcium, and blocks calcium absorption. Therefore, older women who eat lots of chocolate tend to have weaker, thinner bones, and weigh less than women who treat themselves to chocolate less often**. Nonetheless, we find oxalic acid in many plant foods. The cocoa bean has a favorable fat profile, and does not raise blood cholesterol. The liver converts its cocoa butter and stearic acid, both saturated fats, into oleic acid, a heart healthy, monounsaturated fat. Contrary to widely held belief, researchers have not linked chocolate to allergies, migraines, or acne. Nor does chocolate promote romantic urges, despite having tiny amounts of caffeine, theobromine, and other compounds that might influence emotion if the doses were high enough. Whether we could eat a sufficient amount of chocolate to affect our mood is doubtful.

*

Polyphenols in Chocolate, Which Have Antioxidant Activity, Modulate Immune Functions in Humans in Vitro, Cellular Immunology, Volume 177, Number 2, May 1997, pp. 129-136(8) American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, January, 2008

**

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Natural foods enthusiasts have for years told us to avoid nuts and nut butters. The fat and extra calories in nuts were supposed to be bad for us. However, science has refuted this, and restored the status of nuts*. Eating too many nuts (more than around a quarter cup a day for an adult) might lead to obesity in some people, but nuts but they make us feel satisfied, which may bring about less eating and, ironically, fat loss. In any case, active and dynamic people, who are at low risk for morbid obesity, may eat nuts without concern. A diet that includes nuts can improve the readings of people with high cholesterol, because the “good” fats displace potentially harmful fats. Raw or roasted nuts and nut butters are filled with wholesome plant chemicals, and contain the full range of vitamin E. In addition, eating nuts may cut inflammation—vital in preventing cancer, heart problems, and Alzheimer’s disease. The polyunsaturated fats in walnuts are loaded with omega-three fatty acids, like those found in fish, which tend to stabilize heart rhythm, and inhibit the formation of blood clots. Manufacturers may add hydrogenated oil to keep the oils in nut butters from separating. Peanut butter made with hydrogenated oils may not be ideal, but better-quality peanut butters are easy to find. Nonetheless, the issue of trans fat is unsettled. Investigators believe that trans fats might contribute to health problems, but they are not sure. For most people, avoiding trans fats altogether may be unrealistic, even if they believe them to be bad, as they are in meat and milk. We can only reduce the amount in our diet, or more importantly, reduce the amount we eat, and get a little exercise. In any case, few of us will miss the trans fats added to food. Fat molecules are usually elastic, but the trans fat molecule is rigid.

Nuts and their bioactive constituents: effects on serum lipids and other factors that affect disease risk, Am J Clin Nutr. 1999 Sep; 70 (3 Suppl): 504S-511S.
*

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Whether they form through the manufacture of processed foods, or added to extend shelf life and taste, our bodies may not handle trans fatty acids well. Like eggs, steak, butter, cheese, and other saturated fatty foods, trans fats might raise bad cholesterol. In fact, saturated fatty foods may be more harmful. The most common form of added trans fats are hydrogenated oils. These are hard fats formed by pumping hydrogen into liquid vegetable oil under pressure. Used in items like pastries, soup cups, crackers, chips, fast foods, fried chicken, frozen potpies, French fries, cookies, packaged cake and biscuit mixes, and doughnuts, more and more manufacturers are not using the hydrogenated oils. The idea of passing laws to ban the use of trans fat is misguided. This yet another example of politicians doing what they do best: enacting short-term solutions that make problems worse. Monounsaturated oils are a good replacement for trans fats, whereas substances like chemically modified or blended fat (interesterfied fat), fully hydrogenated soybean oil (free of trans fats), or high saturated fat palm oil may be worse for our health than trans fat. A moderate eater, who happens to consume trans fatty foods on occasion, does not face nutritional nether regions. Consuming less saturated fat and trans fat is reasonable, but we cannot ban all fatty foods without an uprising. Many people experimented with strange diets during the time when the original Hippies walked the Earth. Among the diets that gained adherents was one that dated back many years; the raw food diet. Many people believe, even today, that eating cooked food is less nutritious than eating it raw. They even go so far as to say that a diet of raw foods can cure disease. However, studies suggest that water-based cooking increases the release of certain nutrients. Boiling and steaming maintain the antioxidant compounds of the vegetables, while frying destroys more of them. Steaming actually increases the cancer-fighting abilities of broccoli. Boiled or steamed tomatoes are more nutritious, as are spinach and carrots*.

*

American Chemical Society (2007, December 24). Culinary Shocker: Cooking Can Preserve, Boost Nutrient Content Of Vegetables.

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“In a sense, we are all cooked food eaters, as we chemically ‘cook’ food all through the process of digestion.” A healthy diet includes both raw and cooked food. Besides, we get a surplus of nutrition by simply eating vegetables in nearly any way we like. Another wacky diet continues to survive: the mucusless diet, originally popularized shortly after World War I. Arnold Ehret espoused the theory that certain foods create mucus, which then leads to disease. In reality, the body creates mucus for reasons so vital that, without it, we would die. Drinking a big glass of whole milk leaves a thick feeling in the mouth, because milk is full of dissolved lipids, which make it more viscous than water. However, mucus production in the body has nothing to do with consuming milk. Researchers performed a study to test the link between dairy and mucus production, because patients asked ear, nose, and throat doctors about it so often. They loaded people up with dairy products, measured mucus flow rates, and found that milk does nothing to raise mucus production*. Many people do not consume dairy products because of lactose intolerance, which causes gas, cramps, and diarrhea—not excess mucus.

Alpha tocopherol, found in nearly all vitamin E supplements, is just one form of vitamin E among many. Mixed tocopherol supplements may be marginally better, but foods like dark leafy greens, kiwi, nuts of all kinds, and vegetable oils, put them to shame. In the body, supplements with alpha tocopherol thwart the action of more powerful kinds of

* Relationship between milk intake and mucus production in adult volunteers challenged

with rhinovirus-2. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1990 Feb;141(2):352-6.

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vitamin E, such as gamma tocopherol, found in food. Women who live in Asian countries experience less menopausal symptoms and breast cancer. Whether due to genes, culture, or diet, many of these women happen to eat plant estrogen-rich soy products, and not a Western-style diet. Plant estrogens, while not magic, are healthy in dietary quantity, unlike the extreme amounts found in supplements, which may be harmful. Because wild Mexican yam contains the plant steroid diosgenin, once used as a starting point for manufacturing hormones, companies formerly used large volumes of yam in the manufacture of birth control pills. Decades later, the health food industry came up with the idea of yam supplements and creams, as a natural alternative to hormone replacement therapy, arthritis drugs, cholesterol lowering drugs, etc. They claim that the yams are processed in such a way as to make them especially powerful. The truth is that over-the-counter yam products have no hormonal effects. Otherwise, they would have the same side effects as prescription hormones, and eating yams would feminize males. People in the natural foods industry have been known to claim that plant estrogens can enlarge the breasts of women, and so render plastic surgery obsolete. But neither headline nor peer-reviewed journal has, strangely, said a word about such a colossal breakthrough. Besides, we must eat lots of foods that contain plant estrogens, and do away with other foods found in the Western diet, like lots of meat, in order to realize any health benefits from them.

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Research finds that drinking moderate amounts of coffee* has a pot full of perks, and only a drop of harm. However, coffee is not for everyone, and all of its benefits and risks have yet to be discovered. Many people condemn coffee as toxic, and wrongly implicate it in fibrocystic breast disease**, pancreatic cancer***, etc. But researchers say that drinking this herbal beverage has largely positive effects… • Lower the risk of breast cancer, certain kinds of liver cancer, Parkinson's disease, gallstones, gout, kidney stones, and type II diabetes. Improve cardiac blood flow. Raise the mood. Help asthmatics breathe better. Lessen the severity of headaches. Lower the incidence of dental caries. Increase attentiveness, prevent accidents and combat dips in energy.

• • • • • •

*

Moderate coffee drinking is defined as 1-3 6-ounce cups a day.

**

Coffee consumption and fibrocystic breasts: an unlikely association. Can J Surg. 1986 May;29(3):208-11.

Coffee and cancer: a review of epidemiological studies, 1990-1999. European Journal of Cancer Prevention. 9(4):241-256, August 2000.Tavani, A 1; Vecchia, C La 1,2
***

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Coffee is a complex beverage. Common to many plants are compounds important in disease protection, and the coffee plant has hundreds, made more potent by roasting. However, an unidentified ingredient in coffee may trigger a higher incidence of rheumatoid arthritis, particularly when brewed without a filter. "The pleasure police take of dim view of the mostly positive effects researchers have found in coffee." Caffeine is among the most popular stimulant drugs in the world. Overdosing on caffeine pills is doable, but a person would need to drink many dozens of cups of coffee a day without getting sick, throwing up, and experiencing kidney failure from such a large volume of liquid. Also, caffeine sensitivity varies greatly from person to person, depending on genetics, weight, activity, and how much is consumed. Many people cannot sleep after half a cup of coffee in the afternoon, while others drink it right before bed, and have a good night’s sleep. Still others may experience diarrhea, edginess, trembling hands, or rapid heartbeat, and some people can even feel these effects after drinking decaffeinated coffee, which does in fact have a small amount of caffeine. People who drink lots of coffee, and abruptly withdraw, can experience headaches, irritability, tiredness, and even depression. Far from toxic, coffee furnishes its drinkers with a major source of healthful compounds. This is not to suggest that stale coffee, sitting on a hot plate for hours, has the benefits of freshly made coffee. Coffee starts to lose its aroma, taste, and potency even 20 minutes after brewing. A doctor may caution us against drinking coffee if we have existing heart disease, gastroesophageal reflux disease, stomach problems, or caffeine sensitive high blood pressure. Too much caffeine can also be unsafe for pregnant women. For people who avoid coffee, this is in no way telling them to start; it is only pointing out the many misconceptions about coffee.

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“Because it stimulates urination, coffee causes the body to release more water than it takes in.” The idea that drinking many cups of coffee harms us through net water loss is a myth, as is the idea that we must drink lots of water to counter its diuretic effects. In fact, we can count coffee as part of our daily liquid intake. Coffee is a mild diuretic, but by drinking it regularly, our bodies get used to the diuretic effects, and we will not urinate more water than we take in. Even when drinking 4-5 cups of coffee a day, our bodies will hold on to what they need*. Alcohol is another story; alcoholic drinks do promote a marked loss of water, because ethanol is strong diuretic.

Many holistic health enthusiasts advocate drinking lots of water as a health tonic, to flush the system—a practice is common in orthorexics. Insisting that dehydration affects us all, regardless of weather and activity, the enthusiasts say: “Everyone should drink 8 glasses of water a day.” The origin of the “8 glasses a day” myth is obscure, and many people, particularly those who have tried it, find the advice extreme. The amount of water we need, determined by weather, diet, activity, age, and health status, varies considerably. A construction worker in Ecuador, toiling away in the intense summer sun, might need more than 8 glasses of water a day. Nearly all food is, to be sure, comprised chiefly of water. A balanced diet, with plenty of fruits and vegetables, cancels out the need to chug down many ounces of fluid a day. The digestive system breaks food

*

Caffeine, coffee and health. J Gray - Nutrition & Food Science, 1998

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down into substances like sugar, protein, fat, carbon dioxide, and among them—water. Our bodies have, in most cases, a knack for letting us know they need water. Healthy people, who are not ultra-marathon participants and the like, will stay hydrated without following fads. But elderly people need to drink an extra glass or more of fluid a day, because their sense of thirst may not be as reliable as it once was, and they need to stay on top of it in hot weather. Our bodies strive to hang on vital substances, and do not allow them to vary much. Our skin loses water, though often unseen, through the constant evaporation of sweat—even if we feel dry. By breathing on a mirror, we can see the constant evaporation of water through our lungs—this steady loss adds up. If we do not get enough water from food and drink, our bodies turn to various tissues to establish a constant volume. The urine of people who do not drink enough appears dark, because the kidneys concentrate salts and waste. Drinking too much prompts the kidneys to work harder, making the urine appear dilute. Ironically, the orthorexic, who may drink up to a gallon or more per day, may be thirsty all the time. The heavy load water does not remain for long, because the body simply expels what it does not need. As soon as they take in the excess water, their body tries to keep up. Locked in a nasty cycle of drinking and urinating leads to thirst, and, in a few cases, some expire through hyponatremia (low blood sodium), which may accumulate water on the brain. In the end, the orthorexic water drinker must gradually slow down, and escape from the bathroom, or face final flushing. Anyone who, for no apparent reason, develops persistent thirst or urination, must see a doctor, and take a diabetes test—orthorexic water drinking aside. Holy water reigns supreme in the absurdity of selling people water. We can now buy, in spite of the popularity of energy water, oxygen water, vitamin water, etc., a whole range of holy waters blessed in the warehouse, which are supposed to be good for both our bodies and spirits. Water symbolizes, throughout the scriptures of most religions, purity and cleansing, as in cleansing the Earth through a Great Flood

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(flood stories are common in the folklore of many cultures). Baptism by water has its origins in symbolizing how Moses led the Israelites out of slavery via the Red Sea, and how John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan. Similarly, Buddhists pour water in their funeral rites, and Muslims ritually cleanse themselves by water before prayer. Merchants sell purified municipal water as Spiritual Water, featuring a variety of Christian labels, which supposedly helps us remain focused, believe in ourselves, and believe in God. One company offers bottled water containing a “vibrational energy field,” caused by having Tibetan bowls banged nearby, which, when drunk, is said to promote a positive outlook. The popularity of holy water is like kosher labels, put on everything from soft drinks to food products, because a rabbi blesses it. Likewise, in the case of bottled holy water, a priest blesses it. Rational people laugh at attempts to sell water that makes us more Godly when we drink it. We can reflect on how short human life was a millennium, or even a century ago, in spite of the burgeoning life spans of today, in order to highlight the incredible anxiety of modern people. Modern agricultural methods, according to the all-natural set, strip our food of nutrients. People who claim this often have something to sell us, or urge us to buy. Nonetheless, the idea of soil depletion in developed countries is a myth. The supplement peddler tells us that, in ancient times, people had access to the healthy foods that we now lack. Because they claim that the array of nutrients existing in the soil then is now gone, we need to take dietary supplements to restore the deficiency. The supplement peddler maligns the fact that, in developed countries, more nutritious foods are available today than ever before. Carrots, for example, contain about twice the amount of carotenes as they did in 1950. The people who are most into natural, natural, natural, oddly enough, are the ones telling us that real food is deficient, and that we need to spend extra money at the natural foods store on vitamin pills to reduce the risk of various diseases. This leads us to wonder; what is more unnatural than taking a bunch of pills, which deliver nutrients in amounts and ratios we could never get in nature.

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The supplement industry has botched everything so badly. For instance, it has for years sold us on beta-carotene, which cause cancer. Regularly taking beta-carotene may raise our risk of certain cancers by up to 18 percent*. This is because there are 50 different carotenes in fruits and vegetables, while the supplement industry has been selling us only one—the most dangerous kind. We are suspicious when it comes to the government, or when buying a new car, but somehow the supplement industry is trusted 100 percent; as if we will swallow anything it tells us to. The soil in developing nations may be prone to depletion, but farmers in developed countries replenish the soil, and restore what is missing. If the depleted soil nonscientist would read a textbook on plant illnesses, they might learn that, while plants synthesize their own vitamins, minerals must be in the soil from the outset; otherwise plants will grow to be sickly, or not at all. Modern agriculture uses improved soils and plants. So, whenever we see a plump vegetable, we know it is loaded with nutrients. The soil depletion myth has been doing the rounds for decades. Therefore, the time is ripe for the supplement faithful to come up with something else.

Healthy people should take food supplements; it seems, on the surface, to makes sense. But science now knows that casual vitamin taking does more harm than good. Also, if we take the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for certain vitamins, and bump the dosages way up, it would be hard to imagine that this would be good for us.

*

UC Berkeley Wellness Letter, September 1999

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Researchers find that Vitamin E, which many people believe protects against heart disease and cancer, actually increases the risk of both, especially when people take anything more than 400 IUs a day*. Vitamins have many helper nutrients, which, in spite of our pill-assacrament beliefs, are absent in dietary supplements; it is the concert of these nutrients that makes food superior. Even worse, lead contamination affects are nearly 10 percent of mineral supplements**. Ironically, though they prefer the shotgun method of taking vitamins, the all-natural set passes judgment on the “pill tossing” doctor. In the 1700s, Scottish surgeon Dr. James Lind tried to find out why sailors deteriorated at sea. He found that citrus foods provided a then unknown nutrient, which prevented scurvy. Vitamins, when first discovered in the early 1900s,were fascinating and essential to good health—and so began the modern era of diet and nutrition. Vitamins manage many vital biochemical reactions in the body. They are enzymes (catalysts), which, unlike essential amino acids, essential fatty acids, or dietary minerals, speed up, slow down, or take part in chemical reactions, without spending themselves in the reactions. We entered a new era around World War II and later—we figured that, since we knew the amount of vitamins necessary to cure diseases of deficiency, we could boost our performance with higher doses. “If 1 pill is good for you, and half a pill is bad, then 2 will be twice as good.” The more is better philosophy proved harmful in pharmacology. Researchers found that most vitamins and minerals have ceilings— toxicity syndromes—especially single-dose minerals, and the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E, K. For instance, if we take too much Vitamin A, it can

*

Effects of Long-term Vitamin E Supplementation on Cardiovascular Events and Cancer. JAMA. 2005;293:1338-1347 ConsumerLab.com, July 16, 2002

**

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cause liver damage, birth defects*, among many other problems. Too much B6 can cause neurological disorders, and so on. Linus Pauling, an extraordinary Nobel Prize-winning scientist, had a theory that, because humans cannot synthesize their own vitamin C, they needed high amounts of it for optimal health. He found that goats, although they prefer to eat tree bark, brush, and dirty towels, synthesize their own vitamin C, of which the human equivalent would be up to 13 grams. In time, researchers found that taking megadoses of vitamin C is detrimental, and the therapeutic effects of the vitamin show up at much lower doses (for adults, the Recommended Daily Allowance for vitamin C is 60 milligrams). Nonetheless, his theory remains fixed in popular culture. Researchers confirmed, in a double blind, randomized clinical trial, what other clinical trials witnessed with vitamin C and its ability to prevent colds. First, they observed the effect of large doses of vitamin C taken at the onset of a cold. They instructed four hundred healthy volunteers to begin taking a daily dose of 1-3 grams of vitamin C, or a placebo, when they experienced common cold symptoms. They kept a simple record, and returned them to researchers. No differences were found in cold severity, or duration, between the vitamin C and the placebo group*. In spite of studies like this, Pauling, who grew more eccentric over time, continued to say that vitamin C prevented colds**. When a medical doctor determines that we are deficient, and advises us to take them, dietary supplements are beneficial. Otherwise, they must be avoided, especially antioxidants***. Vitamins do little good other than through the placebo effect, unless

*

Vitamin A and Birth Defects—Continuing Caution is Needed. New England Journal of Medicine, Volume 333:1414-1415 Mega-dose vitamin C in treatment of the common cold: a randomised controlled trial. Medical Journal of Australia 2001; 175:359-362 The Dark Side of Linus Pauling's Legacy. Stephen Barrett, M.D. Quackwatch.com in Randomized Trials of Antioxidant Supplements. JAMA.2007; 297: 842-857.

*

**

*** Mortality

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we are in a disease state. They do not impart any extra energy, enhance athletic performance, heighten sex drive, or counter the effects of stress, depression or aging. Ethical doctors will recommend food supplements only in specific cases: • • • In verified deficiency states. Subsequent to bariatric surgery. In cases of poor gastrointestinal absorption, chronic diarrhea, anemia, celiac disease, or pancreatitis. In cases of food intolerance, allergy, or restrictive diets. For people who eat no animal products, such as vegans. In cases of dementia with possible vitamin B-12 deficiency. In fact, many older people might benefit from taking B-12 and folic acid as a precaution. For a month before conception, and for the first trimester, a woman takes prenatal vitamins, which prevent neural tube defects in her baby.

•

•

•

•

The smart person eats well, avoids dietary supplements, and takes them only on the advice of a medical doctor. The take-a-supplement frame of mind is unfortunate. Investigators warn us away from randomly taking supplements or shotgunning, although the food supplement faithful demand the freedom to do this even if it harms them, saying, “These damn doctors want to make all supplements available only by prescription, just so they can stay in power.” Many researchers dispute the fortification of food, seeing that some nutrients wind up being taken in excess, once other foods, supplements,

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and environmental factors (such as sun exposure) are added up. When the supplement faithful choose to inflict their food religion on youngsters, and give them harmful things, while depriving them of essential foods, they break the law. Many of us would benefit from having a Registered Dietician—an underutilized, well trained professional—come in our homes, and talk to us, right there at the refrigerator, or the dinner table, about how to make healthy changes in our diets. Such nutritional coaching is effective, and well received by most families*. We cannot depend on the nutritional advice given on radio, television, or in magazines. Delusion-Free Fat Loss The fat gene was essential throughout history. The ability to take food energy, and store it away for a time when it was meager was a tremendous survival advantage. Our ancestors could not, when hungry, buy snacks at the local convenience store. Rather, they survived on stored body fat in periods of scarcity or famine. As humans abandoned hunting in favor of agriculture, they became victims of economic success. This is the nature of obesity— a sign of a successful economy. Many people will eat more, and move less, when food is abundant and easy to obtain. Therefore, taking control of obesity would entail a considerable change in society, through making healthier food choices a priority, and better city planning to increase daily activity. Senseless gimmicks and bald-faced lies promote a mishmash of bestselling diet paperbacks, even though the long-term success rate of dieting is dismal. Because the fat loss devotee yearns for something to believe in—something to give them hope—the house of the diet book author thrives. The author toots their horn at full volume, and claims to guide us to a pot of svelteness at the end of the rainbow. But at the final stage, we find only pork belly. The diet may be in vogue for a while, and then go away—only to reappear years later. The "science" in most diet books gives us only tidbits of legitimate data—often unrelated to the diet—at best. Meanwhile, we are seldom

*

Archives of Paediatric and Adolescent Medicine, January 2008

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told about or the role of genes, sex hormones, and the amount we eat, or our activities, determine our body fat status. A book that told the truth, entitled, “Foodsters Feed On Fat: Why We Eat Too Much, and Move Too Little,” would gather dust on the shelf. Communicating facts on obesity is an uphill battle, because so few of us seem to care. People with more abdominal girth may die off sooner, although many will not, and yet we condemn them all. Yes, there are risks to being obese, but the facts of obesity are not what we have come to believe. Examining them in their true light requires caution: among a group of 1,000 obese people, there will be those who have hypertension, diabetes, and other things that will cause them to die earlier. But also among them (maybe up to half of them) are fit people who do just fine—they will not die younger than an average population. However, to the degree that the whole group of 1,000 obese people dies, certainly they do earlier. Apart from fat people with these ailments, the moderately fat person, who is robust and active, is often quite healthy. Far from being medically hopeless, their genes may be coded for fitness. A modest layer of fat and/or muscle—a kind of metabolic cushion— might be favorable, in cases of grave illness. Without it, the trim but sedentary person often succumbs sooner. Fitness cannot exist in the morbidly obese by definition, because it suggests a fat tissue load that produces, or will eventually produce, medical problems. Other criteria include someone who is more than twice their ideal body weight, with a Body Mass Index of 30 or more. In addition, obese people are more likely to be depressed, and depressed people are more likely to be obese—this is especially true for women*. Fat Hormones and Enzymes Men normally have a small amount of female hormone, and women normally have a small amount of male hormone, in addition to the predominate hormones for their sex. Men and women may have higher amounts of the hormones that predominate in the opposite sex, especially when they have fat in places not normally associated with their gender

*

General Hospital Psychiatry, January, 2008

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(i.e., men with fat thighs or women with fat bellies). Fat cells have enzymes, which assist in fat deposit and release, in both sexes. Female hip and thigh fat, which has specific enzymes, is the hardest kind of fat to lose. Pregnancy triggers the discharge of these enzymes, which often leads to further fat buildup in the thighs of women. Fat that can be grabbed beneath the skin of the belly is distinct from the fat that lies beneath the abdominal muscles, which surrounds the intestines, and so cannot be grabbed. If we are to appreciate why fat loss is so hard to sustain, we must go back to the earliest time of our lives, when the foundation of our health is laid. This is when the number of fat cells in our bodies is determined. Our bodies continually produce new fat cells, no matter our gender or shape, and restore the break down of pre-existing fat cells, so that the total number of fat cells is constant over time. Overweight people restock fat cells at the same speed as underweight people. However, overweight people have many more fat cells. The total number of fat cells remains constant whether they are dieting or not—only the size of fat cells change. The measure of obesity is established by the size and number of fat cells, which diminish or enlarge in size as the body directs fat enzymes to use fat or deposit fat in them. The unfinished mind believes that only tall, trim, and good-looking people are happy with their lives; they pick on fat people only because they can be seen. But the intelligent person knows that physical beauty is only a small movement in the sonata of life. Physical fitness and the pleasures of life are not dependent on body size, with the exception of morbid obesity. Aliveness, intellectual curiosity, and the wisdom that comes from experiencing life are far more valuable*. This is not to imply that obesity is recommended—no one wants the punishment that comes with being judged, being shunned, having joint problems, seating problems, etc. Many of us, whatever our size, live a coddled lifestyle, and have

*

Emotional Intelligence - How Well Do We Know Ourselves and How We Relate to Others? Healthcare Quarterly, 6(1) 2002: 36-41

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grown to be self-indulgent epicureans, who regularly eat beyond our fill, and get little activity. Schemes to lose fat rapidly and make it stick are obvious shams, but the fat loss devotee is ready to suspend belief. Deep down, they know there are no secrets, and no magical ways to lose fat. However, the fat loss devotee, failing to investigate the long-term success rate of a particular diet, is sold on the idea that certain foods are the curse or cure of obesity. “Can I have that sandwich without the bread? I don’t eat carbs.” The low fat fad is seriously flawed, but the low carbohydrate diet can be a dangerous fantasy. However, many people find such a diet compelling, because they enjoy eating high fat, high protein foods. The science is clear; the opposite of the low carbohydrate fantasy, complex carbohydrates are good for us**. Stating that carbohydrate-loaded whole grains are superior to sugar should not be news, but there is little to the link between obesity and carbohydrates, short of just eating too much. • Trim people get a higher fraction of calories from carbohydrates. Obese people eat higher amounts of fat. The carbohydrate calories in many cans of soda pop may equal just one serving of fatty food. The idea that eating modest amounts of sugar (sucrose) leads to diabetes and heart disease is a myth. By indulging in large portions of high pro-

• •

•

•

**

Dietary fibre, complex carbohydrate and coronary artery disease. Can J Cardiol. 1995 Oct;11 Suppl G:55G-62G.

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tein/high fat foods, we may neglect wholesome carbohydrate foods, like whole grains, vegetables and fruits. • Being low in complete nutrition, and loaded with saturated fats, the low carbohydrate diet can be disastrous for our health—if we manage to stay on it long enough. In time, the low carb menu becomes tedious. A prolonged, high protein diet causes the body to excrete calcium, leading to loss of bone mass. Also, the liver and kidneys must work hard to process the extra protein and fat.

•

Registered dieticians and other professional groups have come down hard on the low carb diet—with little effect. Set in their convictions, the fat loss devotee believes the diet works wonders no matter the evidence. For now, we can write them off as true believers, that is, until another diet fad grabs their attention. Low carb diets are misleading; their heavy protein content acts as a diuretic, and the fast weight loss they produce is, at first, exciting, though it mostly comes from water loss. Longtime low carb dieters can suffer from dehydration, bad breath, light-headedness, high blood pressure, gallstones, or long-term damage to blood vessels*. Even though our cardiovascular parameters appear better (this is what the low-carb diet advocates throw at us), a heart attack may be pending for the more susceptible dieter. Once low-carb dieters hit a plateau (stop losing weight), as people always do on diets, they enter the maintenance phase, which is when the diet pays them back with inflexible arteries, dilation of blood vessels, coronary artery inflammation, etc. Will we ever understand that the “just say low” approach to losing fat is a bust?

*

University of Maryland Medical Center, 2007.

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Fit people seldom need to watch their sugar consumption, because they use carbohydrates in healthy ways. Small amounts of sugar are not the nutritional villain faith-based diet authors claim, although they make a big deal about staying away from it.

Sugar and Hyperactivity Nearly all nutritionists balk at the notion that sugar, and not excess dietary fat, is the cause of many kinds of health problems. Science has wiped out the notion that common table sugar, or sucrose, is a source of hyperactive behavior*. But parents insist that sugar does affect their children. Even when researchers secretly mix sugar into the fruit juice drunk by their children, the parents do not notice it. Hyperactivity is normal for children, as is acting out when excited or needing attention—not because of sugar, yellow dye, aspartame, etc. Sugar may rot their teeth, but other than that, a little bit of sugar does healthy children no harm. What they eat with the sugar is another story.

Effects of Sugar on Aggressive and Inattentive Behavior in Children With Attention Deficit Disorder With Hyperactivity and Normal Children. PEDIATRICS Vol. 88 No. 5 November 1991, pp. 960-966
*

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The Prisoner of War Diet “Man, if I get out of this, I’m gonna eat an enormous steak! For dessert, I’ll order a big sundae with nuts, whipped cream, and hot fudge running all over it!” A diet-conscious society is one that experiences mounting rates of obesity and eating disorders. Ironically, the experience of prisoners of war shows why this is—it also exposes the big lies of the diet industry, and their low calorie approach. Prisoners of war in captivity are, as expected, depressed, irritable, and tired. When finally released, the ex-prisoners recall just how they spent their time. Among other things, they often fantasized about food. The ex-prisoners did, as a matter of fact, eat large amounts of their favorite foods after being released—they turned into long-term bingers and gorgers*. The lesson is clear: when a diet comes to an end, as every diet must, people often develop lifelong food fixations. As a society, we want people to watch their weight. But in the process, we make fat people feel awful, and then expect them to want to change. At the same time, all of our campaigns have failed, whether the fat camps, the bans on junk food advertising, the weigh-in shows, the food pyramids, or public announcements. In fact, dieting itself is not just a failure; it is dangerous, and it cannot keep the fat off for good. Only a tiny minority can maintain their fat loss for long (considering that sustained fat loss for even for 3 or 4 years is not yet considered successful). By gaining back the fat that was lost, physical deterioration occurs, in the form of problems like heart disease, diabetes, and gallstones. A dieter will experience fat loss at the outset, but going on a diet

*

Binge eating and eating attitudes among Nazi concentration camp survivors. Department of Neurological and Psychiatric Sciences at the University of Padova, Padova, Italy

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nearly always forecasts a regaining of fat*, usually more than before. People who seek fat loss would be wise to avoid dieting, and seek fitness instead. The secret to long-term fat loss is gradual, restrained eating, and enjoyable activity done step by step. We cannot lose, technically speaking, more than around 3 .5 pounds of fat per week—any more, and we are losing water. True fat loss of this extent is difficult to sustain, even if we are on a severe, low calorie diet. Instead, slow and steady wins the race. However, when we make it to our desired weight, the question becomes, "What will you do then?" "Well, I'll maintain it." If we are not eating in a way that we can maintain indefinitely, we are kidding ourselves—it means that we are forcing ourselves to make a huge adjustment. We will be better off losing a measly pound a week— or 50 pound per year. This is less likely to come back, because we are eating in a way that we can live with. Certain matters about obesity are still a mystery. For instance, how is it that when we eat an occasional, 3,000-4,000 calorie meal, we do not seem to gain weight? Our bodies do not seem to convert food to body fat from a single session of gorging ourselves. Then again, a holiday season is different—when we eat a lot everyday for a week, for sure, we will gain weight. The hardest part of cutting calories is, for most people, giving up their favorite foods—but this thinking is in error. Eating foods jampacked with nutrients is nice, but in reality, we can eat whatever we want, as long as we eat less. However, this is hard for people to grasp, as they are stuck on the notion of what particular foods they should or should not eat. Furthermore, when we base our diets on a wide variety of wholesome foods, and not food supplements, an occasional lapse in good eating habits will not hurt us. If one department in a factory delivers too much of a certain part, the factory cannot handle it. The extra parts have to be warehoused, but then the warehouse must be kept electrified, which is a problem. In the same way, our bodies have a hard time dealing with extra calories—they

*

Predictors of weight maintenance. Obes Res. 1999 Jan; 7(1): 43-50.

