News Flash: Americans are lazy which makes us fat.

A new study from Stanford University’s Department of No Shit, Sherlock shows that Americans are among the laziest when it comes to walking anywhere other than to the fridge for more chocolate pie. Researchers used the step counters in the smartphones of 700,000 people in 46 different countries to figure this out:

The U.S. is one of the world’s laziest countries — and it’s making us fat — USA Today

Scott Delp, a professor of bioengineering who co-led the research, told the BBC the “study is 1,000 times larger than any previous study on human movement.”

The least lazy, according to the study published in the journal Nature, are the Chinese, particularly those in Hong Kong, where people averaged 6,880 a steps a day.

The worst nation was nearby Indonesia, where people walked nearly half as much, averaging 3,513 steps a day. The worldwide average is 4,961 steps, with Americans averaging 4,774.

Now this study might seem pointless, but it turns out it does reveal an interesting fact. Indonesia has the lowest average steps per day for its population so you’d think they’d be much more likely to be obese similar to people in the United States, but it turns out that’s not the case because there is much less variation in the population between who walks a lot and who doesn’t. The researchers refer to this as “activity inequality” and it turns out the bigger that inequality is the more likely a nation is to be obese:

In countries with less obesity, the Stanford researchers say, people typically walked a similar amount every day. In nations with higher rates of obesity, there were larger gaps between those who walked a lot and those who walked very little.

Among those latter countries is the United States, where “activity inequality” ranks Americans fourth from the bottom overall.

“If you think about some people in a country as ‘activity rich’ and others as ‘activity poor,’ the size of the gap between them is a strong indicator of obesity levels in that society,” Delp told the Stanford news site.

Tim Althoff, who worked on the study, pointed to Sweden, with an average of 5,863 steps, as having one of the smallest activity inequality gaps. “It also had one of the lowest rates of obesity,” he said.

Additionally, whether you lived in dense urban or less dense suburban areas also plays a factor:

Jennifer Hicks, another researcher in the study, told the Stanford news site that they examined three California cities located close to one another – San Francisco, San Jose and Fremont. They found San Francisco held both the highest walkability score and the lowest level of activity inequality.

“In cities that are more walkable, everyone tends to take more daily steps, whether male or female, young or old, healthy weight or obese,” Hicks said.

I can’t speak for any other Americans, but I am a fundamentally lazy person who hates to exercise even though I know I really should.  My previous attempts at establishing a walking routine have been documented on this very blog, all of which I gave up on. I just can’t seem to get into the walking habit.

That said, the move to our new home does put me within a reasonable walking distance to a few stores, though it’s still longer than I’d like to attempt in my current shape. We’ve managed to land in a decent neighborhood where it’s not uncommon to see folks out walking for exercise during the day.

I doubt I’ll try getting into walking again simply because I already know I won’t stick with it. However, part of the my motivation for buying a house was so I’d have someplace to store a bicycle and now that I have one I’ve started looking for a decent bike that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg that I could start peddling around the block a few times. The reason I want one that isn’t expensive is just in case I fail at establishing that as a routine too. No point in spending $700 on a bike I don’t use. Did that once with the elliptical exercise machine I bought back when we lived in Ann Arbor. Not making that mistake again.

There’s a local bike shop not too far from my house that I would like to stop by this weekend and take a look around. I don’t need anything with a million gears on it, just something that will stand up to my weight. I used to love riding my bike as a kid well up through my teenaged years and I’m hoping I’ll still enjoy it today. Granted, it won’t do me much good during the winter months, but some exercise would be better than none.

As for the rest of the country, I’ve no solutions to offer up to get us all to exercise a bit more. If I have a hard time motivating myself to do it there’s no way I can think of some way to get everyone else to do it.

Christians are in decline while Unaffiliated are rising fast.

goodnewseveryoneThe folks at the Pew Research Center are back with another study of the religious landscape in the United States and it’s not looking good for Christians

America’s Changing Religious Landscape | Pew Research Center.

The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing, according to an extensive new survey by the Pew Research Center. Moreover, these changes are taking place across the religious landscape, affecting all regions of the country and many demographic groups. While the drop in Christian affiliation is particularly pronounced among young adults, it is occurring among Americans of all ages. The same trends are seen among whites, blacks and Latinos; among both college graduates and adults with only a high school education; and among women as well as men.

