0808: "The Economic Argument"

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby davidstarlingm » Tue Nov 02, 2010 2:08 am UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:I think it is fairly accepted that some people can fix coin flips if they practice it and if they catch the coin. It would be a lot harder and maybe impossible if you let it fall to the ground.

I have always heard practice is key, though. It's pretty remarkable if you can do this without any real practice.


Yeah, it's pretty much impossible if the coin hits the ground.

I have been able to do it ever since I first started trying. But I've flipped a coin quite a few times in my life, so I guess I was unconsciously practicing....

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby uncivlengr » Tue Nov 02, 2010 12:29 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:
uncivlengr wrote:The problem with that is that people typically have an idea of what an aura is, and redefining (or "broadening" the definition of) words in a way that contradicts that isn't helpful. By this definition, an "aural identification" is nothing but a placeholder term for what you really mean, which is cold reading.

Similarly, when someone talks about dowsing, they're usually implying that the act of dowsing is actually doing something, not that they're making educated guesses and just happen to be holding coat hangers.


In that case, the burden of proof is on the aura reader or the dowser to demonstrate that their activity is outside the definition we've given them. In other words, "What is wrong with our definition?" This forces the paranormal claimant to identify exactly what aspects of his claim are outside the realm of what could be scientifically expected. We don't expect them to agree with our definition, but at least they will reveal exactly what they are claiming.
I don't think it's up to anyone to redefine words to mean something other than what they've always ment... even if it were, it would only be confusing and/or ineffectual.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby gmalivuk » Tue Nov 02, 2010 3:08 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:
Eebster the Great wrote:I think it is fairly accepted that some people can fix coin flips if they practice it and if they catch the coin. It would be a lot harder and maybe impossible if you let it fall to the ground.
Yeah, it's pretty much impossible if the coin hits the ground.
Though I imagine it would get easier as the ground got softer and/or stickier, since the unpredictable thing is how it bounces. You could probably get quite good at flipping the coin at a particular rotational speed over a particular trajectory so that it always lands heads-up, at least initially. So you just have to cover the ground with honey or something to prevent it bouncing after that.

uncivlengr wrote:I don't think it's up to anyone to redefine words to mean something other than what they've always ment... even if it were, it would only be confusing and/or ineffectual.
Plus we don't need to redefine anything to make that same challenge. I don't have to define dowsing as "any attempt to find water using external clues", because I can still say that that's all so-called "dowsing" actually is. I don't have to define aura as "the total set of nonverbal clues a person gives about their internal state" to nonetheless issue a challenge to "aura readers" to prove that what they can do is any different from cold reading.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby HungryHobo » Tue Nov 02, 2010 6:05 pm UTC

"any attempt to find water using external clues"

Not to put too fine a point on it but that would redefine any and all regular water prospecting as dowsing since geological surveys and seismic imaging can only provide (good) clues, not definative answers.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby uncivlengr » Tue Nov 02, 2010 6:56 pm UTC

Also, people dowse for things other than water, such as oil and metals.

In the end, all that's important is whether someone can adequately describe and substantiate the claims they make - it doesn't matter what label you or they place on it.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby lewikee » Tue Nov 02, 2010 9:37 pm UTC

I think the best way to alleviate some of the difficulties we've been talking about in this thread is for the claimants themselves to propose an experiment showing their skills. They propose an experiment and they make the predictions of the outcome. The skeptic judges whether the prediction lies in the paranormal range, and if it does, on with the experiment! It is assumed both claimant and skeptic allow enough statistical significance in the design of the experiment, of course.

Any disagreement would have to then occur during the experiment design phase. The disagreement would have to be about the conditions of the experiment, which is a great way for both sides to become acquainted with the subtleties of the claimant's abilities. In other words, the claimants themselves could actually learn something about their own claimed powers when they realize just how favorable the conditions of the test have to be to them.

Once the experiment design is agreed upon and the experiment occurs, neither side would have much right to complain, and evidence would have been generated in the field.

I find it bizarre that people who claim to have supernatural or paranormal powers don't immediately try to test themselves to make sure they really do have that power. The first thing I'd do if I thought I had a supernatural power would be to learn how to do a statistical hypothesis test on myself.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby gmalivuk » Wed Nov 03, 2010 3:57 am UTC

lewikee wrote:I think the best way to alleviate some of the difficulties we've been talking about in this thread is for the claimants themselves to propose an experiment showing their skills. They propose an experiment and they make the predictions of the outcome. The skeptic judges whether the prediction lies in the paranormal range, and if it does, on with the experiment! It is assumed both claimant and skeptic allow enough statistical significance in the design of the experiment, of course.

Any disagreement would have to then occur during the experiment design phase. The disagreement would have to be about the conditions of the experiment, which is a great way for both sides to become acquainted with the subtleties of the claimant's abilities. In other words, the claimants themselves could actually learn something about their own claimed powers when they realize just how favorable the conditions of the test have to be to them.

Once the experiment design is agreed upon and the experiment occurs, neither side would have much right to complain, and evidence would have been generated in the field.
That's... pretty much exactly how Randi sets up the tests.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby webgiant » Wed Nov 03, 2010 4:53 pm UTC

SocialSceneRepairman wrote:"It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient"? Then it's a fucking placebo! That is the fucking definition of a placebo! If it's actually effective, then it should work whether or not the doctor or patient have any clue what it is. If not, then it's all built on the power of positive thinking - which, while not as powerful as Oprah might tell you, is still pretty fucking powerful - and so it's a placebo.

