Skeptophilia (skep-to-fil-i-a) (n.) - the love of logical thought, skepticism, and thinking critically. Being an exploration of the applications of skeptical thinking to the world at large, with periodic excursions into linguistics, music, politics, cryptozoology, and why people keep seeing the face of Jesus on grilled cheese sandwiches.

Thursday, March 22, 2018

Shiny happy energy

As part of the ongoing effort by my readers to drive me completely insane, today I have two links that were sent to me with a "You Gotta See This" message.  And far be it from me not to want to share the experience with all of you.

I'll just assume you're showering me with thanks right now, shall I?

The first has the encouraging title Love Has Won, which sounds awfully nice although you'd think if love really had won, I'd have heard something about it.  When I read the news, it seems to be as much of a raging shitstorm as ever.  Be that as it may, the site is pretty optimistic about everything.  It opens with a bang:
With the arrival and crystallization of the God and Goddess energies within Gaia’s new energy grid the depolarization process begins!  The old eon worked on polarization of the masses and of the individual.  The new eon works very differently! 
It may come as no surprise that humanity has become highly polarized these last few years.  This polarization was the manifestation of the last of the old eon energetics.  The process that is now underway neutralizes all polarization completely and leaves the masses and individuals squarely in the same life circumstances but without the polarization or sense of urgency previously experienced.
Okay!  Right!  What?

I guess the problem here is that I'm starting from the admittedly silly assumption that when people use scientific terms, they actually understand what they mean.  Things like "depolarization," "crystallization," "energy," and so on.  I did read the entire piece to try to determine what the author was trying to tell us, and what I got out of it was that if you can depolarize your energetics, you will take part in ascension, an event that will make the Earth's aura really pretty.

Or something like that.

The aurora.  Not aura.  Which are not the same thing.  [Image courtesy of NASA]

So you don't have to read the whole thing, which I wouldn't suggest in any case unless you have a bottle of scotch handy, let me cut to the chase and let you take a look at the last paragraph:
Energetic activity will remain at the level of its origin unless transmuted consciously to other levels.  To creatively manifest something physically, the process must be driven by physical life force energy.  This means either hard physical work or magical tantric practices.  The astral levels have segregated and the beginning of all great cycles activates the lowest level first, that of life force energy and magic.  That is where we now find ourselves, in a completely magical world.  All the upper astral levels are energetically dead in regards to manifesting things physically.  All other energies will remain in their respective levels unless consciously transmuted.
So I guess that clears that up.

Then we have the site Earth Keeper: Energy Activation of the New Planet Earth, a somewhat flashier site that starts out by telling us about an event to be held in the third week of September in Little Rock, Arkansas, that is called, I shit you not, "ArkLantis."  It is, we are told, a "Crystal Vortex Star-Gate Event," which sounds pretty impressive.  I have to share the description of the event with you, because putting it into my own words just wouldn't convey the full effect, particularly since I wouldn't capitalize every other word:
Join the Earth-Keeper Family in the Incredible Transformational Energy of the Sacred Ark Crystal Vortex ...  The Epi-Centre of the Crystalline Shift.  Arkansas is a Geological Wonder, Containing the Largest Singular Strata of Quartz Crystal on the Planet. Beginning in Little Rock, The Amazing Crystal Deposits Extend 177 miles SW from Little Rock to Hot Springs National Park & onward to Talimena Ridge.  Within the Astonishing Crystals are Rare World Renowned Deposits of Magnetite (at Magnet Cove), the Toltec Mounds Pyramids, Renowned Natural Thermal Healing Springs, Aquifers, Mystical Massive Caverns, Sacred Mountains, Crystal Clear Rivers, Holy Lakes, Amethyst, and an Active Diamond Mine ( Crater of Diamonds State Park).  Arkansas was A Crystal Colony of the Benevolent Law of One Atlanteans.  There are Utterly Astonishing, Enormous Crystals Beneath Arkansas the Size of Buildings.  Three Temple Crystals Were Placed in the Underground Caverns Before the Final Sinking of Atlantis.  The Energy Has Awakened & The Crystal Vortex is Now the Most Potent Crystalline Energy Field on Earth ! Come Experience this Amazingly Sacred Vortexial Land of Ancient Atlantis, Spirit, Multidimensionality & Vision.
I have a good many friends in Arkansas -- it's the home of Oghma Creative Media, which publishes my books -- and I bet they'll be as gobsmacked as I was to learn that what is now Arkansas was once part of Atlantis.

