Monday, May 28, 2007

Blind Faith: a review of Stephen Prothero's "Religious Literacy"

For those of us who have at some time lamented the our peers' inability or unwillingness to engage in serious religious discussion, a new book is out which appears to quantify the problem. By creating a culture which is hostile to religious discourse, what we have actually suppressed is our own critical thinking. As social animals, humans require consistent, positive reinforcement in order to develop a skill or interest. Americans (and likely most other cultures) have pushed religion back to the nether-regions of our sunday-school services.

What it boils down to is this: Americans aren't doing their homework when it comes to religion. This new book appears to catalogue that phenomenon. A clip from a Washington Post review is below:
The United States is the most religious nation in the developed world
Americans are also the most religiously ignorant people in the Western world. Fewer than half of us can identify Genesis as the first book of the Bible, and only one third know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
Prothero sees America's religious illiteracy as even more dangerous than general cultural illiteracy "because religion is the most volatile constituent of culture
the author combines a lively history of the rise and fall of American religious literacy with a set of proposed remedies based on his hope that "the Fall into religious ignorance is reversible."
The condition Prothero describes in Religious Literacy is unquestionably one manifestation of a more general decline in the public's cultural and civic knowledge.
How can citizens know what creationism means, or make an informed decision about whether it belongs in classrooms, if fewer than half can identify Genesis?
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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Debating the use of Guiafenesin in Fibromyalgia.

clipped from
Dr. Robert Bennett, a recognized expert in the fibromyalgia field, agreed to do a study on guaifenesin, with Dr. St. Amand
The results of this long term study showed that guaifenesin had no effect on fibromyalgia.
much of Dr. St. Amand's success with guaifenesin, could be attributed to the placebo effect.
Additionally, any worsening of fibromyalgia symptoms during the treatment, is also a good sign, since these symptoms are attributed to guaifenesin's reversal process, that rids the body of "metabolic debris".
Not to mention, that guaifenesin often causes a change of smell or color in the urine. Many people attribute these changes to toxins being released from the body, when in all likelihood, this is simply due to the fact that the guaifenesin is metabolized by the liver, resulting in a form of lactic acid, that is then excreted in the urine.
guaifenesin has a skeletal muscle relaxant property,
It likely also has an analgesic, or pain relieving capability
Amongst the many "alternative" treatments in existence today, is the use of guiafenesin, a common over-the-counter mucolytic, in the treatment of fibromyalgia. The most influential proponent of this treatment, one Dr. St. Armond, has written a book on the topic entitled, "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Fibromyalgia : The Revolutionary Treatment That Can Reverse The Disease."

Reading the book, as a new physician, several aspects of Dr. St. Armond's case raised immediate red flags in my mind. First, Dr. St, Armond has (admittedly) failed to show any clinical evidence that the treatment works, relying instead on extensive anecdotal evidence. Second, the proposed mechanism of action in the treatment of the fibromyalgia simplifies for the laymen to the all-to-common "ridding the body of metabolic toxins." Third, fibromyalgia itself, and this treatment regimen in particular, lends itself to significant percentages of placebo affected patients. And finally, his line follows the all-to-common theme of the underdog treatment, conspired against by the likes of Big Medical and Big Pharm.

A wonderful response to this theory has been written by Mark London (presumably) at MIT. His response addresses all of the aforementioned points, but most extensively covers the dubious mechanism of action. Some of the basic points in his article are quoted below.