I don't know about your doctor and his apparently rather effective supernatural method of predicting the future of any action he takes (to make up for his total lack of any relationship with you, his patient), but if I don't have a good sharing relationship between myself and my doctor I'm going to go try to get another doctor. The definition of effective allopathic medicine is a relationship between doctor and patient. If there's no relationship, then the doctor is just firing drug bullets wildly and randomly into the patient and hoping one of them cures him while not actually causing any more harm than is there already.

I think I understand what you are trying to say, but your actual words used say that if a doctor has a relationship with his patient then any treatments prescribed are merely placebos, including antibiotics. Please clarify.

Also, "it should work whether or not the doctor...[has] any clue what it is" is a downright scary attitude to have, and makes me want to know who your doctor is so I can avoid your doctor.

Doctors ignorant of what their drugs do or what they are? Now thats the definition of homeopathy!

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby lewikee » Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:01 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
lewikee wrote:I think the best way to alleviate some of the difficulties we've been talking about in this thread is for the claimants themselves to propose an experiment showing their skills. They propose an experiment and they make the predictions of the outcome. The skeptic judges whether the prediction lies in the paranormal range, and if it does, on with the experiment! It is assumed both claimant and skeptic allow enough statistical significance in the design of the experiment, of course.

Any disagreement would have to then occur during the experiment design phase. The disagreement would have to be about the conditions of the experiment, which is a great way for both sides to become acquainted with the subtleties of the claimant's abilities. In other words, the claimants themselves could actually learn something about their own claimed powers when they realize just how favorable the conditions of the test have to be to them.

Once the experiment design is agreed upon and the experiment occurs, neither side would have much right to complain, and evidence would have been generated in the field.
That's... pretty much exactly how Randi sets up the tests.


My understanding from having seen and read about a few outcomes was that the claimant had merely agreed to the testing procedures. After they failed the test, they almost all lashed out at Randi as having tricked them.

My proposition is for the claimant to first educate themselves in statistical hypothesis testing, and for them to propose an experiment to Randi instead of the other way around. After some back and forth on the experiment design (which in itself would be enlightening in revealing just what the ability is), they would both agree on a test. This would make both sides happy with whatever result occurs, since now there is no longer a side that thinks they were tricked by math, or tricked by science, since they understand it.

The next question then is: why isn't this already being done? What makes those that claim to have paranormal powers so allergic to learning how to test themselves, and then actually testing themselves?

I would be happy to hear from those with an answer other than the one I think is most likely (that they don't want to reveal to themselves that they don't have a power).
Last edited by lewikee on Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:14 pm UTC, edited 6 times in total.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby webgiant » Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:06 pm UTC

Eebster the Great wrote:
webgiant wrote:Again, I'm not saying the stars and planets are in control. I'm saying it looks like a clock.

That still makes no sense. There would be and probably could be no evolutionary reason nor biological mechanism for this.

I don't think an evolutionary or biological reason is needed, just a cultural reason. Remember that a clock is an invention by humans to measure out human-created units of time using human-created numbers. Astrology as a clock just measures the future personalities of people born on a certain human-created date in a certain human created culture. Different cultures have different astrologies precisely because they have different cultures, not because astrology is "bunk".

You're still assuming I think the stars and planets control us, which--if they did through some as yet undiscovered force--would introduce an actual "evolutionary" or "biological" factor into the process, like the moon's gravitational effects do on Earth creatures. I don't think the stars and planets exert any control at all, so I don't need an evolutionary or biological basis for what I perceive as a cultural clock basis for the astrology of a given culture.

Eebster the Great wrote:
webgiant wrote:And confirmation bias only counts as a snark when you assume I'm working with known personalities and fitting them into their natal horoscopes. I had a few friends toss me random birthdates without telling me names and personalities, and had a fair amount of accuracy.

That's not true. You could still be feeding them fairly vague and generalized descriptions and they could think, "yeah, I guess she is like that." A much better test would be to give you a randomized and anonymized list of descriptions of personalities or even the people themselves and then make you predict their sign based on their personality. Alternatively, if you really want to do things your way, you could repeat the test with new birthdates but have two sets of friends testing your descriptions. One set would receive back your descriptions paired with the same people you chose and the other your descriptions paired with the wrong people. Assuming these sets of friends don't know the birthdays themselves or don't know anything about astrology this would still be a good test.

Oh, I already think this is a good test of the astrological system. Running the system backwards sounds like a great way to test the system. I'd do it but I just dabble in astrology because its a cool thing to do with math, so I don't know enough about astrology to do predictions in reverse.

Now the whole personality part of the test would be interesting, if not difficult, to set up. This is because we'd need some sort of empirical standard of, for example, "flamboyant". When is someone completely flamboyant and not just occasionally called upon to act on a stage? This becomes important for the reverse testing as an astrology skeptic could set up the personality traits to cause a fail by taking a "flamboyant" person and redefining them into "just does it on weekends so they're not really flamboyant." When you take into account that Randi might lose money on the deal, we'd need a disinterested third party in on the setup, someone who takes an interest in fairness but who won't lose much sleep (or any money) on either outcome.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:14 pm UTC

lewikee wrote:My understanding from having seen and read about a few outcomes was that the claimant had merely agreed to the testing procedures. After they failed the test, they almost all lashed out at Randi as having conned them.

My proposition is for the claimant to first educate themselves in statistical hypothesis testing, and for them to propose an experiment to Randi instead of the other way around. This would make both sides happy with whatever result occurs, since now there is no longer a side that thinks they were tricked by math, or tricked by science, since they understand it.
They do usually come up with the test, JREF usually declines the protocal if it isn't a sound design, or modifies it to varying degrees.

Both parties always agree with the testing protocal prior to the test (otherwise it is not performed) and the claimants always come up with an excuse when the test fails - that's a function of their denial, not a flaw in the procedure of the challenge.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby lewikee » Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:25 pm UTC

uncivlengr wrote:
lewikee wrote:My understanding from having seen and read about a few outcomes was that the claimant had merely agreed to the testing procedures. After they failed the test, they almost all lashed out at Randi as having conned them.