Although, isn't the whole point that Atlantis sunk to the bottom of the ocean?  Arkansas, last time I went there, was dry land.  So that's kind of odd.  Maybe they were kept afloat by the Crystalline Shifted Sacred Vortexial Transformational Energy or something.

You can see how that could happen.

Downtown Little Rock, Arkansas, and/or Atlantis [image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

Anyhow, many thanks to my loyal readers, who with the best of intentions keep making me do near-fatal faceplants directly into my keyboard.  Me, I wondering how to recover from the aftereffects of reading Love Has Won and Earth Keeper in preparation for writing this post.  I guess my only reasonable option is to have a second cup of coffee, since it's still a little early for a double scotch.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Odd eulogies for a great mind

The Earth lost one of its most brilliant minds last week -- British physicist Stephen Hawking, who expanded our understanding of everything from black holes to the Big Bang.

Hawking's death also attracted attention for another reason, which is that he was an outspoken atheist.  In an interview in 2014, Hawking said:
Before we understand science, it is natural to believe that God created the universe.  But now science offers a more convincing explanation. What I meant by "we would know the mind of God" is, we would know everything that God would know, if there were a God, which there isn’t.  I’m an atheist.
As far as death and the afterlife, he was equally unequivocal, something made more interesting still because of his fight against the depredations of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis.  You'd think that if anyone would have engaged in some wishful thinking about the possibility of life after death, it would be a man who was confronted daily with evidence of his own mortality.  But Hawking said, "There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark."

And of course, the spokespeople for the God of Love and Mercy didn't even wait until the poor man's body was cool to start crowing about how he was currently roasting in hell.  I must admit that two people who are frequent fliers here at Skeptophilia -- Franklin Graham and Ken Ham -- at least had fairly measured and compassionate responses.  Graham, who is best known for his fiery vitriol and anti LGBTQ stance -- said the following:
I wish I could have asked Mr. Hawking who he thought designed the human brain.  The designers at HP, Apple, Dell, or Lenovo have developed amazing computers, but none come even close to the amazing capabilities of the human mind.  Who do you think designed the human brain?  The Master Designer — God Himself.  I wish Stephen Hawking could have seen the simple truth that God is the Creator of the universe he loved to study and everything in it.
Ham wrote the following:
A reminder death comes to all. Doesn't matter how famous or not in this world, all will die and face the God who created us and stepped into history in the person of Jesus Christ, to die and be raised to offer a free gift of salvation to all who receive it.
Which, considering some of their statements on other issues, is actually pretty mild.

But the response from other quarters wasn't even that measured.  The site Catholics Online claimed that Hawking had experience a deathbed conversion, similar to the (also false) claims made about Christopher Hitchens when he died in 2016:
Before he died, Stiph [sic] Hawkins [sic] who did not believe in God requested to visit the Vatican.  “Now l believe” was the only statement he made after the Holy Father blessed him.
Well, that may have happened to "Stiph Hawkins," but it sure as hell didn't happen to Stephen Hawking.

But that was far from the most outlandish claim made upon Professor Hawking's death.  That award has to go to Mike Shoesmith, of the conservative Christian PNN Network, who said that Hawking's amazing beat-the-odds lifespan after his ALS diagnosis was because Satan wanted to keep him alive long enough to fight against the message of Billy Graham:
So, in 1942, that is when Billy Graham’s ministry really takes off, and who do you think was born in 1942?  Stephen Hawking.  Stephen Hawking comes from a long line of atheists — his father and all these people — so I believe the devil said, "OK, this guy was just born and I’m going to use this guy. This guy is already primed to accept my message that there is no God. He is already primed for it, he is going to be awash, immersed in atheism all his years as a child, I’m going to take over this guy’s life." 
I believe Stephen Hawking was kept alive by demonic forces.  I believe that it was the demonic realm that kept this man alive as a virtual vegetable his entire life just so he could spread this message that there is no God.
Then when Billy Graham died a couple of weeks ago, I guess Satan just said, "Okay, I'm done with you," and let Hawking die as well.

