Dr. Oz: America’s Quack (and now, “G-Spot” enthusiast)

Last night I was watching Piers Morgan (when I have the TV on it’s usually on CNN, regardless of what time it is) and in case you haven’t heard, it’s Guest Host Week. That means that some random dude whom I’ve never heard of was sitting in for Piers (whom I had never heard of before last year) and running the show. The first guest was that dude from the Today show, which I haven’t seen in at least 3 years, but that was more “with it” than I usually am with Piers’s guests (I usually have no idea who his guests are; the main reason I watch that show is so I can feel in tune with popular culture). After that torture, they brought in Dr. Oz for the coup de grĂ¢ce.

Now I first became familiar with Dr. Oz last year when the James Randi Educational Foundation denounced him for featuring con-artist extraordinaire James Edward on his show. I did some research and found out he broke into stardom sometime around 2005 when Queen of the Deluded Gullible Douchettes, Oprah Winfrey, had him on as a guest. Apparently she thought he was great, which is usually a major warning sign for me. Usually, the likelihood that something is true is inversely proportional to how much Oprah seems to buy into it. I call this phenomenon the “O Factor.”

I did a little more digging and found out he’s a big supporter of integrative medicine. Us skeptics have a technical word for doctors like this: Quacks. I prefer to use the more scientifically accurate term, though: crazy, dangerous nutjob hucksters. Also, sometimes wannabe Messiahs or conspiracy theorists. Sometimes all of them at once (*cough* Deepak Chopra). I was quite puzzled to learn that Dr. Oz was sometimes referred to as “America’s Doctor.” I wonder if we can impeach him.

Anyway, last night Dr. Oz was explaining his latest quacky bit of advice: How to find the “G-Spot.” Strangely, he didn’t say anything I hadn’t heard before, but he also neglected to mention that if the “G-Spot” does exist, it only exists in a very small percentage of women (<20%). At the risk of sounding like one of those crazy conspiracy theorists I like to bash, I can see why belief in the G-Spot is so widespread. Since Victorian times, there has been this fear of clitoral stimulation, simply because it doesn’t seem to do anything useful in terms of procreation. Sex shouldn’t be about pleasure: it’s a reproductive act. On top of that, we live in a patriarchy, so the woman is inherently subservient to the man. This means the man’s pleasure should come first. For a dude, coitus is pretty damn pleasurable. Most women think it feels okay, too. However, most men are clueless egoists and don’t think of anyone but themselves (they’re conditioned to be that way), while women are told not to be too blunt about sex for fear of looking like a slut. The damage all this “G-Spot” talk does is as follows: It tells women that it is normal to be able to experience vaginal orgasms, which leads to the 70-80% of women who can’t feeling defective, like there’s something wrong with them. What’s normal about something the vast majority of the population in question will never experience?

So here’s the deal: You can try to find the G-Spot if you want, but don’t get discouraged if you don’t find some sort of magic pleasure button. Really, we should be teaching guys how to please a woman. So, ladies: Don’t be shy to take a guy by the hand and actually physically show him what pleases you. As a biological male-type, I have always found this most helpful. And guys, don’t be afraid to ask your ladies what turns them on. I know it can be kind of embarrassing, but your partner will have much more fun once you know how to push all her buttons.

Also, here’s a secret that a lot of men don’t seem to realize: You shouldn’t have to ask a woman if she had an orgasm, because most of the time you can feel it. When women cum, they usually experience a series of muscle contractions in the pelvis, vagina, and anus. Most of the time you should be able to feel it. Wikipedia says that not all women experience these contractions, but most of my partners have so I’m willing to bet the majority of women do (I’ve had a lot of partners; I used to try to fuck my way to manliness).

So, moral of the story: Dr. Oz is a nut, men need to think of their partners more. The end.

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Some thoughts on sexual reorientation therapy

So in light of the recent introduction into the California Senate of a bill that would ban conversion therapy, CNN has been running a lot of stories on sexual reorientation therapy–also known as reparative therapy. I’m fairly surprised that they haven’t actually gone to anyone with the American Psychological Association, seeing as how they issued an official position on this topic three years ago. From the news release:

“At most, certain studies suggested that some individuals learned how to ignore or not act on their homosexual attractions. Yet, these studies did not indicate for whom this was possible, how long it lasted or its long-term mental health effects. Also, this result was much less likely to be true for people who started out only attracted to people of the same sex.”

