Month: March 2012

The software universe – a hidden reality

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I’ve been meaning to talk about writing software for a while now, and it’s a subject close to my heart, so bear with me. But first I’ll set the scene.

I recently talked about the potential for hidden universes in my mini-series on the quantum world, and also in the review of Briane Greene’s book. If you recall, Greene talks about a number of different possible explanations for the origins of the universe, including the very distinct possibility that this universe is a simulation in the computer of some advanced race. Yes, I know that sounds all Dr. Who, Tron or the Matrix, but there’s some logic there – in fact, far more logic than is the case with, oh, say, homeopathy. It goes like this: It is true that our universe is either the only one, or there is more one. One of the possibilities is that there are an infinite number of universes, since we have no reason to believe that is less likely than the other possibilities. That makes things interesting, because when infinity is around, interesting things happen. Given an infinite number of universes, races of super-advanced beings, capable of creating and/or simulating universes, are certain to exist. That’s just the way infinity works – the probability of anything is non-zero.

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Meet my new Friends

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I’m referring the newly formed group, called Friends of Science in Medicine, which was created in December 2011.

This is a fantastic new development for those interested in reality-based medicine. Their self-proclaimed description is as follows:

Friends of Science in Medicine (FSM) is an association of concerned scientists, clinicians and members of the public who support a rigorous application of the best science to any health-related profession and oppose health education and practice not based on convincing scientific evidence.

We are currently campaigning:

“to reverse the current trend which sees government-funded tertiary institutions offering courses in the health care sciences that are not underpinned by  sound scientific evidence”.

If you’ve been reading any of my previous blogs, you’ll know this is music to my ears.

The executive of the group consists of some of the luminaries of the movement against junk medicine, including Professors John Dwyer and Rob Morrison. Interestingly, also on the executive as CEO is Loretta Marron, of whom I’ve written before, (here, here and here). Between them, John and Loretta have pestered the TGA to clean up its act, and must take some of the responsibility as the organisation moves to do just that.

The website is already a great single point of access for most of the stuff I discuss on rationalbrain, and so I’m sure you’ll see it quoted regularly. This is especially the case with the ‘breaking news‘ page, which seems to be up to the minute.

The number of ‘friends’ affiliated with the group is growing rapidly, with both individuals and organisations joining.

Something like this is long overdue in Australia, and so naturally I wish them every success in combatting the numb-skullery that is complementary and alternative medicine.



Another right wing trojan horse – Australian Environment Foundation

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It’s a fucking outrage.

The more you learn, the more outrageous it becomes. Fresh from this recent burst which drew attention to the US right wing think tank which is funding climate change denial across the globe, this week’s Media Watch (episode of 19th March) has alerted us to the AEF – the Australian Environment Foundation, which is just such a think tank.

The show pointed out how the AEF was established by the dreaded Institute of Public Affairs, which is the most rabid and conscience-free right wing organisation since the Tea Party (at this point, their collective chests will be swelling with pride).  The IPA practice policy development by spreadsheet – whatever position makes the most money for private individuals, becomes their position. And they are fronted by some truly awful individuals, whom I won’t mention by name, since that’s inviting the opportunity to enhance someone’s personal wealth. Just look at the AEF About page in the link above, and look at the media releases on the right-hand side; they include:

  • MD Basin plan based on junk science
  • CSIRO report on wind farms not credible
  • Get Up campaigns against the environment
  • IPCC exposed
  • Poor want climate policies that work
  • The crumbling edifice of the IPCC.
These headlines are absolutely predictable, given the nature of this organisation, especially relying on the old ‘speaking for the poor’ gambit, which is ironic and hilarious at the same time as being pathetic.

Oh boy. Talk about dark forces.

However the connection of the AEF with the IPA was highlighted by some recent work by one of the members of the AEF, Dr. Jennifer Marohasey, who was formerly  a senior fellow of the IPA (2004-2009). Seems that Dr. Marohasey is is a climate denier of the highest order – she admits to this on her own website. She is the author of the report which claims that the MD basin plan is based on ‘junk science’. Has the report been peer reviewed? Oh yes, of course. By a Professor Peter Ridd. And oh, my, look at that – he’s a director of the AEF! That’s handy. When challenged to provide additional evidence of review, Dr. Marohasey provided a few names, most of which rubbished her work comprehensively, with comments such as:

The paper appears to be a crusade against the barrages, and the scientists who have actually carried out their unbiased science there, rather than a sound scientific paper.


Science should not be twisted to support a poorly supported and dangerous policy option.

