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Comments by Pythagoras

Go to: In Memoriam: Christopher Hitchens, 1949–2011

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 448 by Pythagoras

I was (selfishly) hoping to meet the great Hitch at the Global Atheist Convention. Sadly, that's not going to happen.

I will so miss Hitchens' acerbic wit.

It's a sad day for the world of rational thought.

Sun, 18 Dec 2011 03:54:57 UTC | #900523

Go to: Honouring Christopher Hitchens

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 49 by Pythagoras

Awesome speech! It brought tears to my eyes. I don't think anyone else could have written a better speech to honour the one and only Hitch, and nobody but Richard Dawkins could have been more appropriate to deliver it.

Thanks Richard, from all of us who's minds and hearts have been enriched by Christopher Hitchens.

I really hope Christopher Hitchens will be well enough to attend the Global Atheist Convention in 2112.

Wed, 26 Oct 2011 11:00:19 UTC | #884211

Go to: The Evangelicals Engaged In Spiritual Warfare

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 46 by Pythagoras

Very scary stuff. These NAR guys are living in a total fantasy world. They are anti-science, anti progress and pro Armageddon! They literally want to take the US back to the middle ages.

What's really scary is that they have a good chance of actually getting in power (and getting access to nukes, for example), not to mention the fact that they think that there is no point in doing anything about global warming because Jesus will fix everything when he gets back. So, for them, converting Jews to Christianity is much more important than controlling carbon in the atmosphere, fixing the US economy or solving the looming energy crisis.

Tue, 06 Sep 2011 12:44:30 UTC | #867866

Go to: Follow the gourd? No, the shoe, the SHOE!

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 66 by Pythagoras

I was just telling my daughter that we should watch The Life of Brian this Easter, and I was shocked to learn that she had no idea what I was talking about, and then I saw the link to this item. It's truly a miracle! We must all take off our shoe!

I'm happy to see that there are so many cultured atheists on this forum.

Thu, 03 Feb 2011 08:50:02 UTC | #587254

Go to: Sunday Sacrilege: Respect is not the same as obedience

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 13 by Pythagoras

One of PZ's best posts I think. I hope it gets widely viewed by the international Muslim community.

Mon, 13 Sep 2010 12:54:44 UTC | #517005

Go to: Religion has nothing to do with science – and vice versa

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by Pythagoras

The quality of the discussion in the comments on the guardian site gives me hope for humanity, or at least for Britain anyway.

Mon, 31 May 2010 12:37:09 UTC | #475047

Go to: Richard Dawkins' watchmaker still has the power to open our eyes

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 6 by Pythagoras

The Blind Watchmaker is my favourite of Dawkins' books. Beautifully clear and packed full of interesting biological facts.

Fri, 30 Apr 2010 23:39:00 UTC | #464439

Go to: DNA identifies new ancient human dubbed 'X-woman'

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Pythagoras

Oh great, more gaps in the fossil record!

Thu, 25 Mar 2010 21:41:00 UTC | #452287

Go to: Atheists Love You. They Just Don't Know Why.

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 39 by Pythagoras

I thought the article was great ... for showing people how irrational the Christian worldview is.

The atheists' comments on the original site were articulate, rational and witty. All of the stupid points made in the article or by other commentators were soundly refuted.

"Richard Dawkins has started up a charity called “Non Believers Giving Aid” so atheists can give to relief efforts in Haiti in a way which promulgates their atheism."

It seems that the churches are concerned about losing their monopoly on using charity as a means of promoting their views.

Tue, 19 Jan 2010 22:03:00 UTC | #433174

Go to: Holy See declares unique copyright on Papal figure

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 35 by Pythagoras

What about The Incredible Popeman?

Tue, 22 Dec 2009 10:12:00 UTC | #425323

Go to: Celebrity atheists expose their hypocrisy

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 90 by Pythagoras

Reading through all of the comments on the SMH site has restored my "faith" in Australian culture and humanity in general.

Even most of the few theists who commented had nothing good to say about the article.