My proposition is for the claimant to first educate themselves in statistical hypothesis testing, and for them to propose an experiment to Randi instead of the other way around. This would make both sides happy with whatever result occurs, since now there is no longer a side that thinks they were tricked by math, or tricked by science, since they understand it.
They do usually come up with the test, JREF usually declines the protocal if it isn't a sound design, or modifies it to varying degrees.

Both parties always agree with the testing protocal prior to the test (otherwise it is not performed) and the claimants always come up with an excuse when the test fails - that's a function of their denial, not a flaw in the procedure of the challenge.


I wasn't necessarily saying the procedure was flawed. I was only trying to propose a twist on it that would make the claimants have nothing left to say except "wow, looks I just failed the test." I am very surprised you're saying that they usually come up with the test. From the lot I've seen, they don't seem to have any idea about what statistical significance means (as gathered from their quotes, during and after the test).

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Nov 03, 2010 5:46 pm UTC

lewikee wrote:
uncivlengr wrote:
lewikee wrote:My understanding from having seen and read about a few outcomes was that the claimant had merely agreed to the testing procedures. After they failed the test, they almost all lashed out at Randi as having conned them.

My proposition is for the claimant to first educate themselves in statistical hypothesis testing, and for them to propose an experiment to Randi instead of the other way around. This would make both sides happy with whatever result occurs, since now there is no longer a side that thinks they were tricked by math, or tricked by science, since they understand it.
They do usually come up with the test, JREF usually declines the protocal if it isn't a sound design, or modifies it to varying degrees.

Both parties always agree with the testing protocal prior to the test (otherwise it is not performed) and the claimants always come up with an excuse when the test fails - that's a function of their denial, not a flaw in the procedure of the challenge.


I wasn't necessarily saying the procedure was flawed. I was only trying to propose a twist on it that would make the claimants have nothing left to say except "wow, looks I just failed the test." I am very surprised you're saying that they usually come up with the test. From the lot I've seen, they don't seem to have any idea about what statistical significance means (as gathered from their quotes, during and after the test).
I should have said they usually come up with a test, not the test - it's invariably modified to fit the criteria of the challenge.

If you go to the JREF site and read some of the documentation on the testing that's been performed, one thing that becomes clear is that nobody has any shortage of explanations as to why it didn't work - some have claimed that Randi himself casts his bad mojo over the test, even from miles away, so they've gotten into the habit of not informing Randi of the actual test date and location.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Nov 03, 2010 6:22 pm UTC

webgiant wrote:
SocialSceneRepairman wrote:"It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient"? Then it's a fucking placebo! That is the fucking definition of a placebo! If it's actually effective, then it should work whether or not the doctor or patient have any clue what it is. If not, then it's all built on the power of positive thinking - which, while not as powerful as Oprah might tell you, is still pretty fucking powerful - and so it's a placebo.

I don't know about your doctor and his apparently rather effective supernatural method of predicting the future of any action he takes (to make up for his total lack of any relationship with you, his patient), but if I don't have a good sharing relationship between myself and my doctor I'm going to go try to get another doctor. The definition of effective allopathic medicine is a relationship between doctor and patient. If there's no relationship, then the doctor is just firing drug bullets wildly and randomly into the patient and hoping one of them cures him while not actually causing any more harm than is there already.

I think I understand what you are trying to say, but your actual words used say that if a doctor has a relationship with his patient then any treatments prescribed are merely placebos, including antibiotics. Please clarify.

Also, "it should work whether or not the doctor...[has] any clue what it is" is a downright scary attitude to have, and makes me want to know who your doctor is so I can avoid your doctor.

Doctors ignorant of what their drugs do or what they are? Now thats the definition of homeopathy!

I think you're misunderstanding the point that SocialSceneRepairman was making. Certainly, a good doctor in the field prescribing treatments should understand his patient and understand the possible treatments, and should involve the patient in the choice of treatments, since the patient is the ultimate authority over his own body.

But if the treatment works only because the doctor and/or patient expect it to, then it's a placebo.

Consider these two alternate circumstances:

- Good doctor D extensively examines and interviews patient P to get an understanding of the patient's illness, then extensively reviews possible treatment options, discusses them with the patient, and together they decide to go ahead with treatment T.

- Bad doctor W schedules five minutes to perform cursory examinations of patient K, mostly just for show, then pulls treatment T out of a hat or because the manufacturers paid him to do so, and forces it on his patient without any discussion or explanation.

If T is a truly effective treatment and not just a placebo, then it will be equally effective on both patients P and K, even though D prescribed it in a thoughtful manner for good reasons while W prescribed it in a thoughtless manner for bad reasons.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby webgiant » Wed Nov 03, 2010 6:37 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
lewikee wrote:I think the best way to alleviate some of the difficulties we've been talking about in this thread is for the claimants themselves to propose an experiment showing their skills. They propose an experiment and they make the predictions of the outcome. The skeptic judges whether the prediction lies in the paranormal range, and if it does, on with the experiment! It is assumed both claimant and skeptic allow enough statistical significance in the design of the experiment, of course.

Any disagreement would have to then occur during the experiment design phase. The disagreement would have to be about the conditions of the experiment, which is a great way for both sides to become acquainted with the subtleties of the claimant's abilities. In other words, the claimants themselves could actually learn something about their own claimed powers when they realize just how favorable the conditions of the test have to be to them.

Once the experiment design is agreed upon and the experiment occurs, neither side would have much right to complain, and evidence would have been generated in the field.
That's... pretty much exactly how Randi sets up the tests.

