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FROZEN FAITH

Cryonics and the Quest to Cheat Death

Across America, there are a growing number of enthusiasts and researchers working to solve what they perceive to be science’s ultimate problem: death. Many of them believe that by cooling the human body down to a frozen state, it could preserved until a time when science has advanced enough to bring it back to life. The practice is called cryonics, and researchers have been using the technique since the first patient was preserved in 1967. Since then, over a hundred patients have been frozen across the country, coldly awaiting a future where they can be reanimated.

Skeptic Magazine issue 1.2 (cover)

Skeptic magazine 1.2 (1992)
Can Science Cheat Death?
(Mentioned in the video)
Order it in print or digital formats.

In Frozen Faith: Cryonics and the Quest to Cheat Death, Motherboard explores whether the patients and animals already preserved ever have a chance of coming back to life. Correspondent Ben Makuch meets with the individuals who believe more than anyone else that they’ll live forever via cryonics, and tries to untangle whether they’ve merely found a comforting new religion, or if they’ve actually got it right. Are those who believe in cryonics forward-thinking scientists, or just deluded individuals terrified of death? The film also features Dr. Michael Shermer who brings a skeptical perspective to this fringe science.

About this week’s feature article

There is no such thing as “alternative medicine.” In this week’s eSkeptic, Dr. Harriet Hall, aka the SkepDoc, distinguishes between science-based medicine and CAM. This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 20.3 (2015).

Dr. Harriet Hall, MD, the SkepDoc, is a retired family physician and Air Force Colonel living in Puyallup, WA. She writes about alternative medicine, pseudoscience, quackery, and critical thinking. She is a contributing editor to both Skeptic and Skeptical Inquirer, an advisor to the Quackwatch website, and an editor of Sciencebasedmedicine.org, where she writes an article every Tuesday. She is author of Women Aren’t Supposed to Fly: The Memoirs of a Female Flight Surgeon. Her website is SkepDoc.info.

ABOUT THE IMAGE below: A bee pollinating an Echinacea flower, by Moxfyre (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 or GFDL], via Wikimedia Commons

Evidence:
“It Worked for My Aunt Tillie” Is Not Enough

by Harriet Hall, M.D.

Evidence means different things to different people. Even quacks and their victims claim to have evidence that their treatments work. Sometimes that evidence consists only of testimonials from satisfied customers or from personal experience. “I tried X and I got better.” “I know Y works because it cured my Aunt Tillie’s arthritis.”

Scientists know that the plural of anecdote is not data; no matter how many testimonials you accumulate, they can’t ever prove that the treatment works.

I had a friend who used all kinds of questionable treatments including homeopathy. I asked her how she decided what to try. She said if a friend told her something had worked for him, and if it didn’t seem dangerous, she would try it. That was all the evidence she needed. She didn’t care about scientific evidence because she said, “Science doesn’t know everything.” Comedian Dara Ó Briain had the perfect answer to that: “Science knows it doesn’t know everything; otherwise, it’d stop. But just because science doesn’t know everything doesn’t mean you can fill in the gaps with whatever fairy tale most appeals to you.” When Oprah Winfrey told Jenny McCarthy that experts said there was no scientific evidence that vaccines caused autism, Jenny retorted, “My science is named Evan, and he’s at home. That’s my science.”

Skeptic magazine issue 20.3 (cover)

This article appeared in Skeptic magazine 20.3 (2015).

There is a huge disconnect between what science-based medicine calls evidence and what alternative medicine and the general public call evidence. They are using the same word, but speaking a different language, making communication next to impossible.

First, there is no such thing as “alternative medicine.” There is only medicine that has been tested and proven to work and medicine that hasn’t. If a treatment currently considered to be alternative were adequately tested and proven to work, it would be incorporated into mainstream medical practice and could no longer be considered “alternative.” It would become just “medicine.” So-called “alternative” medicine can be defined as medicine that isn’t supported by good enough evidence to earn it a place in mainstream medicine. […]

Read the full article

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Mr. Deity and The Call

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SCIENTIFIC STUDIES (HBO)

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver

John Oliver discusses how and why media outlets so often report untrue or incomplete information as science.

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Detecting Baloney

Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic) by Deanna and Skylar (High Tech High Media Arts, San Diego, CA)

The Baloney Detection Kit Sandwich (Infographic)

For a class project, a pair of 11th grade physics students created the infographic shown below, inspired by Michael Shermer’s Baloney Detection Kit: a 16-page booklet designed to hone your critical thinking skills.

FREE Video Series

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Science Based Medicine vs. Alternative Medicine

Understanding the difference could save your life! In this superb 10-part video lecture series, Harriet Hall, M.D., contrasts science-based medicine with so-called “complementary and alternative” methods. The lectures each range from 32 to 45 minutes.

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths of Terrorism

Is Terrorism an Existential Threat?

This free booklet reveals 10 myths that explain why terrorism is not a threat to our way of life or our survival.

FREE PDF Download

The Top 10 Weirdest Things

The Top Ten Strangest Beliefs

Michael Shermer has compiled a list of the top 10 strangest beliefs that he has encountered in his quarter century as a professional skeptic.

FREE PDF Download

Reality Check: How Science Deniers Threaten Our Future (paperback cover)

Who believes them? Why? How can you tell if they’re true?

What is a conspiracy theory, why do people believe in them, and why do they tend to proliferate? Why does belief in one conspiracy correlate to belief in others? What are the triggers of belief, and how does group identity factor into it? How can one tell the difference between a true conspiracy and a false one?

FREE PDF Download

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

The Science Behind Why People See Ghosts

Do you know someone who has had a mind altering experience? If so, you know how compelling they can be. They are one of the foundations of widespread belief in the paranormal. But as skeptics are well aware, accepting them as reality can be dangerous…

FREE PDF Download

Top 10 Myths About Evolution

Top 10 Myths About Evolution (and how we know it really happened)

If humans came from apes, why aren’t apes evolving into humans? Find out in this pamphlet!

FREE PDF Download

Learn to be a Psychic in 10 Easy Lessons

Learn to do Psychic “Cold Reading” in 10
Easy Lessons

Psychic readings and fortunetelling are an ancient art — a combination of acting and psychological manipulation.

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