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are stuck with disposing of the extra nitrogen, protein, fat, etc., although they do not need the calories for energy. Reducing the calories extends, for every mammal studied, life spans by many years, whether in the laboratory or the wild. If we cut the calories by 30 percent, many mammals live 30 percent longer. Calculating this from an average human age of 80 years, if a person lives 30 percent longer, they would live to be 104 years old. Obviously, people with anorexic tendencies can abuse this information. The Mediterranean diet is, in terms of evidence, the healthiest, besides cutting the amount of calories we eat. Even so, many people of the Mediterranean region are getting fatter, as more of them abandon their traditional diets in favor of high calorie snacks, beverages and fast food. Obesity is a multifaceted issue (100 people on identical diets end up with 100 different outcomes). Then again, the issue of nutrition is relatively clear-cut: a spectrum of nutrient rich and calorie spare plant foods, whole grains, colorful vegetables and fruits, form the core of good eating. Nonetheless, people who devote their lives to studying the problems of obesity and nutrition are powerless against Big Media, the print trade and the powerful drive to eat whatever we want. Giving bogus experts a voice, Big Media and the print trade present only one little part of the whole picture—the part that director or the publisher believes will sell. We’re all hoping for the magic bullet: “They found that everyone who lived to be over 100 years of age ate a combination of blueberries and turnips.” However, we find that, when studying longevity, each longevous person eats differently, and has habits distinct from other longevous people. The only habit that might encourage longevity, favorable genes aside, is eating less. The diversity among the oldest of the old, both in habits and nutrition, is surprising. Many of them were smokers. Many of them were drinkers. The notion that someone has the secret of longevity in a book or a website, that all the world’s brightest researchers somehow missed, is absurd. The only secret they have is how to capture the attention of trusting people. The reason someone lives to be 116 years old is due to hundreds of

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factors, as is the heart attack or whatever that finally kills them. Most of us only know about cholesterol because it is easy to measure, but many other factors are at work, which are too complex and expensive to test. Delusion-Free Exercise The exercise plans presented here cannot replace the advice of a doctor. As with any kind of exercise, if at any point you feel lightheaded, shaky, or have pain, halt the exercise immediately and consult a doctor. The author denies all legal responsibility in connection with the following exercise programs. When controlled exercise and nutrition fails to produce the body we yearn for, we often search for some magic to overcome our inherited body type. We place, with little resolve and money to burn, our confidence in a fitness trainer or a product, ignoring the fact that, for the most part, our genes determine our body shape, and state of fitness. The trainer or product promises speedy results, while skirting the fact that our individual exercise tolerance (and recovery ability) governs what we can accomplish. Many fitness trainers and advertisements tell us, unlike the registered dietician, of wondrous supplements that burn fat and build muscle, which they happen to sell. They highlight the importance of creatine, protein powder, and fat burning supplements, claiming they will improve our results in the gym. They say that dangerous prohormones like DHEA, androstenediol, pregnenolone, and androstenedione (legally found in health food stores) are safe and effective. Their goal is to entice us to buy lots of product. Fellow gym rats, misleading websites, and email spam reinforce the advice. Clever infomercials, complete with fitness models and retouched photos, invite us to buy a quick fix body-sculpting product. Paid athletes, who do not use that which they promote, say that the products will sculpt an area to perfection, and give us lasting results. The butt busters, thigh toners, abdominal machines and other fitness contraptions, promise a rock hard body in just minutes a day. A few weeks after buying them, we stow the contraptions away in the closet. Infomercials make the contraptions they sell appear so easy on which to exercise, because we want a no-effort way to exercise. Of

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course, if they were that easy, we would not be getting a workout, and burning calories—there is no way around it—other than subtle things that may make an exercise somewhat more comfortable, and still give us a workout.

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Here is a clever way to make money off the dreams of fitness devotees. Because they will not settle for reasonable results, we will exploit this desire with a scheme that uses common fitness myths. In this case, Gary Lee's Ultra-Vitality Now! program should do well. We will concoct ways, as this hits the market, to get people even more freaked out about their poor state of fitness. We will convince them that nature has passed inherent flaws to the human organism, and that they need our program to defeat these flaws. Fitness scammers are, of course, already making such appeals on a grand scale, and we will simply join in. If we can manage to charm the fitness devoted, we too can show a profit. However, this approach will not attract the rational trainee, who has practical goals; they see through such programs.

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Home Body Surgeon
from Laserflex*

For only $1899.95 you too can own the new Home Body Surgeon. It turns you into a Hercules in 30 seconds! Now YOU can have the washboard abs and sinewy muscles of an Olympian without ever having to workout! No exercising, no dieting, no having to shower in front of other men. Just lay back and let the built-in electrodes, pummelers and laser scalpels of the Body Surgeon do all the work. In half a minute you're a virtual Adonis! Never before has looking good been so easy. Clothes will fit and look better. Women will tell their husbands lies just to be near you. How? For the first time, breakthroughs in outpatient surgical techniques have been incorporated into a home device. Coupled with electro-muscle stimulation and laser sculpting, all in one slide-through and roll-away device! 4 different body-style preferences are yours from which to choose: Rock Hard Svelte Bodybuilder Sumo No scars. No bandages. Express delivery available.
Not recommended for pets

We must, if we are to stick to smart exercise and nutrition, accept that there is a point where our bodies will do what they will; to ask for more will only give the fitness scammer (or steroid peddler) a blank check.

*

Adapted from an actual ad.

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Life was rugged in the 19th Century; people rode horses, hunted for food, built their own places to live, and lugged around big cords of wood. Scrubbing floors, chopping wood, hauling coal, and washing clothes on washboards, our forebears had no need for exercise machines. Children take joy in spontaneous physical activity, a joy that, for adults, is now gone. In addition, most people find modern day fitness monotonous—something to avoid. They abhor the idea of going to a gym and engaging prescribed exercise. Fortunately, there are many other, more joyful activities—dancing, strolling along the beach or a lake, pillow fights, frolicking with our kids, jumping rope, and so on. Even if we feel listless, a little activity can, for a while, refresh us, and improve our sense of well-being. Joyful activities will take us much further than doing something because we feel like we have to. Nonetheless, many people love to run, lift weights, or hop on a treadmill. If we enjoy formal exercise or going to a gym, by alternating strength training, aerobic exercise, and rest, we get more out of them. Exercise involves, like many other things, the placebo effect, but it allows us to withdraw from our labors and get away from it all, like meditation. Too, exercise enhances our psychological health. The same happens when we slip into a Jacuzzi, drink some wine, listen to tranquil music, read a good book, or have a nice chat. Beyond this, smart training promotes cardiac fitness*, thicker bones, better processing of sugar, and improved functional strength for everyday tasks. The following programs are for people who want an efficient method of to strength training…

Controlled trial of physical training in chronic heart failure. Circulation, Vol 85, 21192131, 1992

*

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In order to elevate mental and physical energy, do as many repetitions of each exercise to the point of fatigue. Pause for 30-60 seconds before repeating—again, do as many repetitions of an exercise to the point of fatigue. Pause for 30-60 seconds and repeat once more for a total of 3 times.

Pole Squats

Stand with feet placed parallel shoulder width apart, and grab something solid with both hands—a rail, a post, doorframe, doorknobs, etc. Squat down no lower than 90 degrees (thighs parallel with floor) while breathing in. With abdominal muscles tightened, hold for a few seconds. Then, while breathing out, push up to the start, keeping the knees slightly bent, never straightened. Do this movement at a slow, controlled pace, watching for sudden knee pain—a sign we have descended too far. Seated Knee Pulls

Wrap hands around a knee while sitting, using friction of one hand over the other, or by interlacing index, middle, and ring fingers. Exhale and pull back without bending the arms—bend them only at the last phase of pulling in. By resisting forward movement of the knee, the arms transfer resistance to the upper back muscles. Maintain forward pressure from the knee. For two or three seconds, pull shoulder blades to center of the back. Then, while maintaining forward pressure from the knee, allow the shoulders, knee, and hands to move ahead during inhalation. Done correctly, movement is short, with elbows stopping as they touch the ribs. Note: this is chiefly a back and biceps exercise. For more intensity, once elbows touch ribs, pull them toward the ground, while maintaining forward pressure from the knee, holding for a few seconds.

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Breathe in, with hands placed about shoulder width apart, and at shoulder level. Lower body until the chest comes near to floor. Next, breathe out, and push back to the top, being sure to leave a slight bend in arms when fully extended. Keep the back stiff and straight throughout movement. Clearly, many people will choose to do regular, straight-legged push-ups. In any case, the slower the movement, and the further the knees are from the hands, the more intense the movement.

Strength training with weights can cut back on lean tissue loss as we age, and preserve functional strength for daily living—if done only once or twice a week. Overtraining slows this process. The following carefully chosen exercises may, if performed infrequently, strengthen the large muscle groups of the body, and offset the risk of developing osteoarthritis from poor exercise form. Good form means that, when we push out, we leave a slight bend in the limbs at full extension. Full joint extension in strength training is, like overtraining, something to avoid. Most people consider exercise to be a huge effort. This is unfortunate because, unless we are in the military, or have Olympian-like aspirations, the rational approach to exercise can be pleasurable. Such exercise can, at times, be challenging, but it is far easier than the classic, high-volume approach. Unfortunately, most people believe that more exercise and agonizing exercise is superior. People will also dismiss the following exercise system, may like to spend lots of time in a gym talking, in order to fulfill their social needs. However, this system is, because of its efficiency, performed in just a few minutes. Inspired by the late, objectivist/athlete, Mike Mentzer, who wondered, “Can’t they find anything better to do? Why don’t they take some time out, and read a good book—something educational? Why don’t they come up with a more efficient way of exercise?” the Triform Exercise System is for

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people who are disenchanted with bigorexia*, and the conflicting advice that infests the fitness world. How to Perform the Triform Exercise System (with weights) The Triform system demands that we, prior to performing each of the 3 exercises, prepare ourselves by means of a single, high repetition, warm up set. This consists of the identical movements to come, but with a light weight, which allows no more than 20 to 30 repetitions. Next, we load, once the warm up set is done, enough weight for a work set. Women will load enough poundage so that getting 12 repetitions is a challenge; men will load enough poundage so that getting 6 repetitions is a challenge. Put another way, the weight is heavy enough to permit women to do no more than 18 repetitions for 1 to 2 sets, and men to do no more than 10 repetitions for 1 to 2 sets. Note: rest a minute between each set for each exercise. Drink about 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes throughout the session (an 11 minute session would require that we drink only once, keeping in mind that 6 oz. is a rough guideline).
The Lying Leg Press

Adjust leg press machine to allow full range motion. Lie back and place feet on platform (slight angle outward). Hold side grips, exhale and push with feet (do not raise heels off platform). Leave slight bend in knees at full extension. Next, inhale, and bring knees toward chest. Bend no more than 90 degrees.

Bigorexia (muscle dysmorphia) is an aspect of the overtraining syndrome. The bigorexic is preoccupied with the idea that they are puny and poorly muscled, even though they possess a superior physique.
*

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Grab pulldown bar overhead, palms facing backward, hands spaced 6” apart. Sit down placing thighs under pads, with weight of bar pulling arms overhead to nearly full extension (leave slight bend in arms). With torso angled slightly backward, exhale, and pull bar down toward upper chest. Hold for second or two. Next, inhale, easing bar overhead. Rest a minute between each set. The Incline Dumbbell Press

Lie on incline bench, rest dumbbells on thighs while gripping them. Suddenly, use legs to raise gripped dumbbells to shoulders—weight of dumbbells assists smooth leaning back. With dumbbells at sides of shoulders, and elbows beneath, exhale, press upward, fully extending arms (except for slight bend). Dumbbells can actually dram reverse ‘Js’ in the air, and tough at the top of movement. Next, inhale, and lower dumbbells to sides of shoulders (without letting upper arms sink lower than shoulder level at bottom).

Trainees can perform all 3 exercises (or just 1 of the 3 exercises) per workout—whichever is suitable—with a day or more of rest (without any strength-training or aerobic exercise) following this. The subsequent day, we can perform any kind of aerobic exercise— walking, cycling, swimming, basketball, etc. We rest, without any training, the next day or more. We perform a strength training session on the following day, and so on—as little as 1-2 strength training sessions per week, whether done with body weight, barbells, dumbbells, or machines. Each session lasts around 20 minutes at most—the reverse of the “more exercise is not better”

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approach. Exercise must be satisfying. If we look to our workouts with dread, we simply have light sessions, or change to a different kind of exercise, until our desire returns. Skipping sessions here and there may be beneficial, because it is best to do strength training in a short, intermittent and resolute manner as long as we are consistent over time. The Triform system is ideal for… • • • • People with limited time Beginners The sedentary The unmotivated trainee who wants to strip everything down to basics The person who realizes that there is little to be gained from long, drawn out exercise sessions, but wants a well thought out approach, which gives the best results in the least amount of time The person who performs another primary activity, but needs strength training to enhance it

•

•

Too much strength training can bring about a condition similar to hardened arteries. To avoid this, we must keep training volume low; as little as one set of a few strength exercises each week is sufficient (i.e. the Triform system). Note: the Triform system excludes specific abdominal exercises—it prefers to strengthen the entire body, and, in a general way, the abdominal area. Consider how even elite athletes usually avoid crunches, sit-ups, etc., which is also a way of saying that spot reducing exercises are a myth. A person with a fat belly, who does sit-ups every day for months,

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may have defined abdominal muscles—hidden under the same layer of fat. If abdominal exercises are a must, stick with Lying Leg Thrusts*, not crunches (or even worse, sit-ups—harmful to the lower back). This is not to imply that the Triform system is suitable for all people, particularly those that suffer from chronic anxiety, or people whom, because of health problems, cannot exercise intensely. For people who are anxious, moderate-resistance strength training improves their mood for a few hours, but intense strength training (i.e. the Triform system) does not. Even a single set of moderate resistance exercise can lead to a decrease of anxiety**. Besides, a less intense approach may bring about better adherence to an exercise plan in some people. Strength training, gym membership, and buying pricey equipment are out of the question for most people, but with a little incentive, regular exercise is not expensive. Exercises like walking, which require no special gear, can gradually make us feel and function better. Powerwalking Slow-paced walks can help us gradually lose fat, when done in combination with a highly nutritious diet, and less eating. For those who also seek endurance, powerwalking is more effective than regular walks, and they subject us to less pounding than that of running. Powerwalking requires that we frist warm-up by walking slowly for the first 5 minutes, and then gradually pick up speed, until walking as if to catch someone. A brisk arm swing, significant heel strike, and strong push of the toes make power walking an ideal aerobic exercise.

While lying on back, create support for the movement by placing both fists together, and under the buttocks. Lift the legs a few feet in the air to the starting point, and thrust them straight up (not back!) while exhaling. Then, lower legs to starting point while inhaling. Repeat.
*

**

Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise 1999;31:456-462.

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Stretching The poem of the athlete is: Before training, stretch, before training, stretch To be the best that you can be, before training, stretch To avoid pulling muscles, before training, stretch To stay away from strains, before training, stretch. Researchers reject the above poem*, and link stretching to elevated injury rates. Most trainees consider stretching before a workout vital. For some it is a habit, for others it is a ritual. However, specific kinds of stretching do have value: • To lengthen and increase blood flow in important tendons and ligaments after we have been inactive or asleep Stretching in prescribed physical therapy Specific, light, warm-up stretching Stretching is critical for people prone to cramps

• • •

We must abandon long, intense stretches, as they are unproductive, often go against the movement of joints, and can damage supporting ligaments. If done prior to exercise of sports activity, such stretching is even more harmful. The best way to prepare for action is to perform the same activity to come, only lightly. Warm up with mild movements, and build gradually

* Stretching during Warm-Up: Do We Have Enough Evidence? Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, Vol. 70, 1999

A randomized trial of preexercise stretching for prevention of lower-limb injury. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 32(2): 271, February 2000.

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in intensity. For instance, before playing tennis, we hit the ball lightly for 5 minutes. Before all-out running, we jog lightly for 5 minutes. People, who are inherently flexible, can add to their range of motion (for activities that demand flexibility) by simply warming up. People, who are inflexible, unlike the Indian Rubber Man, simply do not excel in activities that demand flexibility (short of heroic efforts and possible injury). Humanity enjoys a grand sports tradition. But if we make sports (and exercise) a religion, our intellect may be sacked. By keeping our viewership (or activities) within reasonable boundaries, we can keep our minds fit. The dedicated sports fan is elated in victory, and depressed in defeat, which can have harmful effects on their well-being. If susceptible fans make a habit of watching emotionally charged sporting events, they may even be at a much greater risk of dying*. This is yet another reason why rational people sometimes stand clear of the whole emotional roller coaster. We must ask ourselves some frank questions if, in the course of fitness and competitive activities, our bodies suffer chronic injury: • Is more sports and fitness activity always better? Is our exercise or sports dedication causing us to neglect important relationships? Are we sitting down to watch sports so often as to be bombarded with advertisements? Why not read books on history, rational thinking, or those written by scientists instead? What drives us—what is going on in our head—what is it that we are trying to achieve, by pummeling ourselves?

•

•

•

*

Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Vaudois, Lausanne, Switzerland, 2008

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•

Do we go the extra mile so we can be like someone we admire? Is it a genetically gifted athlete, who recovers from events quickly, and might even stretch intensely beforehand, (or have other bad training habits) without apparent harm? In the long run, what does lots of exercise (or watching sports) do for us? Will it add that much to our life to run 10 miles every day, as opposed to 10 miles a week? To compare us with other people means little. In order to evaluate ourselves, we must consider our present condition, as weighed against how we used to do perform. How does our present performance compare with our performance in the past?

•

•

The world can be a mad place, and the exquisite torture of exerciseinduced euphoria (and the feeling of control) may be our safe haven. Otherwise, our lives may feel, beyond our tiny cocoon of sports and fitness, unmanageable. Our pursuits may make us feel invincible for a while, but they do us little long-term good. If we have a stressful personality, or are critical of ourselves, we may be compelled to overtrain. However, overtraining is rough on the body*. We can easily overtrain when pursuing the qualities of a champion. In activities like bodybuilding, tennis, running marathons, or martial arts, there is no limit to how much we might train.

Exercise obsession generally involves one or several drives:

*

Monitoring training in athletes with reference to overtraining syndrome. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise. 30(7): 1164-1168, July 1998.

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• • • • • • • • •

To deal with stress A way to achieve fitness To lose fat To improve appearance To build muscle size and strength To enhance another activity “Hey, I like it; it feels good to be in control.” “I hate it, but I know it’s good for me.” “I do it for a living.”

We must remind ourselves that, in order to ensure that our struggle for a better body does not go over the top, most of us are not paid to train. Also, most of our loved ones are, no matter how passionate we feel, most likely unmoved by our obsessions. If our goal is health and cardiovascular fitness, aerobic activities like walking*, done 20 to 30 minutes, 2 to 3 times a week, are about as much as we need. This is most effective when done in an integrated manner, as in the Triform system. If our goal is fat loss, it is unreasonable to expect that, by hammering ourselves with exercise, we can counter the effects of eating a large meal. We will find it nearly impossible to burn up that much caloric energy by working out—it is more efficient to not to eat large meals to begin with. To get the right amount of exercise is simple—it may even mean shopping or walking around the block—something that makes us feel better in the moment, 20 minutes, 3 times a week. Sedentary people are often older, overweight, have high cholesterol,

* Fitness

Walking, Therese Iknoian, Human Kinetics Publishers; 2nd edition (April 2005)

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and a less than robust physical constitution. In contrast, the overtrainer may be a favorite of the orthopedist; as the overtrainer comes to them for help, a dream holiday in Fiji comes closer to reality. We must learn to recognize when we are abusing our bodies. We are foolish to ignore, beyond simple muscle discomfort, which fades as we get into better shape, regular, exercise-induced soreness or strain. Our joints, ligaments, cartilage, tendons, and tissues may be telling us… “Hello! Get smart or get injured!” The exercise and sports extremist believes that a single session of therapy should fix them, after tearing their body down for months, or even years—in time for the big event this weekend. Typically, they fail to consider the many elements that influence training: • • • • • • Genetics Age Amount of rest Training volume, regularity, and intensity Body mechanics Diet

Staying active is important at any age. However, if we do not really enjoy an activity, studies show that it will not do us much good*. Simply keeping busy is not as important as the reasons why we do something, i.e., if we join a group of camping enthusiasts, but do not enjoy camping, it may be harmful to our health. On the other hand, if we love camping,

*

The Relationship Between Reasons for Activity and Older Adult Well-Being. The Journal of Applied Gerontology, vol. 18(3) pp. 325-340

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and look forward to it, we will almost certainly benefit from it, especially if the activity helps us to feel more socially connected. Superior to formal exercise is dynamic living. This means to have a good sense of humor, respond with a smile, walk with a spring in our step, dance or sing spontaneously, love our work, and so on. A dynamic lifestyle includes both physical and intellectual stimulation. This is important because the mind can take us much further, when the time comes in which we must hang up our gear. Our purpose is not to debate that which gives us joy, and the preceding in no way assumes that everyone who is active does it in such a way as to work their heart into a quivering heap. However, needless wear and tear on our bodies may, over time, force us to give up what we love.

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The 11-Steps of Overtrainers Anonymous

Overtrainers Anonymous is a recovery system for compulsive trainees, and people put off by the supernatural, authority-based themes of traditional 12-step programs. 12-step programs have us admit our wrongs to an unknowable being or mysterious “higher power” and humbly ask it to remove our weaknesses. In contrast, Overtrainers Anonymous maintains that unwanted habits call for a change in behavior, not faith. To overtrain or train sensibly is a choice. Overtraining is a complex matter; we cannot make an absolute statement, and say that X amount of activity is too much. What constitutes an appropriate amount of exercise is a distinctly personal thing. Freedom from addiction is achieved through determination. Many, if not most, people will fail. However, by observing the 11 Steps of Overtrainers Anonymous, we stand a better chance of doing what we like until the day we die: Step 1: We look at our overtraining problem in depth, without the need to escape reality. Step 2: We are not powerless victims; through determination we can free ourselves. Step 3: We become skilled in ways to surmount the urge to act in selfdefeating ways, and resolved to train smarter. Step 4: We do not expect to undo the pounding we have subjected ourselves to all at once; it takes time and effort to restore years of damage. Step 5: We identify the mistakes that led us to tear our bodies down by meeting ourselves head-on. We design a realistic plan to stop overtrain-

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ing by understanding of the need for recovery. Step 6: We are grateful for our minds as much as our bodies, being determined to grow intellectually. Step 7: We understand that to embrace fictional help, by adopting another form of obsession, is more detrimental than overtraining, and so we do away with it for good. Step 8: We banish obsessive thoughts, and seek insight into the workings of the mind. We avoid injury, through insight into the workings of the body, and so we stay out of the ranks of the injured and burnt out. Step 9: We are aware, without the need of a list, of the people who were hurt by our fixation. Determined by us alone, we have told appropriate doctors, coaches, competitors, and other overtrainers of our choice to walk the path of equilibrium. We ask for their patience, knowing that freedom from overtraining will take time. Step 10: We continue to monitor ourselves, making sure that our new state of balance is lasting. We take renewed pleasure in our closest relationships, knowing that, without them, we lose the game. Step 11: We identify the stressors that led us to overtrain, and address them without guilt. We leave behind those individuals that triggered us to overtrain, and act against our best interests. We share the 11 Steps in sincerity, but only to people open to receive them. Subaerobics Systematic aerobic exercise is, clearly, not the only path to fitness. Vigorous housework, construction work, ladder climbing, etc., provides plenty of exercise. Trimming the hedges in the front yard promotes health, unless we move like a slug. Subaerobic is a term for low-intensity exercise; not forceful enough to be aerobic, it creates fitness if repeated over time. Overtrainers regard low intensity activities like gardening, housework, tai chi, or walking, as

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weak, but even though they are below the magical 65 percent to 80 percent of peak heart rate, if we persist in them long enough, they will produce fitness. Requiring months to gather and measure the data, research into the advantages of subaerobic exercise are scant compared to research on aerobic exercise. With subaerobic activity, the heart rate is between 50 percent and 65 percent of peak output, but with aerobic exercise, the measurable improvements are swift. The Delusion-Free Lifestyle

The Sun sustains all life on Earth, and careful exposure to sunlight is vital to health. Many people avoid the sun as much as possible, knowing that too much of it can lead to skin cancer. However, researchers find that brief exposure to sunshine cuts the risk of prostate, colon, lung, breast, bladder, kidney, and stomach cancers*. Careful sun exposure can even protect against multiple sclerosis and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma. By exposing the skin to the sun’s ultraviolet radiation (UV), the body creates vitamin D, which functions to stabilize healthy cells. Specific foods, whether fortified and unfortified, contain a portion of the essential prohormone, vitamin D, but they hardly provide enough. To get the full amount needed, we must augment our diet with sunshine a few times a week. Glass blocks the full spectrum of sunlight, and therefore the formation of vitamin D in the skin, as do clouds, smog, clothing, and sunscreen. In northern, less sunny climates, where the aforementioned diseases are more prevalent, our vitamin D needs suffer, particularly in the winter. We need to seize every opportunity to be in the sun when it

*

Sunlight and vitamin D for bone health and prevention of autoimmune diseases, cancers, and cardiovascular disease. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, Vol. 80, No. 6, 1678S-1688S, December 2004

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is out, while keeping within the guidelines set by researchers. A sun-drenched climate can quickly burn us unless we wear sunscreen. A fair-skinned person needs only 5 to 10 minutes in the sun without sunscreen, a few times a week, with no more than a total of 40 minutes a week. Because skin pigment blocks UV rays, a dark-skinned person needs about 15 minutes of sun exposure, a few times a week, with no more than a total of an hour a week. Beyond these approximate values, people of all complexions must use sunscreen. The preceding is, of course, only a rough guideline due to the countless factors at play. In addition, even in cases of vitamin D deficiency, supplementation and fortification of food may be worse, as oral doses of the vitamin suppress the immune system, and render the vulnerable to disease and infection*. We are at risk for an early demise if we work for many years without taking occasional vacations**. The difference in death rates is most apparent among people who do not take any time off, versus those that take many breaks a year. Even when accounting for high cholesterol, blood pressure, bad habits, age, personality type, and so on, the health benefits of vacations are clear. Most of us would rather not have to go to work, and so we look forward to retirement. However, we may find adjusting to retirement difficult, after being programmed to go to work for so many years. Retirement may be boring. Depending, of course, on how we have lived our lives. We will not know what to do with ourselves, especially if we never developed any hobbies, or passions for anything else beyond eating and watching television, day after day. Research suggests that, in many cases, early retirement may be linked

* Marshall TG. Vitamin D discovery outpaces FDA decision making. Bioessays. 2008 Jan 15;30(2):173-182 [Epub ahead of print] Online ISSN: 1521-1878 Print ISSN: 0265-9247 PMID: 18200565

**

Are Vacations Good for Your Health? The 9-Year Mortality Experience After the Multiple Risk Factor Intervention Trial. Psychosomatic Medicine 62:608-612 (2000)

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with an early death*, perhaps due to the loss of income, or the change in lifestyle and habits (considering the alcoholism rate in retirees, and how many gamble their savings away). Compared with people who keep working, those who retire early are over 50 percent more likely to die early (people who quit working because of illness were excluded from these findings). The World Wide Web is responsible for the greatest societal change in history. The Web is a platform for free expression. One reason why closed societies try to limit access to the Web is its flair for exposing government chicanery. The World Wide Web makes communication and the spread of information faster than ever. We can use email, listen to streaming audio, watch streaming video, examine compelling websites, view satellite images of Earth, share files, promote our products, our ideas, etc. The possibilities inherent in social news sites, interactive media, podcasts, webware, blogs, and forums are endless. However, if we want all the advantages of the Web, we must be willing to accept its negatives, just as we accept the negatives of electricity, cars, cell phones, and other forms of technology. The World Wide Web is overflowing with magnificent content and the trashiest content imaginable, like an immense cyber-magazine rack. We can find relevant information, or childish and inflammatory debates. Even so, the net effect of the World Wide Web is like that of a global brain, serving to enhance human creativity. Online dating services are among the most lucrative websites (besides social sites and pornography). These sites must come up with new ways in which to match people, because of the fierce competition for subscribers. For instance, some Japanese and Korean websites focus on blood types as a way to gauge compatibility. This is the equivalent of the Western fascination with astrological birth signs in matching people (also trendy in Japan). However, blood types and birth signs have no relationship to successful marriages or divorce rates*. This is the

*

*

American Journal of Epidemiology, March 2008. So what's your blood type? Dating superstition in Japan. Skeptical Inquirer December 1, 1997

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conclusion of researchers examining thousands of people. We can barely understand the logarithmic explosion of technology, and where it will take us. However, unless we stop intellectually anemic politicians, who seek to control technology (even though they usually know little about), its progress may be crippled. Telecommuting may be an important wave of the future, but, for now, most companies refuse to offer it. However, if many of us worked from home, we could be more productive, and do much to cut down on our use of oil. So much of what we do today is travel to work, sit in a cubicle, and work on a computer, which could just as easily be done at home. In many work environments, we do many things by email, and then spend half an hour, an hour, or more commuting to home. Considering what it takes to commute, manage the kids, prepare meals, etc., our employers could make life much easier. One study looked at employees who telecommuted**, and found that they were free to rearrange their work hours when needed; many had arrangements where two or more people shared the duties of one full-time employee. People with flexible job schedules had healthier lifestyles, were more likely to exercise, eat right, and get adequate sleep. Many health practitioners try to pose as the Keeper of the Spine, and that they know what are the best beds and sleeping positions. They want to give us advice on how we should sleep, but most of it is impractical. Research has not found that one kind of a bed is better than another. Whatever sleeping position we have grown accustomed to throughout our lives is not easy to change—the only position that may be harmful is sleeping on our backs, which exposes some people to snoring and apnea. What we feel is the most comfortable is, whether a mattress and box

A double-blind test of astrology. Nature 318, 419 - 425, December 5, 1985
**

Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine, December 2007

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springs, futon, waterbed, or hammock, what matters most when it comes to our backs and what kind of bed we prefer. The basic principle is if we find a bed or position that feels good, then use it. All over the world, human beings sleep on all kinds of surfaces, and do fine. Roger wins $1,200,000 in the state lottery, and is clearly elated. However, when we check on him a few months later, he is his same miserable self. Tori suffered a spinal cord injury from a rollover accident 2 years ago. Today, her upbeat personality is just as infectious as ever, even though she must now use a wheelchair. “When events cause us to swing from our genetically rooted, happiness set point, we will return our original setting before long.” This is adaptation theory, the official line in psychology. The theory says that people will respond positively or negatively to events, but quickly adapt and return to their happiness or sadness set point. Adaptation theory also includes the idea that some people are born to be happy or sad, and that fortune and misfortune only alters their set point for a while. Researchers used data from a multiyear study of thousands of people to examine adaptation theory, looking at the effects of marriage, divorce, and losing a job. Generally, people reacted to these events, and then returned to their happiness set point. However, there was considerable deviation from this trend: people, who at first reacted strongly one way or the other, were still far from their set point years later*. Many exhibited reactions opposite to that predicted by adaptation theory. In many cases, marriage and divorce caused long-term changes in happiness. For people fired from a job, many were not completely restored after finding a new job. On average, marriage made people happy for around 2 years, after which they were no happier than when single. Divorce and losing a job plunged many people into a lasting

*

Michigan State University, March 11, 2007

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emotional abyss. By remarrying, many divorced people climbed back to the happiness point they enjoyed as singles*. Researchers classified over 90 couples**, in a 17-year study of their relationships, as (1) those where both partners express their anger, (2) one partner expresses anger as the other represses, and (3) both partners repress anger, resent the other partner, and feel sorry for themselves. In relationships where both repress their anger when wrongly treated by the other, partners tended toward poorer physical health. Couples are, in dealing with the challenges of life, bound to have differences. However, they become more intimate by resolving these differences, and are protected from the more serious damage that arises from inappropriate fighting. The key to an intimate relationship is really about how couples fight and how they resolve differences, rather than inflicting irreparable harm. Couples suffer when one or both partners brood, hide their anger, and do not try to regain harmony. Unhealthy relationships are those that repress their anger when differences arise. Many couples feel guilty when they fight, but a couple that never fights is not confronting life together. When one or both partners express anger without threatening the relationship, they are healthier. Intellectual and emotional growth triggers sustained brain development into our later years. By challenging our minds through reading, writing, lively debate, language studies, problem solving, games, music, art, and various do-it-yourself projects, our brains rise to the challenge. In addition, if we become skilled in the art of patience, we can set ourselves apart from the “hurry up, it’s my turn,” “shut up and fix it” crowd. Neuroscientists find that the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain

* Reexamining

adaptation and the set point model of happiness: Reactions to changes in marital status. AE Clark, Y Georgellis, E Diener - Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 2003 - Richard E. Lucas Andrew E. Clark. Michigan State University, USA Pair Anger Coping Types May Act as an Entity to Affect Mortality: Preliminary Findings from a Prospective Study, Journal of Family Communication, University of Michigan, School of Public Health, Psychology Department, 2008

** Marital

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(the areas related to our sense of self) grow as we mature*. In the past, neuroscientists thought the brain stopped growing after our teen years. Now, through imaging studies, it is clear that, while other organs stop developing, our brains have the ability to carry on deep into our 5th decade. Such research points to the possibility of someday thwarting mental decline before signs become clear. For now, we know that physical exercise protects the brain from the effects of aging**. “We were glad to see so many retired folks living the good life, when we took that cruise.” Our senior years can, given decent genes, be rich and independent, both in lifestyle and outlook. Seniors, in general, have learned to deal with problems and manage stress better than young people. Why peak out early in life, only to let our prospects to slip away soon after? Isn’t it better to enjoy the peak of our lives when we are emotionally developed? The length of human life is brief when seen from the perspective of geologic time. The few decades that we get are precious, and we must resolve to live them to the fullest. Therefore, in celebrating a life lived well, the funeral rites of many cultures are festive, in the recognition that, in loss, there is a lesson. We might add more years to the life expectancy of a child, by instilling in them healthy habits and creating a healthy environment. But adding more years to their life becomes difficult, once they have lived for many decades. Adding more is nearly impossible as they draw near to their ninth decade. Mean life spans are increasing, but without significant advances in medicine, maximum life spans (122 years) cannot be extended. This is the conclusion of biomedical gerontologists. The elimination of cancer

*

Nature Neuroscience, Mapping cortical change across the human life span, 2003

Exercise Enhances and Protects Brain Function. Exercise & Sport Sciences Reviews. Cotman, Carl W.; Engesser-Cesar, Christie 30(2):75-79, April 2002.

**

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and other major diseases are a start, but even they would do little to raise our life spans. Handfuls of supplements, regular checkups, and exercising like mad do little to lengthen our life. In order to live past the centenarian mark in style, we need headline-making discoveries. People who resist the fleeting nature of life often turn to the antiaging fraud. Aided by the pricey politician, who allows such quackery to proliferate, the anti-aging fraud offers us a large assortment of highpriced nutritional products (replete with bogus and irrelevant studies), said to turn back the clock, and give us longevity. The anti-aging fraud says that a lack of whatever they are selling causes disease, and if we only buy their products, better memory, fantastic sex drive, and forests of hair will be ours. Gray hair will return to its original color and age spots will vanish—courtesy of fake before and after photos. If we turn to the anti-aging fraud in an attempt to prolong our lives, The only one that will attain longevity is their bank account. The anti-aging master would have us believe that longevity is the be-all and end-all of life. In reality, a short life well lived, full of sensuous joy, is superior to the struggle to lengthen a dreary existence. Most people who spend their dwindling years preoccupied with how to live longer are self-important, tiresome to be around, and are far from living the good life. In any case, no one knows if we may be lucky enough to live to a ripe age, or do it with all of our faculties intact. We must do our best to live the good life, in spite of the genetic and socioeconomic lots we have drawn, as long as we have air in our lungs. The other choices are to resort to useless tirades, positive (wishful) thinking, inspirational lies, or false pity, all of which make matters worse. We may still wonder: “What defines optimal health and happiness; is it intense aliveness, or is it merely freedom from disease? The quest for optimal physical function optimal happiness or optimal energy is vague, and pays an equally vague dividend. Most of us would find it difficult to stick to a diet and exercise program for long. Even if we could, we would add only a few months to our life spans at most. The good news is that there are other, more pleasurable ways, to

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improve our health: • • • • Enjoying friendships and social activity. Going to concerts, movies, and plays. Alternating activity and relaxation. Music and dance—listening, watching and, in particular, playing music and dancing. Eating less (while staying within guidelines of what constitutes most nutrient dense foods, i.e. vegetables and fruits).