Me, I'm kind of appalled that there are people who would try to score points off any person's death, much less an august personage such as Professor Hawking.  The whole thing gives lie to their claim of being on the moral high ground by comparison to us ungodly heathen slobs.  Be that as it may, I'd rather remember Stephen Hawking for his brilliance, his contributions to our understanding of the universe, his modesty, and his sense of humor.  As evidence of the last-mentioned, I direct you to this compilation of Hawking's amazing comedic chops, and encourage you to put aside all the people who are using his life and death for their own purposes and have a good laugh with one of the greatest minds humanity has ever produced.  I suspect that Hawking would really prefer our sending him on his way with a smile rather than a eulogy of pious platitudes in any case.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

An instrument of the divine will

There are people for whom the line between reality and fantasy gets so blurred that at some point, I'm not even convinced they know whether they're telling the truth or not.

That's my impression of Kevin Zadai, who was a guest last week on the television show It's Supernatural!, hosted by Sid Roth.  The show itself is about using accounts of the supernatural to bolster up the claims of evangelical Christianity, and Roth himself is essentially a televangelist.  Most of the stuff on the show is the usual fare -- accounts of being led one way or another by Jesus, with positive results (of course), miraculous recoveries from illness, amazing escapes from being injured during natural disasters, and so on.  But last week, Zadai took a different twist on the whole thing.

He related to Roth how he'd gone in for a dental procedure, and he had a reaction to the anesthetic, and his heart stopped.  While he was dead (for want of a better word), he went to heaven, where he met Jesus:
… [Jesus] told me that I didn’t have enough depth in my prayers, that I didn’t have enough access to the depths of my heart, and He explained it…  In Psalm 16, David wrote that, prophetically, for me, He said. Jesus said that David wrote that Psalm, and He memorized that Psalm, because when He was in the depths of Hell, He said He rehearsed that Psalm over and over again, and He said, “I cleared a way out in that place for you, and for everyone, in Messiah, to pray from those depths.” 
He said, “I prayed Myself out of Hell because I had the Psalm 16, and I prayed that continually, and then the Holy Spirit came and resurrected me.”  And he said, “When you pray, you pray with that kind of a fervency, where you know who you are based on the scripture.”  Because He said, “I had no witness when I was down there.  I had no Holy Spirit help.”  He said, “If the Father had not given the command,” he said, “I would sit down there until He gave the command for Me to be resurrected. That’s how much I trusted Him.”  He said, “That’s where you pray from. You pray from those depths. That trust.”
So far, nothing too unusual.  People who have near-death experiences often meet supernatural personages, although interestingly enough, it's always the ones that come from whatever religion they already believed.  If a devout Christian had a near-death experience and met Ganesha, for example, I might be more willing to sit up and take notice.

But then Zadai took an abrupt left turn.  When Roth asked him for more details about his meeting with Jesus, Zadai happily complied -- and said that Jesus had taught him to play the saxophone.

I am not making this up.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

The Messiah, Zadai said, had a pretty nice instrument, and was happy to give him a lesson on it:
...This particular one He had was a soprano sax.  It was a beautiful gold saxophone... He was standing there, and He had this saxophone in His hands, and He started to play it over me…  He took it away from His mouth and handed it to me and He said, “You play.”  And I go, “Lord, I can’t play like that!” 
He said, “That’s because you’re doing it wrong.”  He said, “Let me show you.”  He said, “Stand up.”  So I stood up...  And I looked around and He goes, “See all that around you?”  He said, “That’s the Holy Spirit and the presence and glory of My Father.”  He said, “That’s always there.”  He said, “What’s wrong is that you’re not breathing in Heaven first.”  He said, “Breathe that in first, and then blow it through your horn, and it’ll work out just fine.”  So I took a big breath and all this gold air around me went inside of me, and I put that horn that He handed to me in my mouth, and I blew, and it was exactly like Jesus had played.
Well, I play a wind instrument, and I have to admit that standing up while you play and using your breath to support your tone isn't bad advice.  But this image I have of Jesus playing the soprano sax... well, it's just not working for me.  I know he's supposed to be super-powerful and all-knowing and whatnot, but I honestly never considered that his abilities would extend to having good blues chops.

