Trivial Web Survey Finds Irrelevent Non-Fact Type Thing

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Ever wondered if you’re gonna get happier or sadder as you get older?  Wonder not!  Yahoo has your back.

Here’s a wildly simple, profoundly interesting question: At what age are you happiest? According to a recent survey, the answer is 33.

A recent survey you say?  Well, clearly the answer of 33 can’t be subjective or nonsensical if people told interviewers that specific number on average, right?

Friends Reunited, a U.K. website, found that 70 percent of respondents over the age of 40 said they did not find true happiness until they were 33 years old.

So, let me get this straight.  Not only is this information coming from a UK perspective (and thus potentially culturally dependent and irrelevant to the rest of the world), but it’s also based on a website’s aggregated information!  Lets forgive them for using poorly controlled and statistically unrepresentative data collection methods for the time being and focus on the former problem.

Oh, if only journalists were scientifically literate, maybe they would’ve realized the claim only applies to Brits!  Wouldn’t it be nice if this data was qualified in some way so that journalists would avoid making that mistake?  Taking a look at the original press release’s title…

33 IS THE MAGIC NUMBER, AS NEW REPORT REVEALS THIS IS THE AGE BRITS ARE AT THEIR HAPPIEST

Awkwaaard.

Here’s a couple of classic cherry picking non-sequitors to cement the absurdity.

As the site pointed out, Jesus Christ was crucified at age 33. Oh, and “33-year-old celebrities like Jennifer Love Hewitt, Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine and Katie Holmes seem to be enjoying a wealth of success right now.”

So there you have it folks, Jesus was British.

Super Sure Sounds Scientific To Me

9 Spices With Super Healing Powers

I could write an intro but I’m not in the mood for that sort of thing today.  Lets do this Ninja Style.  We’re gonna jump straight to the assassination.

Cinnamon is a nutritional powerhouse, with antioxidant properties that keep cells safe from oxidative stress and dangerous free radicals. Antioxidants help fight such diseases as cancer, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, and Parkinson’s.

A wild claim has appeared!  Gee, I wonder what the science says about antioxidants.

There is widespread scientific agreement that eating adequate amounts of fruits and vegetables can help lower the incidence of cardiovascular disease and certain cancers. With respect to antioxidants and other phytochemicals, the key question is whether supplementation has been proven to do more good than harm. So far, the answer is no, which is why the FDA will not permit any of these substances to be labeled or marketed with claims that they can prevent disease.

Allow me to unsheath my kunai here and get right to the point:  isn’t it great that the assholes peddling this crap don’t even need to test the FDA’s resolve thanks to irresponsible media outlets?  Journalists inject these spurious claims straight into the public consciousness much faster than any advertiser could, it’s far more effective than any crap they could scribble on the packaging.

You may say, “But, these spices are fruits and vegetables.”  Yes, that’s true, but when they talk about eating a diet rich in fruits and vegetables they don’t mean putting a little bit of cinnamon on your doughnut every morning.  It is uncontroversial that following certain eating habits can generate good health, but trying to piggy-back supplementation on that claim (even through spices) is the nutritional equivalent of invoking homeopathic logic.

The fun doesn’t stop there, but I’ll let someone else bloody their katana on the rest of the poorly supported (“one study in 200x confirmed it, so lets give dietary advice based on it”) garbage contained in that poor excuse for an article.

What Does Your Zodiac Sign Say About Your Love Life?

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Spoiler alert:  nothing.

I could prattle on about the procession of the Zodiac (and how all of these signs are incorrect even from a bullshit perspective), rant about how the fundamental idea of Astrology (star energy~*~*~*) is silly, or explain how this is just the same crap psychics use rephrased, but I think I’m gonna do something less productive for once.  Lets openly mock.

You’re not one for wearing your heart on your sleeve, and while that works when you want to send off a mysterious vibe, it can also make you come off as a bit cold. “Aquarius can be extremely aloof even though they don’t mean to be,” says Lynch, adding that those born under the water bearer sign have “the capacity to run things through their heads without emotion.” This can go two ways: You’re great at solving problems with your man calmly and rationally, but you might sometimes seem unsympathetic.