Specifically speaking, since the last time they came out with this report in 2007 the percentage of Americans identifying as Christian has dropped nearly 8 percentage points from 78.4% to 70.6% in 2014. That’s still a majority of Americans, but if this trend continues it won’t be that long before that’s no longer the case. Meanwhile, the Unaffiliated — a combination of atheist, agnostic, and “nothing in particular” — has jumped from 16.1% to 22.8% making it the fastest growing group. That works out to around 56 million people.

PF_15.05.05_RLS2_1_310pxthis group — sometimes called religious “nones” — is more numerous than either Catholics or mainline Protestants, according to the new survey. Indeed, the unaffiliated are now second in size only to evangelical Protestants among major religious groups in the U.S.

The number of people self-identifying as Atheists has doubled from 1.6%  to 3.1% and Agnostics are another 4%. That may not sound like much, but there are now more atheists in America than there are Hindus, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, Muslims, Buddhists, or Jews.

PR_15.05.12_RLS-00

While it’s true that the “nothing in particular” folks make up a majority of the Unaffiliated and many of them still consider themselves spiritual in some way, they’re on the decline as more and more of them come to accept the designation of Atheist or Agnostic.

As the unaffiliated have grown, the internal composition of the religious “nones” has changed. Most unaffiliated people continue to describe themselves as having no particular religion (rather than as being atheists or agnostics), but the “nones” appear to be growing more secular. Atheists and agnostics now account for 31% of all religious “nones,” up from 25% in 2007.

The main driving force in the increase of the Unaffiliated is generational replacement. Older religious folks are dying off while the younger generations just aren’t taking up religion like their parents did, but it’s not the only factor in play.

In addition, people in older generations are increasingly disavowing association with organized religion. About a third of older Millennials (adults currently in their late 20s and early 30s) now say they have no religion, up nine percentage points among this cohort since 2007, when the same group was between ages 18 and 26. Nearly a quarter of Generation Xers now say they have no particular religion or describe themselves as atheists or agnostics, up four points in seven years. Baby Boomers also have become slightly but noticeably more likely to identify as religious “nones” in recent years.

As the shifting religious profiles of these generational cohorts suggest, switching religion is a common occurrence in the United States. If all Protestants were treated as a single religious group, then fully 34% of American adults currently have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. This is up six points since 2007, when 28% of adults identified with a religion different from their childhood faith. If switching among the three Protestant traditions (e.g., from mainline Protestantism to the evangelical tradition, or from evangelicalism to a historically black Protestant denomination) is added to the total, then the share of Americans who currently have a different religion than they did in childhood rises to 42%.

By a wide margin, religious “nones” have experienced larger gains through religious switching than any other group. Nearly one-in-five U.S. adults (18%) were raised in a religious faith and now identify with no religion. Some switching also has occurred in the other direction: 9% of American adults say they were raised with no religious affiliation, and almost half of them (4.3% of all U.S. adults) now identify with some religion. But for every person who has joined a religion after having been raised unaffiliated, there are more than four people who have become religious “nones” after having been raised in some religion. This 1:4 ratio is an important factor in the growth of the unaffiliated population.

The study goes on to mention that interfaith marriages are more common now than they ever have been before and a large part of that is because there’s plenty of Christians out there who are marrying people in the Unaffiliated group.

There’s a lot more detail in the full report which is worth reading, but the upshot of it is that this is an ongoing trend for the better part of a decade that shows no signs of slowing. Given the huge number of Christians out there making an ass of themselves over things such as gay marriage — or making wedding cakes for gays — I fully expect the trend to continue.