Now, what strikes me about this is not Zadai making a weird claim.  After all, weird claims are a dime a dozen, and are in fact have been the bread and butter of this blog for going on nine years.  I'm not even surprised about Roth's generally positive reaction, because televangelists, like a lot of talk show hosts, thrive on people saying and doing weird shit, because face it, weird shit sells.

What surprises me is the audience's reaction.  No one -- not a single person -- started laughing.  No one got up and walked out.  Instead, they looked at Zadai as if he were the recipient of a holy miracle.  The audience cheered and shouted "Hallelujah" and "Praise Jesus."  Some audience members were in tears.

I mean, I know that the audience was made up of people who were devout Christians; I'm sure they take great pains to screen out professional scoffers such as myself.  But even so, don't they draw the line somewhere?  What would it take to make them frown and say, "Wait a minute..."?  Would they believe it if someone said Jesus had paid off his credit card bills?  That the Lord had given him some golf tips?  That he got a divine suggestion to play one more round on the roulette wheel at the casino?

On the other hand, these are the same people who think that god cares about the outcome of the Superbowl.

Never mind.

I'm not bringing this up to be scornful (honestly, I'm not).  It's more that I'm curious about how someone could believe in a deity that is so bent on micromanaging everything that he takes the opportunity of a near-death experience to teach a guy a few riffs on the soprano sax.  Of course, in Matthew 10:29, Jesus himself says, "Aren’t two sparrows sold for a penny?  Yet not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will."  So as bizarre as it seems to me, at least it's scripturally consistent.

What I get least, however, is how anyone can find this worldview comforting.  Do you really think it's reassuring that Jesus is always watching you?  Twenty-four hours a day?  To me, that's more "creepy stalker" than it is "light unto the world."

So the whole thing leaves me a little baffled, frankly.  Maybe my own scientific view of the universe seems a little impersonal, but at least I don't have to worry about the spirit of Stephen Hawking watching me while I take a shower, or something.

Monday, March 19, 2018

Bigotry self-defense

I had a bit of an epiphany yesterday.

I was scrolling idly through Facebook, as one does, and came upon a post from an acquaintance claiming that anti-gun liberals were putting red light bulbs in their front porch sockets to let everyone know their stance.  The post crowed about how this would alert criminals that the house was undefended, and ended with the line, "Leave it to a dumbass liberal retard."

Besides the issue of characterizing about 50% of your fellow citizens as stupid, there's the issue of the r-word, which really sets me off.  So I responded, "Keep your ugly invective to yourself."

Within moments, I had two responses, one from a total stranger, who wrote, "LMAO looks like you hurt the feelings of a dumbass liberal retard snowflake."  The other was from the original poster, who wrote, "You're saying that's not a stupid thing to do?"

I responded only to the second -- the first wasn't worth my time -- and said, "I question whether anyone would actually do that, or if it's a bullshit claim made purely to ridicule people you disagree with.  But that's not the point.  The point is that anyone who calls someone a 'retard' has automatically lost the right to claim the high ground."

That prompted another puny defensive response.  At that point, I wrote, "Done with you.  G'bye," and unfriended the person.

The weird thing was that this didn't end it.  She immediately sent me a friend request and a private message, saying, "I hope you don't think that's what I actually believe."  I had to read it twice because I couldn't quite fathom someone writing that after what had gone before.  I responded, "So why did you post it, then?"

She said, "Because the gun issue really pisses me off."

I decided to try one more time.  "That's something we could discuss.  But what you posted was a childish insult, not an argument."

Still no luck.  "All I'm saying is that the whole issue makes me mad."

