Vaccination is one of the most important and valuable medical treatments our civilisation has ever invented. Possibly only second to Antibiotics. Sadly there are a small group of very vocal people who work to cast doubt on the value, safety and efficacy of this incredibly important medical treatment.
But forget about them, because there is a lot of good information out there, you just need to know where to look. Here are a few websites I recommend starting at:
The quest to find a working ATM was how they ended up, coincidentally, at a 7/11 in Cambridge around the same time it was the scene of an armed robbery, and were spotted on the store security camera.
So these two brothers, who had just set off bombs in a crowded public area a few days earlier, while trying to escape the police by carjacking some random person and stealing money from their bank accounts, just happen across another armed robbery happening. Completely unrelated.
Either this is an astronomically unlikely event, or Boston is like Gotham City without batman, and crime is just around every corner.
rbutr has just made a new change to its methods. It now displays a picture of a random cute animal for 3 seconds before taking users to the rebuttal they have requested. There is even scientific reasoning behind this change!
I just published a new article reviewing an academic paper on the rbutr blog:
Review of The Promise and Peril of Real-Time Corrections to Political Misperceptions by Garret and Weeks
by SHANE on APRIL 17, 2013
Research published in the Computer Supported Cooperative Work (CSCW) Journal shows that apps which highlight incorrect information and provide real time corrections may actually be less effective at changing the minds of people who have a pre-disposition to agree with the incorrect information, than time-delayed correction techniques are.
Here I will review the paper, and then reflect on its findings from the perspective of our efforts (rbutr) to create an alternative system of ‘error correction’ in the form of a semantic linkage between claim-rebuttal webpage pairs.
Rupert Sheldrake has stood on stage at a TEDx conference and listed the 10 dogmas of science:
Dogma 1. Machinistic Universe
Dogma 2. Matter is unconscious (not even we are)
Dogma 3. The laws of nature are fixed
Dogma 4. The total amount of matter and energy is always the same
Dogma 5. Nature is purposeless
Dogma 6. Biological heredity is material
Dogma 7. Memories are stored inside your brain as material
Dogma 8. Your mind is inside your head
Dogma 9. Psychic and Telepathy is impossible
Dogma 10. Mechanistic medicine is the only kind that really works
He didn’t have time to go in to all of these dogmas, but he does expand upon two of them briefly – Dogma 3, and then Dogma 2 – with a story about his brief library-based-research and discussion with a professor to attain his understandings of these ‘dogmas’.
Perhaps he explains this in his book, but in this talk Dr Sheldrake completely fails to explain why it is that science has come up with these dogmas. I mean, religions have dogma because their truths come from a static holy book, or a leader of some kind. But why did ‘Science’ – whatever entity that is exactly – somehow pick and choose its dogmas?
Let’s look at his story about the speed of light. He explains that there were different speeds in the past, and then over time they settled on a speed, and just fixed it at that speed and said it couldn’t change. He doesn’t explain WHY they would arbitrarily decide that the speed of light was constant. There is no holy book to decree it. There is no leader of science who forces scientists to believe it. Why do scientists believe it to be the case? More importantly, why would they ignore the evidence to the contrary which they must surely all by uncovering in the millions of experiments which have been done on light over the last 10 or 20 decades of increasingly sophisticated technological sophistication?
Sheldrake does the same thing with the Gravitational constant. Another story, another accusation of tampering for the purposes of maintaining the dogma, but no explanation for what motivation there is behind the dogmatic belief. WHY would anyone subscribe to a belief like this without a reason? Why would such a claim be set up dogmatically in the first place?
Sheldrake states that “scientists are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the materialist world view” and I think as the talk progresses, he reveals the chasm between the Science, and his position. Because while he wants to paint scientists as brainwashed citizens controlled by a materialistic dogma, the idea that materialism requires Science to dogmatically claim that there are constants is completely absurd. Obviously our materialistic science also involves the theory of evolution, continental drift, and expanding universe to name just a few non-constants. Now if we juxtapose the way Sheldrake has framed Science against Sheldrake’s claims in this talk, you can see that Sheldrake is simply insisting that his ignorance, his personal feelings, and his pre-conceived conclusions are more informing, more important and more accurate than the conclusions reached via the process of scientific concensus over the course of decades.