In her practice, Lynch has found that Virgos make the best mates. You don’t expect too much, which means your relationships are generally easygoing. You’re happy with the simple things in life, so men don’t necessarily need to pull out all the stops to win you over. You can also look at things logically and without emotion, which can be good when you get into a fight. The biggest dating obstacle Virgos face is that they’re notoriously shy, which can make snagging a guy in the first place a challenge.

Apparently they couldn’t even be bothered to make up 12 archetypes because these two are exactly the same when you get down to it.  Do any of the other horoscopes suffer from this?  Yes.

“Sag women tend to break more hearts than any because they won’t hesitate to run out the door,” says Lynch. She describes women born under the centaur as freedom-loving types who often having problems with commitment. You’ll most likely stay single until you can find an adventurous guy who gives you plenty of space to travel, explore and try new things.

Hey, independent woman! You might find yourself perpetually single, but you’re usually OK with that. According to Lynch, it can be hard for an Aries to form a relationship because she’s so strong-willed. “Aries can live without a relationship,” she says. “They’re very independent. You don’t find them compromising that much.” Even when you do land a guy, it’s likely a little more Gossip Girl and a little less romantic bliss. Aries loves confrontation, which means plenty of drama.

I could keep going but, you get the point.  Not only is the advice being given hardly unique to each sign, but — and lets imagine for a moment that Astrology wasn’t complete nonsense — why would knowing generalities about yourself actually be of any use to you?  You know how you actually are without the use of Astrology!  You have access to more specific information just by being yourself, living your life, and engaging in introspection.  Knowing that a class of people tend to behave this way, when you already know that you behave that way (even if the two are subsets in some fashion) isn’t useful.  It’s like someone giving you a latitude-longitude coordinate, and you saying “Yes, but I don’t know where that is, what country is it in?”

Normal people run the gamut of these traits.  Sometimes we’re emotional, sometimes we’re reasonable, sometimes we’re nurturing, and yes, sometimes we’re dramatic.  A healthy person exhibits a wide range of behaviors, the idea that people can be defined by these archetypes would be incredibly worrying if it were true, because there would be a ton of one-dimensional people walking around out there whose very personality was determined at birth by cosmic forces.

Astrology not only robs you of your history by making it irrelevant (no, you’re not the sum of your experiences apparently), but by extension, it makes it impossible to change.  Which really just makes Astrology an exercise in futility ultimately:  if who you are now was determined largely at birth and you haven’t managed to deviate away from that yet, then you’re obviously not going to now, so this information isn’t really even possible to act on.

Congratulations world, you’re powerless and set in your ways, thanks Astrology!

How to Analyze Anything

Obama’s Spotify Playlist:  7 things it says about his campaign: Or how Yahoo News has made a business out of pulling shit out of your ass.

Hey, America. Can we talk? Great, pull up a chair. You comfortable? Need a drink or anythi– okay.

THIS IS WHY WE CAN’T HAVE NICE THINGS.

Because “news outlets” are no longer reporting on shit that has actually happened or is happening in the moment, but rather it has become an anthology of Livejournal-style entries that have ruthlessly skullfucked Facebook quizzes into a fine dust and then snorted it, blew its nose, and then fed it to someone’s cat who then shit out a turd that the dogs we know as Yahoo News consumers have eaten straight out of the litterbox of the internet.

You following me, camera guy?

We’re not even pretending to care about the issues anymore. The GOP debate is more or less a depressing danse macabre for anyone who has been paying attention while purported news outlets such as these spend their days peddling nonsense and waxing philosophic on a musical playlist. Not about the fact that Obama has recently made a huge stride in providing birth control access, not the fact that we have a race of GOP candidates who are more akin to one schizophrenic letting the voices in his head duke it out on a national platform than actual individuals with real differences, not the fact that scientific mistrust is alarmingly high to the point we’re STILL arguing about teaching creationism in schools, not the fact that we are a country that is actively doing our children a disservice by letting a failing public education system churn out future idiots — our time is better served engaging in deep dialogue about the meaning of Aretha Franklin’s inclusion, or worse, contemplating the tragic absence of rap/hip-hop.