•

Then again, the holistic cleric has a different set of values: “The purpose of life is to prolong our existence through the tenets of holistic health.” The holistic cleric manages, in soy-based sermons, to turn simple, commonplace illnesses into full-scale spectacles—then issuing unwanted health advice, or worse, the subtle feeling that being sick is a punishable offense. We would be wise to ask ourselves meaningful questions, in order to determine whether we really want to attend a supersensory convention, or class on spiritual sacrifice: "Should I meet her at the Temple Of Psiology round table, or go to that fantastic new restaurant with my husband?” ”Do I want to go to the Organic Unitarian meeting, or take in a concert with the ladies?” “Should I bond with criminally stupid seekers tonight, or perform that strength workout?”

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Mystics are fond of posing unanswerable questions, but if we consistently pose rational questions, we are likely to be barred from mystical gatherings in the first place. Instead, we are free to focus on the joys, the difficulties, and the victories of a rational life, without joining a strange group of seekers. We must avoid people who advance simplistic answers to complex problems, and challenge the need to attend a conference on bioenergetic kinesiology. We show our wisdom by challenging authority when justified (not just because someone is an authority), by rejecting the idea of an exclusive path to divine truth as pure fantasy, and not making changes in our lives based on half-baked advice. Delusion-free people have, to date, seen little in the mystical and holistic camps that impresses them, even though looking far and wide. As a result, the mystic holistic believer presumes such people have automatic, negative reactions to all that is alternative. However, in examining the range of phenomena and giving everyone a chance to prove their case, delusion-free people are open to anything that proves its worth. Mystic holistic believers show themselves to be among the most insular in the world, taking home the prize, Most Likely to Defy Facts. They are desperate to find something miraculous, and set on believing no matter how absurd.

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The delusion-free person hails frequencies on all channels as an ongoing process of investigation. Not surprisingly, few messages get through to starship captains.

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Paleolithic humans heard the voice of the primal mind, fixed in the rhythms of the natural world, and the Earth stirred everywhere with spirits. In the New Stone Age, when humans evolved the necessary brain structure to imagine things, invisible gods and moral codes were created, which the gods enforced. Warriors struggled to stand over their enemies, roused by battle songs. People created art, and later built stone structures to honor the deeds of these brave superstitians*.

eolithic humans strove to make sense of an inexplicable world, their brains structured in such a way as to envision the presence of supernal beings. In the course of generations, chronicles of a chief Commander-God were established, and gained tremendous power. These chronicles were embellished, and influences by other traditions, setting into motion a great force, like a great juggernaut towering over humanity, crushing all in its path. In lands of half-glimpsed darkness, we glorified the jealous Commander-God as one who would destroy all that challenged it, drowning the defiant beneath waters of oblivion. Our talent for envisioning invisible gods called for a new kind of group interaction, and we had to devise a form of social mysticism to unite the clans. And so a more intelligent ruling class arose, who found that, in general, people were easy to fool. They foisted, through tradition and treachery, tales of a Commander-God—and so religion was born. Religious delusion rained misery as never before in the Middle Age of sorrows. The river of history raged, like a flash flood, with the pain of people who turned from the holy laws laid down by the ruling class. Refusing to conform to sacred law, heretics felt the sting of righteous tyranny. Some found ways to stay the yoke, even pretending to go along, so that the ruling class might spare them. Most anthropologists believe that religion served an evolutionary function; it bestowed survival advantages by gathering humans together, for defending territory in the pursuit of civilization. Whatever

*

From the Latin superstitio, standing over

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the case, the ability to imagine still drives modern religion, even though its influence is beginning to fade in much of the developed world. However, religion still dominates millions of lives. When grappling with the issues of the day, the lights turn down, and the old visions come through. “My faith is a sanctuary, an escape from the turmoil of the world.” “My imagination is a sanctuary, an escape from the turmoil of the world.” We have sought a sense of purpose, all the way from our primal beginnings to modern times, and so superstition now stands over us. Our predecessors evolved the brain structure needed for imagination thousands of years ago. Today, human imagination is universal, and it fully explains superstition*. Among the vanquished are people of all nations, races and ages, chanting the foulest statement ever known: “We Have the Truth.” We can claim that ours is the best, and the only real path to God, but by looking at the last few thousand years of human history, such a claim is absurd. Some intellectuals, who seem to be working hard to be at war with believers, like professor of psychology, Richard Lynn, consider that religious faith is an indicator of low intelligence. He contends that, across the globe, median IQ forecasts what part of the population is the most pious. However, proving cause and effect, in this instance, may be untenable. “Who am I to question the will of God?” If we believe God is speaking to us, and telling us to do something, we do it. When a religious leader claims to speak to God, do we accept what they say, and does it become the anointed Word of God, or is that person merely delusional? If the leader of a country believes that God is telling them to bomb another country, they might touch off a major conflict, because Armageddon is near—the end is coming soon.

*

Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B, (DOI:10.1098/rstb.2008.0007)

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Too many of us take seriously religious leaders who claim to talk to God, and continue to shower them with money and praise. Religious missions offer considerable material help in poor countries, even though, on balance, religious doctrines harm people and make matters worse. Many countries believe that their faith makes them special in the eyes of God, and is essential to a thriving society. In reality, religion can break a society by fomenting societal ills. The United States is the only affluent democracy where the rate of abortion, murder, early death, and sexually transmitted diseases is still high, whereas the more secular nations, such as the Scandinavian countries, the Netherlands, Japan, etc., are the most successful in cutting them*. Believers irritate a surprising number of us—we consider them hypocrites who do not live their faith. More and more of us are recognizing that the holier-than-thou people of the world talk out of one side of their mouths, while saying something different through the other, and then doing something else. We see religion as being more about making money and maintaining authority, than loving one’s neighbor. Therefore, more of us are questioning the very foundation of religion*. Nearly everyone in 19th Century America agreed that a moral God, as depicted in the Bible, was the only God. However, many modern people, who do not attend houses of worship, subscribe to a generalized notion of God, which they see as the same God as in other major religions. However, we may wonder; if so many of us believe this is the same God, on which side is this God—which religion, which denomination, which country, which political party, and which football team? Rational people strive for the ideals of love, peace on Earth and helping one another—but organized religion gets involved in twisting them into hatred, bigotry and mayhem. The belief that our group is

Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Popular Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies: A First Look. G Paul, Journal of Religion and Society, Volume 7, 2005 * University of Chicago, National Opinion Research Center, January 2008
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somehow more prescient than any others, in concert with tribal, cultural and nationalistic conflicts, continues to bring the world untold horror**. Another problem arises when religious leaders issue advice for which they are unqualified. In 2006, Pope Benedict assumed that a growing number of loveless relationships might be the cause of declining birthrates in the developed world. Perhaps the lack of such creative and forward-looking love is the reason why many couples today choose not to marry, why so many marriages fail, and why birthrates have diminished.*" The Pope has, presumably, never known the love of a woman, never had sex, never had children, was never married—he never did any of these things, and somehow people consider him qualified to speak on these subjects. Anthropologists say that people in developed countries have figured out that having a child is expensive, and they may not have the resources to support them. In developing countries, where the neonatal mortality rate is high, people feel they must have many children, as many of them will die, and they need the surviving children to work on the farm, take care of them, etc. Vatican policy encourages overpopulation, although it is forever against birth control, which leads to more people going hungry. In addition, Vatican policy toward the use of condoms helps the spread of HIV. Our challenging questions disturb touchy salvationists, in response to their judgments from on high. In fact, salvationists sometimes judge even the most tactful questioning as arrogant—defiant of the Great Plan: “To be so closed to God’s plan shows that you are selfish. Surely the Adversary of God and man has warped your mind.” Such champions of the faith lay down the holy law, making it known that we heathen are in poor spiritual health—blind to the power of spiritual revival. By rejecting the code of the invisible, our destiny is to be condemned to a life of despair.

**

Holy Horrors: An Illustrated History of Religious Murder and Madness by James A. Haught. Prometheus Books (March 1990) Vatican's Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, April, 2006

*

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“I'm not greedy. I have love, blue skies, rainbows, and Hallmark cards, and that has to be enough… It seems just rude to beg the invisible for more.” Penn Jillette The person of faith believes that their book, whether Dianetics, the Qur’an, or the Quotations of Chairman Mao Zedong, is the key to the big questions of life. Embodying millions of members of the same club, with many sport matching outfits, they have somewhat beliefs similar enough to create a feeling of mass consensus. This makes the absurd seem respectable, and easier in which to trust. The clubs like to remind us that they are being oppressed, and constantly under the barrage of Satan—they do this to generate false outrage and free exposure, even though their clubhouses are found everywhere, and they are among the most dominant groups in society. In general, the more intelligent something is, the smaller the audience it attracts. A religious book may be a runaway bestseller, while a book written by a skeptic may reach only a few thousand. Conferences on building a delusion-free society may draw only a handful of people, but when a religious leader or a multilevel marketing mogul takes the stage, they may fill stadiums, as they captivate our imaginations in clever ways. Only the brightest people care about those who try to tell us the truth. New religions are at a distinct disadvantage, because they seem so bizarre—but it would be just as bizarre if Judaism, Christianity or Islam were founded a few decades ago—surely they would be considered cults. The rituals that people now accept because they are familiar would seem strange if they were new, just as it may seem strange that a growing number of people do not believe there is such a thing as a God. In free societies, people have the right to believe in the Easter bunny, Ra, tikbalang, or whatever, and we preserve that right by keeping such beliefs out of government. If a national leader tried to tell free people to act according to their particular faith, those people have a right to resist it. Belief in absurdity can, in both subtle and clear ways, cause our personal power to trickle away, by distorting our judgment. We accept or reject that which does not live up to our bizarre standards. Instead of

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building a livable society, the superstitious throngs in poor countries, even if sleeping in filthy gutters, lay rapt in of heavenly visions. The people in affluent countries go to salvation clubs, or show up for Psiology training like clockwork. They neglect past due bills, because of volunteering to staff the big Earth Spirit Retreat. The important details of their daily lives float, because of their attendance at the weeklong Psychic Healing Intensive. The Great Plan
“My brand of religion is better than yours!”

”In a thunderous voice, the Hidden Overlord issues a message of dire warning: parties that will not surrender, who work to draw people away from the sacred path, have one last chance: repent or face destruction in this world, and eternal damnation in the next. In a world full of wickedness, our mission is to fulfill prophecy, and return to the times of Holy Inquisition. By divine order, we make way for the destruction of the current world, and all those who defile the Earth, as foretold by the Great Plan. Our blessed duty demands that we not sit by idly as science and technology make life easier. This means that the Hidden Overlord will send believers in biology, chemistry, and engineering a brutal death. Because the physicist will not bend to the Great Plan, generations of their progeny will face great torment. Hell will be their home: a terrible fate. Chosen to impose the Great Plan, our holy soldiers deal rigorously with all unbelievers. Fanning flames of divine wrath, they cleanse the world as never before seen. Let us hear the battle cry throughout the realm, a cry of great ruin. God will judge the land of the affluent. Behold, the time is nigh.” We hear, over and over again, the rousing sermons of the person of anger and righteousness, who makes known clearly, “If you will not submit to the Great Plan, the Hidden Overlord will destroy you, and damn your soul. Even your children will not draw near to that special realm—the realm of the righteous.” Then, they offer up a leader who will work things out for us, and show us the way. Typically, the way turns out to be a sacred manuscript, or an ascended prophet that judges our spirit.

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“The mercy of the Prophet makes our hearts light, like the One Truth printed in black and white.” The leader is said to be in touch with profound mysteries, that doctors, scientists, and all the King’s men cannot see: “Even when disaster takes place, it is good, because it is all according to the God’s Great Plan.” To make sure that their message appeals to a wide range of troubled followers, the leader exhibits a capacity for divine healing. “The spirit tells me that a believer named Susan has bad allergies, and that she is now healing through the power of the Holy Phantom. I now cure the cancer of a woman named Debra… please give generously so this work can continue.” Famous televangelist, Henry Swinnhert, who lives in a luxurious home by the ocean, drives a fancy car, and is flown around in a private jet. God is rewarding Brother Swinnhert for healing the sick, and spreading the message of abundance. The opposite of the prophet martyred for God, the televangelist has successfully fleeced the faithful, and lives off the fat of the land. "If you have faith, you will have money." "If you have financial problems then your faith isn't strong enough." The televangelism racket, known for secrecy, is often about telling the faithful, “God wants to bless you with earthy riches.” The religious leader creates an elite persona, throwing magical dust in our eyes, and acting as if they have risen above the petty struggles of life. Their spiritual facade enables them to play the part of someone with spotless motives. Because the leader wears nice clothes, spiritual-looking outfits or the mask of serenity (sometimes), we believe that all they do is for our highest good. The leader, a brilliant freeloader, invites selected followers to private gatherings, being wary enough to reveal their secrets only to people of absolute devotion. From there, the leader orders them to do their utmost to advance the mission. If the devoted offer ample time and

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funds, the leader may even allow them to climb the ladder, and one day become leaders themselves. The religious mass movement still enjoys monstrous success; it finds us easy targets, and cashes in on their faith in the hidden hand, because people do not care to learn from past scandals—they see only the purpose it gives to their lives, and the possibility of heavenly rewards. Nearly all mystical mass movements have particular health beliefs, although they appear in a multitude of forms. If left to grow, a few movements will reach critical mass, like the National Socialists*, who happened to endorse homeopathy and natural medicine. The holy leader hides behind the facade of deep spirituality and wisdom, but usually turns out to be rabid, depressed and anything but humble. Ironically, though the leader lives lewdly, and in luxury, they say that, without faith, we would have no source of morality. Whatever the case may be, hardened joiners will continue to tolerate a great deal of extravagance and abuse—so great is their need to believe—although, with time, they come to know the empty words of their leader. “The mystic purchases a moment of exhilaration with a lifetime of confusion; and the confusion is infectious and destructive. It is confusing and destructive to try and explain anything in terms of anything else, poetry in terms of psychology.” Basil Bunting The holy leader has, in the final analysis, nothing that a rational person would want. Despite the sermonizing, the holy leader lacks the answers they claim. Far from an exalted state, they are typically sad, bloated beings that know nothing of the origin of life, whether or not we

Good people can do bad things when given authority and no supervision—this is something Stanford University researchers call the Lucifer Effect. Even when students play the role of guards in simulated prisons, they become sadistic, and make their “prisoners” cower. The Lucifer Effect: Understanding How Good People Turn Evil - By Philip Zimbardo. Political Psychology 28 (5) , 644–646 doi:10.1111/j.14679221.2007.00597.x
*

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survive upon death, or how to cure illness by supernatural means. They continue to thrive only by making grand promises, and rousing guilt— stressing the impure nature of their followers. Many have the audacity to emphasize that we are wicked just by looking at the opposite sex with erotic thoughts in our minds. We must enter holy communion by way of venting techniques, in order to be releases from our sins, and be purified through cathartic actions, whether through divine blubbering, rolling around on the ground, wild dancing, beating on pillows, or transcendental tears. The theory is that restraining our emotions creates harmful internal stresses, which can make us go mad, but venting releases them. In reality, let-itout therapy has proved to be a failure. Investigators looked, in a clever study*, at violent behavior to see if venting could lessen it. Instead, people who hit punching bags to release pent-up feelings were more likely to lash out. And when exposed to something provocative, they were more likely be enraged. Venting repressed emotions is the opposite of a therapy, because it promotes misplaced anger toward whomever or whatever is handy at the time. Nonetheless, the corpse of venting is difficult to bury, like other bodies of delusion, deeply etched in mass sociogenic consciousness. The Supernal Rush The believer works up a kind of tension, described as waves of spiritual power, in gatherings that include fervent prayer, chanting, music and dance. The experience even more intense because of their strong faith, and the fact that they typically know little about the human body and mind. A sense of flowing energy is simply the variations in blood pressure caused by the release of adrenaline. The same thing happens when we stand up too fast after laying down for a while—we get a head rush. Many athletes feel this effect; by pushing the body to its limits during intense competition, a runner’s high results from adrenaline dumped

Does Venting Anger Feed or Extinguish the Flame? Catharsis, Rumination, Distraction, Anger, and Aggressive Responding. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, Vol. 28, No. 6, 724-731 (2002)
*

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into the system. Some athletes get strange mental reactions, like a mild, short-lived hit of LSD. For people who cannot feel good on their own, venting-based spiritual groups are poor substitutes. Introduce a magnetic personality, who claims to lead us to the Grand Prize, and believers trust that they are being bathed in the spirit. The believer defends the absurd, at times, by invoking something like Shakespeare's Hamlet: "There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” An interest in new concepts is laudable, but we must be willing to rank them. But the hardened believer will not challenge the miraculous in favor of the factual, preferring instead to accept that which makes them cling to hope. “The profound ignorance of mysticism is like a coma—unmoved and numb to the real world.” The choice to grow up, or go with the flow, confronts us, in facing the challenges of life, early on. Sadly, too many of us choose the path of least resistance. And so we default to mysticism and mental lethargy. We look at the world, as unabashed dreamers, in curious ways. Going deeper into the realm of unreality, any misgivings melt away courtesy of the Mother of all Postdated Checks—the Grand Promise. The dreamer is, from then on, dedicated to mystical truth seeking. When the mystical truth seeker is, one day, seen as they are, a dreamer, society will stop respecting their grotesque beliefs, and breathe fresh air of reality at last. By getting the chump off our backs, and into the lap of their conclave, we cease their chatter. Until then, we must do our best to abide them.

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The Abyss of Mystical Truth Seeking Mystical truth seekers try to arm themselves with wisdom from on high, under the sway of the professional freeloader who recites the creed. Such seekers provide the freeloader with alms and oblations, in return for well-delivered lore. They want to hear about the unlikely miracles that took place thousands of years ago, and professional freeloaders want to see their assets soar. The delusion-free mind wants to lampoon the freeloader en route to the vault, and laugh at the halfbaked hopes of the seeker. Even the truth seeking celebrity is fodder for fun. Even college graduates succumb to half-baked hopes, captured by common thinking errors, though they believe they are above the old myths. Mounting mysticism in academic circles, which openly discount well-confirmed facts, shows that a college degree is no promise of a sound mind. In fact, many institutions fling wide the gates for anyone with the funds, and award degrees in silly subjects like homeopathy. This downfall of the degreed offers a dismal look at what may be in store. Nonetheless, there exist many grounds for feeling optimistic about the prospects of bright young people. If we teach them the finer points of science, free thought, history, and what it means to live in the new millennium, we can help free them from a world infested with mystical truth seekers.

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Supernal Medicine
Homeopathy, an elaborate, faith-based system of administering placebos, prescribes “medicines” so dilute* that no active ingredients remain. A German physician created homeopathy; Christian Friedrich Samuel Hahnemann (17551843) believed he had discovered something momentous. Over the years, he listed the homeopathic substances, many of which are in use today. Hahnemann claimed that the more dilute the medicine, the more effective it is, only we now know that this breaks all known laws of physics, chemistry and pharmacology. Many homeopathic preparations are so incredibly dilute, that researchers cannot find a single molecule of the original, diluted substance. The homeopath also maintains that like cures like—substances that produce a particular set of symptoms in a healthy person, can treat a sick person with a similar set of symptoms (only in a highly dilute form). The process of making a homeopathic medicine is like (1) taking a drop of saliva from an ape (akin to the strange substances, like wild duck’s heart or liver, sometimes used in homeopathy), (2) putting it in a gigantic tank, and blasting in thousands of gallons of water to mix it up (akin to succussion, or forceful shaking to enliven a preparation, considered vital in homeopathy). Next (3), we let the contents of the tank settle down, remove a drop of now exceedingly dilute ape saliva, (4) put it in a second gigantic tank, and begin the same process… blasting in thousands of gallons of water. Afterwards (5), we take a drop of the now incredibly dilute ape saliva out of the second tank, and infuse it into milk sugar or alcohol. At last, we have a powerful medicine–or so the homeopath believes. The homeopath believes that, because of this thorough process of dilution, a spiritlike essence of ape saliva remains. Without approaching the idea that ape saliva (or duck’s liver) could serve as a medicine, or that, because of the homeopathic process, its former properties are now reversed, we begin to see the absurdity of homeopathic theory*. Prince Charles, a big spokesperson for homeopathy, pretends to understand science, although he is lambasted by the medical establishment, and made to look like a fool. “Quick. Turn on the telly. Prince Charles says that homeopathy, is effective. Let’s buy some.” “I think that, because so many famous people use alternative medicine, we

*

Homeopathy: The Ultimate Fake - S Barrett - Quackwatch, updated Aug, 2001 quackwatch.org

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should try it too.” “Beethoven, Charles Darwin and many early American presidents used homeopathy hundreds of years ago—therefore we should use it, too.” This kind of reasoning should be, in a rational world, the death knell of homeopathy; it is like saying, “Many early American presidents used bloodletting.”

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The Planetary Detoxification Alliance presents… The Sedona Healing Conclave

We cordially invite you to gather with us in beautiful Red Rock country, for a joyous, annual event. Here, in a sacred vortex, we are called to the Sedona Healing Conclave to purge the old energetic molds, and strive to become pulsating Vessels of Divinity. Humanity has grown blind to the power of infinite being, but the Alliance calls us to break the karmic circle, by ridding ourselves of systemic toxins. Through the Conclave process, we restore our bodies, and ultimately the planet. We encourage you to come, drink our curative mineral waters, and sample our hearty vegan cuisine. Feel free to experience Body Visions massage in our warming mud baths. Be involved in our authentic Native American ceremonies, led by Jody Guel. She leads us in a group sweat lodge rite that clears us with herbs, and puts us face to face with the congested bonds of our past. We hold hands, following our Saturday regression workshop, in a synchronistic thought circle around a flickering Heart Flame. Sunday night is the finale of the Sedona Healing Conclave: the Great Smokestack. By means of rectal candling, an incredible method of detoxifying the colon, we let go of the noxious matter that encrusted us. When the candle is inserted and lit, we claim our status as selfactualized, planetary citizens. We call upon the blessings of ascended shaman-healers, after a farewell dinner of kumquat salad,.

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A one-time fee of $1500 allows one to experience all Conclave activities, and contribute to our Colon Health website. Peace and blessings, The Sedona Healing Conclave “We all have a need to release”

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The magical thinker, who finds meaning in the bizarre, perceives the universe as threatening and lonely without a God. Eager to accept celestial reassurance however senseless, they flock to even the most obscure signs: Cities may wind up paying dearly when countless people rush to behold what they believe is a vision of the redeemer; included in the bill are crowd control, security and officers who try to unsnarl traffic jams. Structures may burn to the ground, because the faithful leave the lit candles behind. A few spiritual seekers enjoy professional success, though they are now rapt in unreality. With a sense of no more mountains to climb, they see the world as a place of contempt. Other pilgrims, who never got off the ground, are anxious to grab onto anything that offers hope, no matter how far-fetched. Eager to gain access to supernatural knowledge, they center their life on pixie stories.

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Lotus Pixie
A non-profit house of worship centered in Mill Valley, California

Lotus Pixie is a congregation of truth seekers who, in touch with a higher source, uncover hidden occult laws. Founded on the one, true faith, occult science is the fountainhead of every religion. An inner voice calls one and all, though few heed it. Lotus Pixie creates the space to hear this call deeply. In deep harmony with gifted mystics lies the supreme gift, a realm that hails all faiths. Everything happens for a reason, call it fate or call it destiny. And so we are summoned to this realm without judgment, where light and love are the cause—peace and blessings are the effect. The spirit of Mohammed dwells in the hearts of many, and the suffering of Hussein fills others. And yet the bliss of the Elvis fills even more. A student might discover the divine spark in the Silver Pathway, or in Naked Yoga. Another may find guidance in the doctrines of Five-Element Firewalking. A student at Lotus Pixie, who endeavors for years, may finally ascend to an elevated plane, and continue the path as a divine visionary. *** Spiritual qualities abound at Lotus Pixie, an abode of enlightenment, inner peace, and harmony—where kindness is an article of faith, and spiritual love is a way of life.

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The believer is guided by intellectual stupor toward whatever nonsensical claims they will, as long as it inspires faith in the Hope Beyond, said to bring salvation no matter their behavior, if they will only believe. Our descent into otherworldly gibberish is sad. After all, quality survival is built on our ability to reason. Blanket support of delusion cripples our gray matter with a kind of neuropathy that slows our intellectual gait. We cannot always free ourselves, try as we might, of these old, dying ways. All our lives, we have been fed on otherworldly gibberish; small wonder that we return to the old ways to feel good. Such gibberish plays off the hopes and fears of the mechanical believer.

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Psychic Cruise We will spend 10 glorious days in Antarctica, on Crystal Cruise Lines, aboard their newest ship, Starry Sky, away from the city, where the vibrations are pure. Onboard will be experienced psychic readers, with more than 60 years of combined international recognition and verified knowledge. Together with leading empowerment specialists, this will be a cruise to remember. Featuring: Channel and intuitive, Rahnee Kastine Internationally known medium, Jellico Stormm Online reader extraordinaire, Ariel Kizzy Renowned energy advisor, Gaia Talsim Onboard workshops will include: How to Contact the Yet-To-Be-Born in the Astral Dimension How to use Potential-Life Progression to Free Emergent Power for Future Incarnations How to Launch Psychic Attacks with Caution by Channeling Cranky Angels and Militant Aliens Everyone is welcome to share in our Biorhythm Club, as well as our Emotional Imagery Circles, which empower us to kick some booty.

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We find people falling for one incredibly lame hoax after another all over, before branching out into newer hoaxes, as if it is stylish to be righteous, stupid, and in opposition to reality. Just as many people try to create their own reality, by replacing facts with faith, and watching lots of television. The rise of the birdbrain heralds a modern breed of stunning stupefaction, which rots the intellect. The source of our continued interest in supernal delusion is easy to understand. Strangers to the countless wonders of the manifest universe revealed by science, we maintain our childlike views, and defend them fiercely. “We all need something to believe in.” The delusion-free person has no need for “something to believe in,” other than science, which, like facts and evidence, do not require belief. The public is unfamiliar with the tricks of the trade, and the minimal skill needed to weave webs. For instance, masterful manipulators learned how to meld their deceptions in fine art, fine music, and substance, and so camouflage them. For the minor deceptions, besides sizing people up, and playing off their reactions, few would guess that some plant shills. Talk shows, psychic performances, and hypnotist stage acts have someone pose as an audience member. Assuming it is too daring and easy to spot, most people do not think of shills. But the believer just ignores this, so that nothing distracts them from the amazing display.

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Bert Bellamie, host of the nationally syndicated talk show, “The Bert Bellamie Show,” has a format that appeals to the visionary crowd. The stories of otherworldly phenomena presented on his program reach millions eager to tune them in, although they are largely unverified. Luke Schemer is Bert’s guest, the author of several books on apparitions, out-of-body experiences, and past lives. Tonight, he will talk about creatures from outer space. Tomorrow night, Bert’s guest will be Heather Sullivan, a poet, who channels her works from a higher power. She gives ominous warnings about the future of Earth.

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We are babes, too often, in the woods for the compelling mystic speaking authoritatively. We open up our houses to the imaginary, and keep alive a host of anti-scientific antics. Amid the guru gossip, the gospel of the godly guides, the calamities of cultist congregations, and the plots of pretentious preachers, the mystic does not live up to their big talk. Any sign of their alleged lofty status, beyond the talk show circuit, is invented. Likewise, Children of the Supreme literature might spark interest in a few, but the petty behavior of the Children themselves pushes most people away. Spiritual Platitudes “Sveldumede 12 never forsakes you, and gives good things to those who endure with a smile.” “Gaia Talsim is the Divine Essence of Faith.” “The best of the believers in faith are the best of them in morals.” “The Pixie does not judge us according to our appearance, but looks into our heart and at our deeds.” “Like a chef, the supernatural salesperson steams scraps of secrets for selfless seekers to scarf. Such steaming is simple, since scraps of secrets are sweet to the seeker.” The seeker is hungry for treats in the form of platitudes. The adages are empty calories, and the seeker soon wants more. The noble seeker claims to be without judgment, therefore shaping the platitudes so that they sound insightful is easy. The supernatural vendor is ready to cash in, all set with worthless but good-sounding parables. The parables are mindless, but they Inducing bliss in the seeker. The supernatural vendor models the parables to seem natural and pure, unlike the scientist, who speaks in complexities.

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Religious Psychosis “Stressed out by life, I delve far into my faith, though I feel odd, on rising after a long prayer session. More and more, I sense a strange presence. Worried, I know that a touch of mental illness runs in my family. Still, I know that my folks are no different from many others, but I question whether I am up to entering the ministry. Just then, a startling revelation hits me: I am a glorified soul on a mission to save humanity. I sign up for a yoga class a few weeks later, only to learn that my instructor believes himself to be an amorous incarnation of Krishna.” Psychotic delusions of grandeur with a mystical theme are common, as are people who say that God is speaking to them. But how can we test to determine whether or not they are real? If we believe that Satan has taken possession of us, and believe it heart and soul, how do we distinguish it from mental illness? If we believe that God is telling us to start a religion, are we not, by definition, mentally unstable? How do we know that we are not just having a psychotic breakdown tinged by our fervent religious beliefs? We cannot test it, because involves a failure to sense reality—we believe that voices talking to us are real. We live in a world of alarming irrationality, and so we gain definite advantages by understanding the real world. For one thing, it may keep us from dressing as Biblical figures, and walking around in the streets of Jerusalem, clad in stolen hotel sheets. Imagine touring the Holy Land, and running into John the Baptist or the Virgin Mary. This is the Jerusalem Syndrome, derived from people who, overcome by the spiritual atmosphere of the Holy Land, believe they are Abraham, Isaac, or other characters mentioned in the Bible. Doctors hospitalized one delusional woman at the Western (Wailing) Wall, because she claimed to be Esther of the Bible. A few people are ecstatic to the point of delusion, seeing the holy places that they have read about for so long, and feeling the historical blood that pumps through the heart of the city. Often, they have no prior history of psychiatric problems. However, this kind of behavior is psychotic by definition. We can encounter delusional people in nearly every psychiatric

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clinic in the world, who believe they are characters from a particular religious book. In fact, just the psychiatric clinics in Jerusalem admit around 150 such cases each year. When released, a few have even gone on to found religious groups, and their followers actually believe they are here to help the human race. Fantasy-proneness gone wrong may concern mental health professionals, but a religious leader, political leader or terrorist with apocalyptic visions concerns every free person. When oddballs and angst-ridden fanatics gain many followers, trouble is sure to stir, as they proceed to set fires on the world stage. Each country has its own set of cranks, some with criminal urges, of which law enforcement must not lose sight. Otherwise, the cranks might sew seeds of dissension, stirred by apocalyptic visions.

“Only boring people are bored.” A boring life can sometimes lead to an unconscious drive to create excitement. Believing in their heart that an extraterrestrial was before them*, the fan of movies with science fiction and paranormal themes often reports bizarre events. The fantasy-prone personality tends to view events in terms of unique, supernatural, or even manic signs. Many shades of gray exist, although fantasy-prone personalities are found everywhere. Still in love with the old, drug-induced hallucinations, plenty of people are on the lunatic fringe, though not using psychotropics for years. Mystical madness stands by, forever watching over us, waiting to pounce on the fogbound mind. This is the admonition of the late, great Carl Sagan in his book, “The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark.” Millions of people are passionate about UFOlogy, largely due to the influence of science fiction books, movies, television and living in the

In the stage between sleep and wakefulness, sleep paralysis can strike people with sleep disorders. The normal sleep mechanism keeps us semi-still, but a sleep disorder can “awaken” us in an immobilized state. We may hear strange noises, or see weird lights. An indistinct being might choke us, and we cannot fight it off.
*

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space age. Some people even allege that extraterrestrial beings are living among us, and an international conspiracy is working to keep it covered up. Such beliefs have even inspired the formation of UFO cults. No one could marvel at images like those taken by the Hubble space telescope before 1990, or conceive of such a massive spectacle of galaxies, nebulae, quasars, and star clusters. Likewise, before the development of the optical microscope, no one could conceive of the diversity of strange life forms living in a drop of water. In contrast are scrawny aliens in a science fiction movie, with two big eyes and a bald head. They traveled for many light years to reach Earth, and this is how they appear. Even more ludicrous is the thought that a bunch of politicians could keep their existence a secret. This is not to say that intelligent life does not exist elsewhere in the universe. Because intelligent life exists on Earth, astrobioligists theorize that technological civilizations populate distant planets.

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Count Repton We who deal with assorted space cases will, through the power of Repton, no longer be subject to the tiresome sermons of the space case, just as we refuse to melt in the mouth of the holistic nit-picker. Why bother trying to reason with a talkative space case? Why not take advantage of the credibility that psychic readings have among them? By simply taking hold of a pet*, we place our other hand on the space case. Then, we come up with a fake reading they are not likely to forget—a hilarious psychic act that will surely get their attention. Are we to assume that the space case will fall for this psychic pet act? Will they shut up, and let us to do our job? Yes! Psychic animal readings, used only on the tedious mystic, create openings for sidesplitting and useful stunts. Great for sidetracking insistent space cases, they keep them from inappropriate, mind-numbing lectures, as they readily accept the readings as coming from on high.

*

The stranger the appearance of the pet, the more impressive is the fake reading.

