So Many Chemicals, So Little Time

One of my favorite quacks—and I use that term affectionately is a lady named Hulda Clark. She has a theory that all diseases are the result of chemicals and parasites (using the term “parasites” to mean any bacteria, virus, fungus or actual worm). More specifically, that what goes wrong is that modern chemicals interact with parasites and cause them to go through their life cycles in “the wrong place”.

So, while your body may be able to handle Ascaris going through your intestines, if it gets into your liver and interacts with propyl alcohol, bang, you get cancer. I may have that muddled. But the basic idea is there: wrong organism, wrong place, wrong chemical — disease.

Of course, the only thing more common than propyl alcohol is Ascaris, so it’s hard to get clean. However, I met many people whom she had cured of “terminal” cancer when I went to her clinic. (Not just cancer, either. And whatever her motivations are, greed does not seem to be among them.)

I thought of her fondly while reading this Pop Sci article on chemicals. We carry around, literally, thousands of different chemicals, largely unknown both in terms of how they affect us singly and how they interact with each other. That’s before we get around to medicating ourselves.

There are a few mentalities that I find interesting, which that tiny webspace illustrates. First, there’s the idea that “this it the new normal”, according to a scientist in D.C. Keep that in mind: It doesn’t really matter if these chemicals are going to kill you, don’t expect anyone to acknowledge anything too challenging. (And getting rid of these chemicals would be very challenging indeed.)

Second, there’s the idea that “we’re living longer so we must be doing something right”. Well, not really: What if shortened life spans in previous centuries had to do with cosmic rays? I’m just pulling that out of thin air, but it shared thin-airspace with “we must be doing something right”.

Third, there’s the comment that, well, whatever the issue is, it’s too trivial to waste time on. It’s only a few extra sick kids after all—this idea is based on the example of leukemia used by the article’s author—and we’d do better to use that money for helping kids presumably not killed by exposure to chemicals. (Interestingly, the name on the comment is “Shannon Love”. ChicagoBoyz’ Shannon Love spurred a very early post. Dunno if it’s the same one.)

There’s a certain class of people who absolutely hate “quacks”, where “quack” is defined as anyone who doesn’t conform to the current conventional medical wisdom. On the other hand, I consider Ignaz Semmelweiss sort of the patron saint of this blog.

Clark is an interesting person. Very nerdy. Into research. I would have liked to question her on certain things about her philosophy (in which I see certain apparent contradictions). But to me the question of “does it work” is junior to the question “why does it work?”

And since I used her “zapper"—a device that cycles a low level current at various frequencies through your body to kill these parasites—to quickly knock out some debilitating allergies that had been plaguing me for years, I’m less inclined to worry about those contradictions. She could be completely wrong, but I still can breathe.

Separation of Medicine and State

The latest encroachment of state upon medicine is, I think most of us realize, nothing novel. We have socialized medicine elsewhere in the world, and no matter how badly it fails and how reductive of liberty it is, the drumbeat to implement it here has been constant throughout my lifetime. But the slope didn’t start slipping with Medicare or any of the other government programs; in my opinion, the journey predates modern collectivism by centuries.

I’ve written before about how my great-grandmother was threatened with arrest for curing TB patients. This would’ve been in the early decades of the 20th century. But she was hardly alone: Medical guilds have been attacking outsiders since the days they were respectable barbers with a shady side-business.

Basically, when the various medical associations managed to get a monopoly on treating the sick, and got the force of the state on their side, they not only diminished prospects for health (in the name of protecting people, of course, it’s always in the name of protecting people), they signed their own death warrant.

Someone else at Ace’s or Althouse mentioned Microsoft, which is a propos because one of Microsoft’s tactics for conquering a niche has always been to “partner” with their future competitors, usually offering some tempting deal. At that point they’d steal code (for example), and integrate it into the OS. Cut off their oxygen, as I think MS CEO Steve Ballmer put it. At that point, you can either outlawyer them, buy them off cheap (if you need to buy them off at all), and voila, you own the market.

I actually consulted for a company that partnered with MS. I was astonished that they partnered with them, seemed to be proud of that fact, and watched as MS created a competitor that is now included with every version of Windows. But at least they’re still in business.

That’s, of course, similar to how the government works, as well. The government “partners” with doctors–and look how tight the AMA and government are–offering them the sweet deal of a monopoly, and wiping out their competition. (Remember, the government just spent $2.5 billion to prove that none of these other things work. Meanwhile tens of billions go into curing cancer with no appreciable progress made.)

