Snakeoil Salesman Gets Blasted On Dragon’s Den

Dragon’s Den is a Canadian-based show in which entrepreneurs pitch their products to potential investors. In the second show of the fifth season, the product “Bruce’s Juice” was introduced to the The Dragons (the title bestowed on the investors).

Bruce’s Juice was supposedly extremely purified water that contained “nano silver”. Whether this is colodial silver or some form of homeopathic silver was not made apparent. The entrepeneur claimed that his product can cure colitis, hepatitis, H1N1 and even cancer. The list of ailments this substance could supposedly cure was limitless.

The man had no medical research to back up his claims. He only presented a booklet with a list of ailments the substance in the bottle could supposedly cure.

He was, I am most pleased to say, BLASTED by The Dragons and told to leave.

Watch this sleazy shyster get his ass handed to him here:

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WIDW – A Family Story

Welcome to the first installment of the “Why It Doesn’t Work” series. Today I’m talking about the ideomotor effect. ideomotor.html

When I was little we had a Ouija Board in our house. It was fun to play with because the little planchette seemed to skate across the surface of the board all by itself. When I had sleep overs, we had “seances”. It was fun and kind of scary because ghosts were talking to us by moving what we called “The little thing”.

Girls at that age were, as they are now, boy crazy. So of course the big thing we all wanted to know what “What are the initials of the man I’m going to marry”. Even then I found it a little odd that one set of initials that came for me was MM. Those were my maiden name initials. It was fun to get ANY kind of feedback, no matter what the initials were. We all just laughed and guessed who it would be, naming boys we knew at school.

When I got a little older, my Mom told me a story about her grandmother (my great grandmother). She and her friends were having their own “seance” while they waited for my great grandfather to arrive. One of the questions that she asked was “When will my husband die?”. The planchette pointed out the date of the following day.

According to my mother, my great grandfather died in a car accident that next evening while on the way home from work.

I have not verified this story with any of the other relatives. I don’t know if this is true or if it is just part of the family mythology. Either way, my mother swears by this story.

Here’s why a spirit or ghost did not predict the death of my great grandfather: Ideomotor effect.

The ideomotor effect is an unconscious motor behavior. In other words, we do it without realizing that we’re doing it. Dowsing and a pendulum work the same way. What happens is that our muscles twitch involuntarily. It’s similar to when we breathe without thinking about it. If you hold a pendulum you’ll notice that after a brief period it will start moving on it’s own. This is an example of the ideomotor effect.

Here is a video that shows an example and explains in further detail how the ideomotor effect works:

Dreaming Skeptically

I have been able to read in my dreams since I was a teenager. It’s nothing new. This morning was different. I found myself analyzing details of the dream WHILE I was dreaming. In other words, I was aware, in the dream, that I was examining specific aspects of it with a critical eye.

I dreamed that we lived in a beautiful old Victorian house. Our sons, instead of being 21 and almost 20, were 6 and 4. We had been out at night and when we came home there was a strange woman there in the parlor. She told us that her friend had called her because she had become very frightened and didn’t want to leave the kids alone.

It was at that point I noticed on the left hand wall there were seven large pieces of paper. While Hubby spoke to the stranger I looked at them more closely. At first it looked like jumbles of letters in a spidery hand. Then I realized that all the words and sentences had been written backwards. I thought, why would anyone write such complex sentences backwards?

Then I noticed the giant mirror on the right side as Hubby was telling the stranger “That chair you’re sitting in has been a real hot spot of activity along with most of the upstairs”.

In the mirror I could see that one of the pieces of paper on the left read “Give a portion of your gold each day to keep the ghosts at bay.”. And, in the dream, I realized that someone was trying to scam us because the “hot spots” Hubby was talking about was where the ghost hunters said there was lots of paranormal activity. So even in my dream I was analyzing the evidence that was presented to me and came to the conclusion that the ghosts or “hot spots” weren’t really real and that someone was trying to scam us.

I no longer ascribe meaning to dreams. They are simply the brain’s defrag process. It just amazes me that I have integrated skepticism so deeply into my life that now I’m even dreaming skeptically.

Mr. Whuffkins

This post is a complete flight of fancy. I’m stealing the idea from Skepchicks and running with it.

A couple days ago one of the Skepchicks posed this question: If you could have any animal as a pet, and have it magically be domesticated and friendly, what would you choose?