This, this, my friends, is why we cannot have nice things. We live in a democracy of idiots who not only think that Americans are stupid and lazy enough to vote for a candidate based on his music choices, but those who actually do shit like that.

I listened to NPR the other day, and one person they interviewed after the recent primaries said that she voted Santorum because he “seemed like a nice guy”.

Welcome to America, you asked for it.

Hell hath no fury…

Like a mother’s uninformed outrage.

This isn’t a particularly humorous story, especially so as a first post to be writing as a contribution to this blog, but displays the kind of unchecked, illogical thinking that crops up in Yahoo news “journalism” all too commonly.

The mother’s young daughter being paralyzed is certainly a just cause for anger, sadness, and devastation. Any concerned parent would want answers and for that I do not fault the Minnesota mom for her disbelief, but what we have here is a classic case of Dunning-Kruger manifesting itself in the wake of what sounds like a freak accident.

The accident report stated that the girl fell unaided – whether or not this is true largely appears to be a case of ‘he said, she said’, but our family in question seems to be on a more conspiratorial line of thinking with quotes like this:

“You don’t get paralyzed from falling. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure it out,” Penny Privette, Jenna Privette’s mother, told the Star-Tribune.

Besides the fact that rocket scientists don’t deal with medical injuries at a professional level, a cursory search for paraplegia/paralysis would disagree. Paralysis can occur with injuries that result in certain trauma to the nervous system, most especially spinal damage. While the report does not go into depth about how the girl fell or the context leading up to, it is not at all unrealistic to consider that she could have fallen on her back or hit her neck in some way. These things, while not particularly common, do happen.

Damage to the spinal cord is most often caused by trauma, such as a fall or a car crash. [Source; emphasis mine]

 

The woman goes on to display a particularly uncritical assessment:

“We’re losing the sight of what’s most important. We know what we know. We know what … we saw. … I’m not going to get into a big war over stuff when I have my daughter sitting here in a hospital bed.”

As skeptics, we know that first-hand account is often particularly unreliable. “We know what we know and we saw what we saw” is not a critical analysis and does not provide reliable, irrefutable evidence. This kind of testimony would not hold up in a court of law. We have reason to doubt a grieving mother who is probably looking for answers in what could very well be a one-in-a-million accident, especially in context of the report given:

“She was not contacted illegally, did not fall into the boards and did not appear to fall awkwardly to the ice,” the report said. The official said he checked with his partner, the linesman, the EMT on staff and the school athletic director, and “everyone agreed that the player appeared to fall unaided.”

[Source]

This is not unreasonable. The case is undoubtedly a sad one and one can only hope that her daughter makes a full recovery, but we are presented with a cause to cast doubt on the family’s assessment of the situation. Certainly it is possible that the investigation was trying to avoid undue lawsuits or similar hardships, but the case becomes more interesting with this tidbit:

Penny Privette said previously that doctors were hopeful her daughter would regain feeling in her legs, as she did after a similar injury in 2008.

DIRECTED BY M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN.

At last, the twist! While the specifics are, unsurprisingly, vague as hell, this clip alone suggests that this girl has a history of paralysis-related injuries. The kicker comes next:

It’s unknown whether the new changes will actually be able to inspire better hockey behavior, but one thing does seem certain: They aren’t going to make anyone happy by claiming that one of the players who was left paralyzed by such a hit was responsible for her own injury.

What I hate here isn’t that Yahoo News has pointed out an uncomfortable truth. It’s that the insinuation here is that those who did the investigation into the incident should spare the feelings of the family and tell them what they want to hear. Sometimes there are blameless accidents. Sometimes one-in-a-million injuries occur – and sometimes they’re not so one-in-a-million when you find out the girl in question has apparently had a similar injury in the past. Is it entirely possible that there was an illegal check that put this unfortunate girl in the position she is? Yes. Is there compelling evidence put forth to support it in this article or the second source cited? Absolutely not.

