29 February 2008

Skeptic-‘Woo’ wars: left vs right brain?

The 21st century has seen the return of right brain thinking after left brain dominance during the 20th.  Sceptics call this the age of endarkment.  Is it the opportunity to do joined up thinking?

 Left Brain, Right Brain by Dan Eden :

“There appear to be two modes of thinking, verbal and nonverbal, represented rather separately in left and right hemispheres respectively and that our education system, as well as science in general, tends to neglect the nonverbal form of intellect. What it comes down to is that modern society discriminates against the right hemisphere.

-Roger Sperry (1973)”
“The chart below will help illustrate the characteristics which are known to reside on each side of our brains.

uses logic
detail oriented
facts rule
words and language
present and past
math and science
can comprehend
order/pattern perception
knows object name
reality based
forms strategies



uses feeling
“big picture” oriented
imagination rules
symbols and images
present and future
philosophy & religion
can “get it” (i.e. meaning)
spatial perception
knows object function
fantasy based
presents possibilities
risk taking

Our personality can be thought of as a result of the degree to which these left and right brains interact, or, in some cases, do not interact. It is a simplification to identify “left brain” types who are very analytical and orderly. We likewise certainly know of the artistic, unpredictability and creativity of “right brain” types. But each of us draws upon specific sides of our brain for a variety of daily functions, depending on such things as our age, education and life experiences. The choices of which brain is in control of which situations is what forges our personalities and determines our character.

Experiments show that most children rank highly creative (right brain) before entering school. Because our educational systems place a higher value on left brain skills such as mathematics, logic and language than it does on drawing or using our imagination, only ten percent of these same children will rank highly creative by age 7. By the time we are adults, high creativity remains in only 2 percent of the population.

The War of the Brains The two brains not only see the world in vastly different ways but, in our current society, the left side just “doesn’t get” what the right side is all about. It tends to dismiss anything significant coming into consciousness from its “flaky” cranial twin. Sometimes two sides can actually disagree, resulting in our perception of emotional turmoil from the expressive protests of right brain. Our conscious mind can only focus on data from one brain at a time. We can switch from one side to the other very quickly (with our corpus collosum intact) but that’s not always the most efficient way to act and eventually ultimate authority to enter consciousness is delegated to one brain or the other. In our modern world, this battle is almost always won by the left brain.It appears that most people will never reach their maximum potential because of compromises that have been made between these two governing bodies. Sometimes skills which the right brain can perform better are routinely handled, with less skill, by the left brain. Ideally, both brains work together in people with optimum mental ability. This coordinating ability may be the key to superior intellectual abilities. In most people, however, the left brain takes control, choosing logic, reasoning and details over imagination, holistic thinking and artistic talent.”


20 January 2008

Fact or FLACT?

Sceptics like to twist things around, notably Ben Goldacre (junior liaison psychiatrist, of the ‘it’s all in your head’ school of medicine), according to twisted logic.

It feels like this:

I might say ‘I like yellow’.

A sceptic might then claim ‘H4H doesn’t like white, red, blue, green, orange, purple, pink, black or brown.’  This would not be true as I also like blue and purple and I can tolerate all the other colours too.

I have a new term for such logic-derived ‘facts’: ‘FLACT’.

*4th February 2008.  Updated* to incorporate my justification of including Ben Goldacre from responses to Andy Lewis (aka le canard noir):


The low cholera mortality rates under homeopathic treatment: When Cholera finally struck Europe in 1831 the mortality rate (under conventional treatment) was between 40% (Imperial Council of Russia) to 80% (Osler’s Practice of Medicine). Out of five people who contracted Cholera, two to four of them died under regular treatment. Dr. Quin, in London, reported the mortality in the ten homeopathic hospitals in 1831-32 as 9%; Dr. Roth, physician to the king of Bavaria, reported that under homeopathic care the mortality was 7%; Admiral Mordoinow of the Imperial Russian Council reported 10% mortality under homeopathy; and Dr. Wild, Allopathic editor of Dublin Quarterly Journal, reported in Austria, the Allopathic mortality was 66% and the homeopathic mortality was 33% “and on account of this extraordinary result, the law interdicting the practice of Homeopathy in Austria was repealed.’

Ben states:‘Homeopathic pills won’t do anything against cholera.’

So by his logic (and yours) most of the people treated with homeopathy just got better anyway: ‘the homeopaths’ treatments at least did nothing either way’

So logically: If people just got better anyway, by this evidence they should just have been left alone when they got cholera and the death rates would have been much lower. And his other part of Ben’s logic is that cholera death rates were so high because allopathic medicine made them much worse: ‘high allopathic mortality rate was due to dangerous practices’

So my point is why would the population worry so much about cholera then?

But they did:


‘New York was probably the most thoroughly scourged among the states. Each of the thriving towns along the Erie Canal suffered in its turn, despite quarantines and last minute attempts at ‘purifications.’ . . .Small villages, even isolated farms, were stricken. And here the disease was most terrifying; it had to be faced alone, often without friend, minister, or physician. The appearance of cholera in even the smallest hamlet was the signal for the general exodus of the inhabitants, who, in their headlong flight, spread the disease throughout the surrounding countryside.’


‘Asiatic cholera is a very violent intestinal disease, usually running a short course to dehydration and death, often in a matter of hours. Its very violence ensured that it would not be the type of disease which could be overlooked or treated with little concern’

‘The social and economic consequences of cholera were quite significant. Community life was completely disrupted whenever a new pandemic arrived. Usually panic gripped the populace and all persons who could leave the affected area promptly did so. The spectacular deadliness of the pandemic of 1826-37, which was the first to strike Europe and America, set up a psychological conditioning which assured that all subsequent invasions would induce panic. Normal economic and social life came to an end. Governmental activities were carried out with difficulty. Even medical and nursing services were impaired–sometimes to the extent that the sick were left untended and the dead unburied. Travellers and strangers often were treated badly. Gradually, as an epidemic waned, normal routines were resumed. Practically every community added boards of health and sanitation, which were supposed to take preventive measures against new outbreaks of cholera.’

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