Tuesday, September 29, 2009

My hero is in Toronto today

Richard Dawkins is my hero. If you haven't heard of him, he's the guy that wrote "The God Delusion" a couple years ago; the book received lots of press. He's also written a number of other books, mostly explaining the theory of evolution. I've read "The Selfish Gene" and "The Blind Watchmaker". I thought I understood evolution before. But these books showed me a whole new depth. I'm looking forward to reading more of his books.

His latest book, released just this month, is entitled "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution".

I'm currently listening to the book, and so far (25% through) it seems like it covers all the details that one needs to know to be confident that evolution is as surely a fact as gravity (in case you hadn't realized it, the name of my blog is a gravitational version of "Intelligent Design", the creationists' attempt to explain the diversity and complexity of living things by invoking a creator).

According to richarddawkins.net, Prof. Dawkins is in Toronto today, and will be doing a reading. I'm so bummed that I only found out today, and it's sold out (no surprise). But Richard Dawkins will be interviewed on The Hour tonight at 11pm. I'll stay up and watch that for sure.

Friday, September 25, 2009

It's clearly designed... or not

Proponents of Intelligent Design (ID) claim that we can infer design. That is, they split the world into two categories of objects: those that were designed by something intelligent, and those that were not. And they claim that we can tell the difference.

Well, was this designed or not? ...

It's the famous neanderthal bone flute. Some say that a neanderthal created it purposefully for making music (intelligent cause). Others say that the holes were made by the teeth of a hungry animal (non-intelligent cause).

If it's as easy and clear-cut as IDers claim, then why is there so much controversy?

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


Trish returned from her sewing class, which was held at Fabricland. She bought some fabric (go figure), as well as a few small sewing supplies. Then she asked me, "Guess how much it was." I said the first reasonable number than came to mind. Her jaw dropped to the floor as her eyes bugged out. I was exactly correct, right down to the penny.

OK, now don't freak out. Here's the full story.

A correct guess, right down to the penny, is very unlikely in general. But the reason she was asking me to guess is because the bill happened to be an integer dollar amount. Most people, when asked to guess a price, only give the dollars. That's what I did, and that narrows the number of options down by a factor of 100.

I didn't think it would be less than, say, $60. And I figured (hoped) it would be less than $100. So, given than I'm choosing an integer between 60 an 100, that leaves only 40 options. I guessed $98. NAILED IT!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Semi-finalist for a $25,000 home makeover!

I just got a phone call in which a woman told me I had been selected as a semi-finalist for a


from DirectBuy. The woman, who was very nice, told me that she just had to confirm my name and address, and then would be sending me an information package with a key. I would then go to the store and try the key in some door, and if it opened... HOLY %##%$ I JUST WON A

$25,000 HOME MAKEOVER!!!

What if it doesn't open the door? Well, something to do with two other prizes from the list: $500, a 52" flat TV, a set of luggage, a Dell computer, etc. I can't remember the specific wording... it sounded like I'd get one of those, but I'm sure the true meaning was a lot more subtle.

What is DirectBuy? It seems to me that it's a Costo-like store, but for home improvement. And the dollar-values are proportionately larger (if you've ever owned a fixer-upper house, you know what I mean). Here is something that makes me uncomfortable; their web page prominently features a "Testimonials" link. Another red flag is that I can't easily find a listing of the membership fees. If memory serves, it's on the order of thousands of dollars! Let me know if you can find the fees anywhere.

I asked her what the fees were, and added that I'd been called before and thought the membership fee was far too expensive (something like $2500 / year). She said that there are different levels of membership, and then reminded me about the


I thanked her for her call, and wished her the best of luck.

Maybe I just passed up a huge opportunity. But most likely I avoided getting fleeced.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Do you have chronic low back pain?

That's the title of a full-page ad in The Record this weekend, stating that the Canadian Decompression and Pain Centres (CDPC) can help us. They have a three-phase approach that is not available anywhere else. Why? Probably because no one believes it's worthwhile.

OK, here are the details:

Phase 1: Spinal Decompression System.
This basically sounds like traction. So far, so good.

Phase 2: Oxygen Enhancement.
Have you seen the idiots in those oxygen "bars" inhaling different flavours of oxygen? Well, the reason they look so stupid is because they don't realize that oxygen is actually in the air! Unless your doctor is making you drag around you own O2 canister, you probably get all you need just by breathing.

Phase 3: Neuro-Supplementation.
This is so good, I just have to quote. "The patient is given a premium natural herbal blend in capsule form."
Translation: "premium"="costly"; "natural herbal blend"="we wish we could call it a drug, but its efficacy falls below the standards of what Health Canada allows"

OK, and here comes my favourite part. "During the course of the treatment program, the patient is given a nutritional detoxification drink". Detox?! If you know me, you know I don't dig that detox crap. When you hear someone say "detox", run the other way.

The ad never mentions any evidence that their method works, except for statements like "Many patients feel immediate relief from pain". Hmmm... "many". Is that "many" like 10... out of 1,000,000? I bet an empty statement like that would be equally valid for a healing technology like iCure; "Place your stiff lower back close to the monitor to catch the healing rays. Many patients feel immediate relief from pain."

But they DO offer proof! Four testimonial statements. Proof by testimony is another sign that you should stay away. If they really had objective proof, they'd tell you about it. But I expect they don't have proof, so instead they try to take advantage of your faulty human decision-making circuits and throw a few compelling cases as you. The problem is that these testimonies are hand-picked, and probably don't give a good indication of what the average person experiences. Moreover, they also imply that these patients felt better BECAUSE of the therapy. But they might have gotten better for an entirely different reason. Maybe they withdrew from the Ultimate Fighting competition a week earlier. Testimonies do not give enough information to infer that the treatment caused the healing.

Another red flag... consultations are free. What they mean to say is "We won't charge you for our high-pressure sales pitch."

The ad even has an FAQ section, including the question "What are your doctors' qualifications?" Answer: "The team at CDPC includes doctors of natural medicine, medical therapists", etc. According to this web page, "Naturopathic Doctor" is an accredited term, but "Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine" is not. This is consistent with the language used by the Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors.

But why am I even talking about accreditation of naturopathic medicine?! If any of these therapies had the balance of evidence in their favour, then mainstream medicine would be all over them, and they would no longer be referred to as "naturopathic".