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Psychic Iguana Communication– What Is It? We are the appointed servants of His Lordship, Count Repton, and our job is to show the power of Psychic Iguana Channeling. Powerful iguanas incarnate here as our guides and teachers out of pure love. If we have not learned the lessons needed in our lifetime, an iguana can show us the way, and break our spiritual slump. Reptiles are among the earliest species on the planet, and have the ability to peer far into our past lives. If our problems stem from long ago, an iguana’s gifts can save the day. Iguanas communicate with one another telepathically, and often clash with one another for no apparent reason. Because these animals cannot speak, only the Psychic Iguana Communicator can interpret their message. The Wisdom of Reptiles Count Repton is unique among all iguanas. A prophet of divine wisdom, He blesses us with health and enlightenment. People who doubt the power of Count Repton need only ask for His help with an open heart. His intuitive ability is beyond that which a human psychic can offer. People will ask, “With a brain as small as His, how is it possible for Him to be such a vast pool of divine wisdom?” The answer is simple: science says that, while a human uses only a fraction of their brainpower, a reptile can harness the power of their entire brain. The Repton Experience Many psychic animals are available for consultation, but there is none with the majesty of Count Repton. Each time we channel His wisdom, we are in awe. His sense of compassion, mercy, and oneness with God is astounding. We have, through the years, given our hearts to our divine friend, and felt His uncanny ability to connect with our soul, giving us guidance and inspiration. Without a doubt, communicating with Count Repton is our greatest joy.

Supernal Count Repton is available for consultation, healing workshops, group discussions, and lectures.

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Igupuncture Today, we turn our backs on traditional acupuncture forever. Why? Because Igupuncture has arrived! What Is Igupuncture? Igupuncture is the art of opening the channels of the body to correct energy imbalance, and treat a wide variety of health problems, by means of a specially trained igupuncturist. The claws of a skilled igupuncturist find the natural igupuncture points of the body, and unblock the flow of life force.

Is Igupuncture Painful? Yes. We sedate the patient with herbs for the first 3 treatments, before an igupuncturist scans their body. The igupoints are located, and the igupuncturist begins the treatment. Once the igupuncturist inserts its claws, a detoxifying sweat rains heavily from the patient’s body. The entire treatment lasts about 30 minutes.

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No needles are used!

The improved balance brought about by igupuncture arises from cleansing, emotional shock waves.

I witnessed a few unforgettable incidents as a part-time receptionist at the massage center of Gary Lee for almost a year. Gary brought in his pet, Count Repton, for psychic pet or Igupuncture-type stunts, performing them only on the most talkative extremists. He also dealt with clients who would bring sales brochures or audiotapes. Usually, the material was about some fervently held belief system, or a holistic health product. Then, instead of relaxing, as Gary performed their treatment, they would talk endlessly about the product or idea. Gary, who is also a computer graphics enthusiast, produced a couple of hilarious brochures, which featured phony products—or even more hilarious— some semi-believable, mystical presentations; whatever fit the situation. He would pass to the “sales-client” some hilarious brochures so they could glance at them before the massage session. From then on, whenever the sales-client would launch into a sermon, Gary would keep bringing up the contents of his brochure. This proved effective in silencing the client, so Gary could then focus on doing a good job. Kelly Yue

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The popularity of the esoteric “sciences” is, once again, on the rise. In some countries, lines to see spiritualists are longer than those to see doctors, and others encourage it by giving spiritualists a business license. We held séances, in the early 20th Century, to receive etheric messages from the dearly departed. We channeled disembodied spirits through trance Decades later. Today, we receive communiqués from cats, and ask a lizard how to live our lives. Turning to a lizard for guidance? Yes. Seers pretend to talk to the dead, as in the early 20th Century, and people still take it seriously. In the process, they are crippled—robbed of something important. We could, of course, just relegate it to lack of brains, “If they’re stupid enough to believe this psychic baloney, then it’s their fault—let them suffer.” No one can talk to dead people. Psychics who pretend to do so are being cruel to those who lost a loved one; it is a heinous, hateful act, and it deprives the bereaved of closure. The departed would surely want the bereaved to move on with their lives. Keeping alive the idea that psychics can talk to the departed is sick. Grief counselors and psychologists say, when someone has lost a loved one, to rob them of closure in this way is a horrible thing to do. On top of that, the psychic takes the money of the bereaved, or is paid by a talk show. Far from harmless, such acts are more like sticking a gun it in the belly of someone to rob them. Millions of people have faith in psychic contact, but a negative encounter can add to their neurosis. Often, they will dwell on the bad experience so much that they may harm themselves. The psychic knows most people consult them when they have problems, so the psychic easily feeds back any negative signs. Afterward, the clients tell family and friends of the spooky encounter, highlighting all they believe to be accurate. With want of objectivity, the client’s passé the story around, and it gains power. Fully aware of the human quirk for embellishment, the profiteering prophet creates more publicity. Why should we not be able to sue psychics? If our stockbroker, doctor, lawyer, or business associate misleads us, and charges us for a

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service, we have a right to sue them. When they give us wrong information, we should be able to go after them in the courtroom. However, if a person believes in psychics or psychic pets, a jury may consider them so brainless as to be barred from compensation. If we bow to the mysterious gifts of Mr. Kibbles, the Great Lord of the Underworld, or talk about how Skitty gave us guidance from the Great Beyond—please–what hogwash. The rational person laughs at the many clients that support the psychic animal channeler, and moves on. This brings to mind the old joke; why do promoters of a psychic fair need to notify the psychics at what time and place it will be held? If they are psychic, they should already know. No psychic has ever been able to pass the test of science, although it is easy for psychics to fool the public. Consider the major events of the year that psychics never predicted, although they claim to have predicted them after the fact. Now imagine how helpful it is to know the typical desires of women—this is important for psychics, as (sadly) most of their followers are women. Their most common goals are to lose weight, have a nicer home, find a rich husband, get a new wardrobe, land a better job, attain a better body, have a better sex life, get cosmetic surgery, travel the world, run a successful business, learn a language, and have more time to themselves. In fact, most people wish they had more time to themselves irrespective of their gender. Psychic: "I sense that you wish you had more time to yourself." Client: "Yeah. You know, that's right." Never has there been a single, verifiable, objective case of psychic predicting anything beyond a chance hit. A million dollar prize is in place for anyone who can do demonstrate his or her psychic ability*, and no has claimed it. Psychics (who often claim they are not interested in money) are eager to take our money for their readings, but they will not stand up to claim the Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge, because they are phonies.

*

One Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge. James Randi Educational Foundation

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The etheric aura is said to emit from and encircle every living being as a field of lustrous life energy—a belief that dates back to ancient times. Psychic fairs often have booths that offer to photograph the human aura. This is called Kirlian photography. However, even nonliving objects, such as a coins and keys, yield an aura using this technique. We know that our bodies can hold static electricity. Therefore, when someone takes a Kirlian photograph of, for instance, the hand of a person, it is under high voltage. What we are seeing is the discharge, analogous to the plasma globes sold in specialty stores. Clairvoyants are supposed to perceive the aura without Kirlian photography. Typically, they claim to read our moods and medical conditions. But there is no evidence that an etheric aura exists, leading investigators to conclude that reading a person’s energy field is so much fairy air*. The news media highlights negative stories, just as psychics and religious leaders know negative predictions will gain the attention of an audience. This is understandable, because our nature as human beings is to be alert to danger. Psychics and religious leaders may fool their followers, but not one has ever been able to stand the test of science. They make excuses when predictions of terrible events do not materialize year after year: "Well, somehow the people of God prayed, and God in His mercy spared us. In any case, it didn't happen, so I think we can all rejoice.**" “If my prediction is correct, it is because of my holiness, and my access to the mind of God.” “If my prediction is wrong, it is because so many of us prayed.” “God revealed to me who the next Prime Minister will be, but I’d rather not say.”

*

Joe Nickell, Skeptical Inquirer magazine: May/June 2000 Religious broadcaster Pat Robertson, January, 2008

**

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“I was in deep prayer, and the Lord told me there would be violence in the world.” Predictions like these cannot lose. We must know by now why society has so much trouble coming to grips with practical issues: its many uncritical citizens draw society asunder.
The Voice of Mr. Kibbles “Awakened from a deep sleep, I rise, turn on the television, and, by chance, tune in to a show featuring a proud-looking lizard in a purple cape. Looking closely, straight into the cold eyes of what the promoter hails as “Count Repton, the Amazing Psychic Iguana,” I laugh until I start to cough. All the rage over this stupid lizard amazes me over the next few months. Nonetheless, Count Repton’s fame spreads far and wide, especially after He and His channeler do the talk show circuit. My whole world turns upside down one morning. The telepathic voice of my dog, Mr. Kibbles, awakens me, and advises me to take a vacation in Lake Tahoe. I make a decision after thinking long and hard: Yes. I will surrender my principles, fling wide the floodgates, and allow the mighty torrent of my pet’s power to flow forth. With Mr. Kibbles as my guide, I decide to open up a parlor. After all, why do I need a stinkin’ job? Business with Mr. Kibbles is financially rewarding, and I am dating again, since all of our clients turn out to be women. The paws of Mr. Kibbles have raked in a decent nest egg. With full confidence in our client’s gullibility, I know His abilities will pay off for many years to come.”

The channeler of a psychic pet plays off a common range of thoughts with minimal skill: “According to Snookums, you want people to like you for who you are.” “Gonzo says you’re a free spirit, not bound by the usual customs or beliefs.” The channeler uses universal, seldom-discussed thoughts, in read-

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ings that “fit like a glove.” This works because we believe our thoughts are unique, even when the same thing applies to many people. Nonetheless, we believe that the channeler describes our personality precisely. Many believers, who use psychic readings as a guide, openly admit that many are vague. Even so, they believe. “Twinkle senses that you like constant variety, and are not happy when held back.” The channeler of psychic pet readings uses our replies, our pacing, our eye language, our body language, and other subtle reactions, as a guide to inventing accounts of “who we really are.” The effect of this can seem momentous. Because we keep coming back to ask about our love life, career, spiritual direction, and so on, the channeler of psychic pet readings can purchase a bounty of pet chow. We start with the premise that most people are trusting to no end. From that we can pull off a spectacular reading, a reading that seems right on the mark,. In fact, many people enjoy being psychically deceived, as it seems to confirm their deepest childhood fantasies. Based on their hopes, their vanity, and their wishful thinking, when the channeler of psychic pet readings praises marks freely, and composes positive forecasts, they eagerly go along. “The Count says you have been reincarnated here to spread light and love to all. All your prayers will be answered, and your achievements will be great.” The channeler of the Count may, with a little intuition, add astrology, tarot cards, graphology, or I Ching readings, and make a barrage of across-the-board guesses, giving vague guidance on how to find a soul mate, improve health, and make career choices. The candidate of political office issues psychic-like pronouncements open to many interpretations, in order to feel out the leanings of voters. The candidate allows trusting constituents to fill in the blanks.

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Deceiving the Deceptive “Your personality test reveals that you have a dormant skill waiting to be harnessed. You generally plan well, but you have made a few big blunders. However, you can clear much of this through Psiology training.” The rational performance artist, being more defiant than the typical delusion-free person, will resort to psychic performance art as an example of the martial arts principle of “redirecting conflict.” In reaching comedic heights, they show how easily people are fooled. We are assured of dumbfounding a large number of mystics, when we channel the “wisdom” of pets, or casually pull personality readings out of the hat. However, most of us would not dream of using performance art on them. “I feel a strong reaction from Count Repton… wait… he says that you already know this… he says… when you are stressed out, you tend to lose sight of the good things in your life.” The use of psychic performance art on the unrelenting mystic seems, on the surface, contrary to the delusion-free spirit. Nonetheless, people are free to judge such performances in any way they want. Full honesty is a wonderful thing to read about, but the world is not a domain of clear-cut good and bad. If we could advance without the voices of the righteous impeding us, the world would be a better place. The challenge is, because we are free to believe what we may, we cannot force the righteous to be less repressive. In any case, this call to load the dice through performance art is regrettable. We cannot take seriously people who say that under no circumstance would they would lie, even to a known fraud. However, we must disregard adults who claim to be always honest. The measure of people who never lie is tiny, compared to the scores of hypocrites that like to think they are always truthful. The person of dubious virtue, who claims to not lie under any circumstance, even to save a loved one, is a fool or a liar. To be honest in all situations, even to gangsters, muggers, and embezzlers, is for people who live in an ideal world. They may try to be as

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innocent as lambs, although we can walk up to a lamb, and casually club it. The rational person knows that there is no need to be honest with a thug. “The police have learned that a deranged criminal, fully armed, and on the lookout for the law, is holding a young girl captive in his home. To gain entrance and rescue the girl, a brave policeman poses as a deliveryman, showing that, when necessary, the police can be skilled liars.” Some health plan administrators may, in cases of grave need, deny life-saving procedures, saying they are uncalled for, experimental, or too costly. In order to get around this, most doctors will lie to the administrators in order to get the patient approved. But for some people, lying in such a case is unthinkable; they would rather let the patient expire, or take them to Mexico for alternative treatment. Most parents pass off the same “innocent and fun” lies they learned as children, while, at the same time, regarding it essential to teach their children honesty. The mystically minded parent believes that, when taught that unseen entities watch their every move, children grow to be better citizens, with a stronger sense of right and wrong. Later, when the older child begins to challenge what they learned, the mystically minded parent laments. Then again, if a child grows to be a true believer, that parent swells with pride. The rational parent spares their children the culturally accepted lies, teaches that dishonesty can come back to bite them. Such a parent also teaches older children about exceptional cases when dishonesty is warranted.

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The Evolutionary Roots of Lying “The members of a nearby clan are heading our way. We cannot tell if they mean to attack us, cast a spell on us, or warn us of an impending attack. Perhaps they want our food, our weapons, or our women. In that case, should we to tell them where they are, or should we lie to them?” Lying is part of human history, whether we want to accept it or not. The process of evolution has hardwired the will to survive into our brains, and so a flair for lying is essential. We cannot reasonably deny the murders and betrayals of the past. In part, many a nation established itself by killing native populations. Even now, we abandon the principle of “kill only in self-defense,” and send young people off to unprovoked wars. Many societies execute civilians that commit murder, in order to uphold law and order. Students of the Cold War era know, how naïve it is to believe that, someday, everyone in the world will be honest. We can only wonder about the early schemes of the human animal, although any other animal cannot lie. To become leaders of the clan, and outwit all others, our ancestors had to be clever. Were there once a gene that stopped our ancestors from lying, it would be drained from the pool long ago. When a spouse wants our opinion of whether or not an outfit hides their dimensions, we say: "No honey, you don’t look fat in that.” Unexpectedly, a telemarketer catches us, only to be subject to our lie: “Please hold on.” We return, throughout the please hold on trick, to whatever we were doing before the call. By having the telemarketer wait, they briefly refrain from interrupting others with their calls, and we perform a small public service. “White lies” are the small, generally harmless fabrications found in nearly all facets of human interaction. Many lies are told to ease the

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worry of someone, or to make someone think better of themselves. "All of our operators are currently serving other customers. Your call is important to us, so please stay on the line for the next available representative." "Nice to see you." "Sorry I missed your call." "I was stuck in traffic." "I'll call you back in a minute." Then again, many people will say they are just being honest or just kidding as an excuse to say something that would otherwise seem more insensitive. Many of us have made foolish choices in the past regarding sexuality. When discovery is imminent, we often try to hide the evidence by lying. We need to be honest as we think about the issue of lying. If not, we only lie to ourselves. We might, perhaps, learn to be more open and honest with our fellow man some bright, sunny day. Until that day arrives, smart people will continue to lie to those who seek to overrun them. Then again, if everyone on earth were devoted to honesty, we would be free of deception, and so would not need to use outright lies. Since this is not the case, the counter-deception person chooses not to live as a rosycheeked Goody Two-Shoes. “I'm a good boy. I always play by the rules. I never lie!” “Sure, buddy. Now don’t move. Get the duct tape and take ‘em below, boys!”

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The Mystic-Busting Magician The rational performance artist, alert to the lies passed off by sly mystics, is firm on intellectually pounding such mystics into ground. They do this by employing the most important skill: mystic-busting magic. Magicians are often skeptics, and if we want to know how cunning mystics and psychics really work their magic, we need to watch a magician doing the same thing. The mystic-busting magician is, in defiance of the low emotional age of the mystic, an important member of society. They spot deception, disassemble it, and help us better appreciate how willing we are to be deceived. Raising the torch of Harry Houdini is an honored tradition for the mystic-busting magician. Houdini remains the greatest magician of all time. A pioneer, in the 1920s, he answered an incursion of selfproclaimed spiritualists, often observing their séances under cover. Mystic-buster extraordinaire, Houdini set baited traps for such con artists, and so electrified an entire nation. Houdini recounted in "Magician Among the Spirits," published in 1924, just how he unmasked the ectoplasmic pretenders. He called the clients of the pretenders “deluded brains.” Today, we call them “daytime television talk show audiences.” Millions of deluded brains put their faith in psychics, prophets, people with powers, and groups that cater to supernatural childishness. Still, the mystic-busting magician follows a tradition begun by Houdini. In cases where miracle makers fool even the experts, the magician easily spots sleight of hand, including the tricks of the psychic healer. Desperate pilgrims, from all over the world, converge on countries like Brazil and the Philippines, where “miracles” like psychic surgery*

*

Psychic surgery, another in the long line of spiritualist con jobs, is where a “surgeon” pretends to plunge their hands into people and cure their diseases (a range of diversions is used, even imitation latex thumbs). They slosh around, and innards emerge (such as chicken guts). One wipe and the patient is pronounced cured. The “surgical” site is found to be clean and free from scars. To the deluded brain, the whole process seems real.

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thrive. They often deceive hapless pilgrims under the umbrella of religion, in houses of worship. The renowned magicians, Penn and Teller, put crackpot mystics and healers on display for all to see, doubling us over with laughter. They depict harmonic enlightenment coaches and colon therapists in ways that make us lose it. American television host, Johnny Carson, was aware of the ways of trickery, because he used to perform magic. Carson contacted the famous, mystic-busting magician, James Randi, after learning that a famous psychic huckster was booked on his show. Carson learned from Randi how to guard against this huckster’s brand of conjuring. Carson watched as the psychic huckster wilted on national television, unable to perform his miracles. This made “The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson” exceptional in the annals of mystic-busting television. Such events do, not surprisingly, little to dissuade the faithful. Breaking the virus-like spread of mass sociogenic conjuring requires widespread efforts. So far, the efforts are but a homeopathic dose needed to impact the countless supernal delusions in the world. The voices that speak of the paranormal as being real are loud, and they must be answered on a much larger scale. Nonetheless, rational people pay homage to the great, mystic-busting magicians, such as the Great Houdini, James Randi, Penn and Teller, Bob Steiner, and others. Without their contributions, the paranormal would be even more popular than it is. Delusion-Free Spirituality The superiority of great intellect is to be treasured; it is critical to our health, and more valuable than material success. Unfortunately, most people are under the false belief that academic success, high income, and numerous possessions are more important. In actuality, material success takes on significance only when we develop our minds. By itself, academic success cannot open the door: we must learn to apply our mental power in practical ways. Lying outside the realm of our income, the gold standards of genuine wealth are creativity, passion, a decent grasp of science, and the wider intelligence that living can bring. In the face of modest financial resources, we can be among the wealthiest people on Earth.

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We eliminate the feeble beliefs that used to grip us, and our appetite for aliveness expands, and we move far ahead of one-dimensional bits of pop-wisdom (“we can do anything if we believe”). Once we are no longer in the market for the Big Religion bag of tricks, the seller of mystical spirituality can come clean, or move on to a more useful pursuit, such as the collection of aluminum cans. Delusion-free spirituality, founded on a sense of cosmological wonder, follows the genetic traits of the human being. Rational spirituality expresses itself in creative and rewarding pursuits, deep, growth-filled relationships, and rational activities that we enjoy. As we grow, problems that had been so challenging are now easy, or bother us less. With clearer and more assertive communication, we can better manage important relationships. However, we find that the physical toughness that we had early in our lives, diminishes as we age. The rational person realizes that life is too brief for pettiness. By embracing the fragility of life, they learn, through experience, not to fritter away their time. Young people are sure that greater age means greater unhappiness, and, set on partying while they are young, see little point in maintaining their health for the senior years. But for most, aging is not the gloomy experience that many of us imagine—in fact, older people are just as happy as younger people*. The notion that the good old days are in our teens, twenties, or even fifties, is a myth. As long as keep growing, the best is not behind us. Many people rate their finest years between 60 and 80. Nonetheless, there is a chance that misfortune, depression, or grave illness could overtake us. If not, each day can be the best time of our lives. The person in a higher income bracket is usually more satisfied with life than poor people, but the older person may find that their sense of satisfaction often surpasses the sense that a large boost in income might bring. Overall, there is little use in extra money or age without intellectual growth.

Queen's University, Belfast (2008, February 18). Older People Are Happy: Life Begins At 40 And 50 And 60.
*

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Transcending the Mind The principles of logic are universal, and we cannot rationally abandon them. Sticking with these principles is vital to overcoming wellknown fallacies of the mind. The mystic tries to explain the absurd by reducing logic to rubble, proclaiming the same barren ideas time and again: “We must learn to be without judgment. This helps us transcend the tricks of the mind.” “The intellect is useless when we are faced with the most essential issues of life.” A wave of Eastern mysticism crashed upon Western shores in the Flower Power era, and the Hippies simply repackaged the old ideas: “Get out of your head, and in touch with your heart.” The spiritual master calls us to surrender the power of our minds as the first step to spiritual power. By cleaving to the intellect, they say that the material world we will bog us down. Ironically, when the spiritual master declares, “The way of the mind is always wrong,” we are wrong in using our minds to understand it. The delusion-free person asks, "Is transcending reason to attain spiritual insight a reasonable thing to do?" The “do not judge” ploy is considered a major pillar of splendiferous spiritual insight, and unless we are in the market for the secrets of the spiritual master, those without judgment judge us unworthy of such insight. Without subscribing to their kind of faith, we are judged unworthy to ascend to the kingdom of the extraordinary. In reality, the mystics who preach, “do not judge,” have fantasies of superiority, and judge that their path is light years beyond the ability of the mind to grasp. They believe that their particular kind of faith makes them so much better than we mundaners. Delusion-free people understand how the do not judge ploy works. The spiritual master stresses it because, when they implore the flock not to judge others, the flock may not judge the hypocrisy of the spiritual master.

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The spiritual master remains the master puppeteer, when using, in concert with the do not judge ploy, the usual methods of control, such as isolation, keeping members perpetually busy, the use of jargon, etc. We can look to living examples of the non-judging path, and see if they manifest the quantum leap they profess. They say we must simply jump aboard, and see for ourselves. We have to trust that they have the power to lead us, and are in touch with things outside of our understanding. However, by studying their actions and their teachings with a critical eye, we can judge that they base them on the same old frauds. The “simply jump aboard” approach may appeal to trusting people, but their faith will not give them the power to transform their lives, move mountains, fly like Superman, cure cancer, or perform other extraordinary feats (so much for creating our own reality). Our reasons for embracing the supernal are many. Often, it is just the religion we were born into, due to our culture, and our family. We may fear death, and insist on a supernal being to guide us through a stark universe. People who find that reality does not match their expectations, turn to soothing absurdities, and turn away from that which defies them, though they are merely ideas. And without objective ideas, one-way solutions are likely to take precedence. When living in a developed society is not good enough for us, the peddlers of false grandeur may turn up en masse. Then again, if we have built a rational life, such peddlers will not lure us on their next fishing expedition. If family problems, illness, or work pressures overcome us, the practice of positive thinking (the act of telling ourselves lies by mechanically repeating affirmations like, “Things are going are going very, very well,” “My life is complete perfection”) acts as a placebo for magical thinkers. Then again, the practice of rational meditation (focusing on soothing thoughts, feelings, and imagery) can help with chronic worry*—mantra** not required.

Effectiveness of a meditation-based stress reduction program in the treatment of anxiety disorders. Am J Psychiatry 1992; 149:936-943 ** A mystical word or “seed-sound” used in meditation and ritual, believed to have power to enhance spirituality. Such words are alleged to have mystic attraction for specific deities. Traditionally, a mantra often required initiation by a guru, or spiritual teacher. Commonly found in Buddhism and Hinduism.
*

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“I deserve the best in life.” “I can do anything if I believe.” The magical thinker hastens their downward course by joining groups like the Divine Light Mission, the Immortalist Temple, the Doorway of Psiology, or the Order of Miraculous Purity. In bowing to the pitch at a Psiology seminar, Large Group Awareness Training, or retreat, their life savings may gradually dry up. Other than through the placebo effect, such things cannot help them achieve that which they do not already have. Such groups cannot grant the wisdom that life brings, which is developed only through experience and growth. “The wisdom that comes from living is not achieved by positive thinking, or by consulting a Brahmin. Nor does it come in a pill.” When we feel disfranchised, our persistent low mood may open us up to a special bond with a mystical leader, who offers imaginary answers to the most enduring questions of life. More important, the leader presents the Grand Promise—they will take us back home to God. But because no one can live up to the teachings of the freeloading leader, their promise only serves to make our problems worse. We must focus on the main reasons for being alive: love, wisdom, personal enrichment, and rational pleasure–all attained without a spate of bull—and stop taking the bait of personal growth zombies, or the schlepp help set.

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How Ya Gonna Keep 'Em Down on the Farm? Duty-bound farmhands belt out the praises of Farm, while they leave the crops to fodder. The hands take little interest in the tremendous time in which they live, and in the magnificence of what is, oblivious to the known splendor of the real world. The owner of the Farm, in order to keep the farm in operation, tells the farmhands that all lands outside are under the control of the Great Corrupter. “Truth,” the owner says, “ lives only in organic fields inside the Farm.” The owner knows that, if the hands were to abandon the Farm, and see what is happening outside, they would not want to return. On tasting freedom, they would lay down stakes, determined to stay no matter how tough life is on the outside. Nothing could convince the newly freed farmhands to go back and plow the lower forty. The hands see the yield of the owner as useless compost. Staying behind to run the Farm, the children of the corn vegetate. Waiting for the fabled harvest, life passes them by. The obscure, the irrational, and the bizarre form the mystical experience. The mystic honors the unreal, and uses sacrament to “connect” with it. Preaching such hogwash, pulpits in every city, town, and block, compete for salvation and funds. Each faction in a given religion has more similar beliefs than not, although they claim that they alone walk the one and only true path. Nonetheless, believers are adamant that their interpretation of holy scriptures is true, and believers who disagree with them are inferior. …for I always thought It was both impious and unnatural That such immanity and bloody strife Should reign among professors of one faith. William Shakespeare, King Henry VI The rational person boards the ferry at sunrise, and glides away from the land of the supernal without looking back.

5
The collapse of reason
Drugs, violence, and terrorism are not the deadliest scourges to face humanity: it is the collapse of reason, which inspires loyalty to the Party, the State, and a being without being. Devotion to the imaginary sows the seeds of the greatest evils we have ever confronted.

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The collapse of reason ought to alarm us. Blocking the advent of an advanced civilization, its threat cannot be overstated. Today, humanity fights for its life, seeing that the mystic is hostile to workable societies. Throughout history, mystical faith in the Fatherland, the Party*, the Race, Allah, and the Prophet, can cause more devastation than all societal plagues combined. In spite of what science has given the world, we fall for the most bizarre beliefs imaginable.

he doctor treating the delirious, with fingers placed firmly on the pulse of humanity, identifies the signs and symptoms of a virus that exacts an awful toll. The patient, running a high fever, is critical. Tirelessly, the doctor stays the course, despite the contagion’s steady spread. Reports of the pandemic give the doctor an idea of the number of people already infected. If the doctor could awaken the infected from their coma, so they could see the writing on their charts, they would know the depth of their illness. The therapy of the holistic healer is worse than useless in fighting the infection, though such therapy is more popular than ever. Therefore, many doctors have abandoned the sickbay. Those who remain must find a way to help the delusional, and still be able to function. The doctor can, on occasion, stir a patient from their dream state, get them to speak coherently, and so speed their discharge from Mass Sociogenic General. For the unresponsive patient, where significant brain activity has slipped away, rational intervention is not possible. Typically, a doctor can only stand by and watch them flat line–only to be wheeled down to the morgue of deep mysticism. The collapse of reason manifests symptoms like:

* While claiming to deny religion, the communist too observes a nonexistent entity: the State. And, like religion, communism briefly exploits our desire for something to build our lives around, although it is ultimately unworkable

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•

Fervent belief in miraculous power Fervent belief in the power of special interests and mass movements Anti-technology and antiprogress perspectives Uncritical acceptance of supernatural and all-natural ideas

•

•

•

Our hearts go out to the billions of such casualties of mysticism, where the chances of objective thought are remote. In spite of the lessons offered by rational men and women, their views seldom change. The less educated we are, the more likely we will die from cancer*. One of the best things we can do for our children, besides feeding them right, is to make sure they get a good education. Whenever they do not have an adequate amount of information, they are vulnerable to the fractured logic of fearmongers, chief among which are the holistic nag, and those who warn of judgment day. They distort facts or lie to get us to act. Soon, Big Media, the teacher of morals, and our relatives get involved. Suspicious of anything new and beyond their understanding, the misguided yuppie and the environmental know-it-all join together, dedicated to giving progress a bad name. “Distrust the developments of the modern world,” they say, ignoring the fact that everything on Earth poses a degree of danger… even cotton balls**. Only those affected by a collapse of reason, whether in support of

*

Journal of the National Cancer Institute 2007 99(18):1384-1394; oi:10.1093/jnci/djm127

**

Cleaning one’s belly button with cotton balls (or cotton-tipped applicators) lodges cotton fibers in skin folds, sometimes leading to infection.

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heath freedom, or in the name of a righteous cause, would deny its scope. In an era of single-minded dogma, deep within a great philosophical abyss, the fairy tale dealer, and the bogus health guru portray themselves as benefactors. Meanwhile, cold hard cash enables our “benefactors” to proliferate, and to run their operations with impunity. People who suffer from poor reasoning ability often have an exaggerated opinion of themselves. Pointing fingers at everyone else (short of self-censure), they act as if they have a line to the Main Man, the intelligent designer, who acts on every plea. Those sufferers expect us to stop sinning, and convert to flyweight moral standards now. Can we protect people, in a society that values freedom of speech and religion, from their negative effects? Can the government prevent, in a free society, alcoholism or the use of illegal drugs? Can the government prevent reckless sexuality, gluttony, or suicide? Are we so full of ourselves that we believe we can protect duly warned adults from poor choices? Can we give people the basic right to do what they please, as long as they are the only ones impacted? The defiant mystic makes the work of shaping a delusion-free world difficult, and like trying to reason with a drunk, at least until another generation or more dies out. In the meantime, the rational person must grow thick, healthy skin (or already have it), and know that only so much can be done for the endless procession of moralists. Millions of people cling to the belief that, without implicit faith in the specific path they follow, no morality is possible. They cling to this belief even though a sense of morality is hardwired in a specific part of the brain (the ventromedial prefrontal cortex), and is not dependent on mysticism. Religion, tribalism, nationalism, substance abuse, brain damage, political allegiance, etc., can, of course, cause us to lose our sense of

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morality, and behave badly*. However, the denial of mysticism is, by itself, a demonstration of morality. “Moral certainty is always a sign of cultural inferiority. The more uncivilized the man, the surer he is that he knows precisely what is right and what is wrong. All human progress, even in morals, has been the work of men who have doubted the current moral values, not of men who have whooped them up and tried to enforce them. The truly civilized man is always skeptical and tolerant." H. L. Mencken Rational people have integrity, treat others with respect and refrain from doing senseless harm. They do not need mysticism to guide them, or create complete lives. Nonetheless, religious people have redefined morality in strictly religious terms, which Arthur C. Clarke calls the hijacking of morality. In reality, moralizing against sexual instincts is a way of compensating for that which we dislike in ourselves. For instance, the more homophobic we are, the more we fear our own homosexual impulses (a Freudian theory that has since proved itself). Researchers put sensors on the penises of homophobic men, and showed them gay pornography. The more homophobic the man, the more their responses gave them away**. Proselytizers, who feel guilty about their urges, preach against that which they want to repress a in themselves. A famous anti-drug talk show personality is a closet drug addict…a celebrity known for their strict religious morality has nude pictures on the Internet…a rabidly anti-gay senator gets caught in the act of soliciting gay sex.

*

Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience: Characterization of Empathy Deficits following Prefrontal Brain Damage: The Role of the Right Ventromedial Prefrontal Cortex, April 1, 2003, Vol. 15, No. 3, Pages 324-337 J Abnorm Psychol. 1996 Aug;105(3):440-5.

