SGU Episode 54

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SGU Episode 54
August 2nd 2006
(brief caption for the episode icon)

SGU 53                      SGU 55

Skeptical Rogues
S: Steven Novella

B: Bob Novella

R: Rebecca Watson

E: Evan Bernstein

P: Perry DeAngelis

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Show Notes
SGU Forum


You're listening to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe, your escape to reality.

S: Hello and welcome to the Skeptics' Guide to the Universe. Today is Wednesday, August 2nd, 2006, and this is your host, Steven Novella, president of the New England Skeptical Society. With me tonight are th skeptical rogues Joining me this week are Bob Novella...

B: Hello everyone.

S: Rebecca Watson...

R: Hey everybody.

S: Perry DeAngelis...

P: Baby it's hot outside.

S: ..and Evan Bernstein.

E: Hello everybody.

S: How are you guys all doing?

R: Screw outside. It's hot inside.

E: Surviving this heat somehow.

P: Victim of global warming.

R: You admitted it. I'm so glad we got that on tape.

E: 100 years will be victims of global cooling.

R: Yeah that's not helping me now.

P: It's sure isn't.

News Items[edit]

Creationism Museum open in Kentucky (0:58)[edit]

S: So a lot of creationism in the news this past week.

B: Good news. Some good news.

S: Some good some bad.

E: Some good. Yeah.

S: Firstly the Creationism Museum has opened in Kentucky.

R: Is it just one room with a big sign that says god did it?

S: That what I think of covered it. But they actually it's a pseudo-scientific museum. They have exhibits with bones and stuff but of course it doesn't mean anything. The exhibit apparently cost about $25 million.

R: Good.

B: 21 million of that was donated. Donated.

E: Wow.

B: Can you imagine? Here's $21 million.

S: By one guy?

B: No. No one guy did. I think the most is one guy did a million. But otherwise most of that was donated.

P: Still pretty handsome.

B: They're going to open up and they're not going to be in debt at all.

E: Ann Coulter donated the rest.

S: It is consistent with young earth creationism. So it is the museum's theme is at the earth is less than 10,000 years old.

B: So the most extreme, the most extreme form of creationism.

S: Yeah, basically. Basically. Quote from the founder Ken Ham said: "If the Bible is the word of God and its history really is true, that's our presupposition or axiom. And we are starting there."

E: There you go.

S: Starting with the conclusion.

R: There's some big ifs.

S: That is a big if. That's a big if. So Kentuckyians can or visitors tourists to Kentucky can visit the museum.

R: Congratulations Kentucky.

P: So we go pull Cindy Sheehan on them and pick it the joint.

S: What would be the point though?

P: You know, the news coverage on channel 54 in Kentucky.

B: That would be funny to do it. We'd have to come up with some very creative signs, very funny signs. It would be funny I think.

P: It could.

B: I would do it. If it was nearby, I'd do it for an afternoon with everybody.

S: If the purpose was ridicule, that would be worth while.

R: I think we can all get behind a good ridicule session. Sure.

E: No, not us.

S: I like to hit the closing quote of Ham in the article. "Americans just aren't gullible enough to believe that they came from a fish." I guess he's right.

E: Wait a minute. You guys saying I came from a fish? Is that what you're saying?

B: That one statement wipes out all of evolutionary theory.

R: I think that darn it.

B: What else needs to be said?

R: Well congratulations, Kentucky. For finally beating out Kansas is most ignorant state. Round of applause for Kentucky.

E: That's enough. That's enough.

S: Speaking of Kansas, Kansas actually is rebounding a bit. They're coming off the ropes.

R: Yep. Number 49.

P: Skyrocketing.

S: Kansas voters ousted a lot of the creationists from their school board. In the recent elections.

P: Good for them, good for them.

S: They basically we're tired of being made fun of as a bunch of yokels and ignorant losers. So they decided to get rid of some of the people on the school board who were basically following their religious ideology by trying to oust evolution from Kansas public schools. Last November, the Kansas Board of Education tried to rewrite the testing standards for public school to incorporate language that suggests that evolution is a controversial theory and to promote intelligent design. Whenever these things come into court, at least in the last few years, they have fortunately been found to be unconstitutional. The most recent and significant being the Kurt Smiller versus Dover decision from last year. This happened again about four or five years ago when Kansas Board of Education voted to remove references to evolution and the Big Bang from their science standards. Then a couple years later or the following year, the conservative Christian majority was voted off. Was more moderates were put in place. But then the public lost interest and then the following year, they gained the majority again and then immediately started working towards putting in language critical of evolution or promoting intelligent design and the science standards.

R: It's like a fungal growth.

S: It is.

R: Spray it away and then the little bits left and start creeping back in.

S: That's right.

P: It's a roller coaster of stupidity.

S: So once again, the moderates are in the majority on the Kansas school board. We'll see how long that lasts. But you're right, the creationists never go away. They may be pushed back by public opinion temporarily.

P: It's all part of a general weakening of the extreme religious rights, certainly in our education system. I certainly hope so.

E: Here's a quote from the article. "I feel like if you give two sides of something, most people are intelligent enough to make up their own minds."

S: Well, that's the Teach the Controversy tactic. But of course, that's intellectually dishonest because there is no controversy. It also assumes that the two sides are equal.

P: There's science and there's theology. They're not comparable.

S: And only science should be taught in science classrooms.

P: Here, here. Teach creationism at Sunday school.

S: Perhaps we should start a movement to teach science in the Sunday school in religious classes?

P: That's not a bad idea.

S: Hey, Teach the Controversy.

R: Teach the Controversy, that's right.

S: We've got to teach both sides of people who believe that you're faith is wrong.

R: I think we should also talk about Thor and Apollo.

S: The final news item was also in the evolution theme this week for the news items. Ann Coulter. You remember we spoke a few weeks ago about in her new book, Godless, she spends the last two chapters basically attacking evolution. And she didn't really bring anything new to this entire discussion. She simply reiterated all of the standard classical creationist lies and nonsense. That's been around for decades. There are no transitional species. Biological evolution cannot explain how the eye was formed. The Cambrian explosion disproves evolution. I love that one. The Cambrian explosion basically occurred about 580 million years ago. That's when multicellular life first got big and complex enough and started to have hard parts that fossilized. So when that happened, life first appears in the fossil record. There had to be some first period of time when life started fossilizing and therefore started creating a fossil record. So of course there's an explosion of fossils where older strata don't have any fossils. So they take this "sudden appearance" of life in the fossil record as evidence of creation but of course we're not talking about horses and chimpanzees occurring in the fossil record. We're talking about one to two inch tiny bizarre looking, very primitive multicellular life forms. I don't know how they could possibly say that that is evidence of everything being created 10,000 years ago.

B: And Steve, isn't it the case though that it's not just a matter that they evolved hard shells and things that were more easily fossilized but also because evolution kind of found out this new idea, it just exploded because it was such a good idea, such a beneficial evolution that there was just an explosion of life and that also is a reason why it seems to explode at that point.

S: Although the explosion on geological timescales, which means a few million years.

B: Right.

P: These arguments are all so old and stale.

B: But not the eye one. Not the eye one, but the evolution of the eye. I've never heard of that one before.

R: Yeah, no that's fresh and new.