Here’s a few more highlights that made me smile:

  • Although it is low relative to other religious groups, the retention rate of the unaffiliated has increased. In the current survey, 53% of those raised as religiously unaffiliated still identify as “nones” in adulthood, up seven points since 2007. And among Millennials, “nones” actually have one of the highest retention rates of all the religious categories that are large enough to analyze in the survey.
  • The percentage of college graduates who identify with Christianity has declined by nine percentage points since 2007 (from 73% to 64%). The Christian share of the population has declined by a similar amount among those with less than a college education (from 81% to 73%). Religious “nones” now constitute 24% of all college graduates (up from 17%) and 22% of those with less than a college degree (up from 16%).
  • The Christian share of the population is declining and the religiously unaffiliated share is growing in all four major geographic regions of the country. Religious “nones” now constitute 19% of the adult population in the South (up from 13% in 2007), 22% of the population in the Midwest (up from 16%), 25% of the population in the Northeast (up from 16%) and 28% of the population in the West (up from 21%). In the West, the religiously unaffiliated are more numerous than Catholics (23%), evangelicals (22%) and every other religious group.
  • More than a quarter of men (27%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 20% in 2007. Fewer women are religious “nones,” but the religiously unaffiliated are growing among women at about the same rate as among men. Nearly one-in-five women (19%) now describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated, up from 13% in 2007.

One thing that’s clear is that the increase in the number of atheists and agnostics who are speaking up about their lack of belief is having an impact in changing minds. I suspect that our numbers are actually higher than this study says as a lot of the “no particulars” are probably atheists or agnostics who are “in the closet” for whatever reason. Hell, I’m willing to bet there’s more than a few self-identifying Christians/Muslims/Jews/etc. who are really closeted atheists and agnostics. That makes standing up all the more important.

So keep up the good work,everyone. We’re making a difference!

Yet another study shows using magnets for arthritis doesn’t do shit.

commonsenseThis shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone with half a brain, but there’s yet another study that shows slapping a magnet on your arthritic joints won’t do anything other than lighten your wallet.

From the NYTime’s health blog:

British researchers randomized 65 patients with rheumatoid arthritis to receive one of four treatments: wearing a powerful magnetic wrist strap, a weak magnetic strap, a non-magnetic strap and a copper bracelet. Each patient wore each device for five weeks and completed pain surveys. The study appears in the September issue of PLoS One.

The patients reported pain levels using a visual scale, ranging from “no pain” to “worst pain ever,” and recorded how often their joints felt tender and swollen. Researchers used questionnaires to assess physical limitations, and tested for inflammation by measuring blood levels of C-reactive protein and plasma viscosity.

There was no statistically significant difference in any of these measures regardless of which type of device patients were wearing.

It’s been nearly 10 years since the last time I bothered to write about a study showing that magnet therapy is bullshit, but it appears the popularity of this particular kind of snakeoil hasn’t waned in that time. Estimates are that the sales of magnet bracelets tops $1 billion a year worldwide despite there not being one double blind, randomized testing showing they have anything more than a placebo effect. And that’s just the bracelets. You can buy all manner of things with “healing” magnets in them these days from insoles to underwear.

The only good news to be had is that there are so many people pumping these craptastic products out these days that if you’re gullible enough to buy into the nonsense you won’t end up wasting huge amounts of money on them as they tend to be cheap.

New study reveals energy drinks no better than coffee.

5hourenergydogIt must be pretty rough to be an energy drink maker these days. After nearly a decade of of gangbuster sales the products are coming under greater scrutiny by both the media and the government. The makers of 5 Hour Energy in particular have been on the defensive quite a bit lately after a number of news reports citing the drink in the deaths of upward of 13 people over four years.

Now a study has been released that shows it’s not any more effective than any other source of caffeine:

Energy Drinks No Better than Caffeine at Boosting Attention | LiveScience.

“A lot of people take the energy drinks because they think they have that extra boost over caffeine,” said study researcher Chelsea Benham, a student at Centre College in Danville, Ky. But the study shows “there’s really no difference,” Benham said.

In terms of boosting attention, a cup of coffee “would do you just as well,” if it had the same amount of caffeine as an energy drink, she said.

A 2-ounce bottle of 5-Hour Energy contains about 215 milligrams of caffeine, the equivalent of about two cups of coffee.