**

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We must be wary of people who keep insisting that immorality is a great threat to our society or our salvation. Sometimes, they are responsible for doing the very things that consume them in their sermons. In fact, a sense of moral superiority can lead to immoral acts, like using company resources for personal use, extramarital affairs, or worse, and then rationalizing them. When someone thinks they have a moral high ground, they can easily justify a sinful act as means to a righteous end*. Most of us are familiar with accounts of how televangelists are caught doing the same things they tell everyone not to do. Perhaps in reaction to these revelations, a growing number of religion-free people believe they can lead lives that are just as moral as the religious. Life offers many pleasures, which rational people indulge in freely, knowing the risks, and without guilt, whether others see them as moral or not. The Revenge of Flower Power Recycled Hippie Hogwash The pseudo-hipster of today seldom brings their views up to date, unlike individuals pursuing objective fields of knowledge. And so we hear the cogs turning, for autopilot minds in time warp, like predictable throwbacks, speaking their lines in robot fashion. Having witnessed the introduction of Eastern mysticism in the West, and the rise of natural products in the 1960s, we know they did not start out as the hot, new styles of today. Now that the old Hippie scene has gone mainstream, the ultimate in flower power payback has arrived, and we won’t be fooled again. We see, as we look back at the 1960s, that the longhaired Hippie was not the groundbreaker we thought. The true pioneers were the shorthaired scientists and engineers, who ushered in the electrifying times of the integrated circuit and the microprocessor. Now, as science

*

Journal of Applied Psychology, November 2007

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and technology moves forward in stunning ways, the romantic rebel is left to mimic trite phrases (“The corporations are wrong,” “All of our technology disrespects Nature,” “The natural way is the only way”). A clone of earlier romantics, the new breed of hipsters has the same doubts about any technological changes on the horizon. Together, the holistic health activist, the pseudo-hipster tries to dazzle us with their “radical, new” insights, forecast of the future. They post flyers at the natural foods store, reminiscent of the Hippie times. Their battle cry, however meager, creates excitement in their lives. Following the peace-and-love party line with only slight reworking, complicated debates use hardly any of their mental capacity. Once again, the pseudo-hipster condemns the callous scientist, the heartless doctor, failing to come up with much else. Seeking to trash valuable companies, they applaud themselves for the taking on the “evil scientific and medical corporations.” "All corporations are bad." This statement is absurd. However, it is clear, in view of the number of people who default to high contrast thinking, why anti-corporation sentiment is so common in the world today. Our inability to distinguish between honest corporations, and the corporations in bed with the government, brings about the sweeping verdicts of the pseudo-hipster. However, most corporations are lawful, do not operate through force, and value fundamental individual rights. Corrupt people are nothing new—as are corrupt corporations, and corrupt politicians. Then again, if honest corporations were not out to make money, they would not produce all the things we love—our televisions, cars, computers, etc. In spite of this, there are still people who would rather live in a world without the products of a corporation—which begs the question—who should we believe; governments, corporations, health gurus, the church, movie stars, or talk sow hosts? We have, because we live in the Information Age, online access to many of the same research databases accessed by scientists and doctors. We can use these databases to weigh the evidence. The health gurus and their pseudo-hipster followers are anything but lightweight, "We have to do this." "We can never…” People with these

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diehard attitudes are enough to drive us mad. Therefore, a sense of humor toward their wild claims is important. We cannot, rationally speaking, take the advice of any movie star, pseudo-hipster or health guru seriously without examining it. One tells us to live on steak, and another tells us to eat sawdust. Eventually, we find the advice comes in two types: that which is based on scientific evidence, and that which comes from people who cannot be bothered with evidence. The advice of the pseudo-hipster relies on anecdotes, not research. They believe that the intuitive way is superior. People, who spend their lives in academic environments, have proved the advice of the pseudohipster to be preposterous. We keep our minds open to evidence by turning off our autopilot thinking, even when it supports opposing beliefs. However, we must not adopt new habits until the evidence is in. Autopilot Error Zachary Alpert, a patent hypocrite, drives home his brand new, exhaust-emitting Volvo®, as if the threat of climate change did not exist. Zach pulls into his driveway with the sound of Grateful Dead music resonating from his car stereo. Shutting down the engine, he opens the door to his Santa Venetia home, and takes off his Birkenstocks®. Zach spoke, earlier that night, at the annual Northern Californians against Bad Foods symposium. With thoughts of the speech in his head, he turns on his Macintosh® computer and types, “How to Practice Medicine without a License through Annoying Health Tips.” Zach is determined to change our eating habits, and so save the Earth, despite the fact that people call him an obnoxious health nag and medical moron. He is a self-appointed environmentalist, life coach, and former advisor to the Al Gore* presidential campaign, determined to stop

* While Al Gore did not invent the Internet, he did more to promote it (once in the public domain) than did any other politician; the same with awareness of global warming. Nonetheless, as stated by Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., Gore has a "holistic, even mystical fervor," as did FDR's vice president, Henry Wallace, known for his weakness for gurus.

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the bloated, worldwide consumption of carbohydrates. Zach begins to relax, hearing wind chimes tinkling in the background. He turns on his hot tub, cleverly made to resemble a Native American sweat lodge, and disrobes. Once the water reaches a vigorous 108° F, he carefully slides in, sensing the toxins flowing out of his body. He then turns up the World Beat music already playing in the built-in stereo system. He goes, after toweling off, to the kitchen, and gets out of the refrigerator the soymilk he picked up at the natural foods store. In a peaceful, centered state of mind, Zach sips on the soymilk, and puffs on a joint. He reflects on his days as chairperson of the Marin County Hippie-ComeLately Pantloads. A few pilots forget, as is so often the case, to lighten up on the stick, and keep flying on with a high degree pitch. Victims of changing weather while still on autopilot, they could benefit from fresh flight plans. Routinely ignoring forecasts, they damage their reputation as aviators. As new horizons are uncovered, their reluctance to change course when needed is not conducive to superior pilotage. Disoriented pilots cling to absurd rates of climb, in spite of clear transmissions from the tower, and so are obliged to abort their flights entirely. Ozone attacks a pilot at extreme altitudes—this brings on a case of airhead sickness, and autopilot error occurs. This happens particularly when pilots hold to outdated flight plans no matter what. In short, aviators stuck on autopilot are a drag. The righteous mental giant seeks to change everything they find objectionable, and expect the world to conform to their autopilot points of view. All too often, they pass judgment on knowledge still evolving, such as stem cell technology, and deem it immoral. Similarly, the talk show host on autopilot instantly renders simplistic, black and white, or even rude judgments, when posed complex questions from audience members. Because of the many audience members look for such judgments, the talk show personality gets high ratings. Often, the most popular talk shows

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succeed because millions of righteous geniuses want lessons in dispensing simplistic advice. Perhaps certain talk shows should carry a disclaimer: “Pay attention at your own risk.” “Caution: What is presented in this program, if accepted, may conflict with reality, and so undermine rational thought.” Talk Show Diseases Talk show hosts can be brilliant and well read, or stupid and sensationalistic. Fear is name of the game for the most popular talk shows. Short of people in wartime, or who must contend with tragedy, people are more anxiety-ridden than ever. The talk shows know this. People gathering together on a talk show cause both unfounded fears, and unfounded trends. That is, the public determines what is and what is not a scientific conclusion, and this is absurd. A big health scare was launched when a woman called in to a talk show, and claimed her breast implants caused her arthritis. Then, a talk show was the stimulus for the cell phone/brain tumor scare. When study after study proves a particular health scare to be unfounded, it does little to change the opinion of the public, for when a scare lodges in their minds, reversing it is tough. "I heard this debate on TV.” When 99.9 percent of researchers establish something as a fact, and a program director finds the .1 percent who feels that HIV does not cause AIDS, the audience will believe it is a debate. Like a baseball team leading 7 to nothing in the final inning of a game, it is not a debate, but a talk show doing what it does well, which is to get people stirred up with topics that are ominous, frightening, and contrarian. Pediatrician A: "Many studies show that what you’re saying is wrong."

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Pediatrician B: "It's a conspiracy by the pharmaceutical companies, and the doctors. They do not want our children to get better. The data in those studies has been manipulated." Few people will watch a talk show in which pediatrician A says, "We have great vaccines, and they prevent horrible diseases that were killers in the past." That does not excite them. If pediatrician B appears and says, "What you are doing to your kids is going to kill them," now we are talking ratings. However, it is alarming to note that people who believe such lies get to vote. Imagine being a mother in the early 20th Century. She had to worry about her child dying of whooping cough, smallpox, influenza, or polio. Today, mothers worry about all the rumors and vaccine recalls, especially when considering the number of childhood immunizations that doctors recommend. Given the lies that people read on the subject of vaccines, it is no wonder that they fear them. They are usually people who have misgivings about the medical profession, but never question the motives of those who put out such lies. Young children are vaccinated every few months, so anytime something happens to them, it seems like the vaccines caused it. When someone says a vaccine harmed a child, nearly all of the time, it is a temporary, expected reaction, or the child experienced a problem unrelated to vaccines right after receiving one. For a vaccine to hurt a child is extraordinarily rare. Vaccines simply do not cause autism. Study after study has shown that the two are simply not linked at all. When children react to a vaccine, that is a positive thing—their immune system is doing what it is supposed to do, by causing mild fever, flushing, a minor reaction at the injection site, and so on. Considering the horrors prevented by immunizations, the risks of acquiring a disease is far greater than any infinitesimal risk from a vaccine. Medical researchers are always trying to upgrade the quality of vaccines. They developed preservatives superior to thiomersal, an antifungal agent and antiseptic, of which nearly half is mercury (no longer used in childhood vaccines). In addition, single-dose vials did

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away with the need for thiomersal, even when there was no evidence of harm, other than minor reactions, especially when considering the microgram doses given. Unlike the form of mercury found in fish and air pollution, the form of mercury that was used in childhood vaccines breaks down in the body to a nontoxic form (ethylmercury), and passed through the body of the child quickly. We somehow have no idea how the greatest amount of mercury gets into our bodies, or where it comes from, though we are alarmed about mercury (no longer) in childhood vaccines, or mercury in our dental fillings. In fact, coal-fired power plants are the leading toxic mercury polluters—and among the dirtiest sources of electricity. This is the source of mercury that gets into the food chain. In order to do away with this form of pollution, we need the support of the entire industrial world. For parents, there are enough real things to be paranoid about, like the money and power responsible for feeding this vaccine paranoia. Fearmongers stand to gain a lot from getting us to distrust certain products, and buy their alternative products instead. We will, in our lifetimes, almost certainly never hear anyone thank the giants who developed vaccines. Edward Jenner, Louis Pasteur, Jonas Salk, and others are responsible for ridding the world of diseases that had a horrifying mortality rate, and killed millions upon millions of people. The morbidity rates of various diseases* in the United States, at the beginning of the 20th Century, were staggering. Today, we can see what percentage they decreased at the at the end of the 20th Century: • Smallpox: 100 percent decrease • • Diphtheria: 100 percent decrease Pertussis: 95.7 percent decrease

Vaccines and Children's Health: United States 1900-98. Population and Development Review, Vol. 25, No. 2 (Jun., 1999), pp. 391-395
*

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• • • • • •

Tetanus: 97.6 percent decrease Polio: 100 percent decrease Measles: 100 percent decrease Mumps: 99.6 percent decrease Rubella: 99.3 percent decrease Haemophilus Influenza Type B: 99.7 percent decrease

These figures tell the truth—how vaccination programs crushed the infectious agents of the past. This shows the ghastly nature of the antivaccination movement, considering that vaccination efforts are a resounding public health success. When we come up against a chiropractor, or anyone else who starts the anti-vaccine rap, we can, armed with this knowledge, ask them, “Where are all of these monsters today?” On second thought, we might as well say nothing, as logic has no effect on anti-vaccination diehards. If we suppose that a vaccine harms one child out of a million, we must consider the millions of children whose lives vaccines saved. Such odds do not mean we should go back to the pre-vaccine era. As in driving cars, we must be willing to accept some degree of danger for the greater good. No one likes having to stop for a traffic light, but to say we do not need traffic lights is foolish. We are still trying to eradicate polio in many places in the world, although smallpox is now found only in Petri dishes. Globally, over 600 children die every day from measles*, and yet we hear someone from the

*

World Health Organization, November 2007

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world of pseudoscience say we should not vaccinate our children. Sanitation and better nutrition has helped us with some diseases, but they have nothing to do with many others. The existence of today’s anti-vaccination movement really says that, as compared to the past, we have a good life. The modern, developed world has spoiled us. We now live in a day and age where we sit around and watch a talk show, and someone claims that a vaccine harmed their child, which is usually not true. Even in the rare cases where it is true, we take it to be gospel on vaccination. Because we do not have these diseases around anymore, all we can do is complain about the side effects. This is a classic example of not understanding benefit versus risk. In spite of the greater good being served, we expect a risk-free existence, which is childish. Many chiropractors practicing today will tell us, depending on the school they went to, and how the school trained them, not to vaccinate our children. Then again, many newly graduated chiropractors do not concur. In fact, an article in the journal Pediatrics discusses the history of chiropractic and vaccinations**. The authors maintain that the antivaccine bias has prevented the medical profession from accepting the few rational chiropractors in existence. However, rational chiropractors have a legitimate approach to their profession, such as those that belong to National Association for Chiropractic Medicine (NACM)***, which is a group trying to save their profession from the bad name it receives from nearly all the chiropractors in practice. NACM is trying to bring chiropractic out of the 19th Century, and in to the new millennia. Many people, who have unflinching faith in chiropractic, are unable to rise above their autopilot thinking long enough to ponder the findings of careful research. A reasonable person is always ready to admit that which they know little of, while the contradictory person, an uncritical supporter of

** Chiropractors

and Vaccination: A Historical Perspective. Pediatrics Vol. 105 No. 4 April

2000, p. e43
***

www.chiromed.org

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authority figures with righteous judgments, and absolute answers, is certain of all that they say. We react negatively when a politician changes their mind, but the politician that does so and admits it is rare—and is sorely needed. We consider politicians that change their minds flip-floppers, and yet political candidates claim to represent change. The intelligent person understands that the world changes all the time. However, many politicians will stubbornly follow the party line until the day they die, rather than do what is best for their country. When wise people step up to announce, “We honestly don’t know what to think,” “We’re not sure,” or “We’ve changed our minds,” it ought to make us sit up and think. When wise people change their mind, it is not always because of a problem. With new evidence, they may simply be revising a former opinion. Likewise, in a seemingly obvious court case, news of a hung jury ought to force autopilot minds to earth. When wellinformed people are torn, why should the autopilot mind be so convinced they are wrong? If we ever reach a point when we know all there is to know about a subject, it would soon grow monotonous, since nothing would be beyond our knowledge, and we could learn nothing new. Then again, too many people speak of things beyond their knowledge, as though they hold the keys to the great mysteries of life. We ought to be excited if we come across that which is beyond our knowledge—excited because we may learn something new. In other cases, we are better off by leaving that which is forever unknown to remain so. A New Age of Darkness What we believe, why we believe, and how we come to believe a certain way matters greatly, in an era so much better than the past. Our ideas about the world, when we consider what most people know, and what is available to learn, have veered far off course. We are, when weighed against what little was known long ago, still in the Dark Ages today. We had reason to be in the dark, prior to the ascent of science. We

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did not know a great deal about our bodies or the world around us. In the malevolent times of the Inquisitions, a large fund of factual knowledge was inaccessible, and believers often destroyed what was known. We believed that beautiful women were witches, and that a great, supernatural being watched over our every move. the public was, as the Scientific Revolution dawned, more aware of the workings of the world, as the applications of science became more and more prominent. The agrarian man grew to hate science, as they saw it disturbing the idyllic, natural way of life. Nonetheless, the scientific method was the best route to progress. People still show contempt for science today. As modern-day aboriginals, baffled and even frightened by it, we are nonetheless eager to enjoy many of the gifts of science. But because we cannot shake our feelings for the all-natural, supernatural way of life, the call of the bizarre continues to slow the dawning of an even better life. Despite the long years of misery caused by timeworn myths, the darkness of the religious mindset remains. Still, people wonder why anyone would have a problem with the myths, which offer so much comfort to the masses. We turn, in an effort to make sense of the convolutions of the world, to other victims of intellectual collapse. We believe that, because of our bond with a special group, the big issues of the day are not that difficult to grasp, and that a life apart from the group is not needed. As committed members, we would rather soothe ourselves with mystical gimmicks. We become deluded to the point where we gather enough rope to suspend us, and, before we know it, we have lost our heads. Gripped by the prospect of that which defies all known logic, we buy in to the gimmick, as long as it claims to be inspired. In a quest to understand the world in religious terms, we can spend the rest of our lives. Meanwhile, the holy freeloader and the dietary mythmaker issue the same old orders of the day: “We must be aware of our all-natural, spiritual glory. Eternal life and freedom from disease is our birthright.” If we reject traditional, Big Religion, we join with the many schmucks that follow the newest schlepp help guru, and undergo a regime of New Age schlock therapy.

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Pious Depression “With so many human beings so reluctant to laugh, so incapable of thought, so eager to believe and snarl and hate.” Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. “Don't worry–be happy!” But happiness may not always be practical, especially since humans evolved for the purpose of procreation above all else. This is especially true when we ruminate (have cyclic, negative thoughts to the point of overload). However, we can resolve ruminative thoughts through cognitive talk therapy, deep breathing, thought stopping techniques*, and progressive relaxation exercises. The mystic is anything but lighthearted. Focused on spiritual war, the coming apocalypse, and the fate of people who have not joined their salvation club, people tend to avoid them because, if they do make conversation, they often turn it into a sermon. Few people want to be subjected to sermons, except fellow mystics, especially at parties or informal gatherings. Contrary to what the mystic says, they are avoided not because of their faith, but because they are boring. People do not want to waste their time. With so many years wasted in the folly of our youth, to live with laughter, love, and intellectual stimulation releases us from a future of faded hues. Like losing a basic sense of curiosity, a humorless life is tragic. For instance, people who never enjoy a big belly laugh, at least on occasion, may be dullards at heart. Mental depression depletes many particularly religious people, perhaps more than a typical population, in spite of the alleged majesty of the mission they champion, and their claim that all the answers are found with their faith. These sufferers, who see real help as something to avoid, are steeped in legends of all-wise beings, prophecy, and visionary events. Such delusion wears away what mental stability they may possess.

*

Ways of stopping ruminative thoughts. Obsessive ruminations: a controlled trial of thought-stopping technique. RS Stern, MS Lipsedge, IM Marks - Behav Res Ther, 1973

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Many people have the more common, less disabling form of depression, caused by the habit of linking negative thoughts. Then again, there are many who have a deeper, clinical form of depression, with symptoms like… • • • • • • Inability to enjoy even simple things Chronic fatigue Relentless feelings of guilt Difficulty concentrating Persistent irritability Appetite disturbances: eating too much or too little Sleep disturbances: sleeping too much or too little Thoughts of death or suicide

•

•

Occasional, transient depression is normal, but chronic depression (2 weeks or more) is not. The highest rates of chronic depression are among young people, the unmarried, the unemployed, and women. Depressed people may deny being depressed, even when showing clear signs, and instead complain of insomnia, fatigue or tight shoulders. To add to the confusion, depression can manifest itself as a psychosomatic illness, such as fibromyalgia or multiple chemical sensitivity. Researchers are finding more and more evidence, however unpopular, that fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, yeast syndrome, sick building syndrome and some allergies are of mental origin than physical. The sense of investigators is that the Emperor’s New Diseases appear to involve our genetic nature, and our difficulty in adapting to the challenges of life. And many people have more than one—sometimes

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most—of the Emperor’s Diseases. For instance, fibromyalgia usually merges into Chronic Fatigue Syndrome—just add fatigue to the list. However, most of us can push on our shoulders or elsewhere, and can find painful trigger points, whether the muscle is thinner or we have more nerves in those areas. The Emperor’s Diseases are simply undiagnosed, thrown into a wastebasket, because doctors cannot differentiate them. If later sorted out, people who thought they had Fibromyalgia, or whatever, might turn out to really have hormonal problems, depression, parasitic disease, viral disease, or early cases of something else. Researchers looked for possible environmental and genetic links of psychosomatic disease, and reviewed the health problems of well over 100 pairs of twins. They found that when one twin thought they had fibromyalgia, that twin also thought they had chronic fatigue syndrome or multiple chemical sensitivity, etc. However, the other twin rarely had any of these problems. Seventy percent of those who thought they had allergies, also thought they had fibromyalgia, compared with 90 percent of their twins who had neither. In addition, 50 percent of those who thought they had chronic fatigue syndrome also thought they had yeast syndrome, compared with only 5 percent of their twins*. Researchers find that these psychosomatic illnesses are typically mental in origin, although psychiatric illness cannot solely explain the high rates of overlap between one imagined illness and another. Therefore, people who become physically ill by the power of their minds are not necessarily mentally ill, but are buying into the patterns of mass sociogenic illness*. They magnify their problems, due to the various payoffs that come with being sick.

*

Comorbid Clinical Conditions in Chronic Fatigue. A Co-Twin Control Study. Journal of General Internal Medicine. Volume 16 Issue 1 Page 24-31, January 2001

* Throughout history, mass sociogenic illness has been responsible for a range of baffling phenomena. Things like a strange odor, a rumor, or a belief in curses, sets off mass hysteria. Difficult to distinguish from real illness, professors may not teach the subject of mass sociogenic illness sufficiently in medical school. Nonetheless, an outbreak often gets exposure in the media.

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Please note that we have not discussed alien abductees, road ragers and sports fanatics. But if we watch enough talk shows and peruse the right magazines, we can surely come up with many more syndromes. In time, we may be able to determine that everyone is nuts. Surrogate Self-Worth Groups can be useful, especially business groups. Unfortunately, many other kinds of groups suffer from the groupthink, committeethink, pity party, social event, or self worth by proxy syndrome, especially those not supervised by professionals, or at least professionally trained laypeople. We might assume that joining a group of people, who have similar problems as us, and sharing with them, should be helpful. But people who do not talk about their feelings are no more likely to have problems down the road than those who do. Also, people who do not want to talk about recent traumatic events seem to do just as well, if not better, than those who do**. This is not to imply that expressing ourselves after an ordeal is harmful, but how and even if we will share our thoughts is the choice of each person. Group members can repeatedly sidetrack a group from their stated purpose. And they tend to criticize any solution beyond the group. Often, they consider anything beyond their meetings to be a blind alley. Even so, many people believe that hanging their identity on a group seems to make their journey through life easier. Many groups are, especially those that are mystical in nature, inclined toward the “us versus everyone outside of the group” mindset. “I lived a superficial life before the teachings of Reverend Tripe were revealed to me. Now, the spiritual values shared by our congregation makes me feel like I am part of something much bigger. I know the truth, and am in touch with that which is outside the grasp of others. I feel

**

Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, June 2008.

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sorry for those people who do not share our knowledge.” If we join with other religious people, who share the same myths as us, we will be given more even more doses of unreality. Such groups choose only the best verses from their holy books, the ones that seem to confirm their beliefs, and ignore those that are troublesome. Likewise, their members bend the rules of the religion to suit their lifestyles—some things they will do, and others they will not. Their real goal is to express their needs as social animals with a shared purpose, even though they may have reservations about certain teachings. The final effect of bonding with a group is, so often, similar to not bonding with one at all (or worse). Therefore, we must reassess the value of groups before joining. The Virtue of Negativity “My constant prayers, affirmations, smoky quartz crystals, and protective aura of white light protect me. As a result, negativity can have no effect on me.” We treasure the winds of good fortune as they blow our way. But the New Age enthusiast takes their good fortune out past the ozone layer. In their “everything is going to work out” world, they believe that a touch of gloom is a bad thing. Naive enough to believe nothing bad will ever happen to them, if we try to steer them back to Earth, we will hear things like: “Oh, here it comes again; more negativity.” The New Age enthusiast, who insists on a patchwork of mystical ideas, feels that we are, by being direct, trying to flush something pure and angelic down the can. One such idea is that optimists must be a steadier lot, and are best equipped to face hard times. When problems affect them, optimists should remain centered, whereas pessimists should fall apart. The opposite is, in fact, true; rational pessimism is important to our

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survival. Being pessimistic from time to time does not predict dismal failure or premature death. Then again, chronically pessimistic, depressed people may be absentminded, accident-prone and quicker to succumb to mystic holistic fraud. Everyone fights with their thoughts to one degree or another, sometimes to the point of overkill, spinning their wheels over circumstances beyond their control. This is especially true for ruminators, who come across as apprehensive, temperamental, suspicious and self-pitying. Moreover, rumination and depression usually act as one*. In contrast, rational people favor contemplation, which relates to clearer thinking and greater self-knowledge. Their desires for the future translate into action. Studies show cognitive-behavioral therapy to be the most effective tool in overcoming depression, whereas vitamins are worthless in treating it. At times, people overwhelmed by depression may require drug therapy. Even so, whenever drugs are given without talk-based intervention, they are not as helpful as they could be. Talk therapy has made great strides in the treatment of many mental problems, and already has an extensive record of success; it restores appropriate thinking, and leads to a more level state of mind. When a therapist sits down to discuss the events in the life of a client, the therapist may gain an accurate picture of what that client is dealing with. Client: “I can’t understand why I’m so miserable.” Therapist: “Well, you’re dealing with some pretty heavy things.” The idea of incorporating mental health professionals turns many of us off, because we believe that they cannot help us, which is understandable. Nonetheless, they can help in important ways, especially in

* Rumination Reconsidered: A Psychometric Analysis. Cognitive Therapy and Research, Volume 27, Number 3, June 2003, pp. 247-259(13)

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view of the fact that so many of us have no one to be honest and open with. People mourning the death of a loved one usually turn to family and friends. However, an innovative study into the care of the bereaved finds that they achieve greater consolation from pets than from clergy*. Pets are loyal, and the bereaved interact with them in a way they may have trouble acting with human beings. Even the most aggressive, testosterone-laden man may melt in the presence of a puppy or a kitten. Life involves a mix of fortunate and unfortunate events. Modern people living in developed countries have many advantages, but they also assume the kinds of pressures never before seen. In addition, they must deal with phone calls, voice mail, postal mail, emails, text messages, faxes, the news media, knocks at the door, and face-to-face meetings. “There, there. Everything will work out. Just think positive.” Think positive advice can, in reality, be taken as an insult. Wearing a “happy thoughts” mask may, as we cope with the ordeals of life, add to the burden. With the inevitable changes that come with living in an aging, pulsating blood bag supported by a skeleton, forcing ourselves to think positive can backfire, and make us even more emotional. The ways in which we react to events are complex, and responding with sorrow, anxiety, anger, distress or anguish is often fitting, whereas the think positive advice of friends, family members, ministers and self-help experts is not. Most of us turn to fictional powers, in an attempt to gain a sense of control over the tempestuous storms of life. If the misfortune persists, we may feel let down by such powers, or, more likely, rationalize the situation. People, who focus on appropriate action, do not waste time imagining blue skies as the gray clouds move in, or yield to high hopes, doomsday thoughts, or impotent beliefs. Many people consider it important to work on their self-esteem,

*

Trinity College Dublin, Beaumont Hospital, November 2007

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which makes us wonder; how did people get by without this concept? What did they do before the gurus of daytime television came along? How did they build the great cities? We succeeded in the past not because of the philosophy that “we can do anything if we believe,” or with the support of life coaches*. Rather, we achieved great things by struggling to improve our conditions. The self-esteem movement, which has helped to create self-absorbed young people, more ruthless in their ambitions than ever, has overstepped its bounds. Many people in the mental health field have backed off from a diagnosis of “poor self-esteem,” finding that children with high self-esteem often grow up to be hollow. Parents, who are indulgent out of fear for undermining the selfesteem of their child, may ultimately find themselves raising a monster**. Forever patting the child on the back, such parents repeat things like, “Oh, that’s brilliant!” “Good going!” “You’re so smart!” These parents must have the child feel good about themselves no matter what. By spoiling a child, and constantly telling them how wonderful they are (rather than just praising their efforts), in time, a young Master of the Universe emerges, with an exaggerated sense of self-importance. Responding to any disparagement, however constructive, with hostility, they may grow up to be involved in a series of short-term relationships that lack affection. Parents, who fear exposing their child to the pain of a competitive world, may soon find they have raised Narcissus. Such a child has little reason to mature. Then again, a devout child, loved by all the teachers, who does all they are told, may one day express their dark side. In fact, we all share a dark side, however hidden in a kind and gentle character. Teens have the same traits today as in ages past, and, if they have

Similar to a motivational speaker, a life coach is a person who works with a client, usually without oversight or regulation, to establish and attain personal goals using a variety of techniques, many of which are outlandish. A profession our desire to have a life coach actually points to our need for a course in critical thinking.
*

** Parenting

Narcissus: What Are the Links Between Parenting and Narcissism? Journal of Personality 74 (2), 345–376 2006

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not learned to deal with their anger, may choose to log in to the local network of punks and agitators. Nonetheless, we have no way to tell which teens will grow up to be criminals; out of a thousand who act defiantly, there may be a higher rate, but there are plenty of people who acted out when they were teens, and did not become criminals. Parents plop their child down to watch quickly edited, actionpacked programs, and, after that, school seems boring. Television consumption is insidious among young children. When they watch lots of non-educational television—scary movies, high-action dramas, violent cartoons, etc., before the age of 3, they exhibit double the rate of hyperactive and attentional problems 5 years later*. Watching educational programs before the age of 3 is not linked with such problems. Schools must adapt to the behavior of children—not the other way around. Sadly, many parents follow the wishes of educators, and allow them to medicate a lively child into submission. Not to imply that every behavioral problem is medicalized, but by judging certain personality types as undesirable, it happens far to often. When teachers use the same teaching methods as those used in the th Century, modern children may behave poorly. Many bright children 19 are bored by such methods. In addition, they may lack test-taking skills. However, when doing something that stimulates them, like playing a video game, the child thought to be distractible might concentrate for hours. Something is wrong here; it is the notion that a child with behavioral problems is a disaster. Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD, also known as Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, or ADHD), is not an abnormality, but rather a personality type, which evolved in primitive hunters. ADD is a kind of intelligence, essential to ancient predatory people, who had to constantly scan their surroundings, listen for rustling in the forest (distractibility), and make quick decisions (impulsiveness) in order to survive. Hunters had ADD personalities—gatherers did not. ADD people, full of energy, and able to perform multiple tasks at

* Associations Between Content Types of Early Media Exposure and Subsequent Attentional Problems. Pediatrics Vol. 120 No. 5 November 2007, pp. 986-992

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once, do not want to change. A hyperactive person, who also has problems with attention, will not care for sitting at a desk, and so they will find being an accountant difficult. Nor will they find farming easy; they have little patience for planting rows, and waiting for the plants to grow. The edginess of brilliant minds leads them to make intelligent moves. Studies show that ADD rates are higher in people whose jobs require initiative, risk assessment, and quick thinking, such as police officers, ER surgeons, pilots, and so on. Because these traits are crucial to peak performance, trying to alter the personalities of hyperactive children with drugs is indefensible. Psychostimulant drugs negatively change, in nearly all cases, the mental state of a child—an unacceptable price for a drug that only makes them tolerable to teachers and parents. Nonetheless, we do hear stories of phenomenal results from the drugs. They calm a child down, and make them more able to concentrate. Drug treatment may ease the lives of parents, but often, these parents allow their children too many soft drinks, letting them gulp down an equivalent in caffeine to one or more shots of cappuccino (35mg of caffeine or more a serving)—little wonder these children are bouncing off the walls. Many researchers argue that, even if we believe that children should be treated, it not be with drugs. Changing the environment in which the child exhibits the unwanted behaviors will make them less prone to the effects of ADD, and so make them more willing and able to concentrate. Individualized attention can also make a difference. Some studies suggest that educators make school more stimulating, which may make it easier for ADD children to concentrate*. Likewise, smaller class sizes and more peaceful, solitary surroundings might enable ADD children to focus more effectively. The most common drugs used to treat ADD are controlled substances, a significant portion of which is diverted for illicit, non-medical

*

Wrestling with the whirlwind: an approach to the understanding of ADD/ADHD. Journal of child psychotherapy, 1998

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use. When bought on the black market, abusers will crush the tablets, and then snort the powder, take them sublingually, or dissolve them in water for intravenous injection. However, diverting the drugs into the black market increases shortages for legitimate purposes, such in the treatment of narcolepsy. The use of ADD drugs has risen dramatically since they were put on the market, especially since more adults now take them. Previously, doctors considered ADD a child-only disease. Simply rationalizing their drug dependence, many adults adamantly defend their need to take ADD drugs. Doctors may feel pressured to give in, and this perpetuates the whole ADD myth. The world would not be nearly as developed as it is without hyperactive people. In fact, the list of successful, hyperactive adults, who were hellions as children, is remarkable; it includes Benjamin Franklin, Walt Disney, Albert Einstein, Thomas Edison, Galileo Galilei, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Henry Ford, and so on. They gave their teachers a hard time, and, in turn, their teachers predicted them to be failures. If there were anti-hyperactivity medications around at the time, the achievements of these masterminds may have been stifled, which could spell the death knell of our future*. Conventional wisdom leads us to believe that money, a nice home and a nice car, guarantee a happy life. People who aspire to wealth want the security, the freedom and the pride that money brings. They want to be able to support their families, buy more and better things and enjoy some leisure time. However, there is no single set of reasons why people aspire to wealth—many want it so they can go on shopping binges, boost their confidence, show off or act impulsively. Still others want to acquire power over people. People who aspire to wealth based on such motives get into trouble, as wealth cannot build character or values.

*

Evaluating the Evidence For and Against the Overdiagnosis of ADHD. Journal of Attention Disorders, Vol. 11, No. 2, 106-113 (2007).

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However, people who aspire to wealth based on positive motives usually have character, values, love and family beforehand. Researchers find that rich countries are no happier than all but the poorest countries, despite their striving for more*. Living in a rich country, which has more and better things, simply does not make people happier. Few people actually believe that money alone, divorced from other values, brings happiness. In fact, the most satisfying experiences have little to do with more and better things. They include: • • A sense of independence A good measure of expertise in specific areas. Helping other people A bond with other people

• •

In addition to these, sufficient resources to insure a decent standard of living are essential. Similarly, many of us believe that positive thoughts, spirituality, a good diet, and frequent exercise guarantee health. In reality, even the most fit, spiritual and giving person can be depressed or sick. The Heathen are Sick Why does a despicable thug, lying in a prison hospital bed, recover from a sickness that should have killed them, while a pious, loving person dies horribly?

* The Mixed Blessings of Material Progress: Diminishing Returns in the Pursuit of Happiness. R Eckersley - Journal of Happiness Studies, 2000.