S: That one goes back to Darwin. I mean, all the way back to the beginning. But I mean, so this is Coulter-

P: Pathetic.

S: Ann Coulter was on the 700 Club recently and it's always very funny in my opinion when they're in within a friendly audience, they really let their hair down and say what they really think they're not trying to sugarcoat it at all. Not that Ann Coulter does in any case. But she really was so obnoxious on the show, just the the transcript is interesting. She says, for example, "There is no evidence for it" referring to Darwinism. "Not the evidence Darwin expected to find it is what scientists refer to as a pseudo science. There is nothing they will accept to disprove Darwin's theory. It's like tarot card reading."

E: It's 180 degrees. Really, it's just a totally upside down.

S: The idea that evolution cannot be falsified is again been around for decades and it's total nonsense. There were dozens of ways that evolution could have been falsified after Darwin introduced the theory and they all went evolution's way. Every single opportunity. The discovery of genetics, for example. If hereditary didn't work the way it did, that could have falsified evolution. For example.

E: Hey, look here. Coulter puts down a challenge. She says, by the way, they meaning the liberals and believers in evolution, "They haven't argued with me directly on this subject. I mean, the left really hates me, but no one seems to want to argue about the Darwinism." Well, come on on the show Ann and we'll be happy to have a frank discussion with you.

R: Maybe because she's a moron?

S: I formally challenge Ann Coulter to a public debate on evolution.

E: Come on Ann.

S: She's trying to make it sound like the evolutionists are running and hiding from her because they don't know how to deal with all of her new sophisticated arguments. It's total nonsense. If anything, she's being ignored because she's not a scientist because her arguments are decades old and have already all been falsified. But you know, if she wants to, if she's really going to try to go that route and claim that no one's willing to debate her, I'll debate her.

E: Yeah. She's also like saying, no one willing to debate me on the existence of Santa Claus. So that must mean that the.

S: Santa Claus really exists.

B: Steve, man, that would make my entire year. I would get popcorn and sit down and just enjoy that so much.

E: It would be our most popular podcast. I would wager.

S: Right. Or whatever. Any form. Doesn't have to be on our podcast.

P: It'd be wonderful to get her.

S: Sure.

P: A little tough, I don't think she'd expect many, many book sales of Godless out of her podcast.

R: I get the feeling to be like debating a brick wall though. And that's giving a little too much credit to brick walls.

S: Right.

P: She would just gallop. She wouldn't...

R: I imagine her last resort, or it would be something like, well Darwin's gay or Darwin caused 9-11.

E: Oh, my.

R: She's an idiot.

S: They do resort to basically ad hominem attacks against Darwin, you know? Well, anyway, if if a debate with her ever happens, it'll be fun. She'll be easy picking. I'm sure she has no idea what she's talking about.

P: Not scientifically.

S: She can't get away with that challenge trying to make it sound like we're afraid to debate her. It's nonsense.

Questions and E-mails (12:26)[edit]

S: Well, we have a lot of emails this week. We don't have any guests this week. Everyone is surprisingly on vacation for the summer. So everyone's like, yeah, call me in the fall. So we'll have a great fall line up. But we do have a lot of great emails, a lot of good topics. So we definitely will use the time to get caught up on some of the emails that we're getting.

Exorcism (12:45)[edit]

First off, I love the show, easily one of my favorite podcasts. Its nice to get my weekly dose of skepticism, especially during the summer when I am away from college. I am just wondering what a skeptic's opinion on demonic possession and exorcisms is. I have heard some very convincing stories from Christian friends and the media that seem to defy explanation. Assuming they aren't outright lying, how do you explain this phenomenon? It would seem that mental illness can't account for every case. I don't think this has been mentioned before, but I could be wrong as I have not been able to listen to all of the older shows. Anyways, keep up the excellent work and look forward to hearing from.
PS- Steve, you sound kind of like Ray Romano
–Chris Boven Michigan, United States

S: The first comes from Chris Boven in Michigan and Chris writes: "First off, I love the show, easily one of my favorite podcasts. It's nice to get my weekly dose of skepticism, especially during the summer when I am away from college. I am just wondering what a skeptics opinion on demonic possession and exorcisms is. I have heard some very convincing stories from Christian friends in the media that seem to defy explanation. Assuming they aren't outright lying, how do you explain this phenomenon? It would seem that mental illness can't account for every case. I don't think this has been mentioned before, but I could be wrong as I have not been able to listen to all of the older shows. Anyway, keep up the excellent work and look forward to hearing from you. Chris, P.S. Steve, you sound like a kind of like Ray Romano."

E: Hmm.

B: Heard that before.

R: Did you hear that before Steve?

S: Only since I've been doing this podcast, he's a third e-mailer to make that comment. I don't know that I buy it.

P I don't hear it. Now then, it's unfortunate that Chris did not include one of the cases that defied explanation. I haven't encountered a single one that defied even cursory. Even a cursory glance at it defied.

S: Yeah, but I think, but you're referring to cases with documentation, which is absolutely correct.

P: Of course.

S: And I think that he must be referring to cases where people are just reporting an eyewitness testimony.

P: So, if it's just anecdotal then?

S: Yeah, there's anecdotal. The two things have absolutely nothing to do with each other. I've looked into this as we all have. I've reviewed dozens of hours of taped exorcisms from local groups that perform them. There have been a few that have been broadcast on TV about 15 years or so ago. There was one broadcast on 2020. This one, I think, is typical of the exorcisms. In that, on the one hand, you have the hype surrounding the case, the running commentary, which is trying to play it up as supernatural things happening. This was a young girl, a teenage girl named Gina. The Catholic Church gave you OK to do it in an exorcism and broadcast it on 2020. If you just look at the video, if you just look at what's happening, not what the voice over is saying is happening, it's totally pathetic. My favorite bit on that show is when they comment that Gina was displaying superhuman strength. Meanwhile, there's literally two old ladies holding her down.

P: Catholic exorcisms are excruciatingly boring.

S: There are boring.

R: Yeah, where's all the vomiting and the heads twisted around?

P: Oh, they are horrible.

S: The subjects, the people who are having the exorcism done to them, seriously, I've seen total amateurs just pretending to be whatever possessed by a demon do much better job than these people. It's pathetic. It really is. Here's a quote from, again, from the 2020 show. They describe Gina as threshing about making ugly faces, yelling words that sound like in quote, booga booga. She literally said booga booga. I mean, oh, that's convincing.

P: What's that guy on Bugs Bunny? Bugs booga booga. Wasn't that, was this the same thing?

E: Obviously, he was possessed, too.

P: Well, look, like many of the things we discuss on this show, this can also be very dangerous. And I have taken the time and effort to go out there and put together a top ten list of the top ten exorcisms resulting in injury or death. So from the Home Office of the Cheshire, Connecticut of the New England Skeptical Society we have the top ten exorcisms resulting in injury or death.

R: Somehow I think this is going to be slightly more depressing than your average Letterman top ten. But go on.

S: We'll have the top ten on our notes page. Why don't you just read the top five.

