January 01, 2007
Predictions for 2007 Include Cancer Cure and Return of Christ
I came across an Associated Press story that discusses a recent AP-AOL News telephone poll asking 1,000 Americans to make predictions about 2007. In amongst all of the worries about terrorism and global warming, two predictions caught my attention.
- 25% expect that Jesus Christ will return to Earth.
- 35% expect that a cure for cancer will be found.
I find both of those predictions to be quite worrying. I'm not worried that they'll come true, of course. The cancer cure in particular would be wonderful. The return of Jesus Christ would merely be surprising.
What I find worrying is that such a large percentage of the American population apparently expects these things to happen in 2007.
The belief that Jesus Christ will return isn't all that surprising. I've known from previous polls that quite a significant percentage expect Christ to return within the next 50 years. I was a bit surprised at how many expect it will happen this year. On the other hand, I recently read a blog post somewhere in which the author provided several examples of messages posted on a forum at Rapture Ready. In those messages, the writers were discussing how surprised and somewhat disappointed they were that the Rapture hadn't happened yet. It was apparent at least some people wake up every day thinking "today could be the day!"
I just didn't expect that 25% of the American people felt that way.
If they think that the end of the world is likely to happen this year, it's no surprise that it's difficult to get them to consider the long-term impacts of their actions (e.g. global warming). Is this something that U.S. policy makers need to take into account on those rare occasions when they try to plan for the long term?
On the other hand, I can't help wondering whether that 25% figure is inflated. Does some significant percentage just say that they expect Christ to return this year because that's what they're supposed to say? How many of them have significant money in certificates of deposit that won't mature for many years? How many of them are saving money for college for their children and retirement for themselves? If you really thought that the world would end within the next 12 months, it would still be prudent to plan for the possibility that you were wrong, of course. But still... Wouldn't your motivation for long-term planning be diminished?
The other prediction -- that a cure for cancer will be found -- was made by 35% of those polled. I find this to be completely mystifying.
I can understand the religious reasons behind a prediction of the return of Christ, but what could possibly lead 35% of the American people to expect a cure for cancer within the next 12 months? Aside from the fact that there is unlikely to be a single cure for all cancers, medical science has been working on this problem for many years. There are always news stories about "promising" possibilities, but the odds that a silver bullet will emerge this year are vanishingly small.
To me, the fact that 35% expect a cure for cancer to be found in 2007 indicates a depressingly poor ability to evaluate medical news stories. I suspect it's related to the same reasons why so many people put their faith in alternative medicine. (Speaking of which, I wonder what percentage of those people expect that the cure will come from alternative medicine rather than from mainstream medicine? I suspect it's a rather high percentage.)
July 29, 2005
A new study has found that taking echinacea to treat a cold is ineffective.
Echinacea, the herbal supplement made from purple coneflower and used by millions of Americans to prevent or treat colds, neither prevented colds nor eased cold symptoms in a large and rigorous study.
The study, being published today in The New England Journal of Medicine, involved 437 people who volunteered to have cold viruses dripped into their noses. Some swallowed echinacea for a week beforehand, others a placebo. Still others took echinacea or a placebo at the time they were infected.
Then the subjects were secluded in hotel rooms for five days while scientists examined them for symptoms and took nasal washings to look for the virus and for an immune system protein, interleukin-8. Some had hypothesized that interleukin-8 was stimulated by echinacea, enabling the herb to stop colds.
But the investigators found that those who took echinacea fared no differently from those who took a placebo: they were just as likely to catch a cold, their symptoms were just as severe, they had just as much virus in their nasal secretions, and they made no more interleukin-8.
When I was looking for a good link for this story, I searched for "echinacea" on the BBC News web site and came up with these: Echinacea 'does not treat colds' (which ran on December 3, 2003); and Echinacea 'does not cure colds' (which ran on December 18, 2002)! I also found this: Herbal remedies may reduce fertility. (which ran on February 23, 1999).
So, that's now 3 studies that say it doesn't work and 1 study that says it may reduce fertility. Not that this will stop most people who would take it, of course, but maybe a few will think twice before doing so.
September 30, 1998
Mass Media Bunk - Discover Article on Acupuncture
- Mass Media Bunk - Discover Article on Acupuncture
- This Mass Media Bunk article of the Skeptic's Dictionary comments on the article "Needles and Nerves," by Catherine Dold, appearing in the September 1998 issue of Discover Magazine.
September 28, 1998
Hawaii Rational Inquirer, September 24 Issue
- Hawaii Rational Inquirer, September 24 Issue
- There's a new issue of Victor Stenger's Hawaii Rational Inquirer. Articles include "US Government Anti-Science?," "Senate Bill Boosts NIH to $15.6B - Creates Dilemma," "Criticism of Discover Article on Quackupuncture," and "Kissing Hank's Ass."
September 25, 1998
Qakatak Links Index
- Qakatak Links Index
- The Australian Skeptics have added an index of topics for the Qakatak Links page. If you have an interest in alternative medicine, this is a very good place to check.
September 24, 1998
- There's another new entry on the Skeptic's Dictionary. "Macrobiotics is a way of life characterized by a special diet said to optimize the balance of yin and yang." Well okay then. Also, don't forget that the Skeptic's Dictionary and the Skeptic's Refuge recently moved. The new addresses are http://skepdic.com/ and http://skepdic.com/refuge/sr.html respectively.
September 22, 1998
AMA Attacks Sale of Non-Health-Related Products in Medical Offices
- AMA Attacks Sale of Non-Health-Related Products in Medical Offices
- Dr. Stephen Barrett has posted a major update to this QuackWatch article. "During the past few years, many physicians have begun selling health-related multilevel products to patients in their offices. The companies most involved appear to be Amway, Body Wise, Nu Skin (Interior Design), and Rexall. Doctors are typically recruited with promises that the extra income will replace income lost to managed care."
Magnetize Your Beverages?
- Magnetize Your Beverages?
- Dr. Stephen Barrett has posted a new QuackWatch article. "Explorations, of Broomfield, Colorado, markets a large collection of books, videotapes, devices, and other items related to self-help and spirituality. Its products include a magnetic mug, a 'Q-Ray Bracelet' alleged to 'balance the body's electromagnetic circuits,' and magnets claimed to provide pain relief in many parts of the body. The magnetic mug, which costs $45, is said to 'magnetize beverages for better hydration.'" It never stops, does it? Included is a photo of the mug and the company's description of how it is supposed to work - followed by Dr. Barrett's detailing of the numerous flaws in the claim.
September 21, 1998
Recent Issues of Hawaii Rational Inquirer
- Recent Issues of Hawaii Rational Inquirer
- Victor Stenger's Hawaii Rational Inquirer is an e-mail newsletter that gets distributed every couple of weeks. Topics in the September 3 issue include Update on Emily's Experiment, Medical Schools Adding Courses in Quack Medicine, Physicists Fall for it Too, and The (Political) Science of Salt. Topics in the September 18 issue include Hawaii New Center of Energy Medicine?, Medical Community Taking Action Against Quackery, and Martin Gardner Speaks Out Against Fuzzy Math.
September 19, 1998
More on Myss
- More on Myss
- The False Memory Syndrome Foundation has additional information about Caroline Myss. "This summer we received a brochure advertising a seminar taught by one Caroline Myss, Ph.D., self-described as 'a pioneer in the field of energy medicine and human consciousness.' We learn that 'she holds a doctorate in intuition and energy medicine from Greenwich University in Hilo, Hawaii -- the country's first such degree.'"