And while the government forbade compensation increases during WWII (to stem inflation), they exempted medical insurance, thus leading to the current weird situation where one is beholding to an employer for tax-deductable coverage or else stuck buying their own, giving us the current market distortions in the insurance market. (Well, that and all the other “help” the government gives.)

And now it’s time to pay the piper: The price for the monopoly–for convincing the country that there is only way to treat medical problems, and that there is only one source for that treatment–is to become public servants, under the thumb of the government. In the words of Darth Vader, “I have altered the deal. Pray that I don’t alter it again.”

The thing that got me thinking about this was stumbling across this somewhat overblown video on poor Willhelm Reich. I referred to him as a “probable quack” in my previous post, which was just a flip statement (plus, like “snake oil”, I use “quack” affectionately).

I don’t know if Reich was really a quack or not. I do know that he was destroyed, just like my old pal Ignaz Semmelweis, and his writings actually banned by the government! (Or so they say; I haven’t seen the order.) I’m not sure how the First Amendment allows celebrities to be attacked with known lies, but also allows controversial philosophical and medical ideas to be banned.

But I do think it’s kind of interesting that I keep seeing “the ether” pop up in scientific articles. And I’m pretty sure that it’s within my rights as an American–or it was supposed to be–to explore such ideas, however wacky, stupid or even personally harmful, they might be. I think the Founding Fathers would have wanted me to be able to buy an orgone box if I felt like.

Hell, Franklin would’ve gone halfsies with me.

Ears and Links

About two years ago, the Barbarienne jammed her finger in my ear. Because of her age, her finger was just the right size to get into my ear canal; because of her strength, she jammed it in far enough to scratch my eardrum.

The resultant infection was so painful and persistent that I thought I might actually lose some hearing. It took weeks to clear up fully, but I was back hearing noises in that annoying 16-20K frequency range again in no time.

Which is a propos of nothing except that I recognized the problem sooner this time and didn’t let the infection go too far before going to the local “urgent care”. (Less than $100 and 30 minutes, with almost no paperwork.)

That, and I’ve been accumulating links from around the web but have been unable to cobble together much in the way of coherent posts. So here’s a round-up.

A reprint of a massive 1981 article on Love Canal, and a 2004 follow-up, both at Reason. Massive government screw up plus hysteria equals bad law.

Co-D&D creator Dave Arneson died. It doesn’t surprise me that there’s some rancor and controversy over who did what. Even if TSR hadn’t been dominated by a fairly shady couple, that might’ve arose. I’m glad the two did what they did. Of course, Gygax died at 69 and Arneson at 61, which might suggest the peril of too much gaming.

Vodkapundit tweeted this cute ad for–hell, I don’t even know. Sabre? Saber! Still don’t know what that is. One of these new “body products” they’re pumping out for men. I’m bad at this stuff. I have no products. (I kind of thought “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy” was not awful, but I can’t imagine personally being more uncomfortable than had I been in that situation myself.)

These body product commercials amaze me, because there seems to be a common thread. In particular, there’s some severe exaggeration of the (formerly subtle) trope that women will pursue you if you spray this crap on you. (Pheremones! Science! 60% of the time, it works 100% of the time!) Like the Axe one where hundreds of women chase one guy on a desert island.

So, here they’re saying, well, you know this isn’t going to happen. What with the shortage of midichlorians on this planet and whatnot. You’re too smart to believe this stuff, right? But, you know, maybe it works a little. Can you afford to take that chance?

Reverse-double-secret psychology? If I thought they were aimin’ it at me, I’d probably be insulted. But, as noted, I don’t buy “product”.

Speaking of sexism, a bunch of people were tweeting this Naomi Wolf article on porn and pubic hair, blunting men’s appetites for sex. First of all, I swear I read this years ago. Turns out, Althouse was blogging how old it was two years ago. And its was just as dumb then. The only thing that can turn a man off “the real thing” is a woman. And she has to work hard at it. (Womens’ studies classes can give a gal all the ammo she needs, tho’.) And then the man is mostly not going to want sex with her in particular. That is, a man has to experience a lot of women like that to really be turned off sex. (I can only assume Naomi Wolf doesn’t know very many men.)

Well, okay, in fairness, entire cultures can probably gear down their people’s sex drives, by interjecting politics between Man and Woman. That might be what’s going on in the developed world. Then again, it might be some other physiological factor.

