Category Archives: Uncategorized

Living the faith is countercultural & radical

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Following Messiah and living the faith authentically is countercultural & radical. One way to do so is in community as a lay monk or nun (Married or single, Catholic or non-Catholic is OK)

FYE (For Your Edification): Brother “Practicing the Presence of God” Lawrence was a lay monk.

In keeping with this:

Getting back to pre-paganized Christian beliefs & practices

Ekklesia: Rediscovering God’s Instrument for Global Transformation by Dr. Ed Silvoso

The Real Jesus by Rev. Bert M. Farias

 

The Dark Charisma of Donald Trump

FARIAS ON CRUZWhat follows below is a slightly truncated & edited email I sent to Rev. Bert M. Farias in response to a 5-4-16 article of his concerning the ever-growing embrace of Donald Trump by many Republicans, evangelical Christians and others.   

Good Thursday (May 5, 2016), Rev. Farias!

I perused your 5-4-2016 Flaming Herald entry titled How Cruz’s Dropout Exposes the Corruption of the American Soul and thought you might welcome some feedback on it.

First off, I have no doubt but that some of your readers and even supporters (especially any diehard Trump supporters) will take exception with your article and make an exit, stage far right (of course). As you yourself stated, “I know I may lose followers, readers and even friends over this article, but that’s OK”.

I am not a Trump supporter or fellow traveler — quite the opposite actually (I’ve been a democratic socialist since 1986). But even if I were, I would not head for the door after reading your article. One of the things I discovered early on in my work as a theorist is that truth, not only in science but in most other areas of life, is arrived at haltingly in the form of what famed astronomer Edwin Hubble characterized as “successive approximations”.

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What begins with the Confederate battle flag ends where?

By

Anthony G. Payne

Battle_flag_of_the_Confederate_States_of_America_svg

Judging from articles such as this, this and this, there is now almost a mania sweeping the land to remove every vestige of the Confederacy (Even TV Land got swept up in this by cancelling airing of old “Dukes of Hazzard” episodes) . Don’t get me wrong, I understand why so many people are incensed by Confederate flags and monuments on public lands. And although my ancestors on both the European (paternal) and American Indian (maternal) sides of my family tree lived in the CSA and in some instances served in its armed forces, I have never displayed a Confederate flag in any form anywhere at any time. Nor was the N-word ever uttered by my parents or any expression of religious, ethnic or racial bigotry or elitism. And as for my Civil War era forbearers, most were simple farmers and none owned slaves. As a boy I was told by various relatives that those who donned the grey in our family did so to repel Northern aggression and preserve the rights of individual states to chart their own destiny.

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Killing cancer, sparing the patient (Targeting tumor cells while leaving normal ones unaffected)

BULLSEYE - FREE MSOn Sunday December 7 (2014) CBS’s famed 60 Minutes devoted a thirteen minute segment titled “Disrupting Cancer” to physician and billionaire businessman c, MD‘s advocacy and use of the rapid gene sequencing of tumor cells to help zero in specific drugs or other agents that will eradicate them. Later the same day, Forbes’s writer Matthew Herper published an article in which he stated something virtually everyone doing cancer work knows, namely that “Everyone is looking to use DNA sequencing to better pick cancer drugs. And in some ways, Soon-Shiong is an odd person to pick as a spokesperson for this, because he’s just getting started. ” (Here Is What ’60 Minutes’ Didn’t Tell You About The Billionaire Who Is Trying To Disrupt Cancer Care).

This is not to say that with Dr. Soon-Shiong’s deep pockets and army of computer experts and researchers he will not wind up making major inroads in this area of biomedicine. And with cancer striking so many, progress is welcome whether it comes out of a one person lab or a research enterprise that fills buildings or is stretched across many continents.C

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Not your grandfather’s Jesus

Judaism Starburst grunge backgroundIf you grew up embracing the Americanized Jesus I’d like you to take a moment and read Jesus and Yeshua: An Examination of Cultural Icons. This insightful article was written by a perceptive young man named Jeriah Bowser who is the Ecology & Sustainability Department chair at the Hampton Institute.

Naturally, we all tend to endorse views that parallel or even mirror our own, and I am no exception. However, while we all cherry-pick reality  to varying degrees, the thrust of critical biblical scholarship does IMO tend to favor Bowser’s perspective (Which is one I pretty much arrived at many moons ago).