He complains that scientists don’t even consider that the speed of light may vary. Sadly this claim comes from his ignorance, not from his understanding. He is a biochemist, not a physicist nor even a historian of science. Just like the scientists who are creationists tend to never be biological scientists, and the scientists who are critical of Climate Science are never climatologists, here we have a Biochemist being critical of fundamental physics. The only evidence we really have that all of these scientists who have investigated the speed of light over the years have ‘assumed’ it is a constant is because Dr Sheldrake THINKS that that is what they have done.
This problem is rife in his talk. He regularly declares that scientists has made ‘assumptions’ though in reality it seems to mostly be based on the fact that Dr Sheldrake doesn’t know why it is that scientists reached their conclusions, and has therefore assumed that they assumed it. A little googling will provide you with numerous resources which explain why it is that science has settled on the claim that light and the gravitational constant are indeed constants. This article was particularly good: Have Physical Constants Changed with Time? I like it mostly because of this quote:
Over the past few decades, there have been extensive searches for evidence of variation of fundamental “constants.” Among the methods used have been astrophysical observations of the spectra of distant stars, searches for variations of planetary radii and moments of inertia, investigations of orbital evolution, searches for anomalous luminosities of faint stars, studies of abundance ratios of radioactive nuclides, and (for current variations) direct laboratory measurements.
Which of course completely contradicts Dr Sheldrake’s entire claim – that scientists don’t question the dogmas. Sorry Dr Sheldrake, but just because the questioning of the ‘dogma’ continues to yield the same results over and over, and just because you don’t WANT those results, does not mean that no one is questioning them.
“Why don’t Laws of nature evolve in an evolving universe? “
Because that is not what we have found. No one arbitrarily decided to make it that way. There was no meeting of the head conclave of the sciences, where they all sat down and decided “Lets tell everyone the laws of our evolving universe are constant! That will be hilarious!” Evidence is why scientists are quietly confident that the laws are constant. They haven’t changed! Simple as that.
I’m not going to spend much time on this. I don’t even need to take a position on it – he wants it to be scientific, so all it needs is to be falsifiable, and then do research which could falsify it. Find a way to block the morphic field, and then bring an animal to gestation without it. Or much simpler, actually demonstrate the example he gave on stage of rats on the other side of the planet learning a trick faster, because a rat near you learned a trick. Simple. DO the research, prove it beyond statistical error and confirmation bias, allow other people to repeat the proof. Done. Nobel prize secured.
Science is simple, and it works. Frustratingly, when people like Dr Sheldrake decide that their hypothesis MUST BE TRUE, then the scientific method continues to contradict their pre-chosen conclusion, instead of giving up on the hypothesis, they start attacking science. Very sad. Very destructive.
Sensing things looking at you
Shortly after saying that consciousness doesn’t “Seem” to be in your head – a great method of discerning reality from what is just, you know, in your head – Dr Sheldrake then explains how he ‘thinks’ that our perceptions are projected out and touch the things which are being perceived. He thinks it probably evolved in a predator-prey relationship, where those that could sense better will survive better. What a great falsifiable hypothesis! Shame it lacks any supporting evidence once again!
Of all the species studied, never once have any of them been identified which react because of being gazed upon. Think of Lions stalking a herd of Buffalo. That pride of Lions lay there looking at the buffalo for a long time and the Buffalo don’t react until they see the Lions. Think of the creatures like frogs, lizards and fish who carefully line up its prey, then shoot a tongue or spout of water at them – that prey certainly doesn’t seem to be put off by the predator looking at them.