P: Number five, five-year-old Abel Bernie of Staten Island was killed by her grandmother, by her grandmother and mother during an attempt to exercise a demon that they believe caused Amy to have tantrums. Not being satisfied was vast quantities of mere water. These good women tie Abel down, forced to drink a mixture of ammonia, vinegar, cayenne pepper, black pepper, and olive oil. They taped her mouth shut-

S: Eeew, olive oil?

P: -to prevent her from spitting out the mixture. And she expired. Police charged the women with second degree murder and both were sentenced between 12 to 25 years.

Number four, in July 1996, five-year-old Brennan Specker of Baldwin Park, Los Angeles, was beaten to death during an exorcism performed by her mother and two of her friends, all three women who were taking methamphetamine, held a girl down and whipped her with a cheesebore for two hours, stripping away several layers of skin and eventually killing her. All three women were convicted of murder.

Number three, in August 1994, Hoda Annebear of England punched their mother to death. The daughters claimed their mother was possessed by a genie and said "incomprehensible things". The daughters were sent to a state mental hospital.

Number two, in May 1994, Lindsay and Janice Gibson were charged with killing their son. Janice had become convinced she was God. Not a mere angel mind you God. And had convinced her husband of this as well. Janice first tried to expel demons from her two-year-old daughter by beating her in the face for ten minutes. When Janice tried to exercise her husband's boss, he called the authorities. However, the doctor refused to sign commitment papers requested by social services as he felt the woman was just a religious fanatic. The next day Janice convinced her family and especially her 12-year-old son was surrounded by demons. She fed them a hearty meal and then forced them to vomit up the just consumed food. She then kicked her son out of the house naked and into the cold. Later, while her husband restrained the boy, Janice beat him repeatedly in the head with, you guessed it, a concrete block. When police arrived, she shouted, quote "He's already dead! We killed him, you stupid man! Just like the first Jesus!" Mr. and Mrs. Gibson were both found not guilty by reason of Follé Audu, a rare psychiatric syndrome of psychosis, particularly a paranoid or delusional belief that is transmitted from one individual to another.

And the number one exorcism resulting in death or injury. In April 1996, Simone Chapaña of Oondin, Thailand agreed to a ritualistic beating of her head in genitalia with a stingray tale. By a shaman to exercise evil spirits. After the exorcism began, she changed her mind and fled, only to be abducted later by the shaman who continued the ritual until Mrs. Chapaña's death. The shaman was charged with murder.

R: Well, thank you, Perry. That was the most depressing thing I think I've ever heard of my life.

S: There's common themes running through that, there's one, of course, is mental illness.

P: The other is it's a family affair.

S: Often they keep it in the family. Chris writes it would seem that mental illness can't account for every case. But it definitely counts for a lot of that. Most of these people have a psychotic disorder. They have schizophrenia or whatever. They incorporate their religious beliefs where their culture or family's religious beliefs into their delusions. And they act out being possessed or they believe the psychotic person may believe that one of their family members is possessed.

P: That's usually what it is. And then it results in them killing them.

S: Now Gina, for example, getting back to the 2020 case just for a second, she was diagnosed with a psychiatric psychotic disorder by a psychiatrist who was, "skeptical" of demonic possession. And although the 2020 show tried to spin the exorcism as "working" because she calmed down after she basically got tired out after a day or so of pretending to be possessed. But she still had to get admitted to a psychiatric hospital for a few weeks and had to get anti-psychotic medication before the exorcism took. So that's a typical kind of story that this is just one phase of an ongoing mental illness that requires often hospitalization and anti-psychotic medication. At other times, the other end of the spectrum is sometimes it's just kids being naughty. And it's just the mother or the parents who are convinced that they're possessed because they just, they throw temperate tantrums they're going through their temporal tooths and that's enough to make, to make their mother think that they're possessed by a demon. So I've seen that too. And that's, talk about boring video. I saw one exorcism where the kids were three kids. The mother was just, it was a true believer. She had her three kids exercise and her description of their behavior was like no worse than my kids. And they were sitting there just being a little fidgety sitting, they thought the whole thing I think was humorous. And nothing happened. Zero happened.

B: I've heard people refer to your kids as little demons.

P: Yeah. A couple of these kids on the list were killed for having tantrums.

S: Tantrums, yeah.

E: Steve, I know someone whose family member claims that their child was possessed by a demon who made the child obese.

S: Yeah. Well, that's the, that's the fad now is using demonic possession to explain all kinds of everyday common ills like gambling or being overweight or abusing medication drugs. You're you're possessed by a demon of gambling or a demon of lust or a demon of gluttony or whatever. So it's like, it's a, that, their version of self-help the quickie self-help method. Want to lose weight? Just exercise your demon of obesity. You don't have to like do that dieting and exercising stuff. Just get a good, good, a good exorcism.

E: Sounds good.

S: And before we leave this topic, I'll just mention that the History Channel is doing a documentary on the history of exorcism and demonic possession, airing some time in October, in time for the Halloween season. And I mentioned this and I know about it because they interviewed me for that show. So you're a humble host, making an appearance on the history channel. So keep an eye out for it. And when I get an air data, I'll mention it.

P: We get to see all twelve of your skeptical seconds?

E: I was going to bet five. We're taking bets as the only second is the use of you.

S: They taped me for about three hours. They'll probably be less than a minute.

R: That's about 3 seconds.

E: Here's what a skeptic said. Well, I think, well, what doctor Novella would have wanted to tell you was blah, blah, blah.

R: Just ask the scientician.

E: Exactly.

PC Follow up (23:38)[edit]

PC is alive and well in Canada, much to the detriment of critical thinking, and honesty.
–Chris Obonsawin, Canada

Hi, enjoyed the podcast, finally you got around to debating in a mature fashion the issues of monkeys vs birds. I would appreciate if your distinguished panel could answer the following important questions too:
Ultra-humanite Vs Hawkgirl
Batman Vs Superman
Ninjas Vs Pirates
Also, Political Correctness is not a uniquely US phenomenon, we have it in Ireland and the UK, although more often you see people railing against 'political correctness gone mad!!' than being particularly PC anyway.
–Gordon McCormick,Ireland

S: Now, last week we asked our listeners what they who do not live in the United States. If political correctness has infected the English speaking world outside of the US, and we got a number of responses. We had a few from Canada, like this one from Chris Obonsowin from Canada, who writes "PC is alive and well in Canada, much to the detriment of critical thinking and honesty." And there were a couple others that also supported that. We also got this one from Gordon McCormick in Ireland, who writes: "Political correctness is not a uniquely US phenomenon. We have it in Ireland and the UK, although more often you see people railing against political correctness gone mad than being particularly PC anyway." So basically, I have both ends of the spectrum, rampant political correctness and the backlash against political correctness, which of course, both of which we have in this country as well. So not surprising that it's not a uniquely US phenomenon, but it is interesting to hear from our listeners abroad.

R: Steve didn't Gordon have another issue he wanted to bring up?

S: He did. His full email is on the notes page, but he did comment also on our Monkeys vs Birds discussion of last week. He wrote: "Hi, enjoyed the podcast. Finally, you got around to debating in a mature fashion the issues of Monkeys vs Birds. I would appreciate if your distinguished panel could answer the following important questions too. Ultra-humanite Vs Hawkgirl, Batman Vs Superman, Ninjas Vs Pirates."

P: I never hear of Ultra-huminite.