Okay, done for good this time.  Didn't bother responding, and deleted the re-friend request.

There are a few things about this that appall me.

First, I know we all react in anger sometimes when confronted with dissenting opinions on issues we feel strongly about, and sometimes use language we regret.  But the response then is "sorry I offended," or "you're right, that was over the line," or even "my apologies, I'll delete the post."  Here, the attitude was more "death before backing down."  Note that I didn't even challenge her on her stance on gun laws; we never got that far.  All I did was call her on her nasty choice of words, and I couldn't even get her to look at my side of that.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

Second, what gets me even more about this is how this kind of language has turned into a dog-whistle for the angry and the biased.  "Liberal retard" (or "libtard"), "Republican retard" (or "republitard" or "repugnican") has become a code word for "people I consider worthless because they disagree with me."  "Snowflake" means "someone I don't need to apologize to despite the fact that I'm being deliberately and egregiously offensive."  And another one, which didn't come up but probably would have had I pushed the conversation -- "politically correct," which means "anyone who makes the unreasonable demand that I treat the people in other demographics with respect."

What this whole exchange did is made me mad enough that I've decided I'm done trying to soft-pedal my own insistence that the people I choose to surround myself act with respect.  I have deliberately maintained my contacts with people of varying worldviews -- religious and non-religious, conservative and liberal and every other political gradation -- in an effort to be open-minded and consider other viewpoints rather than locking myself in a world where I can delude myself that everyone thinks like I do.  And, to be fair, the vast majority of my friends and acquaintances treat each other kindly and, when they engage in discussion over controversial issues, do so respectfully.

There's the minority, though, who consider their own beliefs unassailable and anyone who disagrees with them hopeless idiots at best and actively evil at worst, and I've been hesitant to call them out because (1) I dislike conflict, (2) I'm of the opinion that online arguments seldom accomplish anything, and (3) I don't want to be one of those people who isolates himself from anyone who holds different opinions and turns every social contact into an echo chamber.  But the rather banal exchange over Facebook yesterday made me realize that notwithstanding my desire to listen to other viewpoints, I don't have to let myself get bombarded by bigotry, insults, and ugliness every time I turn on my computer.  I wouldn't choose to associate with someone who acts like that in real life; why should I do so on social media?

It's also reminded me that there's a line between listening to dissenting opinions and giving tacit approval to prejudice and vitriol.  And while we should all endeavor to do the former, there's no reason in the world why any of us should accept the latter.

So I think I'm going to be a little quicker with the "unfriend" button from now on.  I probably will still try to challenge people when they make outrageous statements, but if they refuse to back down, there is nothing to be gained by continuing to listen.  At that point, goodbye and have a nice life.

And if that makes me a "politically-correct snowflake," so be it.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Preventing the unknown

Some days it's no great mystery why the general public is dubious about scientists.

I mean, a lot of it is the media, as I've discussed here at Skeptophilia ad nauseam.  But there are times that the scientists themselves put their best foot backward.  As an example, consider the announcement from the World Health Organization this week that their Research & Development Blueprint for priority diseases includes "Disease X."

A disease that is as-yet unidentified.

The blueprint itself says this:
Disease X represents the knowledge that a serious international epidemic could be caused by a pathogen currently unknown to cause human disease, and so the R&D Blueprint explicitly seeks to enable cross-cutting R&D preparedness that is also relevant for an unknown “Disease X” as far as possible.
On the one hand, there's a grain of sense there.  Recognizing the fact that there are "emerging diseases" that are apparently new to humanity, and that could cause epidemics is the first step toward readying ourselves for when that happens.  (Recent examples are Ebola and Lassa fever, Marburg virus, Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), and chikungunya.)

The Ebola virus [image courtesy of the World Health Organization]

But still.  What the WHO is telling the public is that they're putting time and effort into preventing an epidemic from a disease that:
  • may not exist
  • if it does exist, has unknown symptoms, origins, and mode of transmission
  • may or may not be preventable
  • may or may not be treatable
  • may or may not be highly communicable
  • may or may not be carried by other animals
  • is of unknown duration and severity
Is it just me, or does this seem like an exercise in futility?