I don’t make a point of watching commercials for this product, but they’re played so often it’s hard to miss them. For a long time they claimed that it gave you the energy boost of a soda or coffee “without the crash later”, but the ones I’ve been seeing lately have been touting how it’s sold a shitload drinks over the years, contains ingredients found in other foods you eat (implying it’s “natural” and thus safe), and is about the same as a cup of coffee. Whereas the old commercials implied that it was somehow way better than coffee the new commercial sums it up as “Like coffee with vitamins and nutrients.” It’s pretty clear the makers of 5 Hour Energy are a tad concerned that their golden egg may be in trouble.

Not that 5 Hour Energy is being singled out. A report released last November by the FDA cited a number of energy drinks as being a possible factor in various injuries and deaths including Monster Energy and Rockstar Energy.

For the time being the FDA doesn’t appear to be taking any action with regard to energy drinks and possible health issues related to them. The truth is that they’re just concentrated forms of caffeine and if you drink too much coffee or regular old caffeinated sodas you risk the same health issues. Overuse is most likely a factor in many of the injuries folks have suffered from these products. What this study shows, however, is that you don’t really gain anything from these products. The “alertness boost” is about the same as drinking coffee and there’s no evidence the added vitamins and nutrients help maintain energy levels or stave off the crash effect at all. Not to mention that the cost for these energy drinks is considerably higher than for regular sodas or coffee.

Minority births have surpassed White births for the first time.

Here’s news that’s sure to piss off our resident bigot. For the first time in American history the number of minority babies being born has surpassed the number of white babies being born:

Census – Minorities Now Surpass Whites in US Births – NYTimes.com

“This is an important landmark,” said Roderick Harrison, a former chief of racial statistics at the Census Bureau who is now a sociologist at Howard University. “This generation is growing up much more accustomed to diversity than its elders.”

[…] Minorities made up roughly 2.02 million, or 50.4 percent of U.S. births in the 12-month period ending July 2011. That compares with 37 percent in 1990.

In all, 348 of the nation’s 3,143 counties, or 1 in 9, have minority populations across all age groups that total more than 50 percent. In a sign of future U.S. race and ethnic change, the number of counties reaching the tipping point increases to more than 690, or nearly 1 in 4, when looking only at the under age 5 population.

It’s only a matter of time now until whites are in the minority. You can bet there’s going to be more turmoil as that day approaches as the racists and bigots get all riled up about it. I have a feeling they will not go softly into that dark night.

The day it does happen is well into the future. Previous predictions pegged the year 2040 as the tipping point, but the census data shows that rates of minority immigration are also on the decline which may push that date a bit further into the future. Still, it’s coming and will probably bring a storm along with it.

It turns out that premature orgasm is a problem for some women.

From the Never-Thought-This-Was-A-Problem department:

Premature Orgasm Affects Women Too, Study Suggests – LiveScience

“At one extreme are women who have a complete control over their orgasm,” he and his colleagues write in a report to be published in the journal Sexologies. “[At] the other extreme is a group of women who report having a lack of control over the moment of orgasm, which occurs very early during intercourse, leading to personal or couple discomfort.”

You’d think premature orgasms for women would be a blessing considering that too many men concern themselves with only their own satisfaction and the fact that many women can experience multiple orgasms, but it turns out it doesn’t work that way:

One woman described her discomfort with her quick orgasms to the researchers as similar to what a man might feel in the case of premature ejaculation.

“I feel the same way men must feel about premature ejaculation and don’t completely see the difference — I finish very quickly, whereas my boyfriend doesn’t get a chance to, and it’s really starting to bother me,” she said. “Once I orgasm, I find it uncomfortable to continue, the mood changes and he ends up missing out, which I feel bad about.”

It’s a preliminary study and the authors want to see a larger one with more women done to see how widespread the problem is, but in the meantime they suggest women suffering from this issue talk with their doctors about it.

Catholic church shrinking in Brazil as more become non-religious and secular.

Hmmm... God looks kinda familiar...

The Catholic church has been having a rough time of it lately. What with the pedophile priest scandals around the world and the increasing number of Catholics leaving the faith in the U.S. and Europe. Now they have more bad news coming out of Brazil which was once considered a bulwark of Catholic faith:

Brazil’s Roman Catholics shrink as secular rise – Yahoo! News.

