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Cheers to Fuller from the Young Australian Skeptics forum for bringing this to my attention.

The following is a video of Tim Minchin performing his poem “Storm” at the ‘9 Carols for a Godless Christmas’ concert at Hammersmith Apollo on the 21st of December. Please watch it, it’s really good. Oh, I fantasise about doing things like this.

photo-39

I know I blogged about this many months ago on Homologous Legs, but I thought that Informal Skepticism would be a good place to bring it up again.

Monkeybiz is a project that helps South African women earn income through making bead art pieces, such as the one in the photo above, in the style of their local beading tradition. Such art pieces are quite popular around the world, and recently my sister was given one of them as a present: I think it’s a giraffe. Anyway, that’s not the problem, that’s good. Helping disadvantaged people in undeveloped nations is a great thing, and should be encouraged. But here’s the problem (taken from this webpage):

Wellness Clinic

We run an HIV/AIDS Wellness Clinic located in the heart of Cape Town, which provides skills training and HIV/AIDS support for low-income HIV+ women. This thriving centre, started in 2003, caters for 60 women once a week, offering them beadwork training, HIV/AIDS counseling, yoga therapy, homeopathic HIV/AIDS treatment and basic nutrition. Exact! Clothing contributes NutriKing, a nutritious vitamin supplement to our clinic each month, and provides us with t-shirt off-cuts for stuffing for our products and our t-shirt project.

(Emphasis added by me, of course.)

Is this a bad thing? We all know, through common sense, a lack of actual data and Steven Novella, that homeopathy is not effective at treating medical conditions such as AIDS, or anything else that the placebo effect can’t take care of). Homeopathic products are little more than, one would presume, freshly oxygenated water (due to all that succussion) and the good wishes of the practitioner. The AIDS treatments given by this “Wellness Clinic” aren’t going to do anything to help the women who are receiving them, so is this bad?

If the location of the clinic was shifted to a First World country with adequate health care and a reasonable standard of living (*cough* Australia *cough*), then the answer to that question may be different. The taking of homeopathic remedies is only really harmful in two ways: one, if the remedies remove the ability or will to take actual effective medicine to treat the condition, or two, if the remedies cost a large amount of money and deprive them of what little wealth they have. Living in Australia, or, sigh, the US, would allow the first reason to not take homeopathic remedies to apply, as health care is good and the accessibility of real medicine is high. But in a nation such as South Africa, AIDS medication is hard to find, and you would have to guess, expensive because of it. So these women aren’t going to get real medication. Thus, getting homeopathy is not removing their ability to get good treatment.

But what about the second reason? We can discount that due to the fact that the clinic offers the homeopathy free of charge. No money is spent by the women receiving the homeopathy on the homeopathy itself.

Ah, a tough dilemma. But wait, there’s one more reason I forgot to give.

Another way that homeopathy could be dangerous is if the clinic itself could reasonably get some actual treatment at some sort of humanitarian discount instead of the homeopathy. Maybe some homeopathic practitioner persuaded Monkeybiz to buy their products? Hopefully not, but I wouldn’t put it past some of the people who advocate alternative medicines: they actually believe that it helps people, and want to do everything they can to show that it does. What’s better then than some cheery AIDS relief in South Africa? Oh, we’re being so helpful, think the homeopathy advocates.

Can you think of a way in which these homeopathic treatments are bad? If you can, please post a comment.

I wanted to update Informal Skepticism a bit eariler than now, but as it turns out, I picked one of the worst possible times to set up a new blog: right before my Year 12 VCE exams (for those unVictorians who don’t know, the VCE stands for Victorian Certificate of Education, and is the last bit of high school that contains the tests that propels you into university, if you choose to go there). I just did my Psychology exam yesterday and my first Mathematical Methods exam earlier today, so I thought between studying for my second Methods exam (on Monday), I’d tell you all about the skeptical podcasts I listen to.

Podcasts are a great source of skeptical information, right up there with blogs and video-sharing websites, if not higher. The number of podcasts about skepticism and science has increased dramatically over the past few years, and their types have spread out as well, offering dry, humourous, fact-based, opinion-based, single person, group, topic driven or interview driven varieties, with most falling into at least two of those categories. They can also vary in length as well, from five minutes to nearly two hours. This means that, whatever your taste or time constraint, you’ll find something out there that you’ll like.

Okay, so the main podcasts that I listen to, and there are a lot of them, are listed below, with information about their average episode length, their style and their main focuses. While some may argue that some of them, especially the ones about religion and atheism, aren’t truly about skepticism, I tend to lump them together into one bit gooey heap of critical thinking, as they both employ, to me, anyway, the same lines of reasoning to address whether certain claims about the world are true or not.

The Amateur Scientist Podcast

Average Episode Length: 25 – 35 minutes

Style: Two Person Dialogue, Interview, News

Focuses: Humour, Science, Skepticism

The Atheist Experience

Average Episode Length: 90 minutes

Style: Two Person Dialogue, Call In, Topic

Focuses: Religion, Miscellaneous Topics

The Conspiracy Skeptic

Average Episode Length: 20 – 50 minutes

Style: Single Person Monologue, Topic

Focuses: Skepticism

Freethought Radio

Average Episode Length: 40 minutes

Style: Two Person Dialogue, Interview, News

Focuses: Religion

The Geologic Podcast

Average Episode Length: 50 – 60 minutes

Style: Single Person Monologue, News, Sketches

Focuses: Humour, Science, Skepticism, Religion, Miscellaneous Topics

The Infidel Guy Show

Average Episode Length: 60 minutes

Style: Interview, Call In

Focuses: Religion, Miscellaneous Topics

Logically Critical

Average Episode Length: 30 – 60 minutes

Style: Single Person Monologue, Topic

Focuses: Science, Skepticism, Religion, Miscellaneous Topics

The Non Prophets

Average Episode Length: 100 minutes

Style: Group Discussion, News, Interview

Focuses: Religion, Miscellaneous Topics

Point of Inquiry

Average Episode Length: 30 minutes

Style: Interview

Focuses: Skepticism, Religion, Miscellaneous Topics

The Skeptic Zone

Average Episode Length: 80 minutes

Style: Group Discussion, Single Person Monologue, Interview, News

Focuses: Skepticism, Science, Miscellaneous Topics

Skepticality

Average Episode Length: 60 minutes

Style: Two Person Dialogue, Interview, News

Focuses: Skepticism, Science

The Skeptic’s Guide to the Universe

Average Episode Length: 80 minutes

Style: Group Discussion, Interview, News

Focuses: Science, Skepticism

The Skeptic’s Guide 5×5

Average Episode Length: 5 – 10 minutes

Style: Group Discussion, Topic

Focuses: Science, Skepticism

Skeptoid

Average Episode Length: 10 minutes

Style: Single Person Monologue, Topic

Focuses: Science, Skepticism

Don't stress.

Informal Skepticism seeks to discuss skeptical, scientific and religious topics in a way that won't make you stay awake at night, increase your blood pressure or cause stress-induced hallucinations.

Updated when the author feels it necessary and is able, which pretty much translates to "random", as he is a high school student.

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