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The belief that only bad people get sick is an example of childlike thinking, sometimes subscribed to by allegedly educated people. In ancient times, we believed sickness to be an attack by evil spirits. Now, only the names have changed, except that there are many people who believe that God makes us ill, so we will pray to him for recovery. If a sick person does not recover, they are to blame, it is the will of God, or they did not pray fervently enough. Believers consider a sick person not just physically sick, but morally sick, spiritually sick, or set upon by demons. And religious leaders advance the idea that a wrathful God, who detests our sins, sends disease, misfortune—even extreme weather—to punish us. They exploit disaster, using it as a chance to condemn us for not following God’s Great Plan. If we resist the one true faith, divine payback is inevitable. “Everything happens for a reason.” The mystic reels off this cliché to remind us that all is under the control of God. “Their bad karma is simply revisiting them from past life deeds.” The follower of Hinduism gives voice to the balance of rebirth myth. “Clearly, their bowel is toxic.” The alternative medicine activist suggests that colon purification can restore us to health. “They made the mistake of listening to some doctor, who must have made a mess of them.” Millions of people adhere to the vile belief that doctors, because they have power over us, purposely try to do us harm. Taking up the holier-than-thou mantle, they point fingers at everyone else, believing they know the causes of all diseases, when, in fact, no one does. When someone is sick and suffering, we do not need to add to it with our little theories. Even worse is the despicable act of we blaming

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them. Sick people have enough to deal with just by being sick. We ought to be compassionate enough to simply leave sick people to the care of doctors. “They say I have multiple myeloma because I was not thinking good thoughts.” “My therapist says my cancer is worse because I'm not trying hard enough!” All the programs and groups that try to help people cure cancer with their minds are horribly misguided. Research finds that no such “cancer-prone personality” exists*. By saying that our character and our thoughts can make us sick, we are implying that being sick is our fault. People go downhill quickly in most cases of Alzheimer’s disease, but a few suffer with it for 6, 7, or even 8 years. In the meantime, believers try to tell us why our finest people sometimes suffer for so long. But if we believe that an allegedly compassionate God allows kind people, prolific people, and charitable people to go through years of terrible suffering from chronic, disabling diseases, how can we maintain that God exists, and that she/he/it is compassionate? Media-by-Default Press Release: Calamitron Media Group announced today the debut of a new, late night talk show. Making waves this fall, “Night Watch with Chick Little” welcomes guests who explain that genetically modified, pasteurized and irradiated foods are catastrophes waiting to happen. In the first episode of “Night Watch,” Chick will discuss his troubles

*

Psychosocial factors in carcinogenesis: on the problem of the so-called cancer-prone personality. Psychother Psychosom Med Psychol. 1993 Jan;43(1):1-9. Personality Factors and Breast Cancer Risk: A 13-Year Follow-up. J Natl Cancer Inst. 2008 Jan 29

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dealing with a recurring nightmare, in which he sees mobs, collected from his talk show audience, marching to protest new technologies. In some unknown way, everything reverts to an all-natural, science and technology-free existence, just as the mobs demanded. In searching through empty streets, the mob is mortified. They find, for the first time, what life is like without all the modern things they once enjoyed. “Night Watch” will also feature a new book written by Chick. Originally titled, “The Blessings of Modern Technology,” it was soon found through marketing research that it would not sell. Chick quickly rewrote the manuscript and changed the title to “The Butchers of Modern Medicine.” Editors also dropped the sections that described how many diseases have grown only because we now live long enough to get them. Because of these new changes, the publisher is thrilled to report that copies of “Butchers” are flying off the shelves. Big Media is routinely condemned, for good reason. However, this does not mean it is always bad—a small segment is actually entertaining, original, and enlightening, despite the fact that it must default to a clueless majority, and indulge short attention spans. Many of its expressions are mindless, because Big Media is in business to sell. We rely on broadcast, print, and online media to bring us accurate news on wars, crime, science, technology, weather, entertainment, and the stock market, which shapes much of what we know about the world. When unbiased journalists are free to dig, discover, and publish, the discerning consumer has the chance to get it right. But the major news agencies are close to being cartels. What they say gets reported in television, radio, online, newspapers, and magazines. But Big Media offers us a mixed bag. Like the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr. Hyde of Robert Louis Stevenson, we can choose among reliable sources, worthless series, or comprehensive websites. Important news can be omitted, reported briefly, or accurately presented, and in depth. However, in order to attract an audience, major networks must offer a sufficient amount of sports, celebrity reporting, and other kinds of soft news. The tabloids, the evening news, and the talk shows feed our love of the provocative. They remind us that life is getting bad. Easily taken in

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by trash science, Count Repton-like stunts and a variety of half-truths, Big Media bolsters our fondness for cosmic daydreams. Luckily, more and more of its many gaffes are discussed online. The game in television and radio is to fill in the gaps between the commercials. To help do this, news editors look for the Big Story. This often shelves other newsworthy items, particularly the complex or politically troublesome. We ride a rickety rail when homogenized news is spewed from the Big Media smokestack, which follows a strict formula: whatever pays stays, and so it gives us a mix of facts, interesting stories, fluff and misinformation. Big Media grabs our attention, as it should, with stories of violence, corruption and depravity, even when there are just as many, if not more constructive stories to cover. Likewise, when a study reaches a startling conclusion, no matter how flawed, it is newsworthy. Most of us know that too much sunlight or alcohol can cause cancer, but reports on the dangers of toxic mold, cell phone radiation, and dihydrogen monoxide grab us more. A reporter does not always take the time to double-check their sources from the outset. When brittle reports start to crumble, Big Media quietly resorts to the old Emily Latella technique, “Never mind!” Behindthe-scenes investigations may disclose the lies in a story on the paranormal, but Big Media remains hushed. “Tonight at 9 o’clock, reporter Donald Meyer weaves his way through a storm of camera crews, reporting on the incredible success of the new math and science programs at Edison High.” “Night Watch with Chick Little,” and “It’s Coming To Get You!” get high ratings, but only a few people tune in to learn of the triumphs at Edison High. Equally, the audience of a great science program is nothing, next to a popular drama or talk show. Most people would rather follow earthly stars, than news of a great astrophysical discovery. Now and then, so as not to tire us with a steady stream of bad news, Big Media throws a few feel good stories at us. Even so, stories of man's cruelty to man are more like to catch our attention—as long as networks

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sanitize any gory images. As a result, crime appears worse, and wars appear far cleaner than they are. Big Media must promote a consumer mindset in order to survive. We may try to escape into a popular program, but the networks milk us though a dreary chain of commercials. As a result, more of us look to technology (digital video recorders, peer-to-peer networks, etc.) as a way to avoid such bombardment. Then again, many people are having more and more media free days. Television can be mind numbing, especially if we watch it a lot. We cannot interact with television—we can only sit by as passive consumers. “The news is not the news–it is only what Big Media is telling us is the news.” The credibility of Big Media is sinking, and many people believe it is beyond repair. In the shadow of paid lies made public, Big Media spins a story just about any way it wants, through preferential treatment, the clever edit, the loaded question, the surprise attack, the appeal to emotionalism, the sweeping statement, and the ever-shortening sound bite. And when a story concerns an attractive Caucasian, leading religious leader, politician, or celebrity, the media clobbers us with constant coverage. If a great mind says something brilliant, it gets little coverage, whereas the uninformed opinion of an actor receives a blaze of publicity. We are fooled by advertisements made to look like headlines, because of our mounting desire for the latest medical news: "Tahitian Noni Juice: A Natural Cancer Cure.” "New Medical Miracle Restores Hair Loss.” “Scientific Breakthrough Replaces Need for Vaccines.” If researchers at Flak Laboratories find that, a commonly used substance is the cause of birth defects, networks shelve dozens of earlier, well-designed studies, which show no such problems. Nonetheless, the Flak study leads to 5 o’clock news. Before we know it, lawyers are

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linking arms with mothers before news cameras. Many people who work in Big Media love, in secret, alarming studies and disasters, because they do wonders for ratings—they are seen as opportunities to mine our emotions. The networks pull out all the stops during the sweeps*. Featuring the bizarre, the titillating and the electrifying, television programmer’s work hard to grab us. The hard news person wants our trust, and asks us to pay attention to what they say, Now and then, they flabbergast us, and get a story right. Then, all of a sudden, an advertisement comes on, proclaiming the wonders of a product already shown to be worthless. “Until we hold networks responsible for the crap that is peddled to people, it's never going to end. I just think it's reprehensible; it hurts their credibility.” Dr. Dean Edell Hollywood has shaped social trends for decades. But many movies present a caricature of the real world, and only a few pieces of cinematic art are made. Others show people with fabulous lifestyles, which few of us enjoy. The typical science fiction or horror movie portrays the scientist as a villain, trying to play God, and setting lose a bevy of monsters to destroy society, whether the depraved Dr. Caligari, the megalomaniacal Dr. Moreau, or the rabid intelligence of Professor Morbius. The monsters of today are genetic engineering, stem cell technology, artificial intelligence, neuropharmacology, animal experimentation, and so on, most of all in the minds of people who cannot identify with science.

*

The “sweeps” are periods when television networks are put through their paces. Individual program ratings determine what advertisers are charged–high ratings mean the networks can command high returns. Any extra advertising revenue goes into production costs, salaries, and profits.

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Radio and television stations do not always check the credentials of people they put on the air. People will call in to a radio program, where the host calls themselves doctor, without finding out what they are doctor of, or whether they are a doctor at all. A reporter will interview someone who says they are licensed, but never go back and check. In the meantime, millions of people hear their advice. Boatloads of spurious experts drift in an ocean of half-truths, ready to wash up on the shore of an interview with an unwary reporter. When a station broadcasts such an interview, the valuable appears awful, and the placebo appears great. A politically motivated source can mislead the press by insisting on anonymity, although anonymous sources are an established part of free market journalism. Working from tainted sources, the press may unintentionally assist the aims of an administration. Can we teach people how to weave their way through the maze, and resist the influences of Big Media? Because most people cannot tell the difference between heavily biased, misguided, or responsible presentations, Big Media will continue to confuse them. We owe our friends in Big Media for helping to mold the greater part of us into hysterics. The constant negative loop, which often bends to a minority of doomsayers, is the main reason why we worry about our health. On a steady diet of scare stories, things like electromagnetic fields frighten us, though they are not even on the list of real threats. Nonetheless, the casualties of media-induced nocebo will continue to suffer, because the networks air so many scare stories: “A radio program, which suggested that AIDS is capable of spreading through the air, has me terrified.” “I can’t ignore my minor cough after that episode on lung diseases.” “Graphic images showed an obese gunshot victim fighting for his life, and being rushed to the emergency room,. Years later, an exam revealed that the victim had a 3” strip of gauze next to his spleen, left by a frantic ER nurse at the time of the shooting. The story is picked up and broadcast far and wide.”

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Big Media does present a few high-quality broadcasters, who they take on an underworld of opportunists. For intelligent people, such broadcasters are a source of great joy. Research Network Johnson Manning, a delusion-weary, billionaire entrepreneur, created a revolutionary, new broadcasting company, in response to the radio and television networks clamoring for shows that feature self-proclaimed psychics, medical frauds, and people with supernatural abilities. Research Network is a radio, television and online group; it employs a team of freethinkers, undercover investigators and magicians, who tirelessly investigate cases of mystic and holistic fraud. Research Network has 24hour coverage in several languages, with delusion-free programming that floods the planet. Featured this Wednesday night at 8 is a report on the Heart Love Tabernacle; its sales of Heart Love Oil Capsules are proliferating. The Tabernacle leader uses suspect evidence to try and get to get Research Network investigators to swim in a shallow creek of anecdotes, and. The program shows Tabernacle rituals, and their conviction that they will reach great spiritual heights. Later in the hour is an indicting piece on the Astral Mule. The Mule (a.k.a. Garret Somersby) is offended when investigators question the integrity of his methods. What matters most to the Mule is the worldview he feels obliged to defend. Next, a chelation* practitioner gives a lecture at a conference, flaunting their usual air of confidence. Suddenly, a fit of belly laughter hits us—a hidden camera shows them giving radically different diagnoses—

* When used as an alternative therapy, fraudulent clinics claim that intravenous chelation therapy turns the progression of disease around. Patients who are administered chelation for arterial plaque do the same as patients who receive placebo therapy. Such a practice is to be condemned. Nonetheless, chelation therapy is a legitimate treatment for removing heavy metals from the body. Chelating agents bind with heavy metals, allowing them to be discharged by the body. In fact, chelating agents were first used to counter exposure to noxious agents in war.

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to the same person in a variety of disguises. Delusion-free programming does not appeal to most people. Anyone who tries to present such programming to the masses will find it difficult; the masses will simply avoid it. Believers, who clearly oppose such broadcasts, will have no choice but to complain, and run on with the same, worn-out ideas. The only people who will benefit from delusion-free programming are rational people. Only a small number of delusion-free people have succeeded in developing programs aimed at clearing the gaseous clouds of absurdity, although many have tried. Earlier programs were done poorly, and people sensed the opportunity to bash ill-equipped and stodgy professionals. We watch as alien abductees attend regular “therapy” sessions, where a pathetic “abductee facilitator” profits off their delusions. Then again, we have Penn and Teller: a strike force against absurdity of all kinds. P and T are prime examples of the finest in edutainment. They succeed because of their hilarious-with-a-point approach. We worry about junk food in our schools, but the supernatural junk food for the mind on television is more harmful, as supernatural beliefs damage them for a lifetime, and may even rob them of the ability to live a fulfilling life. If we teach children rational thinking, and how to use it to make sense of the supernatural junk food for the mind they see on television—it increases their chances of good health, and is most important thing we can do for them. The media is an expression of our collective psyche. Therefore, any impeachment of the media is an impeachment of us all. Ultimately, we are accountable, because we favor programs that feature swill. Selling Through Fear Many of us already know that fear sells, and if newscasters tell their audience that something is safe—ho hum—that audience could care less. Fear is the abracadabra of high ratings and great profits, as shown by

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many advertising campaigns. In addition, fear is the basis of numerous industries and service communities. We cannot sell beauty products as effectively without people who fear being unattractive. Selling health products is not as effective without people who fear disease. Selling religion is not as effective without people who fear going to hell, or not making it to heaven. Getting people to join self-help groups is not as effective without people who fear that they cannot solve their own problems on their own. And selling security is not nearly as effective without people who fear vulnerability. People with a subtle sense of disaster take no chances, and that often allows a seller to retire to a country club in Florida. Advertisers know that many of us are anxious about our health, and so they take advantage of the fact that any minor symptom can point to a serious health problem. They know that we can be convinced to spend undue resources in trying to guard our health. But the smart person, who knows the odds of getting sick, stays cool. Our trusting nature is vital to the success of many advertising campaigns. Failing to insist on quality evidence, the old warning, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” fails to save us. Turning our backs on these words of warning, we easily cave in to that which sounds too good to be true. The wonder of a product is in the way in which it is marketed, so advertisers must first add a splash of credibility, and make their products sound legitimate. As in so many promotional drives, the goal is to create a buzz—a sense that the product is in the good graces of science. Advertisers blend attractive anecdotes with simulated or irrelevant studies, knowing that most people have no means to weigh them. Money sings when crap is king. We may not be aware what advertisers can get away with. Spin-doctors and lobbyists lie for a living, and celebrities are willing to promote bogus products if paid enough. Selling weight loss products and wondrous cures, media stars and athletes seem to have no problem exploiting their fans. A celebrity, who seems sincere, may describe an amazing value, but when it comes to real evidence, just because they starred in a television series or played for our favorite team, an actor or famous athlete carries no extra weight.

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Celebrities have been known to spend more on dinner than the average scientist, teacher and police officer makes in a month; this is serious business, given the fact that scientists, teachers and police officers must deal with the real world. Violence in the Media Citizens of Ancient Rome were entertained by watching others in agony. Today, events like professional wrestling, Ultimate Fighting, and boxing appeal to the same primal urges. Researchers find it hard to prove just what a violent media does to perpetuate a violent society—yet another case of, when two things happen together, showing that one led to the other is hard. However, peripheral data suggests that being pummeled with violent images is linked to violent acts. This is shown in the rise in domestic violence following a highly charged sporting event*. Even so, people do not react in the same way when exposed to such events. However, the medical literature suggests that people already on the edge, who have an affinity for violent material, might be pushed over. Whenever someone is being beat up, it is human nature to draw near. Individuals will consciously look for an aggressive encounter simply for a pleasurable sensation*. In fact, the tendency toward aggression occurs in nearly all vertebrates, and is essential for acquiring important resources such as mates, food and territory. Our brains process aggression as a reward, as do sex, food and drugs—they release dopamine as a pleasurable reaction to aggression. If we try to outlaw, without evidence, that which we believe leads to violence, we are naive. Clearly, violent movies, games, and spectacles will continue to attract many people. Extremists are ready to commit large-scale violence at any cost,

*

The Association Between Professional Football Games and Domestic Violence in Los Angeles County. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, Vol. 15, No. 11, 1192-1201 (2000) Aggression As Rewarding As Sex, Food And Drugs. Vanderbilt University (2008, January 15)

*

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whether their motives are tribal, nationalistic, religious, or driven by anti-government feelings. They may obtain, and, in some cases, even discharge, weapons of mass ruin. In the case of a large nuclear discharge, a worldwide, media feeding frenzy would follow, as we learn of the greatest terrorist attack ever committed.

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The righteous mental giant wages war against all they perceive as evil.

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Jean Weldon learned, through tragedy, the advantages of drivers armed with cell phones. A driver called from a surface street for emergency help, prompting the timely rescue of Jean’s 19 year-old daughter. That was the day that Jean felt the curse of people who eat while they drive. The driver (her boyfriend) was, as described by Jean’s daughter from her hospital bed, triply distracted: he ate French fries, tuned the radio, and yakked with his passengers. He failed to notice the large truck speeding toward him. Broadsided, the impact killed three of the four occupants. Only Jean’s daughter survived. Investigators found, on arriving at the scene, the interior of the wrecked car strewn with French fries, a few of which still hung from the mouth of the dead driver. “Babbling scatterbrains, listening to some stupid song on the radio, nearly killed my child,” said Mrs. Weldon. “I’ve since learned that drivers who listen to annoying radio talk show hosts are a growing hazard. Without a law that prevents radios and sound systems from being installed in cars, the problem of driver distraction will not go away.” On the national scene, grief-stricken families have organized a Drive Without Eating campaign. A spokesperson for the families said, “We want stiff penalties for drivers who eat, or allow passengers to eat while a vehicle is in motion.” Because drivers eat most of the fast food bought at a drive-up while at the wheel, several carmakers plan to install sensors that make a vehicle inoperative when detecting the scent of food. Some lawmakers have even proposed a statute that would jail women for up to 6 months, when caught putting on make-up while driving. On the international scene, 22 nations have enacted stringent laws that punish drivers who drink piping hot beverages from cups without lids. Many want an outright ban on drivers drinking any beverage while on the road. Proposed legislation would bar cab drivers from conversing with their passengers, encouraging critics of loose driving laws. Recent studies show that drivers who smoke are a mounting hazard. Researchers have shown that smoking increases the risk of an accident by more than 45 percent, although tobacco companies dispute the findings. In one survey, 60 percent of parents and in-laws nag while a daugh-

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ter or son is driving. The same survey found that the number of drivers and passengers that get into violent arguments grows by nearly 40,000 each year.

ne-dimensional solutions to complex problems are standard among righteous mental giants everywhere. They doggedly stay the course, even when such solutions are shown to create more problems than they fix. Wasting enormous amounts of money, legislators inflict on the public various plans, without bothering to test them first, so certain are they that the plans will work. We live in a world where people jump when one person complains. If a parent complains that evolution is being taught in school, the school board reacts. Every time we turn around, the righteous mental giant wants more laws passed, even though their opinions have all the veracity of a Sasquatch witness. Demanding action no matter what, their shrill, childlike cries split our ears. We cannot be trust righteous political geniuses—they are usually far from genius status, and there are no requirements to become a politician. In addition, we must be aware that politicians will pass legislation just to seem competent. While a few are busy trying to help reduce the murder rate, reduce poverty, and ensure that people have an education, many politicians take the easy approach—by seeking to ban things. Their constituents often play right into their hands, and jump on the ban wagon immediately. The main concern of such a politician is that they appear to be doing something, especially if it is quick, in our faces, and we read about it, so that we will vote for them. We must first consider, with regard to cell phone use while driving, their role in public safety, as lifelines in emergencies. Next, we must consider that talking on a cell phone slows down traffic—in general, drivers with cell phones drive about two miles per hour more slowly, which may increase their commute times by around 20 hours a year. They make fewer lane changes, which suggests that it is the talking, not the cell phone, that distracts the brain. Conversation itself, whether hands free, handset, or with passen-

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gers, is that which distracts, sometimes causing a driver to space out, weave, miss turns, or even forget the details of the last few miles driven. In fact, while manufacturers tout hands-free devices as a safer alternative, people using them also drive slower, and a slow, distracted driver tends to have delayed reactions*. For decades, cab drivers, truck drivers, and police officers have talked on two-way radios, with varying degrees of skill in managing distraction. Today, in addition to cell phones, we have drivers of all kinds using navigation systems, in-car calling systems, sound systems, traffic systems, subscription-based tracking/monitoring/communications systems, night view systems, rear view monitors, visual entertainment systems, and satellite radios. At the same time, they might eat, drink, smoke, brush their hair, focus on billboards, check out pedestrians, reach back to restrain a child, or reach for items (among the most dangerous actions when driving). When they receive a call on their cell phones, many drivers answer it immediately, not waiting for a suitable place to stop and call back. We pay the price when stuck behind a talkative driver. Such a driver tends to trail slow-moving vehicles, and maintain a safe driving distance—both nullified by a delayed reaction time. Talkative drivers are 4 times more likely to be involved in crashes that cause serious injury. We must face the fact that, as long as cell phones exist, drivers will continue to use them when and wherever they can get away with it, especially those who drive a lot, or work out of their cars. In a totalitarian society, or even a heavily regulated one, enforcing laws against cell phones might be easier, as the regime strictly controls their sales. In a free society, people simply ignore such laws, or look for ways around them. Besides, outlawing that which takes a hand off the wheel would mean the disappearance of the stick shift. The rational person does not need to be a genius to understand why most people adhere to childlike beliefs, and disregard scientific facts, especially those that contradict that which they want to believe. Like the belief in ghosts, childlike beliefs begin early in life. How-

*

University of Utah, January 3, 2008

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ever, they can remain a lifetime. Those individuals who surmount childlike thinking learn about scientific concepts, like evolution or a billions-year-old Earth, and accept them as facts. Millions of people are hostile to knowledge. They believe that “there is no such things as evidence or fact, just opinion.” * The rift between such people, as opposed to people in the know, is widening. Because science contradicts their cherished beliefs, the righteous mental giant claims that the “dark side of science is rearing it ugly head.” By trying to control what scientists can and cannot do, such giants get in the way of vital work. The righteous mental giant thinks in black and white: “He’s a conservative!” “She’s a liberal!” “He’s an unbeliever!” Immersed in such high contrast positions, everything is seen in terms of an evil/good, right/left struggle. Nonetheless, the righteous mental giant mind feels fresh, sassy and smart. “I feel blessed. I’m a Member of the One True Team.” Adults claim to have an interest in science and technology. However, when it comes to passable scientific knowledge, most cannot answer the simplest questions. Atoms, biology, lasers, geography, prehistory—these are subjects which confuse them. Though recognized for centuries, a clueless majority is not sure whether the sun revolves around the earth, or the opposite. Perhaps they were simply uninspired in school, the subjects did not sink in, or they forgot them. What they do know about science, they have likely picked up from television and movies. The righteous mental giant tunes in to each episode of “The Aliens Among Us” and “The Bert Bellamie Show” without fail, but neglects to wash their hands, check their smoke detectors or wear seatbelts. Righteous mental giants are comprised of… • People with wacky beliefs

*

The Age of American Unreason, by Susan Jacoby. Pantheon (February 12, 2008)

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• • • • • •

The pretentious, who propose simplistic, just-believe solutions The science and technology illiterate Groups with an axe to grind People who feel empty, though they have it good Petty manipulators of all kinds People who fail to see the big picture, and believe that life is getting worse (despite the fact that the trend of history is toward the opposite)

When people, living in the midst of good fortune, focus on what is bad, they rage at the price of a postage stamp, are baffled because they caught a cold, or become depressed over gaining 5 pounds during the holidays. Devoid of the wisdom that comes from living, they remind all within an earshot of their age, or of their maladies. Living empty lives, many are along only for the ride. With nothing more than feeble pursuits, they seem to be on the planet with little to do but work, eat, watch television, gamble, and shop. They feel that what they see on the big or small screen is enough to educate them to the facts, and their judgment comes from what little they see. Following the path of least effort, they do not read books (other than shallow fiction, the inspired, the revelational and so on), immerse themselves in another culture, or get out and experience the world (other than tourist destinations). Such a narrow existence leads people to mystic holistic visions. Little wonder they are unaware of the wolves ready to feed on the easily fleeced. Such is the majority; a demanding pack allowed to be parents, own pets, mark ballots, sit on juries, and assume public office. They are forever unprepared to weigh the risks versus the benefits in full context. How many risks are we willing to tolerate to get benefits, considering that life itself is dangerous? Electricity, called Satanic when first proposed as a power source, does incalculable good, even though it has risks. Far more dangerous are

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cars. To satisfy righteous mental giants, a ban on electricity and cars may be “the only reasonable thing to do.” To whom do we point the finger as public outcry becomes louder? Are we the ones responsible? Can we blame our educational institutions? We ourselves must, on some level, be accountable. Too many parents do not seem to care that our educators have defaulted in many ways; they seek, above all, a daytime custodian for their children. Many schools suffer from discipline problems, and most teach the standard subjects in routine ways—little wonder why so many students fail to absorb even basic knowledge. Because lessons in critical thinking are hardly included in their lessons, when someone makes an absurd claim on television or the Internet, students are ill-equipped to weigh it. Without a historical perspective on how mysticism has cost humanity so dearly, they easily pick up material on ghosts, past lives, sacred visions, angels, and so on. Our kids imitate what we do. However, if what we do calls for little mental effort, we stifle their minds. Young Rebecca drops anchor in front of the tube. For hours, she sits and watches, eating comfort foods and sucking down sodas. She will, if she gets the chance, stay there all day long. People look up to the religious leader, because they crave certainty, and seek guidance from someone who pretends to know the Way. New Agers prefer to pray to the space brothers, herbal angels, or ascended masters, yearning for imaginary forces to touch them. They pay the supplement dealer handsomely for helping them in their quest for ultravitality. The political activist clamors for new laws to ban the technologies feared by a clueless majority. The activist, who could block access to key values for everyone, is armed with slanted knowledge of the technologies they seek to regulate. Even offhand statements made by someone deemed righteous can easily fuel deep conviction in the clueless. Supporting religious, New Age, and political leaders, who issue hollow promises, will be remembered as having made the world a worse place. The rational person may attempt to distance themselves from a

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society of righteous mental giants, even though they realize that escaping from them altogether is unlikely. The Guardian of Morality She dazzled Rick the moment he set eyes on her. When he finally worked up the courage to ask her out, she seemed interested. Rick was exhilarated. Rick took Marilyn to Easton Hill on the first date, the local lover’s lane that overlooked the city. Warmed by the sea of lights, they gazed into each other’s eyes. Soon, feelings of passion began to stir. As the windows of Rick’s van began to fog up, they moved to the cot in the back. Rick and Marilyn rose quickly from embrace, startled by a series of sharp taps coming from the passenger side window. Just then, they stared out into the face of the infamous, self-proclaimed guardian of decency, Rita “Hag Nag” Haggard. Confused, Rick rolled the window down. Mrs. Haggard scolded, “We need young people with values, who just say no to the lures of the flesh.” With that, Rita Haggard disappeared into the night. Rick and Marilyn thought no more of the intrusion, closed their eyes, and, without skipping a beat, went back to kissing passionately. Most of us are familiar with the hypocrisy of moral crusaders, and their urge to meddle in our lives. They want to regulate what goes in our bodies, in our minds, and in the privacy of our parked vans. Seeking to keep us from what they perceive as harming ourselves, they do little but earn our contempt. The sad fact is, no matter how well we stay out of the affairs of other people, someone is standing by, ready to frown on almost anything that we do. Seldom coming down from the pulpit, they even preach against the same problems with which they themselves struggle. Parents, educators, and moral crusaders, having lost sight of what it is to be a teenager, keep sex and drugs underground, and offer no practical tools to help teenagers deal with them. In addition, adults fail to appreciate how young risk-takers find the lure of forbidden fruit exciting. Teens experience the hormonal surges that come with puberty,

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which brings extensive physical and mental changes. In the face of this, even expensive campaigns to control them are bound to fail*. Such campaigns are curious, especially when we insist on things that will only make the situation we say we care about worse. So many of us are against sex education, because we fear it will make teenagers sexually active, and yet the evidence in multiple studies finds that abstinence-only programs make teens have sex earlier. One study looked at over 2000 teens, and found that boys who had sex education were 71 percent less likely to have sex before the age of 15; the same study also found significant reductions among girls**. Such programs have no long-term effect on drug use***. One reason for their failure is the approach; another is the fact that the desire for mood-altering substances exists in nearly every animal group examined, from birds to mammals. Cattle will eat oxytropis (locoweed), water buffalo will eat opium poppies, and robins, intoxicated on pyracantha berries, will dive-bomb cats. Fermented and semi-rotten fruit is a big draw for many kinds of animals. Many animals enjoy getting drunk on fermented durian fruit after it falls to the ground. Elephants, wild cats, squirrels, pigs, deer, tapirs, rhinoceroses, and tigers lean in a semi-stupor. Monkeys lose coordination, and have trouble maneuvering in trees. Flying foxes lose their navigational ability, as alcohol impairs their sonar—eventually they fall down, swaying on the ground.

Adolescent Brain Development: Vulnerabilities and Opportunities Volume 1021. June 2004. Ann. N.Y. Acad. Sci. 1021: 77–85 (2004). doi: 10.1196/annals.1308.009. MRI images show that, in contrast with the mature adult brain, the region of the teenage brain involved with impulse control, foresight, and sensible thinking is dormant in youth. A better understanding of consequences comes only with maturity. Until then, we must know what happens when we fail to appreciate the lure of forbidden fruit—that is, whatever we forbid, a teenager finds more attractive.
*

**

Center for Disease Control and Prevention, reported in Journal of Adolescent Health, December 2007 J Consult Clin Psychol. 1999 Aug;67(4):590-3.

***

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Elephants are among the worst animal drunkards. They prefer the fermented fruit equivalent of strong ale. They will growl, stagger, wrap their trunks around themselves, and even become aggressive with one another. Humans are clearly not the only creatures that crave drugs*. In every era, the irrepressible demand for drugs is a natural part of our biology. In this sense, the war on drugs is a war against us—a denial of who we are. Mood-altering chemicals have played a part in all human cultures throughout history. Learning that coca enabled them to work harder, with less hunger and thirst, the Andean culture acquired a survival advantage in the highlands. Consider how laughing children spin around to make themselves dizzy. In the same way, the rituals of religious and ethnic groups involve mood-altering dances; the Mevlevi order (Sufi mystics or whirling dervishes) spin round and round, inducing a state of altered consciousness. Many of us enjoy amusement park rides, which put us through sudden turns at exhilarating speeds. Potent powders extracted from coca leaf and opium poppy provides a high for which thousands die. Caffeine concentrated into pills and energy drinks stimulate us. We manipulate the tobacco plant to produce more nicotine, and addict millions. A millennium ago, we learned how to distill low-level alcohols into 150-proof liquor. Mood-altering chemicals have brought families and cultures together throughout the world, whether betel in Asia, kava in Pacific Ocean cultures, khat in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula, mescaline by Native Americans, or cannabis, alcohol, and tobacco everywhere else,—this alone makes mood-altering chemicals worthy of investigation. Then, along came Westerners, who extract and concentrate the psychoactive chemicals from native products, thereby boosting their potency—resulting in substances that devastate, rather than enhance, millions of lives. Lastly, we have synthetic mood enhancers like LSD and

* Animals

and Psychedelics: The Natural World and the Instinct to Alter Consciousness. G. Samorini. Park Street Press, 2002

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MDMA (ecstasy), which are both far less dangerous than alcohol and tobacco. We have no choice but to accept this drive of humans and animals to alter their consciousness with chemicals—a drive that ranks close with hunger, sex, and thirst. We are, in the final analysis, not so different. Individuals and entire cultures use, from a 100-proof bottle of bourbon, to a 100mg cup of caffeinated coffee, mood-altering chemicals, and will continue to use them, in spite of our wars on drugs. Nothing can stop it—not even the threat of capital punishment. Singapore imposes, for the sale of illegal drugs, the death penalty, but still has drug abuse. The underground, party drug scene among the rich in Singapore is thriving, and mandatory death by hanging (for trafficking) does little to stop it. We enact expensive feel good programs just to feel like we are accomplishing something—because of our sense of powerlessness and our ignorance of human nature. But the most important issue is not politicians who routinely ignore objective evidence, and spend valuable tax money on useless programs—and it is not what makes us feel better by moralizing from our living room chairs. The most important issue is what will truly make things better for our children? The number of times we give politicians a blank check, and watch them throw huge amounts of tax money at a complex problem, is obscene. And politicians waste money by launching programs without ever testing them. In the corporate world, when preparing to launch a campaign, companies will not spend a dime until they conduct focus groups, and do all the marketing research needed to show that their campaign will be effective. In government, politicians only need to look like they are doing something. This makes us wonder about how they deal with problems that require intelligence, knowledge, and wisdom. Subjecting an entire student body to the possibility of drug tests has unanticipated consequences—collecting a urine specimen with an educator watching them is personally humiliating, and violates the

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privacy of a student*. They feel alienated, and it keeps many of them from participating in certain extracurricular programs. In addition, the outcome of these tests is worse than not testing them, as researchers find that random drug tests cause 12th-graders to use more marijuana. Anti-drug programs appear, in spite of these findings, to work because, even without intervention, most young people do not use drugs. Nonetheless, parents and educators want to believe the programs work, and so they perceive them as effective—the classic placebo effect—where there may be some initial improvement in student attitudes toward drug use, but they disperse over time due to the dynamics of peer pressure. Effective anti-drug programs tell the truth: people take drugs because they work—they effectively relieve low moods, boredom, or whatever—it is just that simple. Even though they tend to pay them back later on, people take drugs to feel good. Effective programs also focus on intervention for young people at risk. Many parents set a poor example for children, especially when taking record amounts of prescription drugs for lifestyle needs, or drinking alcohol for recreational purposes. Young people can see through rigid or out of touch adults. Young people realize that smoking a joint will not cook their brains like eggs in frying pan. Such an approach is insulting to the intelligence of a young person. They wonder that, if we are lying to them about that, we might be lying about the dangers of heroin or crack cocaine. Why are cigarettes legal, if our politicians, many of whom are paid by the tobacco industry, say they are so horrible? Why is alcohol legal, while there are so many substances that, if we use them, we will be locked up? This is the kind of double standard that, in the future, people will look back and regard this era as another dark age. We will look stupid, and our magnificent technology and electronic devices will be ignored.

