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Skepticism: A Double-Edged Sword? A Philosophical View

Blinded by the truth by Lorraine Daley

After a long day of working as a slave/intern at a prestigious university on the other side of the country, I came home to my summer sublet, plopped down on my rented bed and called my mother. The usual small-talk ensued, recounting my long day of data coding and having to walk miles in the humidity due to my car-less summer situation. With every day that passes, I feel tremendously more educated, skilled, tired and accomplished; so why do I feel so utterly dumb and fraudulent sometimes? I blame my mom (and, mom, if you’re reading this, I promise this will turn out to be a compliment if you just keep reading instead of gasping from shock while instantaneously shooting me an angry text message).

My mother and I have a genuinely supportive and balanced relationship. We share an abundantly inquisitive and ever-questioning nature, but where I primarily defer to science for explanations, she will often rest within faith. I am not necessarily referring to religion, although that can be regarded within this context. What I am talking about here is the on-going battle between skeptics (question everything) versus believers (accept some unexplainable things and move on). This conversation betwixt my mother and me somehow moved towards discussing clutter in the home or workspace. She was quick to reference Feng Shui and how firmly she believes that she cannot be happy in an area where the furniture, colors and light are not arranged to her liking. Being the skeptic, I started to laugh it off and retorted with, “Are you sure it’s Feng Shui and not just the idea that you’re an interior designer that designates your happiness with a place?” I tried bestowing upon her the pseudo-science of Feng Shui and even though she listened to me earnestly, her response was something along the lines of, “Well, whatever, Feng Shui or not, I know that when my place is arranged just so, I am much happier. And if my place is cluttered, my mind is cluttered.” I stopped arguing. Why would I argue with her on that, when she has already decided it is so, and if it makes her happy? Why should I try to show my mother that her happiness more than likely stems from some other causal nature? I was satisfied that my mom was able to find a way for her to analogize her happiness via Feng Shui if that’s what makes her feel good. Besides, I cannot earnestly say that I disagree with her.

Here’s where my belief-system comes out to play: I believe we must choose our battles. We must know when to question and when to stop questioning. I believe the question we really need answered is to decide our ultimate desire: Truth or Happiness? I refer to the two as being mutually exclusive because if either are “ultimates”, it appears to me we cannot have both. If we yearn for Truth, then we risk never being truly happy, because we will not be pleased by every answer we seek; with every Truth comes beauty and/or despair. If our ultimate desire is Happiness, we risk not ever knowing the Truth because we might rather turn a blind eye to answers that may not please us. Who hasn’t heard the phrase “ignorance is bliss?” What do you think? Given the choice between happiness or truth, what would you choose (although I am quite certain of most of your answers considering the biased reader sample of this site)? Do you think we can truly have both?

I am proud of my skepticism and I doubt I will ever stop questioning, but I have begun to know when it is best to hang up the critic’s coat and when to leave it on. If the end result of some pseudo-scientific claim is seeing a loved-one’s smiling face, I don’t understand why I would try to take that away from them. If their specific belief isn’t hurting anyone–and that essentially could be the vital argument against beliefs–I would rather shut my mouth and respectfully bask in their faith-driven happiness; perhaps even share that faith and enjoy the quiet repose it brings with it.

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From Soy Feminizing to “Soy Fabulous”

Here’s a mini run-down of the woo-logic that is to follow, straight from the self-proclaimed soyologist, Jim Rutz:

Soy bean handing a dress to a boy and holding a gay pride flag.

Soy and the Boy by Jennifer Burnham

  1. Soy is very popular today.
  2. When soy is consumed, estrogen rises within your system.
  3. Elevated estrogen levels feminize you.
  4. Gay men are feminine.
  5. Pregnant women who eat a surplus of soy are feminizing their male fetuses.
  6. Male babies who admit to being gay later in life that are born from soy-eating mamas need to realize that it was from the soy.
  7. The rise of homosexuality is due to the rise of soy popularity.

How’s that for a well-developed proof of causality? According to Mr. Rutz’s “logic,” I bet if we ban soy from society, the homosexual population will die off completely and evolve out of our gene-pool; what a novel and effective solution! Let us delve into the “facts” that he gives us and dispel them, shall we?

Okay, we can go on and on about the soy and estrogen levels debate, but that is not the delicious, non-soy “meat” of this article. There is hard science out there that is currently debating the merits and dangers of soy-intake and hormone levels. I am certainly not a chemist or biologist, so I will leave it to them to dissect my edamame and decide if it should still be served at my favorite sushi restaurant or banned by the US Department of Health and Human Services. What bothers me most is the outrageous title of his article, Soy is making kids gay.

After he starts his article with claims that could sound somewhat credible regarding soy and estrogen levels, he completely loses me with this paragraph:

Soy is feminizing, and commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality. That’s why most of the medical (not socio-spiritual) blame for today’s rise in homosexuality must fall upon the rise in soy formula and other soy products. (Most babies are bottle-fed during some part of their infancy, and one-fourth of them are getting soy milk!) Homosexuals often argue that their homosexuality is inborn because ‘I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t homosexual.’ No, homosexuality is always deviant. But now many of them can truthfully say that they can’t remember a time when excess estrogen wasn’t influencing them.”