Worse than that though, if you consider the notion that perhaps just some species evolved this sensing trait – then the predator species trying to hunt them will most likely have to evolve a counter-trait. Hunting with their eyes closed, for example. They could change to Sonar – now there is a sense which definitely does touch the prey…nothing the prey can do about it though, they are flying or swimming as fast as they can already! Maybe instead they could rely on hearing and smell – something dogs do a lot of. But I don’t know of any species which relies exclusively on smell and hearing, except for situations where there is no light. So there doesn’t seem to be any benefit to not using light to see with for predator species – as would be expected by Dr Sheldrake’s projection-sensing hypothesis.
But it FEELS like it should be there to him. So he feels justified arguing that it is right, and all of science is wrong until it agrees with his feelings and conclusions.
So when he finishes his talk by observing that the Dogmas are holding science back, what he really means is that the conclusions reached on the decades of research and consideration done by the many thousands of specialised scientists who have come before him are holding science back from simply agreeing with his feelings, and his chosen conclusions. And his own experimentation designed to prove his conclusions, haven’t been compelling enough for other scientists to join him, so clearly Science itself is at fault.
This is what is wrong with Rupert Shaldrake’s TEDx talk.
Well, it looks like i won’t need to rewrite my post from the other week about how men and women are different, because someone has managed to write out basically what I was thinking, and make it sound good already:
It definitely makes some points I didn’t make, and even corrects some things I said (without being about my non-event of an article of course) – but as a doctor who has actually looked at recent studies (and cited them!) in her article, I find myself agreeing with her article much more than I even agree with my own. I like making progress.
Just a quick update from Ao Nang, Krabi, Thailand. We’re 4 days in to our 2 weeks stay here, which is just a stop over on our way back to Australia where I can get back to work with Craig on rbutr. Really excited about getting back to work on that because it has been so long since we have been able to really get any work done on it, and we have had some really good statistics lately in spite of the lack of work and efforts to get publicity. Specifically, last week saw twice as many people as usual adding rebuttals, and we got an article in the Fox News website directly reference rbutr. Oh, and I am also quite excited about having made a contact with a professor who specifically researches computation and programs designed to refute erroneos information online. So there is lots happening there. Can’t wait to see where it all goes.
But for now, it is chill out time in Thailand. Cheap beautiful food, amazing activities, warmth, swimming, massages, rock climbing and kayaking. And probably a few big nights.
Not sure I really have a point for this post. Just thought I would write something while I had a chance. I should be uploading my photos to facebook instead I guess :p
It was back around 2005 I think. I was reading a book called The Field, by Lynne McTaggart, which was explaining how science is starting to show that there is a ‘field’ in the universe which connects everything in a conscious and health-related way. It was dabbling in quantum mechanics and refering to studies related to the memory of water, the ability for people to perform remote healing (with thoughts and/or prayer), and even went in to the potential for tapping this field to draw free energy from it.
It was an intriguing book, and I found myself, quite proudly I will admit, thinking of how all of ‘those skeptics’ out there wouldn’t read a book like this.
“They would probably dismiss it out of hand. Arrogant jerks. Not me. I’m open minded, and willing to give anything a go. Afterall, who is to say that we can’t draw power from quantum fluctuations? Seems reasonable enough to me! You know, that is what is wrong with those skeptics – they dismiss ideas too quickly without really giving them a chance. How do you know you won’t miss an amazing breakthrough because you dismissed it before you gave it a chance??!? Better to be open minded and give everything a chance…” I found myself thinking…
It is funny what a few more years of open minded thinking and genuine investigation will do to you. I have no become one of those arrogant jerks. At least, that is how I am perceived by people who haven’t yet completed the journey I have.
You see, at the time I was reading the book, I was studying Molecular Biology at university. Since completing my one year full time research in a lab, I have also gone on to teach first second and third year university student lab techniques and basic science. So I was able to really engage with one part of the book directly – the section which discussed the amazing research done by Jacques Benveniste, which claimed that water had a memory, and that when serially diluted to infintesimal amounts, the activity of the ingredients would increase. The book claimed that his research had demonstrated it. I could actually go and access his published papers. I could actually test the claims. More importantly, I understood exactly what was being claimed, and was able to consider it in an informed, detailed manner.