Most people chose big cats. One person went with a Velociraptor. So I thought “Hmm…how can I take that to the next level? Oh *I* know! THIS  guy! http://bit.ly/4FdxYw : The Mapusaurus roseae.

This dinosaur was larger than the T-Rex and may have even been bigger than Giganotosaurus, the guy that took over the mantle of “Biggest Badass” from good ol’ T. In other words Mapusaurus rosae, or as I like to call him, Mr. Whuffkins, was longer than a four-story building is tall. So, yeah…big meat grinder on legs.

The question on Skepchicks included the word “friendly”. Sure, Mr. Whuffkins would be friendly TO ME and to people I liked. But lets have some fun here for a minute. If YOU had the biggest carnivore the world has ever seen at your disposal, what would YOU do? Personally, I’d have bullet proof armor and a saddle made for Mr. Whuffkins. Then I’d take him around to places like the Westboro Baptist Church where Fred Phelps hangs his hat. I’d explain to Mr. Phelps that when he says things like “God hates fags”, it makes Mr. Whuffkins vewwy sad. When Mr. Whuffkins gets sad, he gets hungry. He’s a stress eater, doncha know.

Voila! Instant social reform!

Don’t like the way things are going in Washington DC? Mr. Whuffkins and I are happy to go eat..er..greet a few Congressmen and Senators. I can see it now. Me and my pet wandering the world making change happen wherever we go. Barack Obama would have nothing on us!

It would be like the old children’s book “Danny and the Dinosaur”, just a bit, well, bloodier.

Unfortunately there would be a drawback to keeping Mr. Whuffkins as a pet. No, not the food bill. He’s magical so he wouldn’t need to eat. Except for those times I wanted him to, that is. The big drawback would be the fundamentalists and creationists claiming that me and Mr. Whuffkins are proof that people used to live side by side with dinosaurs and even ride them. After all Mr. Whuffkins would be “domesticated”.

And so, the dream dies.

It IS fun to pretend sometimes though. See? Even skeptics have vivid imaginations!




I’m Skeptical About That

Yesterday I talked about what skepticism is versus cynicism. Today I want to talk more in depth about why cynicism is damaging and why skepticism can be a difficult approach to maintain. Granted I am still new to skepticism. These are just my observations and I am always happy to have people kindly correct my mistaken presumptions.

Cynics tend to have a hardline approach to subjects that they are convinced qualify as Woo. (see woo def here: http://bit.ly/crSgm). Once a cynic is convinced, they seem to be just as hard core as True Believers. (see TB def here: http://bit.ly/39ygEg). Of course this is damaging to the use of scientific analysis and equates to bad science. A hardline approach to a topic doesn’t, quite obviously, allow flexibility in one’s viewpoint. It squelches the possibility of new observations because a hardline cynic will automatically, if not consciously at least unconsciously, filter out new observable data in favor of the perceived Woo.

I try to remain open-minded while still being analytical of what is presented to me. For instance, I was on a forum discussing quantum physics and  the topic of observable auras came up. Now a cynic would have the automatic knee jerk reaction that auras are Woo. I used to believe in auras and at one point had convinced myself that I could actually see them. I know that auras, as the New Age community presents them, are most likely not real. At some point science may find out otherwise but until then, I’m sticking with what science says.

HOWEVER, someone on the forum mentioned that there have actually been a few humans found that can actually see into the low IR (infrared) spectrum. This would explain at least a few people seeing “auras”. Here is what I found on a physics forum: http://bit.ly/6YiRfU

I would LOVE to get some knowledgeable opinions about this so PLEASE leave feedback.

My point here is that if I were a cynic I would simply dismiss this out of hand instead of investigating as much as I did. THAT, dear reader, is what a good skeptic does. Investigate. If you don’t know, keep looking until you find the answer. It may not be the answer YOU want but that’s the point here. Be open to results you don’t expect. Don’t dismiss it just because it doesn’t fit with your view of the topic. Investigate, seek, question. It’s how we differentiated from cynics and True Beleivers.

31 Flavors Of Skeptic

Just like Baskin-Robbins, there are many different flavors or types of skepticism. As a whole skepticism can be described as making a judgement about a claim based on the evidence presented. That evidence must be testable. Those results must also be repeatable within a specific margin of error ala statistics. In other words it is a logical fallacy to claim that just because one test yielded a specific result, that result proves the claim conclusively. (For new readers please see previous entries concerning the various types of logical fallacies.)