Like I said, an awareness of the unpredictability of disease outbreaks is a start, but this seems like trying to nail jello to the wall.  Each time humanity has been faced with a potential pandemic, we've had to study the disease and how it moves from one host to another, scramble to find treatments for the symptoms while we're searching for an actual cure (or better yet, a vaccine to prevent it), and do damage control in stricken areas.  So I can't see where the "Disease X" approach gets us, except to put everyone on red alert for an epidemic that may never happen.

I think my eyerolling when I read about this comes from two sources.  First, I'm all too aware that life is risky, and although it's certainly laudable to try to reduce the risk as much as you can, the bare fact is that you can't remove it entirely.  After all, none of us here are getting out of this place alive.  And second, there is an unavoidable chaotic element to what happens -- we get blindsided again and again by bizarre occurrences, and the professional prognosticators (not to mention professional psychics) get it wrong at least as often as they get it right.

So there probably will eventually be a new emerging epidemic.  On a long enough time scale, there's probably going to be a true pandemic as well.  I hope that with our advances in medical research, we'll be able to respond in time to prevent what happened during the Black Death, or worse, the Spanish flu epidemic of 1918 to 1919, that killed an estimated 40 million people (over twice the number of deaths as the battlefield casualties of World War I, which was happening at the same time).

In one sense, I take back what I said about not being able to do anything about it ahead of time.  We can give ourselves the best shot at mitigating the effects of an outbreak -- by funding medical research, and encouraging our best and brightest to go into science (i.e., education, a topic I've also rung the changes on more than once).  Other than that, I'm just going to eat right, exercise, and hope for the best.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Fighting the avalanche

Wednesday was the National Walk Out Day for the #NeverAgain movement, and it's estimated that over a million high school students walked out of their classes to protest the government's inaction on gun law reform -- and the fact that many elected officials are in the pockets of the NRA.  While some school districts were supportive of their right to protest, others chose to punish the ones who participated with penalties up to and including suspension or paddling.  (Yes, there are schools that still inflict corporal punishment on students.)

And of course, the backlash from the general public against the students who participated went full-bore almost immediately.  A quick perusal of social media was enough to gauge the vitriol being hurled at them.  One person I saw called them "lazy little snowflakes."  Others said they were only walking out so they could claim justification for skipping class (odd, then, that in our area -- where many schools were closed because of a snowstorm -- students showed up anyhow so they could stand in solidarity with the rest of the protesters).  They were called names (a politician from Maine called #NeverAgain leader Emma González "a skinhead lesbian").  They were accused of being tools of the radical left.  Most frustrating -- at least for me, looking at it from the outside -- is the level of condescension from adults, the implication that there's no way that these young adults could possibly have a relevant opinion, or one that the adults themselves should take seriously.

What this demonstration has proven, however, is that the adults who are misjudging and/or dismissing these teenagers are doing so at their own risk.  There is no sign of this movement going away, or being at all quelled by the snark being hurled their way, or how they are being portrayed in social media and (most of) the conservative press.  A banner was put up on a fence near Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School on Wednesday with a particularly trenchant quote from Douglas herself:

The last time I've seen an anti-establishment uprising this powerful was the anti-Vietnam-War protests of the 1960s and early 70s.  The same kind of insults were lobbed at protesters back then; they were ne'er-do-wells, hippies who just wanted to tear down the rule of law, stoners whose opinion didn't count and shouldn't be taken seriously.

Today's establishment should look at the results of that episode as the cautionary tale it is.

It's worth considering looking even further back in history, however, and recognizing that civil disobedience is how this country was founded.  And while we call the people who launched the American Revolution are called "the Founding Fathers," they were by and large young people.  In 1776, James Monroe (and French ally the Marquis de Lafayette) were 18, Aaron Burr 20, Nathan Hale 21, Robert Townsend 22, George Rodgers Clark 23, and James Madison 25.  While some of them were in their thirties and forties -- notably George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and John Adams -- the Revolution was not fought, or even led, by staid, dignified elder statesmen.