At the start of the last decade, millions of Brazilian Catholics joined flashy Pentecostal congregations expanding in the world’s biggest Catholic country. Now, Brazil’s Getulio Vargas Foundation finds, the country’s Catholics are still leaving the church and at a higher rate than ever, but many younger parishioners, like Maragato, are simply becoming nonreligious.

Experts say this new twist poses a more potent threat to Catholic leaders than earlier losses. Now, the church isn’t just competing against the Pentecostals, but courting people who have decided organized religion has no part in their lives.

“It’s the most important phenomenon in this study, the abandonment of religion and the Catholics,” said Fernando Altemeyer, a theologian at the Catholic University of Sao Paulo. “A considerable part of the Brazilian youth today are agnostic.”

Such news does warm my old atheist heart. I can think of no Christian denomination — with the possible exception of the Westboro Baptists — more deserving of having its membership numbers collapse than the Catholics.

The number of people under the age of 20 in Brazil who say they follow no religion is growing three times more quickly than those 50 and older, with 9 percent of young Brazilians saying they belong to no religion, according to the study. That mirrors a similar trend in the number of people leaving the Catholic Church.

This seems to be a growing trend everywhere. More and more of the younger generations are becoming non-religious. Some of them are seeking out their own personal version of spirituality, but more and more are becoming atheist and agnostic and it’s got the Catholics running scared. Just 30 years ago the Catholic church was embraced by 90% of Brazilians, today that number is down to 67.4%. Still a majority, but probably not for much longer the way things are going.

So what’s the primary cause of this decline? The study’s authors think it’s the improving quality of life in Brazil:

“As the economy has improved, people have more access to cinema, theater, to just take a trip,” said Silvia Fernandes, a sociologist at the Federal Rural University of Rio de Janeiro who focuses on those who switch religions. “So we’re seeing that people no longer need to go to church for social reasons if they have these other options.”

Altemeyer said the ability of the previously impoverished to acquire goods like TVs and computers means even more distraction.

“The improvement of people’s life conditions is adding to this phenomenon of secularization and the rejection of religious institutions,” Altemeyer said.

Having access to computers and the Internet is probably a big part of it. When you’ve got instant access to the knowledge of the world you don’t have to rely so much on church leaders to tell you about reality. Plus you can find out about all the other people who manage to live good lives without relying on belief in a higher power to do so. Plus it doesn’t help when you cling to dogma that is detrimental to people’s quality of life:

Experts say the changes have accelerated as many women turn away from the Vatican’s prohibitive views on contraception and abortion, which remains illegal in nearly all cases in Brazil.

“The Catholic Church is literally losing its future, and the loss of women and young people is the most important driver of the fall,” Neri said.

The situation is so bad for the church in Brazil that the Vatican has announced their next World Youth Day will be held in Rio de Janeiro in hopes of slowing or reversing the trend of young people leaving the church. They’re already doing everything they can think of to stop the losses, but so far it’s not having much impact.

With any luck this trend will continue around the world and it won’t be too long before the Catholic church fades into irrelevancy. Now, if we can just get the same trend going with Evangelicals.

Today’s youth are much less religious than their parents.

Here’s a bit a news to brighten your day: The latest Pew Forum on Religion & Public life study finds that religious belief is on the decline among the younger population:

One in four American millennials — which it defined as those who were born after 1980 and came of age around the millennium — are not affiliated with any faith tradition, Pew found. They characterize their religion as “atheist,” “agnostic” or “nothing in particular.”

That compares to fewer than one in five Generation Xers — Americans born from 1965 to 1980 — who were unaffiliated with a religion when they were in their late teens and early 20s.

Just 13 percent of American baby boomers — those born from 1946 to 1964 — were unaffiliated with any religious tradition when they were young adults, according to Pew.

via Study: Young Americans less religious than their parents – CNN.com.

The other bit of good news is that there’s a good chunk of believers who don’t adhere to any particular religious sect or affiliation:

“While growing numbers of people are unaffiliated, it’s not necessarily a sign that they’re committed secularists,” said Greg Smith, a senior researcher at the Pew Forum. “We’re seeing among young people that there are ways of practicing faith and being religious outside of belonging to a religious organization or attending services.”

And while it’s likely some of the so-called millennials will become more religious as they get older, the study predicts that the number of unaffiliated will probably not shrink.