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Did the Almighty send an emissary to the ancient Cahokian (American Indian) people?

for-choctaw-doc-blogDo you believe the Almighty ever spoke directly to an American Indian tribe? I do not mean face-to-face but through an emissary. I do and will now share with you the particulars behind my conviction that God/HaShem/The Great Spirit did reach out to the Cahokian peoples (American Indians, yes, but their exact ethnicity much less language is unknown):

Long before Columbus and other 15th century European explorers & adventurers landed in North America, there was the Cahokia, a Mississippian American Indian “mound building” people who thrived from about 750 CE to 1300 CE with their biggest city being about 6 miles from present day St. Louis. My own tribe, the Choctaw Nation, has its roots in the Mississippian culture which naturally makes Cahokia of great interest to me.

To read the rest CLICK THIS LINK

Nota bene, my fellow American Indians: Prophetic Word: Restoration Promised to the First Nations of America

Following Messiah and living the faith authentically is countercultural & radical. One way to do so is in community as a monk or nun (Married or single is OK)

“Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!”

At the tail end of Stanley Kubrick’s satirical and brilliant 1964 anti-Cold War movie “Dr. Strangelove” the wheelchair bound German scientist (played by Peter Sellers) manages to stand up and take a step or two forward and then excitedly proclaim, “Mein Fuhrer! I can walk!” (This was reportedly an unscripted improvisation on the part of actor Peter Sellers) People in the throes of extreme excitement, passion or even religious ecstasy sometimes yell out to God, their mate or, in the case of Dr. Strangelove, to his leader (The American President whom he not infrequently calls “Mein Fuhrer” during the course of Kubrick’s cinematic masterpiece).

I suspect Sellers added the dramatic final touch not as an expression of the neurologic malady which landed his character in a wheelchair but, rather, as an upwelling of Dr. Strangelove’s impossible to suppress fascist sentiments and loyalty to Hitler.

In addition, I would offer a slightly different take on Dr. Strangelove’s outburst: I believe it was meant to represent the transcendent march of evil across time. That is, Seller’s was acting out the fact that evil, like death, haunts humankind and is impossible to totally suppress, manage or banish. Of course, we all know that those who do not resist and oppose evil not infrequently find their lives overshadowed by it.

The late writer-director-producer Rod Serling actually captured this theme very adroitly in a 1963 episode of the Twilight Zone titled “He’s Alive” (“He” being Hitler) that focuses on a “bush league Fuhrer” named Peter Vollmer.  

Of course, we all are cognizant of the fact that evil permeates the human experience and has countless modern day incarnations. It is certainly one wheel that gets reinvented without ever showing much wear or loss of perpetrators and victims.  Sometimes, though, the expressions are so continuous across time they appear to come out of some kind of historical-cosmic Xerox® machine. Click these links and reflect for a moment:

 http://weirdthings.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/skitched-20120111-150835.jpg

http://theheartthrills.files.wordpress.com/2013/04/north-korean-soldiers-drilling-2.jpg

OK, so evil is perennial. What we can do about it? Laugh at and ponder comic portrayals such as Seller’s, yes, but never make the mistake of viewing evil people as clowns or easy to control (A mistake many German pre-Nazi leaders made with respect to Hitler and his cronies). But above all learn everything we can about the nature of evil and its subtlest expressions and then work to expose and oppose them.

How do you kill 12 million people? Evil then and now: Recognizing & containing it by Choctaw Doc

The Science of Evil: On Empathy and the Origins of Cruelty by Dr. Simon Baron-Cohen

Copyright 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

The dog you feed the most will dominate your life

AGNES OF GOD - AMAZONIn 1985 the Broadway hit “Agnes of God” was released as a movie directed by Normal Jewison. Marshall Fine tendered this review on Amazon.com:

This Broadway hit gets a solid film treatment by director Norman Jewison, but that can’t make up for the weaknesses of the script (which were as true onstage as they are here). Jane Fonda plays a chain-smoking shrink sent to a convent to do a psychological evaluation of a novice (Meg Tilly) who gave birth to a baby and then killed it in her little room. Was it a virgin birth? A miracle? And what of the bloody stigmata that seem to spontaneously appear on her hands? Fonda also finds herself clashing with the Mother Superior (Anne Bancroft) over the line between faith and science. But writer John Pielmeier can’t flesh this out beyond an idea; in the end, the solution is a disappointingly earthbound one that even the strong acting in this film can’t elevate.

