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Why I Respect Catch the Fire Ministries

Friday, February 13th, 2009

When Pastor Danny Nalliah issued a press release suggesting that the Victorian bushfires were divine vengeance, attracting mainstream press coverage I noticed some strongly negative reactions, e.g.:

…dear “Catch The Fire Ministries.” Kindly choke on a bucket of cocks.

I don’t really see why. Let’s follow his thought processes:

  1. God doesn’t like abortion — x million Catholics agree, so not an unusual position for a Christian to take, it seems.
  2. God is happy to kill people indiscriminately when upset — in addition to the scripture Nalliah quotes, see Job (you really do want to follow that link!)
  3. God talks to people and tells them about things he is going to do. (I don’t have chapter and verse on this, but I’m sure it’s common in the Bible)

So — if you are a Christian and believe that God wrote the bible — what Nalliah thinks happened seems pretty plausible, and telling people about it is the responsible thing to do.

Nalliah is deluded, but I reserve my venom for those of a religious persuasion who tell us that God loves us, and is omnipotent, but don’t feel obliged to offer an explanation for events like the bushfires — I heard the Pope quoted on the radio today, and he’s praying for the victims. Does he think that God might have missed them, or needs the Pope to tell Him that they were a bad thing?

Knol on Alternative Medicine

Saturday, July 26th, 2008

Google’s Knol appeared last week. Most of the initial articles cover particular medical conditions and treatments. My eye was caught by the article on Complementary and alternative medicine.

To a layperson it seemed reasonably skeptical. I thought it was odd that it doesn’t mention homeopathy. Isn’t that idea one of the oldest and most obviously without foundation of Western alternative medicine? I was also surprised that ‘Energy therapy’ such as Reiki is described as “…therapies that are believed to modify energy fields surrounding the body” without mentioning that there is no evidence that such ‘energy fields’ exist.

But the sentences which really caught my eye were these:

“However, the lack of evidence should NOT be equated with a conclusion that a therapy is ineffective. In the absence of scientific evidence, there is an equal chance that any therapy will be beneficial or harmful.”

An equal chance? Really? As the author says “One of the greatest safety concerns with all CAM therapies is that the use of CAM may delay the diagnosis or traditional treatment of a disorder”, so ineffective therapies should be classified as harmful.

It isn’t surprising that an author with an interest in testing alternative medicine should believe that the resources available for clinical trials of treatments are worth spending evaluating alternative medicines, but to suggest that 50% of trials of alternative medicines will show that those treatments are beneficial defies belief!


Friday, July 25th, 2008

I know that irony is an overused term, but it seems ironic to me that a journalist who had an embarrassing article disappear in such an odd way should win a prize for an expose on Wikipedia whitewashing.