Showing posts with label pseudo-science. Show all posts
Showing posts with label pseudo-science. Show all posts

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Yay Science!

I've spent the past couple of days in and out of hospitals and dealing with surgeons, doctors and nurses. A few months ago, my husband's doctor discovered a cyst on his thyroid that was 'suspicious for papillary carcinoma' and he needed to have the gland removed. You can read more about his adventures on his blog - he does a much better job of describing it all than I would. But as I was sitting in his hospital room late the other night, watching him recover from getting his throat sliced open, it occurred to me that the people out there who are anti-science and anti-medicine are complete assholes.

I know this is not news to anyone on this blog. But experiencing a medical procedure this close up really gives you a better understanding of how freaking lucky we all are because of science. There seems to be a general vibe in the media, movies and popular culture that science is dangerous and technology is bad. People tell us that we should back away from new media and new technology because these things are somehow de-humanizing. To those people, I say "Fuck off" and here's why.

Let's forget for a moment the incredible amount of technology and science that led to the diagnosis and treatment of this condition. Let's just focus on the procedure and hospital process itself.

In less than 48 hours, Christian went from having his throat sliced open to walking about, eating normally and resting comfortably at home. Here are some of the things that allowed this 'miracle of science' to have occured:

  1. The germ theory of disease. Until it was proposed that tiny, invisible creatures were running all over us and could be the cause of disease and infection, doctors and surgeons didn't worry about hygiene and sterilization. Today, the hospital has an entire system in place to maintain a sterile environment in the surgery itself and to keep risk of infection to a minimum.

  2. Sutures. Christian had his THROAT SLICED OPEN. Seriously, he has a wound across his neck and they sewed it up with some stuff that will just dissolve over time; no painful removal of stitches and minimal scarring. He has some pain from the wound itself but that's honestly been the least of his problems (the most pain was from the intibation tube down his throat during surgery).

  3. Pain medication. When he woke up he was in some pretty severe pain and his recovery would have been significantly prolonged and much harder without pain medication. He got all sorts of drugs, including morphine, loratab and some incredible stuff that made him feel better when the morphine wasn't making a dent in his pain.

It also occurred to me that there are a million tiny technologies to be grateful for:

  1. Bendy straws. It sounds silly, but when you have a wound in your neck, being able to drink without looking down is a big freaking deal.

  2. Crocs, NurseMates and the other brand name shoes that keep the nursing staff more comfortable and able to stay on their feet longer and be less cranky. The nursing staff was fantastic, probably not just because of their shoes but isn't it nice to have technology to make their daily lives easier?

  3. Adjustable beds and chairs. We could move his head up, down, forward and backwards, whatever we needed to get him into the right position to eat, sleep, breath better etc. (My only complaint was that the bed was too short for his 6'6" frame). And I got a fairly comfy recliner that I slept in overnight, which allowed me to be a lot less cranky in the morning.

  4. Blackberry, cell phone, wi-fi and laptop technology that allowed me to keep all our friends and family updated (more than they probably wanted!) about what was going on during the surgery and recovery. Plus, IM, email, chat, Twitter, Facebook and text messages that all allowed for different methods to communicate. Suck it Sam Ogden, I'm OK with having options! :)

Ok, you get my point, right? Technology and science rocks. Every minute and penny that people spend on bad science, pseudoscience, 'alternative' medicine and plain old bullshit is time and money that could be inventing the next bendy straw! Think of the opportunity cost of that plus, the time and energy that us skeptics spend debunking and arguing and trying to portray the truth about these idiots and the bad information they spread.

But, when we were up most of the night, watching late night TV and trying to get some rest, we both noticed that pseudoscience is alive and well. Every other commercial was homeopathy, Kevin Trudeau or herbal supplements. The assholes are alive and well. There's much work to do. I take solace in the fact that the science and technology has progressed so much in spite of them. Maybe there's hope for this war after all. If nothing else, we'll probably live longer. :)

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Things to do next year...

It's a cold, rainy (finally) day in Atlanta. I was considered being productive but the weather is cruddy, my puppies are warm and snuggly so I decided to just have a quiet, lazy Sunday. Tomorrow is the last day of 2007 and I've been thinking a lot about the year I've had. It's been busy and I've accomplished a lot at my 'regular' job but I think I'm most proud of the work I've done on this blog and the people I've met and the things I've learned over the past few years in joining the JREF and other skeptical organizations.

But, as I've been sitting here, watching Clear and Present Danger on the History channel (really), I realized that this is no time to rest on laurels. In the past hour, I've seen about a dozen commercials for Japanese 'detox foot pads' and for 'Dr. Frank's Homeopathic Pet Pain Relief.' Pseudo-science and fraud are alive and well, folks.

Someone recently told me that people stupid enough to get suckered in by psychics or frauds pretty much deserved what they got. There are certainly days when it feels like that's true and days when I wonder whether it's worth bothering to help people who seems so determined to sabotage themselves.

But then I remember that about 6 months ago, my beautiful husky got sick. We didn't know what was wrong and the vet couldn't find anything wrong with him but he stopped eating. Then I came home from work and found Vandal dead. That day, and in the days leading up to it, I would have pretty much done anything if someone had told me it would help keep him healthy and alive. I might even have considered Dr. Frank's homeopathic crap.

The thing about being human is that we're all susceptible to making illogical decisions based on our emotions. If it's your family, your child, your pet, your own health even at stake, you don't always think straight. And it's our responsibility, each of us, to recognize this and to help each other. I believe the best way we can do this is by constantly questioning, constantly asking for evidence, constantly demonstrating critical thinking so that when we and those we love are in those situations that try us most strongly, the logic and the questions come as naturally to us as the emotion.

But we should avoid being demeaning about people who fall for frauds. If I was willing to consider that kind of thing to keep my dog alive, can I really mock someone who just lost a parent and wants John Edward (or even John Edwards, for some reason) to help them say goodbye?

If I told a friend that sometimes I still talk to Vandal, what would I want them to say? "You know, of course, that Vandal was cremated after you paid $42 to that girl with the inappropriate giggle at the emergency animal hospital, and there's no chance of him responding because he has no physical form and never had a spirit one"?

I don't think so. That'll get them kicked in the fracas. Plus, Vandal was pretty stupid and is no less aware of me talking to him now than he was at any point in the previous 11 years. So there.

Be logical with your grieving or confused loved ones. Be clear-headed. Be analytical. But be compassionate, help them work through things themselves. They'll do the same for you when you get a little nuts from time to time.

It's a new year and there's still a whole lot of work to be done. What are you going to do? I plan to keep at it. Right after I take off the Japanese detox foot pads. These things don't work at all. And now my feet are sticky.

Cross posted at