And unfortunately, it was pretty clear that the whole thing was a load of shit.
Basically, the claim was that one of the most basic, constantly run of the mill aspects of scientific daily life – that if decreasing activity with dilutions, suddenly reversed itself at some mystical magical dilution point. To help visualise this, here is a line graph of the basic principle:
As you dilute an active reagent, it has less activity!
So basically, if you have some molecule which reacts in some measurable way, then when you dilute the original sample to half concentration, you get half as much activity out of the same volume. der right? If you use half as much detergent on your dishes, it has half as much cleaning activity! Try using 1/10 the amount of detergent next time you wash up. Then try doing taking 10ml out of the sink, and using that to provide the detergent for the follow load of dishes. Obviously, the activity of the detergent is going to become useless. There simply isn’t enough to do anything.
So anyway, the claim was that if you keep doing this, suddenly, water would remember its active agent, and would act as if it had it in it. It would ‘remember’ the active agent, and be active itself. Basically, the claim was that it would do this:
dilute something far enough, and it gets more active again!
This was the claim. Dilute an active agent far enough, and the water itself suddenly starts being active again, despite the fact that there is actually zero particles of the active agent in it.
The book very clearly made it sound like this research had been done, had been demonstrated, and was an amazing break through. not only did water have a memory, but apparently it could be activated over the phone. Hooray. Praise science!
Unfortunately, no one else has ever been able to replicate the findings. And this principle is so easy to test, that really, anyone can do it. It just doesn’t work. It is false. it is wrong, and it is a lie to act like there is something here. There isn’t. This is the fact. But when I read the book, I had no idea that this was the supposed principle behind Homeopathy. I had no preconceived notions. I wasn’t dismissing anything out of hand. I had no idea how homeopathy was claimed to work, and I read the entire thing in good faith. It sounded fantastic, and I wanted to believe it. It just failed to live up to its claims in the end.
I had an open mind. I approached it genuinely. And in the end, with investigation, and a reasonable approach, it was 100% clear that the whole concept was made up. Someone lied. Simple. So now, whenever someone talks to me about the memory of water, I feel very confident in my appraisal: it is nonsense. Complete rubbish, based on wishful thinking with zero science to back it up. And by extension, homeopathy falls apart without this most surreal claim. So that, combined with numerous other events and readings and discussions I have had over the past 6 or so years leave me in a position where I feel justified at concluding: homeopathy is nonsense.
So now I am a closed minded jerk skeptic.
And that was just the memory of water part of the book. Around the same time I spent an hour next to my uncle’s wife in a car talking to her about her psychic powers. She is a real psychic. She gets paid to do psychic readings, she has a slot on the radio – she even TEACHES people how to be psychic. She is the real deal. I wanted to believe. I wanted her to give me something, something real, something to show me that she really could …read minds? see the future? whatever it is that psychics are meant to be able to do. I really wanted it!
Instead I found out that she just lets her mind wander, and lets images come to them and tells people what she sees. It was all underwhelming at the time, and I left feeling pretty meh about the whole thing. Again, in the years since then I have come a long way in my education and understanding of the world. I have learned about psychology and the human mind, and all of its terrible terrible failings. The studies which have shown how susceptible people are to believing things, and assenting to perceived authority figures. About people filling in gaps, and detecting patterns where there are none. I have watched Derren Brown and other mentalists demonstrate the techniques which psychics use (whether they realise they use them or not), and do so far better than any psychics can. I have seen too many of the most famous psychics be shown up as frauds by investigators like James Randi. I have seen too much. I have learned too much. I didn’t start out closed minded. I didn’t decide psychics were bullshit. I started out hoping to be shown something real. I wanted to believe. The evidence, the facts, and the information just got in the way.
So now I am an arrogant jerk skeptic again. So closed minded….