Ah, I see how Randi cons them: he lets people who don't know anything about statistical analysis or experimental procedure design the tests. This automatically biases the tests against the supernatural folks. A good researcher who knows his experimental protocol can set up his test to be favorable to him in subtle ways that don't (usually) get caught by peer-review.

The really funny bit is that when they claim Randi conned them, they're right, but they'll never know why they are right.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Nov 03, 2010 6:41 pm UTC

I think it might be a good idea to post a few threads from the james randi foundation forums to give people an idea how they design the challenges.

"Rosemary Hunter has applied for the Challenge, media presence requirement included, with the extraordinary claim that she can make people urinate themselves with the power of her mind."
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=89877

"Patricia Putt has applied for the Challenge (and met all requirements) with a claim of psychic ability. "
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=118952

there also a number of applicants who are not accepted because they can't define the effects of their claimed abilities in any measurable ways or keep wildly changing their claims or come with claims that aren't actually paranormal.

examples:

"Mr. Price has been unable to clarify how his ability is paranormal, and his file has been closed. "
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=112989

"Mr. Tobolson's Challenge File has been closed, due to a continued inability to express any specific details regarding the claim - including accuracy, conditions required to perform, and an inability to focus on a single claim."
http://forums.randi.org/showthread.php?t=108063


My proposition is for the claimant to first educate themselves in statistical hypothesis testing, and for them to propose an experiment to Randi instead of the other way around. After some back and forth on the experiment design (which in itself would be enlightening in revealing just what the ability is), they would both agree on a test. This would make both sides happy with whatever result occurs, since now there is no longer a side that thinks they were tricked by math, or tricked by science, since they understand it.


They do ask the claimants to propose the test, they then have someone go over it, make any alterations to it which are required to make it scientifically rigorous and send it back to them.
it goes back and forth until both parties are happy.
Finally james randi signs off on the final draft and it goes for testing.

generally you can't require people to understand math and science, they'd just complain because they are being excluded because they don't understand it.
so they stick to fairly straightforward requirements like having to cause a certain number of people to *such and such* or finding a 8 out of 10 samples hidden under covers etc etc.
rarely does it get so complex that stats have to be involved.

The next question then is: why isn't this already being done? What makes those that claim to have paranormal powers so allergic to learning how to test themselves, and then actually testing themselves?

It is being done.
human nature.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby webgiant » Wed Nov 03, 2010 7:43 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
webgiant wrote:
SocialSceneRepairman wrote:"It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient"? Then it's a fucking placebo! That is the fucking definition of a placebo! If it's actually effective, then it should work whether or not the doctor or patient have any clue what it is. If not, then it's all built on the power of positive thinking - which, while not as powerful as Oprah might tell you, is still pretty fucking powerful - and so it's a placebo.

I don't know about your doctor and his apparently rather effective supernatural method of predicting the future of any action he takes (to make up for his total lack of any relationship with you, his patient), but if I don't have a good sharing relationship between myself and my doctor I'm going to go try to get another doctor. The definition of effective allopathic medicine is a relationship between doctor and patient. If there's no relationship, then the doctor is just firing drug bullets wildly and randomly into the patient and hoping one of them cures him while not actually causing any more harm than is there already.

I think I understand what you are trying to say, but your actual words used say that if a doctor has a relationship with his patient then any treatments prescribed are merely placebos, including antibiotics. Please clarify.

Also, "it should work whether or not the doctor...[has] any clue what it is" is a downright scary attitude to have, and makes me want to know who your doctor is so I can avoid your doctor.

Doctors ignorant of what their drugs do or what they are? Now thats the definition of homeopathy!

I think you're misunderstanding the point that SocialSceneRepairman was making. Certainly, a good doctor in the field prescribing treatments should understand his patient and understand the possible treatments, and should involve the patient in the choice of treatments, since the patient is the ultimate authority over his own body.

But if the treatment works only because the doctor and/or patient expect it to, then it's a placebo.

Allow me to quote myself, since you're saying a lot of things that do not need to be said (emphasis mine):

webgiant wrote:I think I understand what you are trying to say, but your actual words used say


I was referring to his unfortunate use of language, not that I was misunderstanding his reasonable point that if the relationship is the sole factor in treatment effectiveness then it is indistinguishable from placebo.

If we're going to argue with idiots who don't understand language, it pays for us to understand language.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby HungryHobo » Wed Nov 03, 2010 7:50 pm UTC

If T is a truly effective treatment and not just a placebo, then it will be equally effective on both patients P and K, even though D prescribed it in a thoughtful manner for good reasons while W prescribed it in a thoughtless manner for bad reasons.


actually good bedside manner is still relevant.
making the patient more confident in the treatment can add the placebo effect to the actual effect of the treatment.

Ah, I see how Randi cons them: he lets people who don't know anything about statistical analysis or experimental procedure design the tests. This automatically biases the tests against the supernatural folks. A good researcher who knows his experimental protocol can set up his test to be favorable to him in subtle ways that don't (usually) get caught by peer-review.


please just go through some of the test procedures and find actual unfairness rather than making things up.


it isn't rocket science.
it's finding the 1 piece of gold or cup of water under one of 10 buckets 8 times out of 10.
nothing that requires advanced math or understanding of deep statistics.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby Pfhorrest » Wed Nov 03, 2010 7:56 pm UTC

webgiant wrote:I was referring to his unfortunate use of language, not that I was misunderstanding his reasonable point that if the relationship is the sole factor in treatment effectiveness then it is indistinguishable from placebo.

If we're going to argue with idiots who don't understand language, it pays for us to understand language.

Except that his words don't say what you said they say, which is why I said I thought you misunderstood his words (though you apparently understood his intent anyway, somehow).