And her cohorts at the AEF include the usual suspects. The AEF subsequently launched another organisation called the Australian Climate Science Coalition, the ‘expert panel’ of which is a who’s-who of climate denialists, including Bob Carter and Ian Plimer. You’ll recall from my earlier piece that Bob Carter is already on the payroll of a US climate denial ‘think tank’, the Heartland Institute.

And guess what. The ACSC received almost all of its funding from the American Climate Science Coalition. Seems the yanks are pulling some strings. The Tea Party connection is not that far away really.

This is all pretty grubby really. Basically, these people are hiding behind a name, to push commercial interests above all else – not even the truth gets in the way.

The real issue is the dishonesty and deceptive behaviour of some of these groups and individuals, who are hell-bent on sowing doubt among the population to further their own ideology. They try desperately to sell us the message that it’s the evil scientists who are distorting the truth, especially that most evil of organisations, the CSIRO, but ultimately they are just con-men in a cheap suit.

In her letter to Media Watch, Dr. Marohasey challenged them to say that she was doing this for personal financial gain, which they backed off from doing. Rather, Media Watch focused on the credulous reporting around the whole issue. I don’t think she’s doing it for personal financial gain either, but I think she’s crafted those words cunningly. No, it’s not financial gain, but it’s certainly to push a particular ideology – squash anything that limits profits. Simple. Why don’t they just own up to that, and spare us all the environmental posturing?

You only need to read the first line of their About page to understand their mind-set. They are cunning, but their bias is clear.

The Australian Environment Foundation (AEF) is a not-for-profit, membership-based environmental organisation having no political affiliation.  We take an evidence-based, solution focused approach to environmental issues.

As for their claim of  ‘evidence-based’, if not an outright lie, then this statement is at least highly delusional.

I’m afraid the only ‘evidence’ I see is of an elaborate and shameless scam being perpetrated on the Australian public by some right wing nutters, who drape themselves in the fine cloth of science and environmentalism only to disguise their duplicity with a thin veneer of respectability.

See! Now they’ve forced me into a mangled metaphor – now I’m really angry.

Homeopathy – reality is about to strike

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And the good news for today is that in Australia, homeopathy is about to have the spotlight placed upon it – to be shown up for the crap it is. This article foreshadows a report by the National Health and Medical Research Council, which concludes that it is:

…unethical for health practitioners to treat patients using homeopathy, for the reason that homeopathy (as a medicine or procedure) has been shown not to be efficacious.

Really? Quelle surprise. Have they not been reading rationalbrain? Or any of the other 5 gazillion books and blogs around the planet which have been saying the same thing? It actually takes very minimal research to draw that conclusion – all you need to do is search for evidence of efficacy (beyond what Aunt Joan said fixed her arthritis) – there is none. Better late than never I guess.

Predictably, a homeo-spokesperson had this to say:

Australian Homeopathic Association president Greg Cope said there was strong evidence to support the practice, including clinical trials that were now being submitted to the NHMRC for consideration.

NOW being submitted to the NHMRC? NOW? What have they been doing for the last hundred and fifty years? And where is all this ‘strong evidence’ – there’s certainly none ever been made available to the public. Or is it the case that the weaker the evidence, the more efficacious the stuff is? (For the uninitiated, that’s a little homeopathy in-joke). And why didn’t the UK House of Commons study, which found of homeopathy that “its principles were ‘theoretically weak’ and ‘scientifically implausible”, have access to this marvellous ‘strong evidence’? Give me a break. Either Greg Cope is seriously delusional, or he is complete and utter liar.

While homeopathy as such is typically not harmful (although I guess you could drown if you had too much in liquid form), there are good reasons for wanting to be rid of it. Firstly, we will avoid illnesses and deaths of people who use homeopathy instead of real medicine. And secondly, if we can get health funds to stop covering this nonsense, then everyone’s health insurance premiums should decline.

Dead therapy walking.

Swisse claims are full of holes

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A while back, having satisfied myself that popping vitamin pills and other supplements is mostly a waste of time unless medically indicated, I decided to look into the claims of Swisse, a company which advertises that stuff very heavily here. They use high profile sports people and other luminaries to sell their touchy-feely, aint-life-grand-when-you-feel-great message.

It seems that now the Therapeutic Goods Administration (on whom I have heaped so much scorn) have taken an interest, and ordered Swisse to pull advertising for 11 of their products. It also seems that the TGA has grown a pair, and as result my estimation of them has also grown. High five, TGA.

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I always thought sausages were catholics…

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It’s wonderful what one can find at the monthly farmers’ market in Kyneton.