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Jimmy Wales To 'Holistic Healers': Prove Your Claims the Old-Fashioned Way

Christianson Re:You know what they call alternative medicine... (517 comments)

For example, I believe its generally accepted that acupuncture [nih.gov] does something, we're just not sure how and what.

The problem with acupuncture studies is that they can't be done double-blinded: that is, the acupuncturist always knows whether he is doing "real" acupuncture or "sham" acupuncture*. This then leads to a bias effect, in which the patient is unconsciously cued as to whether or not the treatment "should" work, and expectation effects are stronger than any purported acupuncture benefits (e.g., Bausell et al 2005, Eval Health Prof). I remember a study, which I cannot dig up at the moment, in which the researchers gave acting lessons to the acupuncturist to ensure that they behaved in exactly the same way with respect to the patients between real and sham treatments, and when they did so acupuncture did not outdo the placebo.

* You can, in theory, do double-blinded by randomly assigning patients to one of two technicians, both of which were naive to acupuncture treatment before the study's beginning. They are then trained equally on two different sets of acupuncture points, one valid and one invalid, with no knowledge of which one of them is which. However, objectively this isn't really a fair test of acupuncture: consider the case where you tried to tackle the effectiveness of heart surgery using the same model.

about 4 months ago
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Last Week's Announcement About Gravitational Waves and Inflation May Be Wrong

Christianson But it's still inflation? (194 comments)

Having read the original paper to the best of my ability (which is not perhaps very good), as far as I can see, the "critics" are arguing that the gravitational ripples might not have been caused by inflation directly, but by another process which happens to be a by-product of inflation. So unless I'm missing something, even if the critics are right, BICEP2 has still provided proof of inflation.

about 4 months ago
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All Else Being Equal: Disputing Claims of a Gender Pay Gap In Tech

Christianson In other news... (427 comments)

When you control for species, there are no differences between humans and lizards.

It's good that sexual discrimination legislation has (mostly) sorted out the problem of women not being paid the same for equal work. That doesn't change the fact that, on the whole, there's a salary gap. As the linked article points out, some big factors out of this are the fact that women tend to leave their jobs more early, to have more intermittent commitments to work. The article seems quite content to leave the implication that, basically, this means that it's all the fault of women for just not caring about their career enough. Much more relevant would be an examination of why women are more likely to have this lack of commitment, and whether e.g. bullying in the work place, or unfavourable maternity/paternity leave arrangements are contributing to this. In the UK, for example, the statutes are actually quite sexist in this regard: statutory maternity leave is available for a year, but statutory paternity leave is only available for at most half a year, and that requires that the mother return to work; otherwise it is only two weeks. Which means that, should a couple wish to start a family, it is necessarily the mother that is going to take the brunt of time away from work and the perceived lack of career commitment that will result.

about 5 months ago
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UK Benefits System In Deeper Trouble?

Christianson Launched by DWP (266 comments)

The article summary is a bit misleading. Universal Credit has from beginning to end been the child of the Department of Work and Pensions. The Government Digital Service, the in-house IT design expert office, is technically part of the Cabinet Office, but that's only because it's a centralised IT design service meant to serve all branches of the government. Also, the summary skips over the critical part of the article: the GDS is pulling out because the project is being run in direct contradiction with their own recommendations. Looking at the situation, it's difficult to apportion any part of the blame for the project troubles to the Cabinet Office; it seems to lie entirely on the shoulders of the DWP.

about 7 months ago
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Popular Science Is Getting Rid of Comments

Christianson Re:Metafilter (473 comments)

I too wonder why more sites don't adopt it.

Because of the initial chicken-and-egg problem. The Slashdot moderation system requires a large base of committed users willing to spend time on moderation, but if new users are only exposed to an unmoderated comment system, it's hard to convince them (or at least, the worthwhile ones) to exert any effort on the system. Even on existing sites, you're faced with the problem that the undesirable users are more committed to the site than the desirable ones, and enabling user moderation will make that so much worse in the short term that it will choke off the long-term. By virtue of its age, Slashdot circumvented this: no real competition, no expectation of moderation at all initially, and novelty of the moderation system all served to build a large base of potential moderators at launch of moderation. Even then, it's hard to estimate what degree of the success was just luck.

about 10 months ago
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Gene Therapy Approach 'Completely' Protects Mice From HIV Infection

Christianson "Scientists from Caltech"? (190 comments)

Maybe this is a silly, minor thing, but it bothers me these sort of blurbs always just talk about faceless "scientists." Does it really take that much work to find out who the principal researchers were? Maybe more people would be inspired to get into science if it actually seemed to come with some measure of face rather than anonymity in a lab coat.

more than 2 years ago
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No iPhone Apps, Please — We're British

Christianson It's the upcoming cuts, not the recession (393 comments)

The issue here isn't that there's iPhone apps being developed during a recession, it's that money is being invested in a duplication of services when the government is looking to slash spending by up to 40% across the board. When we're looking at a devastation of public services, it's hard to condone spending intended to benefit a minority of Britons with access to a luxury device.

about 4 years ago
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4,000 Anti-Scientology Videos Yanked From YouTube

Christianson Re:Why? (658 comments)

Compare that to the other religions. To the best of my knowledge, there is no super-secret ultra-eyes-only version of the Bible that only the elite Christians get to read. There is no "not for the viewing of non-believers" version of the Qu'ran that only the most devout Muslims get to read. But there are secret Scientology documents which explain core beliefs of Scientology that the general rank and file of the CoS do not have access to.

Unfortunately, it's a bit more complicated than that. Esotericism is, at least historically, a common religious practice. Gnosticism, Mormonism, at least a few Buddhist sects, and arguably the Masonic tradition all spring to mind. All of these have the idea that there are truths which should not be made available to the uninitiated, as they are not prepared to receive them correctly.

So this is the complicated problem: there are no really good grounds for condemning Scientology as a religion. The problems arise, rather, from the Church of Scientology as an institution. Letting aside the heavy-handed tactics used to recruit new members and to protect the Church, the fees charged for initiation seem to shift the practice from esotericism to exploitation. It's worth pointing out that very few people have objections to the Free Zone, emphasizing that the primary objection to the Church of Scientology is fundamentally organizational, rather than religious per se.

more than 5 years ago

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