The Relationship between Student Illicit Drug Use and School Drug-Testing Policies. University of Michigan, R Yamaguchi, LD Johnston, PM O'Malley - J Sch Health, 2003
*

Drug Testing in Schools: Policies, Practices, and Association with Student Drug Use. R Yamaguchi, LD Johnston, PM O'Malley - J Sch Health, 2003

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"Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man's appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A Prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded." Abraham Lincoln* The real gateway drug is tobacco, although the righteous mental giant insists it is marijuana that leads to harder drugs. Teenagers who smoke cigarettes also have a higher risk of anxiety disorders and depression, which usually lead to alcohol and drug abuse (yes, it must be repeated: alcohol is a drug). Teenagers who smoke are 5 times more likely to use alcohol, and 13 times more likely to use marijuana. Most smokers begin smoking before age 18, and are much more likely drink alcohol than nonsmokers. Children, who start smoking by age 12, are more than 3 times more likely to binge on alcohol (have five drinks or more in a row), and almost 7 times more likely to use stronger drugs like cocaine and heroin**. Moral pharmacology is unfortunate—drugs are simply molecules with benefits and risks. In the right hands, nearly all illicit drugs also have medical benefits. Morphine is a terribly abused drug, especially when converted to heroin, but it has relieved our pain for many years. If we told our dentist that we do not want to have anything synthesized from cocaine, we would suffer by not having Novocain. The military issues amphetamines to pilots (go pills) to manage fatigue, and doctors use it to treat narcolepsy, or for hard to treat depression. Marijuana derivatives are legitimate pharmaceutical drugs. Veterinarians at one time used PCP (phencyclidine) as an anesthetic in veterinary medicine. The hardened protector of decency lacks wisdom, and prefers to rush straight to the pulpit, regardless of how much we detest their

*

Speech to the Illinois House of Representatives. December 18, 1840.

Columbia University, National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. January, 2008

**

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sermonizing. They care less about the economy, education, and the other, incredibly important issues that face us, and more about what we do behind closed doors. Acting as though they have committed no sins themselves, their major concern is what they see as our lapse in morals. Caught in a cartoon world, where everything is pretty and peaceful, they offer no insights on sexuality, or even what it is that drives us to want to have sex to begin with. The cures of those with a 1950s utopian mindset are usually worse than the problem. In the war on drugs, our use of force by does much more harm in the end, and drives the purity of illegal drugs up, resulting in prices far beyond what they would sell for on the open market. This allows gangsters to thrive through high-profit margins assured by government drug laws. Just to gather enough money to pay for the inflated prices for dope, desperate junkies will climb through a window, and snatch our television while we watch it. Meanwhile, hard-core drug warriors want poor saps busted on possession and prosecuted, as the cigarette and liquor companies, whose products are considerably more lethal to the public than illegal drugs, are free to go on to make ridiculous profits. The Wicked Weed "Reefer makes darkies think they're as good as white men." We wrongly believe that, after a course of careful scientific research, marijuana was prohibited because it was found to be unsafe—far from it. Master manipulator and Big Media magnate, William Randolph Hearst, hatched a hoax with tremendous legs. He supported the efforts of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics in outlawing marijuana and hemp. Hearst sought to save his paper-mills from a superior hemp product, in order to insure a low-priced source on which to print his newspapers. In so doing, he showed little regard for distinguishing marijuana (the dried flower clusters and leaves) from hemp fiber. Hearst, a consummate racist, passed off lurid stories on an unwary public, portraying Mexicans as vicious, dope fiends. His newspapers depicted Americans of African decent as brutal rapists, cursed by “satanic voodoo jazz,” and rampaging through the streets high on the Devil Dope. He portrayed the use of marijuana (so-called “Mexican

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opium”) as the most malevolent drug in history*. The lies of Hearst and others greatly influence the anti-drug attitudes of today. They block scientific investigation into the medical properties of marijuana, create a vast population of marijuana criminals, and an ever-expanding prison industry. Marijuana is effective as a medicine, but it is a travesty when the government tells scientists and doctors what they can and cannot do. Meanwhile, sick and dying people lose the fight. High courts rule against making marijuana available for patients, in spite of what voters say. Until a government approves medical marijuana for the control of nausea, pain control and in a long list of ailments, this travesty will persist. Smoking marijuana is inefficient, and, so far, marijuana pills contain only part of the drug. Then again, a vaporizer will heat the marijuana, without creating smoke, and get it to the bloodstream rapidly. Likewise, if governments would start waking up, scientists could develop inhalers, patches, and pills that supply patients with the whole drug. In anticipation of this, we will continue to be subjected to the double standards of righteous mental giants: A defendant is on trial for drug violations, and the jury recesses to the back room to deliberate. Having already made up their minds in favor of a guilty verdict, the jurors exchange prescription drugs for anxiety. Carolyn, with a martini in one hand, and a headache pill in the other, cannot fathom how her daughter turned to drugs. We create this hierarchy of drugs, and say that we are honest and objective about drugs. We jail people for a long time for using substances that are often safer than legal ones, which we promote and even glorify. Marijuana has not caused a single death, other than, when being chased by the police, a person tries to swallow a small stash, and then chokes to death. This is compared to the many thousands a year dying of

Creating a Monster: Newspapers, Magazines, and America's Drug Problem. Mol Interv. 2002 Jul; 2(4):201-4
*

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alcohol and cigarette-related illnesses. But we somehow continue to believe that marijuana is one of the most dangerous drugs around. The righteous guardian, not a member of any one group, tries to make us feel guilty for not living up to their religious standards. They are sure that sermons, mystical fear, and even terror, will win a righteous war. According to them, we must surrender to the brand of faith endorsed by them, or burn. But the dominance of a particular subset of religion in a region can have lethal consequences, as in the Middle East. “I Must Be Right!” Researchers have, in an attempt to better understand human behavior, learned why certain traits are so common. For instance, they looked at why so many of us are determined to prove that we are right, and other people are wrong, often over trivial things. The unconscious, psychological drive behind I must be right behavior, clever putdowns, and even humor itself, originates from an evolutionary drive to bolster reproductive success—in other words, our innate drive to attract a mate *. We attempt, sometimes at the expense of perceived rivals, to boost our standing in the social arena. The combative, I-must-be-right personality can drive us mad. The slightest upsets may incur their wrath— they are averse to endure long waits, they may see red if something is not done in a precise manner, they make the life of an auto mechanic miserable, and so on. Often possessing uncanny social radar, they know to launch their assaults, especially when we are out of our element. Diverting attention away from themselves, they overlook their own failings, although they are ready to find them in others. Nonetheless, their attitude has little rational defense. This is not to imply that most people are nasty by nature. However, all it takes a few nasty people to sour our view of humanity.

*

Miller, Geoffrey F. (2001) The Mating Mind: How Sexual Choice Shaped the Evolution of Human Nature, Psycoloquy: 12, #8

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The Patsy Principle “I tore up the book. It’s written in such a condescending way.” “ I saw a fender bender on the way to Randy’s house. I took it as a sign that my visit at Randy’s will be bad.” “Mankind is being slowly primed for intense mind control through a variety of sophisticated diversions.” “Things aren’t going well for me. It must be because of the bad karma I built up in a past life.” “He is president of the debate club, and can point out any logical fallacies in his opponents, but he still holds psychic healing circles at his house every week.” “When I don’t combine the right foods or take my supplements, I can tell, because my mood suffers." “Secret groups are conspiring to bring about a New World Order.” Last night, I was catching up on my sewing, while TV. Suddenly, I started thinking of the actor, Dennis Larkin. I was shocked when a story about Dennis came on TV. I think that people who doubt the existence of psychic powers are all wet. “Reptilian extraterrestrials are controlling the weather, far below the surface of the earth in secret bunkers. Now, they’re making it damp and overcast just to make us feel miserable.” “I nearly wrecked my truck when that radio talk show host said that. It made me so mad.” “She is a fantastic ER doctor. She knows how to make critical surgical decisions, but she still remains an ardent member of the International UFO Brotherhood.”

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“The government is using electronic tools to implant thoughts in our brains, and they are growing more invasive all the time.” “My blood boil around certain attitudes and expressions.” “Our family had a rough year because of the bad Feng Shui in our home.” “At the seminar, I learned that, the government, in cooperation with the agents of Satan, are tainting our money with occult symbols, and infecting us with germs.” “It’s amazing how closely world events are matching the prophecies they outlined at the meeting.” “I’m one of the few people who know that Bruce Lee and Andy Kaufman are alive, and living in a Sun Valley trailer park.” Many people are quick to believe that there are great powers behind every historic event, despite the heaps of contrary evidence. Such conspiracy theories will continue to hold their appeal, sometimes to otherwise intelligent people. As these weird ideas abound, a mounting patsy principle insures a future filled with imagined plots and assorted fantasies. Instead of rational self-interest and sound judgment, we look to seers, ministers, and other eccentrics, with no way to know their real aims. By allowing them to guide us, we lower our intellects to the rank of squirrels. The student of human nature needs only a little skill to spin spectral atmospheres, and capture patsies aplenty, In this way, they may make it big in the world of prophets, inventive writers, and gurus. Without difficulty, they can even construct tales of a thousand-year-old elevated soul, called, let’s say…Bowser. the Bowser mission must, in order to expand its tendrils into the host, promote expensive seminars, said to link us with the indwelling presence of Bowser. “The Bowser experience brings divine love to the hearts of everyone.”

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With the right trappings, hundreds of people will enroll. “It has given my life purpose.” The weak mind of the patsy is, even when valuable time and money are on the line, weakened even more, particularly when offered lifetime guidance, and access to discount Bowser Biomagnets. The Habitual Coddler “When our dreams of the past are in vivid color, and our hopes for the future in hazy black and white, we might as well curl up by the foot of the stairs, and bid the world farewell.” When are we too old to change? Many of us will answer, “Never,” but scientists disagree. Research finds that the older we get, the more predictable we become—stale to new menus, deaf to new kinds of music, and closed to cultural, political or technological change. Resistance to change is a feature of not just humans, but of virtually every animal studied. And yet, it does make sense; biology drives most people, at some point, to stop trying new things for a reason. Professor of Neurology, Robert Sapolsky, wanted to find out just how old we are when we first start to resist change. He and his colleagues went to sushi restaurants and piercing parlors, to learn the ages of the customers. Then, they looked at people who tried new kinds of music. They discovered definite trends—cutoff ages—when people were averse to trying new things. The question was why did this happen? Robert Sapolsky says it is an evolutionary adaptation, which keeps us from doing harmful things. Age-related resistance is not inevitable, but it takes is something significant to get us to change. Common folks are not the only ones who fight the losing battle against change. For years, Einstein refused to endorse the (now commonly accepted) theory of quantum mechanics. Similarly, biologist Trofim Lysenko insisted that DNA had nothing to do with heredity.

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We need people who have amassed wisdom and experience, through years in the same discipline, the same profession, or the same way of thinking. Nonetheless, people who do try to change, by in large, benefit greatly from their newfound activity. Not many of us do that. Too often, we see people who have led exciting, productive lives, only to settle into the comfort zone—to beer, television, and not much else. To coddle is to pamper, as in to coddle a baby, but in the case of habitual coddlers, we are talking about adults who live a comfy and monotone existence. Over the years, the mind of the coddler not only closes to new ideas, food, and music—they do not make the effort to continue growing in life. As a result, they suffer from overall mental decay. We must, in order to better comprehend the problem of habitual coddling, follow these steps: 1. Summon an Appalachian nasal twang. 2. Practice getting this dialect to flow by reading aloud from a book. 3. Play old-fashioned music. 4. Dance, in hillbilly fashion, using the dialect to shout simple words like, “Ma!” “Pa!” From now on, we will at least be in the right mood, the next time that we meet with a coddler. We may, even with this method, still find it hard to put up with a coddler. We may even choose to avoid them, as they have shut themselves off from learning and trying new things. If anyone asks us how the coddler is doing, we can answer, “No one has heard a word. They cannot figure out how to use a telephone.” Just as telephones were, in the past, a huge technological leap forward, so personal computers and the Internet greatly enhance our lives today. But the coddler wants no part of this. Science and technology march forward exponentially, but the coddler sticks to watching Ma and

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Pa Kettle movies. We find many habitual coddlers among retired persons. However, age is little excuse, unless a retired person is senile or debilitated. Many retirement communities offer, for example, computer classes. Therefore, millions of Internet-active retirees continue to grow in the winter of their lives. We must not be impressed simply because the coddler travels, plays golf, reads fiction, or exercises their body, and not their mind. The coddler is numb to profound knowledge, and so settles into a neural graveyard for good.

7
"Shut Up and Fix Me!"
The coddler defies us to put them right, but does not want us to bother them with anything outside of easy fixes.

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ocially conscious people understand that there are certain traits that doctors generally dislike in a patient. Doctors are human beings. These highly paid technicians can be of great help. But we must be willing to meet them halfway. Too many of us are obnoxious, and difficult to care for. If our caregivers hate us, they may even withdraw from our case. We must remind people that, even though it seems obvious, human lives are exactly what doctors handle. The “I’ll help you to help me” attitude is priceless, as it gives them the best chance to help us. This means that, with notepad in hand, we explain our symptoms precisely, ask when test results will come back, ask about side effects or risks, ask what will be the next steps, and about future appointments. If we feel unable to go along with a course of treatment, we say so. When the appointment ends, we can walk away with an explicit plan in mind. The coddler wants warmth and praise, as if the doctor is there to dispense balloons and party favors. They want the doctor to tell them a story, and explain every little thing, even with a waiting room full of patients. Assuming the doctor can sit around and chitchat, they are irked when the doctor will not stick around—even when merely seeking help for a small pustule on their thigh. Such behavior is worse in free medical clinics, where people are more likely to abuse health care. They are least likely to follow the orders of a doctor, or take medications, even when free. However, when small co-pays are required, people treat health care with respect, and follow up on their appointments. Coddlers seem intent on a tour of professional stamina, and judge a doctor almost entirely on their social skill. They complain to anyone expected to shut up and fix them, hard-pressed to do put forth effort, and are unmindful of the reality of what professionals can and cannot do. Critical of most doctors they meet, coddlers claim that doctors like to torment patients, and that they practice medicine solely to cash in. Among the coddled are people infected with the Holistic Promiscuity Virus (HPV). These people will try almost any kind of holistic treatment, however wacky, but refuse to go along with what is medically tried and true.

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People did not run to the doctor for every little sniffle or twinge in the past. Later, as more and more people went to the doctor for simple colds or emotional comfort, they drove the cost of health care skyward. Now, with the many demands imposed by managed care, doctors must often handle the problem of a patient in a few minutes. Therefore, they may not have the time to keep abreast of the latest medical advances. Nor are dost doctors fond of a patient showing them printouts, but they may loosen up after seeing they are from prominent, online medical journals. Therefore, if we acquire the latest studies on our condition in advance, we show doctors our willingness to do our part. Then again, if we act as if we are qualified to diagnose and treat our problems, we do not need an appointment with a doctor to begin with Personality clashes with a doctor or their staff is bound to happen now and then. In these cases, a bright smile and cheerful demeanor serves everyone. And cordial doctor/patient relations encourage less office visits, less time needed for patients in the hospital, and faster periods of recovery*. “In the news are stories of a few shining individuals who find that courtesy is the best way to handle most situations.” Certain members of society have considerable power over us, such as police, waiters, and doctors. Few of these people enjoy nasty exchanges with members of the public, especially when they are just trying to do a good job. Only the most insolent among us would toss down on such people. We need only use a bit of imagination to predict the potential outcome of our open contempt. Few medical schools offer an “Introduction to Human Warmth” course, and handing out medical degrees does little to change a person’s basic character.

* Enhancing Physician-Patient Communication, Stephanie J. Lee, Anthony L. Back, Susan D. Block and Susan K. Stewart. American Society of Hematology 2002

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Overall, the trend toward training doctors in better interpersonal skill may have only marginal effects. Nonetheless, most doctor/patient relations are professional, and doctors lacking interpersonal skill improve in the process of practicing medicine; they learn to set reasonable limits, handle cranky patients with care, and so on. Some doctors would rather not deal with patients, and may gravitate toward pathology. Other doctors would rather not examine the anal canal of the obnoxious patient, but do so with aplomb nonetheless. Salesdoctors The health swinger, who slams medical doctors, forgets that many practice counterculture medicine, and sell natural remedies right out of their clinics. Having staked a claim in the field of alternative medicine, such doctors see a profit: “Why are we doctors not allowed to get in on the act? I am losing income, and I want to meet patient demand. Besides, I can assure that no one gets hurt.” A doctor may stray from medical protocol for many of reasons. The profit motive is a major enticement, but mental problems, religious “awakenings,” midlife crises, divorce, and the boredom of the day-today medical practice may tip the scale. Often, their prior belief in the supernatural and all-natural way is the cause. In this case, the doctor can even play the role of a redeemer or guru. The Difficult Patient The problem patient elaborates on petty complaints and trivial problems, undergoing great stress right before a doctor’s eyes, even though they say they sincerely want less stress in their lives. They pay for the bellyache sessions, despite the fact that their constant outcries are not conducive to health. A steady diet of problem patients, practiced plaintiffs, and those with the urge to rebel against authority, can drive the inexperienced

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doctor to ditch their practice altogether. The enlightened and experienced doctor carries on, already having a good idea of why a patient will pose a challenge, and knowing that many share similar traits: • • • • • • • • Clinically significant personality disorders Depression Underlying feelings of anxiety Obsessive thought patterns A need to recite complaints again and again Loneliness and a weakened sense of purpose Plagued by a range of irrational fears Being needy and demanding; they ask the doctor to address every little concern

A somatizer has, similar to a hypochondriac, psychological problems that translate to physical symptoms. However, a hypochondriac believes they are sick, whereas the somatizer is actually sick, but their sickness is one in which the symptoms differ from their underlying problem, or claims to suffer from a pseudo-illness. The somatizer may seek help only for a tight neck, but they are in fact depressed. Often complaining of fatigue or abdominal pain, from which doctors can find no physical source, the somatizer claims to have a pseudo-illness—that is, they are conscious only of physical analogs to core psychological problems. Unaware of their chronic anxiety when reporting a physical complaint, if doctors do not examine the mental status of the somatizer, their symptoms remain obscure. Typically, the somatizer winds up in physical medicine, where their personality may collide with medical staff. In this situation, the somatizer gets little help, if any.

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Hospital Addiction or Munchausen syndrome is a psychiatric disorder, where the patient feigns or even inflicts illness, in an attempt to get sympathy, and experience the drama of being hospitalized. Such a patient, who learns how to work the medical system, is skilled at describing symptoms in such a way as to make doctors react. Many go through repeated operations, sometimes resulting in a “battlefield abdomen.” A somatizer can thwart the help of a doctor, mainly because they may be less than eager to cooperate. Repeated sessions are seldom helpful, and may leave the doctor frustrated. They may even see the doctor as an enemy, particularly because many somatizers are fueled by holistic belief systems. The somatizer will avoid the doctor who touches on a likely diagnosis, or will refuse treatment, preferring the obscure pseudo-illness. If the doctor tries to break in as the somatizer again recites their list of complaints, “shut up and fix me” may become “shut up and let me talk.” The wise doctor focuses on care, despite the absence of distinct physical causes. Whatever the real cause, pain and fatigue syndromes can be devastating, although treatable in comparison with a pseudoillness, for which there is no cure. A pseudo-disease is a group of symptoms lumped together and given a pseudo-disease label. Just because tests do not readily detect an underlying cause, doctors may later find an immune problem, hormonal deficiency, low blood pressure, anemia, thyroid impairment, hidden infection, neurosis or depression, only through persistent searching, and referring a patient to specialists. In addition, research has shown that these people are more sensitive to discomfort and pain. What most of us regard as the normal, daily aches and pains of life, the somatizer feels is fibromyalgia. The somatizer is not psychotic, and they seldom dream up their symptoms. However, more and more people are susceptible to quickly spreading stories in the media. A guest appears on a show and says, “I have such and such,” and, soon, other people believe they might have the same thing. Then, instead of going to a doctor who says, “You need a little cognitive behavioral therapy, a little exercise, and you should be fine,” they might submit to someone who may or may not be trying to create a

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lucrative practice for him or herself. An undiscovered physical disease, a somatoform disorder or a mass sociogenic illness lies at the core of what people call fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), and other forms of pseudo-illness. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS)* is probably the most contentious of the pseudo-illnesses. In test conditions**, when researchers introduce sensitizing chemicals without the knowledge of those persons who claim to have MCS, those persons fail to react. MCS lacks evidence for its existence, but people who suffer from it do have real problems– depression, somatoform reactions, anxiety, neuroses, and so forth. “In order to cure MCS, we must realign the spine, fine-tune the etheric body, and clear accumulated toxins with herbs, which I happen to sell here at the clinic.” Kenneth Popov, DC We forget that doctors cannot solve everything. But doctors know they have limited powers, and medicine can sometimes be dangerous. And for many of the same reasons that patients deplore it, many doctors dislike managed care***. Instead of the practice of medicine, doctors spend too much time focusing on management, finance, law, ethics, and better bedside manners. This is not to imply that all doctors feel resigned over managed care, but when they gather together, the talk sometimes turns to the subject of withdrawing from medicine altogether.

*

a.k.a. environmental illness, 20th Century Syndrome, chemical sensitivity, chemical injury syndrome, sick building syndrome, etc., etc.

** Double-blind provocation

chamber challenges in 20 patients presenting with "multiple chemical sensitivity". Regul Toxicol Pharmacol. 1993 Aug; 18(1):44-53. Staudenmayer H, Selner JC, Buhr MP. Allergy Respiratory Institute of Colorado, Denver 80222. Nov

Doctor discontent. JP Kassirer - N Engl J Med, 1998 - ncbi.nlm.nih.gov 19;339(21):1543-1545.

***

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However, if large groups of doctors walk away in frustration, those of us with good managed care experiences ought to be alarmed: when talented people leave the profession, health services suffer. Save for doctors that want to bid farewell to their practice, we had better be quiet. We might upset patients who ascribe superhuman powers to doctors. Medical Guesstimates in Terminal Cases Consider how a medical degree may call for a doctor to give terminal patients estimates of survival time. The doctor does not always initiate this; many patients or their families ask for them, so they can make preparations. Such estimates can be difficult. They may be rooted in epidemiological data, but no two cases are alike. One patient may live a long time, whereas another may succumb quickly. If we take a hypothetical patient with a terminal disease, and ask doctors when the patient will die, we often get a bell-shaped curve—a few doctors pick the average, and others shorten or lengthen it*. A doctor wants to be optimistic at times, but not overly so. If pessimistic, the patient may have time to make final preparations, but may also be demoralized. If they live longer than expected, the doctor may be seen as a hero. Doctors may tend to overestimate the survival of terminally ill cancer patients, but get more accurate closer to the final date, as there are certain signs and symptoms to guide them. Many doctors, especially senior doctors, may purposely give a wrong estimate. As dishonest as this seems, studies show that many prognoses may be harmful. On hearing a grave prognosis, a terminal patient is understandably dejected, and may succumb sooner.

A systematic review of physicians' survival predictions in terminally ill cancer patients. BMJ 2003;327(7408):195 (24 July)
*

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People Who Resent Doctors Many people, perhaps most, do not like doctors, and some find it necessary to denounce the entire profession. Not that there are no bad doctors who destroy lives, and need to be nailed, but the incessant, predictable grumbling about all doctors is despicable. Unlike people with well-founded complaints, people of the same critical mind about doctors are typical of the mob mentality. We would do well to consider the standard of medical care that many people around the globe must bear, and have borne in the past. If we could fly the critic of modern medicine to a developing nation for a time, they would find that, before dispensing care, hospitals there are likely to demand cash up front, and be impervious to complaints. Likewise, if we could transport the critic of modern medicine back in time, to Communist Europe in the mid 20th Century, they would hardly find a refuge of medical innovation. The champion of holistic health is immune to much of the criticism doctors get, because they do not represent the standard authority figure that so many people resent. Their best option, to feel pumped up, and forget about their lack of real medical knowledge, is to impugn doctors. In fact, contempt of medical doctors is standard for many champions of holistic health. Their constant criticism, and depiction of the medical profession as inferior, is profuse enough to capsize an oil tanker. Added to the pile are people who repeat old lines like, “Doctors make huge amounts of money!” However, in view of the extensive years of training, and the demands that face them, the salary of a doctor is well earned. Often, the construction contractor earns more than does the typical general practitioner. Again, as is so often the case, our judgments come from portrayals in the movies. Older movies show doctors as wise and devoted guardians of health. Current movies often portray doctors as greedy and inept. Q. “From where do life enhancing products and services come?” A. “Follow the money; while petty moaners are bogged down in blame,

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productive people cash their checks!” Most of us require payment for our hard work, and doctors are no exception. Money drives the creation of ever improving products and services in the professional domain. Anyone who does quality work should be paid for it, as long as they are not volunteering their work, or being onoxious about it. Unfortunately, emotional people build a case against doctors being paid, while closing their eyes to the mass of people ripped-off, or even killed* by alternative medicine. They do this even though flaws exist in all people, in every profession, and in nature itself. “Those damn doctors are a waste of time. Why should I go to them? What can they do, except perform surgery, or prescribe nasty drugs? I am furious that allopathic doctors can’t understand why people turn to alternative methods of healing. Doctors are clinical, stubborn, and lack the human touch that we crave. They are unwilling to listen to holistic ideas, and act like they know everything.” I had constipation that doctor after doctor could do nothing about. All I got was the same, boring advice, over and over again. Finally, I went to a psychic surgeon, who ran his hands over me, and said that I had poor orgasmic function. He simply performed psychic surgery, gave me an all-natural product called Piledriver, and a series of one-on-one sessions. Now, my constipation is gone.” If we elect to skip a needed appointment out of fear, or because we do not like doctors, it may be that we overlook improvements in medical care. In the rapidly advancing medical field, a new procedure can render obsolete what happened in the past. Similarly, an accurate diagnosis, giving us a good idea what is going on, can point to effective treatment. And the diagnosis offered by modern medicine is superior to any others. Even so, we must be aware of the imperfect nature of medicine before seeking vital services. Inevitably, no matter what

*

Quality Of Alternative Medicine—Complications And Avoidable Deaths. International Journal for Quality in Health Care 2:111-117 (1990)

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measures we bring into play, people make mistakes. Medical errors can be dreadful. We would be beside ourselves if a loved one were the victim of a medical mishap, and our sympathy extends to anyone so harmed. We also extend sympathy to the doctors and staff that slip up. Doctors and nurses do, every so often, stupid things; they administer wrong drugs at wrong doses, or to the wrong patient. A surgeon may operate on the wrong side of the head. Even in the best of circumstances, patients have wound up with organ damage, brain damage, left comatose, or dead. Without a doubt, any sane doctor would be horrorstruck if they permanently hurt a patient. What would happen if we were to, fully sober, make a mistake while driving our car, and cost someone a life or limb? Should bystanders drag us from our car and beat us? Any one of us is apt to make a horrible error, but does that mean that we must not take the risk of driving? If medical procedures do not turn out well, we rage at the medical machine, even though doctors and nurses do the best job possible in tough situations. Many people come up with fabulous revelations like, “These damned doctors deal with our lives!” But does this mean that we would be better off if the medical profession were dismantled, just because a well-meaning doctor has a bad outcome? Should such a doctor surrender their home, be flogged or executed? In light of the legal issues and various problems facing them, would we be better off if no one pursued medicine? Granted, a few doctors blunder their way through medicine, as people who dislike doctors will soon remind us. However, doctors are far less likely to make mistakes, because of their extensive training. This is especially true when compared to the complementary and alternative health wizard. All things considered, no one is perfect, including the wizard and the person who dislikes doctors. Mistakes are bound to happen no matter our pursuit. They are, try as we might to do away with them, part of life. Nonetheless, millions of hypocrites will go on demanding perfection from everyone but themselves.

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People who seek judgments against doctors often want more than financial penalties— they demand pure retribution, even in cases when a doctor is not at fault. They would like to see the doctor lose their home and jailed. Then again, if we were to allow this, it would send shockwaves through an already strained system. Surely, we would chase people away from an already understaffed profession. The medical system is far from perfect, but does that mean we should seek help from the local acupractor? By turning our backs on competent doctors, we will have only alternative medicine to turn to if we have critical problems. Medical malpractice lawyers are eager to come down hard, and hold bad doctors accountable. However, financial compensation does not restore an eye, a limb, or a human life, even when the justice system works. Monetary damages are a semblance of justice in a tragic situation. Most of the world has adopted a “loser pays” system as a standard in tort law, in order to curb frivolous lawsuits. The practice of medicine can be daunting, and a high rate of lawsuits faces medical students once they become doctors. Nonetheless, students resign prime years of their lives to study hard in medical school, while foregoing the typical joys of young people. Their friends may be out partying, whereas they are in class. With premedicine, medical school, residency, and early practice, students sacrifice for years. Anyone smart enough to get through medical school has the aptitude to enter many other lines of work. Doctors could quit medicine altogether, and enter a field that commands a much higher salary that offered by a health maintenance organization. The essence of medicine is that of caring for our health—it is not like repairing a computer, although some of us seem to forget this. Inevitably, there will come a time when we must turn to medicine in times of need, sometimes when our lives are on the line. The Public Health Infamous Many people have every right to bemoan their fate, and other people whine over the slightest things. Now, we have the chance to change sobs into cyclones, and win an award in the process.

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The public health infamous starts with a symptom significant enough to impel them to seek medical help. Next, they hold the doctor responsible for our illness for no real reason at all. Then, they deliver extreme statements, in no way balancing their complaints with praise: “That doctor did a terrible job. Now my hemorrhoids feel like a 6,000 amp whipcord tearing into my flesh!” “No wonder I feel so bad after seeing that doctor; I found out that every year, millions of people are diabolically liquidated at the hands of doctors.” The health infamous seizes every opportunity to complain that a doctor botched their case, using words like “butcher,” “bungler,” and “pill slinger.” They do this without uttering a word about why they sought medical services to begin with. The health infamous ignores the fact that, due to the glut of hungry lawyers and reporters waiting for them to slip up, no sane doctor in the world would purposely hurt them. Nonetheless, they act as though doctors are hell-bent on foisting needless medication and surgery. The public health infamous uses all available means to panic the community. “Millions of people are afflicted by lupus, Parkinson’s disease, and rheumatoid arthritis, all because of the fluoride industry.” “The widely used artificial sweetener, aspartame, is the secret scourge behind Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, memory loss, and autism.” “Mercury in amalgam dental fillings is probably the number one source of cancer, diabetes, and autoimmune disease.” “Electricity from power lines poses an invisible danger to public health, leading to leukemia, lymphoma, and breast cancer.”

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The Great Influenza Pandemic The terrible outbreaks, which once robbed millions of the chance to live, are gone in countries that use vaccines. All the same, the public health infamous, which has never seen a child dying from pertussis, comes up with outlandish lies, in an effort to scare the community away from that which protects it from the cruel pandemics of the past. Influenza is among the deadliest enemies to face humanity. Highly contagious, it evolves rapidly, and jumps from species to species. Influenza can produce a fever that cooks the brain, killing hundreds of thousands of people each year. The victories of medicine were many in the early 20th Century, although influenza remained a mystery. However, people took the danger of influenza lightly, because they put their trust in doctors, who had subdued diseases ranging from anthrax to smallpox. When the Great Influenza Pandemic of 1918 struck, it took many millions of lives. People wondered if evil forces were at work. One theory of the time was that victims had breathed noxious gases—a blend of shell bursts and rotten corpses, formed during the First World War. Rumors spread that German agents were spreading influenza viruses all through the land. Others blamed canine distemper virus, bad air and stagnate water. The quality of our lives has burgeoned since the time of the Great Pandemic. However, we hear only a few people acknowledge that advances in public health are due to science and medicine. Complacent citizens of developed countries refuse to see the reality of medicine, which is an art based on science. They resist the fact that symptoms sometimes require an in-depth investigation. But it may take time before a syndrome rears its ugly head. A sick person may need to consult with specialists before solutions emerge. Unfortunately, too many people see this as a chance to malign competent doctors. More and more people come up with reasons to complain about everything, and to anyone who will listen. In particular, they despise people with power over them, or anyone who stands up for honest doctors. To add outrage to insult, they conveniently pretend to be above reproach.

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Coddled attitudes threaten developed societies, by weakening them from within, although uncommon in the developing world. We see such attitudes in a meaner light when we consider that, had a doctor not saved a parent or grandparent from disease or injury, many people would not be alive to complain. A few people even have the nerve to cite fictional stories of idyllic peoples, enjoying incredible life spans, thousands of years ago, living in Happy Valley. The truth is that ancient people were lucky to make it to 35 years of age. Then again, we have people of conscience, who revere the great scientists and medical innovators that made the world a better place. They erect mental and physical monuments to these benefactors of humanity. Drug Company Pushers We now offer a genuine complaint to people who, in search of dirty dealings, want their lawmakers to go into action, and ban all they find objectionable: get Big Pharma, the giant pharmaceutical companies, off the backs of doctors. Big Pharma keeps medical groups, lawmakers, and doctors on its payroll, as well as an army of sales reps (detail men and women), who push products samples, thingamajigs, or a supply of free snacks for the staff. They even offer extravagant restaurant excursions for the doctor. The doctor talks with a drug rep during the meal, or hears a presentation, having been invited to the finest place in town. Big Pharma pays detail men to linger around in medical offices, waiting for the chance to spring the newest products—and there are tens of thousands of in the field Medical schools teach their students to stick with objective criteria in deciding what drugs best treat a given disease, when drug treatment is indicated. Once the student becomes a doctor, Big Pharma works hard to sway prescription guidelines despite these lessons. Many doctors say the free trips to exotic resorts, script pads, pens, coffee mugs, calendars, payment for each patient that receives free drug samples, and so on, do not influence medical decisions. But why would Big Pharma spend massive amounts of money if these tactics were

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ineffective? Their efforts do influence prescription patterns, and in cases when an ethical doctor refuses the drug reps, an insurance company or medical administration may undermine them, given the huge cash deals struck. Besides, patients see drugs ads, and request what they see even against the better judgment of a doctor. And Big Pharma does its best to lure its own regulators. Big Pharma is like Big Oil, slowly bankrupting us with everincreasing prices, while closing the door to cheaper drugs. Nonetheless, we must only reform the pharmaceutical industry; being vital, it delivers lifesaving products. We can only imagine if drug companies were required to test a drug on a million people—that drug would be hundreds of dollars a dose. Therefore, we try to be reasonable; if a company tests drug on a 10,000 people and it is passed, it is good to go. But when the drug is out on the market, and a million people take it, we can see its more subtle effects. Then, we protest, “Why didn't they tell us before it was released?” Similarly, automobile manufacturers test their vehicles rigorously before they get to the showroom. They put it on the track. Nonetheless, things slip through the cracks and there are still recalls. If we required manufacturers to produce perfect automobiles, we would still be walking. The same goes for drug and consumer electronics manufacturers; we would have no access to drug treatments, electronics, appliances, etc. So we must make peace with the process, and be grown up about it. This is not to say dangerous products are acceptable. An industry must not hide things, or get away with murder; if they do, they must face heavy consequences. Even so, when they do things by the book, things still may go wrong. The prison industry, the drug enforcement industry and the military industry are difficult to change, because they are entrenched. In the same way, researchers have fudged results just to keep their laboratories open. Sometimes, the motivation of researchers is to work harder for success, and do studies with positive outcomes, by using optimal conditions, healthier subjects, etc. Scientists must be careful of a bias toward positive results, however subtle or unconscious. Otherwise, by the time their results get out in the real world, they do not look so positive.