Mon, 26 Oct 2009 12:50:00 UTC | #408568

Go to: A little sympathy for the snookered

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 9 by Pythagoras

Spot on, PZ!

.... Hmm Tax Free? ... now I wonder where I can find some gullible people to raise funds for a creation museum in Sydney. It might be fun to use the profits to campaign for better science education. :-)

Cheers,
Pythagoras

Thu, 18 Jun 2009 22:53:00 UTC | #371824

Go to: Chiropocalypse

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 95 by Pythagoras

Grace,
Your chiropractor was a total quack. Those kinds of people are positively dangerous and should not be allowed to practise. That's why chiropractic needs to be researched, validated and regulated.

When you've got damage to the spine, manipulation is more likely to make it worse rather than better. I suspect a good chiropractor who has proper medical training *might* be able to assist in recovery from those kinds of problems, but I wouldn't risk it.

The area of musculoskeletal medicine seems very under-researched and full of pseudoscience. A quick google search reveals all kinds of quackery labelled "chiropractic", but, I'm convinced there are a small number of problems such as mine for which chiropractic techniques are effective.

Regards,
Pythagoras

Thu, 18 Jun 2009 16:36:00 UTC | #371758

Go to: Chiropocalypse

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 92 by Pythagoras

Hey Folks,
Gimme a break! I'm just telling you what happened. I got better on numerous occasions and my son got better also. I know it doesn't prove anything, but it suggests that maybe chiropractic warrants some serious medical research. That's all I'm saying.

You ask for evidence - I gave you some. I have on numerous occasions (at least seven times) been in pain before spinal manipulation (in significant pain on at least two occasions) and have been either pain free or in significantly less pain, and either fully mobile, or much more mobile, immediately after treatment. That's called "evidence"! OK, the size of the study is too small, but I can't think of any other rational explanation other than "the treatment fixed something".

Why not get a x-ray for my son?
I don't like to expose my son to x-rays unless there is a good reason to. In this case, I didn't think there was anything serious enough to warrant an x-ray. X-rays of the spine are usually taken to show damage to bones or problems like ruptured or compressed disks. I was pretty sure my son didn't have those kinds of problems - if he did he wouldn't be running around playing tip.

There is no standard medical treatment for mild back pain except exercise and pain killers, and exercise is known not to work in many cases. I know this from seeing my GP several times for the same problem myself. Exercise clearly wasn't working - my son gets plenty of exercise. Even when he had a broken arm he couldn't keep still.

I didn't take him to my GP, because I've had numerous back problems myself, and I have a pretty good idea of what would have happened.
1. He might have said wait and see if it gets better after another month.
2. He might have suggested we get an x-ray just in case (unlikely for the reasons I mentioned above). If I did get an x-ray it's pretty likely it would not show anything (for the reasons suggested above). If it did show a problem it would most likely show that the spine was crooked or twisted - for which there is no standard medical treatment (apart from physio and chiropractic - besides really nasty things for serious problems like surgery to fuse disks together, or cutting nerves to stop the pain). If it did not show a problem, it would be pretty likely that my GP would say something like "back pain is pretty common and in most cases nobody really knows what causes it and there is no standard treatment, you might try physio or chiropractic, or wait until it gets better on its own. Try giving him some Panadol to relieve the pain.". I know my doctor very well, I've read a lot about peoples' experience with back pain, and I've been through that several times myself.
3. He might have examined my son, and after finding no serious spinal damage he would suggest he see a physio (slightly lower chance of success than the chiropractor based on my experience and what I have read from other's experience).

I did get an X-ray of my spine once when I was in my twenties. The doctor said my spine was a bit crooked (some of the my thoracic vertebrae were sticking out a bit too far i.e. too curved), but told me there was no treatment for it.

When I say my son's spine was not straight, I mean it was not symmetrical. There was some visible asymmetry where he was complaining about the pain. It was slightly curved to the right if I recall correctly.

Tyler, would it make you happy if I called my chiropractor a "physiotherapist" and called what she does massage and "physiotherapy"?