E: I haven't either.

R: I have and Hawkgirl would kick his butt.

S: I think it's, I think it's just a quickly addressed that issue. Hawkgirl, Superman, Ninjas. No contest.

R: Wrong, wrong, wrong.

S: No contest.

R: Hawkgirl, Batman, Pirates.

P: Batman is gonna beat Superman? What are you? Drunk?

E: Hey, there was a comic book. Yeah, I have the I have the comic book he beat yep Batman beat Superman.

P: Batman is a human stinking being.

R: That's the beauty of it.

E: He whipped out the kryptonite at the end and got Superman. All takes as a stupid rock.

P: Please.

S: You see what you started? See what you started Gordon?

P: Now ninjas vs pirate, that's ninjas come on.

R: No.

P: Pirates are just standing around arrr, arrgh. Ninjas gonna crawl up the side of the ship and throw a knife in his neck.

E: Ninjas will win but pirates are much cooler.

P: Yeah, okay.

R: How many ninja jokes do you know, huh?

S: Now question number three.

P: Stand still your black clad fiend. And the guy's gonna jump around his back and stab him. All right, go ahead.

Chiropractic (24:14)[edit]

Hey guys, I have recently discovered your podcast and just absolutely adore it. I always hear (from you guys and other skeptical minded sources) that chiropractic is a pseudoscience and such, and I've briefly studied it, but I didn't discover much. I wonder because my girlfriend's father is a chiropractor. I've been very skeptical of his line of work, mainly because I trust honest scientists who have rejected chiropractic as a legitimate form of treatment. The thing is recently he's offered me free adjustments for the next few months. I figured it wouldn't be a big deal, even if it doesn't have any validity to it. I first had to go in and get x-rayed. We went over them together and he showed me these two bones in my neck that were not even (clearly there was quite a difference). He gave me this chart and the symptoms it listed do seem to match up with various problems I have been having. Also after he adjusted me, besides being totally awesome, I definitely had much more mobility in my neck. I hear that chiropractic can be effective for lower back pain and such (though to the same degree a masseuse can be) and maybe this is just in that limited range where it can be beneficial? I just am not really sure of what exactly...well, of much at all about chiropractic. It obviously isn't just kind of made up out of nothing like magenet therapy or something of that nature, and that it has some sort of methodology and scientific basis. Maybe a past show or a good link could help me with the information that I just don't have, otherwise though, I would love for you to discuss it on the show. Thanks for your time. Again, love the podcast.
–Steven Grissom, Oklahoma USA

Article by Steven Novella on chiropractic:
Chiropractic neck manipulation and strokes:

S: Question number three comes from Steven Grissom in Oklahoma. Steven writes: "Hey guys. I recently discovered your podcast and just absolutely adore it. I always hear from you guys and other skeptical minors sources that chiropractic is a pseudoscience and such and I've briefly studied it, but I didn't discover much. I wonder because my girlfriend's father is a chiropractor. I've been very skeptical of his line of work mainly because I trust on scientists who have rejected chiropractic as a legitimate form of treatment." And basically he goes on to ask what do we think about chiropractic? Well. This is a very big issue. We did sort of save this for an episode when we would we didn't have a guest would have time to go into in more detail. And we've had multiple questions about chiropractic. This isn't the first one. It's just a representative question. It's it's kind of a big issue. I'm trying to encapsulate it because. Chiropractors and chiropractic is more diverse I think than most people realize but to give the quick summary it breaks down into two main flavors. Straight chiropractic and mixers or mix chiropractic. Straight chiropractic adheres to the original philosophy of chiropractic that was created by D.D. Palmer in the late 1800. D.D. Palmer was a magnetic healer. He was a bit of a cook and he believed that he discovered a new principle of healing when he manipulated a deaf person's neck and they regained their hearing. Of course he didn't realize that the pathway for healing at no point passes through the neck.

P: Are your bones not connected to the neck bone?

S: He decided from that from that one dubious case that all of human disease can be fixed with spinal manipulation. Everything. We used a life force philosophy. There are many philosophies of healing that are basically categorized as life force or energy medicine. He his term for life force was innate intelligence and he proposed that it descended from god down through the top of our heads into our brain and then through the nerves to our entire body and that this life force keeps all of our tissues perfectly health. And then all disease is a result of these subluxations or misalignments in the spine that block the flow of innate intelligence and when an organ is deprived of its innate intelligence it becomes diseased. That's that's straight chiropractic. That's about 30% of chiropractors who are out there still adhere completely to that philosophy. None of the basic principles have ever been established in any scientific way. It is really more of a cult than a profession. About 70% of chiropractors are our mixers though and they run the gamut from basically accepting innate intelligence and subluxation theory to basically rejecting it. And at the very scientific or skeptical under the spectrum which it's hard to get exact numbers but by all accounts is a few percent of chiropractors they completely and overtly reject subluxation theory. But most chiropractors will accept it to some degree. So even if they are not you know a pure straight chiropractor they still will believe to some degree that that yep there are subluxations and if you fix those subluxations that you can heal actual disease. Like for example otitis media or asthma or gastric ulcers, whatever. Subluxation theory, innate intelligence is pure pseudoscience. Those claims of chiropractors have been studied and in class one, high quality clinical trials and they have been completely and universally shown to be of zero effect. No effect. Chiropractic does not benefit asthma or otitis media or any medical illness. That's clear cut. Despite that though chiropractor still continue, many, will still continue to use these modalities. So they they do not alter what they do based upon the scientific evidence. Which is my core criticism of them as a profession. However about 70% of what chiropractors actually do does not involve treating medical problems. It involves symptomatic treatment of back pain. And there the issue is much more complicated. I provide links to do some published studies and summaries of the studies on the notes page. But the bottom line is this that there is evidence that there is symptomatic benefit for spinal manipulation of acute to subacute uncomplicated lower back pain. However at the same time the evidence suggests that it's no better than either physical therapy or standard medical management. So there's the claims to superiority of chiropractic treatment has not been validated.

P: If you're sick wouldn't you rather go to a guy who went to medical school?

R: Well, that's the thing a lot of people don't realize that your average chiropractor doesn't have to graduate from medical school.

S: That's right.

R: It's not a well-known fact.

S: Which is surprising. Yeah chiropractors are not MD's. They do not have medical training. Although they claim to but there those claims really are not substantiated. They do not have to pass any standardized, basic medical knowledge exams.

E: What are they called DC? Doctor of chiropractic?

P: They're always lumped in with naturopathy and that whole realm.

E: Fellow at work, this chiropractor prescribing the whole plethora of homeopathic remedies for all sorts of things.

S: In the United States, chiropractors are the number one prescriber of homeopathic remedies. They also often will incorporate acupuncture into their practice. They also, chiropractors have spawned a great number of spinoff pseudosciences. We spoke about iridology. Iridology was promoted in this country primarily by a chiropractor. Applied kinesiology, which again is the notion that just quickly that if you're allergic to something. If you just put that substance in your hand it'll you'll become weak and they can diagnose the allergy based upon that weakness, but it's it's just pure suggestibility. In a blinded study it shows zero effect. So even those who do not adhere to the the core ideology of subluxation theory and innate intelligence those who are so-called mixers they frequently incorporate many other pseudo-cientific modalities into their practice. So it's a very very very diverse profession. You really don't know what you're gonna get.