And the person who lent this book to me way back then was actually reading it because of the implications about power generation. See he was an entrepreneur and home inventor. He had invented a power generation system in his garage and was attempting to make generators from it. You may have seen similar generators online – they use magnets and coils and generate more power than you put in them to get them started. I watched this thing working in his garage, and he showed me dials showing how the voltage coming out of it was higher than the input…. and I knew that you could change the voltage without there being more power, but fact is that I am not an electrical engineer, and I am quite ignorant about electricity in general, so I couldn’t really question it. He was sure they were generating power, so I trusted him. He wasn’t an electrical engineer either. Or a physicist. But those egg heads didn’t understand it. They were all too invested in their paradigm, and couldn’t see the truth when it was put in front of them.
I believed him. I wanted it to be true. I mean, seriously – a free energy generator. And I know the usual complaint is that you can’t get energy for free! Well yeah, but solar panels can harvest energy from UV radiation, so who is to say that this generator isn’t harvesting energy from ‘the Field’ like the book implied? Seriously – it is a valid point. Maybe one day we will invent a power generation system which takes power from the micro fluctuations in quantum particles. Well at least so my completely ignorant mind still wants to believe. Anyway, how awesome would it be to know the person who invented cheap free energy for the world? You know, like Nikola Tesla did before he was sabotaged….
But for the seven years that I was involved in this persons life – the whole time of which he was working on this project – one thing continually bothered me. If it really generated power – why wasn’t he using it to power things? I believe there were reasons, related to the dirty outputs or something (fluctuating waves or something – again, more shit I didn’t understand!) but seriously, we’re looking at going on to almost 10 years now, and I have still heard nothing about any progress on this project. I don’t believe they have any power units being produced, nor have they expanded in to large scale power stations.
I am disappointed. I still want to believe in it. I still want it to be true. But there is a point at which you have to stop living in the fairytale world where wishing things would be true makes a difference, and accept that the likeliest thing here, is that they simply don’t understand the facts of the situation. That they keep finding excuses to justify failure, when the experts simply understood the entire situation from the beginning.
This is really one of the biggest things I have learned over the years as I worked my way towards miserable old arrogant jerk skeptic, is that at the end of the day, someone who is genuinely knowledgable about a subject, can dismiss ideas out of hand sometimes. Or if not dismiss ideas, can at least call Bullshit on someone attempting to spin jargon, and getting it all outright wrong.
Being somewhat well trained in biology and philosophy and the history of science, I have studied evolution more than most people out there. I understand the biology of it, I understand the philosophy behind it, and its history. I have literally studied all of those elements, as well as engaged with every other aspect of it in a more casual discussion format. So I get evolution. Really well.
So when someone comes up and says that Humans were placed here by Aliens, I can VERY confidently dismiss that idea completely out of hand. Because I know how much evidence we have for the fact that humans evolved from apes. The idea that we were placed on this planet with so many nearly identically related species, with intermediate fossils scattering the area clearly found to be our local origin point, our historic migratory pattern our of africa, always found with epoch appropriate technology, all discovered with numerous lines of completely independant verification – when you actually understand this stuff, and know that there is well founded evidence behind it all, then dismissing some guys idea is the only reasonable thing to do. It is not reasonable to pay their ignorance of the evidence the same credibility as the weight of knowledge of evidence on the side of the expert. This is not arrogance, this is reality.
It is like taking your car to a mechanic because it broke down after you put sugar in the fuel tank and arguing that sugar is a carbon based material, like petrol, therefore it works, so therefore it must be something else which caused it to break down – and then getting indignant when the mechanic out of hand dismisses your claims. How dare that mechanic be so arrogant as to ignore your arguments? He should at least check to make sure other things aren’t broken! He clearly hasn’t seen the same information as you. Maybe you should take him to your sugar-as-fuel youtube videos, and he will see the light!
No. The professional understands more than you do. His knowledge isn’t brain washing. It is experience. It is accumulated knowledge of a reliable and trustworthy nature.