Trust me, I'm the last person who wants to believe in "woo". I spent a solid ten years of my life trying to find evidence for the existence of the supernatural. I was totally convinced that there must be something more than the physical world because belief in the supernatural is so widespread that I figured there must be something in it. I studied and practised Christianity, Hinduism, Tibetan Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, I practised yoga and Tibetan meditation, I tried astral travel, had my future read with a crystal ball, went to UFO cult meetings and had witches cast spells on me, etc, etc. You name it, I've probably tried it myself or spoken to someone who has. After ten years of searching, I found absolutely nothing to convince me that there is anything in this world that cannot be explained by physics. There were many times I was fooled, but every time, on closer investigation, I found a perfectly natural explanation for every weird phenomenon. The harder I looked the more fuzzy the evidence got. The big mistake that I made was, of course, that I overlooked the possibility that belief in the supernatural is a psychological phenomena that is a side effect of how our brains work. There just seemed to be so much "evidence" for supernatural phenomena that I didn't consider that possibility. Doing a science degree sorted me out though - actually it was the philosophy subjects that really got me thinking clearly.

Anyway, it's nearly 2am, and I'm not thinking clearly any more, so I'd better to to sleep.

Regards,
Pythagoras.

Tue, 16 Jun 2009 08:07:00 UTC | #370876

Go to: Chiropocalypse

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 89 by Pythagoras

Tyler,
Can you read, or are you just trying to be as annoying as possible?

Like I said. My son complained about a sore back for a month after he slipped and fell. If you have a sore back, it doesn't have to be severe enough to stop you from running or doing things.

Did I say anything about my son's back being "damaged"? As I mentioned, whatever it was, was not very serious, but it was persistent. My son kept complaining every day that his back was sore.

No, I didn't see an X-ray. She got my son to stand up straight, and I could see that his spine was not straight. I assume it was due to muscle contraction from having a sore back. "Misalignment" is my term. I don't think the chiropractor used any specific term. If think she claimed that a couple of his vertebrae were slightly rotated with respect to the rest of his spine.

Anyway, I didn't have 1000 people with sore backs and 10 chiropractors to do a double blind study. Sorry.

I'm just telling you my experiences. My son got better, and my back got better on numerous occasions after chiropractic treatment. For me the success rate has been 100% with this chiropractor. That's enough to keep me going back until I have some reason not to.

Critical thinking is a good thing. I'm all in favour of it, but you seem to be dogmatically against anything that is not 100% mainstream accepted science, but if all scientists had that attitude, there would be no progress in science.

I don't generally believe very much that is not mainstream science either, but science, particularly medical science, is constantly changing. I read conflicting research all the time. I am a researcher myself, and I know how difficult it is to design good experiments, and to interpret results correctly.

Human physiology is incredibly complex, and we still have a lot to learn about it. I have personally experienced enough benefits from chiropractic treatment that I'm convinced it is effective for some back problems. You don't have to agree. Perhaps my back just happened to get better by itself each time I was treated by the chiropractor, or perhaps it's the placebo effect.

Good luck with your rock. I hope that works for you.

Regards,
Pythagoras

Tue, 16 Jun 2009 05:23:00 UTC | #370840

Go to: Chiropocalypse

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 85 by Pythagoras

Comment #387141 by Tyler Durden

Tyler wrote:
How long have you been seeing this chiropractor and had you ever tried any conventional treatments to help alleviate spasms/pain beforehand.

How do you quote things on this message board. It never works for me?

I have been to one chiropractor maybe 10 times over the last five years for three separate problems. She doesn't do the picking you up and crunching your spine stuff, which I understand is positively dangerous. She just pushes me in different directions and taps the vertebrae with a little spring loaded thing. It's slower than the more spectacular stuff, but I figure she can't do too much damage like that. I don't mind paying a little more and taking more time to get better instead of risking becoming a paraplegic or something. She still seems to get quicker and better results than the physiotherapists.

I also took my son to the chiropractor after he slipped and fell and was complaining about a sore back for over a month and it didn't seem to be getting any better. I figured it couldn't be anything too serious because it didn't slow him down, but he kept on complaining about it, so I gave the chiropractor a go. The chiropractor showed me how his spine was misaligned and she gently straightened it out. After about two treatments, he was fine. He had another appointment that I forgot about and missed, but he didn't need it.

