Category: Pseudoscience

What women want…to be exploited by capitalists

I don’t know much about Marie Claire, but it appears to be some sort of magazine/website for people who hate women. At least, that’s the conclusion I drew from reading this story in their UK edition’s Health News section: “Women Think About Food More Than Sex“. In genre terms, this is something of a high concept piece, one of those articles that sums up everything it has to offer within the phrasing of its title alone (a bit like “Snakes on a Plane“).

So what did they find? Firstly, a full 25% of women “admitted” that dieting was more important to them than their intimate relationships. In fact, get this:

…ten per cent would feel guiltier straying from their diet than being unfaithful to their partner.

That’s right. Marital (or relationship) infidelity — the stuff of epic romantic drama at least since the mythology of the ancient Greeks — is actually not that significant after all. What matters more is diet adherence. So, while Hester Prynne appeared somewhat perturbed throughout The Scarlet Letter, at least all she had to deal with was the stigma of her sexual indiscretion. Imagine if the townsfolk found out about that extra chocolate biscuit she used to scoff during coffee breaks… Continue reading “What women want…to be exploited by capitalists”

Blazing a trail: Irish coroner declares “first case” of spontaneous human combustion

As my day job, I’m a university lecturer in psychology (ssshhhh — don’t tell them!). One of the great pleasures of this role is running an elective class called Psychology, Science, & Pseudoscience, which I have offered for the last five years or so. This year, as a class assignment, I am encouraging the group to gather examples of pseudoscientific stories they find in the mainstream news media. Now as regular readers will know, this ain’t going to the most difficult assignment these guys will encounter during their education. So to provide some degree of challenge, I want them to critique each piece and to point out why it constitutes an example of pseudoscience. All the analyses will be posted on a special class blog called The PseudoNews Project. By way of leading by example, I’ve posted the first entry myself. And for your benefit, I reproduce it here…

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Dateline: 23 September 2011 // Posted by: Brian Hughes
Source: Galway City Tribune, Irish Times, The Guardian, NY Daily News, and many more.

Story: “Galway Pensioner Dies From Spontaneous Combusion”

Summary: A public inquiry into the death of a 76-year-old man in Galway, Ireland, late last year concluded that he was a victim of a phenomenon known as “spontaneous human combustion“. The West Galway coroner, Dr Ciaran MacLoughlin, declared that there was “no other adequate explanation for the death“. He further stated that it was the first time in his 25 years as a coroner that he had returned such a verdict. Continue reading “Blazing a trail: Irish coroner declares “first case” of spontaneous human combustion”

No, you are NOT worth it

When it comes to questionable science claims in advertising, you rarely need to look further than the cosmetics industry. Just two weeks ago, two magazine advertisements by French cosmetics giant L’Oréal were banned by Britain’s Advertising Standards Authority following a complaint by a Member of the UK Parliament. The ASA found that L’Oréal had misleadingly airbrushed photos of Christy Turlington and Julia Roberts in a way that exaggerated the purported enhancing effects of two of its foundation products. In both cases, the claims being made were explicitly scientific, ones that clearly implied a basis in research-sourced empirical evidence.

The pic of Christy Turlington was alleged to support the claim that the product could produce a “natural light” from human skin, and that this effect had been established following “10 years of research“. In their submission to the ASA, L’Oréal said their research had focused on “the optical properties” of skin, and on how to “reinforce the skin’s radiance” and “improve its ability to reflect light“. Meanwhile the photo of Julia Roberts was used to show how another product had been developed to exert “anti-aging” effects.

The ASA, however, felt that all this was bunkum, and banned the ads. Continue reading “No, you are NOT worth it”

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