Yes it is true that sometimes people can be self-assured and be wrong – but as a whole, as we move forwards in scientific research, these areas are getting smaller and smaller and more and more detail orientated. Scientific paradigm shifts of the sort seen back in Galileo’s day and with Darwin happened in the past because the scientific bodies were establishing themselves then. Science, as a human endeavour, was being born. There were birthing pains as the old ways of dogma (typically religious) were being over thrown. Yes dogma still exists, and yes some people are still arrogant. but as a whole, NO, evolution is not just as realistic as creationism and not just as likely to be overthrown by some new theory. NO, atomic theory is not just as likely to be over thrown by a new theory as the theory of phlogiston was. Or as Isaac Assimov very clearly argued in this great paper, our understanding of the shape of the earth is not just as likely to be wrong as a belief in the earth being flat was.
We are not swapping one arbitrary belief for another – we are gradually ratcheting our understanding of the universe closer and closer to the truth with accumulating evidence.
Skepticism is, in my opinion, just a label for people who, like me, have been through a journey where we all end up realising this same simple fact. That evidence doesn’t change. And when you actually consider all of the evidence together, the scientific leaders of each niche field actually do know what they are talking about. Far better than anyone else. No one of them is right. But the peer-system of research, review and revision works really well over the long run. And things which have been around for a while, and independently verified and tested – they are pretty much here to stay, tried and tested, facts.
And when someone comes out of one field, and claims to know more about another field than the people in that field – if the people in that field dismiss their claims out of hand, it is usually because they are dismissable. They are nonsense. Being a doctor does not equip you with knowledge about quantum mechanics, no matter how smart you are. If you want to disrupt another science, then you still need to go through the process of studying it and genuinely understanding the history and research, and reptition which has got it to the situation it is in. Not just make wild statements and expect people to accept them because you have some authority in another field.
Sadly though, the general public have no idea of this, so when people like Deepak Chopra do exactly this, declare “I am a doctor! I must therefore be very smart” and then proceed to talk about things related to quantum mechanics despite having been told numerous times by professional physicists that what he says doesn’t make sense, and simply doesn’t work that way, the public have no way of understanding this conflict, and so trust him (he IS a doctor afterall!), and thus buy his books, attend his talks, and make him shit loads of money, while he flat out lies to them.
So here we are again, i am that arrogant jerk of a skeptic who outright dismisses someone who lots of people love and adore and surely isn’t doing any harm etc. But fuck Deepak. He is an arsehole who peddles bullshit for profit at the hands of ignorance and he knows it.
I have believe in, and slowly been educated out of so many false beliefs I feel like I should feel ashamed. I feel like a fraud skeptic whenever I go to conventions. It seems like everyone else has always been so smart and not fallen for this shit. But I kept trying things. My current girlfriend has Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS). This is a disease that is so poorly understood, that there is no concensus even where to do the research on it! What do you do when trying to treat a disease which has no known cause, and no known treatment? You try everything. To this day, while I am steeped in my skeptical position, I still encourage her to try things which I am 99% sure won’t do shit, but fuck it right – maybe the placebo affect will help at least? So we have been trying variations of vitamin and dietary supplements. We even tried buying an oxygen machine to try pumping a higher concentration of oxygen in to her lungs. We went to a clinic where she was taught the Emotional Freedom Technique – which basically comes down to tapping on parts of your body whenever you feel stressed, in order to reduce your stress.
It sounds like complete BS from the outset. But you know what – I still give it the benefit of the doubt. I still wonder whether the simple act of distraction can play a significant role and reducing stress and anxiety – two experiences which are very much of the mind, and as such could be distracted from. And maybe if we could distract anxious and stressed minds from their anxieties and stress, maybe that would calm them, and in doing so, stop any cascade affects which come from the stressed state and cause harmful states in the body? Maybe this treatment will help?
But here is the real problem isn’t it? This is one of those areas where BS peddlers get in: We are talking about a subject which exists in an area of genuine ignorance. Not only do I really really not understand how the brain works, and how physical activities and chosen behavioural patterns affects the brain, let alone how the brain and activities in it can cascade down in to real physical chemical changes in the body – but sadly, neither does anyone much else. Doctors know a lot more than I do, but this brain-body-psychology cross over is still just too damn complicated. This is why disease like CFS and depression and many others are such a large problem. If we don’t understand the system in its natural state, how the fuck do we fix it when it is broken?
