The bitter truth of sweet hearts, economy and regulation

We have frequently heard about how high sugar consumption in our daily diets is a risk factor for type II diabetes. The message is sometimes interpreted by many to mean that eating too much sugar will necessarily lead to type II diabetes, which is not true. Genetics plays a significant role in disease, and diabetes is no different. It’s a combination of genetics and lifestyle that affects pathogenesis as far as diabetes in concerned. Apart from sugar consumption, overall calorie consumption and amount of daily activity are important lifestyle factors. However, there is a definitive relationship between sugar consumption and type II diabetes in populations where risk for diabetes is moderate to high, and an individual cannot know the exact odds that they will develop type II diabetes, so it’s a good idea to have a balanced, sugar and calorie-controlled diet and regular exercise to keep the odds as low as possible. We are also usually told that excessive consumption of sweet food is bad for the teeth, because it attracts bacteria that might cause tooth decay. One warning we hear less commonly is that binging on sugar might lead to cardiovascular disease. While it’s true that there isn’t a great deal of information that can tell us to what extent sugar consumption is associated with cardiovascular disease and it’s still a matter of debate and further research, evidence from rather recent research has consistently pointed towards a positive association. And the reason why the evidence has been rather recent is, well, the sugar industry, a recent article published in the Journal of American Medical Association (JAMA) suggests.

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Myths, facts and decision making: The human animal

The world is full of facts. People are facts. Therefore myths are facts. Sounds like a logical fallacy? Well, actually it isn’t. It’s just playing with semantics a little. What I mean to say here is that facts are what help us create a picture of reality. We talk about Homo sapiens as a species because we know individuals similar to us (or me) exist, and that we can group them together. So people are facts. It also seems almost inevitable that if there are people, there will be myths, gossip and so forth. There is always a limit to our perception of reality. However, our perception of reality -which can be mistaken at times- is in itself a component of reality. We need to understand that in order to understand ourselves. That is why studying myths belonging to a particular culture is an important exercise in trying to get an anthropological or sociological picture of that culture. The diversity of myths across cultures gives us an insight into the varying ways in which human societies evolved over time. Even in relatively modern, secular societies you have truckloads of urban legends that have little basis in reality. Religion, for example, is a collection of myths. A recent study published in the journal Judgment and Decision Making studied how susceptible humans are to meaningless bafflegab. Do they judge it to be more profound? This is what the study found:

We gave people syntactically coherent sentences that consisted of random vague buzzwords and, across four studies, these statements were judged to be at least somewhat profound. This tendency was also evident when we presented participants with similar real-world examples of pseudo-profound bullshit.
For example, many test subjects judged statements like these to be profound:
Attention and intention are the mechanics of manifestation.
Which has no real meaning. Rather which begs an explanation and is given none. That is what obscurantism is all about. This kind of receptivity to pseudo-profound bullshit, of course, co – varied with other personality characteristics and indicators.
Those more receptive to bullshit are less reflective, lower in cognitive ability (i.e., verbal and fluid intelligence, numeracy), are more prone to ontological confusions and conspiratorial ideation, are more likely to hold religious and paranormal beliefs, and are more likely to endorse complementary and alternative medicine.

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Religion, philanthropy and Mother Teresa

Gott ist tot.

Or “God is dead”. Thus spake Friedrich Nietzsche. Of course, there is no evidence that God ever existed in the first place, but Nietzsche meant that in another context. Even if there were any evidence from the past that it did (I have always had a queasy feeling referring to the supposedly Supreme Being as a “He”. Yes, even before I became an infidel), evidence (and/or the lack of it) from the present would certainly have repudiated it. And if God did indeed exist, it certainly has much less authority over anything than even winds do over mountains. It does nothing to rapists of infants , but must take issue with homosexual love . It is never sure which religion it wants people to follow, but must rail against those who don’t believe in it:

He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad.
Matthew 12:30

Drinking wine and eating pork are graver sins than liquidating “unbelievers”(complete with the apologist’s rather enlightening take). One would also like to ask why it suffers from so much social anxiety that it can never afford to make a public appearance, especially to those damned gadflies called “skeptics”. So, if the “good God” ever did exist, it’s either dead or just as good as dead.

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Bach flower remedies and the problem of quackery

This is an ad that appeared in the Hindu on the 16th of November, 2015:

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Bach Flower anxiety

[Update] Another one in the same newspaper on the 30th of November, 2015:

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The “divine” cure (Re: The cornerstone of quackery)

Among other very interesting things (like “Medical Astrologer”), what caught my eye was “Bach Flower Remedies”. Apparently a solution for your anxiety and stress. I thought I had heard about it earlier, so I decided to take a closer look.

Bach flower remedies were divined by Edward Bach, a British practitioner of homeopathy in the first half of the 20th century. A bit of background check on sites encomiating him reveals that as a young man he had served as a medical aid provider to soldiers during the World War I. Claims are made that he “recovered completely” from some severe medical condition, varying in different accounts from malignant tumors to hemorrhage in the stomach, even though he was only given three months to live. He trained as an immunologist, and became unhappy with conventional medicine, because he was

dissatisfied with the way doctors were expected to concentrate on diseases and ignore the whole person. He aspired to a more holistic approach to medicine. Perhaps this explains why, not being a homoeopath, he took the offer of a post at the Royal London Homoeopathic Hospital.

He noticed the similarities between vaccines and the homeopathic treatment philosophy of “like cures like”. He developed homeopathic”nosodes”, or doses prepared from body waste containing the products of disease, based on these observations. But he was still not satisfied. He wanted to find remedies that would be “purer and less reliant on the products of disease” than vaccines or anything of the like.

He began collecting plants and in particular flowers – the most highly-developed part of a plant – in the hope of replacing the nosodes with a series of gentler remedies.

By 1930 he was so enthused by the direction his work was taking that he gave up his lucrative Harley Street practice and left London, determined to devote the rest of his life to the new system of medicine that he was sure could be found in nature. He took with him as his assistant a radiographer called Nora Weeks.

Just as he had abandoned his home, office and work, Dr Bach began to abandon the scientific method and its reliance on laboratories and reductionism. He fell back instead on his natural gifts as a healer, and more and more allowed his intuition to guide him to the right plants.

And so Bach Flower Remedies were born. There are 38 different remedies for a range of “energy blockages”, supposedly caused by conflicts between “purposes of the soul and one’s personality and actions”. These 38 different remedies are derived from 38 different flower materials, as mentioned earlier, and then diluted to homeopathic levels using 1:1 brandy-water solution. These solutions are known as “mother tincture”.

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“Ultrasound pest repellers” and pseudoscience

We, as human beings, are difficult to satisfy. Our desires are many, and as intelligent as we maybe, it’s easy to fall into the trap of these desires -led by our emotions-  and make mistakes, sometimes very costly ones. It’s difficult for human beings to accept that they are just animals in the end, and so the world has revolved (continues to, in many parts of the world) around humans for centuries. The gods all over are anthropomorphic (or presumably so, in case they are invisible), and there continue to be Flat Earth Societies. It’s not enough for human beings to have control over the Earth’s resources, they must have control over all of nature, at least in their fantasies. They live their fantasies vicariously through their gods. Science’s fault continues to be that it does not explain everything and continues to try and learn and explain everything, rather than leave it to belief to explain what is perceived as everything. Nevertheless, it seems that it is important for us to believe that everything can be explained through apparent, rather than objectively tested, patterns. Michael Shermer illuminates a bit on this :

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