I have taken pain killers to relieve spasms - not very effective and not a "cure".

I went to a physio on two occasions earlier because I was nervous about seeing a chiropractor. It took many sessions to get any improvement. On the second occasion, the physio got frustrated with the slow progress and tried some spinal manipulation anyway which fixed the problem almost instantaneously. He said he only does it as a last resort.

The good thing about physiotherapists is that they give you exercises to do to prevent the problem from recurring. Chiropractors generally don't do that.

I started going to our local chiropractor a few years later because a neighbour of ours recommended her to me. I get back problems once every couple of years or so from too much sitting behind a computer - rather than from too much activity like when I was younger.

In my younger days I used to get a lot of sport related back problems from doing martial arts, and I would often have my spine "crunched" by martial arts people who knew some manipulation techniques. Sometimes it worked extremely well and sometimes it didn't fix the problem. It depends on the skill of the person doing it. I didn't realize how dangerous it was until I read about some of the bad things that chiropractors had done to people. I think it's quite bad to have your spine manipulated too often. I've heard of people who's necks got so loose that they would go out of alignment every couple of weeks.

I've found there is a huge difference between good and bad physiotherapists, and between good and bad chiropractors. I went to a "sports medicine clinic" once for a back problem. The fellow "treating" me admitted that he didn't really know what was wrong with me or how to fix it but he decided to try leaving me strapped in a machine that stretched my back every few seconds for 15 minutes. It just severely aggravated the problem.

I would never go to a chiropractor if I thought I had a serious spinal injury like a ruptured disk or something. On the one occasion that I got so sore I could hardly get out of bed, I went to my GP first and got an X-ray to make sure there wasn't any serious damage.

If I sound like I'm perpetually injured or something, it's not that, it's just that I've been around for close to 50 years and a lot can happen to you in that time. :-). I'm generally pretty healthy.

Anyway, from my experience, I'd say chiropractic is an effective treatment for some problems, but it needs to be properly regulated and evaluated and practitioners need to be officially accredited. You can't let anyone start a "chiropractic academy" and advertise bullshit cures for all kinds of diseases.

It's even vaguely plausible that pressure on nerves due to spinal misallignment could cause other kinds of medical problems, but I haven't seen any evidence for it. If chiropractors want to claim that they can cure other problems besides sore backs, they'd better have some solid research to prove it.

Regards,
Pythagoras

Fri, 12 Jun 2009 19:21:00 UTC | #370089

Go to: Chiropocalypse

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 73 by Pythagoras

Comment #386879 by Tyler Durden

[quote]Really? And what did the "chiro" do that was any differnt?[quote]

What happens to me is that my back gets out of alignment and a nerve gets pinched and some of my back muscles start to spasm. Movement tends to aggravate the problem. I don't really know which comes first. Either the muscles put the back out of alignment or having my back out of alignment pinches a nerve causing my back to spasm. Anyway, it's a vicious cycle. This has happened as a result of some trauma like slipping and falling or standing in an awkward position in the cold for a while, or whatever.

Anyway, that's my theory, which is more or less the same as what the chiropractor claims.

My chiropractor examines my spine and figures out which vertebrae are out of alignment and taps them back into place with a little spring loaded gadget. She does this after relaxing my muscles with a massager. Both of these things have to be done together or the problem does not go away. That's why massage alone seems to only offer temporary relief.

I'm not claiming this as a scientific study, I can only tell you my experience with chiropractic. I've had similar problems a number of times over the last thirty years, and spinal manipulation has always fixed it up pretty quickly, so I'm convinced there are some problems for which chiropractic is very effective.

If anyone thinks they can cure other kinds of diseases with chiropractic, they're most likely deluded. If chiropractors want to prevent people from criticizing or evaluating their methods, that's seriously unprofessional and not helping them to gain respect.

