Cork Skeptics

Promoting Reason, Science & Critical Thinking in Cork City & Beyond


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Brian Clement, Alternative Cancer Practitioner: You Are Not Welcome.

Update 4: 16/6/15: The Carlton Airport Hotel have cancelled the event. Thank you Carlton! All advertised hotel venues have now withdrawn their bookings. 

Update 3: 16/6/15: The Connacht Hotel have rung to tell us the meeting has been cancelled. Thank you Connacht Hotel!

Update 2: 15/6/15 The Galway meeting has now been moved to the Connacht Hotel. 

Update: 15/6/15 The Galway Clayton Hotel have let us know that they will no longer be hosting the meeting in Galway. 

Our friends at the Good Thinking Society have tipped us off about two events taking place in Dublin and Galway later this month. The speaker at both events is Brian Clement and his speciality is cancer patients.
Alternative medicine practitioners of every hue are common in Ireland. However, this man has a particularly odious reputation. He runs a treatment centre in Florida called the Hippocrates Institute, and he and his institute are in big trouble. Florida’s Department of Health have their sights on him, as do the US Federal Trade Commission. Even former employees of his are up in arms about his practices. It’s been alleged that he is practicing medicine without a licence – a serious charge in any country.

If this wasn’t bad enough, he’s been accused of giving false hope to seriously ill cancer patients. False hope is when you tell people you can help them or even cure them, when in reality you have neither the right knowledge nor the right skills to do make good on your promises. Tempting, isn’t it? You find people with very few options left, tell them an amazing story, administer unproven treatments to them and charge them a ton of money; all in the hope that luck will be on your side and you’ll get a great testimonial out of it. If things go badly, well, hey, you did your best. Win, win – at least for you; not so much your unfortunate patients. Most people would avoid this temptation because of basic morality, but as they say here locally, there’s always one.

In public statements, Clement has said things like: “We have the longest history on the planet Earth, the highest success rate on the planet Earth, of people healing cancer” and “we’ve seen thousands and thousand of people reverse stage-four catastrophic cancer“. For anyone who has been affected by cancer, such extravagant claims would need a ton of independently verified evidence: evidence Clement does not have.

The allegation by Canadian media is that he encouraged the parents of two young aboriginal girls to have them forego chemotherapy for leukaemia and to opt instead for alternative treatments such as wheatgrass enemas, detox diets and massages – none of which have ever been shown to have any curative effect on metastatic cancer. One of the girls involved, Makayla Sault, has already died. There is also an Irish connection. After a talk in Dublin, Stacey O’Halloran, a 23 year old Limerick woman with advanced metastatic breast cancer, gave up conventional treatments and traveled to the Hippocrates Institute. She died last year.

Brian Clement has two speaking engagements coming up this June, one in Dublin and one in Galway. Based on the negative publicity from Canadian media, the lawsuits outstanding against him and his apparent lack of medical qualifications, we believe that this man is a danger to public health. We call on the Carlton Airport Hotel in Dublin, and the Connacht Hotel in Galway to withdraw their offer to host these events.

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Curiosity, Faces in the Stump, Cancer Quackery and Kinesio Tape – Our Roundup for August

Many thanks again to Reg Murphy who gave us a great talk on modern art, its impact on the world, and some of the fascinating characters involved. Reg tackled an enormous subject and digested it down to a very clever, understandable reading of the subject.

We recorded the meeting on Google Plus, and a rough version is already on YouTube: It needs some straightening out, but we’ll have that video up on the website soon.

At yesterday night’s meeting we covered a few interesting stories from the last month. Here are some links for further reading.


Mars Curiosity landing

On August 5th, the Mars Science Laboratory(aka “Curiosity Rover”) landed on Mars. It is the largest object ever to land on Mars and the complexity of its landing was breathtaking. If you haven’t yet seen the “Seven Minutes of Terror” video, do it now.

The Curiosity project is an excellent example of the power of science. Had the project team made one incorrect assumption about the atmosphere and environment on Mars, Curiosity would now be a heap of scrap strewn over the red planet. Science doesn’t know everything, but what it does know is pretty damn cool.


Stumped

Another example of pareidolia, where our minds see familiar patterns where none exist: a face of Jesus was seen in a tree stump in a cemetery in Belfast. Our friends in Belfast Skeptics have a brilliant take-down and some further examples of pareidolia.


Cancer Quackery in the Indo

A health supplement in the Irish Independent had the Internet up in arms on Thursday. Once of the stories related to a man who believes that he could use dowsing to identify and ward against cancer. Brendan Murphy from “Positive Energy” says that a phenomenon known as “geopathic stress” can impact on your susceptibility to cancer. According to a blurb on Murphy’s website:

Geopathic Stress is mainly caused by narrow paths of water about 200 – 300 ft (60 – 90 meters) below ground (also on top of mountains). The narrow water path creates an electromagnetic field, which distorts the earth’s natural vibrations, as these pass through the water. It is in particular the 7.83Hz (cycles per second) which are beneficiary and which we have lived with for millions of years. This is also the optimum part of the Schumann waves and Alpha vibrations. It has been confirmed by NASA the 7.83 Hz vibrations are incorporated into spacecrafts, otherwise the astronauts could only live in space a short time. Certain mineral concentrations, fault lines, moving underground plateaux and underground cavities can also disturb the natural earth vibrations. Strong Geopathic Stress can cause the body’s vibrations to rise as high as 250Hz. The U.S. scientist George Lakowsky confirmed in the thirties that humans (as well as animals) have less chance of fighting bacteria, viruses and parasites above 180 Hz, so they love humans and animals that vibrate at high levels.

What the what now?  NASA you say? Vibrating parasites? Pseudo-scientific nonsense wrapped up in scientific sounding language, you say? Well I never… The problem with promoting cancer quackery such as this is that it preys on some of the most vulnerable people on the planet, diverting them from proper medical care, to (in this case) a guy with a pair of coat hangers. It would be funny if it were not for the stuff he claims to be able to treat.


Head kicking for Jesus

Back to Northern Ireland, a preacher by the name of Todd Bentley is planning to visit Portadownnext month. Bentley also claims he has a cure for ailments such as cancer. Yes, you got it: a good kicking. We’re pretty sure Bentley is just a cheezy showman with a mouth the size of a football pitch, but UK MPs are being lobbied to ban him from visiting just in case he gets the urge to kick a few sick people on the side. Here are some samples of his live performances:


Colour Me Stupid

Many people have commented on the brightly coloured tape attached to the skin of Olympic athletes during London 2012. It turns out that this is Kinesio Tape: magic bandages for gullible athletes. Kinesio tape has a long history, originating from a Japanese chiropractor in the 1970’s. What it doesn’t have is much proof to support the claims that are being made. And so it goes: goodbye Power Balance wristbands, hello Kinesio tape. There’s a lucrative industry in bilking sports people with magic rubbish.