Emotional outrage is often fraught with fallacy. Feeling something strongly – even very strongly does not make your belief unquestionably rational or reasonable. In times of duress, we often look for answers and can feel deeply disturbed of unsatisfied if it seems like there aren’t any (see also: “acts of god” and other paranormal beliefs), or if we don’t get the answer we’re looking for. Certainly blaming someone else for your son or daughter’s injury can take off some of the pain you justifiably feel at seeing someone you love suffer, but reality can be a hard pill to swallow. If, in fact, the girl in question fell unaided, it is not to say she purposely injured herself or should dwell unduly on the incident, but an accident is just that – an accident.

What the Fracking Frack

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A 4.0 magnitude earthquake that startled residents around Youngstown, Ohio, is believed to have been caused by wastewater injection wells associated with fracking. Youngstown isn’t the first location to see seismic activity, suspected by some, to be triggered by fracking activity lately.

Believed to be?  Seriously?  They’re using some of the stupidest weasel words every uttered by humankind in a science article.  Astonishing.

It is not fracking itself that causes earthquakes. Instead it is the injection wells used for disposal of the wastewater used during the fracking process that is believed to trigger seismic activity. Fracking is a process by which fluid is injected deep into a shale deposit to fracture the shale and release the natural gas trapped within it. The fluid that is used is then disposed of using deep injection wells.

No casual mechanism here folks.  Move along.

The United States Geological Survey has cited a correlation between injection wells and seismic activity. According to the USGS, A 5.5 magnitude earthquake that struck near Denver, Colorado in 1967 was attributed to injection wells and followed a number of smaller quakes in the area.

This one’s easy:  post hoc ergo propter hoc.

What makes this so bad?  Well, they’re literally only going off of correlational observations (you can’t really even call these studies) and fracking doesn’t need the bad PR unless it can be proven that it’s actually doing something negative.  It’s a vital technique for harvesting natural gas that environmentalists have a raging anti-corporate boner over.  There have been unfair documentaries done on the subject that have muddied the waters considerably.  The last thing we need is shoddy reporting like this uncritically echoing unfounded assertions about fracking and earthquakes.

If there is better evidence to link the two, you sure as hell don’t see it here.

Americans Think Science Will Save the Economy

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Sometimes, Yahoo News makes me sad and it isn’t the author of the article that is the problem.  In fact, every Yahoo News article, no matter how reasonable the report itself is, has droves of inane commentors that say the craziest shit imaginable in response.  Time for an example!  Lets start with some feel good quotes.

According to a compilation of polls, science have benefited society and have helped make life easier for most people. A vast majority (91 percent) also believe that research and development are important to their state’s economy.  More than 70 percent of Americans believe that the federal government should place more emphasis on the number of American students who pursue STEM  careers.

So yeah, that look good for us skeptics.  Kinda makes you smile doesn’t it?  They seem to believe science is the solution to our problems even if they don’t do a very good job of supporting it always.  Feeling good?  Great.  Release the horde of ignorant commentors!

I will say this again: Evolution NOR the big bang have NOTHING to do with the economy. No scientist educated in the big bang or evolution can offer the solution. Its people who know the market and the business world that can offer the solution. Why do you think business are make more money then scientists? They know the market better then they know the theory of evolution or the big bang known by scientists.

Evolution is change in nature etc etc etc. Nothing to do with the economy. Big bang? Nothing to do with marketing. So science doesn’t have the solution unless they get a computer to do it…which won’t make less of a difference.

More jobs? what does that seriously have to do with evolution? Therefor its ignorant for an atheist to bring up evolution or the big bang. Saying “it has the solution since its “proven” by science!”

No,its education in the market,not study of our natural world. And atheists think they know more..right..one person to a group can’t speak for the rest of America.

I wanna see if atheists can give the solution..oh wait! They do nothing but attack and complain but leave it up to the scientists to do the dirty work but claim to be so logical

I wouldn’t want the poster responsible for that to go uncredited, so here, it was written by Godislove, from Carlisle, Pennsylvania.  I only have one question to ask in response to this:  Why do you think business are make more money than scientists, dear reader?

We may not have the best health care system in the world, but thank god we don’t live in Paraguay!

A lovely comment by TRADE REDD NOW from… Amsterdam?  Apparently so.

after reading the post–my big question is where in the hell was this poll taken–in the white house

We can all thank Retired in Florida for this gem.  Unfortunately I cannot tell you where they’re from cause they didn’t include their location information.