OK, so the film isn’t flawless and has garnered more than its fair share of “1 or 2 thumbs down”. With this said, I like this flick. Why so? In-a-word it lays in the fact Agnes the novice nun somehow manages to interact with the world thorough a lens of innocence. That is, the unjaded aspects of her being for the most part dominate her day-to-day existence and how she perceives life and those around her.

Hollywood nonsense, you say? I might have agreed with you if this were early 1999. But not afterwards. What changed for me? I spent more than four years in Japan living and teaching classes of Japanese young people from pre-school through doctoral level plus many corporate classes filled with adult working professionals. What I discovered was that virtually all the young folks were, well, in some ways “Agnes of God” like. Mind you, I was aware that there were exceptions and many expats I shared sake and chat with were quick to point out their bad experiences with pretty jaded Japanese characters. But on-the-whole even they agreed most Japanese people they had encountered while teaching and in society at-large exhibited less of the cynicism and sheer nastiness that appeared commonplace back in the US and the West in general (Some of these expats came from the UK, New Zealand and Australia).

My then girlfriend and later (2001) wife thought I was seeing her people through rose colored glasses. This changed once we moved from Japan to southern California in early 2003. Having left being the corporate world in Japan (18 years work for a major multinational corporation in Tokyo), she pursued her long held dream of becoming a marriage and family therapist. This journey took her through the MS in Counseling program at Cal State Fullerton (she graduated with honors) and internships at a number of places including the Salvation Army residential program in Anaheim. While doing an internship at MiraCosta College in Oceanside, she happened to counsel a number of Japanese students who had come to the US in order to obtain specific educational credentials in an English language environment. What she discovered — and made a point of mentioning to me — is that her Japanese charges were very “unjaded” compared to the American students she counseled. Maybe my glasses were not so rose-colored after all.

At the very least, there seems to be at least a modicum of real world evidence that my original observation was spot on: The Japanese were and are on-a-whole less jaded (“more innocent”) than Americans.

Were Americans less jaded in the past? It seemed that way to me when I was a youngster. TV and movies in the late 1950s into the 1960s tended to reflect a certain un-worldliness (Less cynical, less nasty). This began to go out the window with the advance of the sexual revolution, Vietnam and all that entailed, and the general rejection of authority and conventional ways among many young folks of that era (including moi).

Can we ever recapture what we lost short of embarking on a 2nd childhood (individually and collectively)? Is the genie out of the bottle for good? Is there any way to truly be “as wise as serpents and as gentle as doves” (Rabbi Yehoshua’s admonition). Good questions, I think. We American Indians (Choctaws) have a saying that goes like this: “The dog you feed the most becomes biggest”. By this token if we as Americans feed ourselves on jaded & cynical things such as pornography, greed, pride, and other vices then the dogs that will steer our sled (lives) will be these vices. On the other hand, if we feed virtues and starve vices, well, we just might find ourselves less jaded and “wicked”. And while we may not become a nation of “Agnes of God” characters or even Japanese-like, we could inch a little closer to it.

Dr. Anthony G. Payne

Copyright 2013 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

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Do natural algorithms account for the origins and evolution of life?

ALGORITHM - EXAMINER ARTICLELet’s step into a time machine of sorts or a “Wayback Machine” (to borrow from one of my favorite boyhood TV series “The Rocky & Bullwinkle Show“) and take a trip back to 2003. During May of that year a paper appeared in the journal Chaos, Solitons and Fractals titled “Minimal-cell system created in laboratory by self-organization” [October 2003, vol. 18, iss. 2, pp. 335-343(9) Elsevier Science)]. This quote is from the introduction…. Click to access full article