In any case–with all due apologize to FARK–it ain’t guys going, “She’s got pointy knees,” which is all Wolf’s argument boils down to. Guys put Betty Grable and Rita Hayworth up on their lockers 60 years ago, but they still got busy with Betty and Rita next door.

Twitter doesn’t allow you to tweet that much, so I just linked this delightful commercial. I almost expected a flame or two, but I’m not really on the radar of the perpetually outraged. (Advanced social studies study group question: Compare & contrast this commercial to the previous one, with special emphasis on how “personal products” are marketed to men versus women.)

Frank J asks the critical question of our day: Who is the more perfect leader? Obama or Kim Jong Il? The answer may surprise you. Then again, it may not.

Somebody I follow on Twitter, probably @thecardioexpert, linked this article on cholesterol. I like these kinds of things because the way our media presents things, it’s all “OMG! THIS IS DEADLY! AVOID IT OR DIE!” And it doesn’t matter if it’s salt or asbestos or alar or what. You don’t get a sense of the mechanics. And then you die because they didn’t warn you against eating broken glass.

I haven’t played with this site yet, but it’s about musical instruction and resources. What I really want is to be able to score a piece on the computer–full orchestra–and have it come out with those instruments. I’ve seen a few things that do this, but the output embarrasses me, it’s so bad. Obviously, there’s a limit to how good it can be, but there should be moments when it sounds like something other than a fleet of DX7s.

Then there’s the freaky bird here. Giant eyes–I mean, really giant eyes–are freaky. Reminds me of this guy who has remade Homer Simpson and Super Mario into their human selves. Also Jessica Rabbit, who doesn’t look that freaky. At first I thought, “Huh, typical guy.” Then I realized she’s not nearly as humanized as the other two, plus her eyes are mostly closed reducing the freak out factor.

Lastly, there’s this kinda-SIMS-y, kinda-The Movies-y, kinda-Playskool-y site where you can make your own 3D movies very easily. I haven’t tried it. But I’ve seen worse animation and voice-acting on TV.

Enjoy!

Weather and Climate

You guys still having the cold? Today marks the second day in a row that The Flower and The Barbarienne have gone swimming. Granted, shivering, blue-lipped swimming followed by a hot bath, but they’re out there in the pool nonetheless.

Meanwhile, Instapundit linked to this gem about how man is causing “global dimming”. So, we’re responsible for both warming and cooling.

Sun, Sun, Sun, Here it–wait, where is it?

At least on a monthly basis, Mr. Dr. Helen posts some sort of solar “breakthrough”. Although unlikely to be any sort of general panacaea, what with the impending ice age and all that, solar could be useful in the sun belt (and is, in limited cases).

But I’m reminded of this classic USS Clueless post by Steven Den Beste. (It haunts him, people love this post so much. Also check out his takedown of other alternatives.)

From what I can see, there’s an actual physics question to be gotten around. Namely, just not enough energy hits a particular point on earth to generate adequate amounts of electricity, even at 100% efficiency. (Den Beste uses a 2,300 square kilometer coverage figure, assuming 100% efficiency, that would generate enough energy to cover California’s 1990s gas usage.)

My only real issue was this is that he seems to posit it as some grand engineering feat, where I see another possibility in the form of dividing that 2,300 sq km up into, say, ten million pieces. That works out to about 2500 square feet per portion, and you have some efficiency in generating the electricity where it’s used.

That is to say, if you can paper over people’s roofs or parts of their yards, the engineering, financial and distribution questions are less humongous. (The environmental issues would go away until the green-types started bitching about how the solar collectors were disposed of, and until they discovered a photosensitive microbe adversely impacted by these new devices.) A local approach could even give us implementations for transport and storage, which I think would benefit us as a whole. (Some people would doubtless end up with lemons.)

That’s assuming that we could get to the point where solar really was that efficient and cheap. Anyway, I end up amused by stories like this. Every month (at least), a new story. When does it–when does any of it–come to market?

Drive Them SUVs, People!

Via Instawhatsit, a roundup of climate change heresy at Fabius Maximus.

He entitles it “Good news”, but it’s only good news if it counters the flow of stupidity. The fact that the data contradicts the global warming model–well, what will happen is that we’ll get a lot of quiet on the topic. You may have noticed less of a “global warming” drumbeat lately.

It’ll get quieter while the socialists latch on to the “free market failure” idea. Presuming they don’t destroy the economy, when things get better, they’ll go back to the environmental football.

The other reason it’s not good news is that we could really use the planet to be a few degrees warmer. A huge chunk of Canada and Russia could be turned into arable farmland with a 5-10 degree hike. (Maybe not even that much.)