He said, emphasis mine:
"It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient"? Then it's a fucking placebo! That is the fucking definition of a placebo! If it's actually effective, then it should work whether or not the doctor or patient have any clue what it is.

No one is disputing, explicitly or implicitly, that the relationship between a doctor and patient is important in the process of selecting an effective treatment; but if the treatment relies on that relationship for its effectiveness, then it's just a placebo; and conversely, if it's not a placebo, then it should work regardless of what doctor or patient know about it. Of course it is unlikely that an effective treatment will be used in the first place without that relationship in the selection process, but if by chance it was, it should work even lacking that relationship.



On the other subject of Randi's testing etc, I imagine the situation goes something like this:

Claimant: I can do [thing]!
Randi: How could you prove it?
Claimant: We could do [experiment]!
Randi: That would not be conclusive because [science]. We would have to [modifications] to make [experiment] conclusively demonstrate [thing].
Claimant (who does not understand [science]): Uh, ok, I guess we'll [modifications] then!
([experiment] with [modifications] is done)
Randi: Results are negative.
Claimant: You swindled me with [science]!

( ♬ She swindled me— with SCIENCE! It's comedy in motion... ♬ )
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby uncivlengr » Wed Nov 03, 2010 8:51 pm UTC

webgiant wrote:Ah, I see how Randi cons them: he lets people who don't know anything about statistical analysis or experimental procedure design the tests. This automatically biases the tests against the supernatural folks. A good researcher who knows his experimental protocol can set up his test to be favorable to him in subtle ways that don't (usually) get caught by peer-review.

The really funny bit is that when they claim Randi conned them, they're right, but they'll never know why they are right.
The claimant provides two critical pieces of information: what they can do, and with what accuracy. Presumably, the accuracy must be to a degree that can be feasibly tested by experiment: if the claim is that they can accurately predict the result of a coin flip 52% of the time, it would take an unreasonable amount of testing to confirm.

There's nothing biased, sneaky or underhanded about the tests - perhaps if you actually examined the challenge protocols that were agreed upon for the various tests that have been performed, you wouldn't have to jump to so many conclusions through baseless speculation.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby webgiant » Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:05 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:
webgiant wrote:Ah, I see how Randi cons them: he lets people who don't know anything about statistical analysis or experimental procedure design the tests. This automatically biases the tests against the supernatural folks. A good researcher who knows his experimental protocol can set up his test to be favorable to him in subtle ways that don't (usually) get caught by peer-review.


please just go through some of the test procedures and find actual unfairness rather than making things up.

it isn't rocket science.
it's finding the 1 piece of gold or cup of water under one of 10 buckets 8 times out of 10.
nothing that requires advanced math or understanding of deep statistics.

It requires advanced math and understanding of deep statistics to subtly influence the experiment in your favor. Which was the point I was making, not this irrelevant idea you thought I was talking about.

Personally I'm rather gleeful about the idea that deliberately ignoring the subtleties of experimental procedure your entire life can come back to bite you rather hard in the ass. So its not like I'm going to tell any supernatural hawkster about this detail or anything.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby webgiant » Thu Nov 04, 2010 4:34 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:
webgiant wrote:I was referring to his unfortunate use of language, not that I was misunderstanding his reasonable point that if the relationship is the sole factor in treatment effectiveness then it is indistinguishable from placebo.

If we're going to argue with idiots who don't understand language, it pays for us to understand language.

Except that his words don't say what you said they say, which is why I said I thought you misunderstood his words (though you apparently understood his intent anyway, somehow).

Its called reading comprehension, which was strained to the breaking point with his poor choice of words. If I wasn't on the XKCD forums, with its larger percentage of smart people, I'dve been hard pressed to assume an intelligent thought was intended with the poor choice of words.

Pfhorrest wrote:He said, emphasis mine:
"It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient"? Then it's a fucking placebo! That is the fucking definition of a placebo! If it's actually effective, then it should work whether or not the doctor or patient have any clue what it is.

No one is disputing, explicitly or implicitly, that the relationship between a doctor and patient is important in the process of selecting an effective treatment;

And you can tapdance all you like but this is not what he said with those words. If the relationship between a doctor and patient is the definition of placebo, then his words said that perfectly. If he did not intend for that to be his intent, then he should have used different words. Whether or not your audience used their extensive reading comprehension skills to understand his poor choice of words is immaterial to the fact of his poor choice of words.

You see, allopathic medicine also suffers from the negative placebo effect (it even has a name: nocebo). Amongst the many forms of nocebo, one form is when the patient thinks the doctor is a blithering idiot and an otherwise effective treatment is less effective as a result. Allopathic medicine does not rely on the relationship between doctor and patient for all of its effectiveness, but allopathic medicine relies on the relationship between a doctor and a patient for its overall effectiveness. This is why I'd prefer a doctor who knows what his drugs do and how they do their work.

Here, for example, is a better way to say what he intended, but did not accomplish, in saying:

"It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient"? Then it's a fucking placebo! The relationship between a doctor and patient being the sole deciding factor is the fucking definition of a placebo!


And after all, the relationship between a doctor and his patient being the sole deciding factor is the fucking definition of placebo. The relationship between a doctor and his patient being relied on for full treatment effectiveness fits both placebo and allopathic medicine (nocebo in the latter case).

So, again, if we're going to argue with idiots who don't understand language, it pays for us to understand language.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby Eebster the Great » Thu Nov 04, 2010 5:16 pm UTC

y u so mad tho?

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:01 pm UTC

Seriously, webgiant, why be such an ass about it? Do you think we'll all miss things if they're not in bold?