–Judith M. Glassgold, PsyD

The conclusion of their investigation into the Ex-Gay Industry was that there is no scientific evidence that homosexuals can magically change their sexual orientation and that therapists and medical doctors should not make such claims. Seeing as how the APA is the authority on all issues psychological in this country, I feel like it’d be a good idea to listen to them and not some quack Christian “alternative” therapist. However, the quack team has a major player in their corner–a cabal of nutjob pseudoscientists known as the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homsexuality. Not only are these quacks incapable of evaluating scientific data, but their website is loaded with paranoid conspiracy theories. I think these guys are the ones who need therapy.

Anyway, the question I want answered is: How can people be this ignorant? Would people honestly disregard the opinion of the nation’s most reputable authority on human psychology just because some crackpot New Agers provide them with a few testimonials? Didn’t these people take 9th grade physical science? Testimonial evidence isn’t scientific evidence!

Honestly, I don’t think this bill goes far enough. If I had my way, I’d ban hypnotherapy, rebirthing therapy, alien abduction therapy, past life regression therapy, and that whole lot of New Age nonsense. Quack psychotherapies are nothing but a form of abuse, and these irrational crazies ought to be locked up. I don’t care if it’s a patient’s choice whom they see; however, people who “choose” to seek alternative psychotherapies are either not thinking clearly or not well-enough educated. The assholes who offer alternative and New Age psychotherapies are taking advantage of their clients’ ignorance, or else they themselves are so deluded that it is dangerous to let them practice psychotherapy. At the very least these pseudotherapists ought to be required seek informed consent and explain to their clients that there is absolutely no scientific basis for their nonsense.

I know, it sounds extreme, but abuse is one of my rage face buttons. All abuse everywhere ought to be put to an end. I applaud these pioneering lawmakers.

The most obnoxious form of pseudoknowledge

So a lot of people call me an angry skeptic, because I get really frustrated with mumbo-jumbologists when they refuse to listen to reason and properly examine evidence. My problem is that I used to have a lot of fantastic beliefs, particularly of the occult kind, but once I learned more about science and history and what have you I realized that those beliefs were silly. The way I see it is if I can do it, why can’t they?

Anyway, nothing gets me pissed off more than the theory that human history was intervened upon by some sort of super-advanced race (either a previous terrestrial civilization or ancient astronauts). Until recently I tried to play along with folks when they brought this sort of jazz up, and I actually have at least two friends who believe this nonsense (although they disagree as to whether it was aliens or a lost civilization). However, I just started watching Season 3 of Is It Real? and it started off with an Atlantis episode and also includes an ancient astronaut episode, and I’m at my wit’s end. In my opinion, these people are not only deluded, but they are suffering from an extreme inferiority complex. The tacit premise in every one of these theories is that humans really aren’t all that smart. No way primitive Meso-Americans could have built complex cities or Egyptians could have built massive monuments. Humans are really the special needs kids in the class. How down on yourself do you have to be to believe this nonsense?

I’m especially offended as an artist and writer by these self-deprecating morons. Another tacit premise in their argument is that the human imagination simply isn’t expansive enough to create these myths; apparently humans (or at least early humans) were devoid of concepts of symbolism and metaphor and were completely incapable of advance visual stylization techniques. In other words, they had no aesthetic sense whatsoever. Preposterous! The human mind seems virtually custom-made to imagine things. Look at the nutjobs who believe in ancient aliens! If they can come up with something as absurd as pyramid energy with nothing to go on but some bizarre intuition, why couldn’t the ancients dream up beings from the sky? Myths were essentially the proto-science and proto-philosophy all rolled into one enchilada: they served to explain, predict, and instruct in the absence of more advanced forms of knowledge. They also had some entertainment value. A lot of myths are based on a kernel of truth, I’ll admit that, but they are usually so far divorced from that truth that it is absurd to interpret them as anything other than symbolic fables.