P: I mean at the far end it's just magic.

S: It's magical thinking. Yeah.

P: It is. It's ridiculous.

B: Steve I read an interesting way to debunk one aspect of chiropractic that I thought was very very effective. One was that if it is true if they you know innate intelligence is true and if nerves are impinged or or worse than you would just become rife with disease then how come quadruplegic or paraplegics just don't die from a million diseases because they not only have impinged nerves, they have severed nerves. So why don't they just have diseases coming out of every orifice? To me that that's just one way to just completely knock it down.

S: And that's just the tip of the iceberg if you follow that reasoning through to its logical conclusion because pinched nerves is a known neurological entity. We diagnose that all the time. So interestingly when chiropractors diagnose a pinched nerve from a subluxation causing a medical problem the neurological symptoms of his pinched nerve are not present inexplicably. And when people do have a pinched nerve with the neurological symptoms that does not correlate to the medical illnesses that chiropractic philosophy says should be caused by it. There's no correlation anyway, and that's what you gave us a very extreme example of that. Yeah, why don't all of their organs fail if they're all of their organs are now being deprived of innate intentions.

E: It's called bypass subluxation. It's like bypass surgery. It's complicated Steve you wouldn't understand.

B: Steve didn't they do experiments on cadavers. Subluxations and things and what force would be required?

S: Yeah, I mean there's lots of some of the basic claims have been studied for example chiropractors claim that with their manipulation they actually realign the spine. In fact the forces that are being used or not, would not do that they would not actually move the bones on top of each other. They also don't study their the risks of what they do. I mean they're probably generally low but the bottom line is we don't really know because they're not systematically studied it. For example recently there has been an emergence of literature in Canada and the United States looking at neck manipulation and the risk of stroke from torn arteries. And there's, the absolute risk is pretty low, but if you, the data suggests that if you've had your neck manipulated that increases your risk of a dissection and stroke by five times. If that were a drug that would not get past the FDA.

E: And what about these manipulations they do on children whose bones have not fully developed.

R: That's just messed up.

S: Yeah.

Singularity (35:43)[edit]

Hey Guys (and Rebecca),
I love the show. I have turned at least three of my friends into regular listeners. I figure the best way, at this point, for me to make the world a more friendly place towards science and reason is to turn as many people on to your show as possible.
One guest I would like to hear on your show is Carl Zimmer. He is a science writer and has a fantastic blog called 'The Loom.' His blog is what piqued my interest in evolution and ultimately, skepticism.
The one question I have, which is tangentially related to your discussion of Audrey De Gray is: what is your take on the concept of the Singularity (popularized by Ray Kurzweil).
Like Audrey's SENS, the concept of Ray's general law of accellerating returns [1] is compelling to me. We tend to predict the future without taking into consideration the exponential nature of the advancement of knowledge and engineering. (Moore's semiconductor law seems to apply to many different fields).
Ray Kurzweil uses this logic to predict a future (within the next 30 years) of super human artificial intelligence, massively expanded lifespans, etc.
Thanks again,
–Robert Isaacs,Tampa, FL USA
P.S. Ray Kurzweil would also be a great guest.

S: The next email comes from Robert Isaac's from Tampa Florida.

B: Bob!

S: Robert writes: "Love the show. I have turned at least three of my friends into regular listeners." Well good for you by the way everyone out there turned you need to turn on three friends to listening to our show.

R: Yeah, it's like one of those pyramid schemes. Get to it do it.

S: Do it.

E: They told two friends and so on and so on.

S: "I figure the best way at this point for me to make the world a more friendly place towards science and reasons to turn as many people on to your show as possible. One guest I would like to hear on your show is Carl Zimmer. He is a science writer and had a fantastic blog called the Loom his blog is what peaked my interest in evolution and ultimately skepticism. The one question I have which is tangentially related to your discussion of Aubrey de Grey is: What is your take on the concept of the singularity popularized by Ray Kurzweil? Ray Kurzweil uses this logic to predict the future within the next 30 years of superhuman artificial intelligence massively expanded lifespans, etc." So Bob you're a big big fan of this whole thing. Why don't you give us the synopsis?

B: Absolutely. Okay, I definitely have a take on this. I just wrote down a few things. So it's if it seems like I'm reading it's because I wrote it. My readers digest answer that I'm sure Steve would prefer is that the singularity is inevitable as long as technology continues to advance and it's coming sooner than most people think. Now just a little background. Singularity some people might not you be familiar with that with that term. It's a metaphor. Some scientists use the term singularity. Mathematics uses it. Astrophysics uses it. You're probably most familiar with it in reference to a black hole. The stellar remnant inside of black hole is called the singularity and it's surrounded by an event horizon. And this is similar to that in that the black hole has in gravitation increases to infinity and you can't really tell what's behind the event horizon and that's kind of like what this singularity is all about. So what does it what does it mean? The singularity represents an increase in technological sophistication that's so swift and profound that it has been compared to a rupture in the fabric of human history. It would be like a colony of bacteria creating for themselves a sophisticated human-like culture in a day. So when when might something like this? What will we see? But if the singularity does come to pass. Ray Kurzweil who's a big promoter the singularity as mentioned in the email. He envisions things like the merger of biological and non-biological intelligence. Immortal software-based humans and ultra high levels of intelligence that expand outward in the university speed speed of light. Now that these are some of the things that he says lots of people have predictions, but as I said. It's really, you really can't predict what's going to happen and that's kind of what makes it a singularity. Is that you really don't know what's going to happen. You can only kind of do these broad brushstrokes of prediction. Now what can cause the singularity? Essentially a lot of people see it as occurring when human or human-like intelligence is digitized and therefore subject to the famous Moore's law. Or it's more general manifestation that Ray Kurzweil came up with what he calls the law of accelerating returns. Now this this is a key concept because Kurzweil thinks that because of this law it shows that the singularity can happen. It can feasibly happen within, his prediction is like around 30 years. Not 500 years, but he sees it happening as 30 years and his law of accelerating returns I believe makes a very compelling argument as to why why this is possible. Let me just go let me just do a brief review of what what actually that this law of accelerating returns is. This law describes the exponential growth of technological progress. The doubling of the rate of progress every decade which Ray has done has done his homework and he can show you throughout the course of of many many decades and even beyond that how how technology has progressed. Not only exponentially, but but doubly exponentially. It's even more profound than than exponentially. Most of what most people have what Ray Kurzweil calls an intuitive linear view of progress. Rather than the historically correct exponential view. So what does that mean? People tend to assume that future progress will continue at the current rates that we're experiencing. So they see that well in a hundred years by the year 2100, we'll have about a hundred a hundred years of progress as as it's as it's happening now. It's been shown however that technological progress is exponential. This means that the first 25 years of the century will see comparable advances at the entire 20th century saw. It also means that this century could see not a hundred years of progress but the equivalent of many thousands of years of progress at current current rates. This is why people tend to overestimate the near future. That's because we tend to leave out the necessary details. But they underestimate the potential of accomplishments farther in the future because they ignore exponential growth. And that's the singularity in a nutshell.