And do you understand what "rely on" means? Because in that last post it doesn't seem like you do. Or at least, it seems like you're grossly overestimating the effect of placebo/nocebo reactions in patients. Real medicine primarily *relies on* interventions that have been tried and tested and have science behind them. The relationship between doctor and patient is also important, but medicine doesn't rely on it, in that your ear infection will go away with antibiotics whether you think your doctor knows what they're doing or not.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby Rackum » Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:17 pm UTC

Rely. Effective "allopathic" (not a fan of the term but it looks like that's what we're using here) medicine does not rely on the relationship between doctor and patient; it could potentially gain some benefit from it (through placebo) but it is not dependent on that relationship. A good diagnostician can diagnose and prescribe treatment to a patient he has never seen so long as symptoms and test results are conveyed without error.

So I guess I would agree with you -- it does help to have an understanding of language.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby Pfhorrest » Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:54 pm UTC

"It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient"? Then it's a fucking placebo! That is the fucking definition of a placebo!

"That" is a demonstrative pronoun, in this case referring to the situation quoted earlier in the above passage, namely, "It relies on the relationship between doctor and patient." To expand the demonstrative pronoun then, we get something like "Reliance on the relationship between doctor and patient is the definition of a placebo." (Obscenities redacted). "Reliance", in turn, means dependency, or to use your preferred language, determination. If X relies on Y then the status of Y (at least partly) determines the status of X. So using that terminology, "Determination by the relationship between doctor and patient is the definition of a placebo."

You seem to be suggesting that effective "allopathic" medicine makes use of the placebo effect. That may or may not be the case, but even so, it doesn't change the fact that what was claimed is that determination by doctor-patient relationships defines placebos, and that is (at least approximately) correct. (Doctor-patient relationships are a subset of the type of phenomena determination by which defines placebos). You added the qualifier "sole" to your rephrasing, but that's not really necessary: something is a placebo to the extent that it is determined by doctor-patient relationships (or the like), so if something is partly determined by that and partly determined by something else, then part of its effect is placebo and part is genuine non-placebo effectiveness.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby davidstarlingm » Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:57 pm UTC

Just a thought....

Can we not use the term "allopathic" unless absolutely necessary? The word was coined by the founder of homeopathy, and, like homeopathy, it is utterly meaningless.

This isn't "allopathic" vs "homeopathic". It's "real medical treatment" vs "expensive sugar pill placebos dispensed under false pretenses".

A placebo is a treatment that has no efficacy on its own, but depends on the patient's belief in it. If a treatment has no efficacy on its own, but relies completely on the doctor-patient relationship, then it is a placebo.

Real medical doctors will, at times, prescribe placebos. This is generally done for diagnostic/testing purposes: either the patient is part of a test group in a set of voluntary trials, or the doctor is trying to isolate a set of symptoms when divergent symptomatologies make multiple diagnoses inevitable. This is not "allopathic"; this is medicine.

In order to function as a placebo, a treatment cannot have any effects other than psychologically motivated ones. Treating cancer with aspirin isn't a placebo; it's just a really bad idea.

Until it can be shown that homeopathic "treatments" have some efficacy apart from the practitioner-patient relationship, the conclusion remains that homeopaths are making a practice of dispensing placebos as if they are real treatments, thus intentionally and methodically deceiving patients.
Last edited by davidstarlingm on Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:58 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby uncivlengr » Thu Nov 04, 2010 6:58 pm UTC

webgiant wrote:It requires advanced math and understanding of deep statistics to subtly influence the experiment in your favor.
That does nothing to support your allegation that the JREF foundation is actively sabotaging experiments, or that the experiments are designed in a manner that such deceptions are even possible - most of their tests are fundamentally quite simple in nature, so unless you have some specific example of this "conning", you've got nothing but baseless speculation.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby davidstarlingm » Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:04 pm UTC

uncivlengr wrote:
webgiant wrote:It requires advanced math and understanding of deep statistics to subtly influence the experiment in your favor.
That does nothing to support your allegation that the JREF foundation is actively sabotaging experiments, or that the experiments are designed in a manner that such deceptions are even possible - most of their tests are fundamentally quite simple in nature, so unless you have some specific example of this "conning", you've got nothing but baseless speculation.


"You claim to be able to move objects with your mind without touching them. You cite pendulums as an example of objects you can move with your mind. We will hang four pendulums from the ceiling about ten feet away from you. We want you to move one of them and not the other three."

This is a real example. How exactly did the JREF staff use their "understanding of deep statistics to subtly influence the experiment" in their favor? And what the heck are "deep" statistics, anyway?

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby Rackum » Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:14 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:Just a thought....

Can we not use the term "allopathic" unless absolutely necessary? The word was coined by the founder of homeopathy, and, like homeopathy, it is utterly meaningless.

I am in 100% agreement and therefore propose that any further discussion in this thread refer to it as "scientific medicine" instead of "allopathic."

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby uncivlengr » Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:27 pm UTC

davidstarlingm wrote:This is a real example. How exactly did the JREF staff use their "understanding of deep statistics to subtly influence the experiment" in their favor?
Are you talking about the real JREF staff, or the ones in webgiant's imagination? The ones webgiant imagines are holed up in some damp basement, endlessly tinkering with error bars and confidence intervals to distort reality in any way they see fit.

Have you ever seen how deep statistics related to pendulums go? They're really deep, most people don't know they're there. I think it has something to do with black holes.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:31 pm UTC

Yeah, "scientific medicine", "science-based medicine", or "evidence-based medicine" would all be preferable terms.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby davidstarlingm » Thu Nov 04, 2010 7:43 pm UTC

uncivlengr wrote:Have you ever seen how deep statistics related to pendulums go? They're really deep, most people don't know they're there. I think it has something to do with black holes.


You're absolutely right. As we all know, a pendulum bob becomes weightless (#226) at its maximum amplitude.