I am especially shocked that these people have apparently never studied any form of classical studies or anthropology. Before I switched to philosophy, I was studying art and classical studies and intended to go into either philology or archaeology. I’ve actually studied Egyptology at a legit academic institution with legit classics scholars; I’ve translated texts (well, photos of massive stone blocks) explaining how the Egyptians built the pyramids. It all makes sense to me. Was this some massive ancient conspiracy to take credit for extraterrestrial beings’ doings? I doubt it. Why can’t these pseudohistorians give credit where credit is due?

The only conclusion I’m forced to draw about these people is that they have a thought disorder of some form, perhaps a relatively benign form of psychosis. Not everyone who believes nonsense has a thought disorder; I used to believe that the Egyptians had advanced technology that we don’t know about. However, once I learned more about ancient Egypt, I realized that this was a childish fantasy not fit for academic circles. Reason and evidence caused me to see the light; why doesn’t it work for them? Mental illness is the only explanation for people who don’t give up ludicrous beliefs when presented with sound evidence to the contrary. This is the very reason I believe in a more outspoken (some would say aggressive) form of skepticism: we need to help these disturbed individuals live better lives.

Pretty decent paranormal TV show

So I was scrounging on Netflix yesterday looking for more paranormal TV shows to ridicule when I found a pretty good one that ran on the National Geographic Channel from 2005-2007 called Is It Real? It’s not your usual paranormal show in that it actually includes real legit skeptics giving their explanations for all the mumbo-jumbo that believers spout. So far I’ve seen all of Season 1 and the first episode of Season 2 (I watched it all day yesterday instead of doing my homework, which I am doing now…). The way the show is structured is they have believers talk their nonsense for a bit and they present the evidence from the believer camp, then they let the skeptics loose and the skeptics end up tearing the believers’ arguments to shreds. Pretty fun, actually, except some of the people in it seem genuinely disturbed. Particularly the woman who was friends with a whole tribe of English-speaking Sasquatches. And “Pam,” the alien abductee who wishes it wasn’t real but won’t listen to reason to save her peace of mind. I also enjoy the fact that they present people with scientific backgrounds who believe in this nonsense, such as the “physicist” from the TM university and the biologist who believes in telepathic animals and something called a “morphic field” (still not sure what the hell that’s supposed to be). It’s a great study in various forms of confirmation bias, ad hoc hypothesizing, post hoc hypothesizing, and various other logical problems. I especially like it when the believers fail to perform on an experiment and come up with rationalizations for why their magic doesn’t work in the presence of skeptics. Anyway, I highly recommend it as a good introduction to various debates in the battle between science and magic. They leave out some major key points in a few of the episodes, but I have a feeling that that’s mostly a time constraint since they only have 45 minutes to provide a rough overview of the state of the given topic as it stands at the time the show was made. Still, it’s pretty good and worth watching.

Light and dark

So I’m watching some Ghost Hunters and I’ve gotta say that these silly paranormal “reality” shows are like crack: bad for the brain but highly addictive. Anyway, there’s something that always bugs me every time I see one of these shows: why the hell do they have to do their “investigations” in the dark???

I’m no believer, so I can’t say whether the people who buy into this mumbo-jumbo attribute some sort of magical or paranormal properties to darkness and low-light conditions. However, when they do their little tours of the “hot spots” it is clear that the alleged paranormal activity occurs just as often in daylight conditions (at least at most of these locations). The only explanation I can think of is that they’re priming themselves to have “personal experiences.”

Think about it: humans are usually hardwired to rely mainly on their sense of sight. By crippling the primary sense, these spook-chasers are taking themselves out of their native element. It doesn’t take any sort of genius to realize that when you’re in a low-light condition you mind can play all sorts of tricks on you. Humans just aren’t constructed to do well in the dark. I am generally more at home in the dark than most, and I’m also the polar opposite of a believer, yet when I’m watching a movie with the lights out or going for a walk at night because I can’t sleep I’m always seeing and hearing all sorts of bizarre shit. Ever notice how most of the stuff they claim they see is never caught on camera? It’s because it isn’t really there. It’s a trick of the mind operating in a slightly more paranoid state than usual due to the fact that it’s basically a fish out of water.