Cheers,
Pythagoras

Fri, 12 Jun 2009 04:49:00 UTC | #369927

Go to: Chiropocalypse

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 51 by Pythagoras

I've had problems with my back numerous times. On one occasion I was in such pain that rolling over in bed was just about impossible, I had to move extremely slowly to avoid severe pain shooting up my back. My local chiro fixed me up pretty quickly. After one treatment I was mobile, and after about four treatments I was back to normal.

On another occasion, I had a mild back ache. I assumed it was just sore muscles from sitting behind a computer all day and kept putting off doing anything about it. I tried stretching and exercising but it just wouldn't go away. The stretching and exercise just made it worse. After six months I figured it wouldn't get better by itself, so I went to the local chiro. After one treatment I was fine.

From what I've read, chiropractic is pretty effective for certain minor problems with the spine, but extremely dangerous if you have a serious problem like a slipped disk.

It seems to work wonders for the things that go wrong with my back.

Cheers,
Pythagoras

Thu, 11 Jun 2009 06:01:00 UTC | #369659

Go to: Introduction To Christianity - Comedian Dave Allen On Religion

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 17 by Pythagoras

I grew up watching Dave Allen. Definitely one of the best comedians ever.

He loved to have a go at religion, but he didn't do it in an insulting or arrogant way. He was just so funny that even religious people couldn't help but see how silly it looks.

Makes me want to see if I can find a set of Dave Allen DVDs.

Hmmm "Bible according to Spike Milligan" also sounds like essential reference material for an atheist.

Sat, 30 May 2009 15:56:00 UTC | #366136

Go to: Judge rules family can't refuse chemo for boy

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 60 by Pythagoras

Comment #377449 by decius
"The point is that placebo IS NOT plausible as a treatment."

There are known mechanisms whereby the placebo effect could cause a disease to be cured:

Mood is known to affect levels of hormones. Stress and depression are known to suppress the immune system. The placebo effect can reverse a suppressed immune system or even boost the immune system thus curing a disease that would otherwise not improve.

So I don't think its good to be dogmatic in asserting that there is no way that the placebo effect could cause actual cures.

see:
http://www.personalityresearch.org/papers/beaton.html

Regards,
Pythagoras

Fri, 15 May 2009 18:19:00 UTC | #360579

Go to: Religion's parasitic morality

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 14 by Pythagoras

2: (comment #1) was one of the best comments I've ever read on a forum. Brilliant!

Tue, 14 Apr 2009 15:12:00 UTC | #347916

Go to: Happy Birthday Richard Dawkins!

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 478 by Pythagoras

Happy Birthday! Thanks for all the brilliant books.

The Blind Watchmaker is one of the most lucid and enjoyable books on science ever written, and certainly one of the best books I've ever read.

Thank you!

Fri, 27 Mar 2009 07:09:00 UTC | #340384

Go to: The Elfish Gene

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 146 by Pythagoras

Yep. It pretty much describes my youth. But I don't rule the world ... yet.

Thu, 12 Mar 2009 02:25:00 UTC | #335165

Go to: Jerry Coyne's 'Seeing and Believing' with responses

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 545 by Pythagoras

Just had to say Sam Harris was brilliant!

Unfortunately, the creationists will now probably go around quoting him and claim his soul along with that of Anthony Flew.

Thu, 05 Feb 2009 03:56:00 UTC | #319238

Go to: Trials Loom for Parents Who Embraced Faith Over Medicine

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 83 by Pythagoras

The preachers who teach that rubbish and put pressure on people to avoid medical care deserve to go to jail. Religious freedom should not exempt anyone from coercing people to kill their children.

Wed, 21 Jan 2009 04:03:00 UTC | #309746

Go to: Atheist bus adverts could lead to watchdog ruling on God's existence

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 152 by Pythagoras

I would have gone for Richard's wording: "God almost certainly does not exist". I think the God Delusion makes a pretty good case for that.

As Richard pointed out, if the case is lost, almost all religious advertising would/should be banned. That would be a victory rather than a loss.

I'd like to see someone try to prove that atheists will suffer eternal damnation.