So I will keep hoping these people who claim to have a cure are right – but the reality is that they are just making shit up, and selling it without any real evidence. And they get away with it because hope is a powerful thing, and because the placebo affect exists, and people can’t differentiate correlation from causation. Oh, and they attribute causation to whatever they want to, rather than attempting to identify the actual cause. So when someone does come out of a bad CFS period, they attribute it to whatever new treatment they had started, despite the fact that it may well have been a spontaneous remission, or a result of a lot of contributing factors.
This is why science matters. Rigorous, independent investigation which identifies the real causes of things make a difference. They progress understanding, and create repeatable technolgies. Cures. Fuels which work. Microwaves which cook. Data transmission around the world.
While people who sell lies for profit undermine the evidence based system which works. By tricking the public in to thinking that their ignorance is just as good as the knowledge of experts, it makes a public question the value of science, resulting in political weakness. Science gets less funding. Education gets less focus. Society stagnates and we all suffer. I wish we had a machine which could do one of those ‘Ghost of Chistmases yet to come’ deals and show what the world would be like if we really did just throw our hands up in the air and say that the Deepak chopras of the world had the same claim to knowledge and information as all of the actual experts.
So yeah, now I have become one of those people which I once fancied myself better than. In my ignorance I was sure I was better than the people who had ‘made up their minds’ and were ‘arrogant’ and missing opportunities. Now, in my state of less ignorance, I am much more clearly aware of the flaws of so many more claims that I can cut through the crap much faster. With less ignorance, I see that most skeptics are not close minded – they are just more informed. Because sometimes information really can exclude possibilities!
I know I am not alone in doing this – holding beliefs which you have simply never thought about. In fact, I am pretty sure it is the default position of pretty much everyone. We all get raised a certain way, and we get told certain things, we read them in newspapers, we hear them repeated on sitcoms and panelist shows – and for the most part they really don’t matter… so we just accept them as true.
This thread is dedicated to chronicling little awakenings of thought on these previously un-thought-of factoids in my life. This list is not meant to absolutely conclusively say that these popular-claims are definitely wrong. My point is simply that I had never thought of them before. Now that I have though, I DO happen to think they are wrong, and I will argue why i do so. But by no means am I certain that I am right! I have only just started to consider the situation!
Different Alcohols Cause Different Types of Drunk
I have always thought this to be true. Heard it from many people. Lots of people will agree when you talk about Rum being a violent alcohol for example. I have heard several independent people tell me that Rum makes them aggressive. But in realtiy, alcohol is alcohol. The flavouring added to it, and the processes used to derive it don’t change the fact that the thing which makes you drunk, is Ethanol. And it is the same in all alcohols.
The reason there may be some ‘truth’ to it, is because our psychology is far more willing to be told what to do than we wish. Social cues, expectations, and things like that may make people repeat the myth just because they expect it to happen.
There is also a slight chance that the other additives and chemicals may have an impact on the process of getting drunk – but that would be interesting in its own right, and not have anything to do with the alcohol itself.
Men Reach Their Sexual Peak around 18, Women around 30
I feel so stupid writing that. But that is sort of the point of this process – how easy it is to believe things just because you don’t actually think them through. Someone says it, and you don’t care at the time, so you accept it as true. I accepted this pearl of wisdom as true too. But if you actually think about it, it doesn’t make any sense!
I believe this idea is regularly repeated in society because 18 year old boys seem to be so horny while their peers tend to turn them down a lot. While older women seem much more forthcoming sexually. At least, that is the social narrative anyway. That is the perception most people have.