Also, #298.

gmalivuk wrote:Yeah, "scientific medicine", "science-based medicine", or "evidence-based medicine" would all be preferable terms.


At my university's nursing program, they call it "evidence-based practice". Homeopathy is a farther cry from evidence-based practice than Sarah Palin is from socialism.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby HungryHobo » Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:05 pm UTC

you know I was reading the word "allopathic" and thinking it was just some version of "homeopathic".

I guess it's like how crazy people who want to pretend they're dietitians call themselves nutritionists only in reverse.

"Hello I'm a xxxxxyyyyyzzztist, and that guy over there?
he calls himself a doctor but I like to call him a xxxxyyyyyzztist and if i keep using that term enough gullible people will think we're both similarly qualified and send me money"
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby davidstarlingm » Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:14 pm UTC

HungryHobo wrote:you know I was reading the word "allopathic" and thinking it was just some version of "homeopathic".

I guess it's like how crazy people who want to pretend they're dietitians call themselves nutritionists only in reverse.

"Hello I'm a xxxxxyyyyyzzztist, and that guy over there?
he calls himself a doctor but I like to call him a xxxxyyyyyzztist and if i keep using that term enough gullible people will think we're both similarly qualified and send me money"

More like:

"Hello, I'm a posipath. That guy over there calls himself a doctor, but he's really just a negapath. Clearly, we both have extensive qualifications, but obviously the positive path is better than the negative path. Choose me!"

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby roger_pearse » Thu Nov 04, 2010 8:37 pm UTC

webgiant wrote:
Ghavrel wrote:
Squall83 wrote:
webgiant wrote:There is a strong argument that there was no historical Jesus.

Oh, I always thought his existence had been proven...


The existence of a historical Jesus has been proven to roughly the same extent as the existence of Socrates. While there may be a "strong" argument against a historical Jesus, it is by no means the view held by the majority. Most ancient scholars have little doubt that there was a historic man who was an itinerant preacher and around whom the Christian religion began to crystallize. Most arguments against a historical Jesus rely on the faulty assumption that ancient history and modern history are pursued the same way.


Yes, the oft-mentioned possibility of a completely ordinary preacher guy starting Christianity who ... Of course, he was probably not named Jesus, and may not even have existed at all,...


Lots of speculation in there. But since every professor of ancient history at every university in the world would tell you that Jesus existed, and he left this huge footprint in the historical record -- that's why the Jesus-myth dorks all run around finding excuses to ignore data, rather than producing any --, I don't think we need spend much time on that nonsense.

as Philo of Alexandria (c25 BCE-47 CE), the well-known historian of the "period of Jesus",


Name one of his histories. <hint>

You're reading crap written by people who (a) are ignorant and (b) couldn't be arsed to check their facts. Philo didn't write any histories apart from the story of his embassy to Caligula.

makes no mention of a strolling preacher named Jesus (or any other name) who was the talk of the land, nor of any band of 12 disciples who went around talking about a "Jesus Christ". As Philo was closely involved with the house of Herod, one might expect Philo to be ....<speculation>


Arguments from silence in the work of a philosopher don't mean anything. Philo doesn't talk about much. If you read Josephus and look for senior figures in the Jewish establishment that he mentions in Philo, you'll be amazed at what is not there. Philo wasn't interested.

The Jesus of the Gospels did not exist,


You say this with such certainty that I presume you have a time machine and some video footage. Let's see the footage, then. :)

Alternatively you might just be asserting as fact something you merely wish was true. Don't do that -- it's not honest. (I know dishonest people tend to bluster when this is pointed out -- your call on whether you want that label).

....the Gospels read like an amalgamation of a lot of prior mythologies.


I can just tell we're going to get some of the "Jesus myth" hearsay. Funny how the people who read this never trouble to find out what pagan mythology actually was... This statement is untrue, you make it because you read it somewhere, not because you ever checked it, and it is untrue.

<snip Asclepius -- I never troubled to research it>

Or the cult of Mithras. Again, stop me if you've heard about him: a god-man who sacrificed himself to redeem mankind and rose from the dead to save his people. He and his 12 disciples shared a final meal together before Mithras' sacrificial death. Upon his death he was laid to rest in a stone tomb. Followers of Mithras had to undergo a baptism (in bulls blood) to be reborn anew in the cult of Mithras. Followers could conquer death by eating Mithras' flesh and drinking his blood (by proxy from a slain bull). By invoking the name of Mithras, his followers performed miracles and healed the sick.


I'm stopping you right there, mate. You see, I do know about Mithras, and you don't. Some questions for you:

1. Which ancient text refers to a death of Mithras? Or a resurrection? Or "redeeming mankind"? Or "sacrificing himself"? Or "12 disciples"? (that's a funny one, the last one -- it comes from a relief which shows Mithras surrounded by twelve symbols. The creep who made up all this stuff was too thick to recognise the ZODIAC!!!)
2. Which ancient text refers to a "baptism in bulls blood"? Or being "reborn anew"?
3. Which ancient text refers to followers "conquering death" or "eating the flesh of Mithras and drinking his blood"?
4. Which ancient text refers to followers performing miracles?

Got it yet? The story you just repeated -- with utter certainty and sneering, even -- is total bollocks. You've been suckered -- a creep made up a crude lie to con people who were desperate to believe any old rubbish so long as it slagged off the Christians, and too ill-educated in ancient history to know better. And you fell for it.

Come on -- why didn't you CHECK?! Google is your friend, mate.

There are more mythologies which predate the earliest Gospel by decades to centuries, yet are practically word-for-word of the "stories of Jesus".