Rocking the Boat Blog Site Debuts

Through the CAM looking Glass

The reasons people seek answers to health challenges in the world of CAM (Complementary & Alternative Medicine) or integrative medicine are as varied as people themselves, though in my experience a great many do so owed to real or perceived failures on the part of their mainstream doctors to diagnose or treat or otherwise address their ills (Again, real or perceived). My interaction with patients and “natural medicine” (Is there an unnatural medicine?) practitioners from chiropractors to naturopathic physicians to just about everything else under the “alt med sun” is extensive – stretching from my childhood in the 1960s to the present – and has taught me a great deal firsthand about how disappointment with conventional or mainstream medicine plus hope, wishful thinking, the placebo effect, lack of critical thinking, and sometimes desperation  have sent my folks into the arms of those who offer seemingly definitive diagnoses and/or solutions (Or at least less personally intimidating non-invasive diagnostic methods plus gentler therapies often dispensed or administered with a great deal more TLC than some overworked MDs can understandably muster).

Do these people get positive results? By all means. But as to why, this isn’t always a clear cut case of “I took or did this and it worked”. Many of the diagnostic methods used on these patients have been disproved and utterly discredited, as are some of the treatments prescribed. For more than a few I’ve followed – some for years—their illness is psychosomatic and their improvement the end result of their vested faith in their practitioner and expectancy that his or her therapy will prove efficacious. Others attribute improvement to a non-standard treatment when it was more likely a prior mainstream treatment or just the disease or condition having run its course.

Back when I first began exploring nonstandard medical and paramedical modalities (1960s as a boy of 8 or so) many specific herbal, nutritional and other forms of intervention had not been formally evaluated in well-designed and executed clinical trials. As a result there was the very real possibility some of these would pan out once put to the test. And if some of these gentler remedies could bring about remediation of disease with few if any of the side effects associated with their pharmacological counterparts, their promotion and use seemed a reasonable course of action or recourse for both practitioners and patients. This line of reasoning apparently informed and motivated many to offer them at the retail and professional level and scores of ailing folks to seek them out in health food stores and in the offices of clinicians of various stripes.

The years and subsequent rigorous evaluation has not been kind to many cherished non-standard  diagnostic tests and remedies (Nor to many accepted mainstream techniques and treatments either). What should have happened is that treatments and diagnostic methods that didn’t pan out following rigorous evaluation should have gone the way of the dinosaurs.  But they didn’t.  Why? The reasons are varied but among the recurring ones I have run across down through the years among medical consumers and many integrative practitioners are: (1) A refusal to accept scientific valid consensus findings from multiple studies (Many I’ve confronted with this have said something to the effect that “I know this, but I also know it works no matter what and I won’t set it aside”. True believers whose reasons have more in common with the kind of faith articulated in revival meetings than anything else); (2) A vested interest in the therapy or therapeutic agent that makes it difficult to relinquish it; and (3) A lack of exposure to the methods of science and critical thinking and how to apply them when it comes to evaluating a given therapy, diagnostic method or treating compound, drug, herb or such.

In my own case, I took my childhood interest in the promise of natural medicine and eventually ran with it over time.  Mine was a wide-ranging course whose first stop was another childhood passion, physical anthropology (and especially dietary patterns throughout human evolution). To my way of thinking, the best way to approach diet, human disease and even psychology was through an evolutionary lens, something given increasing credence by subsequent developments and discoveries. Following this I studied and did hands-on work with various mainstays of what is now known as integrative medicine such as homeopathy (German school), orthomolecular nutrition and psychiatry, therapeutic nutrition, botanic medicine or phytotherapy, and much more. Along the way I came up with and shared various ideas with such notables in science such as Stephen Jay Gould (Nonstandard but seemingly promising approaches to the mesothelioma that had him in its grip plus my thoughts on the possible effects of ultra low  levels of iridium during the Cretaceous-Tertiary asteroid impact on bacteria that populated the guts of prehistoric animals, insects and such), Karl Folkers (CoQ10 for treating various avian diseases) and Carl Sagan (Feasibility of going a Cosmos type program focused on human evolution as well as one that focused on medicine including the impact of the CAM movement)……many whose work was quite controversial such as Michael Persinger (Application of his extremely low frequency electromagnetic technology to induce hallucinatory states aimed at pain attenuation or rallying immune response in terminally ill cancer patients)….…and still others who were regarded as being solidly on the fringe such as  Roy Kupsinel, MD (Shared with him information and thoughts on a botanic drug called PADMA 28 which had shown efficacy for Peripheral Artery Disease in 5 randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled trials done in Europe). I was, in short, “all over the map” in the sense I was working with and acting on knowledge, ideas, therapies and forms of therapeutic intervention that spanned the gamut from the realistically possible or promising to tentatively proved on one end, to the far-fetched and virtually impossible on the other. This was not a pattern peculiar to me though, but one that seemingly characterizes if not defines a large segment of the CAM movement (Both practitioners and proponents).

