I was going to do a Batman post today, but I’ve got annoyed again, so you’ll have to wait.
Specifically, I got annoyed by this , something that’s been going round on the internet for a few days.
It calls itself The Periodic Table Of Irrational Nonsense, but it is itself nonsense at least as irrational as anything it attacks, and I’m *SICK* of this.
Before I go any further, let me make something clear: I am a scientific rationalist. I have had papers I co-authored published in more than one scientific discipline. I consider the scientific method the only reliable way of discovering knowledge that humanity has ever discovered. I am also a sceptic and, I believe, a clear-headed thinker.
But *as* a scientific, clear-headed, rational thinker, I consider that list to be utter, unadulterated, concentrated irrationality.
Because I can see two possible ways that list was put together:
Possibility a – The author has, himself, researched into all these categories, read all the relevant literature, looked at the arguments used by the most prominent advocates of those beliefs/hypotheses/ideas, checked their data, and somehow come to the conclusion that only those things that are attacked regularly by Ben Goldacre, Richard Dawkins and other prominent ‘skeptics’ are irrational nonsense or
Possibility b – He has chosen a list that, within the group of people he wishes to associate with, is completely uncontroversial, a list endorsed by the alpha males of his group, without actually thinking rationally about any of it.
There is quite a bit of evidence for possibility b. (In the next two paragraphs I’m using examples that my friend Gavin brought up in a discussion with me. I’d probably have used these examples anyway, but credit where due):
“Faith healing” supposedly works through the placebo effect. Double-blind clinical trials rely on the supposed efficacy of the placebo effect to have any validity. Either the placebo effect is real, in which case faith healing works, or (as I consider the evidence to show) it isn’t, and double-blind trials should be on there too.
“Memetics”, on the other hand, is just a set of Just-So stories, a supposed ‘science’ with no explanatory power, which makes no falsifiable predictions that are not trivially true without it, and which insists on treating a metaphor as having objective reality. Judged purely rationally, it should be right there snugly next to Scientology. Yet it’s strangely missing…
Other things that are strangely missing from there, but are irrational as hell, include meta-analyses, libertarianism and supporting illegal wars, all of which many of the ‘rational’ ‘skeptics’ (always spelled the American way, even though the creator of this image is British) on that person’s blogroll support. Those would certainly be on any list of the ‘irrational’ I put together…
And on the other hand, several of the things on there simply shouldn’t be. The obvious one is ‘conspiracy theories’. *ALL* conspiracy theories? Even the ones we know demonstrably to be true (such as Brown agreeing to stand down in the Labour leadership so long as Blair stood down in his favour eventually as Prime Minister)? So *no* conspiracies ever happen? We should probably get rid of the laws against conspiracy then, I suppose…
I’ve looked into *some* of the things on that list for myself – the majority I haven’t. Of those I have, some appear to me to have some truth, some appear to me to be almost certainly false, and some are in a grey area. I suspect that that would be true for anyone who looked into them *without the bias of trying to fit into a pre-approved ‘skeptic’ mould*.
So I’ve made a decision – I’m not going to believe in the ‘rationality’ of anyone who isn’t prepared to defend at least one of the things on that list as being reasonable. I won’t fall out with anyone over it, but I’m going to assume that anything you say is justified not by reason but by appeal to authority. (Of course some of you already get a pass on this – like Debi, who is a rational, sceptical, scientist but also a Buddhist – Buddhism’s on the list).
So what’s your heresy? What, out of that list of thoughtcrimes, do you think has some merit?
In my case, it’s vitamin megadoses.
I take a minimum of six grams of vitamin C every day, rising to much more whenever I’m even slightly ill. I take many other supplements, too, at much higher than the RDA. These ‘megadoses’ have improved my physical and mental health enormously. Having read many books co-authored by my uncle Dr Steve Hickey (here are two of them, both of which I proofread. That’s my Amazon affiliate link, but you can buy them without that) and, more importantly, checked the original papers he cites, I have come to the conclusion that there is an *overwhelming* body of evidence in favour of the hypothesis that many vitamins can have health benefits at levels far beyond those in the RDA.