No, there aren't, actually. I wonder if you know where you got all this twaddle, even? (Because you don't offer a reference - you just assert it as if you knew it yourself)

This whole narrative actually derives from a certain Kersey Graves, "Sixteen crucified saviors". Have a look at the book on Internet Infidels. It's so bad that the site author felt obliged to put a disclaimer on it. The facts are just WRONG.

Graves himself was a thickie as well as a liar (because what else do you call someone who writes a load of pejorative stuff without bothering to find out whether it is true?) What he had heard was the idea of the "Golden Bough" -- that a lot of Middle Eastern myths contain the idea of the corn-king, the dying and living god who is the myth of the seed, sown, dying and coming back to life. That's the "similarity" to Jesus. But the differences are much greater. No-one ever knew of a historical corn-king -- it's just a story passed around. Jesus lived at a specific time, and had a normal human life. But he made up the rest, based on the corn-king idea and copying any old crap he ran across that seemed convenient. Of course he relied on the fact that his audience didn't have the web and couldn't simply look it up.

The whole "parallels" argument is designed for the dim. It's the way that Atlantis cultists "prove" that Atlantis existed. "Look" they say, "there are pyramids in Egypt and in Mexico! That PROVES connection and derivation!" What it actually proves is that people piling blocks up will come up with pyramids. Anyone can think of parallels between anything. All you have to do is draw your criteria loosely. What they never do is have criteria whereby a story would FAIL the test. The only arguments from "parallels" that work are those which are defined incredibly narrowly, and are almost never encountered outside of specialist works. Anything you or I are likely to have heard of is almost certainly bunk.

Again, anyone is free to believe in a spiritual Jesus who did all the things in the Gospels but in some spiritual, non-physical realm...


Only if they have evidence for it, in my view. Why believe in anything without evidence? (Of course I realise that every element of your life is based on nothing but convenience, but that's your look-out!)

Just living by convenience, doing what those who control the media agenda of the time and place you happened to be born in, and believing what they tell you is normal -- that seems to the be alternative to Christianity. Good luck with it. The people who run that agenda change their stories every 50 years, you might want to reflect. And why would any sensible person trust them anyway?

Be sceptical. If it's convenient it probably isn't true. The establishment hate Christianity because they want to treat women as whores. That's not a rational objection -- and they don't do it for YOUR benefit, nor mine.

All the best,

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby SocialSceneRepairman » Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:17 am UTC

webgiant wrote:I don't know about your doctor and his apparently rather effective supernatural method of predicting the future of any action he takes (to make up for his total lack of any relationship with you, his patient), but if I don't have a good sharing relationship between myself and my doctor I'm going to go try to get another doctor.


As pointed out previously, if my doctor chose a medication at random that happened to be the correct one, it would still have a curative effect beyond another medication chosen at random. It probably wouldn't be the same as if we both believed it to be curative, but it would be better than nothing.

webgiant wrote:The definition of effective allopathic medicine is a relationship between doctor and patient.


No, it isn't. It's "treating the symptom," (allo, other + pathy) where, the term having been invented by the anti-pharma brigade, the "symptom" is anything but what your particular madness recognizes as the underlying cause. The relationship between doctor and patient is important, as in all systems of medicine, but it's nowhere near the definition.

webgiant wrote:If there's no relationship, then the doctor is just firing drug bullets wildly and randomly into the patient and hoping one of them cures him while not actually causing any more harm than is there already.

I think I understand what you are trying to say, but your actual words used say that if a doctor has a relationship with his patient then any treatments prescribed are merely placebos, including antibiotics. Please clarify.


Fair enough. I should have said "if it wholly relies...." Fucking insane diatribe over one fairly obviously implied word.

And as for all treatments being placebos, well, in a sense, they are. The placebo effect doesn't just apply to sugar pills and magic water. Any treatment will be most effective if both the doctor and patient expect an effect, and least if neither do. That's why we have double-blind tests.

webgiant wrote:Also, "it should work whether or not the doctor...[has] any clue what it is" is a downright scary attitude to have, and makes me want to know who your doctor is so I can avoid your doctor.


I almost want to tell you, but my point is that, in theory, it should be true for any doctor. I do want my doctor to know what s/he's prescribing me, but at the same time, I'd rather its effect not be based wholly on his/her belief. What I want is something that, if some automation told you to hand it to me, even if I myself had no faith in the automation, would have a curative effect. I'd rather have it from a doctor I trusted who believed in it, but that's still the substance I want.

webgiant wrote:Doctors ignorant of what their drugs do or what they are? Now thats the definition of homeopathy!


No... it isn't. I'm really kind of sick of people using "bullshit" and "homeopathy" interchangeably. Homeopathy is a specific kind of medical bullshit. For example, herbal medicine, whether it works or not (usually not), is by definition not homeopathy, since it's the whole plant being used, not a "succussion." In theory, it at least could work, and sometimes (marijuana, hypericum) does, at least a little.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby davidstarlingm » Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:38 am UTC

roger_pearse wrote:Be skeptical. If it's convenient it probably isn't true. The establishment hate Christianity because they want to treat women as whores. That's not a rational objection -- and they don't do it for YOUR benefit, nor mine.


Care to rephrase that? The pronoun use in the second sentence is a little vague.

Otherwise, >>yes<<.

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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Nov 05, 2010 3:49 am UTC

Yeah, who wants to treat women as whores? And which establishment hates Christianity, because it's certainly not any of the Western ones I'm aware of.
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Re: 0808: "The Economic Argument"

Postby Ghavrel » Fri Nov 05, 2010 4:27 am UTC

roger_pearse wrote:All the best,

Roger Pearse


If you are THE Roger Pearse, as in the Roger Pearse largely responsible for the Tertullian Project, allow me to say how much I love you for that.

I'm a little confused about the "The establishment hate Christianity because they want to treat women as whores" bit, though.
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