This will no doubt lead to renewed hand-wringing among the hardcore religious folks on the need to “get ’em while they’re young” to try and stave off the increasing number of atheists and agnostics in the coming years.

Cue the Pat Robertsons of the world in 5, 4, 3, 2…

Ten years and $2.5 billion shows “alternative” medicines don’t cure jack shit.

In news that will likely fail to dissuade folks who buy into the whole alternative medicine nonsense, the report from the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine says that just about every alternative treatment they tried failed to produce results:

Echinacea for colds. Ginkgo biloba for memory. Glucosamine and chondroitin for arthritis. Black cohosh for menopausal hot flashes. Saw palmetto for prostate problems. Shark cartilage for cancer. All proved no better than dummy pills in big studies funded by the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. The lone exception: ginger capsules may help chemotherapy nausea.

As for therapies, acupuncture has been shown to help certain conditions, and yoga, massage, meditation and other relaxation methods may relieve symptoms like pain, anxiety and fatigue.

All it took was ten years and $2.5 billion in taxpayer money despite the fact that many other independent studies have already shown this to be the case. So will the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine, which I still have a hard time believing is a government run organization, shut down and admit that there’s nothing to this nonsense? Of course not. They plan to spend even more money studying even more ridiculous claims:

However, the government also is funding studies of purported energy fields, distance healing and other approaches that have little if any biological plausibility or scientific evidence.

Taxpayers are bankrolling studies of whether pressing various spots on your head can help with weight loss, whether brain waves emitted from a special “master” can help break cocaine addiction, and whether wearing magnets can help the painful wrist problem, carpal tunnel syndrome.

The acupressure weight-loss technique won a $2 million grant even though a small trial of it on 60 people found no statistically significant benefit — only an encouraging trend that could have occurred by chance. The researcher says the pilot study was just to see if the technique was feasible.

What the fuck? Why are we wasting money on crap that has no basis in science?

“You expect scientific thinking” at a federal science agency, said R. Barker Bausell, author of “Snake Oil Science” and a research methods expert at the University of Maryland, one of the agency’s top-funded research sites. “It’s become politically correct to investigate nonsense.”

Oh, that’s why.

Look, I’m all for testing of “alternative” medicines and therapies that could plausibly have some scientific basis. Echinacea for colds is a good example. Asprin comes from willow bark so it was entirely possible there might have been something in echinacea that could affect colds. We tested it. It doesn’t do squat. Put it aside and move on. But brain waves being emitted by a “master” to cure cocaine addiction? Fuck me, but that’s stupid.

“There’s not all the money in the world and you have to choose” what most deserves tax support, said Barrie Cassileth, integrative medicine chief at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York.

“Many of the studies that have been funded I would not have funded because they seem irrational and foolish — studies on distant healing by prayer and energy healing, studies that are based on precepts and ideas that are contrary to what is known in terms of human physiology and disease,” she said.

Exactly! Let’s apply a little of the scientific knowledge we already have on how the universe works and prioritize based on how plausible a particular treatment might be. The further away from established theories a proposed treatment is the lower on the priority list it should be when it comes time to test.

So why are we wasting time and money on the implausible shit? Because the board that runs this agency is well populated with people who buy into the alternative medicine bullshit. Not only are they in control, but even when a study shows something doesn’t work they refused to state that fact plainly preferring to hide behind the “more research is needed” cop out:

However, critics say that unlike private companies that face bottom-line pressure to abandon a drug that flops, the federal center is reluctant to admit a supplement may lack merit — despite a strategic plan pledging not to equivocate in the face of negative findings.

Echinacea is an example. After a large study by a top virologist found it didn’t help colds, its fans said the wrong one of the plant’s nine species had been tested. Federal officials agreed that more research was needed, even though they had approved the type used in the study.

“There’s been a deliberate policy of never saying something doesn’t work. It’s as though you can only speak in one direction,” and say a different version or dose might give different results, said Dr. Stephen Barrett, a retired physician who runs Quackwatch, a web site on medical scams.

Critics also say the federal center’s research agenda is shaped by an advisory board loaded with alternative medicine practitioners. They account for at least nine of the board’s 18 members, as required by its government charter. Many studies they approve for funding are done by alternative therapy providers; grants have gone to board members, too.