To take the most egregious example, in the mid 1970s Prof Linus Pauling – possibly the most important scientist of the 20th century, and the only person ever to win two Nobel Prizes – and Dr Ewan Cameron tried giving vitamin C in very large doses to terminal cancer patients. These patients outlived their expected lifespan by significant periods (in some cases people expected to live hours or days stayed alive for years on this treatment).
The Mayo Clinic, a ‘prestigious’ medical centre, claimed to have ‘proved’ that Cameron and Pauling’s research was flawed – they tried to replicate the tests and failed, and their publication effectively meant that any investigation of vitamin C’s role in cancer was laughed at as ‘pseudo-science’ for more than twenty years.
Except that the Mayo Clinic used oral doses while Pauling and Cameron used intravenous doses. And that the Mayo Clinic cut their trial short. And that before the Mayo Clinic cut their trial short there had been no deaths from cancer, but the death rate went up as soon as the vitamin C was withdrawn. There were methodological errors in the Mayo paper that would get someone a fail in GCSE Biology, let alone when dealing in serious oncology.
I could go into this much, much more, but I’m tired and too hot. But I’ll discuss in comments. But if you want me to discuss more of my reasoning here, first tell me: What’s *YOUR* heresy? And while you’re at it, what do you think *should* be on that list that isn’t (my big one would be ‘making lists of things and claiming those things are irrational nonsense, as if “irrational nonsense” was a property attached to them rather than an opinion’)?
I’ll be back to my Who And Batman blogging tomorrow, now all my computer/work/illness/exhaustion problems have finally been sorted (PEP 2 will be a little later than planned too because of those, but it *is* coming…). But a brief discussion with Burkesworks in the comments from my linkblog led me to do this.
We were talking about the odd intersection, in the late 60s, between MOR, bubblegum, psychedelia and folk-rock, a whole swathe of completely ‘uncool’ (at the time) music ranging from Scott Walker at the most adult and downbeat to the Cowsills at the most upbeat. That in turn got me thinking about the folkier end of that spectrum, and how so many of them covered the songs of Tim Hardin, and how influential Hardin was in general (listen to Dennis Wilson’s early songs, or Colin Blunstone’s solo material, for some stuff that comes very, *very* close at times to outright plagiarism).
So I’ve put together this playlist of Tim Hardin covers. The odd thing about TIm Hardin songs is how great they all are individually, but how similar they sound to each other, so I’ve tried to find versions that sound as different from each other as I can.
Black Sheep Boy by Scott Walker is one of the highlights of Scott 2, one of Walker’s run of four eponymous albums of ‘proper songs’ (rather than the strange and wonderful avant-garde musings he would do later) that gave him his reputation as a proper artist, rather than just a pretty boy with a good voice.
Red Balloon by The Small Faces isnt by Rod Stewart, no matter what Spotify says. You can tell by the way it sounds like the Small Faces, and is on a Small Faces CD I own, and the way Rod Stewart isn’t on it. You can also tell that this was a run-through that was never intended for proper release, but it’s still worth a listen.
Reason To Believe by Rod Stewart on the other hand is by Rod Stewart. Rod Stewart is one of those embarrassing musicians who, had he died in 1974ish, would now be regarded as one of the all-time greats. As it is, we’ve had nearly forty years of truly horrible muzak to taint the memory of albums like Every Picture Tells A Story, from which this comes and which is one of the best albums of its time. Honestly.
Don’t Make Promises by Cliff Richard… I’m really not doing myself any favours in the musical credibility department here, am I? But this is really good! Honestly! Cliff Richard may be the embodiment of all that is wrong with the universe, but this makes at least two Cliff tracks I’ve heard that I actually like (the other being his early rock hit Dynamite). Given he’s had a fifty-three year career so far, it’s only to be expected that he might make two enjoyable tracks accidentally, I suppose…
If I Were A Carpenter by The Four Tops is The Four Tops singing If I Were A Carpenter, so therefore great. I considered using Johnny ‘n’ June for this one, but I chose a solo Johnny Cash track for later.