Excuse me? Soy commonly leads to a decrease in the size of the penis, sexual confusion and homosexuality? Where is the journal publication on that one, because I would love to read it. Since when does estrogen-increase cause homosexuality? And does that mean that gay men have smaller penises than straight men? I have some friends that would beg to differ, but I digress…

If Rutz wants to argue that homosexuality is directly related to estrogen levels, here’s a nice scientifically-validated review he should probably read: Sex, Cells, and Same-Sex Desire: The Biology of Sexual Preference. According to this review, there has been no reliable conclusion that estrogen levels are related to determining sexual orientation. Even more recently, there have been contradicting studies that relay differing results on the degree of testosterone levels in both types of men. Brodie, Gartrell, et al (1974) concludes that testosterone levels in gay men are higher than in heterosexual men. However, Starka, Sipova & Hynie (1975) asserts the opposite to be true.

And how does his statement of homosexuality always being “deviant” tie in to any of his previous arguments? That statement makes no contextual sense whatsoever.

Furthermore, I would also like to know where he got his statistics of homosexuality being on the rise today; I doubt he takes into consideration the notion that more homosexuals may feel comfortable with “coming out,” in our progressive society today, and therefore it may seem like there are more homosexuals now than ever before.

There is just way too much here for me to argue against and I probably should not have bothered in the first place considering his credentials stem from a non-scientific background. After all, his biography touts that he is the Founder/Chairman of Open Church Ministries, an adjunct professor at Covenant Bible Institute and a copywriter in the field of investment and alternative health.

Honestly, if I would have first checked his credentials, perhaps I wouldn’t have wasted my time blasting this guy, but rather just giggled and clicked the “x” button on my browser. But the bothersome part of this article is that it comes up on Google as a self-proclaimed scientific notion, and common folk may take it as such. That is what concerns me; and that is why I felt obliged to dispel his grandiose and ill-informed statements. Now let’s hope that my blog comes up within the same search for “soy” and “gay.”

In related news, here’s a great video clip from the award-winning documentary “For the Bible Tells Me So,” discussing the nature of homosexuality and its common misconceptions. Interestingly, a study is referenced that could be considered to be in Jim Rutz’s favor regarding hormones and fetal development. Take a look for yourself and tell me what you decide:

Homosexuality: Is it a choice?

Brodie HK, Gartrell N, Doering C, & Rhue T (1974). Plasma testosterone levels in heterosexual and homosexual men. The American journal of psychiatry, 131 (1), 82-3 PMID: 4808435

Cecco, J. P., & Parker, D. A. (1995). Sex, cells, and same-sex desire: the biology of sexual preference. Part II. Journal of homosexuality, 28 (3-4), 215-446 PMID: 7560927

Starka, L., Sipova, I., & Hynie, J. (1975). Plasma testosterone in male transsexuals and homosexuals Journal of Sex Research, 11 (2), 134-138 DOI: 10.1080/00224497509550886

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Why ShamPOOP Might Be Better!, a website whose title assumes omniscience, allows one to discover within its health & beauty section that perhaps your hair washing habits are a waste of time, and that the effectiveness of your current shampoo brand’s molecules are sub-par at best. The sponsor of this advice, Kronos Hair Care (who strategically does not show up until the very end of this advertisement disguised as a scientific article) claims that current shampoos on the market are constructed in such a way that does not allow for the “large” shampoo molecules to penetrate our tiny hair cells and follicles. In essence, says they, we are washing all the nutrients (and our money) down the shower drain. Kronos claims that in order for us to have nutritious hair, the nutrients must get to the very roots for it to be any good and to “think about it this way—if you wanted to fertilize a plant, where would you pour the fertilizer? On the leaves? Of course not! You’d pour the fertilizer on the root and the soil where it’s needed most.”

Carvaggio's "Medusa" painting

Did Medusa ever have a good hair day?

This piqued my curiosity. Am I wasting my money on my organic green-tea mint, for color-treated hair, delicious-smelling shampoo? My hair seems rather healthy, but maybe it is a pure coincidence. Had I not ever used shampoo, but rather Dawn dish soap my whole hairy-headed life, maybe my hair would still look as averagely-luscious as it does today! So let us find out, does shampoo actually clean and nourish our hair?

According to renowned chemist Joe Schwarz, Ph.D, there is sufficient molecular evidence to support that shampoo and its molecules (although no mention of their supposed “largeness”) do a fine job of cleaning hair. But that’s where the blonde or brunette buck stops. We can get our hair clean, but since our hair is essentially dead protein, there is no zombifying or resurrecting-nutrient in this world that will bring our hair back to life again. Want to read his take on the matter via Washington Post? Check it out: Secrets of Shampoo.

Later on in this article–er, advertisement, Kronos claims to have results that “boost hair volume and body by an unprecedented 96%; increase hair hydration by 91%; improve luster and shine by 96%; reduce split ends and breakage by 96%.” Can one actually measure hair luster and shine? Where are they getting these percentages? Do they have special Luster Quality Assessors (aka LQAs) that compare one set of locks to the other in some special machine perhaps nicknamed Luster Lucy 3000? Now I am curious . . . . (after Googling for a few seconds) . . . Lo and behold, I have, at the very least found this: Development of a device to measure human hair luster. Well, I’ll be darned! However, I have yet to see any of Krono’s “results” published alongside their data set and/or methods. If they did use a Luster Lucy 3000, however, they may be onto something.

Now, whether or not Dawn dish soap or cow manure would do a similar job could prove to be an interesting experiment on its own, but one I would rather not try on my own hair. After all, Dr. Schwarcz bluntly expresses the rather morbid truth of our hair’s deadness; so why waste money on fancy shampoos that promise to essentially add nutrients to a mass of death on top of our skulls? Perhaps I am a slave to marketing and all the pretty packaging it presents, but for now I will stick with the pomegranate-scented, lather-laden stuff.

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