Plus, a lot of people are cold. And they like to put their cold feet on my warm belly or back. This has to stop.

Science and the Fossilized Thinker

Over at the Nun’s Oath Ale pub, there’s a debate over dinosaurs. Last night a resurgent troll came into a thread about the bailout and started informing everyone that Sarah Palin believes dinosaurs walked with men, and did we want our country in the hands of such a nut? Or did we all believe the same thing?

Repeatedly. When no one bothered to engage him, he proclaimed that we ALL believed dinosaurs walked with men.

Of course, this is just typical ‘net trolling, and weak tea compared to the fire giants that walked Usenet lo those many eons ago.

But I got to thinking about science, as I often do.

Science, as practiced by people today, or rather as believed in by people today, fulfills most of the functions of religion. It isn’t really that you and I believe in science and thus society progresses, it’s that a few very rigorous thinkers apply science brutally in their specific areas and the resultant data can be used for engineering purposes.

I mean, the Greeks had a lot prettier science than we do. The music of the spheres, the four elements (and the fifth) and whatnot. It’s just tough to build an iPod with that.

Science and art actually have a lot in common in this way: Neither matters until someone does something as a result. (Sorry, “pure” scientists and “pure” artists.) Well, neither matters much: An artist can be considered a success for transferring a sort of experience to the viewer–and you could even look at pure science the same way, but with a much, much smaller audience.

But ultimately, the big changes come because science show us that we can create a moving vehicle by applying a force in the direction opposite to the one we want to go, or that communism is A-OK, because art shows us worked out so well for Warren Beatty and Diane Keaton.

However, science requires integrity and, as I mentioned earlier, a sort of brutal application. The aforementioned troll has turned a common belief into dogmatic law, and dogmatic law is the foe of science.

In other words, if tomorrow we discovered human bones alongside of velociraptor bones, with a saddle, and book called “How To Ride Your Velociprator For Dummies”, containing photographs of people riding velociraptors and dated 200 AD, well, science would demand we account for that in some fashion.

Now, you tell me, what archaeologist wants to be the one who says, “Oh, well, huh. It turns out dinosaurs and man may have lived together”? Who wants to be the who says, “Oh, yeah, there’s a city on the floor of the Mediterranean its inhabitants referred to as Atlantis.” The latter would just be a big deal, apparently, because Atlantis has been the subject of much wild speculation and so is now classed with Bigfoot.

You know, who wants to be the guy who says, “Yeah, Troy was a real place”? Or “washing your hands before surgery reduces the chance of post-op infection”?

Whoops.

There is such a thing as having a mind so open your brains fall out. But it’s no less a sin, from the standpoint of science, than having a mind so closed, you reject any conflicting data.

They destroyed Semmelweiss, who from here looks to have been right. They also destroyed Reich, who from here looks to have been wrong. Nowhere in the scientific method will you find a part that says, “Destroy those who disagree with us.”

It doesn’t always turn out this way, particularly as you move toward the harder sciences. A few prominent geologists, for example, rejected the plate theory well into the ’80s and ’90s. As far as I can tell, they weren’t completely ostracized.

But as you move away from the hard sciences and more into pop culture, “science” becomes “not religion” and “statism”, i.e., a way for a new collective to enforce its will on others.

This, of course, has nothing to do with science.

The Scientific Underground

It’s not hard, in fact, to drive science underground.

Scientists are scientists, for the most part, because they love, you know, science. Not for publicity, not for money, lord knows, and while they might be glory driven, it’s not really glory as normal humans understand it. It’s nerd glory.

As a result, you can drive science underground without scientists even noticing. (Especially geologists, who are halfway there anyway.) I think this is what happened with various practitioners of the atmospheric and solar scientists. They were off making observations and measuring stuff and crunching numbers, and when they next looked up they saw all this runaway global runaway global warming hysteria (heh).

To a good scientist, non-truth is offensive. But they must be used to it. Pop culture is filled with bad science, and few people care. It’s sort of nerdy to care. They’re used to being ignored, or greeted with eye rolling, or what have you.

Fortunately, these guys cared and have done something about it, explaining anthropogenic climate change in relatively simple terms.

It’s fairly lengthy, and it addresses a lot of the ridiculous premises of AGW.

For myself, I find consistently that man over-imagines his own importance in the universe. In the article, they compare AGW to The Piltdown Man. I compare it to the geocentric universe. We’re just sure we’re responsible for so much.

And it’s largely hubris.