These kids have stood up to politicians all they way up to the president of the United States; they are not going to be silenced by disdain.  And it bears mention that a significant portion of the teenagers who are participating will be of voting age by the November elections; virtually all of them will be voting by November 2020.  And trust me, they are not going to forget the elected officials who have ridiculed them and dismissed their opinions.

Whether you agree with them or disagree with them, this movement is not going to be stopped.  The wise among us will at least engage in an honest dialogue with them.  The foolish will discount their power and try to stand in their way, or even pretend they don't exist.

If these young adults are snowflakes, prepare for an avalanche.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Closing the books on homeopathy

There comes a point when there is absolutely no reason to continue investigating a claim for which there is no evidence (or significant evidence against).  Pursuing it beyond that point is a waste of money, time, and effort, and can only be explained by people's desperation not to have their pet idea proven wrong.

That point has been reached by homeopathy.  It is useless, unscientific horseshit.  Case closed.

But if by some chance you still were unconvinced, consider the paper that was withdrawn last week from the journal Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  The title of the journal itself makes me wince a little; to paraphrase Tim Minchin, when alternative medicine has the support of evidence, it is thereafter known as "medicine."  But setting that aside for a moment, the paper in question was written by father/son team Aradeep and Ashim Chatterjee, and claimed that the homeopathic remedy "psorinum" was effective in treating cancer.

Without even knowing what "psorinum" is, any claim that a homeopathic "remedy" can cure cancer is about as close to medical fraud as you can skate without committing an actual crime.  If you don't know how "remedies" are created, the quick explanation is that you take a substance of some kind and dilute it past the point where there is any of it left, and then use the resulting water to treat whatever condition has symptoms like the ones created by ingesting the original substance.

For example: the homeopathic sleep-aid "calms fortĂ©" is made by diluting caffeine.  I shit you not.

[image courtesy of the Wikimedia Commons]

In the case of "psorinum," however, we have an additional level of "what the fuck?" to add; the "remedy" is made by diluting...

... wait for it...

... fluid from the blisters of someone who has scabies.

I feel obliged to say at this point that I am not making this up.  The site Homeopathy Plus, which is the source of the link above, says the following about "psorinum:"
Those who need Psorinum usually lack vitality and are prone to mental disturbances.  They catch infections easily, especially colds, and recover slowly.  Skin complaints are common and if unattended will be dirty and offensive but these days with frequent bathing and access to steroids, are less likely to be so.  The person is also likely to be anxious about health, work, poverty and the future which leads to depression, despair and sometimes, suicidal thoughts.
You read that right.  If you're depressed because you're poor, the treatment is to ingest serially-diluted scabies pus.

Anyhow, the Chatterjees wrote a paper suggesting that "psorinum" could treat cancer, and evidently that was too much even for Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine.  When it was found that (1) the "ethics board" that cleared the study the paper was based on was identical to the Board of Directors of a clinic the Chatterjees owned, and (2) both the father and the son were practicing medicine without a license, it was too much for the authorities, too, and the pair were arrested.

This, unfortunately, is not a unique occurrence.  Papers supporting homeopathy have, one and all, been shown to be cherry-picked, if not outright fraudulent.  100% of the controlled scientific studies of homeopathic claims have resulted in zero evidence in favor.

So enough people-hours and research grant money has been wasted on this.  Homeopathy was a ridiculous claim from the get-go, but it was only fair to test it.  The research community did so.  It failed.

Case closed.

Now, the next step is to get those useless sugar pills off the shelves at CVS and other pharmacies.  I know the principle of caveat emptor applies, and if you're choosing to waste your money on fake treatments, you deserve what you get.  But the companies that make this stuff are profiting off the general public's gullibility and ignorance, people are taking quack remedies for serious conditions instead of seeking out legitimate medical help, and the Food & Drug Administration needs to put a stop to it.

As far as the Chatterjees go -- to quote a friend of mine, "I hope they bring them some 'psorinum' sugar pills in jail to cure their 'anxiety about the future.'"  To which I can only add: "Would you like some highly-diluted skin lotion for that burn?"