P: Forgive my ignorance Bob, but I don't think that I would be able to discern between singularity concepts or theory and science fiction.

B: Well, that's that's exactly how it seems that. Going to the moon and a lot of the accomplishments we have today were seen as science fiction 20, 30, 40 years ago. So yeah, of course it sounds like science fiction because these because we're saying that technological advancement it's going to increase so fast that it's going to rip the fabric of our culture apart. It's going to be so profound. So I'm sure a lot of it sounds like science fiction, but that doesn't mean that it's it's not feasible.

S: So I think that there are there's a lot of truth to what Kurzweil says in that yeah, a lot of the technological advancement does accelerate and that technology changes our society in unexpected ways. No one in science fiction really predicted the the information revolution, the internet and how that's transforming human civilization for example. Or the incredible rapid progress in computer technology. But I think that he is being in my opinion either overly optimistic or maybe just a little bit overly simplistic and in a couple of ways. One is that I'm not sure how for sure you would quantify technological advancement. I think that that would be a hard thing to do.

B: Not really.

S: Well, I think you have to make choices about how you're going to quantify and those choices can will often reflect biases. But even if we just forget that put that aside I think there's the problem of lumping all technology in together. I think that some technologies will accelerate faster than we think, others slower than we think and we can't predict which is which. For example, 50 years ago everyone thought we would be flying around in cars and we would have cured cancer. Neither of those things came to pass. Different things came to pass that nobody was thinking about 50 years ago. So there are examples of technologies that either stagnate or or slow to a crawl because we run up against unforeseen complexities or barriers to progress. And then barriers are suddenly broken through and then there's a period of incredible, technological advancement and then once that plays itself out we run into another plateau or another barrier. So I think that technological advancement is more unpredictable and it's more, I guess you could say that I would adhere more to a punctuated equilibrium view of advancement rather than a continuous progression sort of model of advancement.

B: The research disagrees with you as a matter of fact. If progress is so chaotic and unpredictable then why do so many examples of it produce smooth and predictable trends that you can track and make predictions from that that he has made.

S: Yeah, but those trends only survive for a period of time. That's my point.

B: If you look at the history of computing devices there have been no less than five paradigms of computing devices. You can start from the late 1800s when we had mechanical calculating devices like [inaudible]. Then you can go into relay-based computers the ones that broke the Nazi enigma code. Then the next the next paradigm was vacuum tubes. Then after that was transistors and then after that integrated circuits. These are these are major paradigm shifts, something that we will see again when when silicon fades away and we segue to what quantum computers or another paradigm. Through all those paradigms the law of accelerating returns has been constant. It has survived those paradigm shifts.

S: I agree with that Bob but that is not necessarily true of all technologies. For example if you use cancer therapy to go back to my previous example and some any reasonable measure of treating cancer, let's say survival. That certainly has not had accelerating returns at the same rate as computer advancement. Some cancers, the survival today is almost no different than it was 50 years ago. Others are our cured 80 or 90% of the time. And nobody 50 years ago knew which was going to be which. So there are other technologies that are virtually unchanged.

B: There's a litany of you can list things like DNA sequencing, communication speeds, electronics.

S: But you can also pick other technologies that are not changing. We're flying around in jets that are not significantly different than the jets that we were flying around in 50 years ago. You get on a passenger jet yet. There's more, there's better entertainment on there but it's still basically the same piece of technology as 30 or 40 years ago. Where's the accelerating returns on that?

P: Space shuttle is built in the 70s. How about dialysis? Hasn't changed?

S: But there's some technologies, Bob if you pick and choose your technologies you can make that case, but if you really look at all technologies you can pick and choose ones that have been pretty damn stagnant. My point is you can't predict which are going to be which because they're they're all subject to unforeseen barriers and breakthroughs and that if you take a really long-term view that's going to, that will dominate more than any kind of slow predictable advance. In my opinion. And that's why I also think that you mentioned which I believe is very true. We overestimate short-term progress. That's because we extrapolate jubilantly into the near future and but we underestimate long-term. I think that's because on the long-term the breakthroughs and barriers will all even out because eventually it may be herky jerky on the scale of decades or even centuries. But over longer periods of time we eventually will find some way around most obstacles, technological barriers and the long-term advancement is more predictable. The more long-term you get. So I do think that a lot of things that Kurzweil speaks about will come to pass. I don't think we can say how long it's gonna take.

P: It's also unfortunate that Kurzweil sounds so much like Criswell. The fortune teller from the-

E: Criswell, geez.

P: Remember that guy?

E: Oh, yeah.

B: That's an odious comparison.

P: I don't disagree Bob, it is. I just said it was unfortunate that there was a phonetic similarity.

B: Well I-

S: Bob, Bob, your job is to get Kurzweil on the podcast.

B: I'm going to try my darnest.

S: And then we will talk about it some more.

B: Absolutely.

S: But let's move on.

Gay Life Expectancy (47:30)[edit]

Recently I was in Cambridge, England, home to one of the World's most prestigious universities boasting such distinguished alumini as Charles Babbage, Stephen Hawking and Ali G. Probably their most famous former student was Charles Darwin which probably explains why there were so many religious preachers dotted around the city's streets armed with a microphone, leaflets and a portable notice-board. Out of curiousity I decided to stop and listen to what one of them had to say and to my amusement he was rattling off a list of scientific reasons as to why evolution was impossible and therefore God must be the cause of everything.
After a couple of minutes I got bored and left but was ambushed by a colleague of the speaker who asked me how I felt about what was being said. I told him that it was ludicrous that anyone could hold such out-dated beliefs and that I didn't want to get into an argument because they are impossible to win. As I was walking off he handed me a leaflet which I was about to throw in a trash can when I noticed something.
There was a section about the evils of homosexuality and one of the 'facts' which it claimed proved that homosexuality was indeed evil was that the average life expectancy of a gay man is 43 years. I found this very hard to believe so I asked him if it was a typo and he said no, that because of AIDS and other diseases associated with gay men the average age for queers (his words, not mine) was just 43. I told him that that was total crap but I had no evidence to disprove it.
So when I got home I attempted to investigate further but all my research on the web kept bringing me to creationist websites repeating the number 43 years over and over. I still don't believe it but I can't find any evidence to the contrary. My best guess is that perhaps the average lifespan of gay men with AIDS may have a life expectancy of 43 and that they have extrapolated that to all gay men.
So I guess my question is where does this statistic come from? But assuming the number is wrong, do gay men have a lower life expactancy than straight men, or indeed gay women? Because next time I am engaged in a conversation with a creationist I would really like a firm, water tight statistic to prove how wrong they are.

–Rich Wallace, Ireland

S: The next email comes from Rich Wallace in Ireland and Rich writes, I'm gonna try to cut to the chase of the key, it was a long email that be on our notes page but I want to cut to the chase of his question. He was talking about a leaflet that was handed him and he said that "There's a section about the evils of homosexuality and one of the "facts" which it claimed proved that homosexuality was indeed evil. Was that the average life expectancy of a gay man is 43 years. I found this very hard to believe so I asked him if he if it was a typo and he said no that because of AIDS and other diseases associated with gay men the average age for Queers, his word not mine, was just 43. I told him that that was total crap. But I had no evidence to disprove it." So he's basically asking is this true or not?