For instance I read on a science forum that some people are able to see into the near infra-red spectrum. This could explain the claim of being able to see auras. I have not had an opportunity to investigate this claim. There may be evidence to support this. There may not be. In the mean time I am keeping an open mind.

There is a fine line between skepticism and cynicism. A cynic dismisses claims out of hand because they may sound far-fetched like seeing “auras” in the above example. A skeptic, on the other hand, does the research and examines the data looking for credible sources to either verify or refute a claim. It can be really difficult not to be dismissive of a claim that you have already dismissed or accepted. That’s part of being a good skeptic though; learning how to put aside what you think you know and investigating the data even if it is personally uncomfortable or even painful.

I use to believe in all manner of things that do not have supporting testable scientific data. UFOs, magic, Reiki, crystal healing, psychics…name the woo and most of it I believed. Thanks to Penn & Teller’s “Bullshit” on Showtime I was introduced to the reality of psychics, auras and many other things. I was also introduced to logical thinking and skepticism. Their shows are a great place to start out. So is George Hrab’s Geologic Podcast http://www.geologicpodcast.com/

As I mentioned in the title of this post, there are many different flavors or types of skepticism. James “The Amazing” Randi, a personal hero of mine, has spent his life debunking psychics and those who cause harm with that practice. Other skeptics “debunk” ghosts, UFOs, Bigfoot, and Nessie.

Other skeptics work on educating the public. At http://www.whatstheharm.net there is information on the kind of harm caused by medical quackery like homeopathy. There are case studies and articles about people who have been permanently harmed or killed by colloidal silver, homeopathy and more.

There are those like the Skepchicks http://skepchick.org/blog that covers a wide array of feminine-related skepticism.

There are skeptics that deal solely with religion. They try to educate people about the fallacies in organized religion. As I said, sometimes being a skeptic can be painful. This is one of those sore points with many people, Here on Fledgeling Skeptic I generally try to avoid mentioning religion since it IS such a sore point.

Then there’s skeptics like me. I try to educate those who are new to the skeptic movement. I talk about what logical fallacies are, how to evaluate evidence, how to use skepticism in daily life and in between I talk about my own experiences and thoughts as a Fledgeling Skeptic.

The Error of My Ways

Last night I got a call from my youngest son’s ex-girlfriend. He mother wanted to talk to me. She knows that at one time I was a Wiccan High Priestess. She asked her daughter to call me because she wanted to know if I knew how to bind someone.

No we’re not talking kinky S&M stuff. A binding is a long-term spell. It’s purpose is to keep the bound person from causing harm.

After being involved in Wicca for a few years I came to a realize about spellcasting. Even though I still believed in duotheism, rarely did a spell work for me. At that time I decided that it wasn’t working because I was trying to manipulate the world in ways that were contrary to the will of the god and goddess. Spellcasting was manipulation in my view.

When I told other Wiccans how I felt, they explained that, in their mind, spellcasting was the same as prayer. To them, the various rituals were ways of asking for what they wanted.

Why not just ask for it then? Why all the circles, pentacles, wands, etc?

I liked the people so I kept hanging out with them but eventually I realized that wicca wasn’t working for me. So I came up with the notion that all gods are one god. Later I discovered that this is a Buddhist idea.

After years of being free of religion, I’ve come to realize that spellcasting is even more egocentric than prayer. With prayer you believe that a being as important as god has the time to listen to you and only you when he/she/it has the entire world to look after.

With spellcasting you believe you have the power to manipulate “Universal energy” to affect change in your life or the lives of other people. Spellcasting can also be used for various situations. For instance if you want a specific job, a spellcaster would do a ritual to create a situation in which they would be offered the job over other more qualified people.

It is egocentric and manipulative to think that by doing certain ritualistic actions in a prescribed manner that those action will bring the desired result.

I called this post “The Error of My Ways” for two reasons. First, I now see that not only is spellcasting manipulative, it also doesn’t work except by pure chance and coincidence. Second, since I have previously told people about my past, it is coming back to bite me in the ass.

I now have to find a way to gently tell this woman that I don’t do spellcasting anymore because I believe it to be another form of manipulation. I’ve also got to figure out a way to explain that it doesn’t really work and she would just be doing it to make herself feel better without actually doing anything to fix the problem.