Fri, 09 Jan 2009 16:52:00 UTC | #301321

Go to: Turkey bans biologist Richard Dawkins' website

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 99 by Pythagoras

I think it's great that it got banned. Don't you think everyone in Turkey who hears about the ban will want to have a look at this site to see what the fuss is about?

It's great publicity.

Thu, 18 Sep 2008 05:37:00 UTC | #236407

Go to: Sincerity no substitute for evidence

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 55 by Pythagoras

Roland F,
Do you have a reference to the acupuncture study that showed that it didn't work?

I found some of the comments dogmatic. I don't think it's rational to automatically dismiss all alternative therapies. E.g. many current drugs are refined or synthetic versions of traditional herbal remedies.

I try to keep an open mind about alternative medicines. Some of them are obviously stupid (e.g. traditional homeopathy), and many of them have been proven to be ineffective (e.g. faith healing) but some of them probably do work but they have not been properly evaluated. Even mainstream medicine keeps changing its mind about some things. It's not easy to design medical experiments or to interpret the results because there are typically too many variables to control.

I'm curious about acupuncture, because I tried acupuncture treatment many years ago. It was administered by a qualified medical doctor who was experimenting with some alternative therapies. While I can't honestly say whether my treatment worked any better than a placebo would have, it did seem to relieve my symptoms (release of endorphins perhaps?). What was interesting, though, was that the doctor used an electrical device to locate acupuncture points. It would squeal when it found an acupuncture point. He claimed that the points located by the device correspond closely to traditional acupuncture points. I read about various studies into acupuncture when I was a teenager. Some claimed that it's effective for certain ailments and others claimed that it's not effective for certain ailments, but I'm not sure how well designed the studies were. Does anyone know of any comprehensive studies done on the effectiveness of acupuncture by reputable medical institutions?

Another alternative therapy that I've investigated and tried is chiropractic. For the problems I've had, it's been extremely effective. I've had various problems that lingered for many months that were fixed pretty quickly and effectively by chiropractic manipulation. Having said that, I have to add a DISCLAIMER: Some chiropractors make bizarre and outrageous claims about what kinds of ailments can be cured by chiropractic treatments. E.g. some chiropractors claim that almost all health problems are somehow related to the health of your spine and can be cured by spinal manipulation. I suspect there may be a small number of ailments (other than the obvious sore backs/necks etc) that might be caused by pressure on nerves or something like that, that could be cured by spinal manipulation, but most of the claims are almost certainly bogus. Also, I'd recommend getting a proper medical diagnosis before going to a chiropractor. Chiropractic can be extremely dangerous and can cause serious injury if your problem is something worse than misaligned vertebrae. And another point: not all chiropractors are equally skilled: some of them are more likely to put you in hospital than to cure your problem.

Regards,
Pythagoras

Wed, 20 Aug 2008 05:37:00 UTC | #221145

Go to: Do subatomic particles have free will?

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 103 by Pythagoras

All of the spooky QM stuff goes away if you accept the many worlds interpretation of quantum mechanics. Of course the many worlds interpretation is pretty weird and disturbing in itself. But the results of all those experiments with entangled particles cease to be mysterious and make perfect sense in the many worlds interpretation.

As for free will, generally nobody gives a definition of free will. Most definitions that people do give just don't make sense. There is this almost universal idea that free will and determinism are somehow mutually exclusive.

If you define free will as the ability to make decisions and act on them, then I claim that free will requires determinism. The less deterministic your brain and body are, the less ability you have to make decisions and act on them.

When I exercise my free will, I think about what possible actions I can take, and I think about their consequences and I decide what to do based on which consequences I would prefer. There is nothing about the process that requires non-determinism. In fact non-determinism will mess the process up.

Mon, 18 Aug 2008 00:31:00 UTC | #219918

Go to: Embracing goodness, without God

Pythagoras's Avatar Jump to comment 90 by Pythagoras

The committee reviewing his application said there was inadequate "justification for the assumption in the proposal that the theory of evolution, and not intelligent design theory, was correct."

Hillarious!

Why doesn't the end quote tag work?

Fri, 08 Aug 2008 01:23:00 UTC | #214552