“It’s the fox guarding the chicken coop,” said Dr. Joseph Jacobs, who headed the Office of Alternative Medicine, a smaller federal agency that preceded the center’s creation. “This is not science, it’s ideology on the part of the advocates.”

Basically it’s the practitioners of woo-woo nonsense making more than a few bucks on the taxpayer’s dime while they busy themselves with shifting the goalposts so as to never have to say it doesn’t work. The rest of the article goes on to list off defenses by the foxes guarding the chickens, but it’s all bullshit. Not only have there been many independent studies that show this stuff doesn’t work, but even with 10 years these guys have yet to come up with anything that is clearly beneficial. There are several studies that show taking herbal supplements can interfere with legitimate drugs such as those used by cancer patients. Additionally the actual contents of a particular supplement can vary wildly between different manufacturers and can contain all sorts of potentially harmful contaminates.

This agency needs to be revamped. Get rid of the True Believers™ and staff it with qualified people capable of running proper studies and then prioritize based on the plausibility of a particular treatment. Do the study, release the results, and move on to the next one. Line ‘em up and knock ‘em down and then start putting the pushers of the shit that doesn’t work out of business. If a particular treatment shows some applicability in some area (e.g. ginger to treat nausea, which has been pretty well established) then that’s great! Use it for that purpose and stop selling it as a cure-all.

If Heaven is so great why are so many Christians reluctant to go there?

Spend any amount of time talking with a True Believer™ about their religious outlook and eventually they’ll get around to raving about how awesome Heaven will be. Each one will have a slightly different viewpoint on what exactly Heaven will be like, but they all agree it’s the best thing you could ever hope to experience and they simply can’t wait to get there. You’d think, given all the excitement they express over it, that this would mean they’d be less likely to seek out aggressive medical care at the end of their lives. Surely with such a great thing waiting for them on the other side they’d be more than happy to die sooner rather than later, but as it turns out that’s often not the case at all.

The Boston Globe reports on a study done at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, Massachusetts General Hospital, and five other sites in which Boston researchers found that the more religious the terminal patients were the more likely they’d be to demand everything be done to keep them alive as long as possible:

The patients who leaned the most heavily on their faith were nearly three times more likely to choose and receive more aggressive care near death, such as ventilators or cardiopulmonary resuscitation. They were less likely to have advanced care planning in place, such as do-not-resuscitate orders, living wills, and healthcare proxies.

“These results suggest that relying upon religion to cope with terminal cancer may contribute to receiving aggressive medical care near death,” the authors write in today’s Journal of the American Medical Association. “Because aggressive end-of-life cancer care has been associated with poor quality of death . . . intensive end-of-life care might represent a negative outcome for religious copers.”

Cancer is a particularly painful way to die. It’s been the cause of death for a good number of my relatives so I’ve seen what it’s like. There’s a good chance it’ll be how I end up passing away if I don’t get hit by a bus. In short, it’s hard to imagine how anyone who is dieing from cancer, and who expects something as wonderful as Heaven is supposed to be to be waiting for them once they kick the bucket, could possibly want to draw out the experience.

The best I can come up with is that they’re worried they haven’t earned access to Heaven yet. Either through some action or inaction that they always meant to get around to or perhaps there’s some sin they’re not completely sure God will forgive them for or maybe it’s simple insecurity. It does seem odd, though, that the people most certain that Heaven does exist and that they’ve made the proper choice of which religion to believe in would be so reluctant to put that faith to the ultimate test. I claim no certainty that there isn’t God(s) or an afterlife, I don’t believe either proposition to be true, but I wouldn’t claim to be absolutely certain about it as some TB’s would about their beliefs that there are. I believe death brings only non-existence, which some people consider a fate worse than Hell. Yet I can assure you that if I were to develop terminal cancer I wouldn’t be wasting a lot of time and money trying to live as long as possible.

The Boston study confirms something I’ve long suspected about many True Believers™. That a good number of them have a very strong fear of death in spite of what they believe it’ll bring to them and in contradiction to what they claim. It’s certainly an interesting enigma.