Thankfully though, I listened to the skeptics and critics of many of things I had studied or was otherwise involved with. As a result of their well reasoned writings I decided I needed to master aspects of the scientific method that was not part of my education and hands-on work or which was but which I’d sometimes glossed over in my erstwhile rush to help suffering people. I thus went on to teach myself such things as the principles of medical statistics and clinical studies design and then applied this body of knowledge and methods to help evaluate many of the ideas, therapies and treatments in my repertoire. The outcome was predictable: I found many which failed to hold water and thus had to be ditched, while others garnered evidence that suggested a more circumspect use or dose than proponents had originally declared effective. Among those I tossed was homeopathy (though Jacque Benveniste’s published paper in the Nature in 1988 made me take a second look – until the methodological flaws which invalidated his work became apparent) plus many botanic medicines and individual herbs.

I also tested things for myself using the tools of science; the methods that as Carl Sagan rightly contended reliably “delivers the goods” (Truth in the tentative scientific sense of “successive approximations” as pioneering astronomer Edwin Hubble put it; that is, findings that might be overturned or subject to modification as new evidence turns up). One prime example was EAV testing, the use of what amounts to a computerized galvanometer to diagnose or otherwise detect allergies, organ deficiencies and bodily needs for various nutrients and such.

During the late 1980s I was introduced to EAV (Electroacupuncture according to Voll) or electrodermal testing using a Vegatest device and trained in it as part of my staff duties for a prominent CAM physician (Later this unit was replaced with a computerized Interro device). As a baby boomer I’d grown up watching such venerable sci-fi classics as the Outer Limits, Twilight Zone and Star Trek, and as such had a special fondness for high tech medical, scientific and robotic devices. Anything along this line that might make medical diagnostics as easy and forthright as Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy’s medical tricorder was especially appealing to me– which the EAV machine in some ways was purported to be.

To understand what EAV or electrodermal testing is all about you have to first understand the principle behind it. In-a-word, these machines are purported to measure changes in the body’s flow of “energy” along “acupuncture meridians”. According to proponents there are specific points on people’s hands and feet that can be used to gage health in various organs and also test drugs, hormones, nutrients and such to see what will remedy any detected abnormalities. This is how it works: The patient holds a moist gauze covered conductive metal cylinder in one hand which is connected to the device (A tiny electric current is sent through this wire by the machine). A second wire runs from the device to a probe held by the technician or doctor who does the testing. When the probe is touched to specific “acupuncture points” a low voltage circuit is completed and the flow of current is measured by the EAV machine and a reading is displayed that indicates organ status (Healthy or unhealthy and, if unhealthy, to what degree). The operator can supposedly determine what will bring the meridian flow back up or down to normal by testing various substances housed in small vials (These vials are introduced one-by-one or in combinations into receptacles into the machine or a plate that connects probe and/or cylinder to the machine). In addition, allergy testing is can supposedly be done by placing vials of known/suspected allergens in the receptacles or on the plate and watching for responses (A jump in the readings).

Even if the principle behind the machine were true – that meridians exist and can be tapped into in a meaningful way to diagnose – it is obvious that if the skin stays at the same level of moisture the readings can be influenced subtly or grossly by the pressure the operator using when he or she applies the probe. This alone would tend to throw off readings. And in practice I saw this for myself. In fact, I quickly realized that what I was doing with the machine was essentially a variation on psychic parlor cold readings – that is, by combining my own  perceptive reading of body language and asking leading questions I would come up with “findings” that agreed with the patient’s known medical history and expectations. 

This said, what intrigued was the use of the machine to determining drugs, hormones and such that “balanced” a patient’s readings. The readings would supposedly indicate what single or combination of drugs and such would benefit the patient, as well as the dose.  This was something I could actually put to the test in a strictly scientific way.