I suspect there may be an element of truth behind it though – just not related to actual biological sexuality. Instead, I suspect that younger girls, in traditional families at least, are raised in such a way that they think it is their duty to be virgins, and pure and all that BS. And anyone who sleeps with more than one boy is a slut etc. While boys don’t get that same lecturing. It isn’t until the girls grow up and out of their upbringing that they realise they have been lied to and tricked, and so finally let their defenses down and start doing what they actually want to do, which is what nearly everyone really wants to do, fuck people.
So I think it is fair enough to look at our society and see horny teenage boys, prudish teenage girls, and then sexually active 30+yo women and also sexually active 30+ yo men, and reach the conclusion which provided our heading above. It is just unfortunate that aside from the social pressures to behave this way, I strongly doubt there is any actual truth to it.
For one thing, why would women evolve to be sexually active at around the same age they could be grandparents? (seriously! Evolutionarily speak, 30 is grandparent age since you should be having children as soon as you reach puberty which is quite often 12yo!). Secondly, in most societies ever studied, it tends to be older men with younger girls than the other way around. So why would our biological functions directly contradict our most reliable species-wide actions?
No, this idea makes no sense at all. It seems clear that males and females reach their sexual peaks at the same time – shortly after puberty, right when their bodies are at their most healthy, strong and capable of providing food for new offspring, bearing those offspring and raising those offspring for another 15 or so years without dying.
A petition has been started to re-legalise cannabis in Australia. I have signed it, and I think every other person in Australia should sign it too. There are so many reasons to legalise it that it makes me angry that anyone even needs to argue the point any more. A quick summary of some of my favourite facts:
There are zero known deaths from Cannabis use
It is less addictive than Tobacco, Alcohol and even Caffeine!
It has numerous known medical uses and helps improve the lives of millions of people suffering with debilitating diseases
It is significantly less harmful than alcohol and tobacco (and many many other legal substances too), with only two negative things associated with it, a lowering of IQ when used by teenagers (only in teenagers), and it may amplify the experience of schizophrenia (only the mental experience of it – while softening all of the other problems associated with the disease).
And many more which just get harder and harder to put in to dot point summary. Like incarceration issues, cost to police issues vs revenue from taxation. And the advantages of regulation vs prohibition – the end of drug cartels… sooo many damn things is just makes me angry writing them all.
Anyway, what I really wanted to do was just list 3 great documentaries I have seen over the past few years which make all of these points far better than I do. WATCH THEM. Then help us make the world a better place.
Probably the best, most comprehensive video on the state of Marijuana legalisation in Canada and the USA, the Union was released in 2007 and so is a little out of date now that Washington state has actually legalised marijuana, but is otherwise still perfectly relevant. Particularly since the USA federal government still considers Marijuana use something which deserves prison sentences.
When We Grow
A shorter documentary made on a tiny budget for the UK audience. When We grow was made to raise awareness of the same marijuana issues faced in the UK (without the insane prison problem the USA face). A great documentary and absolutely worth watching as well:
Breaking the Taboo
Breaking the Taboo is the most recent video, and in looking to add the full video to this post I have found out unfortuantely, that they have taken the full version offline. It looks like that made it available for a short time just to promote political action. Now the documentary has moved to a new phase of hosting live screenings of it in a film festival type arrangement.
So instead, here is a link to their Youtube Page. In short though, Breaking the Taboo is less about Marijuana itself, and more about the international war on drugs and the harm it has done. It has numerous world leaders in it showing their support for ending the war on drugs including Bill Clinton, Richard Branson, and the presidents of Switzerland and Brazil from the late 90s. It is narrated by Morgan Freeman.
What About Australia?
I don’t know of any documentaries from Australia yet. The petition which started this post used the UK film to make its point, and of course, it is as good as we need really. The differences between their situation and ours are mostly minimal. But I would be interested in seeing a professionally made documentary like these ones being done for Australia and showing our own failures, and the harm it causes us.
If you do want to vote for a serious party which will actively fight to legalise cannabis use in Australia, have a look at the policies of the Sex Party.
I would love to hear from anyone who disagrees with the idea of legalising Cannabis. What reasons do you have for your stance?