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The most critical part of research is when laboratories evaluate drugs on people. If a pharmaceutical company does 10 studies on a drug, and 9 of them show unacceptable side effects—but only one study finds its action acceptable—a few companies have been known to flag that study for publication. To end this bias, and prevent the availability of grant money from influencing the outcome of a study, the pharmaceutical company is compelled to register it with the government, in order to prevent hiding it later on. In addition, at the bottom of every article in a first-tier, medical journal is a list: researchers must verify their backgrounds, affidavits, alliances, possible conflicts of interest, and their source of grant money. They must verify any work done for a particular pharmaceutical company. This process is not perfect, but it is important. Poorly designed research sometimes overshadows great research in the eyes of the media. When we watch a news anchor report scientific and medical studies, one study may sound as credible as any other, but in fact, they are not the same. Then again, the best professional journals reject up to 90 percent of the articles submitted to them—but the worst journals accept 90 percent. The lapses of Big Pharma—testing a drug only on the healthy, killing reports on some of the drug’s bad effects— like the lapses of the medical establishment, incites the health swinger to make their case. The idea that Big Pharma graft somehow bolsters the value of alternative medicine is absurd. However, it is among the best arguments that the swinger can muster. Why do we need the prescription system anyway? Why do we require a prospective doctor to go to medical school? Why bother licensing a doctor? Why not let anyone who wants become a witch doctor ply the Craft on a trusting public? Will taking away the middleman/doctor stop drug company exploitation?

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Do we have the right to universal over-the-counter drugs? We can try to make a case, from a laissez-faire standpoint, for an ultra-libertarian medical policy. But such a policy is out of the question, because it would harm millions of people. In taking away the middleman/doctor, we would do little to stop drug company exploitation. If drugs are the best treatment for us, we must see to it that doctors choose the best. And they must choose them based on good data and not payoffs. Dealing with Professionals How can we, when dealing with doctors, or any other kind of professional, make the distinction between the brilliant, the skilled, the know-it-all, the profiteer, the inept, and all shades in between? Our task is difficult because our expectations challenge us; our demands of professionals are, as a general rule, out of sync with what human beings can and cannot do. Occasions will arise when a wise professional gives us bad advice, or is in error. However, most professionals are competent and their errors are few. More to the point, occasional errors do not mean that they are wrong every time. And if professionals were as wrong as many people believe, the steady stream of modern products and services would slow to a trickle, rather than the flood we enjoy today. When everyone is of the same mind on a tough issue, something might be wrong. Professionals give markedly different advice when presented with similar problems. Whether a medical problem, or a car problem, the mature mind learns to expect these differences of opinion, and deal with them appropriately, which sometimes means seeking other professional opinions. However, the task of deciding whom to listen to remains ours, and we must be ready to question authority when it is called for. Just because we call someone an expert does not assure that they are objective or are principled. For instance, many so-called experts are bored with science, and refuse to bother us with it. All we need is a legal journal, in order to get an idea of how corrupt

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certain professional opinions can be. If we leaf through the section on expert witnesses, we may find a company that will send experts to our courtroom inside of a day–for a hefty fee–and say anything we want. Nonetheless, the testimony of a well-paid expert with many degrees cannot sway us if we use the weight of the evidence as a guide. “I'm bored to tears with my practice. Think I'll just take to the road, say what the lawyers want me to say, and collect a large fee.” Simple fixes to tough legal problems, like tough health problems, are few and far between—especially when the complementary medicine expert steps up to the stand. Many of us automatically resent professionals and other powerful people. Nonetheless, this is ironic, seeing that we all do as much as we can to gain power. Deep-seated suspicion toward powerful people, just because they have power, is a mark of insecurity.

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The Passion for Science
“The light of science dawned slowly, but, over time, it grew brighter. Now, we see advances in every field that shatter much previous knowledge. Even so, we reminisce about the poor, unfortunate people living in the bleak times of a century past.” Tomorrow’s Writer

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Science is, without a doubt, the most magnificent chapter of the human saga—an ever-growing body of knowledge acquired by exploring the world in a logical manner. Today, the modern person stands squarely on what science determines to work. Science offers us the most magnificent legacy, the depth of which no religion can measure. This legacy includes tenable knowledge, of which every rational person holds dear. We ignite our passion for science by making richer our knowledge of how the world works, enriching the lives of others along the way.

e had no idea of electricity or cell phones, throughout our long, slow evolution, past flint knapping, and the first stone tools. We could imagine such things only in the realm of magic. Over time, our technology grew, from fire, to the earliest forms of pottery, to metalworking and glassmaking. In the 16th Century came the Scientific Revolution, born of higher learning, as humanity began to question traditional teachings, and more people turned their backs on Church doctrine. This helped Western civilization achieve a higher standard of living than the rest of the world. In the 20th Century came a resurgence of mystical thinking. More people began to view reality as a petty detail, and religious absurdity once more regained popularity. Even so, this era brought huge technological advances: telephones, airplanes, personal cameras, movies, television, personal computers and the Internet. The winds of scientific and technological change reach gale force now, in the new millennium. Science and technology are growing exponentially, no longer just doubling every few decades. Advancements in the life sciences, high-performance computers, nanotechnology, aerospace, and engineering, which formerly took many years to develop, now advance swiftly, leaving many older technologies far behind. As a result, we see only vestiges, and in some cases the end, of the vacuum tube, the slide rule, the typewriter, carbon paper, telephone wire, the

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vinyl record, the newspaper and the rotary dial telephone in a booth. In developed societies, discoveries in medicine, electronics, microminiaturization and composite materials transform the harshness of the natural world. Victors in the quest to survive, the struggle to find better ways to communicate, travel, clothe, house, and feed ourselves is lifted. Beyond the invention of the incandescent light bulb,, high definition televisions and laser light shows fascinate us. The computers of today will soon be outmoded, and the technology of a century from now will be many stages above what we have now. Our ability to unravel the mysteries of the world takes us wherever physical laws allow. Gene therapy and stem cell technology may, in time, transform the treatment of our most deadly diseases, permitting us to grow new organs to replace diseased ones and restore damaged spinal cords. However, there is still much religious and ethical resistance concerning research into embryonic stem cells, which further research may surmount. Citizens of countries that use fewer resources per capita try to immigrate to countries that use more, which threatens to overwhelm those prosperous countries. But using more resources requires energy, which, unless scientists are able to introduce adequate sources of renewable energy, is not sustainable. If scientists can introduce practical, renewable energy, it may supersede our need to combust petroleum into the atmosphere. In the future, the world’s petroleum resources, used in the manufacture of medicines, plastics, ink, packaging materials, fertilizer, paints, and fibers, will be much more precious—unless science discovers new ways to produce them. Scientists unlock new doors, and uncover new mysteries behind every sphere of discovery. New discoveries bring more questions, leaving scientists with an unbroken chain of new theories to crack, wondering what lies ahead. Believers will continue to oppose science, because it has nothing that appeals to them—no fanciful legends, no reassuring sense of the supernatural, and no social activity with people of one mind. At the same time, more and more people will expel the old, supernatural delusions from their lives, and into the dumpster of history. People will realize that the appeal of religion is insignificant compared to the sense

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of wonder found in science. We witness an advanced civilization struggling to be born, and the tyranny of the mystic deteriorating, as more people appreciate the sacrifice, and the brainpower that goes into the modern world. The general direction of history is toward reason, even though 11th Century thinking continues to have authority over millions. But the visitations of a Demon Haunted World can only slow, and not stop, the advance of science. Scientists think they know everything!” Most believers draw upon the fruits of science—using cars, cell phones, television, etc. And yet they vilify science, and even want to change science education. In other words, they are hypocrites in the extreme. They persist in homogenized superstition, and are rendered unable cope with an ever more complex world. Then again, the more educated the person, the more likely they are to reject such superstition. “Superstitions typically involve seeing order where in fact there is none, and denial amounts to rejecting evidence of regularities, sometimes even ones that are staring us in the face.” Murray Gell-Mann, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Many adults will admit to being superstitious, at least to some extent. And a significant percentage admits that they believe in ghosts, even claiming to have seen one, or felt a ghost in their presence. Likewise, they believe in witchcraft, extraterrestrial visitation, the power of magic spells and four-leaf clovers. Additionally, almost half of adults believe in psychic ability. This is a sad thing—it means they have given up the most precious resource they have—the ability and desire to control their lives through reason. People who have these kinds of beliefs usually do poorly in life. They have trouble coping, because they believe that outside forces are affecting them, as opposed to what they can do themselves, by working hard to get what they want out of life. Faith in homogenized superstition (religion) gives rise to superior-

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to-science pride. The believer ascribes to science that which has little or nothing to do with it, like blaming science for enabling the powerseeking war criminal, who unleashes mass destruction. In reality, nearly all science is used in service of humanity, a process that tends to neutralize religious absurdity. Pope Benedict warned us in 2008, “In an age when scientific developments attract and seduce with the possibilities they offer, it's more important than ever to educate our contemporaries' consciences so that science does not become the criteria for goodness.” His statement is partly true—science is not for goodness, nor is it for evil—it just is, in the way that facts simply are. The Pope does not want us to do any scientific investigation that might contradict his particular theology, even if such investigation is done for the betterment of humanity. He admits that Earth does revolve around the Sun, and evolution is a fact (even though many people do not believe it). However, he supports the verdict of Catholic Church in the 17th Century heresy trial against Galileo. Pope Benedict said that, although the Church did not oppose scientific progress, it was obligated to protect the "great values at stake" concerning science’s respect for human beings as people, and issues of bioethics. But the Pope refuses to respect the right of women to use birth control, and for people to use condoms to prevent HIV. He warned that practices such as embryonic stem cell research, freezing embryos, suppression of embryos in multiple pregnancies, the prospect of human cloning and artificial insemination outside the body had "shattered the barriers meant to protect human dignity.” And yet the Church seems to want more births—it should welcome artificial insemination The Pope believes that the seductive powers of science demean the spirit, and renew the science-versus-religion debate. But calling it a debate is preposterous, because science is about actual facts, as opposed to the fictional. An extreme minority of people may support scientifically disgraced beliefs, but they are not entitled by reason to call it a controversy or debate. Similarly, to suggest that white people are smarter than black people, AIDS is not caused by the HIV virus, the Earth is flat, and that

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evolution, the Holocaust, or global warming are controversies is the height of absurdity. However, science does support the notion of oneness with the universe (stolen by religion and New Age spirituality), both in quantum mechanics, and in the sense that, when we die, we give back all the molecules we have borrowed. Dedication to the absurd demeans our humanity, and transforms us into superstitious people of straw—people of straw who look down their noses at the hard won victories of rational men and women, while enjoying the amenities of applied science. Superstitious people of straw have little regard for fields like electronics and engineering, although such fields greatly enhance their lives. The Evidence-Based Mind The evidence-based outlook, common to sound minds everywhere, is framed by an interest in objective findings. The basic requirement is accepting that we may be on course or not in accordance with thorough studies, which may compel us to modify our views. 10 studies involving thousands of people offers sound evidence, but changing our lifestyle based on a single study is unwise. Science is an ongoing process of continuous revision and refinement, as a way of ridding itself of errors. This process verifies something significant only after much deliberation As a result, the scientific process seldom appeals to people who prefer “wisdom” set in stone tablets. What is a nutritious diet? Is it best to cut our fat intake to 10 percent? Is a butter substitute better for us than real butter? How much exercise should we get? What are the healthy limits of body fat and blood pressure? “How much calcium do we need a day?”

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For people who teach science, one of the most difficult ideas to put across is: “What is said to be good for us today may be found to be bad tomorrow. What is bad may be found to be good.” Big Media reports breaking science news, but only if it judges it newsworthy. Journalists scour the medical and scientific journals, besides reading press releases or going to press conferences, in order to create news stories based on the latest findings, often before other scientists verify them. In the meantime, scientists bear the blame for Big Media indiscretion. This process upsets the public, especially when they see older findings reversed. The lesson is clear: a single study reported in the media does not paint the whole picture. We can only consider it with reservation. Later studies may prove the conclusion wrong, especially studies with improved design and larger sampling. For instance, newer studies found that, far from the touted 10 percent fat diet, a little fat makes us feel satisfied, and more likely to eat less. Vitamin E (alpha tocopherol) does not prevent heart attacks, and is even harmful, unlike what was reported earlier. For years, doctors presumed hormone replacement therapy (HRT) protected the health of menopausal women without any evidence to support it. Later studies showed the benefits of HRT to be nonexistent, and the risks significant. The science illiterate, who expects the process of science to be in a straight line, seeks absolute answers, justifies such instances as a reason to abandon science altogether. Religion has failed to rid us of the perennial plagues, fly us from one part of the world to the other—rather, it is critical thinking, education, technological discovery, and responsible science that have accomplished these things. Meanwhile, the great superstitions have served the cause of ignorance, and put the world in danger. The mystic holistic believer shirks the responsibility to back up their claims with evidence, preferring mythic accounts and folklore, and refusing to allow the "dark side–the tragic side of science," to challenge what they “know in their hearts.” They carelessly accept what their senses detect, and are fooled by placebos. Trusting their ears, they accept what a radio infomercial says. Trusting their eyes, the surface of the earth

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appears flat. However, the senses do not fool the scientist, because they adhere to clear rules on what makes up solid, reproducible evidence. A clueless majority is indifferent to the vibrant power of life in such a magnificent era. They become the butt of many jokes, while embroiled in ontological debates, and questions on the subject of demonic power. Handicapped in a world that increasingly depends on science, their imagination runs wild, even giving rise to apocalyptic visions. A clueless majority insists on a blend of technological comforts and lifeless superstitions, turning their backs on the science that built their world. Such scientific apathy has its roots in the way we teach science to young people. Responsible scientists express outrage at countries with loose educational standards, where science teachers say that God intelligently designed a young Earth. They appear ridiculous to countries with high academic performance, and whose science teachers explore with their students something of value. The Scientific Theory The scientist, who attempts to substantiate data and revise former theories, challenges such theories through experimentation and observation. Innumerable theories are advanced day after day, all alleging to be a map for successful action, or account for some aspect of reality. Some theories prove to be more accurate than are others—but no one is perfect. Science is based on skepticism, and a lone error can wipe out even a major theory. If it fails to predict the newest findings, scientists modify it, or, in due course, replace it with a newer one, which will then try to contain the same observations as the old theory, or remove it altogether. A good theory closely estimates reality, as determined by the weight of scientific facts. For instance, the general theory of relativity, proposed early in the 20th Century by Albert Einstein, ultimately predicted later astrophysical findings. A good theory, based on objective data, is seldom popular, while many people may like an outlandish theory. The advocate of an outlandish theory ignores scientists wielding well-established data,

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citing a flawed study to bolster their case. Who decides if a theory is correct, popular or not? In fact, no person is the final arbiter; reality is. People guided by controlled, objective processes can seek out facts, and learn whether a theory is a valid or not. Scientists, willing to take the time, and apply mental effort, are best equipped to do the job. Scientists carry out controlled experiments in the physical sciences, such as astronomy, physics, geology or chemistry. They collect data through observation, and make inferences, in fields like archeology and anthropology. Common to all sciences is the hypothesis, which is used to validate, reject, or simply clarify data. Scientists may publish anything significant in a professional journal. Other scientists may do more research, and evaluate the consistency of data by means of revealed trends. Doctors of 19th Century Vienna scoffed at Hungarian physician Dr. Ignaz Philipp Semmelweis (1818-1865), when he claimed that medical students spread disease by going directly from cadaver dissection to the maternity ward. The theories of Dr. Semmelweis forever changed medicine, even though he was ridiculed at the time, because they were tested and found to be true Scientists prove most far-fetched theories wrong, even though mystic holistic believers refuse to accept it. And the more all-natural and supernatural the theory, the more likely the enthusiasts are keen on it. The process of submitting a worthy idea for testing and development is difficult, particularly when it goes against entrenched attitudes. Therefore, it is only reasonable to applaud its validation, and enjoy seeing the keepers of the status quo put in their place. The Holistic Method A seminar on alternative medicine is distinct from a seminar for scientists. We will witness firsthand the standard of holistic knowledge, if we by sit through an alternative medicine seminar: A lecturer stands at the podium, making statements such as, “X treats Y” without any supporting evidence. Most attendees fully accept what the lecturer says, jotting down the information without further ado, true to the alternative

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spirit. Attendees, who personify the holistic mindset, keep each other abreast of the most feeble tips and tricks of the trade during breaks. They return to their treatment centers to experiment on clients the next day. The strangest seminars are interdisciplinary, mixing medical doctors with alternative medicine practitioners. The reaction of the medical doctors, who have years of education and clinical experience behind them, to a demonstration by someone with weird holistic ideas and no background in modern medicine, is priceless. The practitioner of alternative medicine and the mystic holistic believer will say things like, “Science doesn’t have all the answers,” as if such a statement is supposed to open our eyes. But many people already know that science, although based on the best information it can gather, has its faults, and cannot answer every question. In fact, no one has all the answers, least of all religious mysticism or practitioners of alternative medicine. And because no one is perfect, we need the clearest thinking we can muster. People who are not, and who have never been in desperate need disparage science. Even prolonged visits to impoverished countries would barely sink in. This is because increasing our gratitude for what we have, based on the hardship of other people, is difficult. Nonetheless, so many people are without the sheer joy of life in the new millennium, because they suffer from a kind of intellectual deficiency that considers the mystical wondrous, and the discoveries of science dreary. The years grow monotonous for those who pay only lip service to their good fortune. Nature has endowed human beings with powerful brains, even though countless people choose to pack their neurons with trash. They do not feel good when learning about the discoveries of science—there is too much effort involved. They would rather watch re-runs, email jokes to friends, or try out for the new “Pinhead II” movie. Nullsville beckons as dullards submit to the latest bamboozle. "Finding the occasional straw of truth awash in a great ocean of confusion and bamboozle requires intelligence, vigilance, dedication and courage. But if we don't practice these tough habits of thought, we

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cannot hope to solve the truly serious problems that face us— and we risk becoming a nation of suckers, up for grabs by the next charlatan who comes along." Carl Sagan Rational people enjoy the rich legacy of literature left by earlier scientific giants. They value modern society, and all of its advantages— medicine, dentistry and building codes. They flip a switch, and instantly see in dark—twisting a valve, they enjoy clean, hot and cold running water. They can fly across the ocean while watching a movie. Gazing outside, they see the engines of the airliner, but no mystical energy powering the plane. They know they are better off in a modern society with its abundance of values, and enjoy that which men and women of science and engineering create, basking in the fruits of technology. Then again, we have Sub-Saharan Africa, where we find people who die at a young age from famine, tuberculosis, and social conflict—where HIV/AIDS has hit the hardest. We can discern crap from crapola by insisting on hard evidence. This means that a theory is not a fact until proven. Before placing coins in the grab bag, though we might like to, we must insist on looking at what lies inside. The call to demand proof is, sadly, not heard by most people, and few have learned the basic rules of logic, or how spot delusion. As a result, mythmakers have them swallow countless disconnected ideas. Nonetheless, the goal of a delusion-free society remains unchanged: to arm people with basic thinking tools, so they can keep themselves from an array of all-natural and supernatural snow jobs. We live in a fiercely anti-rational world, and many of us have grown brazen in our beliefs. We can grasp a few things, but not the big issues of life. Under the curse of the imaginary, we commit ourselves to impostors, who urge us back to mythic times, drawing us further away from the appreciation of science. We gladly embrace magical paths to glory, but only for a quick breather from our routines. The alternative to carefully controlled research is faith, anecdote, and mental lewdness.

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In order to appreciate the problems posed by mental lewdness, consider the example of someone who claims that baking soda can cure liver disease. How could we disprove it? The best we could do, in the absence of clear-cut research on the disease-fighting properties of baking soda, is to use logic, and show that the claim is nearly impossible. Still, we could not prove the claim is false. Worse, we could be tricked by the anecdotes presented by some hypemeister on television, who talks about how everyone needs baking soda to detoxify their livers. If we happen to have liver problems, we might cancel our appointment with a gastrointestinal specialist, and buy baking soda pills at our local natural foods store, in the belief that they will cure us. If we manage to breathe in enough hot air to harm ourselves, there comes a time when a rational society must leave us to our own devices. We may wind up attending the Sedona Healing Conclave, and take one of its “Cleansing the Liver” classes—all because we left blowing in the wind the responsibility to check things out. The good life, taking in the fresh air of freedom, is based on the many good things that people lose sight of, like living in a workable society, and the bounty that the science brings. Thanks to people who proved what and what does not work, we honor to those who struggled to benefit themselves and humanity. Such honor gives our lives depth. This does not mean that we expect a developed society to be a dull utopia. But our gross exaggeration of the problems of modern life is one heck of a downside to freedom. Many of us believe that drugs, nasty music, brutal movies, pornography, etc., have corrupted society. We believe that our collective health is worse than ever, and that we live in an era of record crime. But we overlook escalating superstition and trash science—how they have cost us dearly, and slowed the progress of real science. Failing to see what is happening in the world, our false sense of reality threatens to destroy our vision of the good life. We admire selfimportant phonies, join idiotic groups, and jail the wrong people due to the resulting dumb-down. Escalating superstition and trash science has driven science into the corner. Our distorted make us adverse to knowledge and progress. In such a climate, scientists are the targets of lawyers and Big Media. The legislator, busy in an anti-science crusade, sets off the mass departure of

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innovative medical and scientific minds. Lawyers bring bad science into the courtroom to deceive juries, and get massive settlements. The health swinger harms their bodies with bad diets, vitamins and “cleansing drinks,” fueled by the natural foods industry. We must strive to think our way through the complexity of the world, unchecked by high contrast thinking, and cherished contrivances, and turn our backs on the delusional. In tackling the many challenges that loom in a global future, we yield to those who sacrificed greatly to raise us above a bleak existence. “A hundred times every day I remind myself that my inner and outer life are based on the labors of other men, living and dead, and that I must exert myself in order to give in the same measure as I have received and am still receiving...” Albert Einstein Unexpected Discovery People who do research do not always presume to end up with something of value. But despite the protests of people who resist scientific change, and regard it as a waste of money, researchers will continue to work on the land, in the oceans, and in outer and inner space, sometimes creating valuable commercial applications along the way. Brilliant research is a mixture of expertise, calculated thought, creativity, unintended discovery, and so on. The need to solve problems has throughout history, brought great discoveries to bear. Not that all great discoveries are unexpected, but when the unexpected does happen, great men and women may translate them into values. Eighteenth Century English physician Edward Jenner observed that milkmaids were usually free of smallpox. This led him to develop a vaccine from cowpox, which made people largely immune to smallpox infection. In 1928, Scottish scientist Alexander Fleming was in the process of

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investigating a treatment for typhoid. He would often leave active culture dishes out in his typical messy lab and, after returning from a holiday, found them tainted with fungus. However, Fleming noticed that in one dish the culture near the fungus was dead. From this, he was able to extract a substance that he later called penicillin. We constantly meet with unexpected events: going to a bookstore, we unexpectedly meet someone who turns out to be our future spouse. A scientist, working on a project, stumbles on something significant, although entirely different. The path to good fortune cannot always be predicted. The futurist tries to predict the technology to come by examining the tools of the time, only to be thwarted by surprising twists and right-angle turns. The futurist is unable to see how scientists will develop new ways to fabricate and apply technology, in ways the futurist never thought of. As a result, the futurist is generally wrong. Nonetheless, examining scientific trends that might happen can inspire us. Considering the technologies engineered in the past century, those that lie ahead will almost certainly astonish us. Scientists are driven by rational curiosity to investigate in an objective, step-by-step manner, knowing how meager their knowledge was in the past—knowledge that will appear all the more meager tomorrow. The holistic healer is unlike those who bask in scientific knowledge. Many healers regress to the rank of the witchdoctor, who, if their clients have enough faith, can work wonders at making them believe they are better. Humans have a native curiosity, and science is the noblest aspect of the their legacy. Scientists will always explore the world, and misguided legislators can only slow them—there is no way to end their quest. Science never stands still, and its drive to explore is satisfied only by new discoveries, new answers and new solutions. This drive toward discovery makes evolutionary sense; paying attention to unusual situations is not only important to science; it is vital to the survival of our species. In effect, exploration and discovery activate the pleasure centers of the brain, much like the pleasure that comes from sex and food. The fact that the serendipitous stimulates our brains is the basis of wit and humor, which clearly has great value to most people. However, we all

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have unique, and at the same time similar, internal wiring. Therefore, serendipitous events produce diverse neural responses in us. One person might thrive on order and routine, where another delights in the spontaneous. Most people prefer a smooth road, but others crave the twists and turns of off-road activity. Similarly, lots of researchers are passionate about the experimental sciences. They know that the more proficient they become in their methodology, the more discoveries seem to emerge. Religion has a long history of being in opposition to science, because science challenges its tenets. Believers say that, in time, the Holy Spirit will confound the scientist in their bid to explore and learn. We can only imagine how the world would be today if the Church prevented Edison from his investigation into a longer lasting, “evil light bulb.” Each time the faithful have the chance to turn out the lights on scientific research, the prospects of humanity grow dimmer. Ironically, the faithful, though uncomfortable with science, defy science to perform the impossible— now. When there is a problem that needs a solution, whether it be the energy crisis, global warming, pollution, etc., all must be solved, and quickly. The Mystery of Existence “The difference between what the most and the least learned people know is inexpressibly trivial in relation to that which is unknown." Albert Einstein The mystery of existence is, no matter our perspective—professor of astrophysics, yuppie shaman, or member of Al-Qaeda—forever impenetrable; only the believer who claims to explain it through knowledge of divine law. Every major religion is distinct from any others. However, could something happen to each one harmonize? Out of the blue, we see a shimmering, almighty being in the sky, swathed in glory, issuing forth commandments far and wide in a vast, deep voice. The being imbues its spirit in our hearts through awesome displays of power, which causes us to drop to our knees—we are beside

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ourselves. Nonbelievers look at each other and say, “Damn it! The believers were right all along! We have to get in on this!" Given that nothing else has meaning, business and industry come to a grinding halt—the world, as we know it, is no more. The mystic, who claims to be in touch with the source of all existence, will not have the last word; unless there is a worldwide revelation, another group will propose something different. Today, the splintering of the major religions is extensive. The Buddhist, Hindu and Christian faiths have hundreds of different sects, and Islam, the least splintered faith, has at least 5. Some sects differ so radically from one another that they share only the most basic beliefs. Major religions and their various sects are frequently split into opposing camps that struggle for dominance. The quest for supernatural meaning has plagued humanity throughout the millennia. Of senseless conflict and wasted time, the wisest, most educated, insightful and spiritual people have been after this for 5,000 years—and they have made zero progress. “For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” Carl Sagan Most universal secrets are hard to come by. Therefore, we will discuss only the clearest and most significant side of life's grandest questions, “What is the meaning of life?” “It is we who create meaning in our lives. So just stop struggling to know that which is forever unknowable, and enjoy life in rational and productive ways.” Suppose that scientists could somehow prove that rational pleasure and productivity were the essence of human life, and that we supply meaning ourselves. The mystic holistic person of faith cannot admit this—it would blow a hole in their plans, and force them to spit up their wheat grass juice. More likely, they will dismiss it at once, because it

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comes from scientists. Besides, they already believe they know the answer. “I don't have to know an answer. I don't feel frightened not knowing things, by being lost in a mysterious universe without any purpose, which is the way it really is as far as I can tell. It doesn't frighten me.” Richard Feynman, Nobel Prize-winning physicist Scientists cannot express the mechanics of the cosmos, or the odds that life on other water and oxygen-rich planets exists, in a way that believers could accept. Even though Earth is an infinitesimal speck of dust in the immensity of the cosmos, believers say that God made the world solely for the human race, and life exists only on Earth. Consider the many extraordinarily complex things in the universe-matter, space, and energy. An inconceivable number of atoms came together over billions of years, to form molecules, galaxies, planets, and cells—this is not something the human mind can wrap itself around. To understand this tiny island in space, Earth, is beyond its range. We would need a mathematical physicist, such as Professor Edward Witten, to explain just a part of it. Surely, many more unknown features form the foundation of the universe, which we cannot even remotely approach. Who are we? Why are we here? Where are we going? These “big questions” have no answer, because they are without foundation. But religious leaders give them a mystical spin. In fact, they depend on unsolved mystery in order to keep science at bay. No one knows what happened a microsecond before the Big Bang, or the answers to subjective questions. By handing it over to some fictional power, we relinquish our ability to chart a course for our lives through this world. This is how we give up an important source of our

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personal power. “Science can’t explain it, because it’s the hand of God!” The how, who, what, or why of the universe matters greatly to millions of people, although they find it hard to settle on an account that everyone is satisfied with. And so they continue to fight “my-faith-isbetter-than-yours” battles. Assigning a transcendent vision of the universe is easy in today’s world. Fertile soil awaits seeds of “new realities because we are forever confronted by the unexplained, even though so many contradictions get in the way. Chief among them is that, while the mystic considers the material world to be created by the hidden hand of God, they do not tell us what gave rise to the hidden hand. In claiming that God designed the world, we are curious about who designed God. When Charles Robert Darwin published his theories on evolution and natural selection in the 17th Century, he rocked the prevailing religious visions. Since then, every generation has tried to overturn his theories. Bible literalists regard Darwinism as a tool of Satan and a Godless society. Nonetheless, the theories of Darwin are unharmed. “What is the origin of it all? ... This is still a mystery. As to the question of the origin of things, man can only wonder and doubt and guess.” Clarence Darrow The intelligent person is ready to let the mystery of existence remain a mystery, knowing that no one can understand the scope of the universe—the multitudes of galaxies, the passage of hundreds of millions of years, etc. How can we trust a member of the clergy or a holy book to know the answers, even though they are unbending in their claim to know where we go upon our demise? We have no choice but to wait and see if they are right. When we will expire, we might find ourselves perched on a fluffy cloud, surrounded by a lustrous light, with virgins in white robes playing harps. Or we may find ourselves reincarnated as Richard Nixon. The experience after our death will, in all

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probability, be the same as it was before the dawning of our consciousness—in other words, utter nonexistence. We could propose a theory for people who yearn for a supernatural account of the world, even if it has to be taken absurd extremes: A wrathful, all-powerful elf, which set loose the machinery of the cosmos, and placed fossils and humanoid vestiges in the earth to confound mankind, is the single, causal entity behind existence. Many people believe that a wrathful, all-powerful God created Earth and the heavens in the last few thousand years, and that fossils are the remains of species that appeared abruptly. Nonetheless, we find in the fossil record an elegant sequence of intermediate stages. In addition, the “design” of most species was hardly intelligent, as more than 99 percent of them are gone. Evolution is the core of modern biology. If we must teach intelligent design (creationism) in public-school science classes, should we also teach alchemy in chemistry classes? What about teaching astrology in astronomy classes? Students are taught about different schools of thought in public school, but religion is not a school of thought. A meaningful discussion of science versus our personal views demands a measure of give and take. However, once the “my brand of superstition is better than yours” takes precedence, we can only talk over one another. The most profound mystery is that the cosmos is manifest in any way. The odds against our existence are awesome, and yet we are alive. Because no one knows how it all came to be, we can stop debating, and get on with the business of being the best people possible. Our salvation does not lie in hollow promises, but in love, rational pleasure, and the satisfaction that comes with building lives of value. The great secret is not a secret: we must seize life with all of our power, in the knowledge that we only get a few years to do it all.

For Further Study
Edell, Dean. Eat, Drink, & Be Merry: America's Doctor Tells You Why the Health Experts Are Wrong: Harper Paperbacks, 2000. Edell, Dean. Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Healthiness: Dr. Dean's Straight-Talk Answers to Hundreds of Your Most Pressing Health Questions: Harper Paperbacks, 2005. Sagan, Carl. The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark: Ballantine Books, 1997. Boyle, T.C. The Road to Wellville: Penguin (Non-Classics), 1994 Kurtz, Paul. Affirmations: Joyful And Creative Exuberance: Prometheus Books, 2005. Kurtz, Paul. The Transcendental Temptation: A Critique of Religion and the Paranormal: Prometheus Books, 1991. Hoffer, Eric. The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements. Harper Perennial Modern Classics; Reissue edition, 2002. Shermer, Michael. Why People Believe Weird Things: Pseudoscience, Superstition, and Other Confusions of Our Time. Owl Books, 2002. Shermer, Michael. How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God. Owl Books, 2003. Nickell, Joe. Looking for a Miracle: Weeping Icons, Relics, Stigmata, Visions & Healing Cures: Prometheus Books, 1999. Nickell, Joe. Entities: Angels, Spirits, Demons, and Other Alien Beings: Prometheus Books, 1995. Randi, James. An Encyclopedia of Claims, Frauds, and Hoaxes of the Occult and Supernatural: St. Martin's Griffin, 1997.

Randi, James. The Faith Healers: Prometheus Books, 1989. Gillette, Penn, Teller. Penn & Teller - Bullshit! – All Seasons - DVD – Showtime Entertainment. Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (CSI) Website: http://www.csicop.org/ Skeptic Magazine Website: http://www.skeptic.com/ Quackwatch Website: http://www.quackwatch.org/ Gary Lee’s Website: http://www.delusion-free.com


				
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