With the assistance of a research engineer friend of mine named Jim this is what we did:

First we filled glass vials (identical to the others in the EAV testing kit) with arsenic, mercury, cadmium and other toxic substances plus samples of deadly herbs and toxic weeds and labeled each one. I then had my buddy go to a separate room and cover the labels on all the vials in the kit – the original ones plus those we created — with other labels bearing an alphanumeric code which he recorded on paper and locked away. Jim then mixed up all the vials and brought them to me. I proceeded to perform tests on a succession of about 40 people, both healthy and ill over a five (5) day period. The end result? Eighty-three percent tested out as “needing” arsenic, mercury, cadmium, etc. (That is, the EAV device clearly indicated 83% of those tested would especially benefit from pure, toxic doses of various heavy metals, toxic herbs, poisons, etc.)

I shared my findings with the clinic director, of course. The EAV machine found its way to a storage closet not too long afterwards.

In the ensuing years I watched many more CAM diagnostic devices and treatments fail to hold up to testing, both those I carried out as well as more formal and rigorous ones conducted by others. Conversely, some herbal medicines, individual herbs, therapeutic dietary measures and such were shown to be effective for various health conditions in formal clinical studies. This said, a great many of these studies were not so rigorous in design or poorly designed and/or executed. And the number proved effective in well designed and executed randomized controlled trials (RTC) appeared to be quite small. Naturally, until these remedies and such pan out in RTCs their effectiveness remains an open question.

Given the paucity of hard scientific evidence underlying many cherished CAM diagnostic methods and treatments, one is compelled to ask if it is it ethical or wise to run a clinical practice based largely on such unproved testing and/or remedies?  Certainly not if the practitioner admits patients who have foregone undergoing proper diagnostic work-ups and scientifically validated medical care for his or her clinical offerings (Unless the practitioner is qualified to do this sort of testing and treatment and competently does so). But what if the practitioner and his methods or treatments are not substituted for standard medical care by the patient, do no harm and largely inspire hope? It could be argued that even if the CAM practitioner’s fare is medically ineffective or even worthless, the positive aspects such as the placebo effect and corresponding reductions in anxiety or fear make it worthwhile provided the cost is not outrageous. Perhaps so. As for squaring the ethical issues involved, at the very least CAM practitioners should clearly label unproved diagnostic methods and treatments as such and disclose any known hazards or potential side effects, making them de facto experimental.  Many in fact do.

Of course, the fact that unproved treatments are being used at all by CAM practitioners of various stripes and also by legions of people doing dietary and supplement self-experimentation is galling to many mainstream physicians, medical consumer advocates, journalists and others. More than a few of these would tightly regulate these remedies and severely reduce access to them, something the vast majority of Americans appear to oppose. In an ideal world unproved diagnostic methods and disease-specific treatments would be speedily and thoroughly evaluated, and those that indisputably bomb would be swiftly abandoned by CAM practitioners. But testing has often moved at a snail’s pace and even when specific remedies have been repeatedly shown to have no efficacy, many proponent CAM practitioners and medical consumers refuse to relinquish them. Some of this is likely a reflection of human ignorance or stubbornness (as in “it’ll be vindicated somehow”) or both. Some people just flat out prefer to live on the other side of looking glass even when so doing lands them squarely in a land of illusions and delusions. But since illusions and delusions help many folks cope with the vicissitudes of life including illness, these discredited CAM tests and treatments is unlikely to vanish anytime soon – if ever.  

Want to learn more about how many CAM modalities and treatments hold up to scientific scrutiny? How to think critically about CAM as well as other heterodox beliefs and practices?

PIER (American College of Physicians) – Provides information on specific diseases and includes interpretations of the extant evidence

SKEPTICISM – James Randi Educational Foundation

COMMITTEE FOR SKEPTICAL INQUIRY

THE SKEPTIC’S SOCIETY & SKEPTICS MAGAZINE

NATIONAL CENTER FOR SCIENCE FOUNDATION

Snake Oil Science by R. Barker Bausell, Ph.D.

The Demon Haunted World by Carl Sagan, Ph.D.

Any and All Books by James Randi

The Undercover Philosopher by Michael Philips

Skeptical Look at Acupuncture

© 2009 by Dr. Anthony G. Payne. All rights reserved.

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