Single Song Of Freedom by Bobby Darin is from the third period of Darin’s career, when after his novelty-rock hits like Splish Splash and his big-band period doing songs like Mack The Knife, he renamed himself Bob Darin and started doing folk-ish songs. This is from an album that was almost entirely songs by Hardin and John Sebastian of the Lovin’ Spoonful. It would work a lot better had I never seen Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox story, though..
Misty Roses by Colin Blunstone is not by the Zombies, as Spotify thinks, but it *is* produced and arranged by Blunstone’s former Zombies bandmates Rod Argent and Chris White. And it’s one of the most beautiful things ever committed to vinyl, going from the simple acoustic-backed rendition of the song in Blunstone’s voice, easily the most gorgeous ever to belong to a male rock vocalist, into the astonishing Bartok-inspired string arrangement. One Year, the album from which this was taken, was largely an attempt to marry ‘proper’ string quartet music with popular song, and this is where that gels the best. Extraordinarily beautiful.
Southern Butterfly by Marianne Faithful is a Marianne Faithful track. As with all Marianne Faithful tracks after about 1966 it sounds like Nico covering Leonard Cohen. Lovely guitar and sitar backing.
Lady Came From Baltimore by Johnny Cash is actually one of the few tracks he did in his commercial heyday that, at first, sounds like one of his later American Recordings tracks, before the overdone 70s-country arrangement kicks in.
And How Can We Hang On To A Dream by Kathryn Williams has a lovely celeste and ‘cello backing, although it sounds a bit like everything else Kathryn Williams does…
Too furious to blog about what I was going to, anyway. Two things have made me annoyed – one that matters, in the grand scheme of things, and one that doesn’t.
The one that matters is that the coalition government has voted that detention without charge for 28 days will be extended for another six months, while the policy is ‘reviewed’. They say they’ll get rid of it, just not yet. What kind of ‘review’ it takes to say “We’ll *NOT* lock people up for a month without charge or trial” I don’t know. And some Lib Dems voted for this! (Others, like Adrian Sanders, thankfully didn’t.)
I haven’t been able to find a list of who did and didn’t vote for this. And the reason for this is simple – nobody seems to care. It doesn’t seem ‘important’. The Lib Dem Blogs aggregator has more posts about Robbie rejoining Take That than about our MPs voting for a fundamentally illiberal law. There’s no mention of it on the BBC, or the Guardian or Independent websites. It’s got past without anyone really bothering, because it’s just an existing law being renewed, not a new infringement of what few liberties we have left.
The argument for renewal for now *almost* makes sense – if we’re having a Repeal/Freedom Bill in six months which will cover all civil liberties issues, and if the law isn’t getting used at the moment (and apparently it isn’t) then easier to let it carry on til then than to come up with something to replace it.
But I *WILL* be keeping an eye on this, and if it’s renewed for even an extra day after that I will no longer consider the junior coalition party to be the party I joined. There is *NOTHING* Liberal about locking people up without charge for a month.
And a warning to Labour trolls – your evil cloacal discharge of a party not only brought in this anal smearage disguised as legislation, this utter barbarism, but they wanted to extend it to ninety days, so you don’t get to have an opinion on this one.
The other thing about which I am annoyed is that Grant Morrison is not writing Batman & Robin after October. There are internet rumours that they’re creating another Batman title for him, but there’s an official announcement of a *fourth* Batman ‘in-continuity’ monthly which Morrison won’t be writing, so I doubt it.
(ETA Please note, I’m not doing a ‘tearing up my membership card’ thing here. But this is a *BIG* red line, and if continued will require *serious* action. Anyone fancy writing an emergency motion for conference or something? I’ve little motion experience so wouldn’t be able to do much, but would gladly help if someone wants to do this…)