R: It's so not true. It's so outrageously not true.

P: It just sounds ridiculous on its face.

E: Defies common sense almost.

P: It's ridiculous.

R: Yeah, I mean if you if you were to think about it just based upon the number. For that to be the actual average death age for all gay males, then HIV negative gay men would on average have to die at about the age of 46 and if even half the gay male population stays HIV negative and lives to an average age of 75 and average overall lifespan of 43 would imply that gay males with AIDS would die an implausibly early average age like 11. 11 years old. So that's just based on the numbers. And that comes-

S: Where does that number come from?

R: Well the actual number originally came from a guy known as Paul Cameron who is a researcher who's pretty controversial and he's often used by gay rights opponents. And in this case he did this study and here's how he came up with the number. He actually looked at different alternative gay community newspapers in urban areas. The kind that you find like at bars and or have all the personal ads and stuff in them. He then counted up all the obituaries and news stories. Wrote down what age each of the dead people died at. Took the average and then published that average as the estimate of gay life expectancy. There's just so many things wrong with that.

P: It's just like a Bishop Osher combing through the Bible for their age. It's ridiculous.

S: Well, there's so many sources of bias in it. That's just a horrible epidemiology. Now I wanted to know what the actual data was so I did a literature search to find some published epidemiology on the life expectancy of gay men. Just to see what I would come up with. And there was a lot of published data on that. Here is I have a link to one that was fairly representative. So what do you guys think? There's, and most of these are comparing these life expectancy from the 80s to the 90s to see if there's a difference with newer HIV treatments. So at its worst, so at the height of the AIDS epidemic before the newer HIV treatments came into place what, where do you think the life expectancy for gay men bottomed out? And I'll tell you just for background for all men life expectancy for all men is around 78.

R: Well Steve, I don't think that that question is answerable. I mean you can guess and you can I don't know how the studies are going to quote came up with it.

S: It's just standard epidemiology. You use the data.

R: Yeah, but where's that data coming from? I mean-

S: Well, yeah, all data has methodological issues with it.

P: I think what Rebecca is trying to say is how do they know who's gay and who was straight?

R: Yeah, exactly. I mean, it's impossible. It's completely impossible to come up with a realistic number. I'm just gonna put that.

S: I disagree. It's not impossible. Epidemiologists been doing this for a lot, doing statistics for a long time.

R: You've only got the ones that are out of the closet and then I mean how are you determining?

S: Well, I mean go the methods are published in the various studies and they use different methods. Most of them use some sort of either survey where they directly ask people of course, and there's those are anonymous so they, people are not, it's an anonymized data so they have no reason to hide their sexual orientation. You can also use you know hospital records or other things like that.

R: I just think that there's so many different variables in a case like this. Not least of which is being able to actually accurately define who the hell you're talking about. I mean, that's that's a huge hurdle to overcome that I just don't think that it's reasonable to expect it to come up with an accurate number for something like this.

S: They're peer reviewed published for, the methods are fairly legitimate.

R: I mean I'll take a look at them with an open mind obviously, but I'm just saying that I just I can't imagine a way that they can get around those problems, but I enjoy seeing it.

S: So given those limitations and and they were upfront about the assumptions in their methodology in terms of percentages of the population who were gay for example. They came up with a figure of actually of 54 years life expectancy at the low point and the more recent numbers at 66. Yes, so with modern so with treatment with the current treatment of HIV and by the time you collect this data it's several years old so and life expectancy in HIV positive individuals is increasing with treatment. So 66 which is a long way from 43. And that's about and I looked at several studies and the numbers were all roughly the same. It was somewhere around the low upper 50s to low 60s in the 80s and the high 60s in the 70s. Which is and it's less than the non homosexual community which you would of course expect because of AIDS. I mean, it's a very real epidemic that is disproportionately affecting the gay community and does tend to cause people to die at a young age. 20s 30s 40s. So those are the best numbers that are out there that are public. Which is interesting and very different than the number that's being used and the of course the methods, counting the average deaths in obituaries and alternative lifestyle magazines. Those methods are worthless.

R: It's just outrageously flawed.

S: Right.

P: Quite so.

S: The purpose of that was not to get an accurate number but to just generate propaganda for ideology.

P: Of course.

E: The word queer kind of get, the queers kind of gave it away. Them queers.

R: Yeah, and the number has been repeated over and over again.

P: Why it's never gonna die.

S: Yeah, it's a get gets into the popular consciousness and that did it gets repeated at nausea without anyone checking their facts.

P: The only way that number will die is if somebody comes out with 36. Then 43 will go away and they'll.

R: It was actually repeated by the former Education Secretary William Bennett.

J: What's it really?

E: That's disappointing. That is disappointing.

P: Yeah it is.

R: That's one of the ways that it really got out and that's terrible.

E: That's bad news.

P: Well, what do you want from a gambler like that guy?

S: Well, move on to our science or fiction.

Science or Fiction (55:06)[edit]

Theme: Intelligence

Item #1: Study finds that predators prefer prey that have smaller brains.[1]
Item #2: New study suggests that drinking apple juice may improve memory in Alzheimers patients.[2]
Item #3: New study shows that daily flossing is associated with lower scores on standard IQ tests.[3]

Answer Item
Fiction Flossing
Science Prey with smaller brains
Apple juice
Host Result
Rogue Guess
Apple juice
Prey with smaller brains
Prey with smaller brains

Voice-over: It's time for Science or Fiction.

S: Each week I come up with three science news items or facts. Two are genuine, one is fictitious. And then I challenge my panel of skeptics to tell me which one is fake. Which one is fiction.

B: One!

S: Of course you could play along. You can't use your, Bob, you can't use your psyched abilities in science or fiction.

B: Oh man.

S: You have to do it the hard way like everybody else. The theme for this week is ironically enough with this group intelligence. Are you guys ready? All right number one: A sew study finds that predators prefer prey that have smaller brains. Number two: A new study suggests that drinking apple juice may improve memory in Alzheimer's patients. And item number three: A new study shows that daily flossing is associated with lower scores on standard IQ tests. So to recap do predators prefer to hunt stupid prey? Can apple juice improve memory in Alzheimer's patients or does flossing make you stupid? Evan why don't you go first?

Evan's Response[edit]

E: Okay, so here we go. So number one I think that's believable because if the prey are stupid they're probably not smart enough to be running away from the predator. So I'll say that's true. Apple juice. Improves memory in Alzheimer's was that it?

S: Yeah.

E: Versus daily flossing. Makes people less intelligent?

S: Well, correlates with.

E: It's almost a toss up between those two. I'll say number three is fiction. It just sounds more ridiculous than two.

S: Okay, Perry.

Perry's Response[edit]

P: Apple juice? You know that sounds stupid and the first one is yeah, okay, I can't get by that right there. Don't really catch him. So true true when the middle ones false. So is that work?

S: Okay number two is fiction.

P: Yeah.

S: Rebecca?

Rebecca's Response[edit]

R: Oh man, I have no clue. I'll just be different go with one.

S: Okay. Bob?

R: I'm hot and cranky

P: That's for sure.

S: That wasn't one of the choices Rebecca.

R: Should have been.

