Monday, August 27, 2012

This one health product will change your life forever!

I don't think I've ever directly hawked a product on this blog before (other than maybe some recommendation asides), but this is important. You will not believe how much healthier this product will make you. My wife and I both tried it, and we can look forward to a much healthier life than if we had never used it. And as soon as we had finished our treatment, I immediately lent it to my parents to give it a try, and then I'll loan it to my friends.

This product works directly on the brain, by clearing out toxins caused by today's fast-paced environment. You wouldn't believe how many of these toxins we've all accumulated over our lifetimes - without even knowing it! These toxins include misconceptions, rumors, bad advice, snake oil, old wives' tales, and superstitions. And this product will clear them all away.

That's because it's an educational course, on DVD. (There's an audio version, too - and you can stream them both online as well.) It's one of the Great Courses, a series of lectures by esteemed professors on tons of topics. I've been watching them for years, and I can honestly say this is the best one I've ever seen. My wife and I watched all 24 episodes together, riveted. The content was great, and the presenter, Dr. Steven Novella of the Yale School of Medicine, was excellent.

Debunking myths is a long-time hobby of mine, but the majority of this information was new to me. Unless you're a doctor - and one well-versed in every specialty, who stays up-to-date on recent studies and the scientific consensus - I bet most of it will be new to you, too. Did you know …
  • Vitamin C does not help colds. (Try to find a bottle that says it does!) 
  • You don't have to wait after eating before swimming. 
  • Homeopathy is a complete myth. 
  • "Natural" is not inherently better than man-made … in fact, it's often worse. 
  • Hypnosis is real, but doesn't work the way you'd expect. 
  • Amnesia is real, but people never forget their identities. 
  • Acupuncture is fake, but still beneficial. 
  • Sugar does not lead to hyperactivity
  • And what about probiotics? Antioxidants? Toxins? and, and ...

The myths range from harmless to dire. Taking extra vitamin C will not hurt you, for example. But certain of the myths in this series are responsible for the deaths of thousands of people - such as the myth that vaccines cause autism, or the myth that sleeping with a virgin can cure HIV (yes, this is a real belief in some parts of Africa.)

More important than any specific myth is the framework that Dr. Novella shares in how the medical industry works, how doctors think, and how to judge medical claims for yourself. How are drugs evaluated? Are placebos ethical? How does misinformation spread? Does the way we think about specific "diseases" even make sense in many cases? And in general, how should we safeguard our own health - and the health of our children and others we care about - when we swim in such a vast sea of competing medical information?

Watch the DVD and find out. If you've read The Secret Peace, you know that in today's day and age, we each finally have the means and the responsibility to investigate truths for ourselves. This has tremendous potential benefit, but it can also be a burden. This course is a huge help. I wish they had taught this in school; I think it should be essential viewing for everyone.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Goodbye, Capital Punishment

Did you hear that Connecticut abolished the death penalty? The state's practically next door, but somehow I missed this news when it happened in April, and just found it now. What's interesting is how it's part of a trend: Connecticut is the 17th state to abolish capital punishment (along with the District of Columbia, too), and the fifth in just five years.

When it comes to the death penalty, I believe the trends show: 1) the gradual abolishment of capital punishment in the world, 2) a glimpse - probably in our lifetimes - of a world in which the concept itself will feel outdated and barbaric, and 3) that this is part of a larger trend of decreasing violence. Capital punishment, even when carried out by a legitimate state with the support of its citizens, is still violence of a type. And as Gandhi taught, violence - though it can accomplish short-term goals - inevitably sows long-term problems (usually more violence.)

The decline of the death penalty in the U.S. can be tracked not just by the number of states endorsing it, but by two other trends. This chart shows one:

This is from Steven Pinker's Better Angels of Our Nature, and shows the rate of executions declining dramatically. That's right, even in the states that still have it on the books, it's mostly used less frequently.

In addition, Pinker brings up a good reason to abolish it: because it's a slippery slope. With execution on the books it's simply too easy to put innocent people to death. Did you know that during the last years of the reign of Henry VIII, there were over 10 executions in London per week? By 1822 England had 222 capital offenses on the books, including cutting down a tree. But by 1861 this had been reduced to four. The Wikipedia page on capital punishment in the U.S. has an interesting chart showing when the last execution was for each crime other than homicide. The last execution for witchcraft, for example, was in 1779, and the last for burglary was in 1941.

In fact, it's estimated that in the past 2,000 years, 19 million people were executed worldwide for trivial offenses. I had this same thought while reading Game of Thrones recently, as the capricious king in the book executes practically everyone who so much as glances at him funny. We take for granted the simple concept today - even if we support capital punishment - that the death penalty should be used only for dire offences, and only after a lengthy evaluation of guilt. Soon, there will be no offences left that we deem worth it.