Darkness is always creepy for humans; add to it the fact that these people know they are in a location that is reputed to be haunted and they’re primed even further. I’ve always wanted to do a simple experiment: find a bunch of people, split them into two groups, have each group spend the night in the same house (at different times) but tell one group the house is haunted and tell the other that there’s nothing unusual about it (make up some excuse for having them spend the night in the house like a study of conflicting personalities in room mates). I’m willing to bet that in the experimental group (the one which was told that the house was haunted) you would find significantly more reports of paranormal activity than in the control group. I suppose you could run this experiment twice: once with a reportedly haunted house and once with a house that has no history of paranormal reports.

Anyway, the fact of the matter is this: even a diehard skeptic is gonna get freaked out and see/hear all sorts of jazz when you put them in a dark location and tell them scary campfire stories about that place. It’s simple psychology.

Some thoughts on ghosts

I was saving this for tomorrow, but I have big plans for a book I want to review for this site (spoiler: it’s about enneagrams) so I’m moving it up to a New Year’s Eve spectacular post. Huzzah!

When I was a young’un, I was a big believer in ghosts. I suffer from a wide variety of sleeping problems, including hypnagogic hallucinations and sleep paralysis disorder. When I was a kid I used to have recurring hallucinations at night or early in the morning of pressings or mutilated women or family members haunting me, and I was convinced these were real ghosts. This is excusable seeing as how I was in elementary school at the time and also still thought that a fat man in a red suit could visit every child in America in one night. When I was twelve, a doctor explained to me what was going on and that was that.

However, I see the allure of ghosts. If ghosts exist, that is pretty solid evidence for some sort of life after death. It’s perfectly human to be afraid of the end of all consciousness and anyone in their mind is going to spend a lot of time coming to terms with this big, scary idea. It would be wicked awesome if we could be sure that some sort of essence or spirit of ours could possibly go on existing once all the neurons in our brain stopped firing. However, I have serious problems with the whole school of ghostlore, and I think people who believe in them (which is more than a third of Americans) are being highly irrational and simply don’t know enough about science.

First of all, how could a ghost possibly make a sound such as knocking on a wall or disembodied footsteps? What mechanism would be at work here that would allow an incorporeal, immaterial entity to interact with the material world? Isn’t it more likely that these phenomena have material, natural explanations and that incidences of disembodied sounds are simply cases of people misinterpreting natural phenomena and finding meaning where there is none? The same goes for voices. Most of the time it’s probably a non-human sound which the listener misinterprets by recognizing patterns that aren’t really there. Other times it could easily be explained by overactive imaginations or even hallucinations. It’s more likely that some portion of the population is deceiving itself than that the entire mainstream scientific community is wrong about fundamental physics.

Again, how do these spirits interact with the real world? How could an incorporeal being move an object or grab onto a human’s arm? Is it psychokinesis? Is the soul simply the mind? If so, how does the mental interact with the physical? As I recall from my philosophy of mind class, dualism has some major issues…

I know some people claim that ghosts use energy to do their jazz, but by which mechanisms do they channel this energy? In case you flunked physics, energy is a natural phenomenon, and to me it appears that ghosts, if they exist, exist outside of the natural world (hence science being unable to verify their existence). How can a non-natural entity utilize natural mechanisms?

The only explanation for ghosts that I can think of is magic. Simply put, if you believe in ghosts, you believe in magic. I see absolutely no difference between believing that disembodied spirits can interact with the real world and believing that I can kill someone by waving a stick at them and shouting “Avada Kedavra!” If you’re okay with that, go on believing. If you know more about physics than I do and can think of a way in which ghosts can interact with our world, please feel free to leave a comment. However, if anyone reading this thinks they can rationalize belief in spooks and spectres, I think you might want to bring your theories up with James Randi first; he just may have a million dollars for you.

Butt Candling FTW!

Just found this intriguing take on the New Age practice of ear candling. Not quite sure if this thing is for real. Then again, when I first heard of ear candling, I wasn’t sure if that was real, either.

In case you’re wondering, ear candling is ineffective as an ear wax remover; the vacuum it creates is far too weak to pull anything out of the ear. Besides, a moderate amount of ear wax is good, since it helps fight infections. Who knows about claims of sucking out energy, but I don’t see how it could “cleanse the mind/brain”, since the ear canal doesn’t go all the way through to the brain.

On a lighter note, butt candling sounds like it could be all sorts of kinky fun.