S: All right, so you're gonna go with number one so Bob you have we have an even split Rebecca says that number one is fiction. Perry says number two is fiction. Evan says number three is fiction. Where are you gonna put your nickel?

Bob's Response[edit]

B: Let's see apple juice may improve memory. That is correct. Choice is between one and three. Let's see flossing lowers school test scores that just seems too stupid. So number one you can. Oh, man, this is a tough one. I can't even choose between one and three.

P: You can do it son.

R: Pick a pony and bet it.

P: There you go.

B: I'm gonna I'll with Rebecca and say-

R: That was probably the wrong choice but all right.

S: One is fiction?

B: Three is too obvious.

P: All right.

Steve Explains Item #[edit]

S: All right, let's start with number two.

R: Since it's obviously true.

S: Number two is true as Bob said.

P: What are you talking about?

B: I'm gonna start drinking apple juice. I'm telling you.

E: Alzheimer's? It doesn't matter.

S: Well-

B: Doesn't matter. Doesn't matter.

P: That's arguable. Do you hear that singularity discussion?

R: Well, Steve. What about apples? Just apples?

S: Hold on, no, hold on, you gotta get a full implications of this study. So what they did was they looked at the study they was a study in mice not people and. And they were looking at the activity of acetylcholine which is an important neurotransmitter which is necessary for memory. Now the the pharmacological treatments for Alzheimer's disease increase the activity of acetylcholine. So we know that that model works in sort of treating symptomatically treating Alzheimer's disease. What they did was they they had a model in mice where they basically had one group of mice where they fed them a very nutrient poor diet. Especially poor in antioxidants thinking that therefore they would be a little bit nutrient deprived and have increased oxidative stress and that that would be a reasonable model for the kind of stresses that the brain of Alzheimer's patients are under. They gave apple juice concentrate to you know to one group and not to a control group and the group that got the concentrate had more acetylcholine activity. Which could you know theoretically correlate with with with improvement in Alzheimer's because that's the again that's the neurotransmitter that is treated in those patients. Now this does not mean that a normal brain would benefit from apple juice, right? So this is only a a specifically stressed brain. But it may have implications for the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. It doesn't mean that if you're normal and you drink apple juice you'll get smarter.

P: I didn't know you're talking about stressed out mice brains.

R: Yeah, so that'll be perfect for Perry. Perry start drinking apple juice. You'll help you a little stressed out rat brain.

P: I'm a great many things but mousey is not one of them.

R: Not talking about physically just the brain.

P: I still claim not to be a rodent.

R: All right.

Steve Explains Item #[edit]

S: Let's go to number one. Study finds that predators prefer prey that have smaller brains that is also science. And the reason is as Evan and Perry suggested that smaller brain prey are make are easier to hunt there. They're less able to avoid predators. They're less able to adopt new strategies.

E: Hey what's your easy what's chewing on my leg? Hey.

S: Now these studies were done in mammals and this probably does, is one of the evolutionary forces that has been driving increased intelligence in the mammalian line.

R: Steve. I have evidence to the contrary of this so-called study. How do you explain the continued existence of Ann Coulter? Huh? Still alive.

E: All right, so all the simple sheet.

R: If your little theory is true next time she's next time she's on CNN blabbing about evolution you should expect to see a bunch of tigers to jump in from nowhere.

P: I don't think you're gonna see her on CNN.

E: That's for sure.

R: Whatever.

P: Fox.

R: Fox news. Sorry. Next time she's on Fox News. I want to see a wolf go for her jugular.

Steve Explains Item #[edit]

S: Which means that number three is fiction. New studies shows that daily flossing is associated with lower scores on standard IQ test-

B: I knew it.

S: -is the fiction.

R: Yeah, yeah.

S: There was a study which was just recently published. Which is what I drive this from. That this new study drives home the importance of tooth brushing and dental flossing. This study does show that brushing and flossing is important to good dental hygiene. It reduces the risk of both gum bleeding and halitosis. Which is a fancy word for your breath stinks.

P: That's exactly right.

S: And you should brush your tongue as well as your teeth.

P: Absolutely, absolutely. Could you imagine?

S: Not surprisingly this study was published in the journal of periodontology.

R: See we got your name in it Perry and still got it wrong.

Skeptical Puzzle (1:03:23)[edit]

Last Week's puzzle:
All the electricity was out in Aberdeen. None of the street lights or traffic signals had power. A dark limousine was cruising down the newly paved blacktop, with its headlights off. A young boy dressed totally in black (with no reflectors) stepped out to cross the street. The moon wasn't out and the boy had no flashlight, yet the driver stopped to let the boy cross the street. How did the driver see the boy?
Answer: It was daytime

New Puzzle:
You have just made a cup of coffee but haven't put the milk in yet. The doorbell rings so it may take a couple of minutes before you can drink it. If you like your coffee hot, is it better to add the milk before answering the door or after you return.
Roel Winters

S: Before we close let me give the answer last week skeptical puzzle. Last week the puzzle was this all the electricity was out in Aberdeen. None of the street lights were traffic signals had power. A dark limousine was cruising down the newly paved blacktop and it with its headlights off. A young boy dressed totally in black with no reflectors stepped out to cross the street the moon wasn't out and the boy had no flashlight yet the driver stopped to let the boy cross the street. How did the driver see the boy?

R: Steve? Can I answer this because I saw one of the people on our forum actually answered this and it was perfect. The answer is the boy was on fire. (laughter)

P: that's the one I saw too.

R: I know, that was great.

S: Now the simplest explanation is that it was daytime. That it was day . And I got a very many correct answers for this puzzle. So most people got it correct a couple people thought it was a little challenging. There were some creative answers that of course, you know could be correct. The challenge here and this was you know, this was the simplest puzzle we've given out so far. Some of the previous ones have were have been you know more challenging this one was definitely towards a simple end of the spectrum. Although it's one of those things if you think of it, it's really easy. If you don't think of it then it seems impossible. And the challenges and of course you are encouraged to assume that it was nighttime by the nature of the way the thing was presented.

R: Yeah, we get it Steve. Go on.

S: So the new puzzle for this week was sent in by a listener. By Roel Winters from Belgium. And he sends, this is a logic. This is a pure logic puzzle and this will test your knowledge of thermodynamics. Roel sends in this puzzle you have just made a cup of coffee but haven't put the milk in yet. The doorbell rings so it may take a couple minutes before you can drink it. If you like your coffee hot is it better to add the milk before entering the door or after your return? So again kind of straightforward. This is just a thermodynamic logic. Alright, we'll give we'll give the answer to that next week and thanks for sending that in Roel. If you want to send me in a suggestion for either the skeptical puzzle or science or fiction remember to send it just directly to me Do not send it to all of the panel. Well Rebecca, guys. Thanks for joining me again this week.

R: Thank you guys.

B: Good episode.

S: Fun as usual. You guys it's a northeastern euphemism.

P: Well good night everybody.

R: Good night everybody.

B: Good night.

S: The Skeptics' Guide to the Universe is produced by the New England Skeptical Society. For information on this and other podcasts, please visit our website at Please send us your questions, suggestions, and other feedback; you can use the "Contact Us" page on our website, or you can send us an email to 'Theorem' is produced by Kineto and is used with permission.


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