Why not come up with a way to Neutor babies at Birth, when they become productive adults reverse the process. Once the parents and their useless children have filtered through the prison system our Nation will save trillions of dollars and crime will become almost non-existant

If you guys are wondering who to send the thank you card to, James G from Shawnee, Kansas shared that little nugget of wisdom with us.

So remember ladys and gents:  if you read a Yahoo News article and it doesn’t immediately depress you, just look at the comments, and I can guarantee you that you’ll find something sigh worthy relatively quickly.

Healthy eating may help ADHD kids: US study

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First off, I love the title. “Attention ADHD kids:  it may be a good idea to eat healthy.”  Shocking!  Eating healthy might be good for people?!  Okay, sarcasm over, lets look at some quotes:

Simply eating healthier may improve the behavior of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder if therapy and medication fail, said a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.Researchers, however, said that their review of recent controlled scientific studies had shown conflicting evidence on the impact of supplements and restricted diets — in some cases they were no better than the placebo effect.

They outright admit that there is mixed evidence right off the bat and they’re defining eating healthy as a restrictive diet with supplements?  Okay.  Time for the first ever curse uttered on this blog.  You ready?  I am:  what the fucking fuck-fuck.  Lets read more, shall we?  I know I’m feeling masochistic.

The precise causes of ADHD are unknown, although studies have pointed to hereditary factors as well as social and environmental influences. Eating high-sugar and high-fat foods may exacerbate symptoms, some research has shown.But while proposed interventions such as giving iron supplements or cutting out additives and food dyes have soared in popularity in recent years, the Pediatrics article said there is little solid science to back up those claims.Similarly, studies focused on getting rid of potential allergens in the diet such as wheat, eggs, chocolate, cheese and nuts, have shown limited success with some ADHD kids “but a placebo effect could not be excluded,” said the study.Even when it comes to sugar and diet soda, two elements which many parents believe can trigger hyperactivity in children, scientific studies have been unable to prove a definitive link.

No casual mechanism has been found between ADHD and diet, and in many instances they can’t even prove a link, yet they’re testing changing the diet to cure it.  Yeah, that sounds like good science to me!

For many parents, simply paying more attention to feeding their kids a healthy diet, rich in fish, vegetables, fruit, legumes, and whole-grains, is likely to help.”A greater attention to the education of parents and children in a healthy dietary pattern, omitting items shown to predispose to ADHD, is perhaps the most promising and practical complementary or alternative treatment of ADHD,” said the study.

So lets see, in review… Conflicting research, lack of a casual link, talk of complimentary, and alternative medicine.  Consider this in a Bayesian fashion:  one new study comes out that is evidence for something. There is already plenty of evidence against it.  This study the proverbial drop in the bucket right here, it proves absolutely nothing.  Worst of all, the average, scientifically illiterate reader who stumbles across this will only read the headline and then substitute in whatever their view of healthy eating is as the miracle ADHD cure that stems from patient empowerment!

Some people will walk away from this article thinking that their kid only has ADHD because they’re not eating properly. It’s difficult to say this is a bad thing if it means a couple of kids out there eat healthier, but healthy eating is a nebulous term to begin with.  To many parents, this means “I need to buy more organic produce.”  Science hasn’t even conclusively determined whether dieting is about calorie in calorie out or something more complex, but we’re ready to cure neurological disorders that we don’t even understand through judicious application of fruits, vegetables, and fish?

What’s probably going on here is very simple:  in administering the restrictive diet to their child, they’re giving them more structure and order in their life.  That child is learning to control their eating impulses better and to adhere to those dietary rules set up, so it’s probably having an effect on their general behavior.  You can chalk the rest of the improvements up to the placebo effect and the changes in their body resulting from becoming healthier people.  In short, there is no reason to believe the link this crappy article presupposes.

Thanks for uncritically giving a sounding board to more dietary and supplemental bullshit, Yahoo!  Now I’m tempted to go dig up their link about Vitamin D deficiencies and depression (spoiler alert:  by link, I mean they found a correlation and no causative mechanism).

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